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Mike Leach’s quarterbacks have never cost him his job

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Will Rogers and Mike Leach

Will Rogers and Mike Leach
Image: Getty Images

The next time a pundit says “Missing on such-and-such QB cost coach X his job” will be my next visit to the psych ward. You know why Spencer Rattler didn’t cost Lincoln Riley his job, and Paul Chryst couldn’t survive Graham Mertz? One looks at a chalkboard as a place to draw plays, and the other sees a canvas.

Granted, being the coach every quarterback wants to play for helps keep the QB stable teeming with thoroughbreds. It’s not a coincidence that Riley’s system produces successful quarterbacks. If it wasn’t Caleb Williams, it would’ve been someone else the same way Mike Leach molds 4,500-yard passers wherever he goes. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has given us enough evidence that he also gets the best out of his signal callers.

Yes, Alabama has all-world talent all the time; Nick Saban also always has some failed head coach rekindling his prowess calling the offense. Bill O’Brien is on his way to another head coaching job after Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin used the Bama bump to return to the sidelines. Whether those disciples are great head coaches is beside the point. If you give them infallible ingredients and only ask them to cook, not run a kitchen, they’ll give you high-end meals.

Even though Chryst’s steaks come out perfectly temped, you’re still eating meat and potatoes every Saturday.

Which brings me to my next issue (course?).

Concern about the cooks at LSU and obviously Texas A&M

Like the Crimson Tide, whenever the Bayou Bengals get a capable coordinator they look otherworldly. However, after watching Brian Kelly’s teams at Notre Dame for nearly a dozen seasons, my inclination is that we’re not going to see consistent fireworks in Baton Rouge. Here’s where his teams ranked nationally in points per game during his tenure with the Irish: 68, 49, 81, 74, 40, 33, 53, 24, 42, 13, 30, 20. Next, name me his best quarterback. Ian Book? Deshone Kizer? Take away the non-power five blowouts, the Tigers are scoring 25 points per game this season. The win-ugly stuff that flourished in South Bend is a lot harder to pull off in the SEC.

Since Jimbo Fisher won the national title at Florida State in 2013 and finished second in the country in scoring, his team’s scoring offenses have finished ranked: 35, 46, 31, 71, 19, 62, 37, 56. The Aggies are 108th in scoring this year and that includes their non-conference games, and his quarterbacks have become as nondescript as his offenses.

For the sake of fairness, let’s take a look at Leach’s past two stops. Here’s where his squads have finished since 2012 when he took over Washington State: 108, 52, 47, 48, 18, 50, 15, 11, 110, 60. The 108th and 110th finishes were the first years with the programs, and this season they’re scoring 38 points a game (23rd nationally) and 32 ppg against Power Five schools. So since 2012, Leach has had as many top-15 offenses at Washington State as Kelly and Fisher have combined at Florida State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and LSU in about two decades worth of work.

The Bulldogs lost to the Tigers in mid-September — which was supposed to happen because one is LSU and the other is Mississippi State — but did put it on the Aggies last week. Quarterback Will Rogers has a 19-3 TD-INT ratio on the season, is amassing 346 yards passing per outing, and Miss St. is going to be annoying to play all season even in the SEC.

I know big schools are hesitant to hire Leach because he locks concussed players in closets and would fling toe fungus at the boosters, but someone please give that man Mel Tucker money.

How systems help QB and teams

Systems aren’t bad for quarterbacks. They make the jobs of everyone easier. And it’s not just a bunch of wide receiver screens, or the college football equivalent of a volume scorer. It’s a quarterback seeing what his play-caller is seeing because they’re on the same page. It’s getting a call in from the sidelines in a timely fashion and not staring at a play sheet like it’s written in Mandarin.

Look at USC this season. Obviously, it helps that the coach-QB tandem is in their second year together. The rest of the team is largely new to Riley’s scheme though, and they’re averaging more than 40 points per game and have one turnover on the season. While Williams has been brilliant with his decision-making, how many times have we seen a botched handoff lead to a fumble, a pick due to a receiver continuing his route instead of finding the hole in the zone — or any number of miscommunications that seem to happen more frequently in bad offenses?

Hendon Hooker is able to run Josh Heupel’s break-neck-paced system at Tennessee so well because he’s in sync with his coach and is able to get linemen and skill players lined up quickly and correctly. Sam Hartman executing Dave Clawson’s mind-boggling mesh running scheme at Wake Forest is another example of a symbiotic coach-QB relationship helping a unit hum as a whole.

Poor coaching vs. bad quarterbacks

And then we have Wisconsin. They fired Chryst, and people were like, welp, tough luck missing on Graham Mertz. Sure, I guess. That said, when was the last time the Badgers had a passing game that instilled fear in defenses outside of Russell Wilson more than a decade ago?

I know they’re built on running the ball, and that’s been the key to Rose Bowl appearances and 10-win seasons. However, if Wisconsin wants to consistently compete for Big Ten titles, it needs to be multi-dimensional. It’s obviously easier said than executed, but I at least understand where the athletic department was coming from after watching Mertz regress the past few seasons. The fact that they can run the ball so well should make it easier on the quarterback, and yet anytime a Badger dropped back it felt like trying to restart a Buick that’s been sitting in grandma’s garage the past decade.

Former Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez choked consistently under Scott Frost, and now under Chris Klieman, he has Kansas State in the Top 20 while rediscovering the confidence that was sapped from him in Lincoln. Hooker was at Virginia Tech, who is eternally challenged offensively, prior to blooming at UT.

I’ve said previously that QB transfers are often not the answer because the problem usually lies in the head coach’s inability to develop any quarterback let alone one with bad habits and low confidence. The best offensive coaches may not be able to turn sewage drainage into a Heisman winner, but they can get by, and even thrive, with average to above-average talent.

A head coach can miss on a quarterback and still find/develop a capable one within a season or two. It’s not ideal, but it is possible. If a coach hasn’t put together a consistent unit for going on a decade, those misses might be more user error than a lack of talent.



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Arsenal FC XI vs Lyon: Predicted lineup, confirmed team news and injury latest for Dubai Super Cup friendly

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M

ikel Arteta will mix youth with experience when selecting his Arsenal team to face Lyon in the Dubai Super Cup.

A handful of players remain unavailable while continuing on their path to World Cup glory in Qatar, such as Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

Furthermore, those knocked out of the tournament will not feature with Takehiro Tomiyasu in particular asking for a break from football following Japan’s heartbreak against Croatia in the last-16.

Granit Xhaka flew straight from Qatar to Arsenal’s camp acoss the desert but is highly unlikely to feaure against Lyon.

Arsenal await their return with a mid-season trip to Dubai for a warm-weather training camp and this, the first of three friendlies.

Already, the Gunners have played a behind-closed-doors match with Watford that could shed some light on Arteta’s approach to this week’s games.

Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Magalhaes and Eddie Nketiah all started the 4-2 defeat before a team of academy players entered the fray after the break.

This included Nathan Butler-Oyedeji, Ethan Nwaneri and Lino Sousa. Given the youngsters conceded three goals without reply against Watford, they are likely to again have to settle for substitute appearances in the Lyon friendly.

Predicted Arsenal XI: Hein; Cedric, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Elneny, Lokonga, Odegaard; Nelson, Nketiah, Marquinhos.



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Hansi Flick to remain Germany manager despite World Cup group-stage exit | Football News

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Hansi Flick will remain as Germany coach despite the four-time World Cup winners exiting this year’s tournament in the group stages.

He will remain in charge of the country until at least Euro 2024, at the end of his existing contract.

Flick only took charge of the national team last year, on the back of leading Bayern Munich to the Champions League and two Bundesliga titles in as many years.

He succeeded Joachim Low, who led Germany to the World Cup in 2014, before a shock group-stage exit in 2018 and a last-16 defeat by England at Euro 2020 last year.

Under Flick, they were unable to reach the knockouts for a second straight World Cup thanks in large part to a 2-1 defeat by Japan, with a draw against Spain and victory over Costa Rica insufficient to send them through.

Speaking after that surprise elimination, Flick said: “If you know me and my team, I know we can get up quickly and recover from that. Now we need to assess our work during the World Cup and head in a different direction. This is the next step we are going to undertake and we will do that very soon.

“For the future of German football, we need to train differently. We will work on a future that is very important and very decisive, and we will see how we can implement our idea.

“For years we’ve been talking about new goalkeepers and wingbacks, but what was always good was that we defended well. We need the basics to be right.”



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The ManningCast revolution should not have been televised

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Peyton and Eli Manning

Peyton and Eli Manning
Photo: Getty Images

It would be interesting to see how much ESPN was responsible for of the $1.5 billion that Disney lost last quarter in the streaming section. What section of the Mothership do the contracts for Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and the Mannings fall under? After a year-plus, the nuance of the ManningCast has worn off. It Isn’t leading podcasts, and it’s easier to skip the second screen and just watch the easily digestible clips that ESPN uploads on the app while the game is going.

For whatever reason, Monday Night Football is just another primetime game, and it doesn’t have the luxury of being able to flex out games like Steelers-Colts or even the Bucs-Saints contest that was unwatchable for three-plus quarters. There’s an argument, and a pretty compelling one, that Buck and Aikman’s Fox Game of the Week slot was better than ESPN’s Monday showcase. There’s no doubt Sunday Night Football is preferable due to the pliability of the schedule.

I don’t care how charming Peyton and Eli are, if the teams on the field don’t matter, the audience will find something else to do on the trillions of streaming options. The ManningCast spinoffs suffer for the same reason that no NBA studio show can replicate Inside the NBA. Charles Barkley’s charisma cannot be duplicated just like the chemistry and repartee between two Super Bowl-winning brothers can’t be recreated.

Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay calling a game is an actual nightmare of Red Sox fans and the hoards of people who hate the Yankees and/or A-Rod, of which there are many. Pat McAfee used his connections with Peyton and Omaha Productions to develop a simulcast for college football, which is never going to work no matter how much he grows on you.

Baseball, basketball, and even college football don’t have a weekly monopoly of viewers. There’s always another game to flip to in the NBA and MLB, so the alternative to a shitty national broadcast game is a different matchup. The Association slashed their League Pass prices this year, and it’s never been easier to find illegal streams.

Primetime NFL games are routinely atop the ratings because they have the night to themselves, and half the reason viewers switch to ESPN 2 is because the game is an abomination. When a hyped Saturday showcase fizzles out, there are a million other options to watch, and none of them are McAfee screaming through a blowout. I can’t imagine that it’s worthy of a four-hour chunk of ESPN 2’s college football Saturday.

The ManningCast ratings are whatever and have plateaued during the second season. But, yes, let’s dedicate a production team and everything else that goes into it for a little over a million viewers on a channel that’s in direct competition with the one we want everybody watching.

I don’t see how a ManningCast on Sunday night would benefit NBC because they shut down their nationally dedicated sports network, and it would run on USA or Peacock. I guess Amazon could try something on Thursdays, but they have an even shittier schedule, and people have a hard enough time remembering the game is on Prime — or that it’s even on at all.

The worst attempts are cheap knockoffs, with outlets throwing talking heads in front of a camera and having them regurgitate the same takes they’ve been spewing all week. Fucking hell, I can’t watch the pregame as it is, and now I’m supposed to spend an extra three hours with some I can’t stand for a half hour? Absolutely not.

It’s really hard to be engaging for long stretches on a PG-13 restriction. That’s why I wait for the perfectly cut clips of Peyton and Eli. The show doesn’t work for a full four wuarters, and a bad game bogs down the show like a bad host makes for a clunky SNL. The Manning bros are more or less live-streaming a football game interspersed with big-name guests that normal sportscasters can’t book.

It’s successful because of the two hosts. You know what I’d also watch those two lovable idiots do? Play charades like in the Caesars commercial. The way Eli delivers, “It’s 27 words” is hilarious, and Peyton telling his teammate to “Stop guessing helmet catch” is incredible. Who knows if they’d work in a studio setting just because most of what they do best is a product of filling time. The lasting moments from Inside the NBA come when Chuck, Shaq, and Kenny go off the rails after a long night in Studio J.

Now that we’ve arrived at the juncture where I’m repeating previously stated points, I’ll finish with this. The ManningCast didn’t revolutionize sports programming. Certain athletes are better at broadcasting than others, and they’re afforded a format that’s not replicable in any other sport, not even its amateur version. They’ve been remarkable in an opportunity that’s possible for 0.000000001 percent of sportscasters.

Kudos. Congrats. It worked for a company that lost a billion five in a quarter and hasn’t been able to duplicate it. You want to revolutionize sports media? Create whatever comes after Twitter.



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