TWTW: Manning, Sherman, Norv, USF stuff

One of the things in football analysis I’ve always hated most is the concept of a QB’s record as a starting quarterback.
It’s not even an official stat, like for pitchers in baseball, and even in baseball, most fans have an inherent understanding that win/loss record doesn’t always paint an accurate picture of a pitcher’s worth.
Good pitchers on bad teams will often have poor W/L records, and vice versa.

The same is often true in football, yet QBs are often quickly labeled as ‘unable to win the big one’ or some other dumb nonsense if their team loses a big game, or if they fail to deliver a Super Bowl.
It’s silly, and you know that it is. Mark Rypien and Trent Dilfer won Super Bowls as starting QBs. So did Doug Williams, Jim McMahon, Joe Flacco and Brad Johnson.
Dan Marino and Warren Moon never did.

I realize nobody out there is saying any of those above guys were better than Moon or Marino, it’s just something worth remembering when fans, analysts or pundits want to use W/L record, or worse, playoff W/L record, as a way to say some QB is overrated or a choker or what have you.

Peyton Manning might be the greatest QB to ever play the game. He’s got the numbers, he’s won a Super Bowl. No one who ever played the game has controlled the action like Manning does. No one has ever been able to confuse defenses so easily, slowed down the action to the point that he’s almost able to coach and play at the same time, like Manning has.
And yet there have still been voices all season hinting that Manning, while clearly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, may not be totally trustworthy in the playoffs. That he’s not a ‘Big Game Quarterback’.
This stemmed from the fact that, entering Sunday’s AFC title game against New England, Manning’s record as a postseason starting QB was 10-11.

For one, that’s not actually a bad record. For another, it’s misleading.
There are no bad teams in the playoffs. You’re going against the best. And if you lose, it’s over. You don’t get another week to bounce back and even your record.
Just getting to the playoffs is hard. Advancing deep in the playoffs is even harder. Many franchises spend years building themselves up in hopes of being good enough to make one good run.

With another outstanding performance on Sunday, Manning is now 11-11 as a playoff starter. He’s now gone to three Super Bowls.
Some dumb pundits will likely be saying Monday how Manning ‘has finally proved himself’, or some such nonsense, but would even the most delusional Manning-hater truly suggest that they wouldn’t feel good about their chances going into any game in any stadium in any situation with Manning under center?

Tom Brady, meanwhile, has a reputation for being ‘Mr. Big Game’, the cool-under-pressure guy who ‘just finds a way to win’.

After all, Brady was 10-0 as a playoff starter at one point in his career. Before Sunday, he was 10-4 against Manning.

Since that 10-0 start, however, Brady is now 8-8 as a playoff starter. Has Brady forgotten how to win the big one? Turned into a playoff choker?
No. The Patriots just aren’t as good as they were earlier in his career.

Manning didn’t play a terrific football game Sunday because he got some monkey off his back, or finally stood up to the pressure of the big game. He played a terrific football game because he’s a terrific quarterback and almost always plays well. It still might not have been enough, though, if the Denver defense hadn’t held New England to 16 points.

All of which is a long way of confirming the cliche: Quarterbacks get too much credit when his team wins, and too much blame when they lose.
After all, Mark Sanchez has a 4-2 career record as a playoff starter. And he stinks.

* And now for a couple thoughts on Richard Sherman.
I can do without all the hand-wringing about Sherman having ‘no class’, or the racially-tinged charges that he’s a ‘thug’. Trash talking is a part of his game, and he probably is, as he said, the NFL’s best cornerback.
He also graduated 2nd in his high school class and holds a masters degree from Stanford.
And this clip alone should make him well-liked amongst just about everyone.

All that said, grow up, man. Peyton Manning isn’t out there bragging about being the best QB in the NFL. Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL, and he’d never pull a stunt like that.

But here’s the worst part of it: The Seahawks had just won the NFL championship game. You’re going to the Super Bowl. The culmination of everything your team has been working for.
And Sherman made it about himself. I know the question was about the big play to clinch the game, but still. He could’ve talked about how great it felt to be going to the Super Bowl, how proud he was of his teammates, or how happy he was for the fans (to his credit, he did those things in subsequent interviews, after his temporary insanity had apparently subsided).
I thought Erin Andrews handled it about as well as could be expected, but if I were Sherman I’d apologize to her (no, he doesn’t owe Crabtree an apology).

* And while Sherman blindsided Andrews, moments later the usually solid Pam Oliver conducted an embarrassing interview with losing coach Jim Harbaugh. Speaking in her best funeral voice, Oliver sounded like she was either afraid Harbaugh would hit her or that she was a heartbroken 49er fan struggling to keep from crying. Harbaugh wasn’t difficult with her at all, yet Oliver repeatedly spoke to him like a parent trying to tell a child their dog just died. It was beyond silly, and even Harbaugh seemed to pick up on the silliness.

It’s not easy to do an interview with someone who just lost a huge game. I’ve done several, including at the major league level. And while it’s wise to be respectful of the emotional state your subject is likely to be in, that doesn’t mean you can’t speak to them like an adult.
If you’re going to do the interview, do the interview. Don’t act like losing a football game is a tragedy.

* Vikings fans were already feeling good about Mike Zimmer being one of the most lauded coaching hires in recent NFL history, and then came news that Norv Turner would be coming on board as offensive coordinator.
I’m nearly as happy about that as I am about Zimmer.
The Vikings haven’t had an offensive coordinator that I’ve liked much since Scott Linehan was let go along with Mike Tice (and Linehan was still a big step down from Brian Billick).
The Vikings have only had a truly great offense once since then, in 2009, and I’ve heard from a couple former Viking players that Brett Favre was calling the shots that year.

Turner has a rather poor reputation in the NFL, and I’ve never quite understood it.
Not only was he a Super Bowl winning coordinator in Dallas, but his much-maligned head coaching record isn’t nearly as bad as you probably think.
In 15 years as an NFL head coach, Turner went 114-122 with four division titles and four runner-up finishes.
And keep in mind, he did this coaching Washington, Oakland and San Diego, three of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL.
Of course, under Zygi Wilf, the Vikings have been fairly dysfunctional themselves. So at least Norv won’t feel out of place.

* A lot of people in NSIC circles were surprised to hear that USF athletic director Kevin Hesser stepped down. I wasn’t.
AD isn’t an ideal job for a dad in his early 30s, and Kevin and his wife had been looking for a way to get closer to home for awhile. The stresses of trying to keep USF competitive while enrollment and attendance have dwindled and resources have been cut, surely wasn’t helping.
Kevin’s a friend of mine; I got to know him 10 years ago when he was a sports information intern and played in my amateur baseball league, and I’m happy for him and his family. He worked hard and cared a lot about USF. Friday night during a timeout of the USF/Upper Iowa game, he was on the court sweeping the floor. I don’t know too many other ADs that go the extra mile like Kevin did.

That said, maybe this will be a good move for the school. USF hired Kevin on the cheap after thrusting him into the role on an interim basis after the Willie Sanchez ‘situation’. They need to invest in an experienced administrator to replace him.

Would Willie come back? Would USF administration consider bringing him back? I think it’s unlikely, but possible.

* Speaking of NSIC circles, it was reported this week that former Augustana coach Mike Aldrich and former MSU-Mankato coach Todd Hoffner have both applied for the head coaching position that opened at Minot State when Paul Rudolph left to be offensive coordinator at North Dakota.
Rudolph was a good coach fighting an uphill battle in Minot’s transition to Division II, and whoever replaces him will be battling many of the same challenges.
But if Minot is willing to pay enough to get them to accept the job, the Beavers would be extremely fortunate to land either Aldrich or Hoffner. There were a few other strong candidates mentioned as well, but Aldrich and Hoffner have both been to the Division II playoffs.

* And speaking of Friday night’s USF/Upper Iowa game, I was dragged onto the court for the halfcourt 3-point shot promotion. As you might expect, it did not end well.
In my defense, I literally hadn’t shot a basketball in two-plus years, and it was a girl’s ball.
Still, the saddest part of this brick is that I actually thought it felt perfect coming out of my hand.
I suck at basketball.

* If you didn’t hear, USF offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb is leaving the Cougars to join Kalen DeBoer at Eastern Michigan, where DeBoer was recently named offensive coordinator. Grubb will serve as his O-line coach. He did very good work with the Cougars.
Dusty Hovorka will take over as offensive coordinator, a big jump for the former All-American receiver.

In other news, recently dismissed USF defensive coordinator Robert Tucker has been hired as head coach of West Hills Community College in California. It will be Tucker’s first head coaching job.
I hope to have more on USF’s coaching changes in a story this week.

* Great win for the USF men on Saturday, knocking off No. 16 Winona State. The Warriors were undefeated in the NSIC entering the weekend, and when they were upset on Friday at SMSU, it seemed all the more certain they’d respond by routing the Cougars on Saturday. But USF was the better team pretty much all 40 minutes. I know it’s a cliche, but they just wanted it more. They overcame their shortcomings by outworking the Warriors.

It’s between this one and last year’s win over Augie for the biggest wins the program has had since going to D2.
"They’re both big wins for our program," head coach Chris Johnson said, alluding to the credibility it provides them in recruiting. "I won’t try to downplay that."

And now the Cougars will face Augie again. In their first meeting this season, the Vikings came into the Cougar gym and embarrassed them. USF was not ready to play, and Augie came in determined to make a statement, which they did.
Can USF return the favor? I don’t think I’d bet on it, but I’m a little more willing to believe it’s possible after this weekend.

* Clayton Kershaw signed a 7-year, $215 million contract, making him baseball’s first true $30 million man.
And you know what? He’s probably worth it.
Last three years:
21-5, 2.28, 248 Ks
14-9, 2.53, 229 Ks
16-9, 1.83, 232 Ks

He’ll be 26 on Opening Day.