Wow, I can’t believe it is just a few minutes into “Championship Sunday” and I haven’t given my predictions.
New England d. Ravens
The Patriots are hot right now while Baltimore is sucking it up. Baltimore has the better talent, but their coaching is weaker. Baltimore also has had a tendency to win big games this season and then losing the next game. The knock on New England is they haven’t defeated a winning team this season. The Ravens barely beat an injured Houston Texans team. I pick the Patriots because I do not trust Joe Flacco or more specifically, Cam Cameron. Flacco is a good quarterback, but Cameron has put too many safeguards in place to let Flacco shine. Cameron also does not run Ray Rice enough. These two things alone will probably doom Baltimore. If the Patriots play 1/2 of the defense they did last week, I see them in the Super Bowl. If the Ravens pull it out, I will not be upset solely for the reason that I will cheer for any team but the Giants this postseason.
San Francisco d. NYG
I really do not like this match-up. I am convince that whichever team I predict to win will lose. So of course I want to say that the Giants will win, but I’m really expecting the 49ers. The Niners showed incredible moxie against the Saints last week. I am willing to finally say that they are not a fluff team. Also, I’ve enjoyed Alex Smith play since he was at Utah and he is the only underdog left in the playoffs. The real question of the game is can the Giants keep their pass rush up. If they can, they will probably be in the Super Bowl. I believe Eli can out-duel Alex if it came down to it, but I think this is the game that the Giants’ defense finally breaks.
Last week: 2-2
One of the things I love most about football is coach hiring. I love to see how coaches turn out down the road. Often, I compare it to pastoring because of the responsibilities of being a staff member/laity or assistant coach is greatly different than being a lead pastor or head coach. This is not to minimize their work, but it is just different. An offensive line coach generally worries most about protection schemes whereas a head coach worries about that and everything else. A Sunday school teacher might wonder how effective teaching their class is but it doesn’t compare to preaching a sermon with the aim of connecting to all ages, not to mention everything else.
Another reason I love coaching changes is that some coaches are the best at their position or coordinator jobs, but they want to be a head coach. They get the opportunity and blow it, but jump at the chance every time it comes up. When they accept assistant coach jobs, they exceed expectations; when they become head coaches, they fulfill the realistic expectations of getting fired. Wade Phillips and Norv Turner are great mentions in this regard. Phillips is the master defensive coordinator and Turner is the same on offense. Neither are very good head coaches. They are not necessarily bad, but they almost always underachieve with a surprise season or two. The lure to be a head coach is hard to pass up, which is similar to those who ascend to levels of ministry. Phillips has proven once again why he is the best defensive coordinator. Changing everything about the Texans defense, he was the game changer for Houston getting into the playoffs. Pastors are similar. The question is how many chances do we give coaches/pastors before we say, “This isn’t going to work out.” Bill Belichick was a master defensive coordinator and failed at his first head coaching job. Then he goes to the Patriots and formed them into the team of the decade.
The coaching changes this season that interest me the most are Mike Leach to Washington State, Jeff Fisher to the St. Louis Rams, and the firing of Indianapolis Colts’ coach Jim Caldwell. From a football perspective, two of these decisions I believe were the right ones. The wrong one was Fisher. Somehow this off-season has created a dearth of “hot coaching prospects” and Fisher was the best available. Though this is only his second head coaching job, he coached the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans for the better part of two decades and have a pretty good feel for how he did things. Fisher is pretty much the definition of “average” when it comes to head coaching. Too many seasons he picked in the top 10 of the NFL draft. A few of them he picked in the bottom 10. Most of the time, it was the middle ten. One of the selling points for the Rams is that he could have a better grasp on roster decisions, but outside of the Vince Young debacle (of which I still think Young was more right than Fisher) Fisher had plenty of say and could never coach his talent very far. His most successful season was losing the Super Bowl, and that was with a quarterback whose strengths lied outside of the offense Fisher had installed. I hope he does well only because I like several of the Rams’ players.
If I were a president of a university over the past 4-6 years and had a below par football team and horrible graduation rates, I would have hired Mike Leach over anyone and everyone else. I’m not so sure he would be completely awesome if he were at a major university because he always had a few 5 star athletes, but most were 3 stars. Hopefully, I will write more about Leach. Congratulations to Washington State to wanting to see their athletes win in the classroom and on the field!
I think Jim Caldwell is a nice guy. He is possibly the nicest guy in the biz, save maybe Turner Gill. I love Tony Dungy with a passion, but Caldwell makes Dungy look cranky. However, I never thought Caldwell should have followed Dungy in Indianapolis. It was a no-win situation. Even if Caldwell would have beaten the Saints in the Super Bowl, I have a feeling he would still get fired this year or next. It seemed from the outside that Caldwell was hired to maintain the status quo instead of making the team better. In the church world, it seems that most pastors are hired to maintain the status quo without making any major changes. Those pastors usually last as long as the status quo can be maintained. The status quo is not always bad, but it can be detrimental to the overall health of an organization. That is why the Leach hiring is so wonderful.