Under Further Review – Douglas Smith with Contributing Editor Bill Morphy. This week, Carson Wentz (The Bed) and Brady’s in the crapper. COVID ravages the NFL. The Canucks bank on internal improvements and baseball waits for the free agent market to thaw.
Editor’s Note: Due to the pandemic and the uncertain start of the NHL season, expect our weekly blogs to be more sporadic in the coming weeks.
Seahawks Surge – It was not an aesthetic beauty but the 23-17 win over the Eagles on Monday night has the Seahawks (8-and-3) back on top of the NFC West and in position to win the division and possibly even grab the top seed in the conference. The game should have been over by halftime had the Seahawks executed a pair of fourth down, short yardage opportunities.
The Seahawks defense is finally starting to show signs of life. Seattle held the Eagles to 74 total yards in the opening half, the Eagles lowest halftime total in their last 30 games. The Eagles went three-and-out the first five times they had the ball and didn’t cross midfield until late in the second quarter. The Seattle pass rush has come alive. The Seahawks had only nine sacks in their opening six games but have posted 22 sacks in their last five. The secondary is finally getting healthy and is starting to show some cohesion. Maybe there’s hope after all.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz made the mistake of chirping at DK Metcalf before the game, saying “you’re not Megatron,” in reference to the former Detroit Lions great. Metcalf proceeded to torch the Eagles with 10 catches for 177 yards. Metcalf now leads the league in receiving with 1,039 yards. For extra motivation, Metcalf was aware the Eagles had selected receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside ahead of him in the second round of the 2019 draft. In one game on Monday night, Metcalf matched the number of catches and exceeded the yardage total Arcega-Whiteside put up in his entire rookie season.
The Eagles are a mess. Carson Wentz (The Bed) has thrown 15 interceptions, tops in the NFL. The offensive line is a shambles and has surrendered the most sacks (46) in the NFL. The Eagles signed Wentz to a four-year extension last year that runs through 2024 with $109.8 guaranteed. The deal is contract-proof. If he is not on the roster in 2021, it will cost the Eagles $59.2 million on the salary cap. If Wentz is not on the roster in 2022, it will cost the Eagles $24.5 so they are basically stuck with him. As bad as he’s been, the Eagles have no play-makers on offence to work with. I still don’t understand why teams put so much faith in quarterbacks from small programs. Wentz is from that renowned quarterback factory North Dakota State University. That’s where you go to find a quality NFL quarterback!
The Big Chief – What Pat Mahomes is doing with the Kansas City Chiefs is utterly amazing. In order to qualify for all-time NFL quarterback records, you need a minimum of 1,500 passing attempts. In Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mahomes passed that threshold and now qualifies. We should not be surprised that he ranks first in passing yards per game with 303.6. He is also first in TD/INT ratio – 5.2. Mahomes is second all-time in yards per pass attempt at 8.5 yards. Those marks likely increased after the Chiefs took out the Bucs on Sunday.
Mahomes went 25 of 33 for 359 yards and two TD’s in the first half, the most pass yards in the opening half of a regular season game since 1991. Incredibly, his only two interceptions this season have come against the Raiders, one in each meeting. He is yet to throw an interception against any other team this season. On Sunday, he found Tyreek Hill 13 times for 269 yards and three scores. It’s just a matter of time before Mahomes breaks the all-time single game passing record of 554 yards held by Norm Van Brocklin, and don’t think he’s not aware of it. Editor’s Note: The CFL record for passing in a single game is held by Matt Dunigan. Playing for Winnipeg in 1994, Dunigan threw for 713 yards against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Little Tommy Brady – Not sure if you have noticed but Tom Brady is a BIG BABY! After a pathetic and humiliating performance on Monday Night Football against the L.A. Rams, Tom Baby left the field without shaking hands with Rams quarterback Jared Goff. The snub was caught on camera for everyone to see. Yes, the NFL doesn’t want players lingering on the field because of COVID-19 but Brady departed because he is a sore loser and it’s not the first time. Brady made a swift exit after the Eagles beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl when Brady was outplayed by journeyman Nick Foles who was named the game’s MVP. You have probably noticed that Brady always runs out to the middle of the field when he WINS.
In the Monday night’er, he was 1-for-10 with a pair of interceptions on throws of 15+ yards. If you put any kind of pressure on him, he turtles. Brady is playing like a China Doll who, if touched, will shatter to pieces. Only Carson Wentz and coincidentally, Foles have more INTs on deep balls this season. In the Bucs five losses this season, Brady has eight TDs and nine picks with a completion percentage just over 60%.
When things aren’t going well, Brady’s body language is pathetic. He has become just one more athlete who’s stayed too long at the dance. He’s aged and it’s a fine whine! If Brady was such a good teammate and such a good person, he would show more sportsmanship. It’s sad to watch.
NFL Notebook – It’s safe to say the NFL is on life support when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. The numbers, like everywhere else in the country, are starting to spin out of control. At least 70 players and 100+ coaches and staff on every team are tested every day. At the end of October, 63 players and 99 team staff had tested positive. By November 21, an additional 60 players and 118 team staff tested positive so clearly the situation has worsened dramatically. On Monday, 28 of the 32 NFL teams were required to close their facilities to guard against spread of potential Thanksgiving Day infections. At least 43 NFL players have contracted the virus in the past week. The Baltimore Ravens strength coach had the virus yet put the players through workouts without a mask on. The Denver Donkeys were forced to start a practice squad wide receiver at quarterback on Sunday because all four of their quarterbacks contracted COVID after failing to wear masks during team meetings.
The NFL can talk all it wants about how they have been able to manage the virus and play the season. What no one wants to mention is how many other people have been infected by NFL players who have contracted the virus? Oh, but I forgot, the NFL season is more important than people’s well-being and community spread.
The NFL has moved the Steelers/Ravens game to Wednesday, the third time the game has been rescheduled. Baltimore has 23 players on the COVID-19 list, 11 of them starters including last year’s MVP Lamar Jackson. The Steelers have four players on the list and counting. What a joke!
Pity poor Kendall Hinton, the practice squad receiver who had to fill in at quarterback on Sunday for the Denver Donkeys. The one-time Wake Forest QB finished 1-for-9 for 13 yards with two interceptions. His quarterback rating was 0.00. Denver went the entire first half without completing a pass. Should give the guy hazard pay!
The Matt Patricia-Bob Quinn era is thankfully over in Detroit. Can someone just stick a fork in this moribund franchise? Poor Matthew Stafford! In his 12 seasons as quarterback, the Lions have yet to win a playoff game or a division title. This will be Detroit’s third straight last place finish in the NFC North. It’s been 29 years since the Lions last won a playoff game. Can’t imagine being a Lions fan!
The Cleveland Browns are now 8-and-3 and there is talk about Kevin Stefanski winning NFL Coach of the Year. Can we please hold off on that? The only decent team the Browns have beaten this season is the Indianapolis Colts. The rest of their wins are against a pack of cream-puffs – the Bengals twice, Washington, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia and Jacksonville. The combined record of those teams is 17-and-46.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry should be in the MVP conversation. He shredded a good Indianapolis defense on Sunday, finishing the game with 27 carries for 178 yards and three touchdowns. Henry now has 100+ rushing yards in eight straight road games.
Another MVP candidate, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, just seems to get better with age. Rodgers had his fifth game of the season with four touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Few have ever done it better than Rodgers.
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted LSU’s Joe Burrow first overall this year and celebrated the birth of their new franchise quarterback. Instead of letting him develop behind a veteran as Kansas City did with Pat Mahomes, the Bengals started Burrow in the season opener behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. If you count pass attempts, sacks and rushes, Burrow had an average of 49.8 “exposures” per game. He played nine and a half games before going out for the year with a torn ACL and MCL in his knee. Way to go Bengals! Put your meal ticket in harm’s way and watch what happens.
We can start playing ‘taps’ on Mitch Trubisky’s career in Chicago. Another carcass in the NFL quarterback graveyard. To think the Bears moved up a spot in the draft to pick Trubisky second is beyond stupidity…overlooking Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the process.
The Carolina Panthers have found a star in rookie safety Jeremy Chinn, a second round pick out of Southern Illinois. Chinn scored a pair of touchdowns on consecutive plays in a 10-second span in the third quarter Sunday against the Vikings. Doubtful it’s ever been done before. He’s the odds-on favourite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Canucks Notebook – The Canucks should be paying close attention to the pending cap crunch in Tampa Bay. The Lightning are $2 million over the cap after signing defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to a three-year bridge deal that will pay him under $5 million per season. The Bolts are in a tough situation with two other pending RFA’s, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak, still to sign.
The Canucks would be wise to consider the Tampa model which is to opt for shorter, three-year bridge deals, rather than committing to 7-and-8 year, long-term contracts similar to the deals given the Leafs Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. It will be interesting to see which route the Canucks take with Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson. Bridge deals may be the best way forward for all sides in the wake of the pandemic, particularly in a flat cap world.
If the season were to start today, here’s the Canucks projected lineup.
Miller – Pettersson – Boeser; Pearson – Horvat – Virtanen; Roussel – Gaudette – Sutter; Motte – Beagle – MacEwen Reserve forwards – Eriksson/Ferland
Hughes – Myers; Edler – Schmidt; Juolevi – Benn
Demko – Holtby
The projected lineup is a borderline playoff bet by almost anyone’s standards. When it comes right down to it, the Canucks fortunes hinge on internal development from a group of young players including Demko, Virtanen, Gaudette, Juolevi and MacEwen. How much can they be expected to improve? Can Nils Hoglander and Vasili Podkolzin join the lineup later in the season and make an impact? What about Jack Rathbone and Brogan Rafferty? Nikita Tryamkin may also return following the conclusion of the KHL season. The Canucks season rides on whether there is marked improvement from within the ranks.
News & Notes – All the Toronto-centric hockey sites have the Maple Leafs pegged as the top team in this season’s planned All-Canadian division. We should not be surprised. The Leafs are always going to win the Cup before the season even starts.
The Leafs best run of success came under Pat Quinn. His Leaf teams played 80 playoff games during his seven seasons in Toronto. To put that into perspective, the Leafs have played 32 post-season games, in total, in the subsequent 14 seasons, missing the playoffs nine times. As coach/GM, Quinn never missed the playoffs.
Is there a better team in the NHL in handling contracts than the Boston Bruins? No player on the Bruins earns more than the $7.2 million being paid to David Krejci. Brad Marchand is signed for five more years. Patrice Bergeron is under contract for two more and David Pastrnak for three more – all at less than market value. None are earning more than the Leafs tutu-wearing William Nylander.
The Chicago Black Hawks have made three trades involving Brandon Saad and you might say they have now struck out swinging. The latest deal saw the Hawks send Saad and Dennis Gilbert to Colorado for Anton Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov. Look for Saad to score 25 goals this season with the Avalanche. Zadorov has size and toughness but he can’t play with the pace the Avs want in their defensemen. Advantage Colorado.
In June, 2015, the Black Hawks traded Saad to Columbus along with two stiffs named Alex Broadhurst and Michael Paliotta for Corey Tropp, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Artem Anisimov and a fourth round draft pick (Anatoly Golyshev). Advantage Blue Jackets. Two years later, the Hawks and the Blue Jackets were at it again. Columbus dealt Saad back to Chicago along with goalie Anton Forsberg and a 2018 draft pick (Mike Callahan) in return for Tyler Motte, Artemi Panarin and a 2017 sixth round pick (Jonathan Davidsson). Huge advantage to Columbus. We suspect the Black Hawks are glad to finally see the last of Saad.
There’s speculation that Mike Babcock may be the choice to coach Team Canada in the 2022 Winter Olympics in China. Forget it! Have him on the coaching staff if you want but not as head coach. Doug Armstrong seems to be the early consensus favourite to handle GM chores.
Remember when the SkyDome opened in Toronto in 1989? It was billed as the “eighth wonder of the world” and the jewel of multi-purpose stadiums with a built-in hotel and retractable roof. Trouble is the SkyDome was obsolete almost from the day it opened. Just a short time later, baseball-only stadiums like Camden Yards in Baltimore were all the rage and the SkyDome was just a multi-purpose monolith.
Fast forward 31 years and it’s no surprise there is finally some forward progress on construction of a new home for the Blue Jays. Can we please have a grass field? Of course, there will be many hurdles. Rogers Communications owns the building but not the ground it stands on. Demolishing Rogers Centre could be very complicated so Plan B is to construct a new stadium on the lakeshore.
It didn’t take Randy Arozarena long to go from World Series hero to zero. He was arrested in Mexico for allegedly trying to abduct his daughter from her mother’s home and allegedly assaulting the woman’s father. Arozarena was a break-out star for the Tampa Bay Rays in this year’s World Series.
The Oklahoma City Thunder own the L.A. Clippers first round draft pick every year from 2022 until 2026 – which, if you are counting, is five straight years. If Kawai Leonard and Paul George leave the Clippers next summer as free agents, those selections could all be in the lottery because none of the picks are lottery-protected. Nice going Steve Balmer!
We talk so much about good and bad ownership in sports. The Charlotte Hornets defy explanation. How could a team hand Gordon Hayward a four-year contract for $120 million? Hayward averaged only 13.9 points a game with the Boston Celtics and is not the same player since suffering a gruesome leg injury. People thought he was nuts for opting out of a $34 million dollar player option. Apparently not.
CERB-FL – November 15 came and went without the 108th Grey Cup being played in Regina. For one thing, it certainly saved a lot of Canadians a hangover. The CFL was the only major North American sports league to cancel its season due to COVID-19. It’s now paying the price of being out of the sports consciousness.
You would think the CFL would have used the time to attract new fans and build interest in Canadian football but it’s hard to find any evidence of that. Everything the league seems to do is aimed at fans who already love the CFL. By the time next season gets underway, the CFL will have been out of sight for so long you wonder if anyone will pay notice. The same problems will remain. There will still be sagging interest in the league’s three biggest markets, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Try selling season tickets in those markets during a pandemic. The Alouettes have new ownership, the Lions need new ownership and the Argos have a new logo. Great! The CFL has done a horsebleep job of appealing to young fans. You can’t guilt fans into supporting the CFL by continually playing the nostalgia card. The league is at a crossroads and it doesn’t help to be off the radar for over a year. Let’s hope there’s a game next year in Hamilton. Not sure if anyone will be watching.
Attention K Mart Shoppers – The rumour mill is working overtime in Toronto where the Blue Jays have been linked to nearly every player on the MLB free agent market. While most teams in baseball are looking to slash payroll, the Jays are looking to add and have money in the budget to make a big splash. We should get a sense of the market within the next week.
The pool of available free agent players is about to get deeper with this week’s non-tender deadline. The biggest name on the list of potential non-tender candidates is Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. Basically what’s happening is arbitration-eligible players with projected salaries their teams have deemed too expensive can be released before Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. Teams will then be completely off the hook for next year’s contract and the players become free agents. The Cubs are trying to trade Bryant before the deadline and salvage something in return.
Don’t be surprised if the non-tender deadline serves to kick-start a slow-moving market. Last year, 53 players were non-tendered, the highest number ever. With the pandemic impacting the baseball industry heavily, we can expect that number to increase this year. The Blue Jays will then have a chance to look at some of the players cut loose. They have several players who fall into this category including outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, infielder Travis Shaw and reliever A.J. Cole. Of that group, expect the Jays to sever ties with Shaw.
Here’s how we see the free agent marketing playing out. Expect the New York Mets, under new owner Steve Cohen, to be major players. It would not be surprising to see former Cubs President Theo Epstein land in Flushing and become Cohen’s new major domo. At least one of the big fish will be landing there. Expect Trevor Bauer, the top starting pitcher available, to end up with the Mets or the Los Angeles Angels. Catcher J.T. Realmuto is another top prize who could be Mets-bound. The Blue Jays are reportedly in on every player this side of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. They’ve been linked to center-fielder George Springer but we have Springer signing with the Red Sox. Springer is a Connecticut native. Expect the other top free agent, second baseman DJ LaMahieu to re-sign with the Yankees.
The Jays will likely have to settle for second-tier free agents but that may not be the worst thing that could happen. They could end up finding good value in Jackie Bradley, Kolten Wong or Michael Bradley in addition to pitchers James Paxton and Brad Hand. Stay tuned. The market should open up soon.
Made for TV – Now that we have been subjected to such recent sports spectacles as Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. and “The Battle” that pitted Phil Mickelson and Charles Barkley vs. Steph Curry and Peyton Manning, we wonder what is going to come next. Are the networks that hard up for content?
Well, it’s time to speculate. Here’s a few of our suggestions. How about a cage match with Megan Rapinoe and Tonya Harding? Perhaps a drinking contest between Tony LaRussa and Dennis Rodman? Maybe a political debate featuring Bobby Orr and Jon Voight? How about a coach-off with Mike Babcock and Bill Peters? Are you up for a boxing tilt featuring Marty McSorley and Donald Brashear? No hockey sticks Marty! A putting contest with Scott Hoch vs. Greg Norman, two Master chokers. Or perhaps a financial planning seminar with Lenny Dykstra and Jack Clark? If you have any ideas, please let us know. We will pass them on to the networks. You can never have enough compelling programming.
Snowbirds – Can you believe training camp has already opened for the Toronto Raptors? What happened to the off-season? The Raptors have moved operations to Tampa Bay where they will be conducting training camp and playing home games for the foreseeable future. Steve Stamkos welcomed the Raps to Tampa by tweeting, “We the South.” Raptor players don’t seem to be too upset about spending the winter in the warmth of Florida rather than Hogtown. Who can blame them?
Music Artist of the Week – Patty Griffin is one of my favourite female vocalists. She is also an outstanding songwriter. You may know her from her stint with Robert Plant and the Band of Joy. She started touring with the band in 2010 and had a lengthy relationship with Plant. They lived together and divided their time between Austin, Texas and England until 2014. She has battled and beat breast cancer and is back touring with her own band.
For more on her life and career, here’s a feature on Patty Griffin that appeared on the nightly newscast on PBS.
Griffin has released about ten albums over the years. Here’s a few of my favourite tracks starting with “Useless Desires.”
As you can see, Griffin has a ‘heavenly’ voice. Check out the song “Heavenly Day.”
For more of her music, here’s a full concert from Queen Elizabeth Hall in London last year.
We would be remiss if we didn’t show you some of her work with the Band of Joy. Here’s a fantastic version of the classic Led Zeppelin hit “Ramble On” with the great Buddy Miller on guitar. ENJOY!
We hope you are enjoying Under Further Review. If you have friends or family members who enjoy following sports, please take a moment and direct them to the website at https://underfurtherreview.ca/ and encourage them to subscribe.