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Under Further Review – January 11, 2019

A Kick in the Teeth – OK, so here’s a novel idea. Get rid of placekickers and eliminate field goals altogether in the game of football. And please don’t ever call this a SKILL position because these guys are all useless. The only good kicker in the NFL is Adam Vinatieri and the rest of the bunch are all imposters – period! The top placekickers in the NFL make about three million a season. How about we offer you 30 bucks an hour because that’s what you’re worth?

Let’s go back to Saturday and the case of one Sebastian Janikowski of the Seahawks. He hurts himself attempting a 56 yard field goal at the end of the first half and leaves the Seahawks without a field goal kicker for the entire second half. This is what happens when you leave the task to a 275 pound, 40-year-old kicker who should have retired five years ago. It’s time for Seabass to go back to Poland and the all-you-can-eat pierogi buffet!

On Sunday, it got worse with the laughable performance from the Bears Cody Parkey.  First of all, why doesn’t he have an ‘r’ on the end of his name? I’m OK with Cody Parker, but Cody Parkey – sorry?  I just hope his nickname is Sparky! Bears fans had to endure Steve Bartman. Now it’s this guy! Deciding a playoff game on the leg of an inept placekicker is ludicrous! Bettors beware!

Parkey lines up for the winning field goal in the final seconds of Sunday’s wildcard game against the Eagles and hits what would have been the winning 43-yarder just as the Eagles called time out.  Of course, you knew what was going to happen next. It was so predictable. He hits both the left upright and the crossbar on his second attempt and the Bears lose an opportunity to not only move on, but potentially get to the Super Bowl. It was what we can now call the dreaded Double Doink! Bears fans are apoplectic! The next day they started claiming the kick was partially blocked. I suspect the Bears leaked that in order to save Parkey from being pillaged.

It was the sixth time this year that Parkey had hit the uprights. He did it four times in one game against the Lions. From now on when a kicker hits the goalpost, it will be officially known as a ‘Parkey’ and become part of the NFL lexicon forever. Parkey missed 11 kicks during the season (8 field goals & 3 extra points) yet still had a job. Do you think that maybe they should have cut his ass a long time ago and not set up this scenario? I’m told after the game he kneeled and prayed, presumably to get out of Chicago alive. How this guy was given a four year contract with nine million bucks guaranteed is beyond me!

Is there a worse position in all of professional sports? In the CFL, they actually reward ineptitude by giving a team a single point for MISSING a field goal? Let me get this straight – your kicker is useless but we are going to give you a point anyway?  In the U.S. college ranks, placekicking is an exercise in futility.  A 30-yard field goal is an adventure.

NFL kickers get booted out of jobs on a regular basis and roam from team to team like vagabonds.  I suspect they live in mobile homes. They can’t hold a job but yet keeping getting opportunities. Minnesota Viking PK Blair Walsh missed a chip shot in the playoffs on home turf against the Seahawks yet Seattle brought him in the next season.  What did he do?  He cost the Seahawks at least three games last year.

Can we just stop this nonsense?  Who wants to watch field goals anyway?  Get rid of them altogether.  If a team is fourth and goal from the 8-yard line, then let them go for it.  It would make the game far more exiting and way better to watch. It would force teams to be more creative on offense and more importantly, be productive in the red zone. No more being happy coming away with a field goal.

Seahawk Post Mortem – As disappointing as it was to watch the Seahawks make a quick exit from the NFL post-season, the fact of the matter is, they were playing with house money.  Few people predicted the Seahawks would make the playoffs this season so any way you look at it they exceeded expectations.

It was painful to watch against the Cowboys as Seattle kept aimlessly trying to establish a running game. They ended up with only 73 yards on the ground, their lowest total since the opening week of the season.  Workhorse Chris Carson had 13 carries for 20 yards.  His longest gain was five yards.  The Seahawks waited way too long to get Rashaad Penny involved in the offense.  Meantime, Ezekiel Elliot went off for 137 yards for the Cowboys on 26 carries.

The three and outs were too frequent to count starting with three straight to open the game. The Seahawks were totally inept on third down going two for 13. And as much as you would like to criticize the play-calling, the execution was terrible so did it really matter? I would have liked to have seen them put the ball in Wilson’s hands earlier like they did in Carolina when the Panthers shut down the Seahawks running game. Wilson got no help from the team’s third and fourth receivers. David Moore and Jaron Brown had zero catchers between them.  That’s an area they could look to improve in the off-season. Getting Will Dissly back from injury will be a big boost as well.

Defensively, it’s clear the Seahawks need to improve their run defense. It’s simply not good enough. They need to acquire another run-stuffing defensive tackle to team with Jarran Reed. The Seahawks should focus on the defensive line and linebackers in the draft. Additional cornerback depth would also help.

The good news is the Seahawks had the second youngest roster among all playoff teams. There is definite reason to be optimistic.  K.J. Wright is their only significant unrestricted free agent.  Wilson and Bobby Wagner will be eligible for extensions in the off-season.  Frank Clark will probably be slapped with a franchise tag if they can’t come to an agreement on a long-term deal. The Seahawks will have some cap space to work with so it will be fun to see where they focus their attention.

It’s guaranteed they go looking for a new placekicker. Seabass missed six field goals and three extra points this season.  The guy he beat out in training camp, Jason Myers, ended up making the Pro Bowl for the New York Jets. Go figure!

NFL Coaching Carousel – Black Monday took a nasty toll on NFL coaches. Eight different teams sent coaching packing. I can understand why some teams want to make a change but considering some of the candidates available, is it actually going to be an upgrade? Is Matt Lafleur going to be an improvement on Mike McCarthy in Green Bay?

There’s a big infatuation with finding a new offensive guru along the lines of Sean Payton of the Rams and Kyle Shanahan of the 49’ers.  Cincinnati is so desperate they are reportedly ready to sign Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor who’s never had a head job at any level. Arizona gave Steve Wilks only one year and replaced him with Kliff Kingsbury who made his name by grooming Pat Mahomes at Texas Tech.  The Cardinals apparently overlooked the fact Kingsbury went 35-40 in six years at the college level.

We will see if any of the coaching hires move the needle. Looks to me like there just aren’t enough great coaches to go around.

The Elias Effect – The mere presence of Elias Pettersson in the Canucks lineup has had a profound impact. There is more life in the team when he is in the lineup. The bench is more alive by the mere fact the players can’t wait to see what he may do next. You have to pay attention because you are not sure what magic he is going to create next. The Canucks record without Pettersson in the lineup is 3-5.  They have scored only 14 goals in those games so his impact is obvious. If I am the Canucks, I would be looking for a mean SOB who can keep the other team honest.

What is also readily apparent is Bo Horvat is overworked and it’s starting to show. He’s suddenly stopped scoring. Horvat is averaging nearly 21 minutes a game and leads the league in face-offs taken (1140) by a significant margin. He’s won the most face-offs in the entire league but also leads the NHL in face-offs lost. All that work in the face-off circle has taken its toll.

On the blueline, the defensive pairing of Ben Hutton and Eric Gudbranson is showing major signs of slippage.  Hutton is minus 16 while Gudbranson is a team worst minus 20. The Canucks need to decide the status of free agent-to-be Alex Edler and start to figure out how they can improve their back end. The cavalry is not coming to the rescue any time soon.

NHL Notebook – Watch out for the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference. They are scoring at a torrid pace and should easily advance out of the Pacific Division once the playoffs start.  The Flames just became the first team since the 1995-1996 Penguins to have four players with 50+ points through the first 45 games of the season. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk and newcomer Elias Lindholm have all reached that total.  The four Penguins to do it were Lemieux, Jagr, Francis and Tomas Sandstrom. The Flames lead the West in scoring with 157 goals, second in the league to Tampa Bay.

Maple Leaf Cup Parade Update – The media frenzy around the Maple Leafs has subsided considerably. The Leafs had their latest test against one of the NHL’s top teams and they failed again miserably with a 4-0 shutout loss to Nashville.

In last week’s radio segment on TSN 1040 in Vancouver, I talked about the risk of signing players to big money when they are heading into their third NHL contracts. It was tantalizing at the time to sign John Tavaras to a massive seven-year, 77 million dollar free agent deal but was it advisable when the Leafs major weakness was on the blueline and not at centre? Don’t forget, this is a guy who’s now 28 years old and has played over 750 games in the NHL. Risky business!

Where it is really going to come home to roost is the impact on the Leafs salary cap. Once Matthews and Marner are signed to big extensions, the Leafs are likely to be tying up over 30 million on just three players.  Add in Nylander and you have almost half the team’s payroll dedicated to four forwards. The Leafs missed a golden opportunity to deal Nylander while he was holding out. I would have targeted Colton Parayko in St. Louis.  Too late now.

In my view, the Leafs would have been better off to stay the course and avoid the temptation of signing Tavaras. They already had two solid centres in Matthews and Nazem Kadri. What’s more, they were very foolish to let JVR, Leo Komarov, Tyler Bozek and Matt Martin all walk away as UFA’s last summer without getting anything back. They refused to let them go at the trade deadline only to get bounced in the first round. I don’t think the Leafs were at the point in their development to let four guys walk for nothing. They would have been better off to stay the course and keep moving forward with the young core. You can’t fault the Leafs for wanting to WIN NOW, it’s just a matter of when the time is right.  I foresee a team that will be hog-tied by the salary cap yet still missing the key defensive pieces to advance deep in the playoffs.

The trade deadline is still more than a month away yet there’s no shortage of speculation on who may be on the move. Ottawa just ended an eight-game losing streak and now own the second highest odds of winning the lottery.  Of course, the pick will go to Colorado so the Avs are licking their lips. The Senators have two of the most coveted UFA’s in Matt Duchene and Mark Stone. If they are not signed to new deals soon, then they immediately become the jewels of deadline day. The problem for the Senators is – if they don’t re-sign them, there’s a very good chance they could fall to the bottom of the league and hand Jack Hughes over to the Avalanche.  How embarrassing would that be?

Stone would be a massive pick-up for any team. He’s got a major connection to Vegas Assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon so there will be plenty of talk about a deal to the Golden Knights.  However, George McPhee has already surrendered a bundle of young assets in trades for Tomas Tatar and Max Pacioretty so you wonder if he has the appetite for more.  I don’t see Stone going home to Winnipeg because right wing is not an area of need for the Jets.

The trade deadline figures to be very busy this year. Do I have a taker for Dion Phaneuf?  No, I thought so! The well-groomed one is burning it up this year with one assist for the entire season.

The wolves are circling around the Philadelphia Flyers.  Can you believe this team? They have used seven different goaltenders this season which is absolutely brutal. The players have no idea who’s in net from one night to the next. The Flyers have fallen to the bottom of the league and everyone’s available. Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux, among others, are looking at a change of address. Simmonds is a tough mother and would fit in great in Calgary or Nashville.

San Jose is another team to watch. They are still under the false impression they can win the Cup but don’t have the assets to acquire any additional talent.  They’ve already surrendered their first round picks in 2019 and 2020 in deals for Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson.

Stay tuned. More on the trade deadline and potential targets next week!

Who is Bianca Andreescu? – It appears as though Canada is continuing to churn out impressive young tennis prospects. The latest prodigy to burst onto the scene is 18 year-old Bianca Andreescu. The 5’5” Mississauga native shocked the tennis world by reaching the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, stunning former world #1’s Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams along the way. She rocketed up 45 spots in the tennis rankings from 152 to 107.

Andreescu is a Romanian Canadian who’s still trying to complete her high school diploma online. Despite her success, she still must advance through qualifying in order to compete in the upcoming Australian Open, the first major of the year.

Who is Trevor Lawrence? – Gentlemen, start your tanking! NFL teams are falling all over themselves in anticipation of landing the next quarterbacking wunderkind Trevor Lawrence of Clemson. In case you missed it, the 19 year-old true freshman led Clemson’s 44-16 bludgeoning of top-ranked Alabama in the national championship game.

Lawrence is already being called the greatest quarterback prospect ever with comparisons to Peyton Manning. He’s already 6’5”, 210 pounds and still growing with exceptional arm strength and accuracy.  At one point in the final, he had completed 8 of 10 on third down for 240 yards against a defense that may have four first round draft choices on the defensive line alone.

In the two most important games of the season, the semi-final against Notre Dame and the championship game against Alabama, Lawrence went for 347 yards and 3 TD’s, and 327 yards and 3 TD’s.  Impressive stuff! On the season, Lawrence threw 30 touchdown passes with only four interceptions and had a passer rating of 157.6. A legend begins! Scouts claim he was making passes in eighth grade that seniors in high school couldn’t make.

The problem for NFL teams is Lawrence still must play two more seasons at Clemson before being eligible for the NFL draft. Whoever lands the first pick in the 2021 draft is going to get an instant superstar. In the meantime, it would not be surprising to see Clemson win two more national championships.

PGA TOUR Preview – The PGA TOUR season is underway and there are all kinds of storylines. The new TOUR schedule comes into effect this season which will see the Players Championship return to March, the PGA Championship move up to May and the three-event playoff wrap up by Labour Day so it will no longer compete with the start of the NFL season. The Canadian Open will now be held in June, one week before the U.S. Open.  It should help attract a better field.  This year’s event is being held at Hamilton Golf & CC.

As for the ever-growing number of Canadians (8 this year) on tour, unfortunately none of them have qualified to play in any of the majors.  Adam Hadwin is going to have to up his game to qualify, not only for the majors, but for this year’s Presidents Cup team.

It was great to see Surrey native Adam Svensson come out of the gate with a nine under par 61 in the opening round of the Sony Open in Hawaii. He tore up the course with seven birdies and an eagle. There’s never been any question about Svensson’s talents.  He’s been on the horizon since his junior days.  It’s just a matter of time for the talented 25 year old. Editor’s Note – It was disappointing to learn late Friday night that Svensson struggled to a four over par 74 in round two and plummeted 19 spots in the standings to T-20 heading into the weekend.

There’s a bunch of rule changes coming into effect this year.  It’s now going to be OK to tap down spike marks. Players will no longer be able to have their caddies align them while on the tee. And in a salute to T.C. Chen, players who accidentally hit the ball twice with one swing will no longer be penalized two strokes.

The one issue that still needs serious attention is the golf ball and the distance it is being hit.  Last year, 60 golfers averaged 300 yards or more off the tee.  Ten years ago, that number was only 13. The USGA and the R & N are apparently studying the issue with ball manufacturers but it’s clear something has to be done. There’s a whole new breed of mashers who are making courses indefensible. Up and coming bomber Cameron Champ averaged a jaw-dropping 328 yards through last year’s fall schedule.

And finally, try to hold your breath with the news we may get more of the Tiger-Phil made-for-pay TV dribble. They are even talking about adding a partner to the equation where Phil would partner someone like Tony Romo and take on Tiger and Steph Curry. Geez, I can hardly wait!

Listen in on Saturday morning at 11:45 for our regular guest appearance on the Bro Jake Show on TSN 1040 in Vancouver. We will be talking Canucks, NFL playoffs and much more!