Out the door they go! Rex Ryan, Jim Harbaugh, Mike Smith, Marc Trestman -- every NFL season ends with a coaching purge.
Since 1978, and discounting for interim coaches, there have been 225 head-coaching changes in pro football, according to ESPN Research. This works out to a roughly 1-in-4.8 chance an NFL season will conclude with the coach being handed cab fare to the airport.
"Fire the coach" is a perennial NFL refrain. When the fans are in an uproar, the owner can't fire the players: rebuilding a roster takes at least two years, even when all goes well. The owner's not going to fire the owner, though Washington fans dream of that day. The one quick, decisive action an owner can take to assign blame, and generate hope for next season, is to fire the coach. So out the door they go!
One needn't have sympathy for cashiered pro coaches. They are paid very well for doing something that huge numbers of men do for modest reward (high school coaches) or for no pay at all (middle-school and youth coaches). And the NFL is strictly an entertainment organization. Losing seasons are not entertaining, so throw the bum out!
Because colleges play a larger role in society, a college football coach can have a losing season yet still make a case for keeping his job, if graduation rates and donor support are strong. Perhaps the sole NFL coach who can make a case for keeping his job even though his team was bad is Sean Payton, who (rightly or wrongly) is associated with the recovery of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, giving Payton a civic value no other NFL coach possesses.
The head coach purge happens annually though it's obvious that coaching turmoil detracts from long-term success. In the past decade, the Raiders have offloaded six head coaches -- which has only made their decade-long tailspin worse. Since 1978 the Browns, Colts and Raiders have combined for 33 instances of head-coach turnover, and also mainly struggled in that period. The team with the least coaching turnover since 1978 is the Steelers, two new head coaches. And hey, look, three Super Bowl rings during the period.
But though it is known that sideline turmoil does not build winners, season-ticket marketing happens mainly during the winter. Firing the head coach as winter begins gives customers a reason to believe the next season won't be as bad, and to pull out their credit cards. Some memorable NFL firings:
Lovie Smith was fired by the Bears at the end of 2012, when Chicago had just gone 10-6; as he was shown the door, Smith had an 84-66 record in Chicago. But the NFL's goofy playoff format gave two 10-6 teams home postseason games while telling the Bears to shut it down. Smith was scapegoated for the goofy format that was beyond his control, and given cab fare. The Bears are 13-19 since and just fired Trestman, Smith's replacement, along with Phil Emery, who fired Smith.
Marty Schottenheimer was fired by the Browns in 1988 after Cleveland took the division title three of five years. The Browns have not had a winning-record head coach since. Dave Wannstedt was 43-33 with the Dolphins when he resigned under management pressure in 2004. Miami has not had a winning-record coach since. Wade Phillips was fired at Buffalo after reaching the playoffs two of his three seasons. Since firing Phillips, the Bills have not made a playoff appearance -- a league-worst 15-year drought -- nor had a winning-record head coach. Jimmy Johnson was fired by Jerry Jones after winning two Super Bowls: Jones' nose was out of joint because he wanted all credit for himself. The Boys, 7-1 in the postseason under Johnson, are 6-8 in the postseason since Johnson was cashiered.
At Oakland, Jon Gruden was 40-28 as head coach. But Al Davis, annoyed that Gruden got better press than Davis, traded him to the Buccaneers for a king's ransom in draft choices. Not only did Gruden proceed to beat the Raiders in that season's Super Bowl, he was Oakland's last winning-record coach. The king's ransom in draft choices was squandered, as the Raiders have not made the postseason since losing the Super Bowl to Gruden's Bucs.
John Fox was let go by Carolina in 2010 despite a Super Bowl appearance and a 5-3 postseason record; the Panthers have not won a playoff game since. Tom Coughlin started the Jaguars as an expansion franchise, took them to four playoff appearances in the team's first five seasons, then was fired after a couple of off years. Management's all-caps view seemed to be: WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE'RE NOT IN THE PLAYOFFS EVERY YEAR! Coughlin went on to coach the Giants to two Super Bowl trophies; Jax has not had a winning-record coach since.
The Southeastern Conference is the college organization most similar to the NFL, and since 1978 -- we're using that year because it was when the FBS formed -- among the 12 current SEC member schools, the head coach has changed 84 times. That's a 1-in-5.1 chance of the head coach being shown the door, nearly as bad as the NFL. The Big 12 in that period has shown a 1-in-8.5 chance of the head coach being tossed overboard. Long gone are the days of a college coach keeping his job for years on end so long as he's popular on the alumni banquet circuit.
Over the coming weeks, smiling, optimistic men will be named NFL head coaches, though knowing their tenures may be short and acrimonious -- just as Harbaugh takes the Michigan job knowing its two most recent office-holders were run out of town on a rail. Don't feel sorry for the newbies. NFL and big-college coaches are very well paid for the ritual humiliations they undergo. Wouldn't you want to be the next Jets head coach even if you knew it would all coming crashing down in angry recriminations a couple of years later?
In other pro football news, the NFL's goofy postseason setup has Carolina, a losing team, hosting a playoff contest while five winning teams, including 10-6 Philadelphia, don't reach the playoffs. Many respond by saying, "Well, that's the format." But why is it the format?
It's common to note that while NFL owners talk rock-ribbed conservatism, the league's financial structure is socialist. Television revenue, the lion's share of NFL income, is split equally 32 ways. The playoff format is socialist, too. By awarding a home postseason contest to each division winner regardless of record, the NFL distributes playoff slots in a moral-equivalency manner that avoids mention of merit. With eight four-team divisions each assured a home playoff game, every NFL owner goes into the season knowing his or her team has a 25 percent chance of hosting a postseason party, no matter how poorly the team may perform. Pure socialism!
As for who will make the Super Bowl, TMQ's regular-season finale Authentic Games Index comes to a clear prediction. See below.
Stats Of The Week No. 1: Defensive end J.J. Watt finished the season with more scoring plays (5) than all Kansas City wide receivers combined (0).
Stats Of The Week No. 2: Andy Dalton is 3-10 in playoff and prime-time games.
Stats Of The Week No. 3: The Colts are on a 13-0 run versus their division and an 11-1 run versus Tennessee.
Stats Of The Week No. 4: Matt Stafford is 0-16 on the road versus teams that finished with a winning record. Of current quarterbacks only Ryan Fitzpatrick, also 0-16, is as bad.
Stats Of The Week No. 5: Dallas, 8-0 on the road, may end up playing in the postseason at Green Bay, 8-0 at home.
Stats Of The Week No. 6: New Orleans, with the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense, missed the postseason.
Stats Of The Week No. 7: Carolina became the second NFL team to reach the playoffs in the same season as having six straight losses.
Stats of the Week No. 8: New England and Seattle have allowed one second-half touchdown in their past 10 games combined.
Stats Of The Week No. 9: Green Bay opens the playoffs at home, where the Packers have played four straight games without punting in the first half. Aaron Rodgers has not thrown an interception at Lambeau Field in more than two years.
Stats Of The Week No. 10: Seattle, which has home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, is on a 24-2 home stretch.
Sweet Play Of The Week: Cleveland leading 10-6 at Baltimore midway through the fourth quarter, the Ravens, who dropped their final two games in 2013 to miss the postseason, were in danger of doing the same in 2014. On first-and-10, Joe Flacco saw a "shallow" Cover 2, safeties close to the line of scrimmage because Cleveland expected run. Flacco audibled to a go route to Torrey Smith, who blew past a shallow safety for a 53-yard completion. Touchdown one snap later and the defending champions from 2012 were on their way to the postseason of 2014.
Cheer-babe professionalism was a huge factor the Nevermores' comeback. Professionalism in this context means skin or at least skin-tight; scantily attired cheerleaders propitiate the football gods. Kickoff temperature 54 degrees, the Baltimore cheerleaders came out in two-piece warm-weather numbers, which caused the football gods to smile upon their team. Just a few miles to the south in the same weather, the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons cheerleaders danced all bundled up, and the Persons lost big.
As for the Browns, they hold two first-round picks in the upcoming draft, plus other extra selections. Fans may wish Cleveland had spent some of this bounty to improve the team right now and end its 12-season playoff drought.
Sour Plays Of The Week: At Kansas City, the Chargers' situation was simple: victory means a playoff invitation, loss means elimination. Trailing 19-7, the Bolts reached first-and-goal on the Flintstones' 3 midway through the fourth quarter. San Diego went incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, incompletion. Three of the four failed goal-line passes were fades, the most predictable NFL goal-line call. Score still 19-7, San Diego reached third-and-1 on the Kansas City 20 with four minutes remaining and went run no gain, run no gain. Both short-yardage rushes were straight up the middle, no man in motion, no misdirection, the most predictable short-yardage call.
Tony Romo, traditionally terrible in December, was 4-0 in December 2014; Philip Rivers, traditionally strong in December, was 1-3 in December 2014.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play: Seattle and St. Louis tied to start the fourth quarter, on second-and-long Les Mouflons tried to set up a screen. The tailback was covered, so Shaun Hill threw at the back's feet seeking a deliberate incompletion: defensive tackle Jordan Hill dove and intercepted the ball. A few plays later a touchdown put the defending champions ahead to stay. A moment after that, Hill threw a pick-six to linebacker Bruce Irvin. Two interceptions in six snaps were sweet for the Bluish Men Group, sour for Hill -- especially considering both picks went to front-seven players.
Sandwiched between the interceptions, Seattle completed a 31-yard pass to Kevin Norwood, setting up a touchdown. Pre-snap, Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins lined up in an odd stance, perpendicular to the line of scrimmage and facing inward -- like a "boundary corner" in college. The NCAA uses different hashmarks than the NFL, and because of this, professional defenses don't employ "boundary" corners. The weird stance by Jenkins allowed Norwood to blow past unnoticed.
Eliminate the Dime! The Washington Post reports it now costs nearly two cents to make a penny, and eight cents to make a nickel.
This is the very definition of government folly -- spending eight cents to produce five cents. The continuing existence of the penny is mainly a subsidized handout to zinc producers. A "nickel" is so named because nickel is the main component. When the five-cent piece first went into circulation in 1866, using metal for this coin made sense: today a nickel containing lots of nickel and copper makes no sense. The numbers show Washington is sold out not only to major interests such as Big Coal and Big Sugar but also to minor interests such as the zinc and nickel lobby.
TMQ has long maintained that the United States should eliminate the penny, as other nations have, including Canada. But we should eliminate the nickel and the dime, too. The quarter is the smallest denomination that has meaning in the contemporary economy. The value of a penny a century ago inflates to a quarter today. A dime a century ago was worth $2.35 in today's money. Sticking with pennies, nickels and dimes is like using oil lamps rather than electric light.
Pennies, nickels and dimes go beyond wasteful to negative value. They clog up America's pockets, purses and cash registers, are swallowed by America's toddlers, yet accomplish nothing at all. The penny is worth negative-one cent: the only rational response to a penny is to throw it into the trash.
That government cannot deal with the obsolescence of the penny, nickel and dime -- because metal producers would complain, and employment would decline at the United States Mint -- is a distressing indicator of whether government can ever deal with long-term mega-issues such as the national debt. Everyone knows the penny must go, yet no one in Congress will act. America's pockets are full of the jangling proof of government incompetency.
Authentic Games Standings: Around Thanksgiving, the Cardinals were first in Authentic Games and had the inside track for first seed, then the first-ever Super Bowl on a team's home field. Arizona held a realistic prospect of a path to winning the Lombardi trophy by playing nothing but games at home. Now the Cardinals open on the road and most likely won't see their own field again, unless they reach the Super Bowl. If that happens, it would be an awesome story. But Arizona may be chasing that dream with Ryan Lindley -- career 1-5 with two touchdown passes and 11 interceptions -- at quarterback. Statistically, the Cactus Wren seem out of their depth ranked 24th for scoring, though fifth in points against.
The elimination of Houston, Kansas City and San Diego causes a major shakeup in the Authentic standings -- though eliminated 10-6 Philadelphia remains Authentic while 7-8-1 Carolina is barred entry despite hosting a playoff contest. The Eagles performed in an Authentic manner, the Panthers did not, though benefiting from NFL socialism.
The biggest effect on the standings is that Denver plummets from 6-3 last week to 2-3, losing four wins over the now-discarded Bolts and Chiefs. Seattle rises to 5-1 as its defeats by those clubs no longer matter. The Colts look suspect at 2-5 in big games, though this metric assumes it's better to appear in a lot of big games and lose than to face mainly weak opponents. That's Detroit -- only four Authentic appearances.
Overall the numbers in the Authentic Games Index have been going down in the final month, rather than up the way all other standings numbers do, as pretenders are exposed and no longer viewed as big-time opponents.
The Authentic Games index clearly taps Pittsburgh and Seattle as the Super Bowl pairing. TMQ's gut feeling continues to be New England versus Seattle.
A Streetcar Named Undesired: Streetcars are all the rage, with projects opening, expanding or planned in Dallas, Cincinnati, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere. One reason for the streetcar fad is generous federal funding. Another is nostalgia. Streetcars suggest an earlier, happier era -- even if people are actually much better off now than in the good old days.
Do streetcars make sense? They are heavy and cumbersome compared to buses, yet get stuck in the same traffic. While buses are easily re-tasked as travelers' habits change, a streetcar can take passengers only where the tracks run. And streetcars are expensive. In some ways the streetcar combines the worst aspects of subways (cost, streets closed for construction) with the worst aspect of buses (stopped by traffic or snow).
Last month county officials in Arlington, Virginia, rejected a planned streetcar line that had become absurdly overpriced at $550 million for 4.5 miles. Because Arlington is very blue politically, rejection in a lefty area may signal the expiration of the streetcar craze. In this sharp piece, Eric Jaffe of City Lab shows that urban transportation upgrades can be attained with less cost and more flexibility by improving bus service.
The best case for streetcars is they are a popular amenity that encourages urban economic growth. The worst-case option is that they are a boondoggle beloved by politicians because they create construction kickbacks and patronage jobs. Since the upper class largely doesn't ride buses, opinion-makers seldom seem aware that better bus service improves life for average people.
Wacky Food of the Week: The Wall Street Journal reports Ralph Lauren's combined clothing store and high-end burger joint in Paris is a hot ticket. In the land of five-course gourmet meals and cuisine minceur, bacon cheeseburgers are flying off the grill at 29 euros each, about $35. Surely the fact that they cost so much is part of the appeal!
Tony Kornheiser's classic line is that the whole Paris Hilton nonsense never would have happened if she'd been named Baltimore Marriott. Imagine if everything about Ralph Lauren's designs were exactly the same, but he had never changed his name from Ralph Lifshitz.
Manhattan dining in perspective: a restaurant with a $48 dinner is one of the "best deals in the city."
Aux Grands Maux, les Grands Remèdes: Needing to shake up its dormant offense, Arizona used both a flea-flicker and a halfback pass. The Cardinals lost anyway, posting only two touchdowns in their past three outings.
Needing to shake up its dormant offense, Buffalo showed a wide-trips formation composed entirely of tight ends. Reaching third-and-goal at the 1, the Bills put six offensive linemen on field, then split 6-6, 330-pound tackle Chris Hairston, who reported eligible, out wide covered by a skinny cornerback. As New England pointed at the wide giant, Buffalo ran up the middle for a touchdown. The Bills snapped an 0-12 streak at New England, though mostly versus the Flying Elvii junior varsity.
The American People Wanted This Item: Over the years TMQ has pounded the table regarding standard phrases of political bloviation such as addressing audiences of people whose names you don't even know as "my friends," and constant use of "frankly" -- are you lying at other times? -- plus its superfluous intensifier "quite frankly." At this point, a United States senator ordering lunch says, "My friends, acting without fear or favor, I'll have the turkey sandwich." White House spokespersons say, "Quite frankly, we hope for peace on Earth."
The out-of-control bloviation phrase of the moment is "the American people." Cable news and talk-radio hosts speak of the views of "the American people" as if having interviewed all 318 million. Left and right hurl at each other assurances of what "the American people" want, as if 318 million were in serene agreement.
Worst is when Washington politicians, most of whom at this point are paid employees of interest groups, speak confidently of the desires of "the American people."
Speaker of the House John Boehner often refers to what "the American people" want, bearing in mind that to Boehner, "the American people" means pipeline lobbyists. Senator Elizabeth Warren often presents herself as the cicerone of "the American people," bearing in mind that to Warren, "the American people" means MSNBC bookers. Rep. Bill Cassidy, soon to be sworn in as a senator from Louisiana, says "the American people" so often he must be a psychic to know exactly what each one wants. Check what happens when you put "the American people" into the search box of Cassidy's website.
A typical Congressional floor statement today would sound like: "Quite frankly, the American people are demanding we enact accelerated depreciation for overseas tax havens."
Of course politicians and pundits long have employed orotund phraseology to make their statements sound more important. Constant invocation of "the American people" seems to raise the stakes. It suggests either that, like ObamaCare advisers, people at the top think people at the bottom are too stupid to realize they're being played; or that people at the top have such runaway egos they actually believe they personally speak for the entire American people.
Unified Field Theory of Creep: Reader MacGregor Obergfell of Columbus, Ohio, reports that he was in a JoAnn Fabrics on the day after Christmas and saw "an Easter display front and center."
Why Didn't North Korea Think of This?: Getting a press pass in China now requires signing a pledge not to report anything.
ESPN Grade's Favorite Bowl Game: The New Era Pinstripe Bowl -- there was no old-era Pinstripe Bowl, New Era is a cap company -- was as good as football gets. More important, or perhaps one should say if only this was viewed as important, the contest was 92 percent football graduation rate (Boston College) versus 87 percent football graduation rate (Penn State). When Oregon meets Florida State in the playoff semifinal, the pairing will be 70 percent football graduation rate (Oregon) versus 65 percent (Florida State).
For those who watched/listened to/read about the New Era Pinstripe Bowl: other than here, did anyone at all mention the education aspect? If anyone did, tweet me at @EasterbrookG.
This season 76 of 125 FBS schools made a bowl, or 61 percent. The majority were above average! At college's lower divisions, 24 of 124 FCS schools reached the postseason, or 19 percent. Twenty-four of 170 Division II schools were tapped, or 14 percent. Thirty-two of 244 Division III colleges advanced their seasons, or 13 percent.
These numbers mean that at the football-factory level, colleges were odds-on for the postseason, while for colleges at all other levels, postseason play was an acknowledgment of achievement. So football factories have embraced postseason socialism, while lower-division colleges continue to believe in the merit system.
The Golden Age of Radio Isn't Over: Reader Will Martin asks, "Many of your insights seem to come from watching the actual games. Where do you get your film and how many hours do you watch?"
One of the founding insights of Tuesday Morning Quarterback was that football coverage spends too much time on stars, owners and coaches, not enough on what actually happens during games. (This may be true of coverage of other sports as well, football is the only sport I follow closely enough to feel sure.) There are 100 words written or spoken about what might happen in any given football game for each one word regarding what did happen.
For a while, I thought this was because the news cycle is based on anticipation: TV and media culture are obsessed with what might occur next. Eventually I became convinced -- and don't take this too hard, writers and broadcasters whose whole lives are tied up in commenting on football -- that some football writers and on-air football personnel don't spend much time watching games. What they spend time on are highlights and news conferences. Both may be interesting, but football outcomes are as much determined by tactics on plays that don't make highlight reels as by the occasional spectacular run or catch. And the structure of big-media sports coverage is that some writers and on-air personnel choose (or are assigned) one particular game to pay attention to per week, ignoring the rest except for highlights.
Thus at the outset, TMQ resolved, first, to write about what actually happens on the field and, second, to watch every game.
I've always kept the first resolve. Until 2011, I kept the second -- I watched at least most of every NFL game, and each column had at least one item about the tactics employed in every game that week. But keeping the second resolve was a ton of work, considering sportswriting is my avocation, not my profession. Beginning with the 2012 season, I stopped promising an item on every game -- though I've continued to produce items on around three-quarters of NFL contests, plus many college games.
So Will Martin asks -- how do I do it? Especially considering I am known for railing against the unavailability of NFL Sunday Ticket in my neighborhood.
Will, the answer is: Trade secret. There are two trade secrets supporting Tuesday Morning Quarterback: How to contact the football gods, and how to understand what happens on the field in most games and still have time to live a regular life. I've figured out both secrets. If I gave either away, I'd only be creating competition for myself.
But I will give a tip about part of how I do it because it's a tip many football enthusiasts could benefit from: every Sunday I devote at least two hours to listening to games on the radio.
In our video-focused culture, the value of radio may be overlooked. Assuming pictures are all that matter, many TV broadcasters don't even try to describe what they are seeing: which in turn means they don't have to pay close attention. Or they spend too much time on trivia such as recounting their dinner with some celebrity the night before. This leads to a key bit of TMQ advice: try watching a football game with the sound turned off. Undistracted by patter, sound effects and anecdotes about Jay-Z or Katherine Heigl, you'll find your senses instantly take in more of what's actually happening on the field.
Now about radio. An old-fashioned radio announcer who can paint a picture with his or her voice can tell you more about a game than watching six camera angles in slow motion. Plus the hometown announcer often is steeped in what's going on behind the scenes for that team. So for instance during Sunday's Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game, listening to the Pittsburgh hometown call would clue you in on the Steelers; listening to the Cincinnati hometown call, on the Bengals.
There are a dozen NFL radio flagship announcers and partners who do a great job, as good as anyone from the Golden Age of Radio. Three of my favorites, in alphabetical order: Paul Allen of KFAN, Vikings radio play-by-play. Wes Durham of WZGC, Falcons radio play-by-play. John Murphy of WGR, Bills radio play-by-play. All can do solely with their voices what many telecasters couldn't do with an entire studio crew.
If you've got a favorite flagship play-by-play radio announcer, tweet his or her identity to me @EasterbrookG. Football only, please.
When the Second Choice May Be Better Than the First: City of Tampa clinched the first overall choice. NBA-style tanking was involved. Mike Evans and Lavonte David did not play in the second half. Facing fourth-and-1 at midfield in the fourth quarter, Lovie Smith sent out the punt unit. League's worst team punts on fourth-and-1 from midfield in the fourth quarter! Gee, wonder what the Buccaneers were trying to accomplish?
Would City of Tampa have been better off with the second choice? There may be pressure on the franchise to select Florida sports celeb Jameis Winston. He's not a Lovie Smith kind of guy, and has tremendous meltdown potential. Marcus Mariota will be tempting, but his style of play is so similar to that of Colin Kaepernick that the worry would be a Kaepernick-style flameout. At the second overall selection, there will be far less pressure on whoever is taken.
Buck-Buck-Brawkkkkkk: Trailing 27-7, 4-11 Washington faced fourth-and-6 on the Dallas 7. Sure-to-Be-Former Head Coach Jay Gruden sent in the field goal unit. Worried about being fired, Gruden wanted to keep "we didn't even score double digits in the final game" off the bill of attainder against him. The R*dsk*ns went on to lose 44-17.
Merge NFL, "American Idol": Reader Konrad Miller of Austin, Texas, writes, "NFL officials mainly do a good job, but there are so many high-profile botched calls that perhaps crowd-sourcing is the solution.
"When a call is challenged, put the decision in the hands of viewers at home. They'd see two views of the replay -- that's all a referee should ever see since if you need to watch more than two times, the outcome is not indisputable -- then be given numbers to text for their votes. Sitting in the comfort and relative peace of our living room, with large HD televisions, fans are probably getting a superior view of the game anyway. We don't have the added pressures of the crowd or head coaches demanding attention.
"As for team bias, if generally equal numbers of opposing fans are watching each game, their bias would cancel out in the voting. Technology could be employed to prevent fans at the game from voting, since they'd always side with the home team. Having thousands if not millions of people vote on a challenge would make the NFL more engaging to viewers -- and by calling on the wisdom of crowds, lead to better rulings. Plus it couldn't take any longer than the current system."
Of an item on long tracking codes -- the 22-digit USPS tracking code might be sufficient to assign to a unique number to every star in the universe -- many readers noted the codes don't merely identify the package. Scott Yonts of Auburn, Maine, wrote, "Long tracking numbers are kind of misleading because they contain several pieces of data. For instance, there is a unique package identifier in the 18-character tracking codes used by UPS, but that's only seven of the characters. The additional characters identify the shipper and the shipping service, among other things."
Did Writing This Item Make the Earthquake Rider Tax-Deductible?: Fracking has led to a boom in production of relatively clean natural gas; supply increase has caused the price of natural gas to drop, benefiting everyone. But wastewater from fracking threatens to pollute groundwater and trigger seismic activity. Oklahoma has a clearly rising trend of the earth shaking that seems to link to injection wells. Pennsylvania allows most kinds of fracking; Washington D.C., near the Keystone State, experienced a medium-strength quake in 2011. Maybe that was just coincidence. Maybe it wasn't.
Taking into account that fracking may cause some overall rise in seismic activity, your columnist recently added an earthquake rider to my homeowner's policy. State Farm's rider covers earthquakes and "volcanic eruptions." But only on my own property -- if a volcano erupts next door, I'm out of luck.
Paper of Record Catches Up With TMQ: Tuesday Morning Quarterback has pointed out several times, including in October, that supposed conservative Chris Christie "is drawing his New Jersey salary, spending New Jersey taxpayers' money on travel and bodyguards while shirking his New Jersey duties -- such as trying to fix the budget mess he created."
Many readers including Dorothy Hutchinson of Mahwah, New Jersey, noted this concern just landed on the front page of the New York Times. The paper reports that over the last year Christie -- Governor Abutment to this column -- "spent 152 days, or 42 percent of his time, outside New Jersey." While wagging his finger at others regarding public spending, Christie methodically wastes taxpayers' money to promote himself. Governor Abutment seems the very embodiment of the high-tech political phony.
TMQ Still Seeks a Corporate Sponsor for My Proposed Fiasco Bowl: Will the new College Football Playoff cause declining interest in bowls? At the FBS level, one argument in favor of many bowls was that since no champion was chosen, no bowl was demonstrably more important than any other. Now that's changed.
Back in the day, bowls were financed by ticket sales. In the cable-TV era, broadcast rights mean more than the gate, so a bowl can play to a weak house yet be a financial success. Still, early attendance figures aren't impressive. The Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl -- successor to the TicketCity Bowl, surely you knew that -- drew just 31,297 spectators in the 92,100-seat Cotton Bowl. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl -- which really needs a longer name -- played to just 33,077 spectators though it was Navy versus San Diego State, both colleges having local interest. Just 34,014 spectators were present for the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, played in a 73,208-seat facility, though it featured Louisiana-Lafayette, a local-interest school.
The Football Gods Chortled: The Cowboys kept Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray on the field through the fourth quarter against hapless Washington. Both were chasing records, and since the NFL is a form of entertainment, this was entertaining to Boys fans. But a playoff victory would be a lot more entertaining than a star getting injured in a meaningless second half. (Dallas' slim hope of a top seed depended on other games, not the Cowboys-R*dsk*ns outcome.) Bill Belichick, eyes on the prize, fielded his junior varsity to start the second half.
Chasing a consolation record, the eliminated Bears forced the ball to Matt Forte, who was seeking the single-season mark for receptions by a running back. Forte was targeted 12 times and made eight receptions -- for a total of 23 yards.
The Football Gods Chortled, Indeed: Indianapolis at Tennessee scoreless, the Colts had first-and-goal on the Flaming Thumbtacks' 7. Coby Fleener lined up as an inline tight end on the right. As Andrew Luck play-faked, Fleener pretended to block, then paused for a beat, then ran into the left flat uncovered for an easy touchdown. Fleener never blocks -- how could Tennessee fall for a fake block by a guy who never blocks?
Adventures in Officiating: Last week TMQ noted that when Russell Wilson repeatedly jumped up and down versus Arizona in order to get the center to hike -- Seattle was using a silent snap based on the quarterback raising a leg -- he should have been flagged for illegal motion. Sunday, Jersey/A lined up for a field goal versus Philadelphia. The Giants shifted, with holder Steve Weatherford becoming the quarterback for a fake kick. Weatherford lifted his leg, no snap. Then he jumped into the air to get the center's attention -- and was immediately flagged for false start.
Green Bay leading 14-0 late in the second quarter, Matt Stafford threw incomplete on third-and-13. Just after the release, a Packers pass-rusher smacked Stafford lightly on the side of his helmet -- roughing the passer, touchdown pass on the next Detroit snap. Contact with the quarterback's helmet is illegal, plus the rule says, "When in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactic against the quarterback, the referee should always call roughing the passer." But the contact was trivial, not in any way "potentially dangerous." The NFL has good reason to protect quarterbacks, but the roughing-the-passer rules need to be reviewed in the offseason.
The 500 Club: Facing USC, Nebraska gained 525 yards and lost.
The 600 Club: Facing Western Kentucky in the Bahamas Bowl, Central Michigan gained 607 yards, scored 34 points in the fourth quarter and lost. Only 13,677 turned out for the contest, played in a nation that knows gridiron-style football mainly from television.
Next Week: If Carolina reaches the Super Bowl with a record of 10-8-1, will the world end?