NFL: Donovan McNabb shouldn’t be criticized for giving his honest assessment…

There was some controversy in Philadelphia over the weekend when former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb opined on CBS Radio on Saturday that the franchise should consider drafting another quarterback if Carson Wentz couldn’t lead the team past the second round of the playoffs in the next two seasons.

Of course, in this day and age of social media, McNabb’s take drew criticism from others, including eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson on Twitter. Johnson then went on a radio station on Sunday to call out McNabb and other former Eagles players for criticizing current players on the team.

Now, I have to say that I don’t blame McNabb for giving his honest opinion and insights. McNabb, after all, guided the Eagles franchise to seven playoff appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl following the 2004 season. He was a proven winner in Philadelphia and in the NFL, and the fact that he played in the league for as long as he did certainly proves that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to evaluating what he sees.

I mean, what he sees on the field would be valuable analysis – that’s precisely why networks bring in former players to do commentary.

It’s better than an athlete being a homer and with Donovan McNabb being asked a question on a radio show, he gave his honest assessment and shouldn’t be criticized for that.

I remember early in the 2018 season when poor place-kicking cost the Minnesota Vikings a game, and ex-Vikings great Cris Carter was on television passionately saying the kicker needed to be cut right away. That emotion probably stemmed from Carter’s own experience in the 1998 season when his 15-1 Vikings lost the NFC championship game after Gary Anderson missed what would have been an insurance field-goal attempt late in regulation.

That would not be what I would like to see or hear from an analyst when it comes to sports takes, having emotion cloud his judgement.

But that’s just how I see it – so shame on those who criticized Donovan McNabb over the weekend.

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More NHL first-round action…

On Wednesday, Calgary blew a 2-1 lead and lost 3-2 in overtime, falling behind its first-round series 3-1 against Colorado.

The Flames’ overtime struggles in playoff competition – and lack of playoff success, period – are really no surprise… you wonder if they’ve been cursed since their 1989 Cup victory. It seems they can’t win in the playoffs, or if they go into overtime in the playoffs, they lose (other than during their run in 2004).

This particular series in 2018-19 reminds me of the 1989-90 playoffs, when that season’s Flames were also the No. 1 seed in their own conference. Facing the L.A. Kings, they were tied 1-1 after the first two games in Calgary. The Flames then lost 2-1 in overtime in Game Three, and were blown out 12-4 in the fourth game to fall 3-1.

This season, it’s backwards. Tied 1-1, Calgary got blown out 6-2 in the third game and then lost the fourth contest 3-2 in OT. Anyway, an OT loss as well as a blowout loss on the road… and suddenly the Flames are down 3-1.

But it’s interesting how the Flames always seem to lose in playoff OT games… they did so in the third game in Montreal in the 1989 Finals before rallying to win that series. They lost big playoff OT games in 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, and 1996… and lost the clinching game in OT in all of those springs.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same, for Calgary.

NHL Series Sweeps

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh getting swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Tuesday night came as big shockers, but once again the playoffs are always unpredictable in hockey.

In particular, the Lightning tying the 1995-96 Red Wings’ single-season mark of 62 wins had many people thinking Tampa was going all the way. There were, in fact, a few articles that came out in recent weeks suggesting Tampa Bay was the greatest NHL team ever because of what the club was doing this season… but c’mon….

But ahhh… this goes back to how the winningest teams in the four professional sports leagues never won the title that year… whether it was the 2001 Mariners, those same Red Wings and now the Lightning, the 2007 Patriots, and the Warriors team that blew the 3-1 series lead to Cleveland in the NBA Finals.

I have no rooting interest here, so I’ll say that Tampa’s meltdown is something that should please fans of the 1992-93 Bruins. When Boston that year got swept by Buffalo in the first round, I remember there was talk about how the Bruins were the first team ever to win 50 games and then get swept in the playoffs. Well, the Lightning of 2018-19 won 62 and then nothing in the playoffs, so at least that takes those B’s off the hook.

And the other series – Pittsburgh vs. Islanders – was a shocker too… The Isles had a great season, but c’mon… New York had accomplished something that it couldn’t do when John Tavares was there. Now with Tavares in Toronto, the Isles are doing what they’re doing… simply amazing. I’m guessing this is New York’s first sweep since the 1983 team swept the Oilers in the Cup Finals.

We’ll see what other upsets occur the rest of the way…

A big problem in our society: Parents and Schools encouraging kids to “hate”

Instead of encouraging children to be positive and have a good attitude, some parents and schools are apparently doing the opposite.

In the story about a 10-year-old winning his science fair by proving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “cheated,” the boy stated that he hated Brady and said the future Hall of Fame QB didn’t deserve his money. “Gimme some of your money; you don’t deserve it,” the boy was quoted as saying in the story.

Wow. Give me a break. I’m guessing the parents encouraged him to do this science project knowing he hated the quarterback. “Hate” is always a strong word, but if parents are okay with 10-year-olds expressing hate, our society will have a big problem.

The school should be ashamed for allowing him to win. The boy hates Brady, so can his scientific findings be reliable when he has so much bias? And the fact he was allowed to win when he has hatred is just inappropriate.

Think about this: If we are encouraging kids to be biased in their research – which clearly is the case here – what does that tell us about the results of the research? It will likely be twisted to suit the “hater’s” agenda.

Finally, the comment about giving “some of your money; you don’t deserve it”: So, what makes the kid thinks he deserves that money? Just because he used his bias to cook up a biased research project? Or, just because he hates Tom Brady? Where is the logic in that?

The bottom line is this is a good example of poor parenting and a bad job by the school.

Welcome to the society and world we live in.

Things we saw in October…

The NFL is a week-to-week thing… every week has a new narrative. Remember how after the first two weeks of the 2018 season, when Pittsburgh began 0-1-1? Many of those analysts were predicting gloom and doom for the Steelers. Well, going into their huge AFC North matchup today in Baltimore, the Steelers are sitting atop the division at 4-2-1, just ahead of Cincinnati (5-3).

The Browns, who at 2-5-1 are at the bottom of the division, are who we thought they were…

Speaking of slow starts, wow – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson makes George Steinbrenner look like a saint… With the Lakers beginning slowly at 2-5, Johnson has apparently lost patience with coach Luke Walton. I mean, c’mon, the Lakers aren’t expected to be legitimate contenders and it’s early in the season….  Yes, I saw Magic play during his NBA career, but as an executive or fan, he’s not that great. He was the one cheering for Mike D’Antoni to be fired from the Lakers years earlier, wasn’t he? That’s exactly my point. Magic was a great player, but as an observer/fan/executive, he strikes me as a guy who just isn’t patient.

Ahhh.. Steve Pearce. World Series MVP. I’m sure throughout the summer, the buzz in Toronto (and the rest of Canada where Blue Jays fans reside) was something like, “What can the Blue Jays get for Josh Donaldson?” and “Donaldson will make a contending team a winner,” etc.

I was on TSN1040 during the summer, suggesting that teams that win the World Series, traditionally, have had under-the-radar pickups more often than those big mid-season acquisitions. For 2018, I was looking at Tyler Clippard, John Axford, Seunghwan Oh, etc. as possible difference makers. Maybe even a guy like Curtis Granderson. Okay, I was wrong. It turned out the biggest difference maker was Steve Pearce!! He had a hot few games and wound up helping the Red Sox win the World Series.

Man, it must be painful for those Blue Jays fans… they must have been rooting for Cleveland, with Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion being the two former Jays in the Indians lineup. Instead, it was David Price (who failed to deliver in the playoffs for Toronto) and Steve Pearce with their AL East rivals!!

Again, don’t trade within the division (ie. Toronto trading Pearce to Boston). It might make your fans cry in October…

Anytime someone brings up the need for a team to pick up a big name at the trade deadline to put itself over the top, I will just bring up two words. Steve Pearce.

Back to the NFL – an intriguing matchup on Sunday night with Green Bay vs. New England. Hours before that, Rams vs. Saints in what could be a potential NFC Championship Game matchup. The dream matchup would be a Patriots-Saints Super Bowl. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

Vindication…

On TSN1040 weeks earlier, I mentioned that a playoff team might fire its manager if that ballclub underachieves in the postseason… I mean, it would be possible that a manager was fired despite leading his team to the playoffs – it’s happened before (Grady Little, Joe Girardi, John Farrell, and if we want to go back further, Casey Stengel, etc.)…

When I made that comment, people were rolling their eyes. But hey, look at Game Four of the 2018 World Series, where it’s now 9-6 for the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth.

Tough questions have to be asked about Dave Roberts, manager of the Dodgers. They were up 4-0 after six innings with a dominant Rich Hill, who up to that point was throwing a one-hitter. He was pulled after 91 pitches.

With the score 4-3, Kenley Jansen, who had given up the game-tying homer in the eighth inning one night earlier, was brought back out for the eighth inning in Game Four to try and get a six-out save.

Home run. Tie game. Red Sox then scored five big runs to break the game open.

The Dodgers looked like they were going to tie the Series at 2-2 with Hill leading the way less than 24 hours after that epic 7 hour, 20 minute game…

And Roberts made at least two very questionable calls with the pitching.

So… just because you manage a team to the playoffs doesn’t mean you always make the right calls. If you make one too many, get ready to be scrutinized. Don’t forget, in the playoffs you’re facing tougher teams, not the Padres or Marlins or Mets anymore.

And I believe this is the end for the Dodgers as their window is definitely closing. It’s awfully hard to make it to the World Series three straight years….

World Series thoughts…

Game One of the 2018 World Series reminds me of the 2014 Series opener in Boston, when the Red Sox had a huge lead early but the Cardinals came back and knocked out Tim Wakefield – but the Bosox proved to be too much offensively, winning that game 11-9 in the late innings.

Those Red Sox went on to sweep the Cardinals in four straight, not trailing in any of the games.

Might we see the same script this year?

And…. the Dodgers making it back for the second year in a row…. Well, traditionally, teams that make it back to the final round after losing in recent years have done well. The notable exceptions, of course, were the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s (four straight Super Bowl defeats) and the Atlanta Braves (in 1992 after losing in 1991).

Then, the Bruins, whom I rooted for in my youth. They were swept in 1988 by the Oilers, and then fared no better in losing to Edmonton again in five games in 1990.

Other teams seemed to have learned their lessons, and some in fact had a shot at the same teams. For instance, the 1989 Flames beat Montreal in the Finals three years after losing to the same Habs in the final round. The 1987 Flyers at least took Edmonton to a seventh game (before losing 3-1), two years after being humiliated by those same Oilers in five.

Of course, you don’t need to have made it to the final round in past years to break through. The 1996 Yankees won the World Series against Atlanta, one year after a heartbreaking loss in the division series versus Seattle. That kickstarted a dynasty for the Yankees.

The 2018 Dodgers? Having lost Game Seven in 2017 to Houston, you figure the Dodgers would win it all this year. But Boston’s offense is too strong, and I have to still say Red Sox in four.


Yes, the Dodgers-Red Sox matchup in the World Series is the first since the 1916 Classic where the Brooklyn Robins faced Babe Ruth’s Red Sox. It’d been more than 100 years since the two franchises met in the Series!

One matchup that I’ve been looking forward to – and predicting every year since 2010 – but never coming true… Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. It was close in 2011, when Brees’s 13-3 Saints somehow lost a tie-breaker to 13-3 San Francisco, and New Orleans had the No. 3 seed. The Saints lost to Alex Smith in the divisional round… and the 49ers lost to the New York Giants, and we know what happened next…

And last year it was close… Hopefully, it will happen this season.

Also, talk about gutsy in the NFL over the weekend. The Tennessee Titans decided to go for two in London against the Los Angeles Chargers with under 30 seconds left instead of the game-tying PAT. Going for two to win the game – as opposed to settling for the tie to force OT – has been discussed in the media as being a good strategy. But I was surprised to see them pass it for the two-point conversion instead of trying to run it in.

QB Marcus Mariota could have run it in. Or have RB Dion Lewis, who’d had a terrific 36-yard run during that scoring drive that took the Titans from their own territory into Chargers territory.

It’s good to see QB Philip Rivers and his Chargers improve to 5-2. He’s played for some bad Charger teams in recent years. Hopefully, he can get the Chargers into the playoffs and knock off somebody like Kansas City (before losing to New England, of course).

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And the New York Giants – on Monday Night Football – going for two with under five minutes remaining and down by eight. Yikes. That one didn’t work out – and anyway, the Falcons added a late field goal. But coaches are getting gutsy going for two in clutch situations.