Aggies – Longhorns back to Thanksgiving Night? …Nice! I love it. Nothing beats me down worse than the Friday morning slot for this rivalry. It deserves the main stage. Kickoff right after the Cowboys game on Thanksgiving is perfect…
Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne have agreed to move the annual Longhorns-Aggies football showdown to Thanksgiving for the next two years if ESPN and the Big 12 can work it out contractually.
Dodds and Byrne both said Tuesday they are waiting for ESPN and conference officials to iron out the details before making an official announcement. Byrne said through A&M spokesman Alan Cannon that any announcement would come from ESPN or the Big 12.
"I think there's lots of issues that still need to be solved," Dodds said. "I think we'll work it out, but I think lots of things aren't done yet. To announce anything right now is a little premature."
In 2008, both Texas and Texas A&M would have an open date prior to their game in Austin. In 2009 at College Station, both teams would play the preceding Saturday, meaning they'd have only four days of preparation.
Currently, the game in 2008 is scheduled for either Friday, Nov. 28, or Saturday, Nov. 29.
"I think both schools really enjoyed that Thursday night game, from the feedback I’ve had across Texas," Byrne said. "That was a game people looked forward to.
"I had so many requests from people wanting it back on Thanksgiving, even going back five years ago when I first got here, that was one the first questions I was asked. My response was, 'I can’t do that, that’s a conference decision.' "
Added Dodds, "We liked it when we played on Thanksgiving. It was a pretty good tradition. Everybody is off on Thanksgiving and not everyone is off on Friday. And if you're fortunate enough to play in the Big 12 championship game, it gives you one more day of rest or one more day of preparation."
The last time Texas and Texas A&M met on Thanksgiving was 1993, an 18-9 A&M victory in College Station. The two schools have met 60 times on Thanksgiving with Texas holding a 40-18-2 series lead in those games.
Associate Big 12 commissioner Tim Allen said Fox and ESPN are working on a sublicensing agreement that would call for ESPN to air a handful of Big 12 games in 2008. The UT-A&M game would be aired on ESPN as part of that sublicensing deal, which has to be completed before an official announcement can be made, Allen said.
And now on to the NFL:
Do the Giants miss Shockey? …
When Jeremy Shockey crumpled to the turf with 1:11 left in the third quarter Dec. 16, his left leg broken, the Giants wondered what would become of their offense without its fiery leader.
Uh, the offense is doing fine, thanks for asking.
There's no doubt the Giants miss Shockey, whose 12 catches for 129 yards will be numbers brought up often this week. Those were his totals on Nov. 11, the last time the Giants and Cowboys played. The Dallas defense tried to take away Eli Manning's wide receivers and Shockey, matched mostly against Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams, found gaping holes in the secondary that afternoon.
Of course, the Giants lost, but without Shockey, it could have been far worse. "He can't cover anyone, you all know that," one Giant said of Williams before the game, hinting that Shockey could have a big day.
So how has the Giants' offense managed to put up 24 (of the 38 scored in Buffalo the week after Shockey's season-ending injury), 35 and 24 points without him? Was he a detriment?
How the offense has appeared to improve without the elite tight end is a matter of simplicity. And the addition of rookie Ahmad Bradshaw.
Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs did the bulk of the work in Buffalo, running wild for a total of 291 yards and three touchdowns. Manning, 7-for-15 for 111 yards and two picks in the terrible conditions, wouldn't have gotten much more done with Shockey there.
The same is true for the Patriots game in Week 17 and Sunday's playoff win over the Bucs, games in which Manning was nearly flawless. Shockey's role, as he so often reminded us, was as a blocking-first tight end, and though he is clearly a better blocker than rookie Kevin Boss, kudos go to offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, tight ends coach Mike Pope and running backs coach Jerald Ingram for making the run game work without an experienced blocker on the end of the line.
In the passing game, it's clear that Manning wasn't entirely comfortable with Shockey this season. That was rarely the case the past two seasons, despite all the hand-wringing over Shockey's .choosing to do the bulk of his offseason work in Miami. He and Manning connected 131 times in 2005 and 2006, 14 for touchdowns.
Blueprint to beat the Cowboys …
Here's the Big Blueprint for beating the Cowboys on Sunday:
REED IT AND DON'T SLEEP: Don't let any of the Terrell Owens (high ankle sprain) injury reports lull you to sleep. The guy is a gamer, and Tom Coughlin might want to show his team a clip of Willis Reed hobbling onto the Garden court for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Lakers. Remember, one day before Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots, Andy Reid held T.O. out of the Eagles' walk-through. This was after the surgeon who had implanted two screws and a plate in his right leg refused to clear him to play.
“I got the best doctor that anyone can have," T.O. said that week. “That's God."
This was Patriots safety Rodney Harrison that week: “We're putting our game plan in regardless of whether T.O. plays or not. . . . I'm preparing as if he's going to be a major factor in the game." And T.O. caught nine passes for 122 yards in the Eagles' 24-21 loss.
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: This is no time to make room on the bandwagon. If the Giants enjoyed calling themselves the worst 10-6 team to make the playoffs, they must now call themselves the worst 11-6 team in the playoffs. The road warriors' lone loss away from the Meadowlands came in the opener at Texas Stadium. Never surrender that “us against the world" chip on their shoulders.
REESE'S PIECES: Four members of GM Jerry Reese's 2007 NFL Draft class must again play important roles: CB Aaron Ross, who is over the awe of defending T.O. for the first time; RB Ahmad Bradshaw, whose toughness, quickness and balance complements Brandon Jacobs and gives Coughlin a formidable thunder-and-lightning attack; WR Steve Smith, who should have gained confidence with several big catches against the Bucs; TE Kevin Boss, who has good hands and is a 6-foot-6 red zone option ... especially when safety Roy Williams draws the assignment.
ANOTHER BARBER: Marion “The Barbarian" Barber isn't related to Ronde and Tiki, but Giants players don't have to know that. The first thing Coughlin should do when he addresses the team today is roll his eyes and moan: “Another Barber." His players can be had.
HAWAII 17-0: Amani Toomer came up big against the Bucs, but now it is time for one-legged Plaxico Burress to upstage T.O. and prove that he deserved Pro Bowl honors. There's bound to be some quote somewhere that Burress finds insulting enough to paste over his locker again; it's up to the Giants' crack public relations staff to find it.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE: Cowboys assistant Tony Sparano appears to be Bill Parcells' choice as next coach of the Dolphins. Just because His Tunaship might think about calling him every 15 minutes or so to chitchat in no way would mean that he's interested in Phillips failing to take the team he assembled to the NFC Championship game.
Coughlin doesn't want to hear any talk about any three-year contract extension . . . just as he ignored calls for his head a year ago.
B-ELI-EF: Eli Manning, playing the best quarterback of his NFL life, no longer has to answer questions about winning his first playoff game. Tony Romo does. Coughlin doesn't. Wade Phillips does.
These Giants certainly are not the 2007 Patriots, who are every coach's Dream Team. These are not Red Holzman's '69-70 Knicks, or Joe Torre's '98 Yankees, or Bill Parcells' '86 and '90 Giants, or the '69 or '86 Mets, or the '94 Rangers.
You don't have to be a perfect team to be a Dream Team. But you do have to be a team.
And as you watched the Giants break the Bucs' will, as you watched them grow stronger as the day grew warmer and the hostile crowd grow louder, watched unsung heroes like Corey Webster and Grey Ruegamer and Gerris Wilkinson and Guy Whimper, you couldn't help but think that this is the most close-knit Giants team since the 1990 outfit shocked the Joe Montana 49ers in the NFC Championship game in San Francisco then the Jim Kelly-Scott Norwood Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
That was the team that asked career backup Jeff Hostetler to go get a championship after Phil Simms went down in December; the team that summoned every ounce of motivational genius from Parcells and every ounce of tactical genius from Bill Belichick.
This is the team that wasn't even a team a year ago, wasn't supposed to be anywhere near January this year.
Just look at them now ... two victories from the first Sunday in February.
Shocked that Gibbs is gone? Who could be? I think Don Banks nailed it when he said Gibbs looked like he was not enjoying it …
Now that it's done, four years and one day after it began, Joe Gibbs' second act in Washington never looked like much fun, did it?
Never once in the time he was back on the Redskins sideline do I recall him looking like he was enjoying his return to the NFL coaching game. The losses seemed to pain and almost embarrass him, given his Hall of Fame stature. The wins seemed only to momentarily ease the self-induced pressure he felt to return a storied franchise to glory.
But there wasn't much glory to be had in going 31-36 in those four seasons, even at the high points, when his 2005 and 2007 teams got hot late and squeaked into the playoffs as the NFC's No. 6 seed. One playoff win in four years is all that Gibbs mustered in his second go-round in Washington.
His standards were set a lot loftier than that, and the feeling you got watching him was that he never really came to grips with whether his surprising return to the NFL in January 2004 was the right call or not. It is tough to go home again, and Gibbs seemed to be aware at all times that he couldn't deliver the goods as he had in his Redskins heyday, when he won three Super Bowls in a 10-year span.
The suspicion all along in regards to Gibbs' return was that he did it for the money, of course. He got out of the game the first time in the early 1990's, long before the $5 million a season threshold for coaching salaries was crossed, and you can't blame him for wanting to get a piece of that pie.
But the money didn't seem to make up for his prized family time that he missed out on, the case of heartburn that's brought on by losing in the NFL, or the nagging feeling that he was tarnishing his Hall of Fame coaching legacy by fielding Redskins teams that lost more than they won.
It was also easy to tell that Gibbs didn't quite know what to make of today's NFL player, or exactly how to motivate them in this salary-cap age. He had left the coaching ranks just before the dawn of free agency, when team-building was a different animal than it is today.
But what about the promise to Gregg Williams that he will succeed Gibbs? …Not so much…
Players, surprised by Gibbs's exit, voiced support for Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense. But when asked about that yesterday, Snyder responded only that he would take his time and go through a "process."
Snyder praised Gibbs for leading what he believes was a revival in the franchise the past four years, reaching the playoffs twice but never advancing past the second round while setting spending records for players and coaches alike.
He badly wanted Gibbs to remain beyond the year left on his contract, discussing the situation with him until about 2:30 a.m. yesterday, four years to the day that Gibbs's hiring was announced. Gibbs, who won three Super Bowls during his first tenure with the team, said he did not want to be a figure who loomed over the next head coach, and although he will be a special consultant for Snyder, he will return to Charlotte.
Gibbs carried dual roles for Snyder, overseeing the coaching and personnel department, and Snyder said repeatedly yesterday that he is not pursuing candidates for a general manager position. He has said he supports the team's management structure, in which he, Gibbs and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato are in charge of final player and drafting decisions. Even with Gibbs gone, Snyder does not believe he needs one proven executive, with no attachment to the coaching staff, with authority on personnel matters.
"I think Joe and I feel very, very comfortable over the last four years that it's been working in terms of the front office," Snyder said, "and I'm a believer that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. We've done a pretty good job there."
Most in the NFL believe Snyder will pursue Bill Cowher, who won a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh and works for CBS but has said he is not interested in coaching next season. Other possibilities, according to some sources, are Southern California Coach Pete Carroll -- if Snyder is willing to forget the pro struggles of the last college coach he hired, Steve Spurrier -- and former Redskins great Russ Grimm, a longtime NFL assistant with strong ties to Gibbs.
The NFL requires that all teams interview a minority candidate for head coaching vacancies. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis assistant head coach-quarterbacks; Mike Singletary, San Francisco assistant head coach-defense; Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier; and Atlanta offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, a former Redskins staff member, are possible contenders.
Tom Brady gets honored …no way!
Just like all those wins, the NFL awards keep rolling in for Tom Brady.
The league's Most Valuable Player added The Associated Press 2007 Offensive Player of the Year honors to his collection Tuesday, easily outdistancing his main weapon on the unbeaten New England Patriots, Randy Moss.
Indeed, of the four players who received votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL, three were Patriots. Brady, of course, led the way, just as he did through the first 16-0 regular season in league history.
"We set out a bunch of goals early in the season," Brady said, "and I think I said the best part about playing quarterback here is I just have to do my job, show up every day and work hard just like everybody else. I think my job description is just a bit different than everybody else's, but there's a lot of satisfaction knowing that I can just come out there and worry about myself and expect that everybody else is going to do their job.
"It's been a fun season. There's no doubt about it."
And it's been a rewarding season for Brady, the first New England player to be chosen MVP and now the first Patriot to win Offensive Player of the Year. He collected 35½ votes to 12½ for Moss. Wes Welker, the Patriots' other starting receiver, got one, as did Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre.
Earlier in the week, Brady won the MVP by a final vote of 49 of 50 votes. So, Logically, we all wanted to know the rationale of the one guy who voted for Brett Favre. Well, here is what he was thinking …
The lone voter who did not select Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as the NFL's Most Valuable Player explained his rationale for the choice yesterday.
Frank Cooney, the founder of Sports Xchange - an information provider for news organizations - cast his vote for Packers quarterback Brett Favre. Cooney has been analyzing football since the 1960s.
"First, let's be clear that this award is a distinctly individual honor in the ultimate team sport, which makes it extremely difficult to sort out in the first place," he wrote in an e-mail.
"As such, it cannot be based on statistics, which reap their own rewards. The term we are addressing here is Most Valuable Player, which I take to mean most valuable to one's team. It is, at best, an awkward phrase to evaluate, let alone quantify or justify. But, again, mere statistics should not be the sole basis of consideration.
"Tom Brady is a great player on a great team filled with great players in a highly-evolved system and a proven, veteran coach. That team, that franchise was expected to win 14 games and it won 16. Brady was awesome behind an awesome line and with awesome wide receivers in a great system with the help of excellent defense and special teams. He threw 50 touchdowns, 23 to Randy Moss. I appreciate all of that.
"In addressing the subject of the individual honor of Most Valuable Player, however, one is confronted by one of those chicken-or-egg scenarios. Was Brady great because of his team or was the team great because of Brady? There is no right or wrong answer there, just endless debate.
"I am familiar with this debate because it raged when Brady's idol, Joe Montana, was the quarterback in the 49ers' West Coast offense. But the fact that the question can be asked opens the way for comparing Brady's individual accomplishments in 2007 with those of other NFL players.
"In fact, one might ask if Randy Moss was the MVP, considering that Brady and the Pats did not manage 16 wins or 50 touchdown passes before Moss arrived. Or [Wes] Welker, for that matter.
"Favre was the quarterback and unquestioned leader of the youngest team in the NFL, one that was expected to win only five games. He led that team to 13 wins. I think that was a more valuable individual achievement than what Brady managed with his great team."
Where does Modano fit nowdays? …
As the ink dries on the new contract extension that pretty much crowns Mike Ribeiro as the Stars' No. 1 center for the next five seasons, what does that mean for Mike Modano?
The face of the franchise has led the team since the Minnesota North Stars drafted him first overall in 1988. But with Ribeiro, 27, signed up at $5 million a year, the career of Modano, 37, appears in flux.
"To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure what my role on the team is," Modano said Tuesday before the Stars left town for tonight's game in Chicago. "I think it's changing."
The Stars have pondered Modano's transition for a few seasons. He could follow the pattern of Joe Niuewendyk and spend the last two years of his contract as the No. 2 center – complete with a gold watch and Conn Smythe Trophy.
But there's a problem with that scenario. Nieuwendyk entered a perfect storm when he joined the Stars in 1995. He was only 29, came to Dallas after multiple 50-goal seasons with Calgary, and was quickly surrounded by a supporting cast of All-Stars.Modano cleared the ice then by drawing the opposition's best checkers and top defenders on most nights. Modano also was on the ice with defending defensemen Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk. That allowed Nieuwendyk to play against a lot of second-tier defenders and often play with offensively-skilled defensemen Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor.
It was a cocoon that helped squeeze the most out of Nieuwendyk, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1999 when the Stars won the Stanley Cup.
"You'd love to get that on paper, but Mike is a different player, and we're a different team," said Brett Hull, one of the Stars' co-general managers and a good friend of Modano's. "Our goal is to put together a solid group of top six forwards. Every successful team has two very good scoring lines, and that's what we're trying to put do."
Hull has publicly stated his wish to find a scoring winger for Modano. It's something the Stars have tried to do previously but failed. There was the five-year, $45 million contract for free-agent Bill Guerin that ended in a buyout. There was the 2004 trade deadline acquisition of Valeri Bure. There was the 2007 move to bring in Ladislav Nagy.
But with the new regime of Hull and Les Jackson given the opportunity to try its hand, maybe the right fit can be found.
Ricky Gervais is insane
Disclaimer: The following video is not the usual end-of-blog comedy. Yesterday, on the radio show, we were discussing a youtube video that actually made me shed tears. I was sheepish due to the obvious ridicule that I had earned by admitting something made me cry, but I can take it. Anyway, here it is. A video of a soldier dad returning home after a stint in Iraq and surprising his young son at his son’s school. Watch it and tell me it generates no emotions.