My daughter, a registered nurse at a local hospital, recently graduated and passed her board certification as a nurse practitioner. Despite assurances from her employer that there would be a job for her when she finished her education, when it came time there was none. So, my daughter went looking and found a suitable position in North Carolina.
My daughter, her husband, their two children and their dog have spent a great deal of time at our house since we moved here. My son-in-law eats all the candy in our house that I like. Twix, 100,000 Dollar bars, and Milky Way all have no chance once my son-in-law discovers them, leaving me with what I think are leftovers like M&Ms and Kit Kat. Their dog is an eating, pooping, and shedding machine. No part of our house is dog hair free, and no part of our yard can be traversed without stepping in huge piles of dog doo. My grandson, who just turned four, never shuts up. He talks about dinosaurs, monster trucks, his preschool teacher, and ice cream. He wants to watch his shows, like “Cocomelon” and “Paw Patrol” when I want to watch football. He demands to sit in my appropriately named Lazy Boy chair. My granddaughter, who just turned one, never lets me eat my morning Pop Tarts in peace. She toddles over, demands my Pop Tart, then drools brown sugar cinnamon all over the arm of whatever chair I’m sitting on, since my Lazy Boy is occupied. She insists that I dance with her whenever she hears music playing. Her favorite activities are climbing our stairs (which she can not descend except by falling), getting into the liquor cabinet, and deep diving in the toilet. She also likes to make noises.
Now, they’re gone to North Carolina, and who knows when we’ll see them. I have all the candy I want. The house and yard are dog hair and poop free. I can watch whatever I want on TV on my Lazy Boy. I eat my whole Pop Tart on my now drool-free chair, and I rarely dance at all. The house is quiet with only the echoes of what used to be. I finally have everything I wanted.
Except I don’t. I miss them already. I hate my daughter’s former employer, because they’re why my daughter and her family moved. I don’t need any more candy or Pop Tarts, I have never missed any game I really wanted to see, and I even miss dancing.
It reminds me of the 1970 Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi” in which Mitchell sings, “Don’t it always seem to go, That you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?”
It also reminds me of what frequently is folly-blaming the coach for an NFL team losing.
As of this writing, six NFL teams have fired their head coaches since the start of the 2023 football season. Last year, eight teams fired their head coaches and the year before that seven let their head coaches go. One of the teams that fired their coach this year, the Carolina Panthers, also fired their coach last year. In that case, the problems obviously go way beyond the head coach
From my observations, firing the coach works sometimes but more often does not improve a team’s winning percentage. I have watched thousands of football games and have yet to witness a coach making a single tackle or throwing a single block. I have said before, coaches can lose games, but they can’t win them. Is it the coach’s fault the Colts’ running back dropped a pass RIGHT TO HIM that would have given the Colts at least a first down inside the Texans’ 10-yard line with a minute to go Saturday night? Is it the coach’s fault Trevor Lawrence overthrew a WIDE OPEN Calvin Ridley with two minutes to go Sunday afternoon? Is it the coach’s fault the Jacksonville Jaguars can’t tackle when they can’t even practice tackling during the season? The coach’s job is to put their players in the best position possible to succeed, but the players must execute or the best laid plans will fail.
Not only does firing coaches so often not work, but almost always successful teams have coaching stability. Of the 14 teams that qualified for the NFL playoffs this year, only one has a first year head coach and several have coaches that have been at their jobs for five years or more. So, not only does firing your head coach not improve your team’s record, keeping your head coach improves your chances of winning.
My advice is to hire football people to make football decisions, get good players, and hire a good coach and give him a real chance. Unless the head coach makes personnel decisions, you’re barking up the wrong tree to always blame the coach. Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.
Ahh, the playoffs and a quiet place to think about them. Wildcard Weekend, now Super Wildcard Weekend, historically has seen many underdogs covering point spreads and even winning outright. There are teams in the playoffs that I believe are not playoff teams. Weirder, there is one team, Tampa Bay, that is not only not a playoff team but a team that I am picking to win outright. Two home teams, Houston and Tampa Bay, are home underdogs. The weather could be a factor in Buffalo and Kansas City. Two teams, Miami and Philadelphia, backed into the playoffs on the strength of strong starts and miserable finishes. And then there’s the Matt Stafford and/or Jared Goff Bowl in Detroit, which also is the Lions’ first home playoff game in 30 years.
Here are my picks against the point spread. Lines are from sportsline.com.
Cleveland Browns (-2 ½) at Houston Texans: I really like C.J. Stroud and tried to find a path Houston can take to win. Stroud didn’t play the first time these two teams played and maybe that’s one way, but Stroud doesn’t play defense and the Browns should score a lot again.
Kansas City Chiefs (-4) vs Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are hurting. The weather will be very cold and the Dolphins are cold when it’s cold. The Chiefs were able to rest many of their players last week.
Buffalo Bills (-10) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: I apologize for calling the Steelers a low character team last week given their win over Baltimore’s JV team last week. This week they’ll be playing a hot varsity team and they won’t have T.J. Watt. How long until some Steelers revert to their pouting ways?
Green Bay Packers (+7 ½) at Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Jones is healthy and I Love how Jordan is playing. The Cowboys are tough at home, but usually not in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3) vs Philadelphia Eagles: Too many teams in too many sports have found out you can’t turn it on and off. Something is wrong with the Eagles, and I don’t see how they can fix it in time to beat an NFL team. The Bucs are not a playoff team, (neither is Pittsburgh) but they are an NFL team.
No Pick: LA Rams at Detroit Lions: Truth be told, this is a bad matchup for Detroit. Sunday night I’ll have on my new “It’s a Lock” Lions NFC North champs sweatshirt over my Lions Jersey, but I won’t have a betting ticket on the Lions. I have hope and enthusiasm, but I also have 60 years of bad memories. Go Lions!
Last week: 4-1
Texans (+2) vs Browns: I’m hesitant to back a rookie quarterback in his first playoff game, but the Browns defense isn’t nearly as good on the road for some reason and since the first week of the season against Baltimore, C.J. Stroud has not looked like a rookie. I wrote that week that I didn’t think a first-year head coach and a first-year offensive coordinator was the right recipe to develop a rookie quarterback, but Houston offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik was the quarterback coach in San Francisco last year when Brock Purdy exploded on the scene as a rookie. The dude obviously knows what he’s doing.
Chiefs (-4) vs Dolphins: I’m not sure a wind chill factor in the negatives is conducive to the way the Dolphins like to play, but likewise, if the Kansas City receivers can’t catch the ball in perfect weather, catching a frozen football figures to be a problem. But Travis Kelce and Isiah Pacheco should make the difference.
Bills (-10) vs Steelers: Full disclosure, even though this is my pick for the game, I won’t have an actual bet on this one. But when the Bills were struggling a few weeks ago, I made a futures bet on them to win the AFC because I still believe their best game is the best in the AFC. They haven’t lost a game since, even though we’ve only seen their best game a couple times this season. We may not see it here either, but one of my rules for picking playoff games is to stay away from shaky quarterbacks, especially on the road. If Mason Rudolph can keep this game in single digits, I’ll be surprised.
Packers (+7 ½) vs Cowboys: This game has what I consider to be the highest variance potential of the whole weekend. I won’t be surprised if the Packers win outright, and I won’t be surprised if the Cowboys win by 28. I have no real feel for this one, but like Jim said above, Wild Card weekend has historically tended to favor the underdogs, so I’ll default to that position.
Rams (+3) vs Lions: I really hope the Lions win this one and not just because I hope Jim finally gets to celebrate a playoff victory. But I’ve seen this movie before, and no matter how many different times I watch Titanic, the ship sinks every time.
Eagles (-3) vs Buccaneers: I just refuse to believe that things have gotten so bad in Philly that they can’t go into Tampa and beat an offense that came up small two weeks in a row with a chance to win the weakest division in football and is only here because other teams shriveled up even worse.