A few things I care about . . .
If you’re already watching Ryan Clark on ESPN, then you know how entertaining the former NFL safety is as a commentator, blending insight and humor in equal measure. One of his best moments came midweek, when “Get Up!” host Mike Greenberg asked Clark what he thought of the pointed criticism Bruce Arians piled on Tom Brady after the Buccaneers’ ugly Monday night loss to the Rams.
Clark, eyes popping wide open, stared at the camera and said …
“I actually had no words because this is new,” Clark finally said after a lengthy pause.
He is not alone.
Yet for all the shock in the immediate aftermath of Arians calling Brady out for getting “confused a few times by coverages,” the conversation since then has raged unabated. Yes, it’s juicy fodder, but it’s also legitimate fodder, exposing just how difficult it is to write a late-stage second act in the NFL. The Peyton-Manning-rides-out-of-Denver-with-a-Super-Bowl story line is the exception rather than the rule, and if you remember it correctly, came after a coaching change in Manning’s post-Indianapolis finish in Denver, from John Fox to Gary Kubiak.
Brady was motivated, at least in part, to leave New England after 20 amazingly successful years because he wanted a new coach, having had enough of Bill Belichick’s tough ways. But if he didn’t enjoy Belichick’s behind-the-scenes criticism, which reportedly included no soft landings in the meeting rooms for the all-world QB, there’s no chance Brady is enjoying this turn in Arians’s public microscope.
It’s little surprise former Patriots teammates such as Rob Ninkovich, on ESPN, or Tedy Bruschi on WEEI, came down on Brady’s side, with Ninkovich choosing a new coach as his Christmas gift to Brady and Bruschi deriding Arians for a stubbornness that is hurting the team overall.
Brady has indeed been awful in two of his last three games, and after asserting his power in ways that are obvious to anyone paying attention (the midseason acquisition of Antonio Brown or offseason coaxing of Rob Gronkowski out of retirement), this tension with Arians was predictable the moment the team struggled.
As Clark so wisely put it, “The 20 years that Tom Brady was the greatest of all time, that wasn’t for Bruce Arians. Bruce Arians is talking about the dude he sees now. And that dude isn’t playing well. That dude is missing throws and he doesn’t feel the need to protect him, and that’s what we see.”
▪ Much as we can play the both-sides game with the Steelers, in that they are justified in their annoyance with their scheduled Ravens game being held hostage by a Ravens COVID-19 outbreak, listening to them complain so loudly across social media is tough to take. This is a global pandemic. This virus is novel, and unpredictable. Teams could do everything right and still have things go wrong. While that doesn’t appear to be the case with the Ravens, who suspended a team employee for apparently not following protocols, the Ravens are going to pay a much steeper price than the scheduling inconvenience the Steelers face.
Yes, the Steelers already lost their bye week when the Titans had a virus breakout, and yes, they would lose their own paychecks, along with the Ravens, if the league were to force the Ravens to forfeit. But the Ravens are the ones whose roster is depleted from starting quarterback Lamar Jackson (as well as backup Trace McSorley) on down, and the ones who would have to play the game with whatever practice squad subs they could find. The NFL has made it clear that postponements and rescheduling have nothing to do with competitive advantage, and only to do with virus containment.
Dealing with uncertainty was the one certainty this season had — and the Steelers, who by the way seem to be doing fine with their undefeated record, would have been wiser to keep their complaints, however legitimate, behind closed doors.
▪ Love, love, love the hiring of Kim Ng as general manager of the Marlins, and not just because she is the first woman and the first person of Asian descent to rise to that position. Ng’s story of perseverance is so inspiring, a testament to dedication to her profession. That Marlins owner Derek Jeter made the hire fits with everything I experienced covering Jeter across his Yankees career — open-minded, fair, and forward-thinking.
▪ How about some local excitement for the best current shot at a title? With two playoff wins already, the Revolution advanced to the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals, facing Orlando on Sunday. With a last-second win over Montreal in the play-in game and a thorough takedown of Supporters’ Shield winner (and nemesis) Philadelphia to follow, the Revolution have something cooking.
Credit to coach Bruce Arena, whose ability to turn around franchise fortunes is as impressive as it is consistent.
▪ On another soccer note, the passing of Diego Maradona was a reminder to anyone watching the sport across the 1980s just how beautiful the beautiful game could be. After Pele, before Messi or Ronaldo, Maradona was the worldwide soccer phenomenon I remember most.
▪ The Belichick coaching tree lost another branch Saturday, as the Matt Patricia era in Detroit was brought to a merciful end. The Lions fired Jim Caldwell after four seasons, his 36-28 record, including two playoff appearances, deemed unsatisfactory. Patricia, in two-plus seasons, was 13-29-1, surpassing Caldwell’s loss total with a Thanksgiving Day debacle against Houston.
▪ New owner Steve Cohen has not been shy about the Mets having been his favorite childhood team, and the billionaire hedge fund manager revealed the depth of his fandom when talking about his sports memorabilia collection. Included in it? The Bill Buckner ball. Bought in 2012 for more than $412,000 by what was, for a long time, an anonymous buyer, Cohen didn’t just own up to having it during an interview on the team’s flagship station, but held it up for the camera and said he intends to put it in Citi Field’s museum.
“It’s a great moment in Mets history,” he said.
Not so much in Red Sox history, though, costing the Sox Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when it when through Buckner’s legs.