(Via Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Heisman voters made a mistake.
I know, that sounds brash. How dare I insult our beloved Heisman Trust, right? But it's true. Kyler Murray is outstanding- but he's not the nation's most outstanding college football player in 2018. That player is Tua Tagovailoa.
How can I reasonably say this? Let's look at the numbers.
Kyler Murray: 70.9 completion %, 4,053 yards, 40 TD, 7 INT, 123 rushes, 892 yards, 11 TD
Tua: 67.7%, 3,353 yards, 37 TD, 4 INT, 48 rushes, 190 yards, 5 TD
On the surface, this isn't close. Murray blows him out. But Tua rarely played into the 4th, unlike Murray did. So, let's look at Tua's stats assuming he played into the 4th during every game where he didn't (and some games where he only played a few snaps)
Tua's new numbers look like this: 67.7 completion % 4,471 yards, 49 TD, 5 INT, 64 rushes, 253 yards, 7 TD
Ignoring that nearly 10 to 1 TD/INT ratio, keep in mind that these are just projections. Tua could've underperformed, or he could've overperformed. But given what we have, assuming Tua played into the fourth, he manages to throw for more yards, more touchdowns, and still fewer interceptions than Murray did. Now, Murray is still a better number, even adjusting for Tua's projected 4th quarter performance. But no award, in any sport, has ever been decided purely based on one or two stats.
But it is based on performance, and Tua laid an egg against Georgia, so that has to count for something. That's true. Kyler Murray was better than Tua for that week. But you know what? For the first 13 weeks, Tua was much better. Let's look at their conferences. Tua is in the SEC, the best football conference in the nation. Not only that, he's in the SEC West, the best division in the nation. Not even including Alabama, the SEC West also is home to Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M. Remember A&M, by the way. Even though Ole Miss is coming off NCAA Sanctions, all six teams in that division are great almost every year. (I said almost, because Auburn was hilariously bad this year.) While Steve Spurrier's assessment that even SEC waterboys are fast is very true, the SEC is known for their defense. And Tua went up against SEC defenses every week in conference play. Murray? Well, let's put it this way. Tua plays the best defenses in the best defensive conference in the country. Murray plays in the Big 12, where defense is entirely optional. The Big 12 has no defenses ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Or the top 20. Or the top 30. The highest ranked defense in the Big 12 was #36, belonging to Iowa State. To be fair, Murray had no control over the quality of defenses in his conferences. It's not like he had a job at QB in the SEC West or anything like that.*
*except he did. Murray was at Texas A&M in 2015, he transferred to Oklahoma the following year. This has almost nothing to do with the rest of this, but I want to bring up that Kyler Murray left the SEC because he was too scared to face SEC defenses week in and week out so he ran to a no-defense conference to back up an NFL star.
Let's talk other awards. Murray won the Davey O'Brien Award, which is given to the best quarterback in the nation. In recent years, winning the O'Brien does not necessarily mean you win the Heisman. From 2013-17, only three of the five winners also won the Heisman. But, in fairness, one of those years had a non-quarterback win the Heisman. That year was 2015, when Deshaun Watson took home the O'Brien while Derrick Henry won the Heisman. And still, Deshaun Watson won two of those awards in that span. Only Archie Griffin is winning two Heismans. Let's look at more broad awards then. The Walter Camp Award goes to the college football player of the year, as voted by the coaches. The 2018 winner? Tua. The Maxwell Award is also one for every position. It's for the best all-around college football player in the nation, as voted by the writers and the coaches. Tua won that too. But what do coaches know about college football, right? Every Heisman winner between Mariota and Jackson also won these two awards. To that, I raise this question to anyone still reading this: how can a player be voted the player of the year and the best all-around player but not the most outstanding? Could it be because our sacred Heisman Trust is not actually as good as we project it to be?
Mack Wilson said it best:
When Murray faces a real defense for the first time come New Year's, he'll prove my point right. Until then, just remember that the Heisman voters got it wrong.
It appears as if one of the top names on the starting pitcher free agent market has found a long-term home. Moments ago, it was announced that Nathan Eovaldi would re-sign with the Boston Red Sox. The deal is pending a physical and the exact numbers are not yet known, but it can be deduced that the hard throwing right hander is getting a deal in the neighborhood of four years and $67-$70 million.
Eovaldi was traded to the Red Sox from Tampa Bay and shined with his new club. He went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 outings with the Red Sox last season, which does not really garner a massive contract. But Eovaldi was able to get his money in the postseason, as he was one of the best players as the Red Sox rolled through the playoffs to a World Series Trophy. Hell, he almost won World Series MVP. In six postseason outings, including two starts, Eovaldi went 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA.
Now that we get the hard news out of the way, lets get a little objective about this. I will be the first to say it, I loved watching Eovaldi in the playoffs. He was a man amongst boys and gave one of the best postseason performances in the World Series that I have ever seen. However, it is important to look beyond the numbers. Eovaldi has had two Tommy John surgeries and and throws 102 MPH. Does that seem like a good mix to you? It doesn't to me. Those types of guys don't last, regardless of how young they are. For reference, Eovaldi is 28 years old.
Ultimately, this deal will be garnered either a failure or success based on what the Red Sox decide to do with Eovaldi. If he is converted into a closer, then I think this deal is wildly idiotic. You don't pay closers close to $20 million, especially for a guy with not a lot of experience at the position. If the Red Sox want to use him as a starter, I will like this deal a lot more, but I just don't think he is going to be able to last the full four years. I simply feel that this deal is looking too short-term, but what do I know?
I am also interested to see what the Red Sox decide to do with the rest of the offseason. Steven Pearce was re-signed to a one-year deal and we already know about Eovaldi's massive contract. These were two guys that were traded for midseason and had massive impacts in the playoffs. Do they really deserve these contracts? That is up for debate. At least Pearce's contract is only for one season. Will these two deals handicap the Red Sox as we look at what else they need this offseason? As we all already know, it is clear the Red Sox need bullpen help, especially with Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel hitting the free agent market. Will these deals hurt the Red Sox as they try to re-sign these two, or perhaps get over arms, such as David Robertson or Zach Britton?
We will see....
We are a quarter of the way through the season and it looks as if the Boston Celtics are the complete opposite of what we all thought. Now, there is certainly time for them to turn it around and make a deep run, but if the playoffs started today, I do not think anyone would be holding their breath about his team. After watching almost every game, I think Boston's issues are pretty clear.
The starting five simply lacks chemistry because they play "hero ball." If you take a look at the starting five for the Boston Celtics, they are actually all very similar players. Gordon Hayward (the former starter), Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and even Al Horford are well-above average shooters at their position. While Jaylen Brown is not as good of a shooter, he thinks he is and stays out at the three-point line, chucking up shots. If you have five players that all do the same thing pretty well, there is no diversity to your team. I know that we are living in the age of positionless basketball, and call me old school, but I think that teams need a traditional big man down low. Perhaps Brad Stevens agrees with me, as he switched up the starting five to put Aron Baynes at center. However, even Baynes is out at the three-point line. I realize that making three out of ten three-pointers is better than making four out of ten two-pointers, but the Celtics simply aren't getting shots to fall.
If you take a look at Boston's schedule, it was not necessarily the easiest way to come out of the gate. They started 13 of their 21 games on the road with a West Coast road trip mixed in there. This is not an excuse because they have played poorly, but they also should have been expected to start a little slow.
So what should the Celtics do in order to reclaim their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference?
The short answer? I have no idea. Would the Celtics be willing to essentially stand pat this season in order to keep their assets through the Trade Deadline and make a run at Anthony Davis this offseason? Will the Celtics trade Kyrie Irving (GASP) in a deal for Anthony Davis to ensure that they can land him now over a team like the Lakers? Remember, the Celtics cannot have both Irving and Davis on their team this season until Kyrie signs his extension due to the Rose Rule. Will the Celtics look at other, lesser players that fit a certain role to help the chemistry? Or will they do absolutely nothing at all?
Lets start from the top. In my opinion, I do not think the Celtics should trade Irving. I know, what a scorching hot take. If they trade Irving for Davis, even if it is a direct swap, then they really aren't getting that much better. Sure, you're netting a better player, perhaps only marginally, but the Celtics would be dumping their best player after one season after he has already verbally agreed to an extension. Thats not a good look in making Boston a marquee free agent destination.
So, at this point, I say the Celtics just need to tough it out. They need to trust in Brad Stevens to get the job done and figure out whatever is wrong with this team. If it is as simple as chemistry, then this is something that is on the players. Irving, Hayward, Horford, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris or any one of the plethora of leaders that the Celtics have on this team needs to take everyone aside and get them all to buy in.
Now this is just a theory, but I do think the early problems start and stops with Tatum and Brown. They are two young guys that think they are already the second coming of Michael Jordan. Brown has infamously said he is going to win The Finals for the next six straight seasons, and Tatum is throwing up shots like he is Kobe Bryant who, conveniently enough, is one of his close mentors. At this point in time, I think it would be a huge mistake to trade Tatum. He has the ability of a top five player in the NBA if he continues to progress. But Brown? He can go. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. I do not like the way that he has conducted himself this season and believe that he still has some value in the league. Could a deal centered around Brown and draft picks land the Celtics a player of Davis' caliber in the offseason?
Lets do a little recap, shall we? No, the Celtics shouldn't simply blow it up or make a huge trade in order to drastically change this team. They still have the pieces to hypothetically get any player they want in the NBA, within reason. The biggest available superstar right now is Davis. If the Pelicans decide to trade Davis at the Trade Deadline, then the Celtics will have to have some internal discussions about Irving. However, at this point, I think Danny Ainge and company need to put all their eggs in Stevens' basket and hope for the best. This team is too talented to be a .500 ball club. And no, I don't believe there is such a thing as having "too much talent."
A quarter of the season is over and both the Celtics and the fan base are in desperate need of a refresher after finishing with a disappointing 11-10 record. At the beginning of the season, the Celtics were atop the east with an over/under of 59 wins and looked to cruise into the NBA Finals with the departure of LeBron James to LA. Now, the team is fighting to race back up the standings as they currently place as the sixth seed. What went wrong during this quarter stretch of the season and how can the Celtics regain the confidence and swag they had last season?
We know what Brad Stevens can bring to the table, we've seen him climb up to the top as one of the best head coaches in the league. However, if we look back at Stevens track record, he has coached many underdog teams. From his time in Butler, he coached his team to the National Championship back to back years in 2010 and 2011. He took a rebuilding Celtics and Isaiah Thomas and turned them into the number one seed in 2017 and built a foreseeable future in Boston.
Now, he isn't playing the role of the underdog, the 2018-19 Celtics have one of the most talented teams since 2008 and yet, Stevens hasn't taken over the role of coaching the favorite team that's supposed to compete with Golden State. Shortly after the Celtics dominating win Monday night against New Orleans, Coach Stevens was asked about the starting lineup;
"We won't be settled on a starting lineup until forever."
While last night's lineup of Irving, Smart, Tatum, Morris, and Horford looked the best all season, the Celtics still need to answer their ability to consistently score. Boston is ranked 27th in shooting percentage (44.0%), the 3rd worst in the NBA. They also rank second to last in FT per game (15.0), 5th worst in shooting efficiency (1.068) and 10th worst in FGM (39.8).
Not only has their offense been a mess but their defense hasn't stepped up after being the fourth best defense last season. I went back to some of their losing games when the opposing teams player went off against the Celtics
Kawhi Leonard 31 PTS
Nikola Vucevic 24 PTS 12 REB
Victor Oladipo 24 PTS 12 REB
Jamal Murray 48 PTS
Joe Ingles 27 PTS
Damian Lillard 19 PTS 12 AST
Ricky Rubio 20 PTS
Kemba Walker 43 PTS
Trey Burke 29 PTS
JJ Barea 20 PTS
For a team that was supposed to dominate everyone and should be a top 5 team this season, giving up almost 30 points to Trey Burke and losing to the Knicks at home is embarrassing. Right now, the Celtics have no identity, but there's still more time to find their stride.
Back in the 2014-15 season, the Celtics were still in the process of rebuilding and were trying to dump as much salary as they could at the trade deadline. Isaiah Thomas was traded over from Phoenix and the Celtics were sitting on a 20-33 record with no playoffs in sight.
Thomas and the Celtics finished the season off 20-7 since the trade and snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed before being swept by Lebron and the Cavs. During the run with Thomas, the team found their identity by playing tough and gritty basketball. Giving max effort on defense, playing with heart, and defining the improbable.
I'm not saying the team needs to make a midseason trade to change the dynamic and wake everyone up, the bridge Celtics team from 2014-2016 had different expectations than last year and this season's team.
The narrative has changed, the Celtics are faced with a new challenge and that's consistency. Last year's Celtics fit the narrative of tough and gritty basketball when Gordon Hayward went down with a catastrophic injury and Kyrie Irving having knee surgery before the playoffs.
Brown and Tatum stepped up in a big way and were seen as the key contributors to a championship when Irving and Hayward returned. Tatum has picked up the pace this season after starting off a little rusty, however, Brown has struggled and many fans want him out already.
Rozier became a force off the bench last season and even performed well in the place of Kyrie Irving. However, since his ugly Game 7 vs the Cavs in the East Finals where he shot 2-14 FG and 0-10 3PT, Rozier has been struggling all season to score and voiced his frustration to the media.
Aside from Brown and Rozier's struggles so far, the team as a whole is dwelling on the past and are just starting to focus on this season. For the young guys, it seems the regular season wasn't important at the beginning of the season. A few weeks ago, Jaylen Brown made these comments in a Bleacher Report interview with Taylor Rooks;
"I'm not going to jinx myself, but what's that, six years? I'm gonna go ahead and say five or six."
Brown is referring to how many rings he will win by 28. While Brown backtracked his comments by saying he has the mind of a champion how the team is going to take the right steps, it seems this comment might be affecting his play.
The Gordon Hayward experience has been a tough one so far as Hayward found his way to the bench and may never be the same again. While he may never reach that all-star caliber player again, one stat keeps the belief that Hayward can make a comeback at some point
In the six games Paul George returned from his catastrophic injury during the USA exhibition game, George averaged 8.8 PPG, .367 FG%, .459 eFG%, and .409 3PT%. Hayward so far is averaging 10.1 PPG, .400 FG%, .462 eFG%, and .292 3PT%.
While George and Hayward are two different players, they both went through the same rehab process and George eventually returned back to full health, George has averaged 22.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.2 APG .426 FG%, and .515 eFG% in his two-year duration in Oklahoma.
It's still a long recovery and we can't judge stats based on Hayward's play this season. It may take him another season to return to himself or he may not at all but he is fortunate to play under his college coach and a franchise that believed in him enough to give him a max contract two years ago.
No, we shouldn't panic yet with the current state of the team. The win over New Orleans was huge and they get the next few days off and come back home to face Cleveland Friday night.
Taking a look at some other under .500 teams that made the playoffs last year, but are struggling this season as well:
Houston Rockets: 9-10
New Orleans Pelicans: 10-11
Utah Jazz: 9-12
Minnesota Timberwolves: 10-10
Miami Heat: 7-12
Washington Wizards: 8-12
Granted, most of the teams listed are from the West and it is a tough conference, but with CP3 and Harden on the same team, the Rockets can easily come back especially when teams like the Clippers and Grizzlies are atop the standings currently.
The point is, the Celtics are not the only team that has had its struggles so far this season. They can make a run back towards contention even if this season is looking more like an "evaluation year" to see whom they trade for Anthony Davis or draft with their collection of 1st round picks.
Overall, the Celtics have one of the most talented and dynamic teams this season and eventually, the team will find its stride whether it's keeping Smart in the starting 5 or switching up Morris and Baynes into the lineup.
Patience will ultimately test the team heading into the 2nd quarter of the season and will also test the patience of the fan base if their inconsistent play keeps up.
Of all the things that could've happened this season, this is one of the more unexpected. You can argue Les Miles to Kansas was more unexpected, but to that I say this: Miles never really retired. On the other hand, not only was Mack retired, he seemed to have it made. He was set as a college football analyst for ESPN and ABC, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in January. He never showed anything that would have indicated he wants to coach again, but here it is.
Of course, before he cemented his legacy in Austin on 4th and 5, he was North Carolina’s head coach for much of the 90’s. When he came to Chapel Hill for the first time, he replaced the fired Dick Crum whose talented early teams lost key players (specifically Lawrence Taylor) to the NFL, and slipped into mediocrity for the remainder of his time at UNC. Mack came in, and after two 1-10 seasons, the Heels never fell below .500 for the rest of his tenure, capping it off with an 11-1 season, a Gator Bowl win against Virginia Tech, and a #6 final ranking. Now, Mack will return to North Carolina, where he's replacing the fired Larry Fedora whose talented earlier teams lost key players (specifically Mitch Trubisky) to the NFL, and slipped into mediocrity for the remainder of his time at UNC. The parallels are clear, and while Larry Fedora isn't as good as Dick Crum and some will rightfully say that I should be hanged for even thinking to mention Mitch Trubisky in the same context as the greatest defensive player to ever live. Either way, the situation is essentially the same: North Carolina needs Mack to get them out of the hole they put themselves in.
So, what would his coaching staff look like? A rumor has surfaced that Mack wants an old friend back on the defensive side of the ball: Gene Chizik. Chizik has proven to know his way around a defense, as evidenced by his 2004 Auburn team (not the National Champions, by the way) which allowed only 11.3 points per game. He also led Auburn to its only National Championship as the head coach in 2010. Not only that, he was a former assistant under Mack, winning the National Championship with Texas in 2005 as the defensive coordinator. He was also a former Larry Fedora assistant, as his DC from 2015-16, and they nearly won the ACC Championship in first season. After he left in 2016, the North Carolina defense allowed nearly seven more points per game without him. They went from 11-3 and 8-5 to 3-9 and 2-9 after he walked away. But what about the offense? Well, there's a former head coach who just so happens to be an offensive wizard. Kliff Kingsbury got fired from Texas Tech and he is an absolute mastermind. As the quarterback coach at Houston he turned Case Keenum into the all-time leader in passing yards, completions, passing touchdowns, total touchdowns responsible for, and total offense, among many others. He went to Texas A&M with Kevin Sumlin and in his one season there, helped Johnny Manziel to a 1000/1000 season and a Heisman. When he returned to Texas Tech, he went on to coach two current NFL stars: Baker Mayfield (for one season) and Patrick Mahomes (for three seasons). In every one of his seasons as a head coach, Texas Tech averaged over 30 points per game. He's a hot commodity by many college and NFL teams for a coordinator job, but if Mack comes calling, then expect Kingsbury to seriously consider the North Carolina Offensive Coordinator job.
So, what can we expect Mack to do at UNC? Of course, the ACC is so much better than it was before Mack left for Texas, but despite that, all the big programs in the ACC (Clemson, Syracuse, Boston College) are all in the Atlantic Division while North Carolina is in the Coastal Division. The Coastal is very, very weak. Who is Mack’s real competition? Duke? Georgia Tech? Yeah, that's not real competition. Pitt won that division at 7-5. A lot of others haven't exactly been “good” recently, such as Miami and Virginia Tech. Some others in the Coastal aren't quite good enough (Virginia). Personally, I believe that Mack will struggle his first season or two back, but one thing nobody really talks about in regards to Mack is his recruiting. In 2002, with Texas, he was able to recruit nine future NFL players to the Longhorns, including Vince Young, probably the greatest high school football player ever and possibly the greatest college quarterback ever. I think if Mack gets a couple seasons back in Carolina he can build Tar Heel football into a respectable program, or at least out of the shadow of their basketball program again. He already did this once. But, I still don't believe he'll be able to compete with Clemson. He can make the Heels very good, but as long as Dabo Swinney is in that conference, the ACC runs through fake Death Valley, similar to how the SEC runs through Alabama because of Nick Saban. And speaking of Saban, that leads to another question with Mack: his age. Both Mack and Saban are 67 years old. But the difference is that Saban has never shown any signs of stopping or slowing down, nor has he expressed any interest in walking away. Mack showed more than interest in walking away, he actually did it. He made the call to move from the field to the broadcast booth on his own. Remember: when Mack left Texas, he resigned, he wasn't fired. And he proceeded to take five full seasons off from coaching before he came back. However, if Mack hires a head coach in waiting to his staff, (similar to what Josh McDaniels is right now to Bill Belichick) he will finish what Mack started. Maybe that coach will be Kingsbury, as he's only 39 years old and has had head coaching experience. Either way, it looks like, for the short term at least, North Carolina Football made a step in the right direction in the hiring of Mack Brown.