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NFL continues to reward rotten, me-first behavior




NFL continues to reward rotten, me-first behavior

Believe it or not, I’ve never been an NFL team owner, GM or head coach. I swear. You can look it up. 

Yet, I’m convinced that I can do what none of the above have: Prevent my team from losing even one game for selfish, self-absorbed in-game behavior. 

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is widely heralded as among the best in the business. Yet, during his 14 years at the wheel, the Steelers have succeeded or tried to succeed in losing games to rotten post-play conduct. 

Including a Super Bowl. 

In the 2009 Super Bowl, the Cardinals led the Steelers, 23-20, when Ben Roethlisberger, with under a minute left, completed a pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes, a career me-first guy as later would be seen here after joining the Jets. 

Holmes was tackled at the Cards’ 6, clock running. Instead of hustling to the new line of scrimmage, Holmes, with no awareness beyond himself, rose and ran further downfield in a look-at-me/ain’t-I-special routine. 

Roethlisberger was in desperate, hurry-up mode and waving his team to the line of scrimmage, presumably to spike the ball to stop the clock. Meanwhile Holmes doing his wild-about-me dance on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage. This could have been the reason Pittsburgh was forced to call its last timeout. 

With 35 seconds left, the winning TD was caught … by Holmes, who was voted the game’s MVP despite his effort to become the biggest fool in NFL history. 

Now, call me a curmudgeon (or a crab), but if I were Tomlin, on the first day of practice to start the 2010 season, I’d have gathered my team, shown them how the Super Bowl was nearly lost, then addressed my troops: 

“See this? It’s never to happen again on my watch. We shall never surrender 15 penalty yards, let alone risk the loss of any game, to such garbage. And I don’t want any of you guys to risk lasting infamy.” 

Apparently, that never happened. Tomlin’s Steelers continued to be a team that allowed games to be determined by rotten, me-first behavior. 

And still do. 

Thursday night, Dec. 9, the Steelers, with no timeouts left, trailed the Vikings, 36-28, 37 seconds left. On 4th-and-1 from Minnesota’s 44, Roethlisberger hit WR Chase Claypool at the 34, first down, clock running. 

Instead of hurrying back to the line of scrimmage, Chase Claypool celebrates his first down during the Steelers’ 36-28 loss to the Vikings.

Instead of hustling to the new line of scrimmage so Roethlisberger could spike it to kill the clock, Claypool languished on the ground from where he made that tired first-down gesture, the one TV rewards as the essence of good football action. 

Roethlisberger was unable to stop the clock until 24 seconds remained. Fox’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman either missed it or ignored it. 

This time the Steelers ran out of time. The game ended, second-down, on Minnesota’s 12-yard line. Had Claypool, a college man — Notre Dame — been aware of anything other than himself, the Steelers very likely would have had one more play. 

The outcomes of NFL games are weekly determined by inexcusably childish, unprofessional conduct. Still, while the stakes have never been greater, there is no team owner, GM or head coach who seems the least bit inclined to treat this madness with anything better than neglect. That’s insane.

Worst teams get most fan-friendly NFL kickoff times

Under Roger “Good Investments” Goodell, the addiction to TV money is so powerful that the best times to play a fall/winter sport — Sundays at 1 p.m. in natural sunshine — have been designated for the worst teams to play. 

Last week’s early games included the 5-7 Saints at the 3-9 Jets, the 4-8 Seahawks at the 2-10 Texans (a noon start in Houston), and the 5-7 Falcons at the 5-7 Panthers. 

The 4:25 window included an East Coast game, the 7-5 Bills at the 9-3 Buccaneers, with a night game hosted by 9-3 Green Bay, outdoors. 

By midseason, sunshine games, those most welcomed by ticket-buyers and PSL-owners/suckers, are top heavy with miserable teams. 

In ESPN transplant Adam Amin, Fox has another play-by-player who would have us believe that stats make games when games make stats. Another who would ignore what he has seen all game to read off a stat sheet. 

Sunday, the Jets down by 10 to the Saints and in fourth quarter-desperate mode, went for it on fourth-and-6 from midfield. Amin then saw fit to illuminate us with, “The Jets are one-for-one on fourth down today.” 

Adam Amin
Adam Amin
ESPN Images

What did that previous fourth down play have to do with this one? Absolutely nothing. And Zach Wilson next threw incomplete. 

But Amin is certainly not alone in such misleading and irrelevant game-in-a-vacuum statistical folly. 

Dr. George M. Beard wrote that such matter is “the home not so much for the abjectly ignorant as of the fractionally educated; not of the raw, but of the underdone, the paradise of non-experts.” 

Beard wrote that in 1879 in “The Psychology of Spiritualism.” 

Though it’s unlikely that even Fox would return Urban Meyer to its college football panel — even by TV’s standards, seven guys speaking half-a-sentence each and forcing belly laughs might be too much — perhaps he can return to teaching his course at Ohio State, that class titled “Leadership and Character.” 

By the way, reader E.C. was thrilled to see Ohio State’s basketball team on TV, wearing “their traditional black uniforms.”

Have to pay up to see Rangers

So Tuesday’s Rangers-Avalanche game could only been seen by those who coughed up a monthly fee to receive an extra-pay ESPN tier, the first of three Rangers games this season to be so hidden from view. 

Gary Bettman
Gary Bettman

The NHL has adopted the old drug-addicted prostitute business model: “Do anything you want to me, mister, as long as you pay me.” Gary Bettman would call this “Growing the game”? 

So when the Knicks took a total of 91 3s, making 33 of them, in consecutive home losses to the Bucks then Warriors last week, exactly what was their strategy? Wherein was the beauty, let alone the value, of the games? 

And when Steph Curry broke the 3-point record by making 5 of 14 vs. the Knicks while the Warriors totaled 15-of-40, the game, starring 82 3-point heaves, made less sense than it did history. 

Attention all mute buttons! For a third consecutive Sunday, Fox has assigned Mark Schlereth to smother a Jets or Giants game in whistle-to-snap pigskin palaver. Sunday he has been chosen to wreck the Cowboys-Giants telecast. 

Wednesday’s women’s college basketball: LSU 100, Alcorn State 36. LSU coach Kim Mulkey, who stomped opponents by 50 or more for kicks when she coached Baylor — in 2016, she had her kids beat Winthrop, 140-32 — played run-and-gun the entire game. 

NBC’s Cris Collinsworth, I guarantee, never noted a QB’s “arm talent” when he broke in as an NFL analyst. He kept it concise, simple, useful. But that was a long time ago, so now, rather than say a QB has a “good arm,” he chooses “arm talent,” first cousin to “eye discipline” and “lane integrity.” 

Chris Collinsworth
Chris Collinsworth
Getty Images

CBS’ Andrew Catalon last week during Saints-Jets read a promo for “Football’s iconic show, ‘Inside the NFL.’ ” Everything and everyone are now so iconic the word will soon come to mean “nothing special.” 

I’ve awakened to become woke! No longer will “lady bug” appear in this column. From now on, it’s “non-binary bug.”


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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