Articles By Nathan Rush
The U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) will make its seventh World Cup appearance at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will be played in six Canadian cities (Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton) from June 6 until July 5. These are the red, white and blue names to know:
Miss America: Alex Morgan
Four years ago, Alex Morgan was the youngest member of a USWNT that lost to Japan in the FIFA World Cup Final in Germany. Then then-22-year-old scored the first goal of the final match — one of her two goals in the tournament, both of which came in the Knockout Stage. But she was not called upon to shoot penalties, as the USA lost the shootout to Japan, 3–1, following a 2–2 draw in regulation and extra time.
Since then, her life has done a bicycle kick. She has gone from phenom forward to established star striker, as arguably the face of U.S. Soccer. She has been named U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year, been a finalist for FIFA World Player of the Year, posed in body paint for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, married fellow Californian soccer star Servando Carrasco and appeared on FOX’s American Idol — where she and Abby Wambach gave host Ryan Seacrest a USWNT jersey, as the “official waterboy.”
Comfortable in her skin and firmly in her prime, Morgan is poised to take over the world — or at least the World Cup. If Team USA hopes to bring the golden World Cup trophy south of the border back from Canada, the USWNT will rely heavily on Morgan’s fleet feet to make it happen.
Boss: Jill Ellis
The 48-year-old is making her World Cup debut as coach of the USWNT after serving as an assistant on the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning national teams.
Solo Artist: Hope Solo
The USWNT netminder broke Brianna Scurry’s U.S. record for shutouts. Solo aims to add to that mark while making her third World Cup appearance as the go-to goalie.
Captain: Christine Rampone
The only remaining member of the 1999 World Cup champions, the veteran leader of the USWNT — and mother of two — will turn 40 years old during this year’s World Cup.
Icon: Abby Wambach
One of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Wambach has scored more international goals — 178 in 239 matches — than anyone (man or woman) in soccer history.
Import: Sydney Leroux
Born in Surrey, British Columbia, to a Canadian mother and American father, Leroux chose to play for the USA but will make her Canadian homecoming this summer.
Group of Death: Part II
Last summer, the U.S. Men’s National Team survived the infamous “Group of Death.” This summer, the USWNT has drawn the group with the highest total of combined FIFA points. But unlike their male counterparts, the American women are favored entering the tournament and have a history of World Cup success.
Team USA won the inaugural 1991 World Cup in China and was triumphant again as the host nation at the 1999 World Cup, which was capped by a thrilling shootout victory and shirtless celebration by Brandi Chastain. In order to challenge for a third World Cup crown, the USWNT will first have to go toe-to-toe with these three teams.
(June 8, 7:30 ET, Winnipeg)
The Matildas are ranked No. 10 in the world and boast an explosive offense powered by seasoned forwards Lisa De Vanna and Kate Gill, along with rising stars like 20-year-old Caitlin Foord, who is making her second World Cup appearance after making her debut at 16.
(June 12, 8:00 ET, Winnipeg)
The fifth-ranked Blue-Yellow are led by former Team USA coach Pia Sundhage, the 2012 FIFA World Coach of the Year who guided the USWNT to a runner-up finish at the 2011 World Cup — a tournament in which the Swedes defeated the Yanks, 2–1, in group play.
(June 16, 8:00 ET, Vancouver)
Although the Super Falcons are easily the fourth-best team in Group D, they should not be overlooked. The 2014 African champs have one of the world’s top young talents in Asisat Oshoala, the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Golden Ball winner and African Women’s Footballer of the Year.
Semifinals: USA over France; Japan over England
Final: USA over Japan
Some of the world's greatest athletes weren't just one-sport players; instead, they excelled in two (and sometimes in several). Of course, some athletes probably should have stuck with their main sport. Here's a look at the top 30 two-sport athletes of all time, ranked in order of their second best sport.
1. Jim Thorpe, track (Best sport: football)
One the all-time great athletes, Thorpe is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and has been immortalized via the Jim Thorpe Award — given annually to the top defensive back in college football. But Thorpe was also a gold medalist in both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
2. Jim Brown, lacrosse (Best sport: football)
Arguably the greatest running back in history, Brown is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. The 6’2”, 230-pounder is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and is considered by many to be the best athlete to ever play the sport.
3. Bob Hayes, football (Best sport: track)
“Bullet Bob” Hayes won the fastest man in the world, winning gold medals in the 100 meters and 4x100 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Hayes then strapped on a helmet for the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl VI and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
4. Bo Jackson, baseball (Best sport: football)
Only Bo knows what might have been. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner was a Pro Bowl running back for the L.A. Raiders and an All-Star outfielder for the Kansas City Royals — hitting 32 HRs and 105 RBIs in just 135 games in 1989 — before a hip injury derailed the out-of-this-world athlete.
5. Charlie Ward, football (Best sport: basketball)
Sure, Ward played 11 seasons in the NBA — starting at point guard for the New York Knicks’ Eastern Conference champs in 1999. But most know him as a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion quarterback at Florida State in 1993.
6. Babe Didrikson Zaharias, track (Best sport: golf)
A 10-time LPGA major champion and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Mildred Ella — better known as “Babe” — won gold medals in the 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw as well as a silver medal in the high jump at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.
7. Duke Kahanamoku, surfing (Best sport: swimming)
The Big Kahuna won three Olympic medals in the 100-meter freestyle — taking gold at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and 1920 Antwerp Olympics, and silver at the 1924 Paris Olympics — as well as a gold (1920) and silver (1912) in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. But Mr. Hawaii was also the “Father of Surfing,” popularizing the longboard en route to becoming a member of the Surfing, Swimming and U.S. Olympic Halls of Fame.
8. Deion Sanders, baseball (Best sport: football)
A member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Prime Time is considered the greatest cornerback in NFL history. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Sanders also played with the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series and played parts of nine lightning-fast seasons in MLB.
9. Gene Conley, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A four-time MLB All-Star and 1957 World Series champion with the Milwaukee Braves, the 6’8”, 225-pound Conley also won three NBA championships with the Boston Celtics — becoming the only athlete in history to win world titles in two of the big four pro leagues.
10. Danny Ainge, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
The Wooden Award winner at BYU, Ainge won two NBA championships with the Celtics and was an All-Star in 1988. He also had a cup of coffee with the Toronto Blue Jays, playing three seasons from 1979-81.
11. Brian Jordan, football (Best sport: baseball)
A one-time MLB All-Star who played in the bigs for 15 years, Jordan played three seasons (1989-91) as a safety in the NFL before making his debut in The Show in 1992.
12. Jackie Robinson, track (Best sport: baseball)
The 1949 NL MVP and 1955 World Series champ is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a civil rights pioneer. But he was also the 1940 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Long Jump champion at UCLA.
13. Jonathan Ogden, shot put (Best sport: football)
The 6’9”, 345-pound Ogden was the 1996 NCAA Men’s Indoor Shot Put champion at UCLA, before becoming an 11-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XXXV champion left tackle with the Baltimore Ravens.
14. Jeff Samardzija, football (Best sport: baseball)
The Shark was an All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist, finishing his Notre Dame football career as the Irish’s all-time leading receiver prior to becoming a right-handed pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.
15. Darin Erstad, football (Best sport: baseball)
The 1995 Golden Spikes Award winner was also the starting punter on Nebraska’s 1994 national championship football team before going on to play 14 seasons in MLB.
16. Joe Mauer, football (Best sport: baseball)
Before Mauer was the 2009 AL MVP and three-time batting champion for the Minnesota Twins, the 6’5” athlete with a cannon for a right arm was USA Today’s High School Player of the Year as a quarterback.
17. Dave Winfield, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A 22-year MLB veteran and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Winfield played college basketball at the University of Minnesota — where he helped lead the Golden Gophers to the 1972 Big Ten title.
18. Kenny Lofton, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A six-time All-Star, five-time stolen base champ and four-time Gold Glove center fielder, Lofton’s first love was basketball. He played point guard for the University of Arizona, making the Final Four in 1988.
19. Tony Gwynn, basketball (Best sport: baseball)
A first-ballot member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Gwynn was a 15-time All-Star and eight-time batting champ with a career .338 batting average and 3,141 hits. But Gwynn was also a solid point guard, setting San Diego State records for assists in a season and career.
20. Marion Jones, basketball (Best sport: track)
Once a golden girl, Jones’ reputation has since been tarnished by PED use and jail time. Before the fall, Jones won three gold and two bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after a standout hoops career at the University of North Carolina — where she was a member of the 1994 NCAA champion Tar Heels.
21. Antonio Gates, basketball (Best sport: football)
Led Kent State to its first MAC championship and a trip to the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Tournament before becoming an eight-time Pro Bowl tight end for the San Diego Chargers.
22. Jimmy Graham, basketball (Best sport: football)
Played four years of basketball at the University of Miami but just one season of football at The U. No big deal, the 6’6”, 260-pound power forward has evolved into one of the NFL’s best tight ends.
23. Tony Gonzalez, basketball (Best sport: football)
Gonzalez round-balled at Cal-Berkeley before becoming a 14-time Pro Bowl tight end with 1,325 catches, 15,127 yards and 111 TDs for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.
24. Julius Peppers, basketball (Best sport: football)
The pass-rusher was a glass-crasher at University of North Carolina, where he came off the bench for the Tar Heels’ 2000 Final Four squad.
25. Walter Ray Williams Jr., horseshoes (Best sport: bowling)
The seven-time PBA Player of the Year also owns six Men’s World Horseshoe Pitching titles.
26. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, football (Best sport: wrestling)
The WWF wrestler was a member of the University of Miami’s 1991 national championship team, where he played with future NFL stars like Warren Sapp.
27. Ed “Too Tall” Jones, boxing (Best sport: football)
A three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman and Super Bowl XII champion, the 6’9” Jones had a scary 88-inch reach as a boxer — going 6–0 with five KOs in 1979.
28. Herschel Walker, mixed martial arts / bobsled (Best sport: football)
Known for always being in peak condition, Walker started his MMA career as a 48-year-old. The fifth-degree Taekwondo black belt is 2–0 with two TKOs on punches. Years before that he participated in the two-man bobsled competition at the 1992 Winter Olympics, finishing seventh. Oh yeah, Walker, who played several years in the NFL, also won the 1982 Heisman Trophy at Georgia and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
29. Scott Burrell, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
The only athlete selected in the first round of two of the big four sports’ drafts — Burrell went No. 20 overall to the Charlotte Hornets in the 1993 NBA Draft and No. 26 overall to the Seattle Mariners in the 1989 MLB Draft.
30. Michael Jordan, baseball (Best sport: basketball)
His Airness is undeniably the greatest basketball player of all-time and arguably the greatest athlete ever. However, in 127 games playing for the Chicago White Sox’s Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons, Air Jordan hit just .202 with three HRs, 51 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.
Who should go No. 1 overall in this year’s NFL Draft?
“Me,” says Jameis Winston. “Enough said.”
That type of confidence from the 21-year-old Florida State quarterback should come as no surprise to anyone who has even casually followed Winston’s controversial career. For his fans, that swagger is a prerequisite for any potential “franchise” player to reach the pinnacle of the profession. For Winston haters, that perceived cocky attitude makes the 6'4", 231-pound passer the embodiment of what’s wrong with today’s “entitled” athletes.
Being the No. 1 pick is only the first step of Winston’s long-term plan. The Heisman Trophy and national title winner wants to do it all at the next level. And he wants to enjoy the ride along the way.
“That’s always been a dream of mine, to win some Super Bowls and be in the Hall of Fame,” says Winston. “I enjoy the spotlight. I love it. Any chance that I get to show my smile off or just be around and have fun with other people, it’s awesome.”
To paraphrase a sports cliché: “It’s not the X’s and the O’s. It’s the Jameises and the Joes.” Winston can play. His achievements precede him. So does his reputation, which has been shaped in the media to the point where he became a caricature of himself before his 21st birthday. Now he has to convince future employers that he can be the on-field CEO and off-field face of an NFL franchise.
“I just want their trust,” Winston says. “I believe I am the best player in this draft. I believe that I could be playing in the NFL for a pretty long time. And I just want their trust.”
A laundry list of off-the-field indiscretions includes a Title IX rape investigation (that resulted in no charges being filed) as well as more juvenile run-ins — like shoplifting $32.72 worth of crab legs from a local Publix and standing on a table to yell a tasteless yet popular Internet meme. Comedian Kevin Hart visited Tallahassee and publicly told Winston to, “Stop doing dumb (stuff).” The high-profile ups and downs have certainly made an impact on Winston.
“I just learned that I had to grow up. Everything that happened at Florida State, I feel it made me a better person and a better young man,” says Winston. “My family raised me right and my football family, they know who I am. And they stood beside me. First of all, they knew the truth. And they also knew what type of person I was.”
In the months leading up to the draft, Winston has done everything in his power to repair his image and prepare himself for the NFL. He flew to New York to clear the air with Commissioner Roger Goodell, who Winston says is “a very fun guy to be around.” He trained in San Diego with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., who also worked with former No. 1 picks Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. Winston shined on the field and was charming in interviews at the NFL Combine and his Pro Day.
At Florida State, Winston was able to compartmentalize his stresses and continue a remarkable track record of on-field success — as a star quarterback in the fall and two-way baseball player in the spring. Philosophies learned on the diamond have been a major part of Winston’s formula for success on the gridiron, especially when the stakes are high.
“Baseball is a game of failure. You gotta have a strong mind in that sport. And playing quarterback, we’re the most scrutinized and most praised position in all of sports. So you gotta have a strong mind,” says Winston, who was drafted by the Texas Rangers and finished his career at FSU with a 1.94 ERA, nine saves and 52 strikeouts over 60.1 innings.
“One thing that helped me out was being a pitcher, how relentless I am just trying to take over a game. As a quarterback, sometimes I just try to take over a game. Two-minute drills. Third downs. Situational football is something I take pride in.”
This is the first spring of Winston’s career that the Bessemer, Ala., native has not played baseball. And, in scouting terms, even though his “floor” is higher than his competition due to the pro-style offense he ran under coach Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, Winston’s “ceiling” is even higher considering he’s never been a full-time QB.
“I love being a quarterback year-round. It’s amazing,” says Winston. “It’s made a huge difference, especially with my mechanics for football. I never had a chance to just work on the football side of my game. I always watched film. But I never had to work on just my release and my drop and just fine-tuning everything. …
“I don’t even know how good I can be at quarterback because I never worked this much at it.”
Winston is the frontrunner to go No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team whose fanbase includes a significant percentage of FSU fans and plenty of Seminole alumni — including Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn and Brad Johnson, to name a few. It seems too good to be true. But Winston could go from the Noles to the Bucs.
“If that’s possible, I would love that opportunity. I just would love the privilege of playing in the NFL,” says Winston. “If it happens to be in Tampa, that would be obviously a blessing.”
As for those who doubt his ability to transition from college to the pros? Well, after everything Winston has gone through, he’s not too worried.
“I don’t got many concerns,” says Winston. “I’m just looking forward to playing football. That’s one thing I love to do, is play football. Whatever may come my way, I’m ready for it.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been named the Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver for 12 straight years (2003-14). The 40-year-old son of racing royalty and member of the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut is a fan favorite, for obvious reasons. But what does Dale Jr. like? Start with Bristol Motor Speedway, where he will race Sunday.
Athlon Sports caught up with Dale Jr. to talk about the iconic track, childhood memories at the bullring, the new paint scheme on his No. 88 Chevrolet and one of Dale Jr.’s favorite bands — Old Crow Medicine Show, who will play the Bristol prerace concert this weekend.
Where does Bristol rank among tracks on the Cup schedule?
Bristol fights for that top spot. I always loved going there as a kid. It’s one of the more exciting racetracks to be at as a fan. When I used to go watch my father race, being able to run around the pits and garage area all weekend long, when they were preparing to race and then sit down and watch the race, there’s not a bad seat in the house at Bristol. And it’s as much fun to race there as it was to see. It’s very special to me and my heart. It’s a tough race to win, but it’s a great feeling when you do.
What is your favorite Bristol memory?
When we swept in ’04. That was a great, great weekend. To be able to win the Nationwide race and the Cup race. We lapped all the way up to sixth place in the Cup race. We had this long, uncharacteristic green-flag run where we had to pit under green. We ended up lapping a lot of cars. Our car was just the class of the field that night.
Does a win mean more at a historic track like Bristol?
Yeah, it does. I like the history of the sport. I grew up in a house full of trophies, right? With my dad winning all the races he won, there was trophies on every shelf. Some of those trophies are different, more unique than others. The trophy for Bristol is a very, very tall trophy. I remember one of the races he won at Bristol, I got a picture of me standing next to the trophy and I’m shorter than the trophy.
When you’re a kid and you see something that big that you can win at that event, No. 1 you hoped it would never change, so when you got your opportunity to race there you could win the same trophy. And you hoped you’d have that opportunity, No. 2. And we were able to do that.
You don’t seem to drive quite as aggressive as your father, “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt. Why is that?
Well, it’s easy to be aggressive when your cars are good. I’ve been aggressive when the time comes — when it seems to be necessary and when the car can do it. You can’t go running with guys when you’re not handling well or the car doesn’t have a lot of speed because they’ll get you back pretty easy.
Who’s most likely to cause a problem at Bristol?
Anybody, really. Anybody. Whoever’s up there. … Anyone in that position is gonna do whatever it takes to win. Because Bristol’s a track where guys want that trophy on their mantle.
Any pranks planned for teammate Jeff Gordon’s last season?
I’m sure Jimmie (Johnson) has some ideas on some things he’s got brewing. I don’t know if he’ll clue in me and Kasey (Kahne).
Old Crow Medicine Show is playing the prerace show at Bristol. You’re a big fan of those guys aren’t you?
Yeah I been listening to them guys. I actually come across them about four or five years ago and love a lot of their songs. They kind of turned me on to a new genre of music that I’d really not heard before. And being a fan I was really excited when I heard they were gonna come play at the pre-race, so all the other drivers and mechanics and guys can actually get a chance to see them and hear them. So it’ll be great.
What do you think about the new Mountain Dew DEWshine paint scheme on the No. 88 car, which will debut at Bristol?
I guess what matters is what everybody else thinks. I’m just anxious to see what the fans think. I had a little involvement myself. I think it turned out great. The gold numbers are back for Bristol. We’re gonna put some tire marks on that thing and hopefully put it in Victory Lane on top of that building over there at Turn 3.
Ketch Secor, lead singer of Old Crow Medicine Show, on Bristol:
That’s where motor racing really calls home — the place where Tennessee and North Carolina and Virginia and Kentucky all come together. That’s sort of the epicenter, in my mind, of racing. Racing fans, they really come from that part of the country.
Anyhow, we’ve always loved playing music in Bristol, Tennessee. It’s the birthplace of country music. It’s a place where the Bristol Sessions found the discovery of some of the seminal figures in early country music history. So, we’ll be really proud to be part of the show this April 19.
“For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, / He writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the Game,” Grantland Rice famously wrote in his 1908 poem, “Alumnus Football.”
Not everyone in sports has lived by those words, obviously. With that mind, we look back at the 25 biggest bullies in sports history:
25. Richie Incognito
A threatening, profanity-laced, half-N-bomb, yo-mamma voicemail left for his Miami Dolphins O-linemate Jonathan Martin moved Incognito from “NFL’s Dirtiest Player” to “Notorious B.U.L.L.Y.”
24. Dale Earnhardt Sr.
The “Intimidator” was quick to remind his competition to “put a kerosene rag around your ankles so the ants won’t climb up there and eat that candy ass.” Dale Sr. had no problem putting other cars into the wall with his No. 3 Monte Carlo.
23. Michael Jordan
Isiah Thomas was bullied off the Dream Team; Steve Kerr was punched in the face; Jerry Krause’s Croatian sensation Toni Kukoc was harassed; and a teenage Kwame Brown was broken down to tears by “His Airness.” Plus, MJ absolutely abused everyone in the NBA during his reign.
22. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Sports Illustrated declared Mayweather “a bully, one neatly wrapped in a cut 5-foot-8, 147-pound package. Like most bullies, Mayweather is intimidating. He sends promoters, managers and networks cowering in the corner with the mere threat of withholding his services. He holds the boxing world hostage by saying he will take his gloves and go home unless the fight isn’t when he wants, where he wants and at what weight he wants. He perpetuates a lie … because he is confident in the fact that no one in the industry will stand up to him.”
21. Randy Savage
“Oooooh, yeah!” The “Macho Man” broke into the WWF as a heel who bullied the “First Lady of Wrestling,” Miss Elizabeth, and was quick to “snap into” anyone who dared look at his manager.
20. Kermit Washington
“The Punch” nearly killed Rudy Tomjanovich but also inspired the John Feinstein book, The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever.
19. Ron Artest
The Artest currently known as “Metta World Peace” was not always the lovable, flagrant-fouling, elbow-throwing, physical defender we know today. He was once the instigator of the infamous “Malice at the Palace.” That poor fat fan in the stands didn’t stand a chance.
18. Quinton Jackson
“Rampage” is a terror in and outside the ring. Making countless MMA fighters tap out, dry-humping ring girls and driving on the sidewalk during an extended police chase.
17. Todd Bertuzzi
The consummate goon and longtime NHL enforcer, Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore’s hockey career with a sucker punch in 2004.
16. Jack Tatum
“The Assassin” paralyzed Darryl Stingley with a vicious hit over the middle in 1978. Tatum was the leader of a gang of bullies in the Oakland Raiders' secondary who were known for headhunting.
15. Vince McMahon
The Chairman and CEO of the WWE is a marketing genius, but he has no problem taking a metaphorical folding chair (or a real folding chair) to the back of anyone standing in his way. McMahon has bullied and bulldozed his way to the top of the ropes. Look out below.
14. Ndamukong Suh
The Albert Haynesworth 2.0 of dirty defensive tackles, Suh saves his worst for Thanksgiving dinner, stomping in 2011 and kicking in '12. He's also bullied friends and cable guys off the field, making Suh arguably the young bully with the most upside.
13. Bill Romanowski
Romo was psycho — spitting on opponents, beating up teammates and causing widespread chaos everywhere he roamed. Romanowski's rage was often steroid-fueled, as the linebacker told "60 Minutes" he received the juice from none other than Victor Conte himself.
12. John Kreese
Cobra Kai's screw-loose leader had a simple instruction: "Sweep the leg."
11. Daniel Snyder
The Washington Post's Dave McKenna has previously documented Snyder's bullying from A to Z, reminding us why the Redskins' owner is everyone's least favorite NFL power player.
10. Bob Gibson
Don't crowd the plate or drive reckless when Gibson is in fastball range. The two-time Cy Young winner and 1968 NL MVP has no patience. After years of plunking batters to establish his dominance on the mound, Gibson was cited for assault in a road rage case in 2002 after establishing he was king of the road.
9. Bill Laimbeer
Laimbeer was the dirtiest of the Detroit Pistons' "Bad Boys," a group that also included noted bullies like Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn. Motown's modus operandi in the late 1980s and early '90s was to punish anyone who dared take the ball to the rim — looking at you, Michael. There were even "Jordan Rules" used to intimidate the Pistons' fiercest rival from Chicago.
8. Mike Tyson
"Iron Mike" was the youngest heavyweight champion (20 years, 4 months) in history and one of the most feared fighters of all time. With 44 KOs in 50 career wins, Tyson was a bully among bullies. The tortured champ was also convicted of rape in 1991 and served three years in the penitentiary. And one more thing… Tyson bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear in Las Vegas back in 1997.
7. Broad Street Bullies
Philadelphia Bulletin scribes Jack Chevalier and Pete Cafone coined the "Broad Street Bullies" nickname for the Philadelphia Flyers crew back in 1973. HBO Films made a documentary about the team that included Hart Trophy winner Bobby Clake.
6. Ty Cobb
Always angry? Check. Documented racist? Check. Slides into bases with his spikes up? Oh yeah. "I was the most hated man in baseball," Cobb famously told biographer Al Stump. Cobb was proud of his bullying.
5. Tonya Harding
The surreal attack on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994 made Harding and her goon ex-husband Jeff Gillooly a national scandal. After finishing eighth (to Kerrigan's silver medal) at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Harding has gone on to a hodgepodge of pro wrestling and amateur boxing.
4. Lance Armstrong
"Live Strong" to beat testicular cancer. Blood dope to win seven Tours de France. Sue anyone who dares speak the truth about said blood doping. Most important, never apologize for anything — even if you're on Oprah. Because of Lance, millions of American sports fans will never again watch the Tour de France.
3. Bobby Knight
With his sideline, chair-throwing tirades, Robert Montgomery Knight evolved into the stereotypical coach who takes himself too seriously and uses his position of power to bully those cowering beneath.
2. Roger Goodell
The "Ginger Hammer" will not rest until the NFL has become a flag football league with an 18-game schedule and a team in London.
The NCAA rakes in nearly $1 billion in revenue annually. Roughly 80 percent of that comes from television deals, with college football and men's basketball being the primary cash cows. How much do "student-athletes" profit from the NCAA's non-profit monopoly? Oh, that's right. The NCAA is as big and corrupt as any bully in sports history. HBO's John Oliver explained it about as well as anyone:
The best team doesn’t always win the NCAA Tournament. Many of greatest rosters ever assembled failed to cut down the nets in the one-and-done, single-elimination Madness of March. These are the 15 best teams that never won the NCAA Tournament.
RELATED: Top 10 Arenas in College Basketball
1. 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
(34–1, 18–0 Big West)
Coach Jerry Tarkanian
Lost to Duke, 79–77, in Final Four
Vegas was the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world in college basketball before falling to Duke in a rematch of the 1990 title game, in which the Runnin’ Rebels humiliated the Blue Devils, 103–73. With three 1991 NBA Lottery picks — national player of the year forward Larry Johnson (No. 1 overall), wingman Stacey Augmon (No. 9) and point guard Greg Anthony (No. 12) — and the reigning Final Four MOP in Anderson Hunt, UNLV was as intimidating as it was dominant.
2. 1975 Indiana Hoosiers
(31–1, 18–0 Big Ten)
Coach Bob Knight
Lost to Kentucky, 92–90, in Elite Eight
Bob Knight and Joe B. Hall nearly went to blows during a 98–74 IU win over UK in December 1974. The Hoosiers were riding a 34-game winning streak heading into their rematch with the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. But without a full strength Scott May — who scored two points due to a broken arm, after scoring 25 in the first meeting — undefeated Indiana fell to Kentucky, a team that went on to lose the national title to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game.
3. 1983 Houston Cougars
(31–3, 16–0 Southwest)
Coach Guy Lewis
Lost to NC State, 54–52, in NCAA title game
Texas’ tallest fraternity, “Phi Slama Jama” was led by a pair of future Hall of Famers in shot-swatting big man Akeem Olajuwon and high-flying Clyde “the Glide” Drexler. The middle of three straight Final Four appearances and first of two national title game runner-up finishes was the most painful, as NC State pulled off one of the greatest Cinderella upsets in Big Dance history.
4. 1985 Georgetown Hoyas
(35–3, 14–2 Big East)
Coach John Thompson
Lost to Villanova, 66–64, in NCAA title game
The Patrick Ewing-led Hoyas were runner-up to North Carolina in 1982, national champs in 1984 and heavily favored to repeat as champs in 1985. But the overwhelming edge in talent for Ewing, Reggie Williams, David Wingate and Co. was no match for the magical shooting night of Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats, who shot 22-of-28 from the field to beat “Hoya Paranoia” on April Fools’ Day.
5. 1984 North Carolina Tar Heels
(28–3, 14–0 ACC)
Coach Dean Smith
Lost to Indiana, 72–68, in Sweet 16
On paper, this was Dean Smith’s most talented team, on the court and on the bench. National player of the year Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty and freshman Kenny Smith headlined a loaded roster, while Roy Williams, Bill Guthridge and Eddie Fogler served as assistant coaches for a group of Tar Heels that couldn’t even make it to the Final Four.
6. 2015 Kentucky Wildcats
(38-1, 18-0 SEC)
Coach John Calipari
Lost to Wisconsin, 71-64, in Final Four
Kentucky was the first team in history to go 38-0 as it reached the Final Four on a mission to become the first team to hit that magical 40-0 number. The Wildcats’ stifling defense and imposing big men met their match against the historically efficient Wisconsin offense. This UK team didn’t have the star power of perhaps other teams on this list, but it was among the deepest teams of the modern era.
7. 1993 Michigan Wolverines
(31–5, 15–3 Big Ten)
Coach Steve Fisher
Lost to North Carolina, 77–71, in NCAA title game
The sophomore season of the Fab Five — Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson — produced the same (since vacated) results as their freshman campaign. Michigan marched all the way to the national title game with their signature baggy shorts, black socks and swagger, only to lose to ACC power UNC, after losing to Duke in the championship game the season before.
8. 1997 Kansas Jayhawks
(34–2, 15–1 Big 12)
Coach Roy Williams
Lost to Arizona, 85–82, in Sweet 16
KU had it all, with NBA size down low in Raef LaFrentz and Scot Pollard, clutch shooters in Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase and Billy Thomas, and steady point guard play from Jacque Vaughn and Ryan Robertson. But Roy Williams’ Jayhawks could not close the deal against Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and eventual champion Arizona.
9. 1973 NC State Wolfpack
(27–0, 12–0 ACC)
Coach Norm Sloan
Banned from postseason play
David Thompson and Tommy Burleson led NC State to an undefeated regular season but were unable to go dancing after being banned from postseason play due to NCAA sanctions. When the ban was lifted, the 1973-74 Wolfpack went 30–1 cut down the nets following a national championship.
10. 1974 UCLA Bruins
(26–4, 12–2 Pac-8)
Coach John Wooden
Lost to NC State, 80–77 in 2OT, in Final Four
The next-to-last team coach by the Wizard of Westwood ended UCLA’s streak of seven consecutive NCAA titles. Despite being led by Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes, the Bruins were unable to outlast NC State in double-overtime in the Final Four.
11. 1954 Kentucky Wildcats
(25–0, 14–0 SEC)
Coach Adolph Rupp
Elected not to participate
Coach Adolph Rupp chose to take a stand against the NCAA by keeping the unbeaten Wildcats out of the Tournament after Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos were ruled ineligible due to a graduation rule that is no longer in place.
12. 1999 Duke Blue Devils
(37–2, 16–0 ACC)
Coach Mike Krzyzewski
Lost to Connecticut, 77–74, in NCAA title game
One of Coach K’s most talented teams was anchored by No. 1 overall pick Elton Brand, sharpshooting senior Trajan Langdon, point guard William Avery and athletic freak frosh Corey Maggette — all of whom went in the top 14 of the 1999 NBA Draft.
13. 1962 Ohio State Buckeyes
(26–2, 13–1 Big Ten)
Coach Fred Taylor
Lost to Cincinnati, 71–59, in NCAA title game
Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek are two of the greatest players in Ohio State history, playing in three consecutive NCAA title games — losing the last two trips as a heavy favorite against in-state rival Cincinnati.
14. 1957 Kansas Jayhawks
(24–3, 11–1 Big Seven)
Coach Dick Harp
Lost to North Carolina, 54–53 in 3OT, in NCAA title game
Kansas’ Wilt Chamberlain was unable to follow in the championship footsteps of San Francisco’s Bill Russell — who led the Dons to titles in 1955 and '56. The Stilt lost in triple-overtime in what old timers have called the greatest game ever played.
15. 1963 Cincinnati Bearcats
(26–2, 11–1 Missouri Valley)
Coach Ed Jucker
Lost to Loyola-Chicago, 60–58, in NCAA title game
In their fifth straight Final Four appearance, the Bearcats were aiming for a three-peat before the term existed. But back-to-back champion Cincinnati was shocked by underdog Loyola-Chicago in the final.
The NCAA Tournament is almost here. Selection Sunday is around the corner. Only one person will win your office bracket pick ‘em pool. But everyone can have a funny March Madness bracket team name. Here are 68 names that should get a laugh, from the First Four to the Final Four.
Boom Shaka Shaka
When I Think About You I Touch Bill Self
Not In Kansas Anymore
Shock It To Me
Shock and Awe
Stallings Will F’n Kill You
Bill Walton Smells Colors
Full Metal Bracket
Prince Jersey Chaser
March Mad Men
Fast Breaking Bad
Ball So Hard University
Horace Grant’s Nephew
Bruce Pearl’s BBQ
F--- ‘Em Bucky
Mudiay’s Semester Abroad
Headbands Make Her Dance
Anthony Benedetto’s Wahoos
Big Dancin’ For Money
One Shining Moment
And1 Shining Moment
Church of Bracketology
Stretch Final Fours
One Man Wolf Pack
POTUS > Clark Kellogg
Pitino’s 15-Second Drill
Italian Sausage Stuffed Snapper
One Time at Band Camp
Duke’s No-Look Policy
Carmelo Anthony Davis
Calipari’s Recruiting Budget
Big Bluegrass Nation
One and Won
Only one team will win your fantasy baseball league, but everyone can have a funny (or silly or crazy) fantasy baseball team name. These are 175 suggestions for the baseball nerds, Internet bird dogs, Sabermetric mathematician-magicians, jersey chasers and MLB Extra Innings subscribers who comprise fantasy baseball leagues around the world.
Technology and Stuff
50 Shade of Sonny Gray
50 Cents of First Pitches
Jeter Del Boca Vista
Jeter’s Gift Baskets
McCann Man Code
CC’s MPH Diet
Short Porch Party
A-Rod Handwriting Experts
Jackie Robinson West
Prince Bigger in Texas
Dead Ted’s Head
Tampa Bay Carly Raes
Willie Mays Hays
JUST a Bit Outside
Maybe This Year
Snitches Get 108 Stitches
Man With 4 Balls Can’t Walk
99 Problems, Pitch Ain’t One
Kansas City Lordes
Blurred Foul Lines
Blurred Outfield Lines
Wrecking Ball Four
San Diego Rotisserie Chickens
Grand Theft Votto
Cubs Mascot Dong
I Piss Excellence
I’m CEO, You Shut Up
Kenny Powers Posse
Balco Black Sox
Joe Buck Yourself
Ain’t Over Til It’s Over
Déjà vu All Over Again
Griffey Jr.’s Tonic
New York Knights
No Crying in Baseball
All the Way Mae
Must Be the Mo’ne
Arms of an Angel
Bob LOB Law
Crack That WHIP
Mr. Kate Upton
Yu Da Man
Dick Pole’s Staff
Chief Noc-A Homa
Outfield Fly Rule
Smoak a Swisher
The Bourn Supremacy
The Price is Wrong
Heady Play by Beltre
Thome Don’t Play That
Houston Colt .45s
Hot Pocket Corner
Joe Buck Nasty
Raking It In
Bay of Puigs
Flipping the Bat
Better Call Paul (Goldschmidt)
Kung Fu Pandas
Say It Aint’s Sosa
El Paso Chihuahuas
Atlanta Black Crackers
Prince Fielder Body Issues
Love It When They Call Me Big Papi
Carlos Santana’s Greatest Hits
Say Hey, J-Hey
Ferguson IS the Cardinal Way
Long Wong Silver
Men of Steal
My Big Unit
Schwing! Batter Batter
Who’s Your Daddy?
The The Angels Angels
California Penal League
Old Hoss Radbourn
Cobb Co. Braves
Hall of Shamers
Big League Choo
Come Sale Away
Pete Rose’s Hall
Bud Selig 401K
Clown Question Bros
Stolen Hunter Pence Signs
Back Back Back
Chris Berman Sucks
Fire Joe Morgan
Ken Burns Baseball
Wrigley Blue Ivy
Jay Bruce Jenner
Mookie Loves Pearl Jam
No Mas Tomas
Can the Grandy Man?
Hamilton High Dive
Fire Breathing Lamborghinis
Vin Scully’s Homeboys
Just like the crazy uncle with the nonstop inappropriate jokes or the aunt with the barely edible green bean casserole, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys are welcome additions to the holiday family gathering even though they will probably provide an awkward moment or two.
Here are a few of the noteworthy Thanksgiving Day memories from the Lions, whose first Turkey Day game was in 1934, and Cowboys, who first sat at the table in 1966.
1. Lett It Snow
On a snow-covered field at old Cowboys Stadium in Dallas in 1993, the Cowboys blocked a potential game-winning field goal by the Dolphins with 15 seconds to play. The Boys surrounded the dead ball in celebration before Leon Lett came sliding in through the snow, tipping the ball and allowing the Fins to recover the muff at the one-yard-line — and beat Dallas, 16–14, on a game-winning field goal as time expired.
2. Heads or Tails?
Prior to the coin toss at the start of overtime in Detroit in 1998, Pittsburgh’s “Bus” Jerome Bettis clearly called “tails.” But referee Phil Luckett awarded the ball to the Lions, who kicked a game-winning field goal on their first drive to beat the stunned Steelers, 19–16.
En route to becoming the only 0–16 team in history, the Lions allowed a Thanksgiving Day team-worst 47 points to the Titans, who posted an NFL-best 13–3 record in 2008.
4. Fried Turkey
Vikings rookie Randy Moss burned the Cowboys — who infamously passed on the wideout in the 1998 draft — to the tune of three catches for 163 yards (54.3 ypc) and three touchdowns, as Minnesota ran by Dallas, 46–36.
5. Unruly Kids
Detroit 24-year-old Ndamukong Suh threw a temper tantrum on the field and was ejected from the game for stomping on Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith during a 27–15 loss in 2011.
6. Delicious Leftovers
Cowboys third-stringer Jason Garrett starts in place of an injured Troy Aikman and outpitches the Packers’ Brett Favre in a 42–31 Dallas win in 1994. The game reminds many of the time Cowboys backup Clint Longley replaced an injured Roger Staubach to lead thrilling come-from-behind 24–23 win over the rival Redskins in 1974.
7. Juice Spoiled
O.J. Simpson broke the NFL’s single-game rushing record with 273 yards at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day in 1976. But due to inept quarterback play from Gary Marangi, who went 4-for-21 for 29 yards, the Bills lost to the Lions, 27–14.
8. Unfitting Finale
Mr. Thanksgiving himself, Lions legend Barry Sanders, had just 33 yards on 20 carries against the Steelers in 1998 — the worst showing No. 20 ever had on a fourth Thursday in November. Although the effort pushed Sanders over the 15,000-yard mark for his career, it was (shockingly) the last Thanksgiving Day he graced the nation with his brilliance.
Death Valley will be rocking when the No. 16 LSU Tigers take on the No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide in prime time on CBS (8 p.m. ET) Saturday night. National title-winning coaches Les Miles and Nick Saban go toe-to-toe with five-star-stuffed, NFL-talent-laden rosters. Although Alabama (-6.5) is favored, LSU is capable of pulling off the upset and shaking up the SEC West standings and College Football Playoff picture. Here are four reasons the Bayou Bengals will beat Bama:
1. Death Valley
Tiger Stadium is “Where opponents dreams come to die,” according to Coach Miles, who has a 45–4 record in Saturday night home games at Death Valley since taking over the top spot in Baton Rouge back in 2005. There is an indescribable force surrounding the 102,321 purple-and-gold rowdy crowd that comprises arguably the best home field advantage in all of college football.
2. Les Miles
The Mad Hatter has been known to eat grass, let ’er rip in interviews and just say F it — meaning Fake punts and Fourth-down conversions — in big games. In the season-opener against Wisconsin, special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto dialed up a successful third-quarter fake punt that shifted momentum and started a run of 21 unanswered points in a 28–24 win at AT&T Stadium. Miles has a 5–4 record vs. Alabama in regular season games. And he will pull out all the stops to take down the Tide this time around.
3. Alabama Injuries
At this point in the season, every team is banged up. But Alabama is in particularly bad shape this weekend. Left tackle Cameron Robinson — a Louisiana native who spurned the Tigers in favor of the Tide — has a gimpy ankle that will make him a game-time decision. Even if Robinson does play, LSU’s D-line could take advantage of the true freshman playing with a bum wheel. Stud tailback T.J. Yeldon is also struggling with a foot issue; this on the heels of a season-ending gruesome leg injury suffered by big back Kenyan Drake earlier this year.
4. Leonard Fournette
The 6’1”, 230-pound 19-year-old from New Orleans is arguably the best freshman running back since Adrian Peterson. Fournette has 131 carries for 657 yards (5.0 ypc) and seven TDs, along with seven catches for 127 yards (18.1 ypc). LSU is 5–0 when Fournette has topped 11 carries. LSU is No. 7 nationally is rushing attempts and No. 1 in the SEC (439) — with 50 more attempts than No. 2 Arkansas (389). In a 10–7 win over Ole Miss earlier this year, LSU had 55 rushes for 264 yards compared to 16 pass attempts for 142 yards. Expect a similar gameplan featuring Fournette, whose only official visits were to LSU and Alabama.
Fine wine doesn’t age as well as Peyton Manning. Just ask the 49ers, who came all the way from Northern California wine country to take a 42–17 Mile High beating at the hands — or, more accurately, the record-breaking right arm — of Manning.
The 38-year-old five-time league MVP was in prime form in prime time on Sunday night, completing 22-of-26 passes for 318 yards and four TDs — Nos. 507, 508, 509 and 510 of his 17-year career. Manning’s 509th NFL scoring strike was an eight-yard completion to wideout Demaryius Thomas that broke Brett Favre’s record for all-time passing TDs.
“I want to say congratulations for breaking the touchdown record,” Favre said to Manning. “I’m not surprised. You’ve been a wonderful player and I’ve enjoyed watching you play. I’ve enjoyed competing against you. I wish you great success for the rest of the season and the rest of your career.”
Manning’s 510 TD passes have been thrown to 45 different players, 34 of whom are now retired from football. An astounding 111 of those scores have come in the two-and-a-half seasons that Manning has played for the Broncos. The other 399 TD tosses came in Manning’s 13 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, who selected Archie’s son out of Tennessee with the No. 1 overall pick in 1998.
Manning’s go-to Colts lead the way, with Marvin Harrison (112 TDs), Reggie Wayne (67) and Dallas Clark (44) headlining the list, while current Broncos like Demaryius Thomas (30) and Julius Thomas (21) continue to gain ground at a ridiculous rate.
Manning’s longevity and productivity have resulted in his excellence being taken for granted, in many ways. But following a series of neck surgeries that caused the future Hall of Famer to miss the 2011 season — and, subsequently, the Colts to cut Manning and draft Andrew Luck — nothing was guaranteed.
“I certainly didn’t think this would even be a possibility a couple of years ago,” said Manning. “I’m very grateful to the Broncos for welcoming me to their organization and for helping me during my career here. It has been a wonderful two-and-a-half years here.”
Manning’s time in Denver has exceeded even the wildest expectations of the Orange Crush faithful. He’s posted an MVP campaign in which he broke the NFL single-season TD pass record (55 in 2013), an MVP runner-up (2012) and a Super Bowl appearance. This year, he’s having one of his vintage years, completing 68.7 percent of his passes for 1,848 yards, 19 TDs and three INTs for a 118.2 passer rating while leading the Broncos to a 5–1 start.
The 6'5", 230-pounder with the “laser-rocket arm” is not only one of the most prolific passers in the game today, he’s arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the position. His statistics are proof of the process — from pre-snap read to back-shoulder throw into the end zone.
“Throwing touchdowns is a part of playing football,” said Manning. “But I guess for me throwing touchdowns has helped teams I’ve been a part of win a lot of football games. I don’t think I’ve thrown a lot of touchdowns that didn’t mean something.”
Manning’s obsessive preparation is contagious. It has helped him post a 172–74 career regular-season record while rewriting the NFL record book.
“Everyone wanted 509. Everyone wanted that one,” said Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme. “Just the way Peyton carries himself, the way he raises everyone’s level of play. We all want to be a part of that.”
When Florida State and Notre Dame played "The Game of the Century" on Nov. 13, 1993, Jameis Winston (b. Jan. 6, 1994) had not been born and Everett Golson (b. Jan. 2, 1993) was not yet one-year old. The '93 epic showdown ended with No. 1 Florida State falling at No. 2 Notre Dame, 31–24, before bouncing back to claim the National Championship.
This year's version also features two undefeated top-5 teams, with No. 2 Florida State (6–0) hosting No. 5 Notre Dame (6–0) in one of the season's classic matchups. Although the defending-champion Seminoles are heavy favorites, the Fighting Irish have more than a puncher's chance to win on the road in Tallahassee. Here's why:
1. Quarterback Play
This is a heavyweight showdown between two quarterbacks with a combined 35–1 record as a starter. Winston is a perfect 19–0 with a national title win over Auburn, while Golson is 16–1 with a national title loss to Alabama. Golson will have to outplay Winston, protect the football and control the clock — coach Brian Kelly is 26–2 at ND when winning time-of-possession — in order for Notre Dame to pull off the win at Florida State.
If Winston were unable to play or finish the game for some reason (suspension, fake injury, real injury, etc.), the Seminoles are in trouble at quarterback. Backup Sean Maguire, who subbed for Winston in an overtime win over Clemson earlier this year, is out with a hand injury. Third-stringer John Franklin III is a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a snap at FSU.
2. Undefeated vs. History
The 90th anniversary of the "Four Horsemen" is on Saturday. The Oct. 18, 1924, Notre Dame 13–7 win over Army inspired New York Herald-Tribune scribe Grantland Rice — the godfather inspiration of Bill Simmons' Grantland website — to write the famous poetic recap:
"Outlined against a blue, gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: (Harry) Stuhldreher, (Don) Miller, (Jim) Crowley and (Elmer) Layden."
Those aren't the only echoes waking. Notre Dame is 5–0–1 on Oct. 18 when ranked in the AP poll, 9–0–1 in games involving two teams with a record of 6–0 or better and 4–0–2 in games when the Irish are undefeated playing the defending national champions in the regular season.
3. No Homefield Advantage
Oh yeah, Notre Dame also carries a 1–0 record in Tallahassee, with Ty Willingham taking down Bobby Bowden's Noles in 2002. The other split stats show this to be a coin-toss contest. Jimbo Fisher is 3–3 at FSU in home games against top-10 teams, beating No. 7 Miami last year and No. 10 Clemson in 2012, while losing to No. 1 Oklahoma in 2011 and No. 6 Florida in 2012. On the other side, Kelly is 2–2 at ND in regular-season road games against top-10 teams, winning at No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 10 Michigan State in 2012, while losing to a top-10 Stanford twice (2011, '13).
This will be Notre Dame's first true road test, having played neutral site games at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (vs. Purdue) and at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey (vs. Syracuse). "I think playing in two NFL venues there is a kind of glamour and big-time atmosphere associated with those sites," said Kelly. "We were playing in an environment that kind of evokes that kind of feel that we'll get in a similar fashion at Florida State."
Thousands of authenticated autographs and a reopened Title IX rape investigation have put Winston's status in doubt on a day-to-day basis — so much so that Las Vegas has taken ND at FSU off the books until further notice.
With or without Winston, the Seminoles will need to play better than they did in closer-than-expected games against Oklahoma State, Clemson and NC State. In those three games, mental mistakes — the on-field equivalent of Jameis yelling "F--- her right in the ... !" on campus — resulted in a combined 25 penalties for 170 lost yards, negative-three turnover differential and minus-3:07 time-of-possession.
But hey, even the great Charlie Ward, a two-sport star (Heisman Trophy winner and NBA first-round pick) just like Winston (Heisman winner and FSU baseball closer), lost to the Irish. Ward had a 19–1 record heading into South Bend in '93 and finished the year with a 23–2 all-time mark and a national title.
The loser of this game still has a shot at making the College Football Playoff.
Jerry Jones’ birthday party came a few hours early this season. The Dallas Cowboys owner, president and general manager turned 72 on Monday, Oct. 13, but the festivities got cranked up Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys upset the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, 30–23, at CenturyLink Field — where the neon-clad world champs had a 19–1 record (including playoffs) with Russell Wilson at quarterback prior to the Boys shocking the Hawks.
The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 5–1 for the first time since 2007 and gave Jones an early birthday present that has to rank among the sweetest — and most surprising — of his career in Dallas.
“Almost as good as the Herschel Walker trade,” joked Jones, referring to the blockbuster deal that, coincidentally, celebrated its 25th anniversary on Sunday and is credited with establishing the foundation of the 1990s dynasty that won three Super Bowls in four seasons.
“When I see us come up here against the Super Bowl champions and play in these adverse conditions. When I see us play like that, then I’d say we’ve got a chance to line up against anybody and win the game.”
Much like the ’90s Super Bowl teams with Emmitt Smith, these Cowboys are riding their star running back to victory week in, week out. DeMarco Murray joined Jim Brown as just the second player in NFL history to open a season with six consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Prior to Murray’s 29-carry, 115-yard, one-TD effort on the ground, Seattle’s No. 1-ranked rush defense was allowing 62.3 yards per game on just 2.6 yards per carry. The Seahawks had not allowed any runner to gain more than 38 yards this season and had not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Nov. 3, 2013. In fact, Murray is only the seventh 100-yard rusher since Pete Carroll took over as Seattle’s coach in 2010.
“He’s a powerful back,” said Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who is known more for his trash talk than his praise of opposing players.
“He runs strong. You’ve got to tackle him with multiple people and when you have your opportunity to tackle him one-on-one, you’ve got to find a way to bring him down.”
Murray was the main reason Dallas had a nearly two-to-one time-of-possession edge over Seattle, at 37:39-to-22:21.
But the Cowboys are certainly more than just a one-man team. The highlight of the game at Seattle was clearly the 3rd-and-20 conversion from Tony Romo to Terrence Williams, who tip-toed the sideline on a diving fourth-quarter catch that kept a 75-yard go-ahead touchdown drive alive.
Most surprising has been Dallas’ defense, which allowed just nine first downs and 206 total yards against a powerful Seattle offense that includes Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin.
“Nothing surprises me in the NFL. They pay their players, too — the other side of the ball,” said Jones. “Those guys weren’t All-Pro players, in the ’90s, and they’re great players, great players. But before they were winning like that, they weren’t thought to be great players. The winning helped them become better players.”
This version of the Cowboys has a long way to go before being compared to the Super Bowl champions of two decades ago. But the sky appears to be the limit this year with offensive studs like Murray, Romo, wideout Dez Bryant, tackle Tyron Smith and tight end Jason Witten, along with a defense that has shown far more ability than anticipated.
“Guys aren’t going to back down,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “We have the right kind of guys on this team.”
In other words, how ’bout them Cowboys?
The NHL season is upon us and that means it's time for slap shots, fist fights, line changes, icing and fantasy hockey. Only one team will raise the Stanley Cup at the end of the season, but everyone can have a funny fantasy hockey team name worthy of a toothless smile and playoff beard. Here are a few suggestions:
Moves Like Jagr
Ride My Zamboni
Right in Her 5-Hole
The New Great One
Five For Fighting
Gordie Howe Hat Tricks
Big Daddy Kane
Blades of Glory
Mighty Duck Face
Quack is Wack
The NBA season tips off Oct. 28, which means it’s time for fantasy basketball. Only one team will win your league, but everyone can be a winner with a funny fantasy basketball team name. All you need to do is troll Donald Sterling or LeBron James, make a hipster or hip-hop pop culture reference and/or go meta with your NBA insight in a way that Metta World Peace might not follow. Here’s our list of suggestions for 2014-15:
Blow Me (in the Ear)
Donald Sterling Scumbags
Adam Silver’s My Homeboy
Bill Walton Smells Colors
Black Mamba > Black Widow
Kobe Wan Kenobi
Space Jam 2
Steve Ballmer’s iPhone
Westbrook Geek Chic
Pippen Ain’t Easy
Metta World War 3
Metta World Peace Pipe
Derrick Rose Jersey
Mile High Manimal
Joakim Noah’s Arc
Rose Before Hoes
Sprichst Du Dirk?
Brittney Griner Tight
Shawn Kemp’s Kids
Pass the Rock to Lamar
Lala’s Honey Nut Cheerios
Rodman & Madman
Love Outlet Passes
Tim Shootin’, Tim Duncan
Ibaka Flocka Flame
Locks of the Week
Betting against the worst teams in the league playing on the road and against first- or second-year quarterbacks is traditionally smart money.
Chargers (-13) vs. Jaguars
Florida’s worst team has been outscored by a league-worst 75 points, while scoring only 44 points (third-worst) so far.
Steelers (-7.5) vs. Buccaneers
Florida’s second-worst team has been outscored by 50 points (second-worst), while scoring only 45 points (fourth-worst) so far.
Falcons (-3) at Vikings
Teddy Bridgewater makes his first career NFL start; the young buck will have to keep pace with the NFL’s No. 1 scoring team (34.3 ppg) in Atlanta.
Lions (-1.5) at Jets
Who knows which Geno Smith will show up in this one? But the J-E-T-S secondary isn’t ready for Megatron, Matt Stafford and the Lions passing attack.
Straight Up Upsets
Shaky quarterback play and a coin toss contest between bitter rivals highlight the underdog picks this week.
Raiders (+4) vs. Dolphins
Miami isn’t sure if Ryan Tannehill is still their guy at QB. Oakland is hoping Derek Carr can pull out his first career NFL victory.
Bears (+1.5) vs. Packers
Aaron Rodgers has a 10–3 record against Chicago. But if you double-check, he had a 9–1 record against Detroit before losing last week.
Stay away from these games unless you are a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action on absolutely all the action.
Colts (-7.5) vs. Titans
This could be easy Horseshoe money if Charlie Whitehurst starts in place of Jake Locker.
49ers (-5) vs. Eagles
These two teams (and coaches) are too good to bet against. Don’t ever bet against Jim Harbaugh or Chip Kelly.
Ravens (-3.5) vs. Panthers
Cam Newton could storm Baltimore, a team downward spiraling on and off the field.
Texans (-3) vs. Bills
EJ Manuel was so bad against San Diego last week it makes you want to bet on Ryan Fitzpatrick. But not really.
Saints (-3) at Cowboys
This Sunday night showdown is a Sean Payton homecoming. Why’d the Boys let that guy leave?
Monday Night Moolah
Monday night time is the right time to double-up or double-back on the weekend’s winnings or losings.
Patriots (-3.5) at Chiefs
Tom Brady is 4–1 all-time against Kansas City — but the Chiefs did take out his knee in the 2008 season-opener.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins better already have the champagne on ice. The way this season is going there may not be much time to prepare for the celebration of the last remaining unbeaten team losing its first game — thus ensuring the 17–0 Super Bowl VII champion’s place as the only undefeated team in NFL history.
Three weeks into the year, only three teams have a perfect 3–0 record — the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals. And while all three share the same record, the routes taken have been decidedly different.
The Eagles have scratched out wins over the Jaguars (34–17), Colts (30–27) and Redskins (37–34), not because of their fast starts but because of their strong finishes. Philadelphia has been outscored by a combined score of 54–27 in the first half of games. But those same Eagles have flipped the switch to outscore opponents 40–14 in the fourth quarter.
“I believe we’re the freshest team in the fourth quarter,” said second-year coach Chip Kelly. “The way our whole team played in the fourth quarter obviously shows what type of conditioning we have.”
Kelly has been an outspoken proponent of various new-age sports science — tailoring specific diets to individual players, placing an emphasis on hydration and encouraging players to get as much sleep as possible on a nightly basis. He also has instituted practice policies that include less contact but more running, which at least one player (see below: Cary Williams, Outside the Huddle) has taken issue with.
But the evidence is on Kelly’s side. Last season, Kelly’s club suffered fewer preventable soft-tissue injuries and muscle strains than almost every other team en route to a 10–6 record and NFC East division title. The Eagles led the league with 14 players who started every game last season.
“We train in a great way,” said defensive coordinator Bill Davis. “The sports science we have, the way we analyze it, there’s no concern. I actually think we’re the strongest team in the fourth quarter, and it shows. We keep finishing games. Where others don’t have it in the tank, we have it in the tank. It shows. … I’ve been with 10 different organizations, and it’s not even close.”
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has a 33–18 regular season record, with 82 TDs and 50 INTs over 51 career starts. But all anyone wants to talk about is his 0–3 record in the playoffs, where he has thrown one TD and six INTs.
“Whatever you do during the regular season doesn’t matter once you get to the playoffs,” Dalton said after a 27–10 home loss to San Diego in last year’s Wild Card game. “It’s disappointing.”
Regardless of criticism, Dalton is the only quarterback in Bengals history to make three straight playoff appearances. As a result, he inked a team-friendly six-year that could be worth as much as $115 million but also gives the franchise several outs should it want to move in a different direction.
This year, Dalton has been his usual regular-season self, with a 95.4 passer rating and as many receiving TDs as INTs thrown — with one each. In fact, Dalton’s first INT of the season was Cincinnati’s first turnover of the year.
But Dalton knows, maybe better than any other QB around, he’ll never be “the guy” in Cincy until he wins a playoff game.
No desert mirage
In the NFL, the rule of thumb is “10 wins and you’re in” the playoffs. Last season, Arizona’s 10–6 record wasn’t good enough in an NFC West that included Seattle and San Francisco. This year, the Cards hope to overtake the Hawks and Niners. Judging by coach Bruce Arians track record, that is a realistic goal.
Arians was named 2012 NFL Coach of the Year after going 9–3 as interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The following season, Arians took over in Arizona and has gone 13–6 — giving him a career mark of 22–9.
Dive deeper and Arians’ record is even more impressive. The Cardinals have won nine of their last 10 games and have outscored their opponents 30–0 in the fourth quarter in close-call wins over the Chargers (18–17), Giants (25–14) and 49ers (23–14). That is exactly where Arizona wants to be heading into its Week 4 bye.
“For us to go undefeated in September is a huge step forward with all the things that have gone on the past two weeks,” said Arians. “I love the resiliency of our football team, the focus that they bring every single day to work.”
Locks of the Week
Three of the worst teams in the league will struggle to stay in the game against three teams with playoff aspirations.
Patriots (-14) vs. Raiders
Sorry, Derek Carr. Since 2001, Bill Belichick has a 14–5 record against rookie quarterbacks, with none of those losses coming at home.
Colts (-7) at Jaguars
Last season, Indy stomped out J-Ville by a combined score of 67–13. This season, the Jags have been outscored by a combined 75–27.
Cowboys (-1) at Rams
The Michael Sam Bowl is pretty much a pick ‘em. It’s always risky betting on Tony Romo and Co., but this is one the Boys should win.
Straight Up Upsets
These underdogs have Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks going up against inconsistent, albeit talented, young defenses.
Packers (+2.5) at Lions
Olivia Munn’s man, Aaron Rodgers, has not lost to the Lions since an ugly 7–3 defeat at Detroit in Week 14 of 2010.
Giants (+2.5) vs. Texans
Eli Manning has thrown two INTs in both games — both losses — he’s played this year.
Debatable quarterback play has two road teams getting bigger numbers than they deserve. They may not win but they won’t get blown out.
Titans (+7) at Bengals
Jake Locker is playing for his future, while Andy Dalton has already been to the playoffs three times and inked a $96-million extension.
Redskins (+6.5) at Eagles
The Kirk Cousins Era begins with a division showdown with Chip Kelly’s comeback kids. Oh, and DeSean Jackson really, really wants revenge.
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action on absolutely all the action.
Saints (-10) vs. Vikings
Remember when BountyGate nearly knocked Brett Favre out of the league?
Seahawks (-5) vs. Broncos
Too soon. Too soon.
Dolphins (-4) vs. Chiefs
Neither team has established its identity for 2014.
49ers (-3) at Cardinals
Jim Harbaugh is 5–1 against these NFC West division foes.
Panthers (-3) vs. Steelers
The battle of 6’5”, 240-plus-pound quarterbacks could be a shootout.
Bills (-2.5) vs. Chargers
Bet against West Coast teams playing 1 p.m. Eastern Time kickoffs.
Ravens (-1.5) at Browns
The original Jim Browns take on the expansion Courtney Browns.
Monday Night Moolah
Double down on this weekend’s winnings or get back from this weekend’s losses with a Monday night party.
Bears (+3) at Jets
Smokin’ Jay Cutler aims to shine in prime time for the second straight week.
Mo’ money, mo’ problems — for NFL quarterbacks. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt signed a six-year,$100-million contract with $51.876 million in guaranteed money this offseason. And instead of resting on his laurels, the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has taken his game up a notch.
“Like I said all along, the goal is to always be great,” said Watt. “I don’t want to be that guy that people say got money and shut down. I want to work hard every day — whether it is workouts, practice, games — and improve.”
Improvement is a scary thought for the towering 6'5", 289-pound 25-year-old, who terrorized Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins during a 17–6 win that snapped the Texans’ 14-game losing streak and gave the franchise its first victory since an overtime win over the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 15, 2013.
Watt notched one sack, along with five knock-downs of RG3 (one of which resulted in an intentional grounding penalty), one fumble recovery as well as his signature “J.J. Swatt” on both a blocked extra-point attempt and pass deflection.
“I guess the only thing he didn’t do was intercept a pass and run it back,” said Texans owner Bob McNair. “J.J. was unbelievable.”
Watt’s performance in Week 1 was just the first step in proving he is worth every penny of his new deal. But, in many ways, it was also just business as usual for a defensive force who is on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
In 49 games, Watt has 37.5 sacks — including a league-leading 20.5 in 2012 — along with 28 pass deflections and eight forced fumbles. If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, take a look at Watt’s playoff stats. In four career postseason games, he’s notched five sacks, three pass deflections and an INT returned 29 yards for a touchdown.
“Watt is obviously a hell of a football player,” said Texans first-year coach Bill O’Brien. “There’s no other way to put it. He’s just a great player.”
Watt helped O’Brien win his NFL head coaching debut and ruined the first game of Washington boss Jay Gruden’s NFL head coaching career. But those who have been around the league weren’t at all surprised.
“He’s the man. He just got the hundred mil. He got it for a reason, you can see that,” said Texans safety D.J.
Swearinger, who has given Watt a new nickname. “J.J. is ‘The Hundred Mil,’ so he’s supposed to do that.”
Watt has worked hard to become the $100-million man. Rated a two-star prospect by recruiting websites Rivals and Scout, the Pewaukee (Wis.) High School product took official recruiting visits to Central Michigan, Colorado and Minnesota before signing with the Chippewas.
Watt played one season as a tight end at Central Michigan, catching eight passes for 77 yards in 2007. Unhappy with CMU, Watt decided to transfer to the University of Wisconsin.
During the time between attending CMU and UW, Watt worked as a pizza delivery man. A tall tale has grown from his days ringing doorbells and passing out pies. Legend has it that Watt was recognized by a kid inside the house on one of his delivery stops. Afterwards, an emotional Watt returned to his car and cried, vowing to get back on the field and back on track.
Although that’s a heartwarming rags-to-riches story, it’s not exactly 100 percent accurate.
“I never cried,” Watt told the Houston Chronicle. “What was going through my mind was, this kid once saw me as the greatest, someone he looked up to. When I saw the look on his face, that for that split second he didn’t see me as that anymore, that hurt. … It re-instilled the drive in me to become great again, to become that kid’s role model again.”
Watt bounced back with two solid seasons as a defensive end at Wisconsin before becoming the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. After an award-winning start to his pro career in Houston, Watt doesn’t have to deliver pizzas anymore — unless it’s part of a national ad campaign for NFL sponsor Papa John’s.
But don’t think for a second that the change in tax bracket has changed Watt, who seems to be struggling to adjust to his unreal riches.
“I Googled, ‘What do rich people buy?’ because I don’t feel like a rich person, and I don’t really try to act like a rich person, so I don’t know what they buy,” Watt said in a postgame interview with FOX reporter Laura Okmin.
“I didn’t really like the stuff I saw, so I’m gonna stick with my humble lifestyle and just keep working out.”
It’s been said that money makes a man more of what he already was. If that’s the case, Watt is about to cement his status as the most dangerous defensive player in the game today.
Seven NFL teams will be under new leadership for the 2014 season. Of the latest crop of head coaches, four are rookies as it applies to the pro level, while three are getting a second chance to head up an NFL team. Last season, Philadelphia's Chip Kelly and San Diego's Mike McCoy wound up in the postseason in their first season as an NFL head coach, while Cleveland's Rob Chudzinski went 4-12 and promptly got fired.
So which members of the coaching class of 2014 are most likely to succeed or potentially be interviewing for a new job sooner rather than later? Here's a breakdown (alphabetical order) of the NFL's newest head coaches.
Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
Previous job: Offensive coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
Pros: Tony Dungy’s successor-in-waiting with the Colts went 24–8 over his first two seasons as an NFL head coach, with an upset loss to Drew Brees and the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Those, however, were the final two years of the Peyton Manning era in Indy. After a three-year run with the Colts, Caldwell was hired as QB coach of the Ravens. He then was promoted to offensive coordinator following the midseason firing of Cam Cameron. With Caldwell calling the plays, Joe Flacco threw 15 TDs and only one INT — leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl XLVII “Harbaugh Bowl” victory over the 49ers.
Cons: The 59-year-old Caldwell went 2–14 in his one season without Manning in Indy and 26–63 in eight seasons as the coach at Wake Forest. The Motor City is bringing in a retread who may not be capable of producing the high-performance results fans have expected since the 10–6 run of 2011.
Final Analysis: The hiring of Caldwell is the most depressing news at Ford Field since Nickelback played at halftime of the Thanksgiving Day game.
Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins
Previous job: Offensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
Pros: Jay is Jon Gruden’s brother and, as a result, the subject of hilarious Frank Caliendo impressions like the recent instant classic “Gruden vs. Gruden QB Camp.” Jay won Super Bowl XXXVII as an offensive assistant for his older brother. He also coached the Orlando Predators to two ArenaBowl championships after winning four ArenaBowl titles as quarterback of the Tampa Bay Storm. After leaving the AFL for the NFL, Gruden was the offensive coordinator of the Bengals, making the playoffs each of his three seasons.
Cons: Jay is not Jon Gruden and, as a result, may disappoint fans expecting a Super Bowl-winning, live-wire head coach. Also, most of Jay’s success has come in the Arena Football League, which is played indoors on fields that are 50 yards long with starting lineups of eight players on each side.
Final Analysis: Since taking control of Washington in 1999, owner Daniel Snyder has hired six coaches — Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn, Mike Shanahan and Gruden. Three of those were proven NFL head coaches; the other three — Gruden included — were ex-quarterbacks with zero NFL head-coaching experience.
Bill O'Brien, Houston Texans
Previous job: Head coach, Penn State
Pros: In his first head-coaching gig, O’Brien did an admirable job after inheriting a disaster at Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal and the death of Joe Paterno. The 44-year-old went 15–9, with wins over Michigan and Wisconsin, and he swept the Big Ten Coach of the Year awards in 2012. The quarterback guru has extensive experience in the NFL with the Patriots, as an offensive assistant who worked his way up to offensive coordinator — losing Super Bowls XLII and XLVI to Eli Manning’s Giants along the way.
Cons: O’Brien is the eighth Bill Belichick assistant to become an NFL head coach, joining Al Groh, Nick Saban, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels, Jim Schwartz and Charlie Weis. Once out from under the protection of the short-sleeve hoodie, disciples of Belichick not named Saban have struggled. And even the great Saban — who has enjoyed tremendous success on the collegiate level — went only 15–17 in two NFL seasons.
Final Analysis: The third coach hired by Bob McNair follows in the footsteps of Dom Capers and Gary Kubiak, who delivered the 13-year-old franchise’s only two playoff appearances in 2011 and 2012 before tanking to 2–14 in his final season. O’Brien has been handed a playoff-ready team in what was the league’s weakest division in 2013. The pieces are in place for immediate success.
Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns
Previous job: Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills
Pros: Since the expansion Browns rejoined the NFL in 1999, the franchise has hired seven different head coaches and enjoyed just two winning seasons. Butch Davis in 2002 is the only one of those coaches to reach the playoffs. Expectations are low, despite the fact that the original Browns (now the Ravens) have won two Super Bowls since leaving Lake Erie. Pettine arrives alongside Johnny Manziel, whose personality and playing style likely will make or break his head coach.
Cons: Owner Jimmy Haslam's truck-stop company, Pilot Flying J, agreed in July to pay $92 million in fines following a federal investigation related to customer fraud. Last year’s coach, Rob Chudzinski, was fired after only one season. The expansion Browns have a cumulative minus-1,399 point differential over 15 seasons. Simply put, this is one of the worst jobs in pro sports.
Final Analysis: Pettine is the son of legendary Pennsylvania high school football coach Mike Pettine Sr. and the one-time right-hand man of Rex Ryan. If the Johnny Football experience goes well, the 47-year-old Pettine could be the franchise’s longest-tenured coach since Bill Belichick coached the final five seasons of the original Browns from 1991-95.
Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Previous job: Head coach, Chicago Bears
Pros: The 56-year-old Smith is a familiar face re-hired by the Glazer family, having served as the Bucs’ linebackers coach from 1996-2000. He helped Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin perfect the Tampa-2 defense while coaching Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. Smith then served as the defensive coordinator for the Rams, losing to Tom Brady and the underdog Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. After taking over the top spot for the Bears in 2004, Smith posted an 81–63 record with three NFC North division titles and a 3–3 postseason mark, including a loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
Cons: Smith doesn’t inspire cannon fire; his personality is more Dungy than Jon Gruden. The lack of fireworks likely contributed to Smith’s firing in Chicago, despite a 10–6 record in his final season.
Final Analysis: The 2005 AP Coach of the Year has had just three losing seasons in nine years as a head coach. There’s less style but plenty of substance with Smith, who has assembled a strong staff led by Leslie Frazier (defensive coordinator), Jeff Tedford (offensive coordinator) and Bucs legend Hardy Nickerson (linebackers).
Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans
Previous job: Offensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers
Pros: A former tight end with seven years of NFL experience under his belt, Whisenhunt was a Super Bowl XL-winning offensive coordinator with the Steelers — famously calling the only TD pass thrown by a wide receiver in Super Bowl history, with Antwaan Randle El tossing a 43-yard scoring strike to Hines Ward to seal the victory over the Seahawks. After being hired as head coach of the Cardinals in 2007, Whisenhunt turned around and lost to his former team in Super Bowl XLIII.
Cons: Whisenhunt’s tenure in Arizona got off to a hot start before burning out, or maybe just fading away. A 27–21 record with two playoff appearances in his first three years was followed by an 18–30 mark. The coach failed to develop Matt Leinart — a jilted passer who recently claimed Kurt Warner, not Whisenhunt, should be credited with the Cards’ early offensive success.
Final Analysis: The 52-year-old Whisenhunt is the first coaching hire in Oilers-Titans history made by someone other than franchise founder Bud Adams (1923-2013). And unlike predecessors Mike Munchak and Jeff Fisher, Whisenhunt doesn’t have Oilers-Titans blue blood. Whisenhunt is bringing a new tune to Music City.
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Previous job: Defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
Pros: Zimmer has weathered a few storms in his day. He survived four coaching tenures — Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells — over 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl XXX as defensive backs coach. He spent one fateful season as Bobby Petrino’s defensive coordinator with the Falcons before joining the Bengals, where he coached for six seasons and made four trips to the playoffs.
Cons: The 58-year-old Zimmer has made a name for himself on defense. But he was hired as a head coach only after serving as the defensive coordinator under Marvin Lewis, who is a defensive mastermind in his own right — having coordinated the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV-winning defense before taking over the top spot in Cincy.
Final Analysis: After interviewing for the Browns job last offseason and being on the short list of several openings this year, Zimmer has finally earned his shot . But he’s never been a head coach on any level, and the NFL is a tough place to learn on the job.
(Bill O'Brien photo courtesy of Houston Texans' Web site, www.houstontexans.com; Jim Caldwell photo by Stuart Zaas, courtesy of Detroit Lions' Web site, www.detroitlions.com; Mike Pettine photo courtesy of Cleveland Browns' Web site, www.clevelandbrowns.com, Ken Whisenhunt photo courtesy of Tennessee Titans' Web site, www.titansonline.com)
First, Seattle Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” mic Richard Sherman went all Tony Montana on Erin Andrews. “I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman ranted after the NFC title game. “Don’t open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.” Then, Arizona Cardinals’ triple-threat Patrick Peterson became the Internet’s highest-paid troll after becoming the league’s richest cornerback. Even the New York Jets’ delusional Dee Milliner “ain’t gonna say that somebody else is better.”
These days, every cornerback who backpedals for a living is fluidly flipping their hips and running their mouth at 4.3 speed claiming the title of “NFL’s best.” But really, who is the top cover man in an increasingly pass-happy league? It’s not Deion Sanders anymore, that’s for sure.
Here are the top 10 cornerbacks in the GIF game today, when factoring in size, speed, age, health, proven production and 2014 potential to cover the full spectrum of downfield receiving threats — from monsters like “Megatron” Calvin Johnson (6’5”, 236) to track stars like DeSean Jackson (5’10”, 178).
1. Richard Sherman, 26, Seattle Seahawks
6’3”, 195, Stanford (No. 154 pick, 2011)
48 G, 167 T, 57 PD, 20 INT for 227 yards (11.4 ypr), 2 TDs, 4 FF, 1 SK
You mad, bro? Don’t be. Sherman is in his loud-mouthed, lockdown prime. He’s got a Super Bowl ring and a fat new four-year, $56 million contract. The big-play maker made his biggest splashes on the biggest stages and arguably deserved to be named 2013 Defensive Player of the Year after recording eight INTs for 125 yards (15.6 ypr) and a 58-yard pick-six — his second straight eight-INT, one-TD season. Plus, Sherman allowed only one TD for the Seahawks’ top-ranked defense. Floyd Mayweather is the champ. But Sherman has the CB title belt.
2. Darrelle Revis, 29, New England Patriots
5’11”, 198, Pittsburgh (No. 14 pick, 2007)
95 G, 344 T, 109 PD, 21 INT for 367 yards (17.5 ypr), 3 TDs, 5 FF, 2 SK
Bill Belichick is looking forward to an extended vacation on Revis Island, where defensive schemes are much easier to gameplan with one side of the field on lock. After a Lost-like couple of seasons dealing with injury and contract issues in New York and Tampa Bay, Revis is likely to return to his all-time prime this year in New England.
3. Patrick Peterson, 24, Arizona Cardinals
6’1”, 219, LSU (No. 5 pick, 2011)
48 G, 161 T, 42 PD, 12 INT for 124 yards (10.3 ypr), 1 SK
Money talks. And five years, $70 million currently has the floor. Peterson has the potential to top this list — and likely will, sooner than later. But as of this season, one of the game’s best all-around athletes needs his cover skills to catch up with his walk-off punt return highlight reel and even bootleg passing ability.
4. Joe Haden, 25, Cleveland Browns
5’11”, 195, Florida (No. 7 pick, 2010)
57 G, 234 T, 67 PD, 13 INT for 222 yards (17.1 ypr), TD, 3 FF, 2 SK
Who knew Cleveland had an NFL team before Johnny Football? The Browns have the league’s top left tackle in Joe Thomas and a realistic shot at having the best cornerback in Haden, who makes very few mistakes by the lake — but would probably have trouble guarding LeBron James, though.
5. Aqib Talib, 28, Denver Broncos
6’1”, 205, Kansas (No. 20 pick, 2008)
77 G, 242 T, 70 PD, 23 INT for 348 yards (15.1 ypr), 4 TD, 2 FF
Clearly, he feels like a boss, which is necessary to run with the likes of A.J. Green and Dez Bryant. A volatile young Buc, mellowed ex-Patriot turned big-money Bronco, Talib has struggled to stay on the field. But when he’s on, there are few with the size, speed and swag necessary to match Talib’s talents.
6. Desmond Trufant, 23, Atlanta Falcons
6’0”, 190, Washington (No. 22 pick, 2013)
16 G, 70 T, 17 PD, 2 INT (0 ypr), 1 FF
Following in the high-steps of Deion and DeAngelo Hall — who also wore No. 21 at cornerback for the Falcons — the third Trufant brother to play in the NFL (along with big bros Marcus and Isaiah) had an incredible rookie season and appears to be the next elite cover corner. And you can’t knock his hustle, unless you’re C.J. Spiller.
7. Alterraun Verner, 25, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5’10”, 187, UCLA (No. 104 pick, 2010)
64 G, 288 T, 50 PD, 11 INT for 124 yards (11.3 ypr), TD, 2 FF
One of the big winners of the offseason, Verner snagged a four-year, $26.5 million deal and will be heading from Tennessee to Tampa Bay, where he will play for defensive guru Lovie Smith. Verner is a ball-hawk who has never missed a game (64-for-64) and continues to add veteran moves to an already dangerous arsenal.
8. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 28, N.Y. Giants
6’2”, 193, Tennessee State (No. 16 pick, 2008)
92 G, 246 T, 98 PD, 19 INT for 409 yards (21.5 ypr), 5 TD, 3 FF, 1 SK
DRC isn’t the toughest guy on the block but he’s not a punk, either. A cheap shot from Michael Floyd — who outweighs DRC by roughly 30 pounds — deserves to be answered with another cheap shot. What he lacks in physicality, DRC makes up for in speed, length and cocky attitude, which often borders on arrogant (just ask Kirk Cousins).
9. Brent Grimes, 31, Miami Dolphins
5’10”, 190, Shippensburg (Undrafted, 2006)
75 G, 314 T, 73 PD, 17 INT for 257 yards (15.1 ypr), TD, 1 FF
A blue-collar scrapper, Grimes doesn’t fit in with the rest of this list and may be a one-time-only inclusion. But the undrafted free-agent deserves mention heading into 2014, following a couple standout campaigns that bookended an injury-shortened 2012 season.
10. Vontae Davis, 26, Indianapolis Colts
5’11”, 207, Illinois (No. 25 pick, 2009)
70 G, 245 T, 51 PD, 13 INT for 150 yards (11.5 ypr), TD, 1 FF, 2 SK
Vernon Davis’ little brother has all the raw talent in the world but his production never matched his potential until last season. The tools were always there, however. And since his brother was a late-bloomer before exploding onto the scene, maybe Vontae will follow Vernon’s lead-block and vault up these rankings in the near future. There’s no doubt Davis can run with anyone, taking over routes for greats like Andre Johnson.
(Editor’s note: Apologies to Honey Badger, Pacman, Nickell and all the nickelbacks covering the slot. You’re doing great work chasing Wes Welker, but the best of the best are on an island on the outside. Plus, Nickelback gets no respect.)
The upcoming NFL season marks the kickoff of everyone's real favorite sport — fantasy football. Only one team in your league will be crowned Super Bowl champion. But it just takes a dirty joke or some well-crafted Johnny Football trolling to cash in on the best fantasy football team name. Here are a few suggestions for this season:
Drake's New Favorite Team
Waka Flacco Flame
U Mad Bro?
Taste My Rainbow
12th Man Records
Bout That Action, Boss
Harbaugh's Dad Pants
Vince Young's Steakhouse
Cry Me a Rivers
Hernandez Hit Men
The Gronk Abides
Party Like a Gronk Star
Wilfork Dance Party
Mr. UGG Boots
Jay-Z's My Agent
Off to Tennessee the Whiz
Remember the Titans
I Don't Want Your Life
Bud Kilmer's Coyotes
Kissing Suzy Kolber
Smokin' Jay Cutler
Dirty Sanchez Butt-Fumblers
Purple Jesus Juice
All Day 2K
J.J. S.W.A.T.T. Team
Clowney Question Bro
Eli Looking at Things
You Down With JPP?
Peyton Manning's 5-Head
Mile High Manning
Welker, Texas Ranger
Sherman's Last Rant
The Boldin the Beautiful
Call Me the Brees
Jimmy "WR" Graham
Jason Garrett's Ginger Boys
Monte Kiffin's 401K
Dez Does Dallas
80% Mental, 40% Physical
Show Me the Money
Super Bowl Quadruple-Check
Prime Prep Two-Step
Don Beebe's Hustle
Big Ol' Bortles
Not Racist Redskins
Hard Knocks Life
Eat a Damn Snack
Suh Girls, One Cup
Boy Named Suh
Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe
K.C. Kool-Aid Man
Turn Your Head and Coughlin
Tampa Bay Terminators
Polk High Panthers
JaMarcus' Purple Drank Diet
Jim Haslem's Accountants
Illiterate Read Option
Forgetting Brandon Marshall
Ron Mexico's Perro
It's Always Runny in Philadelphia
Favre Dollar Footlong
Van Buren Boys
Makin' It Wayne
Red Hot Julius Peppers
Show Me Your TDs
Slow White Bronco
Wham, Bam, Michael Sam
Straight Cash Homey
Gruden vs. Gruden
The 2014 World Cup has narrowed its field from 32 nations in the Group Stage down to the 16 teams that advanced to the single-elimination Knockout Stage, which kicks off Saturday, June 28. But before we move on with the tournament, let's take a quick look back at the insanity that took place in Brazil over the past couple of weeks. These are a few of the highlights and lowlights from the 2014 World Cup Group Stage:
First goal of 2014 World Cup is Marcelo own goal
Oops. The host nation scored its first-ever World Cup own goal in the opener against Croatia, as Brazil's talented left back Marcelo accidentally scored on his own side for the first goal of the 2014 World Cup.
Clint Dempsey’s first-minute goal vs. Ghana
A good omen to start the party for the USMNT. America's best and brightest player sent shockwaves back home with an electric goal to start what has been a fun, albeit unexpected, run through the Group of Death and the Group Stage on to the Knockout Stage.
Lionel Messi’s 90th-minute goal to beat Iran
The beautiful game's most beautiful player was able to bend a beautiful ball for a last-minute match-winning goal. Messi has four goals, tied with Brazil's Neymar and Germany's Thomas Muller for most in the Group Stage.
Robin van Persie’s diving rainbow header vs. Spain
It would have taken devine intervention for "Saint Iker" Casillas to stop this incredible first-touch diving rainbow header from van Persie in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup finals between Spain and the Netherlands.
Guillermo Ochoa’s clean sheet in draw vs. Brazil
Mexico beat a Neymar-led Brazil squad in the Olympic gold medal match in London two years ago. But a 0-0 draw in the Group Stage of the World Cup may have been even sweeter. Ochoa had six ridiculous saves in easily the best display of goaltending thus far.
Luis Suarez biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini
Third time is a charm — unless you're biting opponents on the pitch, Suarez-style. After battling back from injury and scoring two goals, Suarez really left his mark on the World Cup with another ugly incident for the Uraguay villain.
Teddy Goalsevelt and Will Ferrell firing up fans
If a pair of former U.S. President impressionists can't get you fired up, then you're not a red-white-and-blue-blooded 'Merican.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s “please excuse” form letter
Coach Klinsmann had a plan. It didn't include Landon Donovan, but it did include advancing to the Round of 16 in style — with an excused absense from work, thanks to the boss of the USMNT.
Cristiano Ronaldo both villain and hero for USA
The world's richest, prettiest and floppiest striker may not have been in tip-top shape but he made the most of what gas he had in the tank — ripping the collective hearts out of the USA with an assist on a stopage-time equalizer one game before scoring the winning goal against Ghana, which resulted in the USA advancing to the Knockout Stage.
Spain, Italy, England, Portugal failing to advance
Europe's traditional powers couldn't take the sweltering Amazonian heat of the World Cup in Brazil. The quartet comprised of a billion dollars worth of club talent was unable to produce for country on the sport's biggest stage.
ESPN camera crews’ ability to find hot fans in crowd
Uncanny. The Worldwide Leader had a sixth sense for finding a diamond in the rough, no matter how rough-looking the crowd might appear to be from the untrained eye. Expect more knockouts in the Knockout Stage. It is Brazil, after all.
As soon as Commissioner Adam Silver tipped off the 2014 NBA Draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the hilarity was on a fast-break pace. ESPN’s crew was highlighted by pro’s pro Reece Davis, length-loving Jay Bilas and the hot-and-heavy bromance of Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons at the big desk, while globetrotting European expatriate Fran Fraschilla told tales of scouting the south of France and motorcycle wreck Jay Williams wiped out during every post-draft interview. These are just a few highlights from the telecast.
Andrew Wiggins’ Three Amigos fashion sense
The No. 1 overall pick of the Cavaliers is the second consecutive Canadian drafted with the top spot, following the Anthony Bennett shocker last year. There have now been three Canadians drafted in the top-5 all-time, with all three picked by the Cavs. And after seeing what the wide-smiling Wiggins was wearing on draft night, Cleveland’s Canadian trio of Wiggins, Bennett and Tristan Thompson might as well be called the “Three Amigos” — if Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short don’t mind, that is.
Joel Embiid’s ESPN reaction to getting drafted
It’s been a rough few weeks for the 7-foot, 20-year-old Embiid. First it was a stress fracture in his back. Then it was a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot. Finally he was stung by the tape-delay bug, sitting with a blank look on his face after being drafted No. 3 overall by the 76ers. ESPN’s cameras zoomed in for an awkward few seconds of instant-classic draft footage.
Dante Exum’s Foot Locker and Adidas commercials
The 18-year-old Australian combo guard went No. 5 overall to the Utah Jazz, but his real highlight reel was during commercial breaks during the draft. Exum — whose father, Cecil, was a teammate of Michael Jordan and James Worthy on North Carolina’s 1982 national title team — played up his “international man of mystery” status and stateside anonymity in a series of ads for Foot Locker and Adidas. Whether he was mistaking bills for fan mail, practicing his autograph or wanting to avoid the paparazzi, Exum stole the show within the show.
Toronto drafting “Brazilian Kevin Durant” Bruno Caboclo
By far the craziest pick of the draft came when the Raptors took the 6’9”, 18-year-old Caboclo with the No. 20 overall pick in the first round. Frascilla declared the so-called “Brazilian Kevin Durant” as “two years away from being two years away.” Bilas seemed to think Toronto may have had more success making “Bruno Mars” the first “Bruno” selected in draft history. While the Raptors are hoping they’ve landed the next “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, the rest of the hoops-watching world is laughing.
Bill Simmons’ reaction to Heat getting Shabazz Napier
The Sports Guy loved the Celtics’ picks of Marcus Smart (pronounced Maaaacus Smaaaat from now on) and James Young — who prompted a fist pump from Simmons and marked the official end of the Kentucky basketball season, according to John Calipari — at Nos. 6 and 17, respectively. But Simmons is sick of teams “helping the Heat,” which is what he thought went down when the Bobcats traded LeBron James’ favorite player in the draft, two-time UConn champ Shabazz Napier, to two-time champ Miami.
Adam Silver and the NBA “drafting” Isaiah Austin
On a much more serious note, Silver continued to show a Midas touch when dealing with delicate matters. A 7-footer out of Baylor, Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome — a connective tissue disorder that can affect the heart, lungs, eyes and spinal cord — during pre-draft medical evaluations. As a result, Austin’s basketball career was effectively ended. But at the halfway point of the draft, Silver called Austin on stage as a draft pick of the NBA. It was a poignant moment of genuine emotion that even a smug Internet troll draft critic could respect and appreciate. Well played, sir.
The 2014 NBA Draft tips off Thursday, June 26. But before Commissioner Adam Silver receives his annual standing ovation — in what will be his first draft since taking over the top spot from David Stern — there will be plenty of rumor-mongering and internet-trolling. After all, this draft is headlined by the Canadian Tracy McGrady, Mormon Carmelo Anthony, Cameroonian Greg Oden and Australian Penny Hardaway.
Here’s a rundown of the top pre-draft rumors and predictions heading into what should be one of the most hectic nights on the league calendar, as all 30 teams look to make themselves more attractive for LeBron James’ pending “Decision Part Deux.”
No. 1 pick is Andrew Wiggins — not Jabari Parker
The high-flying Wiggins is less polished but has top-of-the-backboard upside thanks to his reported 44-inch vertical leap. Parker may be more NBA-ready on draft night, but the Cavaliers (or whichever team trades up to No. 1) will be drafting for the long-term future — not a post-draft pickup game.
Joel Embiid falls out of top-5 due to back and foot injuries
The 20-year-old 7-footer out of Kansas was considered the top prospect in the entire draft until he was revealed to have a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot — an injury similar to those suffered by Yao Ming, Bill Walton, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and other big men with bad wheels. Oh, and the big fella also had his season cut short at KU due to a stress fracture in his back.
Dante Exum shocks draft by being selected in the top-3
His dad played ball with Michael Jordan at North Carolina in the early-80’s! He’s the greatest Australian player since Luc Longley, who also played ball with Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-90’s! This kid is practically Michael Jordan — who, come to think of it, was selected at No. 3 overall 30 years ago. Eerie.
Noah Vonleh gets drafted ahead of injured Joel Embiid
The Indiana freshman has a 7’4” wingspan and the second-biggest hands (11.75”) in Chicago draft combine history. In Vonleh’s one season in Bloomington he led the Big Ten in rebounding (9.0 rpg) and hit 48.5 percent (16-of-33) from 3-point range. When all is said and done, Vonleh might have the best NBA career of anyone in this year’s class.
Magic love Marcus Smart at No. 2 in 2013 or No. 4 in ’14
Orlando likely would have taken the Oklahoma State combo guard over Indiana guard Victor Oladipo at No. 2 overall in last year’s draft. Sitting at No. 4 this year, the Magic will be tempted by Embiid or Aussie 1.5-guard Dante Exum, but will stick with the opinion they’ve held for two years now.
Jazz trade No. 5 pick and Derrick Favors for No. 1 or 2 pick
No need to take a private jet to Las Vegas, it’s party time in Salt Lake City. Expect the Jazz to roll the dice and push their chips on the table with a trade package that includes their best big man (Favors) and their top pick (No. 5) in exchange for a chance to acquire Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.
Celtics do not draft Julius Randle — but the Lakers do
Kentucky’s go-to guy is a polished lefty with nasty Z-Bo-style post moves and a foot that may or may not be about to break (again), depending on who you talk to. Randle skipped a second workout with the C’s to do a fashion interview with GQ. He may have a promise from the Lake Show or the Dallas native may have already gone Hollywood. Either way, he’s a future Laker, even if only for one night.
Kings trade out of No. 8 pick for overpriced veteran
Sac-town has DeMarcus Cousins locked up for the next four years and needs to make the most of their time with the young big man. Look for the Kings to go for broke with a blockbuster trade for either Josh Smith’s radioactive contract in Detroit or maybe a placeholder pick for a sign-and-trade max contract for Eric Bledsoe (DMC’s college buddy) in Phoenix.
Canada Tube gets drafted ahead of Dougie McBuckets
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas and Creighton’s Doug McDermott are the consensus top-two shooters in the draft. And while McDermott was everyone’s national player of the year — and reason for Kate Upton to “Dougie” — it will be the Canadian Youtube sensation Stauskas who hears his name called first, possibly earlier than anticipated.
Celtics take Dario Saric as draft-and-stash at No. 17
Croatia’s latest uberstar just inked a three-year deal in Turkey, but don’t expect that to prevent the 6’10” versatile forward from being a first-round draft-and-stash for an NBA team looking to either save money or cash in on the value of a potential top-10 talent falling down the board. Saric wants to be a Celtic or Laker, so expect Danny Ainge to make a splash with his second first-rounder.
Michael Jordan drafts Horace Grant’s nephew at No. 24
What was old is new again. His Airness has brought back the Charlotte Hornets name and colors, throwing away the Bobcats name — which was maybe the most egotistical in sports history, as the namesake of previous owner Robert “Bob” Johnson. In another “back to the future” move, expect MJ to draft Syracuse forward Jerami Grant, the nephew of former Bulls teammate Horace Grant and son of former NBAer Harvey Grant.
Kevin Love will not be traded to the Warriors or Bulls
Despite endless speculation that Golden State is willing to include Klay Thompson (or are they?) and that Derrick Rose would prefer to play with Love over Carmelo Anthony in Chicago, there will be no Love exchanged on draft night. Minnesota was swindled in the Kevin Garnett deal and will almost certainly suffer the same fate with Kevin Love. Rather than collect assets from one of the deepest drafts in history, the T-Wolves will wait… and wait… and wait… until it’s too late.