Idle thoughts from a vacation-idled mind, while hoping everyone had a wonderful holiday season:
•The Cleveland Browns still have quarterback issues and a plethora of needs, but one of them may not be a new head coach. Who would have imagined a month ago when his team was 1-11 that Eric Mangini might save his job?
The Browns ended their season with four consecutive victories after yesterday's 23-17 decision over Jacksonville. They did it behind workhorse running back Jerome Harrison, who broke out with 561 yards in the last three games, electrifying special-teamer Joshua Cribbs, and a suddenly stingy defense. They did it despite a rash of injuries and despite the distraction surrounding owner Randy Lerner's pursuit and eventual hiring of Mike Holmgren as team president.
Holmgren seems sensitive to Mangini's situation and has declared he has no interest in coaching the team, at least next season. Giving Mangini another year while employing an offensive coordinator with ties to Holmgren's system might be a fair compromise.
At the start of this season, with a do-nothing general manager at his side, Mangini was pretty much in charge of the whole Cleveland football operation, and it proved to be more than he was capable of handling. Now, Holmgren and a yet-to-be-hired GM will be running the show. The last month might well indicate Mangini and the Browns can thrive if he's in a coaching-only role.
•No winners will emerge from the Mike Leach-Texas Tech mess, regardless of the truth, which may or may not ever emerge as all sides cover their flanks. Leach, an odd duck to begin with, comes across as vindictive and uncaring, and faces the prospect of being unemployable. The player involved, Adam James, is portrayed as less than committed and his father, Craig James, an ESPN analyst, as heavy-handed and meddling. The university, perhaps still smarting from the contract it felt forced to give Leach a year ago, seems to have been more interested in firing the coach before he was due an $800,000 bonus than in taking the time for due diligence in its investigation.
•A staggering stat: Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka attempted 78 passes in the Outback Bowl. Navy attempted 96 passes all season.
•What will result from Ohio State's impressive win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl, heading a reversal of Big Ten fortunes in postseason play? The Buckeyes will be No. 3 in the 2010 preseason poll (remember, you heard it here first) and Terrelle Pryor will face the greatest of expectations.
•Urban Meyer, the Florida coach, is undergoing a very private struggle in a very public setting. So we should have no problem with his lack of candid answers regarding any specific health issues. But I hope his change of heart from resigning to taking a leave of absence - and rather confidently predicting he'd be back on the sideline next fall - isn't a mistake. It's not as if he got any better, or his family became any less important, from one day to the next. Being a college head coach has become a near year-round seat in a pressure cooker and you have to wonder if a workaholic and perfectionist like Meyer is truly capable of relinquishing control during a key offseason for the Gators if he has designs on returning.
•Friend Jim Yavorcik points out that between Meyer, Jim Tressel, Pete Carroll, and Nick Saban, at least one former Earle Bruce assistant has been a head coach in eight straight BCS championship games, including this week's matchup between Alabama (Saban) and Texas.
•Plenty of Mid-American Conference football players have been snubbed for national awards through the years because, well, they're MAC football players. But if the Humanitarian Bowl proved nothing else, it is that Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green absolutely, positively got the shaft in voting for the Biletnikoff Award to the nation's best receiver.
•Speaking of the MAC, unless Central Michigan beats Troy in the GMAC Bowl on Wednesday, Mid-Am teams will end the current bowl season having dropped 15 consecutive postseason games. How can anyone argue that there are too many undeserving teams going to too many meaningless bowl games?
•Regarding teams and leagues being exposed in bowls, two straight BCS drubbings should quiet Cincinnati fans who suggest the Bearcats, rankings aside, and their Big East brethren belong among college football's elite.
•That said, perhaps no team could have stopped a determined and charmed Tim Tebow in his final college game. Despite all the so-so assessments of his pro future, you have to hope his 533-yard, four-touchdown performance against Cincy helped convinced some NFL team to make a significant investment in the Florida quarterback, who does little but win.
•If only Florida State had treated Bobby Bowden as well as Gator Bowl officials handled his exit.
•Former major league pitcher and cancer survivor Dave Dravecky is sure to be an inspirational dinner speaker for the annual Make-A-Wish Foundation's sports auction on Feb. 24. Also, a quartet of former Browns - Reggie Langhorne, Greg Pruitt, Kevin Mack, and Mike Pruitt - are expected to be on hand for autograph sessions during the event, which under the direction of Dr. Dave Mallory has raised more than $2 million for wishes in the last 15 years. For ticket information, call 419-244-9474.
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