Ask Gary: Which quarterback might fold this week?

by Gary Shelton on January 20, 2018 · 4 comments

in College Sports in Florida, general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

Three of the four starting quarterbacks in this year’s conference championship games had no realistic expectations of being in this position at the start of the year. Who do you think among that group of Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles is more likely to get exposed and fold under the pressure this week?

Larry Beller

I think it's Blake Bortles. For one, he's the worst quarterback of the bunch (Chris Simms recently said his the 70th-best in the league). Not only that, but he's facing the Patriots. As you know, most of the

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pressure comes from the opposing team. If Bortles tries to play like Brady, or if he gets significantly behind, it will lead to mistakes.

For Jacksonville to win, they have to run the ball with Leonard Fournette. Then they have to run it some more and nibble in the passing game with short patterns. Of course, it needs Tom Brady's injury to be game-altering.

It's kind of amazing that three pedestrian quarterbacks have made it this far while Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers are home, isn't it? The game is so tilted in the direction of quarterbacking anymore. The days of winning a Super Bowl behind Trent Dilfer or Joe Flacco are supposed to be over. But I once asked Dilfer if he thought he would be remembered as the worst quarterback to ever win the Super Bowl. If Brady doesn't win it, I suspect this year's winner might be.

I kind of excuse Nick Foles here. He's a backup. Still, those aren't exactly thoroughbreds, are they? Maybe we're about to enter another cycle where quarterbacks aren't as responsible for winning the games as they used to be.

Case Keenum, of course, has had a good year despite his resume. I think with Zimmer, with that defense, the Vikings could stand up to New England.

If it comes to pass that Minnesota makes it to the 2018 Super Bowl, do you think it will be a significant "home field" advantage for them?

Scott Myers

In pro football, home field advantage is kind of odd. You don't get a built-in advantage like baseball, with the last at-bat, or hockey, with the last matchup. The field is the same size as every other field.

But I'd bet that 32 of 32 teams would love to be at home for any big game. The locker rooms feel right. The sight lines look right. So, yeah, you'd have to say that's a big advantage. Especially when you throw in the cold (the coldest I have ever been was after a Raiders-Vikings game. I thought I was going to die).

Remember, though, the crowd won't be the same. High-rollers take over much of the Super Bowl, and it's hard for the average Joe to find tickets. The Vikings would keep their practice facility, but officially, they'd be the visiting team. Still, most of the comfort would be on their side.

For the record, two teams have played in Super Bowls near their  homes. The Rams played a few miles away in the Rose Bowl in January of 1980. The San Francisco 49ers played at Stanford Stadium in January of 1985.

I know you've been a big fan of the Olympic games. What are some of your fondest (or not so fondest) memories of the Winter Olympics that you covered?
Barry McDowell​
I loved the Winter Olympics, even as a Florida kid. I covered four of them: Lillehammer, Nagano, Salt Lake and Torino. Overall, I'd rank them as Lillehammer, Nagano, Torino and then Salt Lake.
The whole Tonya-Nancy melodrama was fascinating. Not really fun, but fascinating. I can still remember Tonya's press conference in Lillehammer, where the p.r. asked the press to take it easier on her. Really? Jere Longman (New York Times) then asked the first question: "Tonya, you lied to us about not knowing anything about the attack, you lied to us about your smoking. Why should we believe a word you say now?"
I remember the skier Tommy Moe, whose former stepmother was homeless back in the U.S. She was warming up frozen pizza on her car's engine block. I remember walking in Nagano in the driving rain, and a small woman reached up with her umbrella and covered my head. We would never again share space on this planet, but her gentle kindness astounded me.
I remember the skater Surya Bonaly doing somersaults in her routine, although it didn't improve her score. I remember the couple on top of a mountain in Lillehammer that they had blasted to make an ice rink into the side of the cliff. The woman kept repeating what it was like. "Boom, boom, boom," she would say.
There was a small restaurant in Turin, and my buddy Tom Archdeacon and I would find our way there almost every night. At the end of the Games, the staff gave Tom and me books -- I still have mine -- that were inscribed "Don't ever forgive us." Uh, don't you mean forget?
In Lillehammer, there was a large field where fans built igloos to stay in. I went inside one, and it was quite nice. I went in another one, and the guy offered me some sort of food in a can. What it is, I asked. "It tastes like dead men in a tin," he said.
I remember the vending machines in Japan had beer in them. I remember spending a lot of the Games of Salt Lake working the phones because the Bucs had just hired Jon Gruden. I remember a sushi bar in Nagano where three of  us went and somehow got into a gift exchange (you can't give the last present in Japan, evidently). I still have sushi cups in my cupboard.
I remember going back up the mountain in Lillehammer late in the evening, and the p.r. guy stopping suddenly. We all piled out of the car, and watched the Aurora Borealis for a long time. I remember another night when I came in at 3:45 a.m. from skating, and I was taking my contact lenses (I wore them at the time) out in one of the adjoining restrooms. Chuck Nevius, the columnist from San Francisco, went into the other restroom and grunted. I went in and was separating the next day's media guides when I heard the door open. About a half-hour later, it shut again.
I figured Chuck was going to the North Pole, which some writers were doing. Or maybe Oslo. But when I went to breakfast that day, Chuck was there. So I asked him about the door opening.
He laughed. He had a Movado watch, he explained, one without an hour hand or a minute hand. Instead of seeing it as 3:45, he thought it was 9:15. He saw me in the bathroom and thought I was leaving, not coming in. So he dressed and left for the ski jump. It was only after walking to the bus stop that he figured it was night darkness, not morning darkness (the sun didn't shine a lot).
By the time we got to the press center, the stories were flowing. Some writers were talking about this numbskull who went all the way to the ski lift in the middle of the night. Chuck took it well, though, and later, he mailed me a spoon that a magician had bent (with his mind) at at bar when we were both there.
I remember being in a cab with another writer because his rental car had iced over. We had to hire the taxi to drive us from Hamar to Lillehammer. About halfway, he asked me how much money I had, and the cabbie started to slow down until I  said I barely had enough to cover the fare. I later told my partner that I wasn't getting out of the cab. We would have had to kill the cabbie and eat him. I was kidding. Mostly.
I remember seeing a moose in the snow in Norway. I remember the bus driver, after a 4 1/2 hour journey, pulling to the side because he would not lose face by being early. I remember looking out at the Olympic flame from the apartment of Sauro Toma, a former Torino soccer player whose teammates had all died in a plane crash. His walls were filled with the photos of the dead.
I remember napping in Nagano and being awakened by a small earthquake. I remember being crushed when I found out the Times wasn't sending anyone to Vancouver. I remember the McDonald's in Norway served lutefisk.
I remember the skating practice when Tonya and Nancy were on the ice together. Hundreds of us writers were at the practice to see if there was conflict. I would wager it's the highest attended practice of them all.
I look around my office now, and I see so many mementos. The statue of the runner with the flame from Lillehammer. The small statuettes from Nagano.
I remember falling in love with speed skating. I remember being disappointed the Jamaican bobsled team was nothing like the one you saw in Cool Runnings; the movie was complete hooey. I remember tiny beds and cold rooms and long bus rides.
All of it was terrific.
A couple of comments. The Vikings waited forever for the extra point after the thrilling TD over NO. That moment is impossible to spoil for Vikings fans, but the NFL sure “tried”... What is now a “catch” is anyone’s guess. God Bless Bert Emmanuel, but if we only knew back then it would end up in this mess. Refs are human. They can't see this zoomed in HD stuff in real time. How about giving the coaches three replays a game, with no other replays at all in the game?
Carlos Ubinas
The main thing, and I'm sure you'll agree, is to get the call right. When replay first started, it didn't involve challenges. But that didn't work, because the refs were replaying everything. I was at a Miami-Dallas game where they stopped play 14 times, and most of the stoppages were for ball placement. Was it the 32, or the 32 1/2.
The challenges are to keep the flow of the game going by replaying only the big plays. I have no problem if they add another one. There are enough missed calls, especially with what is a catch or not, that we will put up with it.
It's odd. I didn't pay much attention to how long it took to kick the extra point. I was too engaged in watching the replay and the angle of the safety.
Don Shula used to say all the time: "You won't ever do away with replay. Everyone in the world will watch the replays on TV. It's just a matter of if the league uses it to make a wrong right." I know this. I'm usually satisfied -- even if I don't agree -- after a replay. It's like having an appeal heard.
I agree about the confusion of what is a catch, and what is a football move, and how long it takes to maintain possession. I don't think officials or coaches agree, either.
USF had another stellar football season, touched off by another bowl win (albeit in the Birmingham Bowl...yawn).  They were probably two plays away from being undefeated (a la UCF) and playing Auburn in the Peach Bowl.  Charlie Strong said when asked about his interest in coaching vacancies at various Big 5 conference programs, he was not interested and was happy focusing on continuing to build the Bulls program.  I was kind of surprised there was little if any "buzz" linking him as a such a candidate.  I am a huge Charlie Strong fan, and honestly fear his stay here may be brief if USF has another 10-win season in 2018. I think many believe he won this season with Willie Taggart's players and are waiting to see how 2018 fares without Quinton Flowers, etc.  Do you feel he is out to prove himself here or do you believe (like most) that this was a necessary "stepping stone" career move in order to get another chance at a Big 5 conference program? That said, I will add that Jim Leavitt was the only head coach we've ever hired that didn't feel this was a career stepping-stone move...and turned down Alabama to remain USF's first and only head coach (at the time) as he continued his dream of building this program into a nationally competitive one.  Its worth noting that he remains in Oregon as the D-Coordinator and didn't follow Willie to FSU.
Bruce Brown-lee
Bruce, USF had a fine year. And I've never bought a guy winning over an entire season with another coach's players. Sure, Strong had Quinton Flowers, but both Marlon Mack and Rodney Adams were gone. I didn't think USF had quite as much firepower at the start of the season as everyone assumed.
As for Charlie, if he had his agent pursue it, I think he could have gotten some interviews with Power 5 Conference schools. But which ones? If it's a school where you can't win, why bother?
Yes, Charlie needed a USF-level school to get back what was lost in his brief time at Texas. And, yes, as long as he's with the Bulls, there is always going to be the fear of losing him. Unless USF somehow joins a Power 5 conference, that's the way it is.
I think it didn't happen this year because of a few factors. 1.) Other people thought USF was in good shape when Strong arrived; 2) the schedule was weak; 3) He did it only one year; 4) younger, hotter candidates were the flavor of the day. If Strong can do it again, he'll get some offers.
So he'll have to prove himself again. That's okay. Football is a game where the players and coaches constantly have to prove themselves.
I don't know if another 10-win season is coming soon, however. Flowers was a huge loss, and I didn't see another quarterback who brought me to the edge of my seat. USF fans need to tone down their expectations for next season. It's going to be a building year.
The All Star break couldn't come at a better time for the Lightning, Gee whiz! Another loss to expansion Vegas, rumor of a players-only meeting afterward, the Victor Hedman injury, and that's just this past week. How do you feel this Lightning team would fare against the Stanley Cup champion Lightning team of 2003-04 in a best of 7 final?  Top to bottom including the head coach, GM, owner, etc?  As much as I loved that team with St Louis, Dave Andreychuk, Lecavalier, Khabibulin, Tortorella, this season's team has shown flashes of brilliance and destiny.
Bruce Browlee
Interesting question. I covered that Stanley Cup-winning team, and they were terrific. If the league hadn't gone on strike and accelerated all of the contracts, who knows how good they could have been the following year.
Here's the difference to me: That team won the Stanley Cup. This one might. To me, "did" always trumps "might." Vinny was terrific and Marty was terrific and Brad and Ruslan and Nik and Dave. I know they got some breaks in their playoff pairings -- the teams that threatened them the most were all beaten by others -- but it really was a great team.
Let's see: Stamkos vs. Vinny. I give Stamkos the edge. I think he has a better shooting touch.
Kucherov vs. St. Louis. I'd give the edge to St. Louis, who had a knack for scoring the biggest goals at the biggest times.
Richards vs. Tyler Johnson: Edge to Richards, the MVP of the playoffs.
Freddy Modin vs. Ryan Callahan: Edge to Modin, although both live in traffic in front of the net.
Khabibulin vs. Vasilevskiy: I'll surprise you here. I'm going with Vasilevskiy. People forget that Khabibulin lost his job that Stanley Cup season and was at the top of his game only late. He was magnificent. But his recent slump aside, I like Vasy.
Hedman vs. Dan Boyle: Edge: Hedman. I think he's great.
Rusland Fedotenko vs. Brayden Point: I'll go with Point. Fedotenko scored the winning goals in Game Seven, but Point does everything right on a hockey rink.
Pavel Kubina vs. Mikhail Sergekov: Kubina. Sergekov is still learning.
Dave Andreychuk vs. Anton Stralman: I paired these two because of their veteran leadership. I'll give the edge to Andy, even at that stage of his career. He was a guiding light for the youth of that team.
John Tortorella vs. Jon Cooper: Torts won it, and Cooper is still trying. Still, I'll go with Cooper. Torts was the kind of coach who ruled through intimidation. I just think Cooper's is a better way.
Again, other things go into winning. It's getting hot at at the right time. It's winning the big moments. Still, you're right. It's a closer call than some might think.
I've read over and over this week how Tom Coughlin has made the difference in Jacksonville this season.  I like Coughlin; he's definitely a winner no doubt about it.  However, if I could steal someone from Jacksonville's front office it would be GM Dave Caldwell, who's been with the team since 2013 and who truly started the Jag's turnaround.  Do you feel Coughlin was the missing piece that put the Jags over the top and into the AFC championship, or was he mostly hired at the right place, at the right time? Just a year ago, the Giants presumably forced his resignation. They are not looking too bright these days, it would seem.
Bruce Brownlee
I'm not sure where the line exists between Coughlin and Caldwell. It's easy to give credit to Coughlin. He wasn't there last year, while some were wondering if Caldwell would survive. I'm not sure who exactly decided to draft Fournette and sign Campbell, but they were both huge moves.
But let me offer this. Don't forget about Doug Marrone, the coach. He was successful in Buffalo, too.
The way the Jags play gave them a chance. They reduced their reliance on a bad quarterback and rode a running game and defense to the title game.
I've always said this: Success spreads thin. When a team wins, there is always enough praise for everyone. So hail Couglin, hail Caldwell, hail Marrone.
I keep hearing that there's trouble in paradise in New England this season in what's presumably a power struggle between Brady and Belichick.  This stemming from Brady's personal assistant Guerrero being uninvited to Patriots facility access etc, then Belichick's arm-in-waiting QB (Garoppolo) traded to the 49ers for a 2018 2nd round pick (peanuts).  Is this media fluff and stuff, perhaps, or do you feel where there's smoke there's fire?
Bruce Brownlee
I'm sure, over the years, there has been friction. But I think the story that came out overflew the situation. It certainly doesn't seem as if the Giants are ordering a throne for Belichick.
The principles in this have gone out of their way to deny everything on the record. But people want to see dysfunction, so they'd rather believe anonymous sources. I think Belichick, Brady and Kraft all realize what they have together. Are you going to be able to replicate that somewhere else?
In the end, I think this will all fade away. We'll never know if Kraft nudged Belichick into making a trade, or if Brady was as petty as the story made him sound, or if Bill was annoyed. But none of these guys are young. I don't see anyone going somewhere else to start over.
Then again, that's just opinion.

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