ROBBINS NEST,The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
By Lenn Robbins
It was like having John Madden hanging out in your living room on a football Sunday.
The assignment seemed mundane – another celebrity golf tournament in a town that boasts seven private golf courses. Such was life in Greenwich, Connecticut in the Mid-80’s. As I was about to leave, there he was, the GOAT of pro football coaches and broadcasters sitting by himself in the clubhouse lobby.
I approached tentatively. Madden was a big man and had an even bigger persona. I had seen television clips of him losing his marbles on the sidelines when he believed a call had gone against his Oakland Raiders, the bad boys of the NFL.
“Mr. Madden, Lenn Robbins, Greenwich Time, do you have moment?”
“Sure, grab a chair.”
Like a teenager football player or a fledging college coach, he had a few sheets of stationery from the club littered with X’s and O’s.
I asked him what he play was drawing up, utterly fascinated by this larger than life football man.
“This guy you have here in New York, Lawrence Taylor, he is changing defenses, changing offenses,” said Madden, sounding like a European sports car going from neutral to first. “He’s changing everything.”
“He’s doing things we’ve never seen a linebacker do before,” added Madden, his voice upshifting to second gear, third gear, the RPMs revving. “He gets to the quarterback, he attacks running backs, he plays every play like he’s trying to kill someone.
“And Parcells, Parcells knows exactly what he has. I spoke to Bill the other day. He knows what he’s got. You guys better enjoy covering this guy. We should treasure watching him because there’s not going to be another one any time soon.”
Now he’s showing me his papers, pointing out how LT has made the 3-4 defense a game-changer. His hands are gesticulating, his arms are waving; it’s as if he’s conducting an orchestra but there are no musicians present. He’s in overdrive.
We chatted a few more minutes. He wanted to know whether I was a Jets or Giants fan.
I paused and said something lame, like, “Well as a reporter I’m not supposed to be a fan.”
“Of course, you’re a fan,” he said, flooring the accelerator pedal and rising to his 6-foot-4 height. “I’m a fan. We’re all fans. It’s football. You can’t not be a fan. I don’t care where you are, if you’re in Green Bay, you’re a Packers fan; you’re in Pittsburgh, you’re a Steelers fan. New York, you’ve got two.”
“I’m a Cowboys fan,” I said somewhat ashamedly, then scrambled to explain how I had been a Jets fans and the Jets beat the Colts in the Super Bowl so I hated the Colts and I was rooting for the Cowboys to beat the Colts two years later but Baltimore beat them on Jim O’Brien’s last-second field goal and I’ve been a Dallas fan ever since. Hail Mary.
“You see, you’re a fan,” said Madden. “I’m a fan. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to do this for the rest of your life. Good luck.”
And he was right.
COLTS -7.5 over Raiders – Even when they opened 0-3 we believed in the Colts because of coach Frank Reich and Indy’s strength on both side of the line. QB Carson Wentz (COVID) needs to be monitored.
$ BEARS -6 over Giants – Text #JustBlue for your chance to start at QB for the Giants.
$ Buccaneers -13.5 over JETS – To summarize: Tom Brady vs Zach Wilson. Could be father vs son. Should be over by halftime.
BILLS -14.5 over Falcons – The weather in Buffalo will be mafia, which makes a 14.5-line daunting. Unless, of course, the Bills get a defensive touchdown.
WASHINGTON +4 over Eagles – Minus the Cowboys, this remains the NFC Least. Which means no team other than Dallas should make the playoffs.
BENGALS +5 over Chiefs – KC (11-4) has won eight straight and the Bengals (9-6) are just 4-4 at home. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Chiefs push that win streak to nine straight but Cincy will keep it close. Another bad weather game.
PATRIOTS -15.5 over Jaguars – No better opportunity for the Pats to right the ship than a Jacksonville team that is in utter disarray (the Jags couldn’t beat the Jets!) and is playing in the Northeast for a second straight week. Another bad weather game.
TITANS -3 over Dolphins – Titans can clinch the AFC South. Dolphins can make a serious push for a Wildcard spot. Miami is building something special but the Fish are -10 in point differential. They’re a year away.
RAVENS +3.5 over Rams – Looks is as Lamar Jackson will play. Looks as if Matt Stafford continues to have turnover problems. Looks as if the Ravens are playing for their playoff lives. Looks as if Baltimore getting points at home is a smart play.
CHARGERS -5.5 over Broncos – If journeyman Rex Burkhead carved up the Chargers run defense for 149 yards, what will Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III do? Unless, of course, the Chargers had their pride busted up to the point that they man up and keep their playoff hopes alive.
$ 49ERS -12.5 over Texans – For all the bashing QB Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) has gotten, he was running an offense that averaged 25 points per game. Can rookie Trey Lance step in with no drop off? We won’t really know until next week when the 49ers face the Rams. The Texans win last week was a flash in the pan.
Cardinals +5.5 over COWBOYS – Just a few weeks ago we questioned if the Cardinals were the under looked best team in football. Since then QB Kyler Murray has gotten injured, WR DeAndre Hopkins has been lost for the season, the Cards have lost three straight, and there are rumblings about coach Kliff Kingsbury’s future in the desert. A lot of questions will be answered about the state of the Arizona franchise.
SAINTS -6.5 over Panthers – Two teams. Zero starting NFL QBs. Sorry Sam Darnold, Go with home team and better defense.
SEAHAWKS -7 over Lions – Seattle’s last home game in a most disappointing season. They go out winners but man is it fun watching these Lions play
PACKERS -6.5 over Vikings – Another Minnesota season that began with great expectations and had flashes of greatness ends with the reality that Kirk Cousins is a pedestrian QB and Mike Zimmer can’t put a consistent product on the field.
STEELERS +3 over Browns – Just can’t see Big Ben’s final home game not ending with a W, especially with Baker “The Commercial Maker” Mayfield or, more recently, Baker “The Turnover Maker” Mayfield at QB.
Home team in CAPS
$ Best bets
Last Week: 6-10; Best Bets: 3-1.
Season, 117-117-3; 22-13.