By Lenn Robbins
The Heisman Trophy has some very specific rules for its voters. Perhaps the most stringent is this: A voter cannot release his vote before the winner is announced. So, they’ll be no spoiler here.
What there is, however, is one conflicted voter.
Three of the four Heisman Trophy candidates are quarterbacks. Each makes a ridiculously strong case for winning the weighty 45-pound trophy, which is about one-one millionth of the pressure that comes with playing the glamour position at three of America’s most crazed college football schools.
In almost any other year any one of these quarterbacks would be considered a no-brainer to win the 13.5-inch trophy. This is no any other year.
Let’s consider these amateur athlete stat machines, in alphabetical order.
LSU’s Joe Burrow has had a statistical season for the ages – literally. His completion percentage of 77.9-percent is the best of all time. His passer rating, (you might want to sit for this), is 201.5 which is 11.5 shy of the temperature needed to boil water. Ouch!
Ohio State’s Justin Fields, in his first season as a starter, threw, (you might want to sit for this) 40 touchdowns and just one interception. Forty-to-one! Yikes! He threw at least two touchdown passes in every game, four TD passes in five games and three or more nine times.
Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts averaged 279.5 passing yards and 96.5 rushing yards and accounted for 51 touchdowns. His 19 touchdowns rushing and 114 points scored are tied with Navy’s Malcolm Perry for the most by a quarterback. Hurts (you might want to sit for this), rallied the Sooners from 25 points down at Baylor for a 34-31 win, the largest comeback in Oklahoma history. Geez!
At first glance, Burrow’s numbers give him a slight edge (feel free to argue any of these conclusions). But unlike Burrow, who played at LSU last season, Fields and Hurts had to acclimate after transferring, which is no easy task. In fairness to Burrow, LSU installed a completely new offense so all three had a lot of on-the-field adjusting to do.
Each has had to overcome adversity. Burrow started his career at Ohio State but after failing to win the starting job, transferred to LSU. Fields started his career at Georgia but after failing to win the starting job, transferred to Ohio State. Hurts was the started at Alabama, led the Crimson Tide to a national championship, but transferred to Oklahoma after getting beat out for the starting job by Tua Tagovailoa, who almost surely would be in New York if he didn’t suffer a season-ending hip injury.
So, you tell me: Who would you vote for?
Burrow led the Tigers to an undefeated season, the SEC championship and the No.1 seed in the upcoming College Football Playoff. Fields led the Buckeyes to an unbeaten record, the Big Ten title, and the No.2 seed in the CFP. Hurts led the Sooners to a 12-1 record, a fifth straight Big 12 crown, and the No.4 seed in the playoff.
Still confused? Me too.
So, just to muddle the waters, a defensive player is among the finalists that will come to New York on Dec. 14th for the announcement.
Chase Young was the Quarterback Ninja. Only Fields knows what’s it’s like to go against him on a consistent basis. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (he might want to sit for this) will try to avoid being Chased down when the Tigers and Buckeyes meet in their semifinal.
Young leads the nation with a school-record 16.5 sacks, the most in the Big Ten in 21 years. Young leads the nation in tackles for loss per game (1.91), is second with minus-129 yards on those tackles and is tied for fourth with 21 tackles for loss.
I can’t tell you who I voted for but I can tell you this: it was hard. Man was it hard.
By Lenn Robbins
You know things have hit bedrock bottom when most social media posts and articles about the Giants’ latest meltdown don’t mention the franchise quarterback. Who knows. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Daniel Jones did what rookie quarterbacks usually do, but something he hasn’t done in a while. He threw interceptions in Sunday’s 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
It was the Giants (2-10) seventh straight loss and in-house critic Janoris Jenkins should be applauded for pointing out shortcomings in the defensive scheme. Coach Pat Shurmur’s seat is so hot he might have been the only person in MetLife Stadium who didn’t feel cold.
One of the few players that must be made to feel comfy is Jones. He has shown more than enough to believe he has the skill, temperament and intelligence for Giants fans to feel comfortable they have their quarterback of the future.
His development, however, might be hampered by two factors: The organization for which he plays and the mistakes that he makes.
The loss to the Packers was the first time in three games he did not fumble. It also marked the end of his 110-straight pass attempts without a pick ended.
“Today, they weren’t fumbles, right?,” Shurmur told reporters. “These were throws, they weren’t fumbles. He’s gotta keep playing through it, and keep learning from every scenario. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with some mistakes that you hope you never see it again.”
The Giants thought they had addressed this weeks ago. Offensive coordinator and other assistant coaches have worked with Jones on ball security. There is no magic wand. Either a player learns to protect the ball or he’s out of the league.
The feeling here is that Jones will get it but in the meantime, he’s leaving the door of self-doubt open. He now has thrown eight interceptions and lost six fumbles. Those stats to a quarterback are like rust to iron.
“I feel like I’m making progress,” Jones said. “Obviously there’s still a lot to work on, and I understand that. I feel like I’m improving and the challenge is to continue to do that but do it faster, and play more consistently.”
Consistency has hardly been a Giants trademark of late. It stretches the management to think the Giants would be better off with another season under Shurmur. If a change is made, Jones will face another obstacle – learning an entire new system and staff.
The Giants have to conduct business with one thought in mind: What’s best for Daniel Jones?
Freeport High School once again has won a Class 1 football championship in 42-14 defeat of William Floyd .It was a fairly tight game until the 4th quarter.Freeport lead by only 7 points going into the final frame but pulled away with 21 points in the final quarter.
#5 Makhai Jinks scored on five touchdowns during the game with Jayian Allen adding on another td in the 4th quarter as well. Quarterback Terrace Edmond played pretty of a ground game given the abilities of Jinks running .
The Freeport defense was key in several take aways the lead to their victory.
By Lenn Robbins
If you’re not familiar with how big-time college football works – and man, is it big business – Greg Schiano’s “list of demands” to return to coach Rutgers reads like a portrait in greed:
A reported $25.2 million guarantee? The unlimited use of a private jet?
What is this, a new reality show, “Desperate Football Coaches of New Jersey?”
Not at all. This is the cost of doing business in a Power 5 conference, such as the Big 10.
In fact, if Rutgers had agreed to these “demands” about a week ago, it would have gotten Schiano on the cheap. His eight-year, $32 million deal would have put Schiano in the bottom third of Big Ten coach’s salaries. Rutgers drew a line in the sand at six years, $24 million – keep that $8 million in mind.
That’s right, bottom third.
But AD Patrick Hobbs, who already screwed up his search for a men’s basketball coach, but was fortunate to find former Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, has been publicly and privately taking a flamethrower to the Schiano negotiation. Hobbs’ hiring of former coach Chris Ash (8-32), who was fired earlier this season, had failure written all over it from Day 1. He MUST make a great hire now.
Some might know that I’ve known Schiano for some 20 years and have a close, respectful relationship. I’ve had had no contact of any kind with Schiano, his family and his representatives since Sept. 30th.
As a long-time college football reporter, it’s been awful not having a successful big-time program in the metropolitan area. Despite Syracuse’s bogus claim of being New York’s college team, it still requires a four-hour drive, often with the help of a snow plow. Not very metropolitan.
There’s no better place to watch college football, and no program more steeped in tradition than Army. But the days of Army playing for a national title are over, and there’s no shame in that. Army has always had a higher calling.
Rutgers (2-9), which plays its final game of the season tomorrow at Penn State (9-2), joined the ranks of the Big Ten in 2014. It joined in name only.
Its facilities are worse than some FCS programs. Its stadium, something named SHI Stadium, is not even on the list of the 50 best venues in America, according to Bleacher Report and anyone with eyes.
Penn State’s Beaver Stadium (106,572) is ranked No.1 Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium (102,821) is ranked third and Michigan Stadium (107,601), aka, The Big House, is ranked sixth. From Northwestern to Nebraska, Maryland to Michigan, Big Ten football, as its advertising campaign states, is life on the big stage.
Rutgers has tried to survive in the Big Ten on the cheap. Ash won three conference games in three-plus seasons. It’s not all his fault. It’s almost impossible to out-recruit schools with lesser facilities, not to mention far less tradition.
Michigan and Ohio State have set up satellite practice camps in New Jersey for the explicit reason of luring The Garden State’s top recruits. The only coach that has ever won his share of New Jersey recruits is Schiano.
There’s a reason for this: He’s a Jersey Guy. He understands the ethos of the state; how North Jersey and South Jersey have always had an uneasy relationship. The last thing the Rutgers coach can do is alienate either. Schiano did a great job of embracing both.
With Schiano, Rutgers reached its highest ranking ever in 2006 at No.7. It took him six years to build the program. And that was when Rutgers played in the Big East.
The next Rutgers coach will have an even more daunting challenge in the Big Ten. Jim Harbaugh, maybe the closest comparison we can make to Schiano, returned to his alma mater in 2015 with great fanfare. By 2017, after the Wolverines posted an 8-4 record, there were some screaming for change.
Most didn’t realize how drastically Michigan had fallen behind Ohio State, or been caught by programs such as Wisconsin and Iowa. Harbaugh, who is paid $7.5 million, will try to beat Ohio State tomorrow for the first time in his tenure. If he fails, no doubt there were will be ignorant calls for his firing.
While Ohio State was building its program with an influx of recruits and an increase in fundraising under the consistency of six coaches from 1951-2019, Michigan is on its fifth coach since 1989.
Michigan’s administration has made what could prove to be brilliant decision. It believes Harbaugh is the man for the program and it’s providing him with the support and patience he needs to catch Ohio State. Michigan recently opened the $168-million Performance Center with a $100 million gift from Stephen Ross.
Rutgers balked at the $8 million difference between its offer and Schiano’s “demand.” Perks such as private planes (Wyoming has one, Wyoming!) and golf course membership is standard at Power 5 programs. It helps in recruiting and fundraising. It’s the cost of doing business in the Big Ten.
Over the last couple of days there have been reports that Rutgers and Schiano have re-engaged in talks. If Rutgers ever wants its best chance at becoming a winning big-time program, it will bring The Jersey Guy home. If not, Rutgers should withdraw from the Big Ten and call Mike Aresco at the American Athletic Conference.
The moment has come for Rutgers to state its intentions: Big Ten or Big Bust.
By Lenn Robbins
Dear Outrageous, Obnoxious, Outlandish Raiders fans.
Thank for you coming to MetLife Stadium Sunday and attempting to turn it into the Black Hole East. You were maddeningly, mind-bogglingly, maniacally antagonistic.
When the Jets took their home field, they felt like the visitors.
Those wearing the Black and Silver booed, hooted and hollered their heads off. And the guys in Green and White heard it. They heard it, went back into the home locker room and got heated.
“I’m not going to lie to you, when we came on to the field, we felt disrespected,” safety Jamal Adams said. “We got booed in our own home stadium by the Oakland fans. We came back into this locker room and it was a hell of a talk.”
Adams should know. He gave the talk and it contained a lot of words not suitable for white collar criminals.
Even the calm, cool, California kid, quarterback Sam Darnold, was jacked. He bullied his way for a four-yard touchdown run that gave the Jets a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. The Jets didn’t look back as they posted their most impressive win of the season, a 34-3 demolishing of the Raiders.
“I had someone in my way at the goal line,” Darnold said, “and I just did what I could to get into the end zone.”
This win, the Jets third straight, felt different than the previous two. The Jets beat the hapless Giants and pathetic Redskins in moving to 3-7. The Raiders, however came in with a 6-4 record, breathing down the necks of the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the AFC West.
They left licking their bruised egos on what surely will be a long flight back to the West Coast.
“We got our butts kicked,” said veteran quarterback Derek Carr, who was benched. “There’s no other way around that. They got after us from start to finish. Hopefully, it’s an eye opener.”
The quarterback that opened a lot of eyes was Darnold. It was a little more than a month ago that Darnold was haunted by the New England Patriots in a 33-0 loss. His rating that day was 1.5.
The Raiders saw a very different player. Darnold completed 20-of-29 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns passing, one rushing and no interceptions. His rating was 127.8, or 126.3 better than it was against New England.
This is new territory for Darnold and the Jets (4-7). This is Gang Green’s first three-game win streak in more than two years. Darnold, who missed time early with mononucleosis, is looking more and more like the franchise quarterback the Jets thought they were drafting last season with the No.3 pick.
Darnold also is sounding like a franchise quarterback. He’s tossed out the playoff word lately. Darnold is smart enough to know that almost certainly won’t happen this season. But isn’t it uplifting to hear a Jets QB talking about postseason?
“It’s in the back of my head,” Darnold said, “but I think where we’re at right now, we just gotta keep taking it one week at a time, and if we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”
By Lenn Robbins
When Marquise Pouncey pounced on Garrett Myles, who had just cracked his helmet over Mason Randolph’s head, the Internet lit up with praise for the Pittsburgh center:
The ultimate team player.
The guy you want next to you if you’re driven into the opposition’s sideline.
The guy that will play hurt and play hard every play.
There were a few comments, however, that were confounding: To summarize, there is a belief that selfless, team-oriented players such as Pouncey, are becoming fewer in the NFL.
Certainly, it is a topic for debate, especially between fans of different generations. Athletes in the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s might not have felt they had the right, no less the job security, to demand a trade, or seek outside medical opinions about a head injury.
Athletes in more recent decades have fought for better health care, pensions and the more radical ones have held out for an entire season in order to gain their freedom. They market themselves. They take political stands.
What some fans might confuse a player’s outward displays of emotion as an example of decaying team values, others see it as the evolution of the athlete/person that is just as committed to the team as players from years gone by.
Just when it seems as if the team-first players are diminishing (See: Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell) along comes Pouncey, or closer to home, Saquon Barkley.
Barkley has been playing with a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 3. Initial estimates had Barkley missing around eight games. He missed three.
Barkley added a dinged up shoulder in the Giants 34-27 loss to the Jets last weekend. He had his worst day as a pro, rushing 13 times for one yard and catching five balls for 30 yards.
The idea of Barkley shutting it down his bruised and battered body was put to him earlier this week. The 2-8 Giants will be playing golf come playoff time so to risk Barkley suffering a severe injury in these finals six games seems unwise, for player and team.
“The mindset of me sitting out and resting me for the rest season is beyond me,” Barkley told reporters. “I don’t agree with it and it won’t happen. I’m going to keep going until I can’t go anymore.”
When is that?
Is it after this Sunday’s game in Chicago when the Giants face a fierce Bears’ defense? Is it the following week, when the playoff-bound Packers with their improved defense, comes to town? Is it Dec. 9th when the Giants play at NFC East rival Philadelphia whose defense can hit with the best of them?
“To say that I’m not healthy, that’s just an excuse,” said Barkley. “Everyone is banged up, everyone is going through something and I’m not going to let that be an excuse for why I’m not having a successful season. The reason I’m not having a successful season is because I’m not making enough plays for my team.”
The Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg in 2012. Strasburg was having a great bounce back season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. Washington knew it had a specials talent in the then 24-year-old. They weren’t going to risk his career.
Seven years later, Strasburg helped the Nationals win their first-ever World Series. He was named MVP. The club likely saved Strasburg from himself.
The Giants need to do the same with the 22-year-old Barkley. They need to do it now.
It’s hard to know whether there are more of less team-first players in the NFL. Fortunate for us, a young-in-age, old-in-soul player wears the No.26 in blue. It would be nice to have him healthy and relentless for years to come.
By Lenn Robbins
It has been almost exactly one month since Sam Darnold saw ghosts. One month since the New England Pats, known cheaters, seemingly had 12 men on the field on defense for every play in a 33-0 bashing of the Jets.
Every time Darnold thought he had an open window, it was slammed shut. Every time he thought he had a receiver break free, he was covered. Darnold completed just 11-of-32 passes for 86 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions.
When the mic-up Darnold was overheard saying he was seeing ghosts, Jets Nation went apoplectic. Their second-year quarterback, the third player picked in the 2018 NFL Draft, was a bust, his psyche snapped, they fretted.
Over the last two games, however, Darnold has completed 38-of-60 passes for 523 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. Not a spirit in sight in wins over the Giants, 34-27, and Redskins, 34-17.
Yet the Jets are not much closer to knowing if Darnold will be their franchise quarterback than they were after the Patriots’ game. The Redskins have the 21st worst defense in the NFL. The Giants are even worse. They’re 31st.
“Towards the end of the game, I was talking more about the interception to the coaches and the other players, so maybe that,” Darnold told reporters about his dialogue Sunday. “But I think for us as an offense, as a whole, it’s just another steppingstone in the right direction, so that’s how we’re going to look at it.”
The one thing we’ve learned, and this might turn out to be paramount, is that Darnold didn’t crack, his psyche wasn’t snapped, his confidence hadn’t been confiscated by the Pats.
In fairness to Darnold, the Patriots defense is great. It made Carson Wentz look pedestrian Sunday night in a 17-10 New England win. Maybe every quarterback, save Lamar Jacks on, sees ghosts when playing the Pats.
Maybe, just maybe, Darnold is on his way to being a franchise QB.
“He knows what he likes; he knows what he doesn’t like,” Jets coach Adam Gase said of Darnold. “He’s not afraid to say it.”
Good to know. The question is, can Darnold, who’s not exactly surrounded by the talent Troy Aikman had with the Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, win a game against a top-tier NFL defense?
Darnold did complete passes to seven different receivers, which suggests he’s seeing more of the field. But we won’t for another month if Darnold has exorcised his demons and is closer to being a franchise QB than he is today.
The Jets play at Baltimore on Dec. 12. The Ravens made Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson look like a scarecrow on Sunday. If Darnold can play as he has these last two weeks, well, that will speak well of his progress.
If not, well, Jets fans are accustomed to seeing all kinds of bizarre occurrences from butt fumbles to Bill Belichick becoming coach for a day. Seeing ghosts is nothing new.
By Lenn Robbins
The worst place to go for an NFL game is MetLife Stadium.
The two teams that call this steel and concrete monstrosity home have a combined record of 4-15. Amazingly, they played a somewhat entertaining game Sunday with the Jets beating the Giants 34-27.
The Jets share the bottom of the AFC East with a 2-7 mark. The 2-8 Giants have a one-half game lead over the truly pathetic Washington Redskins for last place in the NFC East.
Apparently, the Jets offense is quite competent, as long as its playing against the Giants defense. Gang Green averaged 223.5 yards (dead last in football) and 11 points (tied for last) going into the game. They racked up 294 yards and 34 points against the Giants.
And the Giants offense is competent when playing against the Jets defense. Big Blue averaged 326.8 yards and 19.6 points going into the game. They racked up 287 yards and 27 points against the Jets.
Yep, it was that bad.
The sobering questioning is this: If you were to draft a team of Jets and Giants, would it be good enough to make the playoffs. Remember, the NFL rewards mediocrity, so we’re not counting on 10-6, 8-8 gets you in, 7-9 might.
So, we put together our All-NY NFL team. Perhaps you should sit.
QB: Sam Darnold or Daniel Jones – They each get a half. Cop out, I know: Still evaluating. Might be the case for the next five years. Ouch.
RB – Saquon Barkley, Giants – despite yesterday’s performance, second best all-around back in football (Christian McCaffrey).
RB – Le’Veon Bell, Jets – despite this season, once one of the best all-around backs in football.
TE – Evan Engram – Legit. Would start on most teams.
OT – Kelvin Beachum, Jets – consummate pro.
OG – Brian Winters, Jets – had the temerity to get in Darnold’s face after last week’s botched snap count.
C – Jon Halapio, Giants – did not have to be lured out of retirement, like Jets center.
OG – Will Hernandez, Giants – emerged as a nasty, borderline dirty player last week. We like it.
OT – Mike Remmers, Giants – see Beachum.
WR – Sterling Shepherd, Giants – Should not play again this season, if ever. No joke.
WR – Jamison Crowder, Jets – Solid slot receiver.
PK – Aldrick Rosas – He started the season on the roster, unlike the Jets, who didn’t have an NFL-caliber kicker on its roster.
DT – Kyle Phillips, Jets – Each team gets one player with potential
DL – Quinnen Williams, Jets – Slow start, coming on.
DT – Dalvin Tomlinson, Giants – Each team gets one player with potential.
DL – Dexter Lawrence, Giants – Looking like a terrific pick at No. 17.
OLB – Markus Golden, Giants – A delightful surprise. Serious.
ILB – Alec Ogletree, Giants – A little on reputation.
ILB – CJ Mosley, Jets – Amazing one-game season.
OLB – Jordan Jenkins, Jets – Out of options here.
CB – Janoris Jenkins, Giants – Depends of which Jackrabbit shows up.
CB – Darryl Roberts, Jets/DeAndre Baker, Giants – Each gets one half to avoid third-degree burns.
SS – Jamal Adams, Jets – He’s the best, just ask him.
FS – Marcus Maye, Jets – He’s very good, but not as good as Adams. Just ask Adams.
P – Uh, who cares?
Coach – To Be Determined, Jets, Adam Gase/Giants, Pat Shurmur – If they’re both back for 2021 season, season ticket holders deserve refunds. Wait, did I say 2021? Meant 2020. Sorry for the panic attack.
Does this team make the playoffs? Feel free to write.
Iconic as it always is at Yankee Stadium and that means college football as it was a Saturday afternoon. Two undefeated teams, Dartmouth and Princeton on the gridiron and the winner gets sole possession of the top spot in the Ivy League.
But this was all about Dartmouth. Their defense continued to be their story as they remained undefeated, 8-0, with a 27-10 win over Princeton. It was the second straight year the two schools came into their game nationally ranked, perfect 7-0 records, and the Ivy League title on the line.
The scholastic-athletes of both schools know the history when they walk through the halls on campus. The coaches tell them about the history and Saturday afternoon was no different.
They walked on the iconic Yankee Stadium turf in the Bronx and there was more history. It was 150 years ago, three days after the anniversary of Princeton playing Rutgers in the first college football game in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
“We spent a lot of time talking about the history,” said Princeton coach Bob Surace. “Our football program playing the first game.”
But this was the game his Tigers wanted in the Bronx. They came in having won 17 consecutive games. Kevin Davidson did not make this historic for Princeton. It was not an iconic game for the senior quarterback from Danville California. He threw for 210 yards and a touchdown pass to Graham Admonitis.
Two interceptions wiped away the Tigers accomplishments and their rank among the top FCS teams in scoring and total yards. They turned over their first four possessions and finished with 246 yards.
But for many on this Princeton team, losing has not been common. For many of their freshmen and sophomores, they have not experienced what it is to lose.
“Some of these freshmen and sophomores in this locker room have never lost a game,” said Princeton coach Bob Surace.
He applauded the Dartmouth defense that held Harvard last week to 96 yards in the final minute without the aid of a timeout. The BIg Green and their defense held the Crimson to a pair of field goals Harvard’s fewest points in a home game since a 6-3 Dartmouth win back in 1996.
“They have a perfect defense,” said Surace..”They scored on defense and a couple of field goals. They have 17 seniors. They won every one of those little battles especially the turnovers, the sacks. They are an excellent team. Credit goes to them.”
Many of the 21,506 in attendance that traveled up the Jersey Turnpike from Princeton did not expect their Saturday to see a winning streak stopped with a defense of that magnitude.
Davidson, the league leader in passing and touchdown passes, threw his 20th to Graham for three-yards with seconds left in the first half. That put Princeton on the scoreboard with their first six points.
It was about Dartmouth and that defense. Princeton could not do much except for a field goal in the third quarter. By that time, this iconic and historic game in the Bronx was just about over.
No it’s back to work for the Princeton Tigers with two more games against Yale at home and at Penn. A season not lost, but their first loss and time to regroup.
There will be more college football at Yankee Stadium. The 10th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl takes place Friday December 27th with teams to be announced from the ACC and Big Ten Conferences.
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