The Big 10 Conference is doing some odd things these days. Then again, the place is being run by the perpetually charming Jim Il-Sung, so expecting anything other than odd is a fools prayer.It seems Jim . . . er, commissioner Jim Delany has put in his resume to be all 11 university presidents at the same time, and we didnt even know the jobs were open.I mean, even Penn State has a president, and their administration building is infested with tumbleweeds.It was one thing, albeit a stupid and self-aggrandizing thing, when he asked for expanded powers to fire any coach he deemed unworthy or dangerous or capable of jeopardizing a revenue stream somewhere.But now, courtesy Brad Wolverton of the Chronicle of Higher Education, a plan to grant him the power to help hire coaches as well was apparently beaten back when someone noticed that nobody should be allowed to have 11 leather chairs in one office.Maybe Delany is the sort who just gives and gives. Maybe he sees flaws in the way coaches are vetted, hired, compensated and kept on. Maybe he just wants to make things better. Indeed, any number of possibilities are in play here.But if it is true, and Delany really wanted to run the Big 10 Conference from the ground up, well, somewhere Roger Goodell weeps for his lack of ambition.You see, people who want to make things better for everyone at once with one centrally emitted vision are typically called control freaks, and power-grabbers, and tend to spend their spare time watching people back away from them slowly.Now he did have some people who thought him taking a more active role in firing miscreants might actually improve the operation of the conference, although even that was stretching the limits of power extraordinary lengths.But the hiring thing is so bizarre, so Alexander Haig on crank, that it staggers logic. That is, until you remember that college sports is about two things money, and the power to grab it. Delany has been very good at generating money for his clients, but the power to shape the national conference landscape seems to have become insufficient. Power, meet absolute power, and see if you can remember the verb that links those two concepts.Ultimately, Delanys plan to become the emperor of the upper Midwest failed because his discussions never led to anything. Someone figured out that power is finite, and when one person gets power, it comes from someone else. The identity of the person who put the kill shot on the proposal is not mentioned in Wolvertons story, but nothing makes a powerful persons antennae quiver quite like someone else seeking power.So Delany didnt get his dream jobs, at least not yet. But nothing is less permanent than college sports, and hey, you never know when 11 people in business suits might quit their jobs all at once. The saving in health benefits alone might some day make Delanys idea a reality.
You can almost hear the sound whistling between the 49ers’ teeth at this point, beneath the droned platitudes and vague responses to what is a fully lost season:
“Look, what do you want from us? This is who we are.”
You can almost hear it, that is. They wouldn’t dare express such rampant defeatism – I mean, if they didn’t after Sunday’s 34-17 muzzling at the hands, arms, torsos and feet of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s unlikely you would hear it at any point.
But they must surely know by now that this is a season already in the rear-view mirror. There are no secret plans, or stashed players, or untried ideas left to unearth, sign or try. The coming bye week will not clear their heads and give them new inspiration, save that of having a week off from the steady beatings. They are 1-6 on merit, and proved it again yesterday before another dispirited two-thirds-of-a-sellout crowd which is coming to realize that their hope is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Sunday, for example, Colin Kaepernick was their best running back, Shaun Draughn was their best receiver, the downed kickoff was their best special teams play, and their best strategic decision – well, they lost the coin flip so they didn’t even get a chance to defer the opening kickoff.
And their defense? It only allowed whatever Tampa Bay wanted, and only on demand. Jacquizz Rodgers became the sixth running back to gain 100 yards against them (and the first to do it in one half), which is noteworthy only because they allowed five all last year in a bad season, and nine in the four seasons before that, four of those by Marshawn Lynch.
And quarterback Jameis Winston threw the ball to wide-open receivers and into coverage with the same sense of well-placed bravado. Though his numbers didn’t exactly aurora the borealis (21-of-30, 269, 3/1, 117.2), he never emitted a sense that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted – save get the officials to give him a better spot when he snapped and cost his team a potential touchdown with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for headless-chickening.
In other words, this was not materially different than the Buffalo game, or the Seattle game, or the Carolina game. The only game that has been different is the opener against Los Angeles, when everything worked and made sense and life was happy and Jed York hummed “I Am 16 Going On 17” all through the suite all night long.
That game was 50,000 years ago. These are who the 49ers are now, and who they are going to be for awhile to come.
They speak of consistency, and yet they are the very model of it – leading the league in punts, and ranking second in three-and-outs, 27th in first downs and 31st in plays per drive. They don’t stay on the field, in other words, and when on defense, they allow 118 more yards per game than their offense gets them.
And they swear with unanimity that they are together as a team, and work hard each week to achieve the acme of their talents and learning. So this, if that is so, must be at or near the top of their game – which, as head coach for now and the future Chip Kelly (stop thinking this is just a coaching problem, please) put it, “We’re not doing what it takes to be successful right now.”
That was in response to a question about whether the 49ers were going backwards. He ducked the issue by saying, “I don’t think forwards or backwards,” which is probably a lie, but we can help anyway.
They have gone dramatically backwards since Game 1, and essentially stagnated since Game 2. It’s how they have gotten to where they are right now, and how they have become who they are right now.
It may be that stranger things have happened in the NFL than a team starting 1-6 and rallying to win eight, nine or 10 in a row, but on this team, based all the available evidence, this team won’t be that strange. They have revealed themselves for what they actually are, which is not good enough to change what they actually are.
And if that is too tough a sentence for you to swallow, well, go out and write some of your own. You can tell any tale you want, but this is the tale of the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, a team awash in unpleasant self-realization and the knowledge that there is nothing to be done but to go out each week and do it again.
Except next week, of course. Bye may be a favorite, but Bye must be played, just like all the others.
The National Football League has been reminded yet again that it neither understands nor cares to understand about domestic violence.
But it will do better, you may rest assured. They’ll have a week where all the on-field personnel wear purple to commemorate the bruises.
That’s what the NFL does when it can no longer ignore its own tone-deafness – they turn their stupidity into a marketing opportunity. After all, every social problem can be solved in the league’s eyes by figuring out a way for the league to monetize it.
The latest example of the NFL’s slack-jawed world view comes from New York, where the Giants could not and still cannot figure out what to do about kicker/serial domestic abuser Josh Brown except not let him go to London for the weekend.
This means the league has learned nothing from the Ray Rice incident, even as Rice of all people is showing on a regular basis how to learn from it. More than that, it means it has no interest in learning anything about it, and will never prioritize it beyond crisis-management level – “Uh-oh, something bad just happened. Quick, put it behind us.”
Then again, the league has been so relentlessly ham-handed on so many things that, as convenient as this may be for it, we should stop expecting it to do so, to the point that when someone from the league wants to explain some social issue to us we should simply say with one voice, “Oh, shut up, you yammering frauds.”
It is difficult to prioritize the number of ways the Giants failed to comprehend the problem currently smacking them between the numbers, although owner John Mara’s “He admitted to us he'd abused his wife in the past. What’s a little unclear is the extent of that” may summarize it nicely.
Put another way, one could make a case that the Giants extended the universal talent-tolerance scale (if you have the talent, anything can be tolerated until it can’t) to include placekickers.
That seems less likely, though, than the more obvious point that the league doesn’t regard domestic violence as something worth concerning itself with, while bloviating all the time about all the things with which it is concerned. The league is the beat cop who never gets out of his car to see what is happening on his beat, and is shocked when something does.
And while it will be handy to pile this atop the list of reasons why Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t get it, the truth is he is merely the painful rash that reveals the league’s case of shingles. The league’s 32 constituent elements are culpable here because ignorance in the face of so much evidence becomes willful, and Goodell’s skill is not in guiding the league but in figuring out where his 32 bosses want him to go, and avoiding all the places they don’t.
Hence, domestic violence. This is not an easy problem to solve, as any expert will say, but Mara trying to decide how many punches are enough isn’t it. The league’s six-game suspension guideline that is now four years old has never been imposed on any player. It wants the power to use the talent-tolerance scale at whim to do what it wishes when it wishes to do it.
Or in this case, not do anything at all until it has to, and then in as minimal a fashion as it can manage.
So, Josh Brown loses a week in a foreign country on the company dime as a trade-off for continually terrorizing his wife. The league says it punished him for a game but was powerless to do anything else while knowing all along how severe the problem had become.
In short, it did the minimum. Now that everyone knows the fullest extent of Brown’s abuse, and how much the league knew without doing anything, it will now extend the minimum out to what it thinks is a new minimum.
So we now know that the NFL is looking for some metric that will determine the transactional “extent of that,” as John Mara so eloquently put it for us. When it comes up with that formula, it will surely ignore that standard, because the real standard is still “talent-tolerance,” and the world is made up of concentric circles surrounding the people who make the league and its members a dollar more tomorrow than it made today.
And spouses are a long way from the center.