Don’t Tune In Too Soon

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

‘Won’t get fooled again’ is how the song goes and it’s appropriate when it comes to NBC sports broadcasts. Why? Cause NBC Sports was up to their old tricks again with the NHL’s Stadium series.

This past Saturday the Stadium series was in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. While the guide claimed that the puck was going to drop at 6:30pm PST in reality the puck didn’t drop until around 7:25pm.

What happened in between? The usual NBC jibber jabber. Interviews with has been celebs (Tom Arnold? Really?), beach volleyball and a KISS concert.

Yes, a KISS concert.

Cause nothing screams outdoor hockey like KISS.

We’re not sure but at some point NBC and the NHL forgot that this is a hockey game. Not only that, this is a game between two possible Stanley Cup contenders.

The Anaheim Ducks are the best team in the NHL right now (currently at 83 points) and the Los Angeles Kings are not far behind (66 points as of Tuesday morning). What about insight on the game? How the teams match up?

Nope.

More NBC yapping about how awesome this venue is. That’s great guys, but can we play some hockey?

As for the game the following day in New York, it was delayed because of a glare from the sun. Minus that it was the same thing. The guide said one time and the puck wasn’t going to be dropped until later.

Guide

So for the game on Wednesday, folks the puck isn’t dropping until 4:30pm PST. DO NOT BUY INTO THE NBC SPORTS NETWORK PROMOS THAT STATE 3:30pm PST.

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What 15 Years Can Do

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Believe it or not, it has now been 15 years since ‘Varsity Blues’ made its theatrical debut. While it may not go down as the “greatest” football movie ever made it is in many peoples top 10. More importantly are how the football scenes reflected the times.

James Van Der Beek And The Cast Star In The New Movie Varsity Blues

The character Billy Bob (played by Ron Lester) suffered a concussion. There wasn’t exactly concussion protocol done on him. He played the next week when he shouldn’t have been and proceeded to get the star QB Lance Harbor (played by the late Paul Walker) hurt when he missed a block.

Then there is the illegal hits. From leading with the crown of the helmet to horse collar tackles to hits on defenseless receivers just to name a few. In the new age of football where it seems like every hit on a player can draw a penalty ‘Varsity Blues’ could be used as an example of what not to do.

On the other hand, it is still a fun movie to watch.

Old School In The New School

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

152 penalty minutes and eight ejections just two seconds into the game.

The penalty box was more crowded then a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on Friday night.

PENALTY BOX

That was what came out of the line brawl at the start of the game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames Saturday night in Vancouver. It didn’t end there. Canucks coach John Tortorella went after the Calgary coaching staff during the first intermission.

You don’t see this stuff a lot anymore at any level of hockey. When you do, a Tortorella coached team is usually involved.

This is some ‘old school’ hockey and something we don’t see a lot of anymore. The new school however took over when it came to letting people know about it.

This was instantaneously on twitter. TSN had the video on their site before the first period was over.

The Canucks YouTube page had multiple videos up by Midnight (game time was 7:30pm PST) including Tortorella’s press conference (Calgary places all of their video on Flames.tv).  Best part was they promoted the opening face off where the brawl took place during Tortorella’s press conference.

CANUCKS TV

The Canucks, the networks and the NHL could have easily shied away from this saying that ‘this isn’t what the game is about’ and so on.

They’re not. They are embracing it. This happened, here it is for you to see and here is the reaction afterwards. This was great execution by the teams, networks and league.

For the record, the Canucks won 3-2 in a shootout.

What to Watch Fri. 1/17-Sun. 1/19

Friday Jan. 17th

Anaheim Ducks @ Chicago Blackhawks – 5pm NHL Network: A battle between Western Conference leaders and possibly a preview of the Western Conference final. Chicago has struggles as of late and the Ducks are coming off of a 9-1 thrashing of Vancouver and are riding an eight game winning streak. But it’s in Chicago. Game on.

Saturday Jan. 18th

San Jose Sharks @ Tampa Bay Lightning – 11am NHL GameCenter: Not a bad game to start off your Saturday.

Oklahoma St @ Kansas – 1pm CBS: Another weekend and another big game for Kansas. While the tough run continues for KU the Oklahoma State must prove that they can win on the road against a top program.

Michigan @ Wisconsin – 3pm ESPN: Wisconsin looks to rebound from their first loss of the season at Indiana. They are still a quality team but as we’ve seen with Ohio State, if you start losing in the Big Ten it’s tough to get back on the good foot.

Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs – 4pm NHL Network: What better for a Saturday night then two of the most storied teams in NHL history squaring off in Toronto?

Sunday Jan. 19th

Manchester United @ Chelsea – 8:00am NBCSN: Manchester United is just not the same sine Sir Alex left but they still have quality. Problem here is that they have to go to Stamford Bridge. –Apparently Rooney and Van Persie will not play for United.

Boston Bruins @ Chicago Blackhawks – 9:30am NBC: A replay of years Stanley Cup final. Should be hard hitting and a hell of a game.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos – Noon CBS: Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning for a chance to go to the Super Bowl? Yes please.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks – 3:30pm FOX: What better way to end the NFL Playoffs then with arguably two of the best, who don’t like each other, meeting in Seattle. This should be one of the better games you’ve seen all season.

Pacific Leaders

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The NFL Playoffs are quickly winding down. While the AFC title games features veteran NFL head coaches, the NFC title game on the other hand features two of the three former PAC 12 coaches in the NFL Playoffs.

Carroll and Harbaugh

Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll and the San Francisco 49ers Jim Harbaugh are complete opposites as ESPN’s Rick Reilly pointed out in his column on ESPN.com. One of the things that they do have in common is their success at their previous coaching jobs in the PAC 12 (Carroll at USC and Harbaugh at Stanford).

In this years playoffs, three of the twelve head coaches previous job was at a PAC 12 school (Philadelphia Head Coach Chip Kelly being the third). Another playoff team, the Indianapolis Colts, first year offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton) comes from the PAC 12 as well.

While Carroll and Harbaugh will gain most of the headlines because of their success on the professional level, the Eagles Kelly is no one to discount. He took the Eagles to the playoffs in his first season and did it while changing QB’s.

The SEC gets most of the headlines when it comes to college football but the PAC 12 has a better rep when it comes to sending coaches to the NFL.

Previous examples of PAC 12 coaches who have had success in the NFL include; Bill Walsh, Dennis Green, John Robinson and Dick Vermeil among others. Not to mention that two of the hottest head coaching names that seem to be on everyones list come from the PAC 12 too (UCLA’s Jim Mora and Stanford’s David Shaw).

Is there something different about the PAC 12? Probably. Historically speaking most of the offenses were more of a “pro-style” but psychologically the coaches are possibly more prepared.

When you think of the Pacific or the West you think opportunity, innovation, and entertainment. More over a willingness to take chances. Calculated risks. This mentality seems to translate better into the NFL.

In any event, the NFC title game on Sunday features a great coaching rivalry against two coaches who just seem to win. Both have taken calculated risks on young QB’s and both worked out. Now we get to see which coach gets a trip to the Super Bowl.

Big Day in the North

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Leiweke, Dafoe, Bradley, Nelson, Bezbatchenko
Leiweke, Dafoe, Bradley, Nelson, Bezbatchenko

To say it was a big day for Toronto FC would be an understatement. In one press conference they showed off two of the biggest designated player signings in franchise history in Jermaine Dafoe and Michael Bradley.

What makes these two signings so great?

Leiweke, Dafoe & Bradley

Defoe still has legs. He’s 31, wants to win trophies and knows that he’ll be judged on his production. Bradley is the bigger fish here though. He’s only 26, a main stay of the US National team and has experience in Germany, Italy and England.

The reason Bradley’s signing is more important. Not only for Toronto but also for MLS.  He’s played in the league before and he’s only 26. His signing shows the ongoing shift in the perception of MLS. Once seen as a league to kind of walk off into the sunset in while making a lot of money, Bradley is signing shows that this is a league is competitive enough for players in their prime to play in.

Not to say that Dafoe is out of his prime but if all goes well TFC fans could expect Bradley to be the cornerstone of their team for the next decade while they may only get four or five years max out of Dafoe.

Yes, it is a good day for Toronto FC and MLS.

See the presser highlights here.

Get full coverage from Neil Davidson here

How Two Days in January Made Tennessee Fans Smile

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

January 10th & 11th may not seem like great days if you’re a University of Tennessee football coach, player or fan but they may very well turn out to be. During those two days, Vanderbilt Head Coach James Franklin left for Penn State and Alabama hired former Tennessee and USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin.

Jame Franklin

Here are the facts; James Franklin made Vanderbilt viable. A 24-15 record with back-to-back nine win seasons and beat Tennessee the last two years. Vanderbilt hasn’t beaten Tennessee in back-to-back years since 1925. He made Vanderbilt the top football team in the state of Tennessee.

He’s now gone.

To say that Lane Kiffin is “hated” in the Tennessee football community would be an understatement. He left the program for his “dream job” at USC which he slowly drove into the ground. Now he’s at Alabama as their new Offensive Coordinator. While he is considered to be a very good X’s & O’s coach he’s also a liability. He’s been brought up on recruiting violations more than once and has never endeared himself to the media. The second half of that doesn’t really matter when Nick Saban is in charge but the first half of that is a huge liability for Bama.

Butch Jones, many believe, has Tennessee on the right track but here are the facts; Tennessee hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2011, have had only one winning season in the last six years and won a grand total of four conference games in the last three years.

Tennessee is on the road back to relevancy. That road got a little bit easier when one of the best up & coming coaches in the country leaves not only the state but also the conference and a former head coach with a history of recruiting violations shows up at a long time rival.

Yep, things are looking up at Tennessee.

The Film Room Wins For ESPN

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

MEGACAST DOUBLE BOX

ESPN tried out its ‘Megacast’ for the BCS National Championship on Monday night. While you wouldn’t have noticed if you were watching the game on ESPN if you flipped over to ESPNews or ESPN2 you saw some experiments and one stood out above the rest.

From right: Chryst, Sumlin, Luginbill, Millen, Addazio, Spielman
From left: Chryst, Sumlin, Luginbill, Millen, Addazio, Spielman

ESPNews had the Film Room. This featured analysts Matt Millen and Chris Spielman along with current Head Coaches Kevin Sumlin, Paul Chryst and Joe Addazio and was hosted, more or less, by Tom Luginbill. The main shots they had were the wide side shot of the game so they could see the entire field and watch the plays develop and the skycam that would be directly behind the QB.

Megacast Field

This was really for the super college football fan. Coaches talking about how timeouts effect momentum, blocks and situational play calling while Spielman, who got really excited about a textbook tackle at one point, and Millen would do most of the driving for the show. They would ask questions to the coaches and keeping them involved. This group would get so carried away that they even replayed a run play by Auburn where there were two really good double team blocks. Addazio, the former offensive lineman, got really excited when he saw that.

The experience was not without its flaws. The had to break at the same time as the main broadcast which limited the insight that the coaches could give and Luginbill really was kind of an add on. It appeared that the producers felt they needed someone there to control the clicker and to keep everyone talking in case the coaches and analysts clammed up. In the end, the show could have gone on without him but he did provide some insight on young players at times.

Regardless of what the ratings say, this Film Room concept was a winner for the hard core fans. It was insightful, interesting and a pleasure to watch. While at times rigid it still worked. ESPN obviously cannot do this for every game but at the very minimum having the wide shot of the field available on ESPN3 would be a nice takeaway.

Best Of The Sideline Signals

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

There has been a shift at all levels of football on how teams signal in their plays. Back in the day coaches would send in a player with the play and now they use everything from images to numbers to hand signals. Every team is different but there is a wide, if not fun, variety of signals to admire.

Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach is an odd cat, a genius to some. 60 Minutes thought so while profiling him back in 2009. He is one of the simplest signal callers in all of football. He doesn’t have some massive play calling sheet like you see with some coaches. He has what looks to be a folded piece of paper and his signals to the QB are done with generally one hand (see 8:44 mark of 60 Minutes video for an example)…and some of them rock!

LEACH

Other PAC 12 coaches have some interesting signals as well. We have no idea what they mean or if they work but they are sure fun to look at especially those by Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham.

Sun Devil Hook'em Horns?
Sun Devil Hook’em Horns?

At Arizona there are three people signaling in plays and the players have to know which one to is signaling in the play and which two are decoys.

Can you find the play?
Can you find the play?

Chip Kelly even took way of signaling plays from Oregon to the NFL. He apparently bypasses the coach to QB radio in favor of hand signals. The reason, everyone on the offense looks over for the play not just the QB.

Whatever the play, it didn't spell V-I-C-T-O-R-Y
Whatever the play, it didn’t spell V-I-C-T-O-R-Y

If you watch the BCS Title game you’ll see how Auburn’s Gus Malzhan signals in plays and how quickly they do it. Take notice how much faster Auburn will go when they are on the hash nearest their sideline.

Sideline signals will always vary and look funny to most us. But if they work and help give teams an advantage then we’ll see them for a long, long, time. And they might even get stranger.

What A Way To Go Out

Nick Aliotti has been at Oregon for almost for a while. He got there in 1978 and although he left for a while in the mid 90’s to coach with the St Louis Rams and at UCLA, he returned to Oregon in 1999 as the Defensive Coordinator. He’s been there ever since and it’s been a good run.

His final game was the a 30-7 win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl. While almost all of the news media was focused on Texas Head Coach Mack Brown coaching his final game, the always quotable Aliotti made one last memorable moment. It’s worth a watch.