While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:
1. I get it, but I don’t like it. It irks me when stars like Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette bypass their teams’ bowl games for the sake of their NFL future because I really think this could help further dilute the entertainment appeal and ticket sales of the bowl games. I only expect this trend to take root and blossom. After all, if Baylor’s Shock Linwood can follow suit, what’s stopping wholesale defections from a team’s bowl commitment? And what’s to say some stars don’t start sitting out the final game or games of the season to protect themselves from injury if they are not in championship contention. Listen, the bowl game format has probably run its course. I’ve watched very few bowl games as it is, and I think ticket sales will continue to plummet. The practice also could hasten the expansion of the College Football Playoff to six or eight teams. What this also shines a light on is the cavalier disregard for the athletes by the NCAA. I could see an increase in the stipends for the players as well.
2. Shaka Smart has to be beside himself. At the start of the season, he defiantly resisted any talk of a rebuilding year even though his top six players were gone. In truth, that is exactly what is transpiring. His Longhorns basketball team is mired at or near the bottom in every important Big 12 category. And on the eve of conference play, Smart really has only two legitimate Big 12-caliber players in wingman Tevin Mack and freshman center Jarrett Allen, with Kerwin Roach on the cusp and Andrew Jones clearly on that path. This will have the feel of a first season for the second-year coach. Don’t read too much into this season’s record. Texas is clearly a year away from Big 12 respectability.
3. I found it totally disturbing that Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops actually said that if the video of Joe Mixon’s violent punch of a female student in the face had come to light two years ago instead of now, the talented Sooners running back would not have been given a second chance to stay on the team. Excuse me? Stoops saw the video. This sounds so hypocritical since Mixon has played at the highest level this season with 13 touchdowns and OU’s chances of running the Big 12 table would have been significantly altered without him. Stoops blew it, the OU administration blew it, and they all know it. Shame on OU.
4. I wouldn’t totally rest the starters for the streaking Dallas Cowboys’ beyond-meaningless finale if I were Jason Garrett, but I would definitely play backup quarterback Tony Romo for the entire second half to showcase whatever he has left for interested teams. I’d also rest Zeke Elliott as much as possible. Fans in Arlington were chanting Romo’s name in Dallas’ blowout win over Detroit. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones opposes using him in Sunday’s game against Philadelphia “because I don’t like the circumstance it would come under, which would be injury.” There’s always risk in football, but no less so for starter Dak Prescott. Jones has constantly said it’s a blessing to have two great quarterbacks at his disposal. Romo hasn’t been on the field once since he suffered a compression fracture in his back in a preseason game against Seattle; there’s a ton of rust there.
5. Loved the trick play where Dez Bryant threw a touchdown pass to Jason Witten. Bryant really sold it. But wouldn’t it have made more sense to keep this in the Cowboys’ pocket and pull it out in the playoffs?
6. Did you see that Alabama has signed players from 29 states since 2012? And no one does it better, striking gold everywhere, which has everything to do with talent evaluation, although it helps when Nick Saban goes after four- and five-star players. I don’t remember Texas or any other in-state school (short of Texas A&M late in the process) going after four-star Channelview quarterback Jalen Hurts, who as a freshman became the SEC offensive player of the year. The league’s defensive player of the year (Jonathan Allen) comes from Virginia. Then there’s All-American cornerback/safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from New Jersey. Recruiting his basic home state of Florida didn’t work out all that well for Charlie Strong, but it will be interesting to see if Texas’ Tom Herman stretches the state’s borders. I’ve always thought Texas should cherry-pick talent outside the state but use 90 percent or more of its scholarships on Lone Star talent.
7. Terry Bradshaw may think Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin is a glorified “cheerleader,” but I love a cheerleader who has the guts to go for it as the Steelers coach did from Baltimore’s 4-yard line with no timeouts left. Antonio Brown made a terrific play after catching a ball on a slant route short of the goal line and stretching for the score to give the Steelers a huge win.
8. My NFL coach of the year? As good as Garrett has done in guiding the Cowboys to wins over every opponent except the New York Giants, I’m going with first-year coach Adam Gase. His Miami Dolphins began the year 1-4 but won nine of their last 10 and clinched a playoff spot after losing quarterback Ryan Tannehill. … Is there any doubt that Tom Brady is the MVP of the league? The guy misses four games and still throws 28 touchdown passes with a scant two interceptions in 11 games even without Rob Gronkowski much of the time. I could see the Dallas offensive line win the first multiple-player award.
9. Saw “Passengers” in our Christmas Day tradition. It’s obvious Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt have tremendous chemistry. I enjoyed the storyline. Gave it 7 solid ducks. Also thoroughly enjoyed “Hacksaw Ridge.” I’m a sucker for true stories, and this one was Saving Private Ryan-graphic. Not for the squeamish of heart. Kinda thought Vince Vaughn was miscast in a serious role. Still, gave it 8 1/2 ducks.
10. Crazy prediction: Tony Romo wins comeback player of the year in 2017.
HOW CRAZY WAS HE?
Looking back at Kirk’s crazy prediction from Dec. 30, 2015 — that the Dallas Cowboys would take a quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft, and his best guess was Memphis’ Paxton Lynch. One year later, how did that work out? Big-time. Dallas took Dak Prescott in the fourth round, which has worked out pretty well. Lynch, though, went to Denver.