Celtics wins and losses

I don’t know about you, but I was perplexed by almost every one of the many deals made during last week’s NBA trading deadline period. Were those teams trying to improve? Blow things up? Or just getting worse without even realizing they were? On most, I couldn’t tell which it was.

That was the case on the big deals GM Brad Stevens made. Neither struck me as “I love that,” or even “I’ll take that.” But I decided to think about them before jumping to conclusions.

After I did, I don’t think they won either trade mentioned below head to head, or even in relation to this season. But oddly they did probably win both for long-term reasons, and that made the risks taken for the remainder of 2021-22 worth it.

Here’s an analysis of the gains and losses of the day.

Celtics trades: In the end they were about exchanging the short-term offensive punch of Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson for the immediate defensive prowess and long-term roster-building benefits of Derrick White and Daniel Theis.

Dennis Schroder: He gave them needed penetration in the half-court and an ability to score in bunches. I’m not sure if White can do either. But what you couldn’t get around is that he’s one and done in Boston, and by trading him now Stevens opted for the big picture and was right to do so.

Josh Richardson: I hate losing this guy. Especially after he found his groove in mid-January as a high-energy scorer off the bench. He also usually came in for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and they didn’t get anyone back who can do that. So that leaves two holes to fill.

Daniel Theis: Nobody likes Theis better than me. But getting him back for what Schroeder did for the team seemed like an odd choice. But, if you accept the premise White is an upgrade over Schroeder, there are two reasons to like this deal. First, he’s a tough, gritty, versatile defender who fights his guy on every play. And if Philly lies ahead in the playoffs, between Al Horford, Rob Williamsand Theis they now have 18 fouls per game to throw at Joel Embiid and they may need all of them. Second, lament Schroeder’s loss all you want, but they got a player of value signed through 2025 for a guy who is gone in June no matter what. That helps long-term depth.

Derrick White: In giving up Richardson, Romeo Langford and another first-round pick my first thought was that they overpaid for White. But, since I’ve only seen him play a few times I don’t have a lot to go on.

Based on what I do know, he scores 14 a game, shoots 31 percent on threes, not quite a point guard, but can play it and is a solid, versatile defender. He sounds like Marcus Smart 2.0, and is that really what they needed?

On the bright side, he scores about the same as Schroeder, is a much better defender, learned how to play under Gregg Popovich so you know he’s team-oriented and is signed at a reasonable/ tradable $17 million per through 2025, which makes it seem like an upgrade. Stevens said this was a no-brainer. It had better be, because he’s the key new guy.

The bench: By trading seven guys it’s thin in numbers and talent. It also left gaping holes to be filled by proven guys getting expanded roles, unproven guys being asked to do things they haven’t done yet or by getting lucky in the buyout market. The options are these:

Grant Williams: I’m guessing those Tatum replacement minutes go to Grant. He’s not remotely the same kind of player, but he’s got the size to defend the players Tatum does. Plus while limited offensively he’s somehow gone from an abysmal 25 percent three-point shooter as a rookie to their best distance shooter percentage-wise at 41.3 percent. I’m still not confident any time he lines up to take one, but the numbers are the numbers

Bench scoring: What they’ve clearly done is put the onus for this on two guys who’ve given very little indication they can do it consistently. Payton Pritchard has had his moments, so if he can ever give it up instead of dribbling the offense into submission and stop shooting from the parking lot maybe he can develop the distance shooting consistency he seems capable of. As for Aaron Nesmith, I trust him about as much as I would a Tesla if I were sitting in the backseat of one of their self-driving cars. First, he’s a three-point shooter who can’t make threes. At least so far. And while he certainly hustles, he does it without any kind of plan. So it’s like watching the bumper cars ride at Canobie Lake as he crashes into anything that moves. But, while it’s probably wishful thinking, with the same size and range as Richardson it would be more beneficial if he can develop into something than if Pritchard does. Though what matters most is for one of them to do it.

Trading first-round picks: Maybe they’re gun-shy after all the blown picks. But I’m not comfortable giving up two in a row. So fix the talent evaluation part with better scouts, and stop giving up picks, because low-salaried, productive young guys are valuable.

Brad Stevens: I hated using a first-round pick to trade Kemba Walker. They should have just bought him out and got Horford another way. But getting Richardson for a guy who could barely make a layup (Tristan Thompson, who’s already been twice more since leaving Boston) was solid. Now these next two moves have strategic long-term value. So I feel better about young Brad than just two weeks ago.

OK, now comes the stretch run for the suddenly red hot C’s, as we get to see in real time the effect of the new additions.

All-time Super Bowl team

I’ll be adding to my world record on Sunday of having seen every Super Bowl game ever played. While I can’t say I’m looking at this one with a high degree of anticipation, I do like that I’m part of the crowd that has seen them all. Especially as it’s now a dwindling group. Not quite on par with the shrinking number of D-Day survivors, but it does qualify me to start cataloging my historical record. Which today takes the form of naming my All-time Super Bowl team.

We’ll start with the coach.

Coach – Joe Gibbs: A lot of worthy candidates here, including Vince Lombardi for winning the first two, Chuck Noll for going 4-0, 3-0 Bill Walsh and Tom Coughlin for engineering two, ah, Giant upsets. Coach B did win six times, but he also lost three and got outcoached by Coughlin twice. And there’s also the Malcolm Butler mystery. But it’s supposed to be a QB’s league and Gibbs was 3-0 with three different QB’s, who were all mediocre at best, so I’ll go with him.

Special Teams

Kicker – Adam V: Do I need to explain?

Returner – Desmond Howard: Devin Hester opened SB-41 with a TD return, and Jacoby Jones’ 108-yarder is the longest play in SB history, but Howard destroyed the Parcells Pats in SB-31 with 90 punt return yards and 154 on kickoffs, including a back-breaking 99-yard TD that basically ended the game.

Punter – Ryan Allen: My MVP in SB-53 over Julian Edelman when the Rams scored just 3 points vs. NE mainly because he pinned L.A. inside their 10-yard line five times.


DE – L. C. Greenwood: The all-time sack leader as Pittsburgh put up two dominant defensive efforts in SB-9 and 10.

DE – Charles Haley: Was a D key for five wins with SF and Dallas.

DT – Mean Joe Greene: Pittsburgh’s D was impenetrable in those just-mentioned wins and he was the leader.

DT – Justin Tuck: With two sacks and two QB hits, he murdered the Pats when the G-Men ended hope of an undefeated season in SB -42.

MLB – Ray Lewis: The Baltimore D was steel against NY in 2000 and vs. SF in 2012 so he gets the nod over Jack Lambert and Mike Singletary.

OLB – Chuck Howley: Even though it came for Dallas in the horrid SB-5 between two inept offenses, the only player from a losing team to be MVP has to get this, right?

OLB – Mike Vrabel: He, Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest are tied for most sacks (3) by an LB, but Vrabel drilled Kurt Warner’s arm to force the game-changing duck Ty Law pick-sixed for NE’s early 7-0 lead in SB-36.

CB – Ty Law: There’s part A above and part B was being the lynch pin that shutdown the most prolific passing attack in league history that day.

CB – Larry Brown: Was a starter for three Dallas wins in the ’90s when he had a record three picks, including two vs. Pittsburgh when he was MVP in SB-30.

S – Jake Scott: Was another MVP defender for two picks in the mind-numbingly boring SB-7 match-up with Washington that closed out Miami’s undefeated season.

S – Rodney Harrison: All-time leader in tackles with 34 and had a two-pick day vs. Eagles in SB-39.


T – Joe Jacoby: Was dominant in three SB wins, especially as John Riggins rumbled for 166 and Timmy Smith 204 when the Redskins piled up 276 and 280 rushing yards in wins over Miami and Denver in SB’s 17 and 22

T – Forrest Gregg: The best player Vince Lombardi said he ever coached started when Green Bay won the first two SB’s and as Dallas won SB-6.

G – Russ Grimm: See Jacoby’s entry. He also started in all three games.

G – Larry Allen: The key to the Cowboys’ run of three wins in four years was the running game and he was their best O-lineman.

C – Jeff Bostic: Hard to grade centers but he was part of the Hogs in the three Washington wins.

WR – Jerry Rice: No competition here for the all-time leader in everything.

WR – Deion Branch: Nips Lynn Swann for having 21 catches in SB-38 and 39 when he could have been MVP of the first and was in the second.

TE – Rob Gronkowski: Second behind Rice in total receptions (29), receiving yards (364 tied with Swann) and TD catches (5). No other TE is in the top 10 in any of those categories.

TB – Terrell Davis: He ran for a fourth best 259 yards in two Denver wins with a high of 157 vs. GB in 32.

FB – Franco Harris: All due respect to the plowhorse Riggins, Long Island’s own Matt Snell,the real MVP of the Jets’ earth-shattering upset of Baltimore in SB-3 (not Joe Willie), bruising Larry Csonka and rushing TD leader (5) Emmitt Smith. But it goes to the all-time leading rusher with 354 yards in Pittsburgh’s first four wins.

QB – Joe Montana: Sorry, TB-12 fans. But Joe Cool has the highest QB rating ever at 127.3 to TB’s 97.7, never threw an interception in 122 passes, led the last-minute drive to beat Cincy 20-16 on a pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left, was a three-time MVP and 4-0 in the big game. He won seven times, has all the records, including the two highest passing yard games (467 and 505), and engineered major comebacks vs. Seattle and vs. Atlanta. But he also lost three times and while he was a five-time MVP, he shouldn’t have been in SB-36, when he threw for only 145 yards while the O scored just one TD, or last year, because when a team blanks Patrick Mahomes the MVP is someone from the D.

That was the week that was

When it rains it pours and that’s what happened in sports over just a few days last week. Rather than decide which story is biggest of the big, we’ll give all a mention in News Item fashion and come back to each in more detail during quieter weeks after the Super Bowl.

News Item: Brady Retired

While ESPN stood by its reporting last weekend that forever young Tom Brady was retiring, his father, Tom Sr., said he wasn’t. But Brady made his retirement official via Twitter on Tuesday. My bet is the news was leaked early because the decision was made long ago as part of a deal with his wife where he got to play two more years if they moved to a place she liked living in more than New England. But what do I know.

In any event, if it is the end, I can’t say he was the greatest player ever, because how do you tell if a QB is better at his job than greats like Jerry Rice, Jim Brown or Lawrence Taylor were at their respective, very different, jobs? But I do know after throwing for 40 and 43 TD passes in his last two years, he joins Brown, Sandy Koufax and Barry Sanders as the only guys I know of to retire while still at their peak. And, since he was the best ever at the position most critical to team success, he’s the most valuable football player ever. Something we got to view up close for 20 years. So thanks for the memories. It’s hard to imagine a better fan experience than we got from TB-12.

News Item: Ortiz Walks Through That HoF Door

Since we’re a week behind we won’t rehash the numbers. Instead I’ll say Sox President Sam Kennedy was right saying that David Ortiz is the most important Red Sox player ever. Yes, that means even over Ted Williams. Why? Because he was the straw that stirred the drink as the Sox won their first three World Series in nearly a century, and Ted never even won once. The stats are nice, but winning matters most.

I thought the 78 percent Hall of Fame vote total was a little low (75 percent is needed). It was due to taint from a positive 2003 drug test he disputes, and no votes from nitwit purists who don’t think DH’s who didn’t play the field belong. To them I say, if the defensively indifferent Williams had played now he’d be a DH. It’s been an “official” position for 50 years, so get over it. Besides, when you’re one of just four players to win three rings and hit 500-plus homers, you belong.

So congrats, big fella, for a well-earned honor.

News Item: Bonds and Clemens Controversy Done For Now

With Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds being denied in their final year on the ballot, there were an awful lot of wins and homers that missed the train to Cooperstown on Wednesday, all due to the PED-era backlash. If you vote no on a steroid guy because you think cheating for higher stats is wrong I respect that. Not to mention you’re backed by one of the five voting criteria that speaks to a player’s overall character. However, my problem with that lies with it doesn’t square with Bud Selig cruising in even though he was commissioner when all the cheating went down. If the media and almost every fan knew what was going on, how could coaches, managers, GM’s, owners and the league office not know? Answer: They did know, and looked the other way ’cause chicks dig the long ball. So, while I lean toward the cheaters-should-never-prosper side, I just can’t keep out any pre-2004 testing player if the guy who enabled it all breezed in.

To solve the bloated numbers part, put Bill James’ numerical nonsense to good use for a change to come up with and apply a mathematical factor that normalizes them to pre-PED numbers. Then put up a permanent PED-era exhibit that names names, vote and be done with it.

Enough already.

News Item: The Super Bowl Match-Up

Here are some pre-Super Bowl thoughts on the surprising Cincinnati Bengals and L.A. Rams.

Cincy: (1) Just two seasons ago they were the worst team in the NFL, so being in the SB now is quite a quick turnaround. (2) Hope seeing how the electric Ja’Marr Chase immediately transformed Cincy offensively (with help from Joe Burrow) turns a light bulb on as getting blown out in the second half of the 2006 AFC title did to Coach B. It led to getting Randy Moss because he realized they couldn’t beat Peyton Manning and company anymore unless they outscored them. Ditto for Mac Jones in 2022, because he needs a threat like that to take the next step. (3) How does coming back from 18 down to Patrick Mahomes in thunderous Arrowhead Stadium during an AFC title game compare to the Pats’ comeback vs. Atlanta in SB 51?

L.A.: (1) With the game in L.A. the SB will be a home game for one team for a second straight year. (2) Who had Sony Michel going to the SB again before his former team? (3) To skeptics like me, giving up two first-round picks, a third-rounder and your starting QB to get Matthew Stafford seemed extravagant. But the draft-choice-averse Rams are showing there’s more than one way to skin a cat as they wouldn’t be in the SB without that trade.

News Item: Andy Reid Does It Again

Going for it and failing with no timeouts and five seconds left in the first half, then losing in an OT you never would have been in if you’d kicked the sure FG instead, is the latest in a long line of game management mistakes by Andy.

Celtics solutions

As the frustration throughout the local basketball community mounts, what ever are we to make of your Boston Celtics?

Many feel with two so called “All-Stars” they’re an under-achieving lot. But I’m not so sure they are. I’m more in the Bill Parcells camp that says you are what your record says you are. Which is a 24-24 team that plays with no passion and will be in a dogfight for the Eastern Conference play-in games for a second straight year.

While talk radio is definitely on their case, other media types are not. ABC broadcaster Doris Burke fawns over their “young stars” like she’s their den mother and likable play-by-play partner Mike Breen does the same. Earth to you two, Jaylen Brown is in Year 6 and for Jayson Tatum it’s 5, so they have no excuse to not have figured it out by now. Then there’s Boston Globe basketball writer Gary Washburn, who goes from writing “they don’t know how to win” columns one day, to, after a close win (that usually involved blowing or erasing a double-digit lead/deficit), an endless series of “they’ve turned the corner” pieces. The most ridiculous was calling a win over the 17-30 Pacers 10 days ago “the most important of the season.” That’s right; he said a horribly played (by both teams) lucky win over 13th-place Indiana was the most important win of the year! Which was followed by losses at home to Charlotte and a horrendous one-point loss to 19-26 Portland Friday night, who was playing the fifth of a six-game East Coast swing with their best player Damian Lillard a DNP, as the C’s somehow went the final 7 minutes and 15 seconds without scoring a field goal.

Meanwhile the Mr. Rogers of the NBA, GM Brad Stevens, fiddles while Rome burns by saving a few bucks to get under the luxury tax line by trading for two injured guys who are done for the season.

So the bottom line is the Celtics are a complete mess. And while I don’t take joy in saying this, it’s happening because they are being led by a first-year coach who’s over his head, a GM who was the franchise’s worst hire since Rick Pitino 20 years ago and owners who seem clueless now that they don’t have Danny Ainge around to give them their media talking points.

Then over in the cheap seats, everyone from Tony Maz to Charles Barkley is looking for remedies: dump Marcus Smart, get something for Dennis Schroder, move Al Horford and the big one, break up Tatum and Brown, etc. And with the trade deadline dead ahead the shouting has intensified with people making ridiculous knee-jerk suggestions that won’t do anything productive in the long run.

That’s because you can’t solve a problem until you identify what it is, and few have.

Here are my thoughts on the chatter.

Most Urgent Need: Bob Cousy just said it, Robert Parish just said it, Paul Pierce too and I’ve been saying it since they kept blowing big leads to Miami in the bubble during the 2020 playoffs.

They need a real point guard. There aren’t a lot of Rondo-like pg’s out there, but they need to find one. because they desperately need order in the half court that gets everyone involved.

Get Another All-Star: As I constantly hear this one I ask, how? After squandering a 10-deep bench and seven first-round picks over three years they don’t have the capital to swing a trade for a really good third guy. All made more infuriating by Ainge giving that final first-rounder, Desmond Bane, to Memphis for nothing, where he’s now averaging 18 points per as a starter for the surprising 32-16 Grizzlies.

Break Up Brown and Tatum: It’s hard to consider this when both have had 50-point nights this year. But building a basketball team is like making a cake, where all the ingredients need to be blended together in the bowl before it becomes a delicious cake. And the reality is Brown plays with blinders on like he’s in the gym by himself and doesn’t have a true basketball instinct in his body, while Tatum is not and never will be the leader they badly need.

So my gut says yes, break them up, but not before getting that point guard. Because we really won’t know if they do fit as the foundation for winning until they have a setup that gives each the ball where they can do something with it, over their usual freelancing that inhibits flow and rarely gets others involved or encourages movement without the ball.

How Do They Get Better? Assuming it’s a break-up, they should do what Bruins GM Harry Sinden did almost 50 years ago when he traded his best and most popular player, Phil Esposito, in a five-player swap with the Rangers that got the B’s the next three best players. Which really came down to trading one A+ level star to fill two big holes with A- level players.

For the C’s that would be a pg and a second scorer. A perfect one would have been Tatum to Cleveland for second overall pick, 7-footer Evan Mobley and pg Darius Garland to give them a reset with bigger, and faster emerging players while improving their depth. However, that ship has sailed with the Cavs now a rising team. But they need something like that.

At the end of the day a shake-up is needed. Which should include the coach (I vote Kevin Garnett). If they can find the right point guard now, do it. But the worst thing they can do is make a move to satisfy the yackers.

In the meantime, compete for the play-in round. But do it by giving PT to Grant Williams, Romeo Langford and Payton Pritchard to improve their trade value for the larger renovation this summer. Or, to see if they can become consistent contributors going forward.

All she wrote for the Pats

So much for the 2021 Patriots season. A mostly enjoyable year, at least until it ended in disaster on Sunday with Buffalo’s 47-17 demolition of the Bill Belichick AC. It was the culmination of a disappointing final month that saw Mac Jones staggering down the stretch as they lost four of their last five to take some of the shine off their seven-game mid-season winning streak that sent expectations a little higher than they probably should have been.

So with the Pats on vacation, here are a few thoughts that have been piling up since they were flying high.

From the Time Flies department comes news of Jon Lester retiring. For those of us on hand it’s hard to believe it was 17 years ago that summer night in town when he blew away 15 F-Cats. Then it was on to a 16-year big-league career that included a scary bout with cancer, a no-hitter, winning the World Series twice with Boston and a third with the Cubs. And while the overall record of 200 wins and 117 loses for a .636 life winning percentage is terrific, it’s probably gonna fall short of the Hall of Fame. But those stats speak to his consistency, as does the remarkable fact he had identical .639 winning percentages pitching for both the Red Sox and Cubs. Well done, young man.

Richard Seymour gets my vote for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for being the bedrock of the best team in the 2000’s that won with defense. In the end it should have five famers at least: Ty Law, who’s in already, no-brainers Tom Brady, Adam V, and Randy Moss along with Seymour. Outside chances go to Willie McGinest and the incredibly productive Wes Welker.

How can anyone not love watching the Chiefs line up inside their five-yard line when they do wild things from wild formations? On Sunday vs. Pittsburgh, there was after Travis Kelce took the snap in the wildcat faking hand-offs, then his own plunge before straightening up to fire a bullet to Byron Pringle for a TD, and then how about that underhand TD toss to Jerick McKinnon from Pat Mahomes that looked like he was bowling? So much fun.

If you missed it, UCLA extended Chip Kelly’s contract through 2026. So next time you see him, Chip’s buying!

And bravo to the U for naming Chipper’s former QB (when he OC at the U) Ricky Santos to succeed the retiring Sean McDonnell.

After Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy mentioned last week that Belichick had tied his nemesis Don Shula at 20 seasons with at least 10 wins, a reader emailed to say since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 Coach B had an unfair advantage over Shula because there were only 14 games in his first 15 seasons. Logical, I suppose. But since the Patriots had a 16-win season, four with 14, two 13’s and five 12’s I figured he didn’t need the extra games to reach “just” 10, so I checked. And it was Shula who actually needed the 16 games to reach 10 wins five times (1978, ’79, ’82, ’92, ’94) while for Coach B it’s four times (’05, ’09, ’18 and this year).

I know the Celtics will lose Dennis Schroder in the off-season because of salary cap rules, so if they somehow can get a first-round pick for him at the trade deadline so be it. But since the last second-round pick to make an impact of consequence for them was Big Baby Davis in 2008, dumping Schroder for a second-round pick doesn’t make any sense unless they’re throwing in the towel and want to give kids more playing time even if they haven’t earned it.

While offensive lineman pushing the pile forward after a back is surrounded has become popular in recent years, it seems to me it’s illegal. Because what the OL’s are doing is pushing the defenders in the back and a block from behind is a clip — no?

With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown having already done it the other night vs. Indiana and Schoerder not far from scoring his 30th point, Celtics announcer Mike Gorman wondered if three teammates had ever scored 30 in the same game. Not having email to the table, I couldn’t let him know about the oddest, most forgotten case of three teammates doing that. It came on March 2, 1962, when guard Richie Guerin scored 39 points, future Celtic Willie Naulls had 33 and rookie Cleveland Buckner had 32 off the bench for the New York Knicks. And they still lost by 22 points, 169-147 to the Philadelphia Warriors because that was the day Wilt Chamberlain had his fabled 100-point game!

Liked Cooper Kupp’s anti-inflation answer when he was on the verge of breaking records for most catches and receiving yards that it won’t mean as much because he’d have done it in a 17-game season and the records broken came in 16 games.

NFL Part 2 starts Saturday

The regular season is in the books and the NFL playoffs start Saturday. Here are some thoughts from looking back and ahead.

Guess we can put a hold on all those Coach of the Year votes for Frank Reich after Indy pulled the gag of the century by falling from odds-on favorite to host a playoff game to missing them altogether, with losses to the worst team in football (Jacksonville) in Week 18 and while resurrecting the presumed dead Raiders in Week 17.

Not that losing five straight to go from the top seed to out of the playoffs wouldn’t happen to most teams who lose their starting QB, or saying I wouldn’t want him. But when a team heavily relies on a running QB as the Ravens do with Lamar Jackson, isn’t what happened to him/them a sooner or later inevitable outcome?

What, Tom Brady can’t shoot his age? Throwing a second best in his career 43 TD passes at his advanced age is astonishing. But it would have been even cooler if he’d gotten one more to make it 44 at 44!
Even with a very sluggish final month Mac Jones had a better first regular season than Brady in 2001. And in being watched through the lens that comes from 20 years of expecting excellence around here, he did it with far greater scrutiny and pressure than Brady, who had none when he took over.

Antonio Brown saying the only reason Brady is his friend is that he’s a good football player doesn’t sound crazy to me.

Of course since AB backstabbed him with the phony vax card after Brady went out on a limb for him despite an avalanche of reasons not to, you can see how Brady might wipe his hands of this mess.

For what it’s worth, if I were putting a team together I’d absolutely take vax status into account in deciding who stays and who goes.

Both Patriots All-Pros from last year, Gunner Olszewski and Jake Bailey, had no impact to negative impact on them this season. The return game did zero, while Bailey was inconsistent on kickoffs, rarely pinned teams inside the 10, and his three blocks were the most since the 1970s.

Mac may have had the best year among the five quarterbacks taken in the 2021 draft. But Tua Tagovailoa wins Alabama Alumni bragging rights among their ex-QB’s by being 2-0 vs. his former back-up in 2021 after Sunday’s win in Miami. It also made his head coach Flores 4-2 head to head against Coach B.

My gut was wrong about feeling N’Keal Harry would turn it around to answer the critics. He didn’t.

Got it right, thought, that Carson Wentz would (sorta) wreck his second team. Indy did go 9-8, but he was basically MIA as they gagged away their season and even in the ballyhooed win over NE he threw for only 57 yards.

If it’s Most Outstanding Player I’ll go with Cooper Kupp for his dominating statistical season. But if it’s Most Valuable Player, it’s Aaron Rodgers because of a superb season at the indispensable position.

Coach of the Year: Coach B was in the running till Week 13 and anyone whose team hangs in to finish 9-8 after a 1-7 start, as Miami’s Brian Flores did, earns votes and makes his firing ridiculous. But, after losing Derrick Henry and using the most players in history thanks to injuries as Tennessee still has the AFC’s best record, it goes to Mike Vrabel.

UndertheRadar Player of the Year: He’s been around for five years, but did anyone see Chargers all-purpose back Austin Ekeler scoring 20 TD’s? Not me.

Worst Coaching Move: Go for it on fourth down analytics maven/Chargers Coach Brandon Staley retires it, for doofus moves in two games that each cost his team making the playoffs. The first came in Week 16 when he failed to make it on fourth down three times inside the five when all he needed vs. KC was a FG to avoid OT, where they lost. Then on Sunday he failed on fourth and one from his own 18 to gift-wrap a FG that helped Vegas make it to OT, where they knocked L.A. out of the playoffs.

The last time someone did something that dumb was Dallas coach Barry Switzer failing on fourth down from his own 28 vs. the Giants in the 90’s leading to the NY Post headline Bozo The Coach!

Speaking of the G-Men, the best sign I saw last weekend was a guy wearing a Giants jersey and a grocery bag over his head holding a sign that said “fire everyone.”

Playoff predictions

Bucs (2) vs. Eagles (7): Can Brady win again for TB? He takes the next step this week. TB

Cowboys (3) vs. 49ers (6).: Jimmy G shows critics they’re wrong about him. SF

Rams (4) vs. Cardinals (5): I don’t trust either team in the clutch. Rams

KC (2) vs. Pitt (8): Karma only goes so far for Big Ben. KC

Buf (3) vs. NE (6): Losing three of their last four when the D couldn’t get the needed fourth-quarter stop in all three sapped all my Pats confidence. Bills

Cinn (4) vs. Oak (5): Trick-or-treat teams where both look great at times and not so much others. So I’ll close my eyes and pick. Bengals

Finally, what should stand out above all else about the late, great John Madden is not leaving coaching with the best winning percentage in history. It’s how he stood by Darryl Stingley after he was paralyzed in a preseason game vs. Oakland, including calling Patriots Coach Chuck Fairbanks to demand he not get on the plane home and get over to the hospital ASAP, because Stingley was 3,000 miles from home and alone, then making it a point to visit him as much as possible as he remained in Oakland. RIP, Big John.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!