Best- and worst-case scenarios
Between e-mails, messages on social media, comments here on the site, radio interview questions and text messages from friends, I seemingly get asked on a daily basis how good or bad I think the Florida Gators football team will be in 2014.
It’s simple, really.
No one knows. There are some analysts predicting Florida pieces together a shocking turnaround, while others believe the Gators will only be marginally better than they were a year ago. Consider how many variables there are in regards to any given team succeeding or failing, let alone a storied program coming off its worst season since 1979.
Therefore, let’s look at the absolute best- and worst-case scenarios for Florida in 2014…
Best-case scenario: Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel stays healthy and puts it all together with an offensive coordinator in Kurt Roper who finally allows him to utilize his full skill set… Florida’s shuffled offensive line solidifies under position coach Mike Summers… Head coach Will Muschamp finds a way to put forward a top-notch defense despite another batch of top talent leaving the program in the offseason… UF starts the season 4-1 with its lone loss to Alabama, finds a way to beat LSU at home, earns Muschamp his first victory ever in the Florida-Georgia game and takes the SEC East crown, putting it in the SEC Championship for the first time since 2008… Despite falling to its SEC West opponent in the league title game, UF earns the fourth spot in the first College Football Playoff as a two-loss team and is eliminated in its playoff game.
Worst-case scenario: Driskel continues to struggle with the mental aspects of the game and/or gets injured again as another porous, patchwork Gators offensive line fails to take pressure off him… Florida’s freshmen quarterbacks, Will Grier and Treon Harris, are as ill-prepared as Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were to play big games back in 2011… Junior Vernon Hargreaves III shines, but the massive secondary losses expose the back end of Florida’s defense… After being bludgeoned by Alabama, Florida sees its nine-year winning streak against Tennessee fall as UT wins its first game in the series since 2004… The loss sends UF into a tailspin as it drops four games in a span of five contests, including a home game against LSU and the neutral-site game against UGA… Florida State proves it has truly overtaken Florida by toppling its in-state rival for the second-straight year… Former Gators signal callers Brissett (N.C. State) and Tyler Murphy (Boston College) both stay healthy and/or play better than Driskel… Georgia wins the SEC East… Jameis Winston joins Archie Griffin as a two-time Heisman Trophy winner… FSU wins its second of back-to-back national championships by defeating Urban Meyer and Ohio State, which also advances to the national title game.
FOX Sports steps up for Erin Andrews
Erin Andrews has dealt with a lot of crap in her 15-year broadcasting career. She has been harassed by fans at games with cat calls and insults, disrespected by peers when she first entered the business (they claimed her looks were the only talent she brought to the table) and literally stalked in her private hotel rooms through peepholes.
Yet through all this, Andrews has maintained her poise, stuck with the business and come out on top. Now 36, Andrews is at the pinnacle of her career. She has moved on from being a college football sideline reporter (eventually also a College GameDay co-host) at ESPN to a much larger role with FOX Sports.
She is now the network’s top sideline reporter, replacing Pam Oliver with the No. 1 team for NFL games beginning this season, while also working the major sports events she has always dreamed including the World Series and Super Bowl. Andrews was even named a co-host of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, a show she previously appeared – and succeeded – on as a contestant, this past year.
Used to being disrespected, Andrews likely thought she had moved past the bulk of it, at least from her industry colleagues. Every on-air personality gets their spots nit-picked from time-to-time, Andrews included, but no one, especially a woman, deserves the type of treatment she got earlier this month.
Responding to an on-the-spot dugout interview Andrews did with St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright during the MLB All-Star Game, here’s what Kirk Minihane (co-host of the Dennis and Callahan Morning Show on WEEI in Massachusetts) had to say about Andrews and her line of questioning for the hurler:
”What a bitch! I hate her! What a gutless bitch! Seriously, go away. Drop dead. I mean, seriously, what the hell is wrong with her? First of all, follow-up. Secondly, the guy admitted he did it. He admitted he told reporters he threw a couple of pipe bombs. How is that social media’s fault? Seriously, I hate her. I seriously hat her so much! … Shut up. Shut up. I shouldn’t call her a ‘bitch.’ I’m sure she’s a nice person, but she’s…she’s probably a bitch. I freaking hate her. … And this bimbo says, ‘Don’t you love social media?’ I’m going to get in trouble for this.”
Hours later, Minihane apologized in a written statement on WEEI’s website. It was an actual apology at its base level – not an “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” version – though it was not nearly enough to atone for his sexist, offensive and demeaning comments. He was then suspended for one week. When he returned to the air to discuss the controversial comments, he simply repeated his tirade without use of a couple of the more offensive words.
What was impressive was not Andrews’s continued poise (she stayed silent and did not address the issue publicly) but rather the stand FOX Sports took on her behalf. Andrews is not just an employee but a woman and one who has dealt with way too much crap in her career. FOX Sports needed to have her back with strong, unwavering support, and they delivered in a major way.
“Comments such as these are beyond inappropriate and inexcusable. It is unfortunate that one of the best sports talk radio stations in the country would allow and condone such low-class behavior from one of their on-air personalities,” said a company spokesman prior to Minihane’s apology.
The company’s next step? Pulling all of its advertising from WEEI and every other station owned by its parent company, Entercom. According to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, Entercom is “one of the largest radio broadcasting companies in the U.S., with 100 stations in 23 markets.” FOX Sports took it one step further and decided not to allow its talent to continue to appear on WEEI. Boom.
From FOX Sports president Eric Shanks to Entercom:
By now you are no doubt aware of the incidents that occurred on-air at your Boston station WEEI on July 15 and again on July 22, I am referring to the obnoxious comments made by Kirk Minihane on the “Dennis and Callahan” show regarding one of our Fox on-air personalities, Erin Andrews.
As we have previously stated to various media outlets, the comments made by Mr. Minihane were boorish and sexist. Further, the “apology” made by Mr. Minihane was juvenile and insincere. To make matters worse, the “apology” was posted under a banner (allegedly approved by your Boston VP and Market Manager, Phil Zachary) hailing “The Triumphant Return of Kirk Minihane.”
I had hoped by this time we might hear a sincere apology from WEEI, or perhaps someone from your office might have reached out to Fox (which through our film and television businesses is a significant advertiser on Entercom stations). However, none of that has been forthcoming, and needless to say we are disappointed.
I have discussed this issue with our senior management and our various senior marketing executives. At their recommendation, I am writing to inform you that going forward Fox’s entertainment and sports businesses will not be advertising on your stations for the foreseeable future.
I regret that we need to take this action, but as one of our executives reminded me, “sometimes you need to vote with your feet.”
That is how a company takes a stand for an employee and lays the smack down.
Urban Meyer not the only one wondering about Tim Tebow
As is tradition these days, former Florida head coach Urban Meyer spent a portion of Big Ten Media Day discussing former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and openly questioning why he does not currently have a job in the NFL.
Tebow is the “second-most efficient passer ever to play college football,” Meyer pointed out this year, noting that he still does not get why he is not in the league at this time.
Many are quick to note that while Tebow did complete 67.8 percent of his passes during his senior season – and 64.4 percent during Florida’s national championship run the year prior – his career completion percentage in the NFL is 47.9 percent. That’s not good. In fact, it’s really bad.
Without going into a long diatribe here, what many miss when discussing Tebow and his NFL potential is that his elongated throwing motion received so much attention and was criticized so heavily prior to his arrival in the league that he spent the entire time leading up to the draft changing it. A quarterback was told – not asked – to completely adjust the biggest part of his arsenal, something confined to muscle memory.
Tebow was told to change the motion that led him to those record passing rates in college. He listened and suffered, in part, because of that direction.
There have been other factors in Tebow’s way as well, such as the coach who took a chance on him being fired before Tebow could ever start a game for him, his replacement never believing in his abilities despite the fact that he led a down-in-the-dumps Denver team into the playoffs and threw a game-winning touchdown pass in a playoff victory over Pittsburgh, and the team he chose (New York) over his hometown (Jacksonville) having so little offensive intelligence that it could not find a way to utilize him on the field outside of having him run straight into the offensive line.
Offenses across the league are more creative ever, and Tebow remains a unique talent. Despite his struggles in the past, the fact that the guy cannot get a tryout to be a backup quarterback in San Francisco or Seattle, for example, is indeed ridiculous. There will be 96 quarterbacks in the NFL at the start of the 2014 season. Tebow is absolutely, positively more talented than one-third of that group, completion percentage be damned.
He continues to train. Tebow claims he is in the best shape of his life and throwing the ball better than ever, yet he is preparing to don a suit for the SEC Network rather than workout clothes for an NFL team. He may never play in the league again, a thought that is becoming more of a fact with each passing day. And that’s fine. But he at the very least deserves the opportunity to get back out on the field and tryout for the chance to rekindle his career.
Not Only Gators: Kevin Durant’s next (potentially) great move
Kevin Durant is the best the NBA has to offer. This statement is not based solely on what he does on the court, which makes him one of the two best players in the league, but rather everything else that surrounds his career, namely his community outreach and decision making.
It is tough to be drafted by a bad team, which Durant was when Seattle picked him No. 2 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. He took on the challenge that year and did it again the following season when the team was relocated to Oklahoma City, making Durant not only the face of the franchise but the face of an entire sports market.
Since his career with the Thunder began, Durant has seemingly done everything right. He’s surprised fans by joining (and dominating) their flag football games, given up his summers to play for USA Basketball, quietly signed a contract extension in the summer of 2010 while stars were loudly posturing and changing teams, supported his teammate (Russell Westbrook) as a necessary part of his success, and even declared his mother “the real MVP” while accepting his first Most Valuable Player award (which he shared with his entire team in one of the most emotional award acceptance speeches in sports history).
Durant has another opportunity to be awesome staring him straight in the face, and I hope he takes advantage of it.
Two full years away from being a free agent, Durant is already being questioned about his motives once his contract expires. Will he stay true to Oklahoma City, a franchise that should have no doubts about his commitment, or return home to the nation’s capital (he is a Washington, D.C. native)? Speculation is already beginning, and the NBA media has a way of twisting players’ words around to fit the objective of their stories.
My advice? Nip it all in the bud.
Durant should take the time, at some point before the 2014-15 season, to hold a one-time-only press conference and answer every question the attending media have about his pending free agency. At the start of that press conference, he should matter-of-factly state that following the day’s proceedings, he will no longer address the issue.
Will it happen? Probably not. That is a lot to ask, even for Durant. But if there is one NBA superstar I could see ever trying such a move, it is him.
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From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska…
Random things I’ve wasted too much money on in my life:
2. Sunglasses from drug stores
3. Extended warranties for electronics
4. Pre-mixed bags of salad
5. Nike FuelBand (first edition)
— OnlyGators.com (@onlygators) July 30, 2014
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