OFF THE TOP OF MY BALD HEAD

Barry Warner: On the NCAAs, NFL free agents and more

Barry Warner weighs in on a variety of subjects. Barry Warner

Here’s a quick history of the growth that has turned into a humongous revenue generator for schools, Vegas and folks who gamble with several high dollar pools:

In 1963, the first of John Wooden’s magical run of 10 championships during a 12-year run, the NCAA Tournament field was 25 teams. In 1975, it became 32 teams

In 1979, the NCAA added eight more to make it a 40-team field.  The next season eight more teams were added, making it 48. Five years later it became 64. From 2001-2010 it was 65, and in 2011 it expanded to its current 68.  And coaches are still screaming that is not enough.

That is the reason why the hypocrites and the NCAA has millions of reasons to look the other way about the manner in which “student-athletes” are treated. The suits -- Who are they trying to kid? These guys are semi pros, getting money under the table from both agents and sneaker companies.

The suits made a profit of $105 million in 2017. Television rights packages with CBS and Turner accounted for more than $800 million of its revenue, so do not expect Jim Nantz, Charles Barkley or their broadcast colleagues dispatched to the tournament sites over the next three weeks to harp on how college basketball isn’t perfect. The networks have agreed to pay $8.8 billion to be the mouthpiece of the Division I men’s basketball tournament through 2032.

That buys silence.

But it gives non-sports fans three weeks of excitement and passion.

 It’s always challenging during the three weeks of March Madness, with everyone giddy over Cinderella teams, picking their brackets, the Big Dance, diaper dandies and buzzer beaters.

Then the announcers try to make the kid who hit the buzzer beater the same as the kid playing the trumpet in the school’s band.

 I spoke with Jim Nantz Friday night. After catching up on family, I asked my longtime friend how they were going to handle the crap about the Feds and semi-pro programs. “It’s a studio show topic,” he said. “We might mention it once in a game, should it involve a coach whose team is on the court.”  Jim confided that he was more nervous about the UH-Wichita State game than usual. “Hard to believe, but in my entire career I have never called a game involving my alma mater.”

TEXANS

Even though the Texans need a tight end, they will not make an attempt to sign Jimmy Graham.  His productivity has declined along with lack of blocking. But they will open the checkbook and probably overpay for the Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, a 6-8, 320 pounder. Same with his teammate corner Malcom Butler...

Once free agency starts tomorrow at 3 p.m. it will be interesting to see where Kirk Cousins signs.  After that the rest of the quarterback dominoes will fall into place.

NFL  TRADES

Alief’s Michael Bennett being traded to Eagles adds more versatility for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.  It also puts pressure on the Giants, whose offensive line is like the Texans, to draft a tackle high...

Wade Phillips has become the Father Flannigan of coordinators. The trade for uber talented but at times knucklehead Marcus Peters  may put the kid in the Pro Bowl. That was followed by the Aquib Talib deal with the Broncos. It clears space for the Broncos to be a player for overrated Kirk Cousins...

Props to controversial corner Richard Sherman for cutting a free agent deal without an agent. He saved himself $210,000 on the guaranteed $7 million dollar first-year deal.  That will go higher if both he and the Niners achieve incentives. Why don’t more guys represent themselves? It’s not that complicated, especially with players being privy to all deals.

It perpetuates the “dumb jock” theory.

ASTROS  

Astros made the traditional White House visit.  Even though the First Tweeter (and in my mind a complete buffoon), showed how loosely he plays with the facts.

President Donald Trump once again showed his ignorance by referring to Game 7 ‘’as one of the greatest baseball games ever seen.”

You can’t make this stuff up!

A pair of the Astros did not make the trip.  Both Carlos Correa and Ken Giles had family obligations, according to the team.  Read into that whatever you want. They certainly have the right to make their individual silent protests. Call me a cynic but my guess is that like Carlos Beltran there was more to the story.

Right after the series, Beltran said skipping the White House has nothing to do with Trump. The veteran has been unhappy with the administration’s response to his native Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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