The good, bad and ugly

NFL Week 13 report: Garappolo era begins in San Francisco; Saints keep marching

Jimmy Garappolo is off to a good start. San Francisco 49ers

Another exciting week of football in the books! Week thirteen saw some of some endings, beginnings, and continuations of eras. The action was as expected with late season NFL football.

The Good

-The Jimmy Garoppolo era is under way in San Francisco as they beat the Chicago Bears 15-14 Sunday. The 49ers ended the swirling questions about when and where the former New England Patriots backup quarterback would end up by trading for him Oct. 30. Speculation out of 49ers camp was that Garoppolo wasn’t going to start this year. That changed Sunday when he not only made his first start as a 49er, but also collected his first win.

-The New Orleans Saints picked up their ninth win on the season beating the Carolina Panthers 31-21 Sunday. Once again, their rookie running back Alvin Kamara was a driving force totaling 60 yards and two touchdowns rushing, as well as 66 yards receiving. He once transferred from the University of Alabama because of a crowded backfield. Now he’s an emerging star on an NFC playoff bound team.

-Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made the league MVP debate a bit more crowded Sunday night as he outdueled Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in a 24-10 victory. Wilson is now directly responsible for 29 of the Seahawks’ 30 touchdowns on the season. That stat alone puts him squarely in the driver’s seat in my opinion.

The Bad

-The Buffalo Bills were beaten by the New England Patriots 23-3 Sunday. Despite their rollercoaster of a season, they came into Sunday’s game still within striking distance of a playoff spot. The loss puts them on the outside looking in of a murky AFC playoff picture. But perhaps most damaging to their chances was the injury to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has a bruised patellar tendon and is listed as day to day. For an athletic quarterback like Taylor, a knee injury like this can limit his mobility, as well as take some heat of his passes because he won’t be able to plant and throw comfortably. The last thing Bills fans want is another Nathan Peterman performance.

-The Kansas City Chiefs fell to the New York Jets 38-31 Sunday. The once promising Chiefs season is now in jeopardy as they’re hanging on like that loose tooth your kid refuses to have plucked from his/her mouth despite being able to twist it around. While they are still leading the awful AFC West by an eyelash, they’re closer to imploding. Fans are calling for the Patrick Mahomes era to start and the team is showing signs of frustration on the field as their play declines. Losing six of your last seven after seeming like the team to beat will do that.

-The Factory of Sadness continued in Cleveland as the perpetually woeful Browns lost…again. After going down 19-10 to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Browns are now 0-12 on the season. They have pieces in place to build a la the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, but will ownership give the front office a chance to do so? They’re headed for another No. 1 overall pick and own the 4-8 Houston Texans’ first and second rounders. Couple that with what they’ve drafted recently and things could be finally looking up for the Dawg Pound.

The Ugly

-New York Giants now former head coach Ben McAdoo decided this was the week to bench quarterback Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith under the guise that the team needed to see what it has. He also said this was about the future and what’s best for the team. Manning’s consecutive starts streak ended at 210 Sunday while the team lost 24-17 to the Oakland Raiders. McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were both fired Monday. I imagine handling this situation poorly, and bumbling the building of a proud franchise led to their exits.

- Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier was carted off the field Monday night after suffering a spinal contusion. The injury came as he hit Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Josh Malone. Shazier moved his arms after the hit, but didn’t appear to have moved his legs. He was taken to the hospital for observations where he will stay.

-The Washington Redskins turned the ball over four times in a 38-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions and fumbled twice (one was recovered by running back Samaje Perine). For a guy who’s been banging the table for a long-term contract, he played more like the fourth round draft pick he was coming out of Michigan State as opposed to the guy who was worth a second franchise tag.

Around the league: Perhaps one of the most exciting plays of the weekend came when Bears rookie Tarik Cohen returned a punt 347 yards for a touchdown. So maybe it’ll go down as 61 yards officially, but with all the running around he did, it seemed closer to 347…Jets head coach Todd Bowles deserves some coach of the year consideration. Why you ask? The front office stripped the team down and the team was expected to compete for the first overall draft pick. Instead, they’re the 5-7 team no one wants to see down the stretch..Sure the Garoppolo era is underway in San Francisco, but it took five field goals to beat the Bears...Sure the Seahawks won, but Wentz still torched their defense for 348 yards.. Sure Cousins had a bad game against the Cowboys, but he’s still completing 66% of his passes for 3,289 yards with 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions on the season. I say all that to say this: no matter how bad (or good) a situation looks in the NFL, there’s always the other side of the pillow.  

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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