Bradley’s Buzz: College football war of words nothing new

JUNE 3 - Johnny Majors was a Hall of Fame coach who over 29 years compiled a 185-137-10 record at Iowa State, Pitt and Tennessee. A former Vols tailback, he was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, losing to Notre Dame's Paul Hornung. He won a national title with Pittsburgh in 1976 before coaching the Volunteers over 16 seasons, winning three SEC titles - the last in 1990. He was 85.

Combined ShapeCaption
JUNE 3 - Johnny Majors was a Hall of Fame coach who over 29 years compiled a 185-137-10 record at Iowa State, Pitt and Tennessee. A former Vols tailback, he was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, losing to Notre Dame's Paul Hornung. He won a national title with Pittsburgh in 1976 before coaching the Volunteers over 16 seasons, winning three SEC titles - the last in 1990. He was 85.

This correspondent has covered many things. He hasn’t covered the SEC spring meetings. He won’t be covering them next week, either, though he will monitor events. It’s possible Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher will put aside recent grievances and pose for all-is-forgiven photos in Destin, Fla. It’s also possible they won’t.

We flash back to a coaches’ gathering in the summer of 1991. Steve Spurrier was still miffed that his first Florida team wasn’t allowed to claim the 1990 SEC title. (He’d inherited NCAA sanctions from the Galen Hall era.) Tennessee, which finished 5-1-1 in league play to the Gators’ 6-1, was recognized as champ.

The coaches gathered in a game room for fun and fellowship. Tennessee coach Johnny Majors began to play ping-pong. Spurrier saw this as an opportunity to do his favorite thing – namely, needle somebody. “I can’t believe you have the nerve to say you won the SEC,” he said, or words to that effect.

“Yeah?” Majors said. “Well, we whipped your butt.”

(True. The Vols beat Florida 45-3 in Knoxville.)

Matters escalated/deteriorated. Majors, who wasn’t a guy you’d want angry with you, made a move toward Spurrier. Other coaches – one of whom related this tale with great glee – moved to separate the debaters. Only later would the peacemakers realize they’d deprived themselves of the chance to watch one SEC mentor wail on another. This made them sad.

Majors died in 2020. Spurrier still claims that 1990 SEC title. Just ask him.

***

About the #404Takeover in Year 4

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins instructs during the 2022 Spring Game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday, March 17, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins instructs during the 2022 Spring Game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday, March 17, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia Tech's head coach Geoff Collins instructs during the 2022 Spring Game at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday, March 17, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

BetOnline has set the over/under for the Power 5 leagues. Georgia Tech’s win total is 4-1/2 games. The good news: Five teams have been slotted lower – Arizona, Colorado, Duke, Kansas and Vanderbilt. The bad news: Counting Notre Dame, the Power 5 includes 65 teams.

It’s summer, or thereabouts, so let’s look on the bright side. Winning four games would mark an achievement for Geoff Collins. His first three Tech teams were 3-9, 3-7 and 3-9. Quarterback Jeff Sims returns. Running back Jahmyr Gibbs, whom Collins deemed “one of the best players in college football,” transferred to Alabama.

Collins insists Year 4 will feature “less branding” and “more coaching,” which – depending on your view – mightn’t be a great thing. Take away the razzmatazz and there hasn’t been much to see/hear.

Collins dumped his offensive coordinator, his co-defensive coordinator and his secondary coach. Collins also reminds us, via esteemed colleague Ken Sugiura, that “throughout my career I’ve been tabbed by others as one of the elite defensive coaches in college football.” Such expertise enabled his Yellow Jackets to finish 117th in total defense last season.

The team that finished second in total defense last season – Georgia – has an over/under of 10-1/2 wins. That’s tied with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State for the top mark.

I’d take the over on the Bulldogs. I wouldn’t on Tech.

***

About the NBA’s best player, whoever he is

I’m old enough to recall when the discussion over the world’s best player began and ended with LeBron James. That lasted so long that, even now, it’s hard to imagine he’s not part of the debate. But he’s 37, and he hasn’t made the All-NBA first team since 2020. He has made it once since 2018.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous first-teamer on the 2022 All-NBA squad. Nikola Jokic has taken consecutive MVPs. Luka Doncic will be an MVP soon. Ja Morant didn’t make the first team this time, but he will next year. Joel Embiid somehow missed the first team, though he finished second to Jokic in MVP voting. Kevin Durant can score 50 on demand, but he has worked 87 regular-season games since 2019.

Jayson Tatum ranked seventh in VORP (value over replacement player) – one spot behind LeBron, one ahead of Trae Young. Still, Tatum was first team All-NBA. He has had playoff games of 46 and 39 points. He has had two of 10 points. His Celtics are one game from the NBA finals. With the Celtics being so deep, they don’t need Tatum to be LeBron every night. There are, however, games when he looks the part.

Tatum is 24. I wouldn’t pick him above Giannis or Jokic or Embiid yet. I can imagine a day when I might.

***

About the Falcons’ offseason

Combined ShapeCaption
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan speaks during a news conference at the NFL team's practice facility in Indianapolis, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. After 14 seasons in Atlanta, Ryan joined his new team Tuesday, March 22, 2022. In his first public comments, he thanked the Falcons for the success and memories he built during his tenure as the best starting quarterback in franchise history. But the soon-to-be 37-year-old Ryan also embraces his role with Indy. The Colts believe Ryan can make them a Super Bowl contender by stabilizing a position that has had six different opening day starters over the past six seasons. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Credit: AP

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan speaks during a news conference at the NFL team's practice facility in Indianapolis, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. After 14 seasons in Atlanta, Ryan joined his new team Tuesday, March 22, 2022. In his first public comments, he thanked the Falcons for the success and memories he built during his tenure as the best starting quarterback in franchise history. But the soon-to-be 37-year-old Ryan also embraces his role with Indy. The Colts believe Ryan can make them a Super Bowl contender by stabilizing a position that has had six different opening day starters over the past six seasons. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan speaks during a news conference at the NFL team's practice facility in Indianapolis, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. After 14 seasons in Atlanta, Ryan joined his new team Tuesday, March 22, 2022. In his first public comments, he thanked the Falcons for the success and memories he built during his tenure as the best starting quarterback in franchise history. But the soon-to-be 37-year-old Ryan also embraces his role with Indy. The Colts believe Ryan can make them a Super Bowl contender by stabilizing a position that has had six different opening day starters over the past six seasons. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Bill Barnwell of ESPN believes the Flowery Branch crew had the NFL’s second-worst offseason. He criticizes their pursuit of Deshaun Watson – “never made an iota of sense,” he writes – and the resulting unloading of Matt Ryan. What, Barnwell asks, could they have done differently? “Torn everything up and started over,” he writes.

In a ham-handed way, they’ve done that. Barnwell believes they should have shed Grady Jarrett to clear cap space, though they did redo his contract. (On the other hand, it’s not as if Jarrett is apt to be the difference between 4-13 and 9-8.)

It’s unclear whether they’d have traded Ryan had Watson not become available after a Houston grand jury brought no charges for sexual harassment and abuse. To these eyes, keeping Ryan would have been the greater mistake. At least now, there’s a measure of clarity. They’re rebuilding. One of these days they might bring themselves to speak the R-word aloud.

And who, you ask, did Barnwell rank as having had the worst offseason? Seattle, which traded Russell Wilson.

Note: It being Memorial Day, there won’t be a newsletter Monday. Normal operations will resume next Friday. Stay safe, dear readers.