Anyway, here is the first column. It starts as an analogy between the Falcons' and Georgia's seasons before devolving into complaining about Sean Payton and Drew Brees:
Leaving aside the fairness question, I like the idea of a rematch on a purely emotional level. Sean Payton and Drew Brees rubbed the Falcons' collective nose in the mud on Monday night. For those of you who were smart enough to abandon ship before I did, the Saints took the ball over on the Falcons 33 with 5:08 to go and with a 38-16 lead. Most coaches would do one of two things at this stage: (1) leave the starters in and run the ball to kill the clock; or (2) put in the back-ups and run the regular offense to take a look at the lower parts of the depth chart in game conditions.* Instead, Payton chose option (3): leave Brees in the game to throw five more passes so he could break Marino's record on a meaningless drive against a beaten opponent. Though the Hindus speak of karma, Brees remained upright to the end and was even able to deliver a nauseating show of false modesty after the game, claiming in his usual aw shucks manner that he didn't know how many yards he needed to get for the record. Uh, Drew, maybe the fact that you were throwing on just about every down on a drive that started on the 33 should have clued you in that you needed fewer than 33 yards.
* - This latter approach would have made the most sense for the Saints because they are one Brees injury from having to play Chase Daniel. Daniel has thrown all of five passes in his NFL career, two this year and three last year. In contrast, Brees has thrown 622 pass attempts this season, 120 more than Aaron Rodgers and 58 more than Dan Marino threw during his fabled 1984 season. Not that you would know this from the Breesapalooza that Tirico, Jaworski, and Gruden unleashed on Monday night, but Brees broke the single season passing record in no small part because he has a ridiculous number of attempts. One reason why he has a ridiculous number of attempts is that Payton apparently leaves him in the game to keep chucking the ball at the end of blowouts. One counter: no Patriot other than Tom Brady has thrown a pass all year and Matt Flynn has thrown all of five passes for the Packers, so maybe the standard in the NFL is for the back-up either to stay on the bench or to refrain from throwing when he comes in.And speaking of the coverage of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed Mike Pereira's comprehensive takedown of Jon Gruden's criticism of the defenseless receiver call on Monday night. During the game, I was annoyed that the Falcons were called for a hit on a defenseless receiver, but the Saints were not on at least two occasions. In retrospect, my annoyance resulted from Gruden not knowing the rule. As it turns out, the defenseless receiver call is limited to very specific instances. The name implies a broader penalty, but having a "hitting the head of or spearing a defenseless receiver" is a bit of a mouthful. You would think that knowing the rules would be a requirement for an announcer, but apparently not for Gruden.
Also, I am wondering why ESPN never thought to have someone like Pereira provide analysis of close calls. This is very common in other countries. For instance, in Brazil, coverage of futebol matches usually comes with input from former refs on contentious decisions. Former refs are also a prominent part of the coverage of footie in England. Given how much attention is paid to ostensibly bad calls, you would think that the Worldwide Leader would provide an authoritative voice. Instead, we got Craig James.