Welcome everyone to another edition of ‘Outside the Hashes.’ I hope everyone has gotten off to a strong start in 2020 and continue to stay motivated to keep up with your resolutions.
A lot has happened since the last column as the holidays really clogged up my schedule. But I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities that I received at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.
On to the gridiron, the NFL playoffs are in the divisional round and we await the conclusion of the college football season with Clemson facing off against Louisiana State University on January 13th for the National Championship. If you’re a football fan, you are smiling ear to ear at this time of year because their will be plenty of exciting games to watch in the next few weeks.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Pointing Spider-Man Meme
One outcome is for sure going to happen by the end of the night on January 13th. A program with the mascot ‘Tigers’ and a home stadium named ‘Death Valley’ will win the College Football Championship.
Both Clemson and LSU are very similar in those two regards but have had completely different journeys to this Championship game.
LSU started off the decade in 2010 led by head coach Les Miles who had the Tigers 51-15 in his first five seasons including a BCS National Championship victory in 2007. The 2010s got off to a similar start as the Tigers remained a defensive powerhouse.
In 2011, LSU finished the regular season undefeated but lost to a controversial Alabama team (Alabama didn’t win their conference and lost to LSU already that season) in the National championship. Many considered that to be a poor and conservative coaching effort by Miles and after that game, the ‘Mad Hatter’ never looked the same.
After 2013, Miles and the Tigers put together three consecutive seasons of 9 or fewer wins, which may have been fine for lesser programs but wasn’t up to par with the LSU standard. The problem wasn’t the lack of talent either as the Tigers continued to put out dozens of NFL players year after year. It was the conservative and outdated playcalling by Miles that held the program back.
After a 2-2 start in 2016, Miles was replaced by interim head coach Ed Orgeron. Coach Orgeron finished that season 6-2, was hired officially as the head coach and is 39-9 since taking over with one big game remaining in the 2019-20 season.
‘Coach O’ has built the LSU program back to being the SEC powerhouse it was for much of the 21st century thanks to great recruiting. His biggest accomplishment of all, however, may be luring quarterback Joe Burrow to transfer from Ohio State in the spring of 2018.
While LSU always had star players on offense and defense the past two decades, they never had that game-changer quarterback that could take the Tigers over the top. Now, the 2019 Heisman award winner has the Tigers in the driver’s seat to win their first National championship since 2007.
For Clemson, 2010 marked the second year with head coach Dabo Swinney at the head of the program. Before Swinney, the Tigers were a program that was bowl eligible more times than not but never made a whole bunch of noise as far as contending for a national championship.
However, that would soon change as standout players like Tahj Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington among others put the Tigers in the national spotlight with back to back 11-2 seasons. In 2014, true freshman Deshaun Watson took over the starting quarterback position and took Clemson to a whole another level.
As a sophomore, he led the Tigers to a 14-1 record with that one loss being in the national championship game to Alabama. Clemson was no longer a team that was to be slept on, as Watson and Swinney had this program at the very summit of the College Football landscape.
In his junior year, Watson led the Tigers to another 14-1 season, however, this time Watson led the Tigers to a victory over Alabama in the National Championship. Watson skipped his senior season to play in the NFL but even with a new quarterback in Kelly Bryant, the Tigers found themselves once again playing Alabama in the College Football Playoffs; this time losing in the semi-finals 24-6.
At this point, the Tigers were turning out players to the NFL every year but like any good program, coach Swinney and his staff continued to reload the Clemson program with talented athletes.
Perhaps their greatest recruit ever came in the 2018 season, that being quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The true freshman not only led the Tigers to a perfect 15-0 record, but he put on a clinic against the Crimson Tide in the 2019 National Championship with 347 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 44-16 victory.
Of the two teams facing off in this year’s championship, one will look to remain at the top of the league while the other is looking to claw their way back to the summit. Regardless of who wins come Monday, both teams will look to carry this year’s success into the next decade of football.
When the Saints Go Marching – Out the Playoffs
Call it karma. Call it bad luck. Call it fitting. Call it whatever the heck you want to but the New Orleans Saints found themselves on the wrong end of another heartbreaking playoff game.
From the ‘Minnesota Miracle,’ to Marshawn Lynch’s ‘Beastquake’ run, last year’s no pass interference call against the Los Angeles Rams all building up to this year’s ‘Fade to Kyle Rudolph’ ending the Saints playoff run in the NFC Wild Card. Saints fans may be distraught by such continuous misfortune but don’t feel bad for them.
May I remind you that this is the same Saints team with the same head coach in Sean Payton that got caught in a bounty scandal at the beginning of the 2010s. Yes, that’s right. Coach Payton and then-defensive coordinator Greg Williams were caught paying their players bonuses for injuring players on the opposing team.
From 2009 – the year in which they went on to win the Super Bowl – through 2011, the Saints were involved in “bounty gate” which involved up to 27 players on their roster. A series of suspensions were handed out by commissioner Roger Goodell in 2012 after a lengthy investigation but those may not have been the worst punishments of all.
After a decade full of heartbreaking playoff losses and unfortunate events, this Saints team is still feeling their karma nearly a decade later.
One might argue that plenty of teams do this, but don’t get caught. While I believe this may be true at lower levels of football, I highly doubt with all the technology and people around an NFL organization that something like that would fly under the radar.
Heck, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft can’t even go to a massage parlor without it becoming a national headline.
Moral of the story: don’t feel bad for the Saints or Saints fans.
As for the NFC playoff picture, do NOT sleep on the Minnesota Vikings making a far playoff run all the way to the Super Bowl. The Vikings defense held the Saints to 20 points, 4 of 11 on third downs and forced two turnovers, the first time the Saints had committed multiple turnovers in a game all year.
Running back Dalvin Cook controlled the tempo offensively rushing for 98 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Kirk Cousins did not turn the ball over and made three big throws in the Vikings touchdown winning drive.
With that recipe, the Vikings have the potential to upset the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round and whomever they play in the conference championship. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
A Look Back at 2019
As most of you know, I am a huge fan of Hip Hop. Before I end this piece I’d like to share some of the more memorable songs I enjoyed in 2019. Hopefully, these are songs or artists you never heard of and can add this to your library.
Let Go – Aaron May
Silent Ride – Boogie
Dream$ – Casey Veggies
The Ceiling – Casey Veggies
Under the Sun – J Cole, Lute and DaBaby
LamboTruck – Cozz, Reason and Childish Major
Proud of U – Earthgang feat Young Thug
Stuck – Earthgang feat Arin Ray
Five Hundred Dollar Candles – The Game feat Dom Kennedy
One Life – The Game feat J. Stone and Masego
Family and Loyalty – Gang Starr feat J Cole
Iman – Rapsody feat SiR and JID
Sojourner – Rapsody feat J Cole
Afeni – Rapsody feat PJ Morton
Flick it Up – Reason feat Ab-Soul
CrasH – ScHoolboy Q
Cold Game – Villain Park
Cliche – Wale feat Ari Lennox and Boogie
BGM – Wale
Family Matters – YBN Cordae
Lost & Found – YBN Cordae
We Gon Make It – YBN Cordae feat Meek Mill