Friday morning QB at the Job Fair
By Chris Connelly
Special to Page 2

We at the Unscripted Job Fair were planning on sharing with you this week how Gary Sheffield might not be the ideal choice for Atlanta after all, and what the buttoned-down law firm of Glavine, Maddux, and Smoltz, Esq. may do if Gary pulls any of the stuff we keep reading anonymous Dodgers accusing him of doing ... but instead this week we've seen a major boom across the board in our placement business, and not just because of that unpleasantness at Enron.

Tom Brady, Charles Woodson
Charles Woodson got ripped off, but the Raiders should have made better decisions before the "incomplete pass."
We got our man Nick Bakay on the cover of Sports Illustrated! (albeit in his alter ego from "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," which I suppose means Melissa won't get the swimsuit issue cover. Damn.)

Forget about the curse of SI; consider the curse of Bakay. We have in our possession a 1996 ESPN publication entitled "Who to Watch: 21 Who'll Rule the 21st Century." Guess what three pro athletes are jokingly -- jokingly! -- predicted to fall on hard times or scandal in the illustration to Nick's back-of-the-book humor piece? Penny Hardaway; Ken Griffey Jr.; and Michael Jordan. It's the curse of Bakay, we tell you!

One faux-illo purports to show MJ in a compromising position with his "Space Jam" costar, Bugs Bunny. Bugs might be the only sentient being on the planet with whom this week's tabloids didn't intimately link Michael. Eager for another perspective? We recommend Lois Romano's piece on Juanita Jordan in Thursday's Washington Post. Verrrrry interesting.

Anyway ... with the Raiders losing to the Patriots in the Buds-of-Bon-Jovi Bowl, apparently we need to find a new job for Jon Gruden. Go figure. We're all for freedom of employment here, but telling el jefe Al Davis that you'll be leaving the Raiders in a year is like telling Suge Knight you've decided to leave Death Row Records, and thanks for everything, really. Another coaching gig? We'll be lucky if we can keep Jon out of the Witness Protection Program. (Especially if the U.S. Marshals are still trying to relocate replay official Rex Stuart.)

We love Jon Gruden ... unlike many of the coaches looking for another chance, he's young and energetic, and his best days figure to be ahead of him. But somebody should have given him a watch for Christmas.

Yes, the Raiders got a nuclear screwing on that tuck-and-cover fumble call. No question whatsoever. But what was going on with the Raiders offensively as the clock ran down? Remember: if you have a touchdown-or-less lead at the end of the game, there's only one thing that really matters:

Possession of the ball.

Not running time off the clock. Not forcing the other team to use its time outs. Not even scoring! Maintaining possession of the ball.

Go back to the end of the game, before Charles Woodson got ripped off. Oakland ball, third and 1 at their 44, 2:24 remaining, and the Patriots have one time out left. A first down here means the Patriots won't get the ball back until there's less than a minute left ... if at all.

  If Gannon had tried throwing for the first down, what's the worst that could have happened for the Raiders? Incomplete pass, fourth down ... and the Patriots would have gotten the ball back with 2:06 left on the clock -- and one time out remaining. So what, right?  
  

Bear in mind: Gruden has at his disposal an MVP-candidate quarterback in the mobile Rich Gannon; two of the greatest receivers in the history of the game in Tim Brown and Jerry Rice; and a snow-covered field that clearly favors a quick wideout more than a reacting DB. (Soon the Patriots would prove how fail-safe the short passing game could be in these conditions.)

Yet Gruden seems more concerned with keeping the clock moving than with picking up the first down: He runs Zack Crockett into the line, and it's no go. The Pats stop Crockett, they call time out, and after a punt, they get the ball back with 2:06 left on the clock ... plenty of time, as it turns out, since there are still 27 seconds left when Adam Vinatieri kicks his tying field goal.

If Gannon had tried throwing for the first down, what's the worst that could have happened for the Raiders? Incomplete pass, fourth down ... and the Patriots would have gotten the ball back with 2:06 left on the clock -- and one time out remaining. So what, right?

Why sacrifice an excellent chance at putting the game away with your passing game -- especially when you've got three of the savviest, most experienced skill-position players in football -- just to force the Pats to burn a time out that, as events would prove, they didn't need anyway?

We're not even mentioning the amazing Raiders decision to take a knee at their 35 with 22 seconds left and two time outs. Hey, you pay Janikowski all that money because whatever his off-the-field issues, he does have a Grade A leg. How can you go after a guy like that in the draft, and not try to give him a chance to win the game in a situation just like this one? Again, with the aforementioned Gannon, Rice and Brown ready and waiting. Most unusual.

All that said, Jon Gruden really would be terrific for Tampa Bay -- upbeat, emphatic, revivifying. Though if the Bucs really wanted to out-Parcells Parcells, they'd try taking a totally unexpected run at ...

... Don Shula. How cool would that be? You know he'd love the call, and the challenge. Think he might get that offense to perk up a little bit? Think of the Floridian ramifications. Think of that jawline back on the sideline!

Yes, it's true: we do go on a bit here at the Job Fair. Enjoy this Sunday, the Third Best Day of Sports There Is, and we'll check in with you next time from Baron Davis' home-to-be: New Orleans.

Chris Connelly writes a weekly column for Page 2. "Unscripted with Chris Connelly," the TV show airs at 5 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday on ESPN.





DEAR JON

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