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Sports

November 23, 2013

West column: Jimmy Johnson gets boost toward Hall of Fame

PORT ARTHUR —  Though he’s always been considered a long-shot to be voted into the NFL Hall of Fame, due to being in the league only nine years, Jimmy Johnson cleared a major hurdle last week when he made the selection committee’s cut from 125 nominees to one of 25 semifinalists for the first time. It surely helped JJ that one of the most influential NFL media types — Sports Illustrated’s Peter King — went to bat for him a couple of weeks ago. King compared Johnson’s impact on the game in a brief period to that of former Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers, who is in the Hall of Fame despite playing in only 68 games in seven injury-riddled seasons. Wrote King: “Did any coach have a quicker impact on the game in recent history than Johnson, both in winning and in trends? He came into the league with a bad Dallas team in 1989 and was determined to do it his way — from stocking his defense with smaller, faster players instead of bigger ones, to bringing the Cover 2 from the University of Miami, to working the draft the way he recruited players at Miami — scouting the college teams postseason with his coaching staff instead of leaving it all to the scouts. He coached two Super Bowl winners in five seasons, then left a Super Bowl team behind and went on to make three playoff appearances in four seasons in Miami.” King went on to say Jimmy will probably never make it, but that he deserves to have his case heard in front of the 46 voters who make the final call. For that to happen, he’ll have to survive another cut, and go from one of 25 semifinalists to one of 15 finalists. The good news is that Jerry Jones has nothing to do with the process. He can only keep the pride of Port Arthur out of the Cowboys Ring of Honor, conveniently ignoring the fact Jimmy won as many Super Bowls in five years as Tom Landry did in 29.

One of my all-time best sources says Ray Woodard probably coached his last football game at Lamar University Saturday night, even if the Cardinals managed to upset McNeese State. The source cited lack of attendance, especially among LU students, as well as not winning enough games. Woodard, who was 18-27 entering the McNeese game, took on the challenge of bringing Cardinals football back after the program had been shut down in 1989. According to the source, an annoucement on the change could come as early as today. If Lamar did knock off McNeese — this column is being written well before kickoff — meaning the Cardinals finished with back-to-back wins, pulling the trigger might be awkward. Replacing Woodard could also have financial ramifications, since two of the programs major donors have been strongly in his corner . . . With two third place finishes worth $718,000 in the fall portion of the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule, PN-G ex Chris Stroud reached a monumental milestone. Stroud pushed his official PGA career earnings to $7,163,153, which is significant because it moves him past Bruce Lietzke as the all-time leading PGA Tour money winner from Southeast Texas. There are, of course, some extenuating circumstances, namely the difference in the size of the purses. Lietzke, in 28 PGA Tour years, won 13 times and had a whopping 129 top 10s, yet his career bottom line was “only” $6,495,285. Lietzke’s best year financially was 1992 when one win and 7 top 10s made him $703,805 or $15,000 less than Stroud earned this fall. No need to feel sorry for Lietzke because of timing, though. In a little over a decade on the Champions Tour, he won seven times and pocketed another $7,416,223.

 Wade Phillips has always defined class, and his high-road approach in dealing with the parting pouting of over-the-hill defensive back Ed Reed underscores the fact. In a disastrous season for the Texans, one of the worst calls of all was management’s decision to sign a player that his long-time employer — the Baltimore Ravens —  didn’t want anything to do with. Not only was the level of play of the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer in decline, but Reed wasn’t healthy and he was coming off a season when he’d reportedly tried to undermine Ravens head coach Jim Harbaugh. With owner Bob McNair and GM Rick Smith being the aggressors, the Texans covered their eyes to reality, blew $15 million and created a major headache for Phillips in trying to work with a guy who was a bad fit for his defensive scheme . . . Jerry Jones delivered an early Christmas present to the growing legion of Cowboys haters out there. Jethro, on his Dallas radio show Friday, gave himself a vote of confidence for the job he’s been doing as the Cowboys’ GM and said he plans on remaining in his current position for the  next 15 or 20 years. Isn’t this the same guy who told NBC’s Bob Costas on Nov. 12, 2012, that he should have been fired as GM for the Cowboys’ lack of success? On the heels of Thursday’s endorsement of his .500 coach, Jason Garrett, and saying he’ll be back in 2014, this is just one more example of an overblown ego throwing a chop block on creeping senility. You can check out today’s last word on page 1B for Jones’ exact thoughts . . . Tough game for Jamaal Charles last Sunday night in Denver, but the good news is that the all around stellar play of the Memorial ex this season has not gone unnoticed. In the first wave of Pro Bowl results announced last week, only Peyton Manning (654,309) and Drew Brees (540,036) had more votes than Charles’ (453,761).

Following the behind-the-scenes machinations of the ongoing Mack Brown-Nick Saban saga has been one of the most fascinating glimpses into big-time college sports I’ve ever encountered. Latest eye-opener, as reported by Jesus Shuttlesworth on Inside Texas, involved in-house message-board and website monitoring, how it’s used to push AD Deloss Dodds’ agenda and how one of Dodds’ messengers managed to tick off Bill Hicks. Bill, for those who don’t know him, has Port Arthur ties, is the brother of past UT regent Tom Hicks and current UT regent Steve Hicks, is an occasional golf companion of this writer and a guy who is rightfully incensed by how one of his private postings about past and present UT coaching situations has been handled. Wow! You couldn’t make this stuff up . . . As far as Mack Brown’s successor is concerned, the only way it’s apparently not going to be Nick Saban is if something happens from the UT end to tick Saban off. Mounting circumstantial evidence from Saban’s wife having been house hunting in Austin, to the huge dollars Texas can offer being a factor because of Saban investments gone sour, to new AD Steve Patterson’s friendship with Saban, to the fact there is no viable alternative candidate being mentioned, paint a pretty convincing picture of where things are headed once Brown decides how he wants to go out . . . Most appealing thing to me about the final BCS championship game is the probability that Ohio State is going to finish undefeated and wind up on the outside looking in at an Alabama-Florida State title game. It’s only right that such a sorry system of determining a national champion be remembered for screwing over an undefeated team. On top of that, I can’t think of a program more deserving of being screwed over than Ohio State.  

Don’t think I’ve ever seen more disgusting fan behavior than the situation in Houston last week after Texans’ coach Gary Kubiak replaced struggling Case Keenum with Matt Schaub. Booing was so loud and so sustained that Schaub had to run plays using a silent count, like a team has to do on the road in a hostile environment. I get that Texans fans are fed up with Schaub, and didn’t want to see him in the game, but the reaction was way over the top. So was the knee-jerk response Houston sports talk hosts who said Kubiak should have been fired on the spot and who didn’t seem to understand it’s still about winning. Kubiak put Schaub in because of problems Keenum was having handling Oakland’s blitz, and because he felt Schaub gave the Texans the best chance of coming back to win. He wound up getting them within a yard of doing just that, something which would have probably been greeted with more boos . . . Stumbled across an interesting and long-forgotten fact in a story last week assessing Johnny Manziel’s chances of winning a second Heisman Trophy. Not that it had anything to do with Manziel, or any of the other probable finalists — Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron — but the writer mentioned that only one player off a losing team has ever won the Heisman. The 1956 Heisman was “given” to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung, despite the Fighting Irish being 2-8. I was 12 at the time and smart enough to figure out that Notre Dame was the only school in the country where the name on the jersey allowed could override the accomplishments of more deserving player and teams. Other than Missouri, since that day, my favorite college team ever since has been whoever happens to be playing that school from South Bend. I hope my late friend, Christie Flanagan, understands.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net.

  

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