PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

January 11, 2014

West column: Johnson misses final cut for NFL Hall of Fame

PORT ARTHUR — It’s unlikely anybody breathed a bigger sigh of relief than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones when the 15 finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame were announced Thursday night. Jimmy Johnson, who was a semifinalist for the first time, didn’t make the final 15. Jethro, of course, would have looked even more petty than he already does over keeping Jimmy out of the Cowboys Ring of Honor, if the Port Arthur native had been a HOF finalist. Johnson, by the way, did indeed say on Fox Sports Southwest’s Icons of Coaching that Jones told him three years ago that there would be a spot for him in the Ring of Honor. But he didn’t say when. Jimmy, in subtle fashion, did a great job of making Jethro look like a football fool during the interview . . . It was certainly disappointing to see former Astro Craig Biggio come up two votes short in MLB’s Hall of Fame voting, a year after he’d been the leading vote getter but didn’t get the necessary percentage. Conventional wisdom says that Biggio will get in next year, but that’s not something you can take to the bank. The fact that some link Biggio to steroids, even though there seems to be no solid evidence, cost him votes this year and may be a factor for years to come . . .  What an unfortunate ending to a terrific 2013 season for Memorial ex Jamaal Charles. To be knocked out of the biggest game of the year with a concussion on the sixth play last week in Indianapolis was rotten luck. The good news is that Jamaal’s fine and will be ready for the Pro Bowl. The back-to-back AFC rushing champ is also one of three finalists  for the Fed Ex NFL Ground Player of the Year Award, along with the Eagles LeSean McCoy and the Bears Matt Forte. You can vote for Charles by going to NFL.com. It’s worth visiting the NFL Air and Ground site just to see the video highlights on Jamaal’s season.

What in Southeast Texas could possibly compare to a Mid-County Madness football game? How about a full-scale, full-pads game between former Nederland and Port Neches-Groves players? That’s what a California-based group called Gridiron Alumni is trying to get off the ground. The organization was founded in 2010 and has staged several alumni games around the country, with a secondary mission to raise money for schools and charities. This year they have targeted games between the top Texas schoolboy rivals. Naturally, Nederand-PNG is high on the list. Interested players are asked to register at www.gridironalumni.com, with home field going to the first school with 30 players signing up. Questions can be answered by calling Chris at (530) 410-5396 . . . Despite continuing fund-raising struggles, Houstonian Luke Leonard says he’s on track for a March 13 New York world premiere of his opera — Bum Phillips All-American. Tickets are already on sale for showings March 13-30 at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre in Manhattan. Adding credibility for Leonard’s project is interest from NFL Films in the form of a short promo  on the opera for the NFL Network, followed up by a 7-to-10 minute segment before the 2014 NFL season. Ideally, there will ultimately be a detailed NFL Films piece on the opera.  Leonard is  still hoping for Lone Star showings at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, but that will likely hinge on grants and additional funding. Details can be found at www.bumphillipsopera.com or www.monkparrots.org. You can find some really good stuff about Bum on both sites, as well as instructions on how to make a contribution . . . There were no Southeast Texans playing for Florida State’s BCS champions, nor North Dakota State’s FCS champs, but Memorial ex Terrell Clark Jr. will soon be sporting a championship ring. Clark, a junior, was a starting  linebacker for the Grand View (Iowa) Vikings team that won the NAIA title with a 35-23 victory over Cumberland.

Only time will tell how things are going to work out for Charlie Strong at Texas. What is for sure about the UT football opening is that it got nice raises for at least five other head coaches whose names were mentioned as possible hires. Cashing bigger paychecks thanks to the looming specter of a UT poaching will be Alabama’s Nick Saban, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Baylor’s Art Briles and UCLA’s Jim Mora Jr. All were in line for a bump in pay, but the numbers jumped because of Texas . . . Will there be any coach in college football with more to prove next year than Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin? Sumlin became rich and famous by riding Johnny Manziel’s Superman cape the past two seasons. Given that Johnny Football repeatedly bailed out one of the worst defenses in school history, his head coach probably doesn’t even like to think how different things could have been if Mack Brown hadn’t turned up his nose at Manziel. The Aggies would have been fortunate to win four or five games in 2012 and 2013 year, and the move to the SEC could have been a disaster. For now, A&M fans are enamored with what Sumlin has accomplished. But it will be a new ball game next year without Manziel . . .  The Manziel NFL draft speculation, by the way, should be wildly entertaining for the next three months. Although ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper rates him the third best quarterback in the draft, and doesn’t have him in the top 10 on his big board, some think he’s almost certain to go in the top five. Early word is that both Jacksonville at No. 3 and Cleveland at No. 4 are eager to take Manziel, if the Texans don’t. And they won’t.

For those who may have missed it, Port Arthur Lincoln ex Stephen Jackson was waived this past week by the LA Clippers. Jackson had played in nine of 15 games since being signed by the Clippers and had averaged only 1.7 points and 1.1 rebounds while averaging 11.9 minutes of playing time. Clippers coach Doc Rivers, however, insisted that neither the low numbers nor attitude had anything to do with Jackson’s release. Rivers cited the need to a sign a guard after playmaker Clippers playmaker Chris Paul went on the injury list for 3-to-5 weeks. So are the Dallas Mavericks the next stop for Jackson ? ? ? Most Southeast Texans, I’m betting, would have passed on an offer to shiver in Green Bay’s Lambeau Field for last week’s Packers-49ers game. Not 24-year old Madelyn Messina, the daughter of Beaumonter Vincent Messina, who is a long-time Packers fan. Melissa, who works for the San Antonio Spurs, got a call from a girlfriend on New Year’s Eve asking her to go. She didn’t hesitate in saying yes and later told her dad the below zero wind chill really wasn’t that bad . . . Tiger Woods, as everybody knows, took a severe financial hit after multiple indiscretions five years ago that led to a  divorce. Based on figures in the February issue of Golf Digest, he’s rebounded rather well. According to the story, Woods’ bottom line for 2013 was $83 million, with $71 million of that from off-course earnings. Next closest golfer to him in 2013 revenue — Phil Mickelson — made $31 million less. Since roaring on to the PGA Tour in 1996, Woods’ earnings have been a staggering $1.3 billion, with $1.16 billion from endorsements. No other athlete is even close.

So who was the best of the best — the No. 1 team out of the past 16 BCS champions. Athlon Sports, which is highly credible when it comes to college football, crunched the numbers and determined that Larry Coker’s 2001 Miami Hurricanes deserved to be at the top of the heap. Among the reasons cited was a talent level that saw 16 players off the 2001 team eventually taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Rounding out Athlon’s BCS top 5, in order,  were Pete Carroll’s  2004 USC champs, the Vince Young-led Texas team of 2005, Nick Saban’s 2009 Alabama club that beat Texas in the championship game and the 2013 Florida State team . . . No surprise here that the SEC, with a 7-3 record, had the highest winning percentage among BCS leagues in bowl games or that the always overrated Big Ten at 2-5 did the worst. It is interesting to note, however, that the SEC needed wins from former Big 12 teams Missouri and Texas A&M to nudge past the Pac-12’s 6-3 bowl record.  What the SEC won’t be bragging about is its 0-2 record in BCS bowls, with both Alabama and Auburn losing . . . Most embarrassing injury suffered in a bowl game had to be the one sustained by Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Fisher pulled a hamstring running down the sidelines to try and get an official’s attention on a horse-collar tackle on Seminole receiver Rashad Green late in the game. Not only did Fisher pull a hamstring, he didn’t get the call.

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

  

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Bob West