Some bold predictions for the return of Tiger Woods this week

I have two confident predictions for Tiger Woods’ return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge on Thursday.

First, Tiger will easily post a top-18 finish, providing his back allows him to play all four rounds. (The reason for my high confidence is that there are only 18 players in the select field.)

FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2015, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the Wyndham Championship golf tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Tiger Woods returns to competition, and Ernie Els is more curious about his head than any of his back surgeries that kept him out 15 months. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
In this Aug. 20, 2015, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the Wyndham Championship golf tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Hasn’t played since then because of back surgeries that kept him out 15 months. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

Second, at some point Tiger will go low, making the Albany Course in the Bahamas look like a resort track. (That’s because 26-under won there last year for Bubba Watson and there were only rounds above par for the entire field all week long. )

Let’s face it. This is the perfect tournament for Tiger to make some birdies and build a little confidence in his return to golf after 15 months on the shelf because of back problems.

The Golf Channel will televise it all on Thursday and Friday with help from NBC on the Saturday and Sunday rounds. Tiger goes off at noon on Thursday with Patrick Reed as his playing partner. Good, bad or indifferent, everybody will by eager to get a look at the 14-time major champion. That’s Tiger, in case you have gone to sleep on the game in his absence, and not Reed.

It’s a great field, featuring Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and more. Tiger gets in as tournament host with proceeds going to his foundation. Going by the Official World Golf Rankings alone, he wouldn’t belong inside the ropes. Tiger is 898th on a list that he once led for an astounding total of 683 weeks.

World No. 1 Jason Day isn’t in the tournament. He’s still enjoying his offseason and apparently doesn’t feel he needs the $1 million in unofficial money that goes to the winner. Doesn’t much need the points, either, though the Hero World Challenge does award world points.

Golf Digest reports that Tiger could climb about 150 spots on that list simply by finishing the tournament. That’s because of the elite nature of the competition.

Overall, this no-cut event is much better for Tiger’s return than grinding through the Safeway Open in October. That was his original plan but he withdrew prior to the tournament, not feeling quite ready for prime-time.

[Ravens have a sophisticated scoring weapon that Adam Gase lacks]

[Tebow’s Arizona Fall League has ended but look for him at spring training]

[One recent Dolphins head coach made quite an impression on Gase]

Brendan Steele won the Safeway title in Napa, Calif., with an 18-under total of 270. The field was so strong that Phil Mickelson shot rounds of 69-69-69-67 and tied for eighth place. Meanwhile, notables like Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and 2014 Honda Classic champion Russell Henley missed the cut altogether.

If Tiger had missed the cut in his first event back, just like he missed the cut at four of his last five majors, that would have been a severe psychological blow.

Anyway, I’m guessing they’ll have the tournament on at Tiger’s restaurant in Jupiter if you’re looking to share the experience with others who care deeply about the results.

If you’re simply interested in the full-on PGA Tour, the next stop on that schedule is the Tournament of Champions from Hawaii, January 5-8.

No need to be smug, though. Everybody cares about how Tiger does. Everybody on tour. Everybody who plays or enjoys golf.

 

FSU keeping Jimbo is the program’s most important news since hiring Jimbo

 

LSU really messed up by not getting Jimbo Fisher when he was available as he ever will be.

This was the year to strike, with no College Football Playoff possibility for Florida State and no reason for Jimbo to delay a decision until January.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and running back Dalvin Cook celebrate the team's 31-13 win over Florida in an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and running back Dalvin Cook celebrate the team’s 31-13 win over Florida at Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

This time next year the Seminoles could be right back in the national championship chase. LSU, meanwhile, will probably be licking its wounds after getting aced out again by Alabama in the SEC West.

Ed Orgeron isn’t the guy you need to catch and pass Nick Saban. If he coaxes Lane Kiffin from Alabama to run the Tigers’ offense, it would be closer to reality, but why wouldn’t Kiffin hold out for a head coaching job or stick with the No. 1 team?

Orgeron was 3-21 against SEC teams in a previous head coaching opportunity at Ole Miss from 2005-07, and Saban didn’t even have Alabama up and running until 2008.

Jimbo, on the other hand, is an elite coach. He’s one of four active coaches with a national championship, joining Saban, Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops.

He’s a recruiter persuasive enough to get Alabama native Jameis Winston to Tallahassee instead of Tuscaloosa.

Also, he’s close enough to his players to find and push all their buttons, including the ones that make them go out and pound Florida on a week when their head coach is being rumored as the top candidate at another school.

If you want all of that, you’ve got to pay for it, in the same way that Alabama broke the bank for Saban.

Instead, Jimbo is out on the recruiting trail, avoiding the kind of big rebuild that new Texas coach Tom Herman is facing. Everything is in place for many more great seasons with the Seminoles. Jimbo has seen and will see to that.

[Ravens have a sophisticated offense weapon that Adam Gase lacks]

[Tebow’s Arizona Fall League season is over but look for him at spring training]

[One recent Dolphins head coach made quite an impression on Gase]

This is such massive news for FSU, but there may actually be people who don’t fully appreciate it. The monotony of beating both Florida and Miami the last four years makes it seem as if such dominance is automatic. It is not.

The jackpot of getting superstars like Dalvin Cook to play for FSU instead of Florida or Miami is impossible to quantify.

The disappointment of not playing for a national title every season? Beyond being a little silly, that’s missing the larger point.

If Jimbo’s not your head coach, who would be better to lead the Seminoles?

The name of Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt keeps coming up as a possible replacement one day. He called the defensive plays for Jimbo during FSU’s national championship season of 2013, but Pruitt has never been a head coach.

Kirby Smart, another highly-regarded Alabama defensive coordinator, was in a similar position when he got the Georgia head coaching job. Favored to win the SEC East in the preseason, he is working on a 7-5 debut with home losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech and a dud of a performance against Florida in Jacksonville.

A guy like Pruitt probably does better than that with the talent Jimbo has put together at FSU, but wouldn’t you just rather have Jimbo?

Other names tossed around as possible FSU coaches during the period of LSU’s flirtation with Jimbo include North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (coming off losses to 4-8 Duke and 6-6 North Carolina State in the last three weeks), Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy (if he finishes in Top Ten, that will make twice in 12 seasons at Stillwater), Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre (turning Buffs around but his only postseason experience as head coach is a Military Bowl victory over Bowling Green) and Chip Kelly (brilliant run at Oregon but he’s on an NFL kick now and seems to have lost his momentum).

I even saw Les Miles’ name come up as a person for FSU to call in a pinch. That would be taking the guy LSU fired to replace the guy LSU hired. That would be taking a guy who misses so many details and loses games over penalties and a general lack of discipline.

Remember that game a few weeks ago where LSU lost to Florida despite being a two-touchdown favorite at home? Orgeron said his running back ran the wrong way on the goal-line stop that won the game for the Gators, leaping over the middle instead of looking for a short toss around the end. That’s the kind of game Miles sometimes lost, and the kind of game that always had Tiger fans calling for his head.

Bottom line, Jimbo’s decision to stay at FSU is far bigger news than Herman going to Texas or any other coaching switch.

We’ll see that when FSU plays Alabama or Ohio State or Michigan or Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff sometime in the next few years. Those are the teams with heavyweight coaches and monster programs all tied up tight and looking for more.

Those are the only situations, apparently, that would ever convince Jimbo to leave and try his hand somewhere else. LSU either didn’t make the cut or wouldn’t pay the price.

In the end, it comes out to be the same thing.

 

 

 

 

Ravens have a sophisticated scoring weapon that Dolphins lack

Looks like a potential playoff preview this week as the Miami Dolphins, a potential wild-card team, travel to Baltimore, a potential AFC North champion.

Man, does that ever sound wishy-washy. Let’s get down to some details instead.

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker celebrates after kicking a 52-yards field goal against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Tucker successfully kicked three field goals over 50 yards in the first half against the Bengals. Baltimore dropped Cincinnati, 19-14. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS)
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker celebrates after kicking a 52-yard field goal against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Tucker successfully kicked three field goals over 50 yards in the first half against the Bengals. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

If the Dolphins come down to another fourth-quarter frenzy of a finish, with every play important and every point essential, the Ravens have a sophisticated weapon on their roster that Adam Gase does not.

Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker made field goals from 57, 54 and 52 yards in Sunday’s 19-14 win over Cincinnati. Obviously, the Ravens don’t win that game without him. Oh, and don’t forget the 54-yarder that Tucker made to pull out a 19-17 win over Jacksonville in September.

Overall, Tucker is perfect in 27 tries this season, and seven of those have come from 50-plus.

Compare that to Miami’s Andrew Franks, who has been just fine at 13-of-16 successful kicks but has yet to make a long one. His only try was a 50-yard miss against Pittsburgh in Week 6.

In his two-year Dolphins career, Franks is 1-for-3 from 50-plus. I’m starting to think that Gase is wary to send him out there unless there’s an easy opportunity to get the ball up quickly and through. Twice this season Franks has had kicks blocked from inside 30 yards, which is closer even than an extra point. That’s a fundamental problem and one that is accentuated when a kicker is trying to get extra oomph on a distant try.

In Sunday’s 31-24 win over San Francisco, Gase passed on a 52-yard try for Franks in the third quarter when the Dolphins’ lead was only 17-14. He opted for the punt team, which resulted in a touchback, and explain his decision by saying “we had a chance to pin them back there” and “I have a lot of confidence in (Matt Darr) to put that thing inside the 5.”

If he had the same confidence that Franks could nail one from 50-plus, the way that Tucker always does, Gase would have looked at that as a scoring opportunity instead.

[Tim Tebow’s Arizona Fall League has ended but look for him again in spring]

[One recent Dolphins head coach made quite an impression on Adam Gase]

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

Former Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis wasn’t automatic from any range but he had the leg for home-run shots. He made 6-of-13 from 50-plus in two years with Miami and he’s made 5-of-8 from long range since going to the Eagles in 2015.

With all of the issues that Gase had in his first year with the Dolphins, the place-kicking game probably didn’t get as much attention as it will this offseason.

Wouldn’t be a surprise if the rookie head coach, pushing for bonus points wherever he can find them, makes a change at this position in search of another true weapon and not just an adequate performer like Franks.

Gators are close to turning the tide in the FSU rivalry

Jim McElwain did the best that he could last year cooking up a rallying cry after Florida’s utterly flat 27-2 loss to Florida State.

“Give them credit,” McElwain said. “They won the game. I guarantee you we’ll show up there next year.”

Yeah, well, that’s how the schedule works pretty much on its own.

SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 19: Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles breaks a tackle to run in his final touchdown of the day against the Syracuse Orange during the third quarter on November 19, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Florida State defeats Syracuse 45-14. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY – NOVEMBER 19: Dalvin Cook of the Florida State Seminoles breaks a tackle to run in his final touchdown of the day against the Syracuse Orange on November 19, 2016. FSU defeated Syracuse 45-14. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Can’t blame the Florida coach for being a little flustered, though. The Gators entered the game at No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings but needed a safety just to avoid being shut out in the Swamp for the first time since 1988.

The offense was kaput, all right, with Treon Harris at quarterback. That left Florida’s powerful defense in a terrible position, fighting and fighting through three quarters on the wrong side of a 13-2 score and finally fizzling in the fourth quarter.

That’s when Dalvin Cook got 150 of his 183 rushing yards and both of his touchdown runs. Until then both teams had been fairly stagnant. Nine punts by the Gators. Seven punts by the Seminoles. Truth be told, seven of FSU’s 15 first downs came in the final 8:00, when the game already was on ice.

OK, so it hardly was a classic but the Seminoles pushed their winning streak in the rivalry to three games overall and they won at Gainesville for the third consecutive time, too. ”Our players know how hard it is to do that,” said Jimbo Fisher.

Has anything happened to help switch the momentum for Saturday’s prime-time renewal of the rivalry at Doak Campbell Stadium? Sure, plenty.

[Here’s one former Dolphins head coach who really impressed Adam Gase]

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

[Might be last chance to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

The Gators are coming off a huge victory, for openers. Last week’s goal-line stand to beat LSU also put Florida back in the SEC Championship game. In 2015 the game before FSU was a scary Gator escape from FAU. In overtime.

Also, the Gators have a legitimate field-goal kicker now in Eddy Pineiro, who was 3-for-3 against LSU. Last year Austin Hardin couldn’t be trusted to make an extra point. Against FSU, he missed from 51 yards on the final play of the half and had a 37-yard try blocked when it started out low.

Finally, the Florida defense kept Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice from killing them on the ground last week and came up with the biggest plays of the game when it mattered most in the closing minute.

Injuries were no excuse. Fatigue was no excuse. Spotty support from the Florida offense was no excuse, either.

Of course, Cook is the problem now, and he’s coming off a 225-yard, four-touchdown performance against Syracuse. His ability to run stronger and hurt teams more as the game goes along is his biggest threat.

If Florida can get a handle on that, avoiding big breakout plays by FSU’s new career rushing leader, these two teams just aren’t that far apart.

Call it 19-16 FSU, and call me a coward for not predicting an upset.

If this really does turn out to be the last game in Tallahassee for Jimbo, LSU’s top target, and Dalvin, a potential NFL draft gem, they’ll both bust a gut to keep it from being a loss to the Gators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Tebow’s Arizona Fall League season has ended but look for him again next spring

Baseball scouts won’t have Tim Tebow to kick around until next spring.

The former Heisman Trophy winner’s Arizona Fall League season is over and he had his struggles against some of the game’s top prospects, many of them Triple-A players on the cusp of making it to the majors.

Just prior to the start of Tim Tebow's first day in the instructional League for the New York Mets baseball team, workers at Tradition Field set up a bunch of Tebow jerseys that will go on sale Monday, September 19, 2016. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post
PORT ST. LUCIE – Just prior to the start of Tim Tebow’s first day in the instructional League for the New York Mets baseball team on Sept. 19, workers at Tradition Field set up a bunch of Tebow jerseys for sale. Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post

Tebow hit just .194 with no home runs. Even uglier, he struck out 20 times in 62 at-bats. Scouts grumbled, anonymously, of course, that he did not look natural in any phase of the game.

The fact that his only baseball since high school was a stint with the New York Mets’ instructional league in Port St. Lucie does not enter into their evaluation of Tebow’s chances to make it to the bigs one day as a designated hitter or something. It’s cold hard facts with these guys.

Looking at it logically, however, Tebow figures to get his chance to play on a Single-A team for the Mets next year, whether it’s in Brooklyn or Savannah or Port St. Lucie. I favor the Florida State League option, naturally, for local interest, and it’s possible he could wind up with the Mets’ Gulf Coast Rookie League team at Port St. Lucie for a while, too.

The Mets might as well get whatever they can from their $100,000 investment in Tebow. Sandy Alderson, the team’s general manager, said “the idea for us was just to get him more game experience (in Arizona). We thought he might be somewhat overmatched and that was true early on, but from the first 10 days of Arizona Fall Leuge to the last 10 days, there was a marked improvement.”

[One former Dolphins head coach made quite an impression on Adam Gase]

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

[Might be final chance to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

More hits and fewer strikeouts is what he means. Tebow had eight hits in his final 30 at-bats.

There has been no display of raw power, though, and that figured to be his special gift. As for his athleticism, scouts criticized Tebow’s defense in the outfield but he never was charged with an error. On the bases, he was caught stealing twice in three tries.

Bottom line, the guy isn’t afraid to put himself out there so don’t look any kind of sudden retirement.

Unless I’m forgetting something, nobody climbed all over Michael Jordan for giving baseball a try just because he wanted. MJ played an entire season of Double-A ball in the White Sox chain, batting .202 against pitchers who weren’t as good as the ones Tebow just saw in Arizona.

Jordan also committed 11 errors in 119 games in the outfield.

Hey, it’s minor-league baseball. It’s entertainment. If there really are players good enough to make it, having somebody like Tebow on the roster won’t rob them of the opportunity. No reason to get all bent out of shape over it.

Of course some people will at spring training when Tebow is getting too much attention on the back fields or even getting a shot or two at pinch-hitting in the late innings of an exhibition game with the big club.

Even more people will be clamoring for his autograph, of course. This is how it works with him. This is how it always will.

 

 

 

 

There’s one former Dolphins head coach who made quite an impression on Adam Gase

Adam Gase was careful not to question recent head coaches of the Miami Dolphins when asked on Monday about a positive change in the team’s basic culture.

“I can’t speak on the past,” he said. “I just know everybody that has been here since the time I’ve been here has had one goal, and it’s to try to help our players do everything they can to win a game.”

Miami Dolphins interim-head coach Dan Campbell, celebrates with players in the closing seconds of their game against the New England Patriots Sunday January 03, 2016 in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins interim-head coach Dan Campbell, celebrates with players in the closing seconds of their game against the New England Patriots Sunday January 03, 2016 in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

One particular former head coach, however, got a special compliment from Gase.

Addressing the strong pass protection that Dolphins tight end Dion Sims provided in Sunday’s win at Los Angeles, Gase said “any time you have a tight end that basically you feel good enough to where you go one-on-one versus a defensive end, that’s a pretty rare thing to have.

“I don’t know if I’ve had too many tight ends that have been able to do that. The last guy I actually can think of that I felt really comfortable when it was one-on-one was Dan Campbell. That shows you how long ago that was.”

Campbell, the Dolphins’ interim head coach for 12 games last season, spent a decade playing tight end in the NFL with the Giants, Cowboys and Lions. He was with Detroit in 2006 and 2007 when Gase was an offensive assistant to head coach Rod Marinelli, first as a quality control coach and then as the quarterbacks coach.

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving next door]

[Making rookie Jared Goff wait is mistake Miami didn’t make with Tannehill]

[Might be final opportunity to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

Campbell went 5-7 in Miami as the replacement for Joe Philbin. These days he is the assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints. Wouldn’t be bad to see him back with the Dolphins some day if he doesn’t get another chance as a head coach.

Wouldn’t be a surprise, either.

Gase clearly was impressed with his toughness and attention to detail, and Campbell has come as close as any Dolphins coach ever will to matching Gase’s bold approach to the game.

 

More reasons than usual this week for FSU fans to root for a Gator blowout loss

Strange times for Florida State fans.

LSU is in contact with Jimbo Fisher’s representatives again, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, and the school may finally be in the same kind of stubborn mood about hiring Jimbo that Alabama was about hiring Nick Saban.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher shouts instructions during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 29,2016. Clemson defeated Florida State 37-34. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher shouts instructions during the second half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Clemson in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 29,2016. Clemson defeated Florida State 37-34. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)

So chew on this for a minute. The only thing that can stop the momentum on the Jimbo hunt, or even slow it, is for Ed Orgeron to blow Florida right off the map this Saturday. That would build support for LSU’s popular interim coach, whose only slip in five games as Les Miles’ replacement is a 10-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama.

Flip the coin and imagine a Gator upset at LSU, overcoming a ton of injuries in the process and winning a game at Tiger Stadium that originally was scheduled for the Swamp.

That would pull the magic carpet from under Orgeron and convince everyone from Bogalusa to Natchitoches that Jimbo is the only man capable of getting the Tigers back in the national title conversation.

Bottom line, for the long-term stability and sanity of the FSU program, the most vital Florida loss in the next two weeks is at LSU, not Tallahassee.

The Seminoles aren’t going to make the College Football Playoff field this year. Their bowl assignment is going to be pretty good but not monumental regardless of what happens in the Florida game on Nov. 26. If they can keep Jimbo, however, FSU could get right back on track for greatness next year and for seasons to come.

The magnetism between Jimbo and Baton Rouge is strong. When LSU won the 2003 national championship, Jimbo was the Tigers’ offensive coordinator. He’s great with quarterbacks, while LSU has struggled for years to find any kind of consistent offensive rhythm under Miles.

Whether Jimbo would leave FSU for the minefield of the SEC West I have no idea, but either way, this is going to be in the wind through the end of November, up to and beyond the Florida game.

[The FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

[Glad Dolphins didn’t make same mistake with Tannehill that Rams are making with Goff]

[Running out of opportunity to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

That’s how it works all over the country. If you have an elite coach, everybody wants him. If you don’t, then you don’t want him either. Jimbo deals with this situation constantly, and how it handles it this time will be the most interesting of all.

The buyout tag on Jimbo’s contract is $5 million, by the way, if he wants to coach somewhere else in 2017. That wouldn’t bother LSU, however, if they can get their man. The Tigers fired Miles in September knowing it would cost something like $10 million to make him go away.

 

 

Jared Goff continues the pattern of QB’s making their NFL debuts against the Dolphins

Hard to believe, but for the fourth time in 10 games this season, the Miami Dolphins on Sunday will be facing a quarterback who is making his NFL regular-season debut.

This time it’s Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, who gets his first start and his first game action because coach Jeff Fisher decided the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft finally is ready for the challenge.

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2016, file photo, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) warms up before an NFL football game against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford, N.J. A person with knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press that quarterback Jared Goff will make his NFL debut on Sunday when the No. 1 pick starts for the Los Angeles Rams. The source spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, because Rams coach Jeff Fisher hadn't made the official announcement. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
Jared Goff of Los Angeles Rams. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Well, that and the fact that the Rams are last in the league in scoring at 15.4 points per game and have been held without a touchdown three times.

How well will Goff perform against the Dolphins, who pretty much made veteran Philip Rivers look like a rookie in the fourth quarter of last week’s 31-24 win over the Chargers?

It figures Goff will do just fine, if Miami’s other matchups with newbie quarterbacks is any indication. Here are the stats those supposedly nervous rookies put up.

In Week 2 at New England, Jacoby Brissett from Dwyer High School was forced into emergency action against Miami because Tom Brady was on NFL suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt. Entering the game in the second quarter with the Patriots leading 21-0, Brissett did just enough to nail down a 31-24 victory by completing 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards and avoiding turnovers.

In Week 3, Cleveland’s Cody Kessler got sacked three times by the Dolphins but overall kept the Browns in the game by completing 21-of-33 for 244 yards with no interceptions. Miami won the game in overtime but Kessler’s quarterback rating of 85.9 was no embarrassment. Three times this season Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins has failed to hit that mark.

In Week 8, the New York Jets turned to Bryce Petty, a 2015 draft pick who never had played a down, because Ryan Fitzpatrick was getting an injury checked on the sidelines. The kid wasn’t much of a factor in the game during his brief appearance but he didn’t hurt the Jets, completing both of his passes for 19 yards.

Now comes Goff, the 6-foot-4 star from the University of California who was drafted way ahead of all the rest.

Brissett and Kessler were drafted in the third round, with the 91st and 93rd overall picks, respectively. Petty went in the fourth round, the 103rd player taken overall in the 2015 draft.

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door]

[Speaking of TD returns, remember when Ted Ginn really burned the Jets?]

[Running low on opportunity to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

The point is don’t count on Goff being a goof on Sunday. All of these kids have NFL arms or they wouldn’t have been drafted at all. It’s a matter of feeling comfortable with whatever the coaching staff is calling for them, and, of course, not falling so far behind that the defense can feast on obvious passing situations for the entire second half.

That’s what happened to Tannehill in his NFL debut, the season opener of 2012. Houston led Miami 24-3 by halftime and coasted to a 30-10 victory. In a circumstance that would have been unfair for any rookie, Tannehill was forced to throw 36 passes. He was intercepted three times and sacked twice. A very bad first day at the office.

The second game was much more natural, however, with Tannehill completing 18-of-30 passes for 200 yards in a 35-13 win over Oakland that featured one touchdown passing and one touchdown rushing by the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft.

With the right game plan, Goff could prove to be very dangerous against the Dolphins. With a bit of panic under duress, on the other hand, Miami’s pass rush could eat him alive.

Either way, it’s way past time to see what the big guy has got. This is the NFL, where the most talented players belong on the field. There really shouldn’t be any redshirt seasons.

 

 

 

 

The FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving in next door

(UPDATE – FAU fired Charlie Partridge on Nov. 27. Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is being mentioned in media reports as a possible replacement based on the fact that he interviewed for the FAU job in 2013. Also, Pat Chun spent 15 years in the Ohio State athletic department before becoming FAU’s athletic director in 2012.)

 

An important window of opportunity may just have closed for Florida Atlantic coach Charlie Partridge.

Already behind schedule with a 9-25 record in three seasons as the Owls football coach, Partridge has picked up a formidable rival right here in the same Conference USA neighborhood.

butchieButch Davis, a terrific recruiter and a known commodity among South Florida high school coaches, will coach Florida International starting in 2017. He will be introduced at the school Tuesday afternoon with a contract expected to stretch five years into an uncertain future.

Uncertain because Butch is a big name with a winning reputation from previous turns as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Miami Hurricanes and North Carolina Tar Heels. The natural question is how long would a guy like this be satisfied to operate outside the national spotlight in a league where a trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Independence Bowl is pretty much topping out?

If it’s any time at all, the competition will be hard on FAU and a head coach who believes he is just beginning to turn an important corner.

The Owls are on a rare win streak, with back-to-back wins over Rice and UTEP.

What Partridge also has, unfortunately, is a 3-7 record that includes a 33-31 loss to FIU. To change all of that he needs more kids from Broward and Miami-Dade counties, not less, and he’s got more than 30 from down there as it is.

Butch can flash his championship rings from his days as Jimmy Johnson’s assistant and wow the few South Florida high school coaches he hasn’t already met. For those too young to remember all of that, he can count on being recognized from his analyst job on ESPN2. Finally, he can look into the eyes of potential recruits and their family members and say that he wasn’t charged in the NCAA violations that caused North Carolina to vacate a bunch of wins, because he wasn’t.

Is there a glass-half-full view on this thing for Partridge? Sure.

Because nobody else is going to want to mess with Butch, there will be fewer mid-level assistants eager to replace Partridge at FAU and less reason for the Owls athletic department to go fishing around for anyone who might.

[Rams holding Jared Goff on bench is the mistake that Miami thankfully didn’t make with Tannehill]

[Speaking of Dolphins return touchdowns, remember what Ted Ginn did to Jets?]

[Tough to recognize America when Cubs won World Series in 1908]

Any way you slice it, the FAU job, with the new stadium and the huge enrollment and the fertile South Florida recruiting fields, just got tougher than Partridge or anybody else saw coming.

If Butch is serious about making a run at Conference USA supremacy, all the other coaches in the league are in for a fight. And if he’s not, all the other coaches in the league have just been put on notice anyway.

Whatever FIU makes look easy over the next few years will be interpreted as something those other guys should already have been doing.

If that doesn’t close some windows of opportunity, it surely smudges them up.

Holding Rams’ Jared Goff on bench is mistake Miami didn’t make with Ryan Tannehill

The Dolphins are in Southern California the next couple of Sunday’s, facing teams that started out the careers of a couple of first-round quarterbacks far differently than Miami did with Ryan Tannehill.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams runs on to the field to play in the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – Quarterback Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams runs off the field after sitting out last Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

First comes a game at San Diego, which in 2004 wanted to take Eli Manning first overall in the draft but couldn’t convince the Ole Miss star to come without a fight. The result was a trade with the Giants and the arrival of Philip Rivers in a Chargers uniform.

Rivers, built for the NFL at 6-feet-5 and 230 pounds, was the No. 4 pick in that draft. He didn’t start right away, though. Didn’t start until his third pro season, as a matter of fact, because Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer preferred to have the kid learn the ropes behind veteran Drew Brees.

Seems crazy now, but maybe it wasn’t. By the time Brees was gone to New Orleans and Rivers got his chance everything was synched up for a 14-2 season for the Chargers. Rivers was great then and he’s still pretty good, hitting 24-of-33 passes with a couple of touchdowns in a 43-35 shootout win over Tennessee last week.

Next on the schedule for Miami comes the Los Angeles Rams at Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 20. The Rams are 3-5 with Case Keenum at quarterback and due to be a free agent after the season.

Never mind that the franchise had the No. 1 overall pick in the last draft and used it on Cal quarterback Jared Goff. Gave up a ton of draft picks, too, in order to move into that spot.

Goff hasn’t thrown a pass in the first half of his rookie season, and if he’s in the lineup by the time Miami gets to town, it will be a surprise.

“As I say consistently, repeatedly, week after week, I’m pleased with Jared’s progress,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said following Sunday’s 13-10 loss to Carolina.

Fisher is the coach many South Florida fans hoped would agree to coach the Dolphins in 2012 instead of Joe Philbin.

Is he being stubborn or smart in not moving toward the future of the Rams franchise and turning the offense over to Goff?

Probably overcautious is the answer, taking a page from a 20th-century playbook for coaches and organizations. That’s really not the ticket in L.A., which just got the Rams from St. Louis and needs a reason to fall in love with pro football again.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, didn’t wait with Tannehill, the No. 8 overall draft pick in 2012. He started the season opener of his rookie season, got intercepted three times in a 30-10 loss at Houston and just kept going. The idea was to let him learn under fire rather than letting some caretaker quarterback hold the spot until Tannehill was completely ready.

I had my doubts at the time, in large part because Philbin was a rookie head coach that year, too. It was the right move, though. When and if the Dolphins decide they have had enough of Tannehill, the experiment of drafting him will have been given every opportunity to succeed.

He may not be the elite quarterback that fans hoped, but he wouldn’t have gotten better by wasting time on the bench. And what would have been better in 2012, a 7-9 finish with Tannehill the potential savior or 8-8 with some guy everyone is booing?

Don Shula struggled with the same issue when the Dolphins took Dan Marino late in the first round of the 1983 draft. The future Hall of Famer didn’t start until the sixth game of this rookie season, and it was about time. Marino went 9-2 the rest of the way and got the Dolphins a division title.

[In 2009, Dolphins burned Jets with TD returns even worse than Drake did]

[Running out of time to see Brad Kaaya at Hard Rock Stadium]

[Overtime TD vs. Browns is what kept Ajayi from being lost in the shuffle]

David Woodley, even with a prior appearance in the Super Bowl, was never going to be a dominating franchise quarterback like that. Knowing that and acting on it were just matters of timing.

When you invest a first-round pick in a quarterback, the payoff may not come soon enough to please everyone but the collection of real-time data on that decision should be immediate. At least, that’s how it feels in the 21st-century NFL.

Here’s hoping that Goff will be in the lineup against the Dolphins in a few weeks. Makes it more interesting and besides, what’s Hollywood without a star?