The Hangover is a fevered attempt to collect thoughts on the Detroit Lions and the NFL and anything else stuck in the craws of the brain on Tuesday after all football has burned out. All opinions belong solely to the author and all facts belong to that evil new war god of unfeeling thought.
This column's had a while to simmer given the holiday week and it remains strapped for Lions news given the timeline of these two Thursday games. Nevertheless, I like to think this exercise is so much more about football itself. There's too much weirdness to contain itself to Detroit. Let's take a trip around the country to relive the best stories from five solid days of football.
But you can never leave
Monday Night Football is by all rights and accounts a terrible product built with the last scraps of football that you wouldn't dare touch in normal circumstances. Ever since NBC came in with Sunday Night Football, ESPN has been forced to take whatever bone gets thrown their way. There's no reason anyone would be watching these kinds of match-ups if they were up against the rest of the NFL Sunday slate. It's been so bad that at the start of the season some were wondering if the NFL was giving these crap games to ESPN in retaliation for some cardinal sin.
This week's Monday game shouldn't have been scheduled viewing for anyone, for any reason. The game featured the miserable Ravens with their backup quarterback and the pitiful Browns stubbornly refusing to play Johnny Manziel, even though that's the only way they'll be entertaining for the casual viewer this season. Even ESPN was trying to warn everyone.
And yet, there it was, at the end of the game...
I can't quit you. I just can't. I want to spend a Monday without this monstrosity of a program, and yet at every instance where I think it's time to fold up and completely ignore the horror, something on social media catches my eye and the Twitter hive-mind demands I turn it back on for the final minutes. Through the braying of Ray Lewis and the Applebee's-branded everything, Monday Night Football keeps finding ways to one-up the ridiculous delirium of Jon Gruden with some deranged outcome on the field.
Maybe it's the refs screwing the chicken once more, maybe it's an improbable comeback, maybe it's just a psychotic breakdown in the very superego of this sport. Just when you're about to give up on the whole affair someone pulls a feral pig out of a magician's hat and lets it run around in a fevered panic, squealing and crashing and defecating everywhere. It's an awful spectacle that someone has to clean up eventually, but you're still standing there in the moment thinking: "Wow! Where did that pig come from?! Is he a tailback?"
(You are Jon Gruden in this scenario.)
Delusions of Tannehill
The Miami Dolphins are a mess. For all the talent they've pulled in they are currently sitting seventh in the draft order at this moment and feature a former 2008 Lion tight end as head coach, a man who thinks he can solve the moribund state of affairs by running Oklahoma drills. This was the team that threw the purse at Ndamukong Suh; the team whose owner declared before the season that the Heat were done in Miami; it was the Dolphins' time to capture the imaginations of young sports fans.
Now the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero is reporting that strife is ripe behind the scenes when it comes to franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Although his career is still young, Tannehill has consistently failed to impress anyone: he's only had one season where his DVOA was positive and he's probably not going to have another this year. Yet the front office believes that Tannehill's future is brighter than so many other stars in the NFL, even when coaches are limiting his playbook to prevent disaster. Brighter, they believe, than even Cam Newton. To the front office, Ryan is a top-10 quarterback.
It's baffling to think about. The future is an uncertain dragon curve of chaos, but there's been nothing in Tannehill's development to engender the kind of zealous support the front office is showing him. Of course, when there's been a five-year extension doled out for $96 million, the buyer is oft quick to defend their purchasing decisions, not unlike sycophantic smartphone fanboy attitudes. It was also one of the first things this Dolphins front office did after Stephen Ross canned Jeff Ireland.
Sure. You Gotta Love the One You're With. It's the Devil You Know. But there's been so many disasters when there's a disconnect between the analysis of the coaching staff and the zealotry of the front office. Just ask Washington.
The revolution was televised Saturday night when LSU beat Texas A&M 19-7. It was a game the Tigers had won many times before, but on that day everything was different. Les Miles, chosen son of Bo Schembechler and wild-eyed grass-eating Mad Hatter of the swampland, was carried off by his players and paraded around Death Valley before the screaming throngs of purple-clad zealots, everyone whipped into an adoring frenzy for the valiant conqueror. Maria Taylor tried to interview Miles but he politely informed her that he had to sing the alma mater.
This is all because, just days before, elements within LSU were conspiring to force Les Miles out of Baton Rouge. They were willing to pay $15 million just to get rid of a head coach they believed was leading LSU to stagnation; that the program had become mired in mediocrity since its national title in 2011 and was floundering in its subsequent inability to overcome that Cerberus lurking in its own division, guarding the gates to Atlanta and the SEC title. They reportedly wanted Jimbo Fisher, prodigal son down in Tallahassee. But as they conspired the whole thing began to fall apart. They botched it. They told everyone what the job would be before pulling it off. They could have sat silent and commit the crime after the season finished, but they just couldn't keep it together. Fans and boosters turned against them in the days leading up to the Saturday showdown. Before they knew it, the conspirators were lined up at a press conference like so many enemies of state and forced to admit that Les Miles would remain the head coach for the foreseeable future.
The Mad Hatter was getting his laughs in yet again, even with full knowledge he might not survive a second coup in the future. But the future doesn't matter right now, because he got his kicks. For a coach with a legacy of erratic behavior and "trickeration" and the whole mess, he's finally done it; he fooled an entire administration, convinced them to throw him in the briar patch just before he left them tangled in knots while he whirled away, chuckling. "You know somethin', Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece."
It was a scene out of some movie. What a night. What a guy. What a show.
Pictures at an Exhibition
For all the measures of enforced parity and scheduling shenanigans to keep the home stretch interesting, there's a clear separation at this moment moving into December that promises few divisional battles to end the season. Three of the AFC divisions are virtually locked up, while two in the NFC are settled. The NFC North remains about the only interesting battle to resolve, while the NFC East and AFC South remain mired in mediocrity.
I'm not sure what to do with it, but there is always a mental disconnect when a division is up for grabs yet those teams scrapping for the title are barely about .500. It's a close fight, and yet it feels like an exercise in futility when these teams are probably going to get drubbed down the line. Sure, fine, there's four wild cards available, but of those teams to take a wild card, is there any there that people could see making an extended run in the playoffs?
I don't know. The picture feels shallow. Some of these games have the same importance as preseason skirmishes. But this is also an inevitable feature of football that trims the fat late in the season. At the start of a football season, everyone is in play; in the last four games, not so much. This is true of both college and professional football. The sample sizes are still small and weird things can happen in the playoffs, but in the moment staring at December you attain a fleck of zen that assures you there's only so many good teams and these are the ones that will matter in the dying days of football. When those teams aren't playing, the attraction to All Football All Day seems hollow.
Of course, the most exciting game Sunday was Steelers and Seahawks, so there's always a sideshow somewhere.
Bruce Arians used the word "FUBAR" on Sunday
There's nothing else I had to say on the matter, I just wanted to acknowledge that it happened.