Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops decided against packing up the jalopy and heading for Florida, calling off the Sooner State’s most newsworthy migration since the Dust Bowl. The Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel says OU fans shouldn’t take Stoops’ Florida flirtation personally: “In truth, Stoops is like most coaches on the college scene. He is neither blood brother nor con man. Bob Stoops is an independent contractor. Have whistle, will travel.” The rest of the Big 12 was less nonchalant about Stoops’ possible move to the SEC. The Omaha World-Herald’s Tom Shatel wrote, “There’s a head coach in Austin, Texas, who will pay Stoops’ moving expenses.”
The other coach in the Gator bowl is Denver’s Mike Shanahan. “Florida would be foolish not to exhaust every possibility to get him to coach there,” CNNSI.com’s Peter King writes. “He is the best football coach in the NFL today.” But the Rocky Mountain News’ Dave Krieger tells Broncos fans not to worry if Shanahan abandons them for sunnier climes. The national media adore the “genius,” but “an objective analysis suggests that without John Elway, Shanahan does not deserve to be mentioned with the NFL’s elite coaches. In three seasons since Elway retired, he is 25-23 in the regular season and 0-1 in the playoffs. If you count his 8-12 mark with the Raiders, he is below .500 as a head coach without Elway.” (“The Sports Pages” made this point in November.)
NFL gossip: Peter King goes through the coaching carousel team-by-team. Among the possibilities: Brian Billick to Minnesota. … The Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz says there will be “a seismic change at the top of the Indianapolis Colts’ organizational chart.” One thing is certain: Either Jim Mora or Bill Polian won’t be back next season, largely because of Mora’s refusal to fire Vic Fangio, the Colts’ defensive coordinator. … Will Tom Benson sell the New Orleans Saints? The New Orleans Times-Picayune’s Peter Finney says maybe. … The saddest coaching case must be Dallas coach Dave Campo. He won’t be fired, but he had to be hospitalized after his team fell to Detroit (2-14).
Rasheed Wallace, ring bearer: The Chicago Sun-Times’ NBA writer Sam Smith predicts: “The Washington Wizards—and, yes, Michael Jordan—will be in the NBA Finals this season. … They had the league’s best coach last month in Doug Collins, the East’s best rookie in Brendan Haywood—and that Jordan guy hasn’t been bad.” One catch: To make the Finals, the Wizards must trade Kwame Brown, Courtney Alexander, and a first-round draft pick to Portland for an inside presence—Rasheed Wallace, he of the ever-impending technical foul. Smith soft-pedals Wallace’s misanthropy and argues that he is “an unselfish player who doesn’t want to be a star or a last-shot, go-to guy.” The Wizards dealt Wallace to Portland after the 1995-96 season.
How good are the Rams? Forget the MVP. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz argues that Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner are “the best quarterback-running back combo in NFL history, at least over a three-year period.” Here are Miklasz’s runners-up, in no particular order: Otto Graham and Marion Motley (Cleveland); Johnny Unitas and Lenny Moore (Baltimore); John Elway and Terrell Davis (Denver); Joe Montana and Roger Craig (San Francisco); Dan Fouts and Chuck Muncie (San Diego); Bart Starr and Paul Hornung (Green Bay); Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas (Buffalo); Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris (Pittsburgh); Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith (Dallas); Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett (Dallas).
Just don’t tell Roger Angell: The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg writes a “Talk of the Town” item that is ostensibly about the New York Times’ return to normalcy—the glut of war news literally turned the paper’s sports page upside down for a few months—but quickly becomes a withering critique of sports as news. Hertzberg argues that “news about sports is not really news at all—not, at any rate, in the sense that news about politics, economics, and social developments, and international affairs is news. … Except for the uncertainty of its outcome, a sports spectacle is news only in the sense that the plot of a movie is news. (’HOBBIT-LED STRIKE FORCE NEARS MOUNT DOOM, WIZARD CLAIMS’?)”
Elvis has left the playoffs? If Elvis Grbac and the Baltimore Ravens lose tonight to the Minnesota Vikings, Trent Dilfer and the Seattle Seahawks head to the AFC playoffs in lieu of the Super Bowl champs. When Grbac signed with the Ravens, he crowed, “I’m going to take this team to a different level.” The Kansas City Star’s Jeffrey Flanagan replies: “He sure has.”
Obligatory Rose Bowl item: The Philadelphia Daily News’ Bill Conlin on Nebraska’s performance in the Rose Bowl: “And you thought Swarthmore dropped football.”