Dan Wetzel

  • USC's chronic leadership failure continues with mishandling of Steve Sarkisian

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 11 hrs ago

    Southern California fired coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday, a day after putting him on indefinite leave so he could battle what is, by all accounts, an alcohol problem.

    The decision was a formality and does nothing to bring closure to a chaotic story that brings everything about the storied program into question.

    That includes wondering: a) how Sarkisian lasted this long, and b) what's the future of athletic director Pat Haden, who was either too lax and enabling with the coach or simply not properly in touch with the inner workings of the program.

    Either way, the Trojans are again stumbling along, the glory days of Pete Carroll’s on-field success feeling further and further away.

    In just two years and two weeks, the program has made five coaching moves.

    At 3 a.m. on Sept. 29, 2013, Haden pulled Lane Kiffin off an idling, postgame bus, as it was ready to head from LAX back to campus and fired him. The move was particularly cold and abrupt considering that many felt Kiffin should have been fired the year before only to have Haden kindly give him more time.

    Orgeron promptly resigned and assistant Clay Helton coached the Trojans in a bowl game.

    Apparently no one was concerned.

  • Jim Harbaugh's fast start at Michigan reinvigorates rivalry with Michigan State

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 14 hrs ago

    It was 2007, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's first game against Michigan, a 28-24 comeback victory for the Wolverines that will forever be remembered because afterward running back Mike Hart called the Spartans "little brother."

    Michigan State is an extraordinary university in almost every imaginable way. It just happens to sit 65 miles from another such school, one with a bigger national and global reputation and, historically, better football program. That's just reality. Having great universities isn't a zero-sum game. Football is. Michigan usually wins.

    So "little brother" hurt, which Dantonio not just realized but seized upon. He's never downplayed how important beating Michigan is, was or will be for his program. He's been uniquely adept at seizing the State mindset, equal parts pride and defensiveness.

    "This game has a way of defining you," the coach said in 2009, after beating Michigan for the second straight time in a streak that is now six of seven heading into a cauldro n of emotion Saturday in Ann Arbor.

    Michigan always loomed though. Great programs don't stay down forever.

    This has been even quicker.

  • Michigan, Northwestern show defense isn't dead in era of high-octane offenses

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Joe Bolden is a starting middle linebacker for the University of Michigan. Prior to that, he played the same position at Cincinnati's Colerain High School, an Ohio powerhouse where his dad was the athletic director and his uncle the head coach. There are assorted brothers and cousins who are, have, or will play the game, at least at Colerain, if not beyond.

    This is an old-school football family – Jim Harbaugh is already predicting Bolden will be a "heck of a coach" when the 6-3, 235-pounder is done playing.

    For Bolden though, linebacker, particularly the smash-mouth variety that's made him the Wolverines' leading tackler this season, is more than just a position. It is who he is … in mind, body and spirit. Which is why it's a challenge to watch college football these days – the era of the spread offense.

    On Saturday, the focus of the college football world returns to a familiar environ (Michigan Stadium) but for an increasingly rare reason: a likely smash-mouth, defense-first contest with actual playoff implications here in the days of, well, "slinging it all over the place."

    Perhaps none of this is a surprise.

  • When push comes to shove, Detroit Lions just fine getting shoved

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Whether Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell knew, at the time, that it was illegal for Seattle's K.J. Wright to bat a fumbled football out of the back of the end zone remains somewhat of a mystery. That's probably how Caldwell wants it.

    In a 24 hours that can, at best, be described as "resigned," the Lions and their head coach have done little to nothing to voice public displeasure at the referee's blowing a game-changing call in a 13-10 loss to Seattle on Monday.

    The NFL has acknowledged Wilson should have been flagged for knocking a Calvin Johnson fumble out of the end zone, setting Detroit up inside the 1-yard line with time to win the game.

    You'd think that a referee error that almost assuredly changed the outcome of a contest for an already desperate and depressed team would spark something out of this long downtrodden organization and its low-key coach.

    Sometimes it becomes clear how a franchise can manage to win just a single playoff game in 57 years.

    This is ludicrous, of course.


  • 'Fail Mary' ref offers advice to official who blew call in Seahawks-Lions game

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Three years and two weeks ago, in the same end zone of the same stadium in Seattle, Lance Easley's entire life changed. It was then he ruled a disputed desperation pass was a touchdown for the Seattle Seahawks rather than an interception for the Green Bay Packers, effectively determining a Monday Night Football game.

    The "Fail Mary" it came to be known.

    At the time, Easley was a vice president for Bank of America, California junior college ref and family man thrown into an NFL game due to a labor dispute. The vitriolic fallout of that controversial call wrecked Easley, who saw his life slowly spin out of control as harassment and mockery left him too panicked to often leave his house.

    He struggled to work, to interact … to simply live. Every self-help, square-up and deal-with-it attempt failed. There was bankruptcy, an on-going divorce, suicidal thoughts and eventually two separate stays at mental health facilities in Southern California, where was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    This was just a blown call. Or so Easley hopes.

  • Why Notre Dame's ACC deal was genius - 'I couldn't get Jesus tickets'

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    No. 6 Notre Dame plays at No. 12 Clemson on Saturday and interest is so high that, as Tigers coach Dabo Swinney put it: "I couldn't get Jesus tickets."

    This is saying something if only because Swinney is a devout Evangelical Christian who would pretty much do anything for Jesus. Of course, down in South Carolina, Jesus doesn't have his own mural to peer into the stadium and signal touchdown, the way he does in South Bend. At least not yet.

    This is what happens when the Fightin' Irish come to town. You have to start measuring things by Biblical standards. Television ratings soar. Recruits flock for visits. And that secondary market overheats – lower sideline tickets on StubHub on Tuesday night were $1,200 each. The same rows were just $140 for the following week against Georgia Tech.

    This is why, much to Swinney and many others' chagrin, Notre Dame football isn't joining a conference anytime soon.

    As much as fans of other programs and plenty of the media like to point to the team's only sporadic success on the field of late and declare it a non-factor in the sport, the reality is Old Notre Dame can still wake up the cash registers cheering her name.

  • Premature Bowl: Rodgers, Brady on collision course for 'Super' finale

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    Here's the season stat line for Aaron Rodgers: 67-of-91 passing (73.6 percent), 771 yards total (8.5 per attempt), 10 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a QB rating of 135.4.

    Here's the season stat line for Tom Brady: 96-of-133 (72.2 percent), 1,112 yards total (8.4 per attempt), nine touchdowns, zero interceptions and a QB rating of 119.6.

    And, of course, both Rodgers' Green Bay Packers and Brady's New England Patriots are 3-0. The combined average margin of victory is 12.8, which isn't even reflective of how dominant the two teams have been.

    The NFL is a league of overreaction. The entire sport is based on this overreaction, a week between games for victories to leave everyone dreaming of Lombardi trophies and losses to be viewed in sky-is-falling misery.

    You can curse it or enjoy it or, in this case, try a three-week overreaction based on the quarterbacks mentioned above.

    Rodgers and Brady are playing the position about as well as it can conceivably be played. Their teams are rolling through early competition. As such, it should surprise no one if we wind up with Packers-Patriots for Super Bowl 50 in the Bay Area, boyhood home to Brady, college one of Rodgers.

  • The evolution of Peyton Manning: Good enough to keep the Broncos winning

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago

    DETROIT – No one knows how long he'll last, how much more football Peyton Manning can get out of the neck that's been surgically repaired, or the fingers he no longer has feeling in or the arm that's often cited as some form of noodle (generally, it's described as "wet").

    The NFL is never kind, but 39 years old can be particularly cruel. Maybe this is it, one last push for the playoffs, for a second Super Bowl title. Maybe it just collapses as the season's wear and tear arrives. There's so much defensive talent surrounding him in Denver, anything seems possible – even as New England looks as menacing as ever.

    The playoffs are a long way off, so everyone watches to see if it's over for Manning and then marvels when a guy with 70,000-plus career-passing yards can hit a down-and-out.

    This isn't about whether Peyton Manning is as good as he once was because clearly he isn't. The Broncos' season will hinge on whether he's good enough to win games, or will still be in January, when it counts.

    "It's part of being a team, right?" Manning said of his defense.

  • Impatience of Browns owner sets up situation where Johnny Manziel takes a seat after strong showing

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    Jimmy Haslam bought the Cleveland Browns for $1 billion in 2012.

    The team went 5-11 that season and Haslam fired general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur, who were with the franchise just three and two seasons respectively.

    In came Michael Lombardi and Rob Chudzinski in the same positions and the Browns went 4-12 in 2013. Both were fired after just that single campaign.

    Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine have the jobs now. They went 7-9 last year, are 1-1 this year. On Wednesday, the team announced it was bringing quarterback Josh McCown, freshly cleared from a concussion, back as the starter over Johnny Manziel, who got the fan base excited with a couple of deep touchdown passes in Sunday's victory against the Tennessee Titans.

    It's likely the Browns' recent history of revolving door decision-makers is related to the choice for the immediate future.

    So why should the pecking order change?

    He also showed things on Sunday that you can't teach.

  • Rex Ryan again high on emotions, short on execution against Patriots

    Dan Wetzel at Yahoo Sports 22 days ago

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – From the start, Rex Ryan made it personal with Bill Belichick, and by making it personal he made things emotional for himself.

    Ryan is at his best when he is in overdrive – smack talk and bring-the-house blitzes. He has an ability to rally up a locker room until the players are ready to tear down the door, fire up an entire region even, like he has here in relevance-starved Western New York.

    He's saved most of his best lines for Belichick and the New England Patriots, maybe out of some barking dog effort to get a reaction, or to feel like he's on equal footing, or to simply gain acknowledgement from the stoic champion across the way.

    He did it back as a defensive coordinator in Baltimore, and then in a major way as head coach of the New York Jets and then right off the bat here with the Buffalo Bills, where Ryan helped turn Sunday into the most anticipated Bills game in a decade or more. So fans packed Ralph Wilson Stadium with noise and mocking signs, expecting this sun-kissed day to serve as a football renaissance.

    "His team won," Ryan fumed after. "Again."

    Even Rex got one.

    Do you regret saying you didn't know his name?