Head coaches in the NFL, generally speaking, get where they got by starting at the bottom of their profession and working their way up: Bill Belichick started out as a $25-a-week assistant for the Baltimore Colts; Mike Holmgren was a high school coach who also taught history. Coaches learn their extremely difficult, demanding, horrifically time-consuming jobs as they go along, picking up knowledge as they work. This is a really old-fashioned, almost quaint way of learning a trade—why don’t NFL coaches just go to grad school to study football?
There aren’t any current schools that offer a straight up “Masters in Football Coaching” degrees, but we’re getting there. There are already a bunch of sports management degrees offered by colleges, though those programs tend to focus on the administrative side of the sports world—front office gigs, not play-calling. If you want some education in the world of X’s and O’s you can take Drake University’s online class in “football coaching.” Or maybe you’d be interested in the United States Sports Academy’s Bachelor of Sports Science in Sports Coaching degree, where you can take classes in “Sports Psychology” and “Sports Coaching Methodology.” As far as I can tell, there’s no degree in pure NFL coaching, but that’s sure to change sooner or later. In the UK, Southhampton Solent University offers a BA in Football Studies (what we would call soccer studies), and they’re serious about it—the website brags that it’s a leading center for “the academic study of football." C’mon Stanford, where’s your Bill Walsh School of American Football? We don’t have any centers for the academic study of our football.
If football schools become commonplace around America—and why wouldn’t they? There’s a bunch of young men who aren’t athletic enough to be Michael Vick but can still dream of being Andy Reid—it’ll be fun to watch the poor football studies majors struggle to find gigs. There are only a few jobs for coaches at the college and pro levels, so the kids who aren’t smart or lucky enough to catch on with a team will have to find a job teaching football studies at their old schools, which means there will be more football studies programs around the country, which means there will be more football studies majors fighting for the same number of jobs… Football academia will grow and grow until PhD students are writing 200-page dissertations on the spread option that nobody will ever even look at, and the game will continue to be played by large, inhumanly fit men who can barely read.
Arizona (-1.5) at St. Louis
You know those films about farmers being unhappy and poor and dying that have a lot of pans over landscapes in black and white and not very much dialogue? Do you know what I’m talking about? They’re like, Scandinavian or something and the moral is always “Never, ever be a farmer in Scandinavia or wherever because your life will be a series of awful events that you cannot understand because ultimately there is no God?” This game will be the football equivalent of those films.
Atlanta (-3) at Washington
Man, isn’t it a relief that no one is talking about how Robert Griffin III is a “black quarterback” or “plays like a black quarterback” because he runs? Finally, we can let people be people and ball-throwin’ fellas be ball-throwin’ fellas; the day has come when QBs will be judged by their DYAR and not the color of their skin. Oh, never mind. Skip Bayless is talking about race now.
Philadelphia (-3.5) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers are sort of like Mike Scioscia’s recent Angels teams—a once-successful system remains in place, as does some of the talent, but the latter has aged so poorly that the former suffers. When your defense is the oldest in the NFL, it’s not smashmouth, it’s just slow.
Green Bay (-7) at Indianapolis
Man, Green Bay’s city hall looks boring:
Put some arches or domes or something in there, guys. This game will also be boring, ‘cause Rodgers will stomp the Colts.
PICK: Green Bay
Cleveland (+9) at New York Giants
While I have never worked so much as one day in organized football, or even tackled someone who was wearing those shin-exposing football pants, I cannot for the life of me figure out how a multimillion business allows its hiring coordinators to bring on a 28-year-old nobody as its starting quarterback. A 28-year-old rookie is like a 40-year-old intern; he brings everybody down. Cleveland backup Colt McCoy, who’s been in the league long enough to be a washed-up vet, is barely 26. Meanwhile, Eli Manning is 17 years old and always will be.
Tennessee (+5.5) at Minnesota
Why didn’t the Titans stay the Oilers? What idiot was responsible for “Titans”? Sure, there’s less oil in Tennessee than in Houston, but the Lakers neighbor no lakes, and Minnesota’s name works fine in LA. The Utah Jazz , the Memphis Grizzlies—dumb, sure, but those names sound right. Whenever teams mess with the program we end up with dumb monikers like the Toronto Raptors and the Titans. (Oh yeah, last time I checked there weren’t any Titans in Tennessee either, dumbasses.) The Vikings, on the other hand, were like, “Vikings are tough, we’ve got some Nordic folks here, let’s do this thing!”
Miami (+3.5) at Cincinnati
How come everyone isn’t talking about how awesome Bengals receiver A.J. Green is all the time? Everyone wants to talk about the Jets or the Eagles and that’s dumb. Those teams aren’t any good, while A.J. Green does stuff like this:
Baltimore (-5) at Kansas City
When I picture a Kansas City Chiefs fan, I picture a guy who’s not sure what he’s doing with himself. He’s got a pretty good gig at the bakery, he’s dating this girl but he doesn’t really think of it as his real life. Wasn’t he supposed to have a calling of some kind, some passion that lights him from within? Here he is, watching the Chiefs lose again with his buddies at the bar, not getting drunk, just getting tired. He thinks about calling his girl later but then he just starts crying. He doesn’t know why. He wonders if this is normal.
Seattle (+3) at Carolina
Riff Raff is a fan of Seattle sports, I guess? Or is there some kind of encoded message in this song, like “Seahawks” means blowing meth smoke up your ass or something? I’m so confused. Can some 17-year-old Dutch music blogger who gets these things explain this to me please?
Chicago (-5.5) at Jacksonville
Is it awesome to be an NFL quarterback? Most of the time it probably is. You get to throw a ball a long ways and people cheer and then you go on TV and say, “America! Eat this brand-name pizza! I swear it doesn’t taste like cardboard! Haha, now I am throwing a football made of pizza! What a comical moment!” Then probably you can have sex with a lady who has, like, crazy breasts. On the other hand, if you’re Jay Cutler, everyone hates you for no reason and there’s such a thing as a national debate about your personality. Literally, columnists and regular folks, most of whom you’ve never met, are asking each other if you’re an asshole and generally concluding that yes, you are. Christ. What if he had kids old enough to read? “Daddy, why are the men on the radio saying nasty things about you? Isn’t your team winning?”
Denver (+7) at New England
Peyton Manning facing Tom Brady was something I used to be into, along with Erlend Oye records, crewneck sweatshirts, and Greek yogurt. This game will be good, I guess, but I’m just not too excited about it.
PICK: New England
Buffalo (+9.5) at San Francisco
Computers simulate every NFL game thousands of times because, hey, why not? We've got these computers jusy lying around anyway. The computers think the Bills will lose by a lot. I disagree and think the Bills might surprise some of you SOULLESS NUMBER CRUNCHERS and make this game interesting, so I’m basically Neo and John Connor rolled into one here.
San Diego (+3.5) at New Orleans
Drew Brees is going after the whatevereth game with a touchdown pass in a row, and he’s either about to break or already broke Johnny Unitas’s record. It’s a big deal if you’re a weirdo who memorizes football stats. Brees will probably break that record, since 1.) he’s awesome and 2.) per Football Outsiders, San Diego has only the 24th-best defense in football. MORE ADVANCED STATS: San Diego is the most 9-7 franchise of all time.
PICK: New Orleans
Houston (-8) at New York Jets
So after losing their best player (Darrelle Revis), the Jets went from being “sorta OK, I guess” to comically awful. And now they lost Santonio Holmes, their best ball-catching guy, for the season as well. Time to play Tebow, guys. And maybe sign one of Mitt Romney’s sons to be wide receiver and have Rex Ryan’s wife release another foot fetish video. Fuck it. It’s just football, you might have fun as you’re losing, right?
Last week’s record: 9-5-1
Overall record: 31-29-3__