Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Playbook [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
What's lurking in these Harbaughs?

By Gregg Easterbrook
ESPN Playbook

TMQ

The biggest brother-versus-brother clash since Eteocles versus Polyneices in "Antigone" -- or maybe since Scar versus Mufasa in "The Lion King" -- so far is shaping up as sweetness and light. Jim and John Harbaugh have only nice things to say about each other. And the first time they squared off was uneventful.

But several schools of psychology teach that adults carry deep-seated traumas from childhood, which may manifest as subconscious motives even among the best-adjusted men and women. Many children believe mother loved another child best, or dad only picked on them, or they were cruelly disciplined while a brother or sister got away with anything. It's not uncommon for two siblings to each believe the other was favored by parents.

Which raises the question: What deep-seated childhood resentments are harbored by John and Jim Harbaugh? Will they boil to the surface if, say, the Super Bowl comes down to a disputed call and the referee -- obviously a father figure! -- favors one Harbaugh over the other? Or what if Jacqueline Harbaugh, their mother, is shown on national television wildly cheering for a touchdown by either San Francisco or Baltimore, then impassively observing a big play by the other side? That's a year in therapy right there.

During and after the Nov. 2011 San Francisco-Baltimore contest, both brothers remained poised and calm. But that was a routine regular-season game; there was no prize to be won. Sunday, the greatest prize in football will be on the line. One brother will wear garlands, the other branded a loser.

And even if Mom and Dad spend exactly the same amount of time in each team's locker room afterward, human nature dictates they will be giddy with the winning brother, glum and hand-patting ("there there, dear, you'll get the fire truck next Christmas") with the vanquished brother.

Now, add that John is the big brother, expected by birth-order theory to be stoic, disciplined and respectful of authority. Jim and Joani, their sister, get a lot more latitude: Birth-order theory says they can be uninhibited and forgiven for outbursts, while John should hold everything inside. That's not a good formula for a very emotional event staged on live television before hundreds of millions of viewers. Maybe Oprah should be in the booth doing commentary for the CBS broadcast.

As for the game itself, TMQ confers an award on a San Francisco player below, but likes Baltimore to prevail.

On paper there are strong reasons to favor the Forty Niners. Better stats -- San Francisco finished third on defense, 11th on offense, versus a mediocre 17th-ranked offense, 16th-ranked defense for the Ravens. No swoons -- San Francisco has never lost two straight under Harbaugh/West, while the Ravens went 1-4 in December. And the Niners are a young team on the rise, while Baltimore is an aging squad whose window is about to slam out. That puts the pressure on the purple people.

But think how each reached the Super Bowl. San Francisco defeated Green Bay and Atlanta, two one-dimensional offenses that can't run the ball, both with average defenses that were not impressive down the stretch. During the same two weeks, Baltimore defeated Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road. The Broncos were the best team in the league on paper -- 11-game victory streak, second on defense, fourth on offense. The Patriots were the league's top offensive club and third-highest scoring NFL team ever. Baltimore handled both, and by the fourth quarter at New England, Baltimore was dominant.

Often, the Super Bowl is about who's playing best at the end, and that is the Ravens. During the 2010 and 2011 regular seasons, the Packers and Giants were erratic: The Packers staged an embarrassing 1-3 streak around Thanksgiving. The Giants staged an embarrassing 2-4 streak around Thanksgiving. But by January, Green Bay and Jersey/A were playing best. That Baltimore struggled in December and shined in January suggests the Ravens, like the Packers and Giants before them, have honored sports lore by saving the best for last.

If the Niners win, will that mean the pistol offense takes over the NFL? Most likely not. One reason is that fad offenses have bubbled up into the pros before -- the Bills were no-huddle always-shotgun 20 years ago, while the Oilers and Lions were four-wide 20 years ago, for example. Countermeasures always are found.

The more important reason is the differing economics of college and pro football. In college, where many quarterbacks are the focus of the rushing attack, there is little economic risk involved in such tactics. A Division I college invests a maximum of about $250,000 in a quarterback and knows a good quarterback is certain to leave in two to four years. If he's injured, just send in another similar guy who's similarly inexpensive.

Every college quarterback was all-state or all-met, and every Division I school has several, with more begging to be offered. Johnny Football, the Heisman winner -- of course, Texas A&M doesn't want him to get hurt running the ball. But Texas A&M has six quarterbacks on its roster, all obtained nearly free in economic terms, all former prep heroes. If Manziel goes down, the Aggies could turn to Matt Davis, a four-star recruit. The running quarterback is a strong offensive threat either in college or the pros. But in college, there's little economic reason not to let the quarterback run.

In the pros, a franchise typically has $20 million to $50 million invested in the starting quarterbacks and hopes a good quarterback will stay in town for a decade. Draft-choice investments, no factor in college, in the NFL may be extreme. Washington invested three first-round picks in RG III; if he sustains a serious injury rushing the ball, that's calamity. In the NFL, no team is five-deep at quarterback like in college. Backups tend to be players who haven't seen the field in years, unlike in college, where many backups were stars the season before. Marx said everything is economics. He'd understand in an instant why so many colleges want their quarterbacks to run, and so few pro teams do.

In other football news, because the NFL MVP, like the Heisman Trophy, always goes to a quarterback or running back, this column annually presents the coveted "longest award in sports" -- Entertainment and Sports Programming Network's Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back National Football League Most Valuable Player. See below for the winner.

Stats of the Off Week No. 1: Colin Kaepernick is averaging 101 yards rushing per game in the postseason. The Super Bowl record for rushing by a quarterback is 64 , by Steve McNair in 1999.

Gisele BŁndchen
Possible explanation for Tom Brady's declining football proficiency.

Stats of the Off Week No. 2: Devin Hester had 11 kick return touchdowns in his first two seasons, and has three in his most recent two seasons.

Stats of the Off Week No. 3: The Indianapolis Colts made the playoffs despite being outscored.

Stats of the Off Week No. 4: The Buccaneers finished their past two seasons with a combined 1-15 run.

Stats of the Off Week No. 5: In the past two seasons, the Bengals are 21-0 against teams that missed the playoffs and 2-11 against teams that made the playoffs.

Stats of the Off Week No. 6: Tom Brady had a 10-1 playoff record before he began dating Gisele Bundchen and a 7-6 playoff record since. Reader stat submitted by John Gilbert of Las Vegas.

Stats of the Off Week No. 7: Ryan brothers teams (the Jets and Cowboys) are on an 0-6 streak versus the Patriots.

Stats of the Off Week No. 8: Mark Sanchez finished the season with the worst passer rating of any full-season starter.

Stats of the Off Week No. 9: Sunday will be the first Super Bowl to pair teams that are undefeated in previous Super Bowl appearances. Reader stat submitted by Damien Lodes of Moore, Okla.

X Files
Space aliens, parallel dimensions, shapeshifters? There must be a reason the Raiders would deliberately lose the Super Bowl.

Stats of the Off Week No. 10: Adrian Peterson finished the regular season with more rushing yards than 24 entire NFL teams.

If Only The X Files Had Known This: Tim Brown's claim that Bill Callahan threw Super Bowl XXXVII to get revenge against Raiders management is one of the oddest conspiracy theories ever. Many former Raiders are bitter about that game, since Oakland, with the league's No. 1 offense, was clobbered 48-21 by City of Tampa. Did Jon Gruden, Oakland's coach the year before, know the audible codes the Raiders were using? Maybe. If signals weren't changed -- this is a point of contention -- then Callahan did a terrible job. But Brown's claim that Callahan deliberately lost the Super Bowl in order to get revenge against Raiders management is quite far-fetched.

Brown has expressed great bitterness about that game in the past -- TMQ heard him do so in 2009 when speaking at a sports brunch. But rolling out a conspiracy theory now is strange timing, since Brown is a finalist in the Hall of Fame vote this weekend. There are 17 finalists this go-round. The first stage of deliberations is an attempt to identify those who can be discarded immediately, simplifying the debate. Brown's strange claim gives Canton voters a reason to toss his jacket out this year. Perhaps Tim Brown is deliberately sabotaging his own Hall of Fame chances, in order to get revenge against Raiders management.

Andre Reed
What if he had been drafted by the Forty Niners and Jerry Rice had been drafted by the Bills?

As regards Canton, TMQ hopes this will be Andre Reed's year. He played on a run-oriented team in a bad-weather city, yet left Buffalo as the NFL's No. 2 all-time receiver. On the same draft day Reed was selected, Jerry Rice was chosen by the Forty Niners. Rice played on a pass-oriented team in a good-weather city. If on that draft day, Reed had gone to San Francisco and Rice to Buffalo, there is a strong chance Reed would have become professional football's consensus all-time best receiver, while in 2013, the Hall of Fame selectors would be debating whether this Jerry Rice guy belongs in Canton.

TMQ Non-QB Non-RB MVP: Only players whose teams reach the postseason are considered, on the reasoning that he who would wear the mantle of "most valuable" had better have created some value. In an unexpected development, this year Alex Smith of the Forty Niners was eligible to be Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back MVP. Here are the past winners:

Three of the 11 winners are from New England, dominant franchise of the period in question. Eight of the 11 are offensive linemen, the least-praised position in football, yet the heart of any good team. Here are this year's finalists from the teams that made the playoffs but not the Super Bowl:

This year's runner up is Marshal Yanda of the Baltimore Ravens, one of the three or four best offensive linemen in the NFL, and master of a lost art, the pull trap.

NaVorro Bowman
The Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back NFL MVP.

This year's winner is NaVorro Bowman of the San Francisco Forty Niners. Bowman led the Niners in tackling, stayed on the field on passing downs, and broke up the Falcons' last-minute fourth down pass -- while covering speed receiver Roddy White -- to secure the Niners' trip to New Orleans. Teammate Patrick Willis, also a linebacker, gets far more attention than Bowman; they are equal as performers. Sentimental factor: your columnist attended one of Bowman's games in high school.

Don't Tell Hollywood About MapQuest: One of the fun aspects of the submarine conspiracy show "Last Resort," which TMQ says goodbye to below, was that geography meant nothing. It took the submarine mere minutes to sail from the Indian Ocean to French Polynesia, a journey of thousands of miles.

Geography often means nothing to Hollywood. On the old show "24," Jack Bauer would travel a huge distance during commercials, yet the clock would advance only a few minutes. In an episode of "Rizzoli and Isles," the gal pals are tied up in a car that's sinking into a lake in the Berkshires area of Massachusetts; the hero character calls her partner in Boston, and he appears minutes later to save them just before they go under. The Berkshires are about 125 miles from Boston. In the Nicolas Cage movie "Next," there's a dramatic scene at the Grand Canyon. Then, the characters jump into a car and mere minutes later are at Long Beach Harbor, which is 500 miles away.

The granddaddy of mangled geography is the 1959 Cary Grant thriller "North by Northwest." In the climactic sequence, Grant and Eva Marie Saint run out of a bad guy's mansion and about 100 yards later they are at the top of Mount Rushmore, where, of course, soon they are dangling by their fingertips. Mount Rushmore is not in a residential neighborhood!

Why Are Yards Better Than Points? New England finished the regular season as the NFL's third-highest scoring team ever, yet the Patriots are out. Misery loves company: all seven of the NFL's seven highest-scoring teams failed to win the Super Bowl that season. Here they are, from first to seventh in points scored:

The highest scoring team ever, the 2007 Patriots, averaged 38 points during the regular season, then wheezed out with 14 points in a Super Bowl defeat. This year's Patriots averaged 35 points during the regular season, then put up just 13 points at home in a playoff loss. The 1983 Redskins averaged 34 points during the regular season, then scored just nine points in their Super Bowl defeat. Only the 2011 Saints came close to their season average, scoring 32 points in their divisional-round loss.

Yet, teams that finish No. 1 in offense as measured by yards do well in the Super Bowl. Eight No. 1 offensive teams have won the ultimate contest, most recently the 2009 New Orleans Saints. Here are the eight first-overall offenses that won the Super Bowl:

Yes, it's shocking to recall there was a Pittsburgh Steelers team that was No. 1 in offense. The 1997 Cowboys and 1972 Dolphins are the two NFL teams that doubled down, finishing first in offense and defense, then taking the Lombardi Trophy.

Team sports is, ultimately, about scoring points. So why have all the best scoring NFL teams faltered, why many of the best yardage teams did well?

It would be tempting to say the high-scoring teams that failed in the Super Bowl couldn't play defense, but that does not seem right. The 2007 Patriots had the fourth-overall defense, the 2000 Rams were ninth in defense, the 1998 Vikings 13th in defense. Likewise, it would be tempting to say the high-scoring teams that failed at the Super Bowl level could pass but couldn't run to control game tempo. That doesn't seem the common denominator, either. The 1983 Redskins finished third in rushing, the 2011 Saints were sixth.

SportsNation

The Lakers' $100 million train wreck is

  •  
    7%
  •  
    10%
  •  
    83%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,152)

Of course, when numbers are close, statistics can be deceiving. And there have been No. 1 yardage teams that were also the season's top-scoring team and won the Super Bowl, but scored just a bit fewer total points than the very best scoring teams. The 2009 Saints -- number one in yards and in points, Lombardi-lifters -- are an example.

Your columnist is going to go all squishy and propose that the reason the record-scoring-total NFL teams failed to win the Super Bowl is psychological. They became spoiled, expecting to score quickly, expecting to see defeat in the eyes of opponents by the third quarter. During the regular season, when opponents were playing at 90 percent intensity, games seemed easy. But during the playoffs, intensity cranks to maximum, and the accustomed easy scoring stopped. Cornerbacks who backed off during the regular season were up on the line jamming receivers. Defensive ends were going all-out trying to knock the quarterback on his keister and make him hear footsteps.

Freud
Freud would have said Manti Te'o has defense mechanisms. Of course, Te'o is a defense mechanism.

The 2007 Patriots are hardly the only highest-scoring team whose offense, spoiled by quick-and-easy, seized up at the last. The no-huddle Bills of 1990 scored at least 40 points four times, then scored 19 points in losing the Super Bowl. The 1983 Redskins scored at least 40 points four times, then scored only nine points in the Super Bowl. The 2011 Packers scored at least 40 points six times, then scored 20 points in their playoff loss at home. In college, the 2010 Oregon Ducks scored at least 50 points six times, then scored 19 points in losing the BCS title game.

Top-yardage teams, by contrast, may not expect effortless touchdowns. They're accustomed to fighting their way down the field and to controlling tempo rather than scoring quickly, then jogging back to the bench to relax.

I admit that's a psychobabble explanation for the otherwise-vexing reality that the NFL's seven top-scoring seasons ended in playoff defeat. But sometimes, all we've got to explain the human animal is psychobabble. If Sigmund Freud were alive today, he'd be hosting a midmorning talk show: "Zo, Manti, ven you saw the Facebook page, dat made you tink of a childhood trauma, ya?"

Scoring Footnote: Perhaps you've heard the sportsyak world saying scoring is way up in this year's playoffs. Not really. The average postseason game so far has seen 49 points. Compare to 44 points per playoff contest a decade ago in 2003, 47 points in the 1993 postseason, 46 points in the 1983 postseason, 41 points in the 1973 playoffs. So there's an increase, but not a huge one -- four percent more points than two decades ago. The peak year for postseason scoring was 1995, with an average of 52 points per contest. The nadir was the 1970 postseason, an average of 27 points per game.

Natalie Portman
The actual Natalie Portman can only dream of hosting a Sundance party and giving a speech at the United Nations in the same week.

Maybe the Real Natalie Portman Couldn't Get In: The New York Times runs a weekly business-section feature called Frequent Flyer in which a person who travels a lot name-drops about the impressive places he or she transits regularly. But even for a column that has the point of boasting, last week's Frequent Flyer went off the charts.

"My travel schedule can be insane," a woman identified as an advocate for cancer research says. "In a matter of a few days, I may have hosted a party at Sundance, sat in the hospital with patients and friends, spoken at the United Nations and chatted about repurposing technology platforms and digital strategy in San Francisco." Sundance, Silicon Valley and the United Nations all boasted about in the same sentence! And did she really give a speech at the United Nations? The United Nations website has no mention of her name in the past decade. Perhaps "spoken at the United Nations" means she met a friend in the lobby and they chatted.

Be sure to read the Frequent Flyer's account of going to an event at Bill Clinton's Global Initiative -- name-dropper nirvana -- and being put into the VIP line because security thought she was Natalie Portman.

Cheese
Cheese... run for your lives!

Rethink That Fondue Recipe: Not only did burning cheese close a highway tunnel in Norway for five days: "Toxic gases were slowing the recovery operation, officials said." Cheese burns? Flaming cheese releases deadly fumes?

Clang! Clang! Clang! The Northern Illinois men's basketball team scored four points in the first half on the way to 8-for-61 shooting in a 42-25 loss to Eastern Michigan. The Huskies were a sizzling 1-for-33 from the arc. Reader Sean Azarin of Santa Clara, Calif., notes this season's Northern Illinois football team played four contests in which there were more total points scored than in this basketball game.

Is Not! Is Too! At the top of the column, TMQ wonders whether childhood feelings will manifest at the Super Bowl. Sound unlikely? Gary Myers reports that a year before the next Super Bowl, both the Jets and Giants have already thrown kindergarten-level hissy fits about not wanting other kids into their rooms.

Castle
Tom Brady inspects his new home with a real estate broker.

Does It Have Alligators? If Gisele Bundchen is not the reason for Tom Brady's postseason decline, perhaps the reason is that amount of time he spends filling the moat at his new Los Angeles mansion.

NCAA High School GPA Rules Get Serious: The NCAA regulates admission into collegiate scholarship sports; individual colleges (sometimes conferences) regulate whether a player remains eligible. It's the latter that leads to most abuses -- football or men's basketball players being called eligible to perform and make revenue for the school, while skipping class. But it's the former that gets all the attention, because the NCAA admission standard is a national standard that impacts large numbers of teens.

The NCAA eligibility standard for admission into scholarship athletics once required that a high school student take only 14 credits in "core" subjects -- English, math, science, history, language. Fourteen core credits in eight semesters is very lax. Then, the standard was raised to 16 core credits, the number in effect today, with a minimum GPA of 2 in core courses. (The NCAA insists on saying minimum GPA of 2.000, which makes it sound like not many NCAA officials have themselves passed core courses in numerical literacy.) Along with a 2 GPA in core courses, a minimum of 1010 on the old SAT scale -- math and English, but not writing -- was required.

In August 2016, the requirement changes again, to a minimum GPA of 2.3 in core courses (preposterously, the NCAA calls it a "2.300" minimum) with at least 10 of the credits completed before senior year. For many aspiring athletes, especially boys who don't take school seriously, the upcoming 2.3 core GPA rule will be a rude shock. So will the new SAT math-and-English minimum of 1080. An awful lot of boys whose lives are athletics are going to find it hard to make a combination of 2.3 in hard courses (art, photography, web design don't count as "core") and 1080 on the SAT.

Oregon Cheerleader
The Oregon Ducks and New England Patriots both have great cheerleaders and both score less late in the season.

The 2016 standards further create a new set of NCAA classifications for athletes: a full qualifier, "academic redshirt" category for a young person who can receive NCAA scholarship aid to attend class but is forbidden to play in the first year and a new "nonqualifier" classification for a person the school may decide to admit through its admissions office but who cannot receive sports scholarships the first year. (Today's redshirting is determined by individual schools, not the NCAA, and often is more about weightlifting than classroom work.)

Current eligibility rules are here; the 2016 rules are summarized here. These higher standards are a sound reform. Ideally, once word gets out, they will cause high school athletes, especially football and boys' basketball players, to realize they simply can't ignore their high school homework, then play NCAA sports in college.

Note on page 10 of the 2016 rules the "sliding scale" of GPA and SAT numbers the NCAA will require beginning in three years. The NCAA's whole sliding-scale concept is puzzling. The current minimum of 2 GPA/1010 SAT asks a high school student who is doing poorly in the classroom (the 2 part) to finish a strong 48th percentile on the SAT (the 1010 part). How likely is that?

Then, the higher the GPA, the lower the SAT number the NCAA mandates. A high school student with a core GPA of 3 (excuse me, of 3.000 according to the NCAA) can receive an NCAA scholarship with an SAT of 620, which is third percentile. Third percentile is awful -- barely better than leaving every answer blank. Thus, the NCAA thinks a high school student can do well in school (the 3 part) will do terribly poorly on the SAT (the 620 part).

The theory of the sliding scale is that by offering a student with low GPA an opportunity to perform well on the SAT (or ACT, there's an equivalency table), the sliding scale generates a second chance for those who messed up as underclassmen. But once the 2.3/1080 standard goes into effect in 2016, there will be an awful lot of high school kids who simply can't post a 1080, which is 60th percentile.

The practical effect of the new rule should be to force a lot of football and men's basketball candidates into the new academic redshirt year, in which they will know that if they don't start paying attention to schoolwork, there will be no second year of college. If that's the way the coming standards turn out to work, they will be a progressive reform.

Lost in Space
There are bad things out there in the galaxy. Bad things, man.

Spooky Cosmic Thought: TMQ often notes the galaxy isn't necessarily friendly -- asteroids and comets strike Earth more often, and more recently in geologic terms, than seems comforting. If a supernova were to explode "nearby" in galactic terms, the radiation might cause a mass extinction.

Readers including Patrick Falini of Baltimore, Md., pointed out a new research paper finding evidence that Earth was hit by a storm of gamma rays about 1,200 years ago, perhaps set off by the collision of two black holes, or of two very old neutron stars. The gamma-ray storm of 1,200 years ago doesn't appear to have caused much harm, but it's a reminder there are lions and tigers and bears out there.

"Last Resort" Even Had a Scene Where a Dropped Wrench Gives Away a Submarine's Position: The submarine conspiracy show "Last Resort" just sounded the diving horn for the final time. Viewers never found out why the sinister United States president wanted to fake evidence of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan; why most of the military went along with an obviously crazy plan to stage a nuclear first strike on Pakistan, then immediately destroy the American submarine that launched the missiles; why the order to launch came through a 50-year-old Cold War backup system, which is what alerted the noble captain of the missile submarine Colorado that something wasn't right. What was the point? Viewers never learned. At least the evil president got it between the eyes just before the credits roll.

As previous items noted, many episodes featured the Colorado acting like a World War II submarine, not a modern boat. The series finale included lots of gunfire inside a submarine, yet no one's ears ring. Seconds after automatic weapons blast away in a submarine corridor, the characters converse normally. Why there were so many small arms in the first place was puzzling: Does a United States strategic missile submarine really carry infantry weapons and "battle rattle" for every member of the crew? The final fight to oust the mutineers turned on a fuse ignited by a crew chief's Zippo. I don't think I want to be aboard a submarine on which crewmembers have cigarette lighters.

Sub Movie
"Helm, Warp Two! We need to travel several thousand miles during the commercial."

At one point the Burke-class destroyer Patrick Lawrence, under orders from the White House conspiracy, confronts the Colorado. Why is a U.S. navy vessel named after a 19th century British general? The destroyer's captain acts as if he is sailing to certain doom: Viewers are told the Colorado can easily sink the destroyer while being invulnerable to the surface ship. But the Colorado is a strategic missile submarine, engineered to hide, not to fight other ships: Attack submarines are the ones that fight other ships. And modern destroyers are mainly submarine hunters! Burke-class vessels carry antisubmarine rockets and a helicopter specialized for long-range antisubmarine warfare. If a USN strategic missile submarine and a USN destroyer located each other with intent to fight, chips might go on the destroyer.

Plot holes were numerous. Once the Colorado parked off an island in French Polynesia and declared the island sovereign, why did the crew leave the boat, live ashore and interact with the islanders? This would be certain to cause trouble -- indeed, about half the material of the series was friction between crew and natives. The Colorado is said to be Ohio-class, a series designed to stay submerged up to three months. Even if the Colorado needed to surface by the island to take on supplies, the captain could have maintained discipline by having the crew live onboard. Instead there is drinking, fighting and conspiring ashore. A crewman rapes an island woman, then the captain (extremely implausibly) punishes him to banishment in the jungle. You didn't need to belong to the scriptwriters' guild to know that guy would show up later with a gun.

The male crew members on "Last Resort" were GQ handsome, the female characters were lookers: it's television. When the mega-babe lieutenant stripped off her fatigues for a love scene, she was wearing a black lace bedroom bra. Do women serving aboard submarines really pack lingerie from the Victoria's Secret catalog?

Daisey Betts
Actress Daisy Betts on "Last Resort." She ordered from Victoria's Secret while the submarine was submerged.

Audiences learn that a CIA officer of uncertain loyalty is embedded with the submarine's crew. She communicates with someone in Washington -- the conspiracy or loyalists? -- using satellite uplink equipment hidden in the jungle. But the CIA had no idea the Colorado was going to sail to a tiny French Polynesian island, why would it have pre-positioned a covert radio installation there?

The MacGuffin of the final episodes was a flash drive that contained evidence the president is a traitor. The flash drive changes hands several times with drastic consequences -- because no one makes a copy. In the finale, control of the ship is seized by bad guys. Then, the good guys retake command, overriding the bridge, by punching a few buttons in what appears to be a broom closet. Just like on all "Star Trek" shows!

At the conclusion, the noble captain beaches the Colorado, then Navy fighters blow her up to prevent the ship from falling into Chinese hands. Blowing up a submarine with 288 hydrogen bombs aboard should not cause a nuclear explosion -- such warheads are elaborately trigger-locked. But highly radioactive material might be spread into the air. As the Colorado explodes, characters look on, unconcerned.

There was one nice touch of realism at the end of a mainly nonsensical show. In the penultimate episode, loyal officers and politicians plan a coup to remove the traitor from the White House. One says in passing they must arrest both the president and vice president, then place the Speaker of the House in power.

This reference isn't explained, and what happens next is a preposterous scene in which the Speaker of the House commits suicide on national television seconds after learning the evil president has foiled the coup. But the reference is correct.

Last Resort
Camouflage fatigues onboard submarines, not blue coveralls, was the least of "Last Resort" plot holes.

The 25th Amendment contains a clause saying the president may be removed from office if physically or psychologically incapacitated on the condition the vice president and a majority of the cabinet agree to the removal. If the vice president was part of the evil president's never-explained conspiracy, the 25th Amendment wouldn't work, because the vice president could veto a peaceful, legal transition of power. That would leave a coup as the only option. "Last Resort" got that detail right.

Review of "Further Review": Elsewhere, this column notes tactical differences between NFL and college football. Replays are different, too. In the NFL, coaches initiate the challenge, then the referee on the field reviews the play. In the NCAA, a booth official initiates the challenge in most conferences -- coaches have no say -- and the booth official makes the decision, which is simply phoned down to the referee.

The systems generate different results. Last season, 26 percent of college replays led to a reversal of the call on the field. In the NFL, 52 percent of coaches' challenges resulted in the play being reversed.

These stats suggest that NCAA booth officials stop the action for reviews more often than is necessary -- since three-quarters of the time the booth official ends up agreeing that field officials made the correct call. Meanwhile, in the NFL, coaches get steadily better at projecting which plays are likely to be overturned. In the 2008 season, 27 percent of NFL challenges were successful. The figure has risen steadily to this season's 52 percent.

Grammarians wince when the referee turns on his microphone and announces, "After further review…" It's not "further" review, there has been no prior review. The NCAA actually mandates this clunky wording. See Section 6, Article 1.

Monte Kiffin
Monte Kiffin was let go by his own son. Happy Father's Day!

Coaches' Employment Office: As brothers prepare to meet at the Super Bowl, don't overlook another coaching family milestone: Monte Kiffin, defensive coordinator of USC, was forced out by the head coach, his son, Lane. Officially, Monte resigned. He did not do well, with USC's points allowed during his three seasons at an average of 25, versus 15 points allowed on average the previous three seasons. Monte may have been hindered by the fad for Xbox Offense in the college ranks -- a recruiting focus on offensive players to win games 45-38. In the NFL, teams remain happy to win 17-13.

In the pros, not only did the seven NFL teams that fired their head coaches fire all or almost all their assistant coaches, the Jets fired both coordinators, including offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano, after a single year; he moves to Oakland, his third team in three seasons. The Saints fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo after a single year; he's now looking for his third employer in three seasons. The Titans fired their offensive coordinator; the Rams and Cowboys fired their defensive coordinator; the Panthers fired three position coaches; the list goes on.

The Baltimore Ravens have come out ahead by firing their offensive coordinator in December. Usually, head coaches fire coordinators or position coaches in order to shift blame. All the new coordinators and position coaches across the NFL will spend most of 2013 getting accustomed to their situations -- then be fired next January.

Tony Sparano
Tony Sparano's advice to aspiring coaches: Keep a bag packed.

College Versus Pro Offensive Stats: This season, 25 Division I football programs averaged more points per game than the highest-scoring NFL team, while every program in big college football, except one, outscored the Kansas City Chiefs on a points-per-game basis. The lone exception was the University of Massachusetts, which only joined Division I last year. A total of 123 big colleges were higher-scoring than the Kansas City Chiefs professional football franchise.

New England, at an average of 428 yards per game, was the best offense in the pros. Forty-three Division I teams averaged more than 428 yards per game. Ten Division I teams averaged more than 500 yards per game, led by Louisiana Tech at an average -- average! -- of 578 yards of offense per contest.

Obviously, lower-division cupcake opponents distort scoring and yardage totals for Division I football: In the NFL there are weak teams, but no such things as lower-division opponents. Big gaps in recruiting-class talent result in lots of blowouts in college football, while blowouts are fairly rare in the NFL. Recruiting priorities also distort the NFL-NCAA comparison. In recent years, most football-factory colleges (the big exceptions are Alabama and LSU) have put most of their talent on offense, seeking to make the scoreboard spin. In the NFL, talent is, in general, equally divided on both sides of the ball.

College's high totals for points and yards are generated in large part by rushing, just like when Bud Wilkinson was coaching at Oklahoma. Roster turnover is greater in college than in the pros, and running offenses require less practice time than passing offenses. This season, 51 Division I teams averaged more yards rushing per game than the best-rushing NFL team, the Redskins, with 169 yards per game. Oregon averaged 316 yards rushing, close to double the number for the best-rushing NFL club. (Army and Air Force did even better, but rarely attempt passes.)

The rushing numbers in college also reflect recruiting. Schools with recruiting power bring in the biggest, most athletic offensive linemen, who tend to run all over their opponents. In the NFL, where the draft is an equalizer, the best offensive lines are somewhat better than the average defensive front. In college, when, say, Alabama faces Western Carolina, its offensive line is substantially better than the opponent's.

Next Week: That Super Bowl thing you might have heard about.

In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback for Playbook, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The Leading Indicators" and seven other books. He is a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly. His website can be found here, and you can get a notification on Twitter when TMQ is posted.

Back to Playbook