All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, time for the mailbag to distract you from work or school.

So let’s get rolling.

Kyle writes:

“Long time fan, first time question to the mailbag. I read both of your books, Dixieland Delight and On Rocky Top during my 2010 deployment; I’ve been a huge fan of yours ever since.

So onto the question: Assuming Notre Dame, Michigan, and Clemson win out, and Georgia upsets Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, we’re looking at five deserving teams to make it into the CFB playoff. Regardless of how it pans out, we’ll certainly hear a renewed call to expand the playoff to eight teams.

So here’s my idea: Why not reestablish the traditional four major bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, and Orange) and their traditional tie-ins; then, the winner of those four games get re-seeded 1 through 4 and boom, you’ll have a drama-free college football playoff.

Makes sense, right? Each Power-5 conference gets its winner into the mix, plus three at-large bids. The UCF’s of the world get their shot and no more conflicting/absurd claims of a national championship, and just as importantly, you maintain the traditional tie-ins of all four bowls.

The Rose Bowl isn’t the same without the Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup. This would a perfect marriage of tradition and clarity.”

Here’s the biggest issue I see with that, why would college football want to outsource its most valuable games to bowl games? The bowl game system makes sense for the bowls, it has never made much sense to the conferences, who should be trying to maximize their revenues instead of giving away money to the bowls.

The easy solution is to do an eight team playoff and play the quarterfinal round at the four highest seeded teams on campus.

Then use the existing playoff structure for the semifinals and the finals.

You could play the quarterfinals around December 15th — play all four games on the same Saturday or do one on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Monday for an incredibly awesome weekend or some variation like this — then play the two semifinals on the Saturday closest to New Year’s — and play the title game in the same spot you do now, on a Monday around ten days after the semifinal games.

I don’t understand why this is even remotely complicated, it should just happen.

You could take the top five conference champs, two wild cards, and the highest rated non power conference team as your eight playoff teams.

Having said that, you’ve hit on the toughest scenario the playoff committee could face this year: what would they do if Georgia upsets Alabama in the SEC title game and finishes 12-1 and you have 13-0 Clemson and 12-0 Notre Dame already with two spots locked up? Georgia has to get in then so you’ve got one spot left, potentially, for these four schools: 12-1 Alabama, 12-1 Michigan, 12-1 Oklahoma/West Virginia, and 12-1 Washington State.

To me this would come down to Alabama vs. Michigan, probably, and I just think the committee would have to acknowledge Bama would be a 14 point favorite over Michigan on a neutral field and put the Tide in because they are clearly one of the four best teams in college football.

But if that happened you could end up with three 12-1 conference champs all left out of the playoff, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Washington State, and I think college football fans, and more importantly the college football power brokers, would all have to recognize the four team playoff just isn’t adequate.

I think eight is the perfect number of teams — and I love the idea of on campus games — so I’d hope eventually this is where we’d end up.

It would still be really hard to make the playoffs, but I don’t think you’d cheapen the regular season at all.

That’s why it’s the perfect solution.

Eric writes:

“Wondering what your thoughts are on what the Titans will do with Mariota’s potential contract extension after this season?  He’s clearly been inconsistent over the beginning of his career and could be labeled “injury prone” although strong arguments can be made in his favor regarding both of those issues due to the excessive coaching/leadership changes and poor offensive line and skill player play, especially early on during Mariota’s career.  However, he does seem to lack some general pocket awareness and seems to be somewhat at fault with a lot of his turnovers/sacks.
My understanding is that the Titans could extend him one additional year or sign him to a huge money long term extension to lock up the most important position in the league.  I think they go long term with him because it’s so hard to find the “franchise quarterback” and because he still shows a lot of great potential, but I think they rest of this season could way very heavily in management’s decision.  I’m not sure it’s a slam dunk he gets the big money long term deal.  It also seems the offensive strategy is changing to allow him to use his running abilities more and that scares me long term for obvious reasons.  
Would love to hear your thoughts on where you think management currently stands on his future. If not Mariota, who do they have their eyes on?”
There are three teams right now that have big decisions to make in the near future about their quarterbacks — the Dallas Cowboys with Dak Prescott, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with James Winston and the Titans with Marcus Mariota.
In the past couple of years the Oakland Raiders gave massive contracts to Derek Carr and the Jacksonville Jaguars gave a huge deal to Blake Bortles. The Bortles contract, in particular, I think speaks to the difficulty of even giving up on a young quarterback who has been, at best, mediocre in his career so far.
Bortles got $36 million for this year and next year before the Jags can get out of his deal. (The deal was announced as $54.5 million, but year three isn’t guaranteed).
Bortles represented the mid-range between an all or nothing contract and I think other teams might try to follow that pathway in the future when they aren’t sure whether a quarterback is their guy or not. This way it doesn’t hamstring your franchise forever, while giving your quarterback good money and buying yourself more time to see if he’s the right fit in the long term.
Now let’s dive into the specifics on your question.
First, if you don’t go with Mariota — or Dak or Winston — then you’re deciding to go back into the NFL Draft and pick a new quarterback in the first round. The only two quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls in the past 25 years and not been drafted by the team they won it for are Drew Brees and Peyton Manning and both of those guys had severe injuries which many doctors believed would keep them from ever playing football at a high level again.
So if you decide not to go with your current quarterback, you’re acknowledging you’re going to draft one. (You can also point to Kirk Cousins here, but I think it’s highly unlikely any other team will do what the Redskins did and create multiple years of the franchise tag before allowing a guy to walk.)
The Titans have already picked up Mariota’s year five option — as have the Bucs with Winston — but it’s only guaranteed in the event of injury. Having said that, I don’t think there’s any way the Titans would let him walk. He’s still too young and he’s shown that his ceiling — he was the best quarterback in the league for ten games in year two and he won a road playoff game in year three — is just too high to risk letting him go.
Plus, he just turned 25 so he’s still insanely young.
The biggest issue with Mariota, by far, has been his injuries.
He still hasn’t played 16 games in a season.
And this year in week one he got a freaky injury to his ulnar nerve in his elbow that has left him injured for much of the season and has made it hard to judge his performance. It seems as if the past two games — against the Chargers and the Cowboys — Mariota is finally healthy again and the results have been pretty solid — average QBR of 110 over the past two weeks, which would place him easily in the top ten for NFL quarterbacks on the season.
So I think the question with Mariota is twofold — can he stay healthy and can he continue to play like he has the past two weeks?
But I think the decision to extend him is an easy one.
Now the way this season ends will determine what kind of long range deal the teams work out. If Mariota stumbles, I think the Titans might do a Bortles+ deal with him, more than Bortles, but not much more. But if he got hot and the team advanced to the playoffs again, I think he could get a 20+ million per year deal for the next five years or so.
Finally, the Titans receivers, especially in the wake of tight end Delanie Walker’s injury, are really bad. If Titans receivers had caught his passes this year, the team is probably sitting at 6-2 and Mariota looks even better than he does now.
I would also say this, I bet if you look solely at third down passing, which is really when NFL quarterbacks distinguish themselves, Mariota has been very, very good then. It seems like he’s always in definite passing situations and facing third down and long distances.
As for Dak and Jameis, I don’t think you can extend them, honestly.
I’d probably let Winston go if I were the Bucs, but if I kept him I’d sign him to a smaller deal than Bortles. I just don’t think there’s any way that any team in the NFL would give Jameis $20 million a year right now. Maybe, if you’re really convinced he’s your guy, Winston would take a three year $50 million deal with a team out after year two and the dollar figures such that he only cost $30 million or so after two years?
On the Dak front, I’d be most troubled by the fact that he’s regressed every year. You still have eight games — plus another season — to try to figure out what to do with him because he becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season. Maybe the Cowboys want to sign him to an extension before then — as Jerry Jones has suggested — but the key here is how much of an extension would the Cowboys offer him and why would they rush to sign him?
Remember, unlike the other guys, Dak will only make $3.5 million on his rookie deal. Even if you think Dak isn’t that good he’s been a steal for a fourth round draft pick.
So the solution here might well be to try and get him $40 million or so for three years, starting next year. That buys you time to find out if he’s still the right guy or not, but doesn’t hamstring your franchise forever.
Because here’s the deal you have to ask yourself — how many teams do you think are going to pay Jameis or Dak $20 million a year on the open market right now? I don’t think there are any. Would someone give them $15 million? Maybe. So you have to be smart about how you negotiate here.
I just think it’s utterly fascinating to watch play out.
Keller writes:
“I’m never been a fan, supporter, or even respected Urban Meyer in any capacity. I can’t stand the guy and he’s always rubbed me the wrong way, but since the beginning of this season, I’m legitimately worried about his well being. 
I know he’s been open about troubles with mental health, headaches, memory loss, etc. In the past it’s seemed to me like these were all just excuses for leaving Florida, covering up scandals, and his negative disposition at times. But my fear is that these issues extend far deeper than what is being shared publicly.
I mean all season you watch this guy and he just seems downright depressed. And I think we’ve gotten to the point now where we’re seeing it affect even the performance of the team he’s leading. Last week in the embarrassment at home vs Nebraska, Meyer looked downtrodden and on the verge of breaking down. Even in past seasons, through success and let downs, he’s never surrounded by other coaches or players and he’s almost always utterly alone on the sidelines. It’s sad to see a man at such a coveted position who’s been tagged as the second best coach in college football do broken and visibly unhappy. 
All this is to ask, how long do you see Urban coaching at such a high level and stressful capacity? You know the stress and outside pressures gave affected his family, his image, his university, and put them all in a negative light. Does he need help? I’ve never liked him as a coach, but I fear for his well being as a person. Can you speak at all to the damaged psyche of a once great figure?”
I don’t think Urban Meyer’s well.
How much of that is stress that he’s brought on himself by the way he responded this past offseason vs. legitimate health conditions that have suddenly worsened this season, it’s hard to know.
I will say it’s awfully miraculous how Urban Meyer’s health conditions always seems to arise when his team isn’t playing very well.
Nick Saban starts kicking his ass and he say she nearly died. Now Jim Harbaugh may be about to do the same and he’s suddenly severely ill again?
It just seems awfully convenient.
At this exact moment I do not think he will be back next season. But who knows, maybe Ohio State catches lightning in a bottle, wins out and advances to the playoff. Then Urban might suddenly look very healthy again.
We’ll see.
Brooks writes:

“I understand UT still has the beer barrel. Why wouldn’t Fulmer just roll it out tomorrow, unannounced, call it “the barrel” and just say it’s there for the taking? If UK wins and doesn’t want it, we’ll keep it?

What a power move that would be. College sports used to have fun stuff like this. Just a shame that the elements of old that made rivalries great are seemingly dead.”

I love this idea.

Absolutely phenomenal.

The beer barrel used to be extraordinary at the end of games.

Why not just call it the old barrel and reignite the rivalry? Hell, I’m fine with calling it the beer barrel too. It’s crazy to me that we need to make the name change.

I don’t believe anyone drinks more in college because of this tradition.

DJ writes:

“What is your opinion on “tip-shaming”. So many restaurants are fast casual now where you go to a counter and order, without any table service. 

I always believe in tipping full service waiters and waitresses generously, even curbside (especially if they have to bring your order in bad weather). But now when you go to almost any counter and order, they flip a screen back at you where you are supposed to pick a tip option. If you don’t tip,  everyone in line sees you, but you can just hit the tip button and escape without any shaming. Often these tip options start at 18% for glorified order entry, and go higher from there. What say you old wise one?”  

I think all tips should be built into the bills like they do in Europe.

If you feel that you got particularly good service then you could tip on top of that. But I think the concept of tipping for service — and that being the way servers are paid — doesn’t make sense.

I also think the number of tip lines instead of declining are growing, even when people don’t do anything. If all I do is pay you for my food, while I’m walking in to pick it up from your counter, why should I tip you for it?

That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

We need to wipe out tipping now.

Hope y’a’ll have great weekends and thanks for reading Outkick.

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