A brief look at the recently completed weeks, and in two cases, seasons for three of the local football teams.
Everyone knows that the Steelers, with nothing to play for in Week 17, sent out the junior varsity against the Browns in order to avoid key injuries as they head into the NFL post-season this coming weekend. Incredibly, the awful Cleve Brownies jumped to a 14-0 lead and had the Steelers on the ropes in that game. However, some poor decision making on the part of either the Browns' coaches or QB Robert Griffin III, combined with some equally poor play and execution demonstrated just why the Browns managed to lose fifteen games this season, and the Steelers prevailed, 27-24 in overtime.
The big winner in that game was undoubtedly Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones. After an pretty bad first half, Jones rallied in the second half, and in the overtime, he was positively Ben-like in leading the team on a 75 yard do-or-die drive, completing a pass on fourth and two to continue the drive, and then throwing the TD pass to win the game.
Jones' rookie contract expires at the close of this season, and he will be an unrestricted free agent. Will his big game on Sunday cause some Desperate-for-a-QB NFL team to shower Jones with a big money contract? Seems unlikely, but look at what Houston did last year with Brock Oswieler. Jones made the most of his opportunity, so I hope it works out for him.
The Panthers 2016 season ended in pretty much the same fashion as the 2015 season did with a loss in a bowl game that gave them a finishing record of 8-5. Unlike last year's bowl, when they were clearly outplayed by Navy, this loss to Northwestern was frustrating due to the fact that stars James Conner and Nate Peterman were lost for much of the game due to injuries. You can only wonder "what if" had those injuries not occurred.
It was a fun and entertaining season that Pitt provided its followers, including big wins over Penn State and Clemson at Clemson. A lot to be excited about and look forward to in 2017, but Pat Narduzzi and his staff really need to get some help on the defensive side of the ball next year. And, oh, yeah, find a QB to replace the solid Peterman.
When Penn State lost to Pitt in the second week of the season, and got pasted by Michigan two weeks later, most of the talk centered around who would be the next coach in Happy Valley after James Franklin, who was sure to be fired after the end of the season. We all low what happened then...nine straight wins, including beating undefeated Ohio State, and a Big Ten Championship, and a tough loss in the Rose Bowl to USC last night by a score of 52-49, certainly the most entertaining and best game of the New Year's weekend, if not the entire Bowl season. Certainly a better game than either of the two CFP games on Saturday. I mean, Alabama and Clemson will have a long way to go next Monday to top that Rose Bowl game.
To me, James Franklin appears to be a really good coach, despite the curious propensity of this years' team to seemingly phone it in in the first halves of games. A couple of years ago he was being talked about as a possible NFL head coach. I haven't heard such talk this year, but if you were an NFL owner in need of a coach, why wouldn't you consider Franklin? Seems to me that that is what PSU fans should be worrying about insofar as their football coach is concerned.