Happy Thursday, folks! We are one day closer to seeing which teams are going to be in the Super Bowl.
We'll go over all things NFL playoffs tomorrow, but for now, let's get right to other news.
Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos have found their man. According to CBS Sports' Josina Anderson, Denver is hiring Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to serve as the franchise's 18th head coach. The offensive savant is replacing Vic Fangio, who was a defensive-minded coach.
Here's a glimpse at Backett's past stops:
- Hackett's NFL career began as an offensive quality control coach for the Bucs in 2006
- After a brief stint with Syracuse, he returned to the league where he has spent the last nine seasons
- Three of those season were spent as Jacksonville's offensive coordinator and three were with the Packers
With Denver bringing in an offensive-minded coach -- who has connections to Green Bay -- the next question is: what are they going to do at QB? Heck, you know where I'm going with this... Let our NFL scribe Josh Edwards explain:
- Edwards: "Thursday's news will fuel the Aaron Rodgers to Denver rumors that began last offseason. Rodgers noted after the season that it was unclear what the future held for him. If the veteran is not the answer within the organization, then they will likely need to address the quarterback position in another way after Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock delivered lackluster performances in 2021."
If the Broncos really are going to make a run at Rodgers, this is sure a good first step.
Twelfth. Ninth. Thirteenth.
Those were the Miami Hurricanes' finishes in the ACC the last three seasons. Now, they're first.
Charlie Moore banked in a buzzer-beating three from halfcourt as Miami rallied past Virginia Tech, 78-75, last night. The Hurricanes are a half-game up on both Duke and Florida State for the top spot in the ACC. To say that's a surprise would be a massive understatement, since they were picked to finish 12th in the ACC preseason poll.
The Hurricanes' 7-2 start to ACC play is legit.
- They have wins at Duke and at home against both North Carolina and Wake Forest.
- Their losses are both to Florida State, and both by one point.
It al starts with a very good, experienced backcourt. Moore, Isaiah Wong and Kameron McGusty have a combined 13 seasons worth of experience, with Moore and McGusty both in their fifth season of action. All three average double-digit points.
What also helps is that this is not a great year for the ACC. In fact, it's not even a good year. North Carolina, Virginia, Florida State, Louisville and Syracuse are well below their recent standards. Even Duke has been up-and-down. There are currently four ACC teams in Jerry Palm's latest Bracketology field. But for all the bad stories in the ACC this season, Miami is a really good one, and we shouldn't lose sight of that. Moore's miracle last night was just the latest chapter.
- Former Cleveland vice president of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is the Vikings' new GM, replacing Rick Spielman. The Browns also get an honorable mention here, as they receive two compensatory draft picks.
- Congrats to Brandon Brooks on calling it a career.
And not such a good morning for...
CHRIS MACK AND THE LOUISVILLE CARDINALS
Two years ago, the Louisville Cardinals were in the midst of a 10-game winning streak, near the top of the ACC and ranked sixth in the nation. Fast forward to today, and the team has lost five of six, is nowhere near NCAA Tournament consideration and no longer has a coach.
On Wednesday, Louisville parted ways with Chris Mack after three-and-a-half rocky seasons on and off the court.
- 2018-19: 20-14, lost in Round of 64
- 2019-20: 24-7, NCAA Tournament canceled (COVID-19)
- 2020-21: 13-7, missed NCAA Tournament
- 2021-22: 11-9
After missing the Tournament last year, Mack fired assistant Dino Gaudio, who then threatened to extort Mack. Gaudio got off lightly, but Louisville said Mack "violated proper university procedure" and suspended him for the first six games of this season. That's not the only issue, as our hoops expert Matt Norlander explained:
- Norlander: "In the fall, the NCAA updated a pre-existing Notice of Allegations against Louisville to include alleged/prohibited actions such as on-court activities and illegal recruiting videos. Because of these allegations, which were brought to light by Gaudio in the recording Mack made, Mack could also be held accountable as the head coach."
It's been a rapid fall for a premier program. After Rick Pitino was fired and the program was dealing with the fallout of several violations, Mack was considered an "A-level candidate" at the time of his hiring and had things rolling in 2019-20 before COVID-19 brought everything to a halt. The program struggled with the virus last season, and things have gone completely sideways this year.
Louisville remains a top-tier job, though. It's a historically successful program with three titles to its name (including the vacated 2013 one) that plays in a basketball-crazy state with fertile recruiting grounds. Our college basketball scribe David Cobb put together a long list of potential Mack successors, including a guy who coaches just one state away:
- Cobb: "'Chris Holtmann -- The fifth-year Ohio State coach is a Kentucky native who has the Buckeyes in solid condition, though they have failed to advance past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament under his watch. All three of Louisville's national titles have come far more recently than the one (1960) that Ohio State has in its history. If Holtmann feels he has a better chance at winning it all with Louisville in his home state, then perhaps it's a move he would consider.'"
NCAA Tournament expected to return to normal this season 🏀
Speaking of our own Matt Norlander, his Court Report is always a must-read for college basketball fans and the latest edition does not disappoint.
On Wednesday, Norlander spoke with NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt and got all the details on the upcoming men's tournament. Of note, Gavitt said that things are going back to normal:
- Norlander: "The 2022 men's tournament will go back to its customary format: a 68-team field played out across three weeks at 14 sites, starting with the First Four in Dayton, which will host tournament games for the first time since 2019. ... While everything regarding COVID procedures is 'still on the table,' Gavitt said the 2022 men's and women's NCAA Tournaments 'will be quite different than last year.' That's welcome news. The 2021 experience was in many ways special but it was also one of the biggest logistical challenges ever done in sports in the history of the United States."
That also means that every team will have to play at least 25 games to qualify for Tournament consideration. About a month ago, that looked like an issue given postponements and cancellations, but schedules have gotten mostly back on track since. Currently, every D-I team is scheduled to play at least 25 games this season.
Latest 2022 NFL mock draft: Packers select WR if Rodgers leaves 🏈
Whatever Aaron Rodgers does this offseason will have wide-reaching effects, and that includes the 2022 NFL Draft.
Let's say Rodgers gets dealt to the Broncos, and several picks, including the No. 9 selection this year, head back to the Packers. According to our NFL Draft expert Chris Trapasso, Green Bay should immediately upgrade its wide receiving corps with Ohio State's Garrett Wilson.
- Trapasso: "The best, quickest way for [Jordan] Love to settle into his starting gig -- and play well -- is to provide him with quality receiving targets. ... That can be Wilson, the springiest top wideout in this class. ... The Ohio State star is electric after the catch and plays larger than his size due to his bounce and ball skills."
As for the top five picks in Trapasso's latest mock draft...
- 1: Jaguars: OL Evan Neal, Alabama
- 2: Lions: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
- 3: Texans: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
- 4: Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
- 5: Giants: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Looking ahead to 2023 MLB Hall of Fame ballot ⚾
After David Ortiz was the lone player on the 2022 ballot selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it's already time to look forward to 2023! We don't waste any time around here.
Next year's ballot will look very different with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling (among others) falling off the ballot. The 2023 ballot will include 14 holdovers, including three who got over 50 percent of the vote in 2022 (Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner) and plenty of newcomers.
Our MLB expert Matt Snyder has his eye on one newcomer in particular to make the first-year leap to Cooperstown.
- Snyder: "Unless there's still fallout from the 2017 Astros sign-stealing scandal, I'm not sure there will be much resistance here. [Carlos] Beltrán played for parts of 20 seasons, hitting .279/.350/.486 (119 OPS+) with 2,725 hits, 565 doubles, 435 homers, 1,587 RBI, 1,582 runs and 312 steals. The nine-time All-Star won three Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. In 65 playoff games, he hit .307/.412/.609 with 15 doubles, 16 homers, 42 RBI, 45 runs and 11 steals. He's ninth in center field JAWS behind seven Hall of Famers and Mike Trout. It should be elementary."