KAZ’S KORNER

 

 

 

There was extreme jubilation in Foxborough, MA., Philadelphia, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. and Jacksonville, Fla. because their respective National Football League franchises are still alive and well for Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4.

In fact, those Minnesota Vikings supporters are rubbing their hands together excitedly over the fact they could be the very first team in NFL history to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Last weekend’s four Divisional Championship games featured two upsets (Philadelphia beating Atlanta 15-10 and Jacksonville over Pittsburgh 45-42) a blowout (New England crushing Tennessee 35-14) and New Orleans’ gift win to Minnesota 29-24.

And while the battle to participate in Super Bowl LII goes on, there is much excitement in the Bayou City about newly-hired Houston Texans general manager Brian Gaine and the four-year extension Head Coach Bill O’Brien received last weekend plus the monster trade the Astros made with the Pittsburgh Pirates for an additional starting pitcher.

The Astros had been trying to make a deal for 27-year-old right-hander Gerrit Cole since last summer but just couldn’t pull the trigger on the deal. General Manager Jeff Luhnow had to give up four players (three on the 40-man major league roster) to obtain Cole.

Perhaps the biggest name involved in the trade was pitcher Joe Musgrove, who was expected to be in the 2018 bullpen. The Astro also dealt third baseman Colin Moran and reliever Michael Feliz from the major league roster and minor league outfielder Jason Martin.

The 27-year-old Cole was drafted first by the Pirates in 2011 out of UCLA and quickly ascended to the top of their rotation, according to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.

“In 2015, he was an All-Star and finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting,” the article added. “He has regressed in the two seasons since, but still possesses front-line potential.”

“We’re excited about this move,” Luhnow said. “This move gives us a better chance over the next two years to repeat and hopefully get another championship. That’s been our goal all along, to get to the point of competitiveness and win a championship and hopefully win multiple championships.”

Cole has a 3.50 career ERA in 782 1/3 innings and should fit into the middle of the Astros’ rotation, led by Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. Lance McCullers, Jr. and Charlie Morton are projected fourth and fifth, but would be No. 2 and No. 3 in most rotations.

Cole told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was “flat-out elated” and “this is an unbelievable opportunity.”

The top three executives in the Houston Texans organization that include owner Bob McNair, General Manager Brian Gaine and head coach Bill O’Brien could very well be called the “Killer B’s”.

Those closest to the team like the beat writers, Houston sports radio and television are aware that O’Brien and former general manager Rick Smith worked together but didn’t like each other at all.

They had different philosophies on what will make the Texans a successful organization. And Smith was in charge of the personnel, trades and the draft.

Gaine worked for the Texans from 2014-2016 as Smith’s assistant, but was in constant contact with O’Brien on some of the deals coming down. He knows what O’Brien is looking for and should be able to work with him much better than Smith. During their time together Gaine and O’Brien developed a mutual respect.

Both men are excited they will be working with three players who finished the season on Injured Reserve—J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and quarterback Deshaun Watson—that should be 100 per cent healthy.

KWICKIES…One thing an athlete learns early in life is that you NEVER look past the next opponent. Someone should have told Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jo Jo Hamilton, who was popping off all week to the media that New England will never beat Pittsburgh again, completely overlooking Sunday’s game against the seven-point underdog Jacksonville Jaguars. Jags’ quarterback Blake Bortles made monkeys out of Hamilton and his defensive buddies, ripping them for 45 points and ending their season.

There are many college and professional coaches and assistants leaving their 2017 posts for one reason or another. Last week the Seattle Seahawks fired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable. Bevell will never live down the pass play he called from the one-yard line that was intercepted at the goal line and clinched the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots. Head coach Mike Mularkey and the Tennessee Titans parted company Monday, according to ESPN. And much closer to home, Orangefield native Bradley Peveto left Ole Miss to be linebacker coach for Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M.

And speaking of the Texas Aggies, it didn’t take long for recently-fired head coach Kevin Sumlin to land on his feet. He was recently named head coach of the Arizona Wildcats, replacing beleaguered Rich Rodriguez.

JUST BETWEEN US…Some of the talk radio wizards can’t understand why members of the New Orleans Saints are so livid about the game-winning touchdown by Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs as time expired Sunday. They really are upset at rookie safety Marcus Williams, who was advised to lay back and not be called for interference on that last play, let Diggs catch the ball and then tackle him in bounds to end the game and preserve New Orleans’ 24-23 victory. For some unknown reason Williams went after the caught ball, missed badly and watched as the Vikings went berserk by the victory. His teammates are mad because Williams denied his other 52 teammates a chance to perhaps play in the Super Bowl, not to mention the extra $25,000-$40,000 bonus they would each get for playing in the Conference Championship game this weekend.