Good Wednesday morning, folks. Welcome to the CBS Sports HQ AM Edition (subscribe here to get this delivered to your inbox each morning). We’re going to take a little bit of a different approach today with the death of an all-time NFL legend, John Madden.
Coaching and broadcast legend dies at 85
John Madden, the Hall-of-Fame coach and legendary broadcaster, died unexpectedly Tuesday. He was 85.
While two generations know Madden primarily as a broadcaster — for all four networks (CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC) — his legacy was built as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 1969 through 1978. There are plenty of numbers to emphasize his greatness as a coach — for example, his 103-32-7 head-coaching mark is the best of anyone who coached at least 100 games — but it’s impossible to quantify his impact on the sport, writes NFL scribe Bryan DeArdo:
- DeArdo: “Madden is one the most influential figures in NFL history. … Madden’s [Hall of Fame] bust sits alongside other legendary coaches that includes contemporaries such as Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Hank Stram, Paul Brown, Bud Grant and Don Shula. It also sits alongside the bust of Madden’s coaching idol, Vince Lombardi, who Madden coached against as an assistant on Oakland’s staff during Green Bay‘s win in Super Bowl II, Lombardi’s final game on the sideline.”
Madden’s run as a commentator is the stuff of legends. He and Pat Summerall called eight Super Bowls, most of any broadcasting duo. Their first, while with CBS Sports, featured Joe Montana, and their last featured Tom Brady, whose childhood idol was Montana. It’s one of many fascinating facts about Madden’s life, DeArdo writes in a separate story.
The famed “Madden Cruiser,” which Madden used to get to games because of an aversion to flying, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- DeArdo: “Included inside the original ‘Madden Cruiser’ are two color televisions, a telephone and intercommunications system, a citizens band radio, two laser disc players, a built-in vacuum cleaner, a stereo system and a videotape player. The bus also includes a private bedroom with a queen sized bed, along with a full bathroom and a kitchenette, complete with a microwave oven. “
You can check out a full timeline of Madden’s NFL life — an incomparable run that spanned six different decades — here.
Wentz hits COVID list as playoff race heats up 🏈
On Tuesday, the Colts placed starting quarterback Carson Wentz on the reserve/COVID-19 list. It’s unknown whether Wentz, who is unvaccinated, tested positive for the virus or was a close contact of someone who did.
The good news for the Colts is that on Tuesday the NFL and NFLPA changed its coronavirus-related quarantine requirements, in line with the CDC’s changes. All COVID-19-positive players who are asymptomatic, including those who are unvaccinated, are now subject to a five-day quarantine provided they clear testing, rather than the previous 10-day requirement.
The bad news is that even with the shorter quarantine, Wentz may still not be cleared for Sunday’s game against the Raiders.
Indianapolis is 9-6 this season and would be the 5 seed in the AFC if the playoffs started today, but there’s little room for error: The current 6-10 seeds in the AFC are all either tied or just one game back of the Colts. On the flip side, the Colts are also just one game behind the AFC’s 2 seed, the Titans. Either way, the next two weeks are crucial.
Then there’s the Colts’ backup situation. Sixth-round rookie Sam Ehlinger would be in line to start if Wentz cannot play. Ehlinger has never thrown an NFL pass. The Colts reportedly discussed reaching out to last year’s starter, Philip Rivers, who retired at the end of last season. Not exactly ideal.
Prisco’s Power Rankings: Patriots slip 🏈
Even after a wild Week 16, the top five of Pete Prisco’s Power Rankings held steady:
- Prisco: “Winning at New England the way they did sends a message to the NFL that they are back. Josh Allen was outstanding.”
On the flip side, the Patriots fell from No. 6 to No. 10.
- Prisco: “They have gone from the top seed to a wild card team in two weeks. There has to be concern about their passing game.“
The biggest risers were the Eagles, who jumped from 21st to 16th. More on them in a bit.
Ranking NFL Wild Card contenders 👀
The NFL playoff scenarios are complicated enough to put my brain in a pretzel. Six teams (one AFC and five NFC) have clinched playoff spots, and eight teams are eliminated. That leaves 18 teams vying for eight spots.
The AFC is especially convoluted with seeds 3-10 all within one game of each other. Luckily, we have NFL expert Jeff Kerr to rank all the contenders, and interestingly enough, it’s the AFC’s current 12 seed that Kerr has as the third-strongest.
- Kerr: “Browns (7-8) — How does a team under. 500 have the third-best chance of the wild card contenders to make the playoffs? The Browns still have a chance to win the AFC North if they win out, needing a win over the Steelers and a Bengals loss to the Chiefs on Sunday to set up a winner-take-all showdown for the division title.”
The NFC is slightly clearer, thanks to the Packers, Cowboys, Rams, Buccaneers and Cardinals already having clinched a playoff berth. There are six teams mathematically alive for the final two spots, and NFL reporter Cody Benjamin likes a run-first squad to snatch up one of them.
- Benjamin: “Eagles (8-7) — They start too slow, and Jalen Hurts has had some awful moments as a passer. But somehow, some way, they keep it together. A solid run game and reliable DeVonta Smith keep them fighting, and their veteran defense makes plays at the right time.”
See, I promised I wouldn’t forget about you, Eagles fans!
Odds and ends
- After a COVID-19 breakout in its defensive line room, UCLA withdrew from its Holiday Bowl matchup against No. 18 NC State less than five hours before kickoff Tuesday.
- The Jaguars requested to interview several candidates for their head-coaching job, including Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The team will also meet with former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson later this week, per reports.
- The Rogers Centre, home to the Blue Jays, will get a $200 million renovation that will redesign the lower bowl and “modernize the park throughout” according to a report from Sportsnet.
- And late last night, the NHL‘s worst team, the Coyotes, forced overtime against the Sharks with an outrageous 7-7 score — only to lose in a shootout. Check out this wild game tracker if you don’t believe me.
Why Bryce Young was built to shine on the brightest stage ⭐
Two days away from the College Football Playoff semifinals, I really enjoyed reading college football insider Dennis Dodd’s profiles of two of the biggest stars: Alabama Heisman winner Bryce Young and Michigan potential No. 1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson.
Young’s success is no accident. He started working with a quarterback coach when he was 5 years old, and ever since, he has grown into a superstar ready to adapt to any situation, including calmly leading Alabama on a game-tying 97-yard drive in the Iron Bowl.
- Dodd: “For everything we see and know about Bryce Young, a large part of his ascension has come away from prying eyes. … ‘He’s always had the ability to stay calm in chaos and not perceive it as chaos,’ Craig [Young, Bryce’s father] said.”
Dodd’s other piece features Hutchinson, the Wolverines’ outstanding defensive end. Bullied as a youngster for participating in competitive dance, Hutchinson now regularly bullies opposing offensive linemen.
- Dodd: “http://www.cbssports.com/”When I was evaluating my rush plan for this year, I really believed that no one was going to be able to block me because I have the power, I have the speed. I have the whole package,’ Hutchinson said.”
What we’re watching Wednesday 📺
🏈 Cheez-It Bowl: No. 19 Clemson (-2.5) vs Iowa State, 5:45 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 16 LSU at No. 11 Auburn (-4), 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 No. 15 Seton Hall at No. 21 Providence (-1), 7 p.m. on FS1
🏀 Lakers at Grizzlies (-4.5), 7:30 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 No. 14 Tennessee at No. 19 Alabama (-2.5), 9 p.m. on ESPN2
🏈 Alamo Bowl: No. 14 Oregon vs No. 16 Oklahoma (-6.5), 9:15 p.m. on ESPN