Monday Morning Jones: Improbable Giants, surprise winners and fired coaches

Ezra Shaw

The Giants won it all. The other Giants won at Jerryworld again. And someone won the James Harden trade, but not who you think. That and more in the Monday Morning Jones.

Contained within this column are three coaches who need to pay close attention to the election, for unemployment might be an issue of pressing importance for them. That's right, it's all fun and games in the Monday Morning Jones!

The improbable story of the San Francisco Giants. There's only so much tension in a Game 4 with a team down 3-0, but the 2012 World Series ended fantastically with the Giants' 4-3, sweep-clinching 10-inning victory. On a night where the wind added suspense to every ball hit to the outfield, San Francisco and Detroit traded sixth inning homers, leaving the score tied until Marco Scutaro drove in the winning run in the top of the 10th.

After winning no championships since moving west in 1958, this makes two World Series in three years for the Giants. Even though no team has won two titles in three years since the great Yankees teams of the turn of the 21st century, it's hard to think of this team as an all-time great. But it sure was an all-time run. The Giants were left for dead twice, got back up, then swept a team with a dominant lineup and the best pitcher in baseball. They got series-saving and World Series wins from Barry Zito, one of the great busts in the history of free agency. Tim Lincecum, fading as a starter, gave up just one run in 13 innings of middle relief. And, of course, the Kung Fu Panda.

The team that gave up more runs than any National League team in the postseason held Detroit, featuring Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, to six runs in four games. This sort of postseason story wasn't possible until the playoffs expanded in 1995, but it never would have seemed probable.

Who won the James Harden trade? Naming winners and losers in a trade, especially in the NBA, is often a silly proposition. Trades aren't zero-sum, and the fact Harden is going to be a restricted free agent after this season made moving him imperative to Thunder GM Sam Presti. But there is one winner we can clearly name right now -- the lockout.

That would be the lockout that was intended to protect small-market franchises from losing their hard-earned assets to big-market behemoths. Well, that lockout just sent a 23-year-old budding star from the 45th-largest market to the 10th. Because of the new luxury tax provisions, one of the best GMs in the league had to unload one of his best players to one of the most overrated executives going. As many feared when owners spent last year trying to stack the deck, Presti and the Thunder are the unfortunate victims of the NBA's decision to minimize the advantage of competence. They may still win a title, but it's possible a team with Harden would've been the best title chance they would ever have. But we'll never know.

Good thing the NBA's looking out for the little guys, right?

Remember when I said Oklahoma would "blow [Notre Dame's] doors off"? Yeah, gotta add Saturday night's 30-13 Irish victory in Norman to my list of greatest whiffs. Turns out Notre Dame did need to score around 20 points to win, as I predicted. I just never thought this team, facing a defense that yielded 15.2 points per game going into the game, would score 30. And they scored 30 at their preferred tempo, effectively pounding the Sooners into submission. This was an emphatic, decisive win against a very good team in one of the most difficult road environments in the nation. It was the game Notre Dame fans have hoped to see from freshman quarterback Everett Golston, proof that Notre Dame's secondary could do enough to stop a team with a respectable passing attack, and a unanimous decision favoring Brian Kelly over Bob Stoops.

Many Notre Dame fans fear the team will lose a game it shouldn't, like the Irish lost to Boston College after beating Florida State in 1993. Whatever. Compared to the three teams between now and ND's trip to Southern Cal, ‘93 BC was the ‘84 49ers. This is the BCS dream. Notre Dame not only has a real chance to play for the championship. It also looks the part.

I kinda was right about Florida, though. No, I didn't have Georgia winning at the World's Largest "Former" Cocktail Party, but those of us who didn't think the Gators had enough offense to win the national title were correct. The same Bulldogs who gave up 103 points in its last three games beat Florida 17-9, just that fast, are the odds-on favorite to win the SEC East. That said, there's a bright side for Florida. They may have lost to won of their most hated rivals, but they'll be spared the embarrassment of being destroyed by Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That joy goes to Georgia, whom few believe is title-caliber. But, if only for a day, they were better than the Gators.

I'm not saying anyone should get fired, but ... But I'm guessing the suits at Fox are the latest on the long list of people irked by Lane Kiffin, after USC's 39-36 loss to Arizona took the luster off Trojans' game against Oregon. I'm also guessing those execs are behind a bunch of USC fans, who were reminded that Kiffin's resumé has just one win worth discussing (last year over Oregon). After that, they may realize that this year, with Matt Barkley, Robert Woods et al, and before the impact of scholarship losses take hold, was the Trojans' best chance at a national title for the foreseeable future. Or that a big reason they lost to Arizona was that Kiffin was outcoached by Rich Rodriguez. Depth, USC's most glaring weakness, didn't do them in. They were simply outplayed, and it's not too early to wonder if they have the right coach to lead them when they're fully out of the NCAA's shadow.

Once again, not saying anyone should get fired, per se ... Most said, if the Eagles stop turning the ball over, they'll be fine. Well, they didn't have a giveaway against the Falcons, and they still got embarrassed 30-17. If you thought a new defensive coordinator was what the Eagles needed, good luck reconciling that with Sunday's performance on that side of the ball, which was worse than any under the deposed Juan Castillo. If you noticed the Eagles have one of the best backs in the league and were facing one of the worst run defenses, you were probably shocked to see LeSean McCoy get just 16 carries. Except you weren't, because this is what the Eagles are -- an average team that, even when it masks its weaknesses, can't (or won't) capitalize upon its strengths. If that's the case, a quarterback change wouldn't be enough, or even the right move.

This sounds like a team in need of a new head coach. That's not to say the Eagles would make a move in-season, or should do so while there's still a chance to win their division. But there are too many things wrong to blame one man, unless he's the one in charge.

Don't worry, didn't forget about Jason Garrett. Sunday's 29-24 rollercoaster loss for the Cowboys looked too familiar. How long have we watched Tony Romo trying to explain to a receiver what route he should have run? Or an intended receiver, seemingly doing his job, turning around and seeing Romo's pass went somewhere he wasn't? The Cowboys remain the heavily penalized, poorly organized joke they were under Wade Phillips. The difference is that Phillips, a man who's done great work in the NFL for decades, was treated like a country bumpkin and the subject of ridicule. Jason Garrett, with his unearned "guru" reputation, predictable offense and -- stop me if you've heard this -- Princeton pedigree, has avoided what should be the hottest seat in the league.

If you don't think Garrett's done a bad job in Dallas, just tell me what has made Garrett's teams better than Phillips'. With a better version of Romo, he's won fewer games, and the team has the same lack of discipline that did "player's coach" Phillips in. There's no need to hint about Garrett. He's been a bust, and has anyone seen any sign that he'll make the Cowboys better?

Another day in the life of Cam Newton. After three quarters, there was nothing to blame on Newton. Then, within eight seconds in the fourth quarter, the Bears scored a touchdown, kicked off, intercepted Newton after Steve Smith slipped, took it to the house and took a 20-19 lead. Carolina went back ahead, but it was just a setup for a loss that felt inevitable as soon as the Panthers settled for three.

It wasn't long before ESPN's Stats and Information Department tweeted that "Cam Newton" is 1-10 in games decided by seven points or fewer and it became clear, again, that America has no idea what a collective failure the Panthers are. Sunday was a microcosm. They still look a lot like the 2010 unit that went 2-14, because so many of those guys are still on the roster. Because of play-calling and Cam's inconsistent accuracy, they settle for too many field goals and have scored just 12 offensive touchdowns all year. Just like the loss to the Falcons, the defense gave it up at the end. And if there's any chance at all for Murphy's Law to take hold, it will.

If Newton doesn't play very well -- well isn't good enough -- the Panthers will lose, and people will say it's Cam's fault. But if they can't win unless Newton is exceptional, can you see why that's such a stupid thing to say?

Will we ever see Tim Tebow start for the Jets? Hey, I understand the argument the Jets are reticent to switch from Mark Sanchez to Tebow because there may be no going back after that change. He has 10 turnovers. Until the Dolphins rolled out the prevent defense, Sanchez was headed for his fifth game where he completed less than half his passes. While the Jets offense is short on weapons, Sanchez doesn't seem to be doing anything with them that couldn't be done by a guy off the street. And while the division was wide open going into last week's games, the Jets are now two games behind the Patriots and got stomped, at home, 30-9 by the Dolphins.

And Tebow still can't get under center. If Rex Ryan wouldn't even go to him in garbage time -- after his owner gave up draft picks to get Tebow, with fans chanting his name -- how little must he think of his backup quarterback? Forget Sanchez's confidence. Ryan is coaching for his job, and he's sticking with a fiddy-fiddy quarterback. Be careful what you wish for, Jets fans. Without saying so, the head coach is saying loudly and clearly that the guy on the field really is the best they can do.

Another look at Marcus Lattimore. By now, you've seen what happened to Lattimore. But have you considered that, for him and others, playing football was on par with living in a dangerous neighborhood? Think about how often we cross our fingers and/or pray a talented kid can get out of a ghetto before his future is ruined, whether by sharks looking to exploit him or the things that trip one up when traversing such treacherous terrain.

How's that different from what Lattimore went through? Am I the only one who hoped, all year, Lattimore could just survive the season unscathed so he could get the hell out of college, as if he lived in the projects and just needed to get his diploma so he could leave? Is college athletics not littered with guys who prey on young men who are often too unseasoned to realize who does or doesn't have their well-being in mind?

During Lattimore's career, South Carolina has reached unseen heights for its program. It had its second 10-win season ever. The Gamecocks made their first SEC Championship game ever. They took a step up in national profile, and they certainly made a lot of money. Lots of people got lots of things on Lattimore's back. For his troubles, he has a mangled leg and no clear idea of what's going to happen next. Life as a shorty shouldn't be so tough.

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