Monday Morning Jones: Alabama hasn't been slain, and Johnny Manziel hasn't been anointed

Mike Zarrilli

Don't bury Alabama. Don't crown Johnny Manziel. Don't be so sure Phil Jackson is the answer for the Lakers. And don't miss the rest of the big news from the weekend in the Monday Morning Jones.

Kudos to the Rams and 49ers. While all of the NFL used Sunday to celebrate Veterans Day, those two teams went the extra mile. That wasn't a tie. It was a re-enactment of the end of the Korean War. When it comes to patriotism, no one outdoes the NFL. Now, on to the weekend...

You're not counting Alabama out, are you? Yes, we have to add the Crimson Tide to a list of fallen "unbeatable" teams, somewhere around ‘98 Ohio State and ‘88 Miami. But if you think their chance has passed, you must have just started watching college football in August.

Oregon has two or three losable games in a row -- Stanford, at Oregon State and maybe the Pac-12 championship game -- and Bama just reminded us how hard it is for teams to be highly focused in back-to-back weeks. Notre Dame still has to play at USC, a game that may require Notre Dame to keep up with the Trojans' offense. And Kansas State ... well, just ask the Power Cat faithful what happened in 1998. Plus, if Alabama proved it wasn't infallible, what would make anyone expect anyone else will go undefeated?

Bama will be in the SEC Championship game, where they'll likely face off with a top-five Georgia team. It'll take some help, but they're still in a great place. If there is one undefeated team or fewer left at the end, the SEC champion will make the BCS Championship. Now, all the Tide can do is make sure it wins that prize ... but that will probably prove to be more than just consolation. It might be their ticket to back-to-back one-loss national championships.

We don't need a Heisman favorite. After slaying the Philistine, many wanted to anoint Johnny Manziel as the mythical Heisman favorite. That must have come as quite a shock to Collin Klein, who was the presumptive "favorite" until Johnny Football scored the biggest upset of the season. All Klein did was run for two touchdowns while keeping his team on track for the BCS National Championship Game.

Can we just wait until the end of the season to figure it out? We'll never forget what Manziel did in Tuscaloosa, but shouldn't we remember the stinker he put up against LSU, when he threw three interceptions? Or how much of his statistical resumé was compiled against SMU and Louisiana Tech?

Were the Heisman ceremony being held this weekend, Texas A&M's freshman quarterback would have earned an invitation. But it didn't, so there's no hurry. There are enough legitimate candidates -- including Klein, Kenjon Barner, Marcus Mariota and Marqise Lee -- that this Heisman race should feature legitimate suspense, something that's been lost in recent years. Let's not mess it up by trying to get ahead.

The one thing you could see through the rain at Soldier Field. You know it wasn't the Bears' day when they lost Jay Cutler at halftime and their quarterback play improved in their 13-6 loss to the Texans on a cold, rainy night in Chicago. And while Cutler was hit when he chose to throw on the run instead of protecting himself, it was a reminder of the Bears' biggest weakness -- with a porous offensive line, the Bears are always one play away from seeing their title hopes dashed.

While Jason Campbell was better under center than Cutler or Matt Schaub Sunday night, is he going to lead the Bears to their first Super Bowl championship in over a quarter-century? No team as good as Chicago has a weakness as glaring as their offensive front, and no shortcoming is as problematic as one that endangers its quarterback's safety. And Cutler never, ever seems safe.

Are we ready to be honest about the Giants? That's two straight losses for the Giants, four straight games where Eli Manning has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and two in a row where Manning had a quarterback rating under 55. Manning hasn't had an unequivocally good game since lighting up the Browns over a month ago. These are not problems that should be ignored because New York has won two Super Bowls, neither of which means a damn thing right now. If you think that the Giants can get hot -- and healthy -- late to win it all, how does that make them different than any team that will be in the postseason?

Many seem to believe the Giants will simply be able to turn it on "when it matters" because they've "done it before." Know what else they've done before? Gone oh-fer in the playoffs from 2008-2010. The bottom line is the Giants are using a blueprint similar to last year's Packers. To win, they need to put up lots of points and force turnovers because they can't stop anyone otherwise. You see what happened when New York lost the turnover battle to the Bengals -- and how that worked out last year for Green Bay -- and things will end similarly for the Giants if they don't fix their holes. Ignoring them when Big Blue was 6-2 was one thing.

The Lakers' backup plan, Mike D'Antoni. One can only assume Phil Jackson, in one way or another, turned down the Buss family, leaving the recently fired D'Antoni as the next best choice. Except, is it possible D'Antoni was always the best choice? Undoubtedly, the Lakers have come to see a returning Phil as a cure-all panacea. Hey, one could argue he's the only coach the Lakers have hired in the last 30 years that's worked out well for the franchise. But nothing Jackson could have done would make the Lakers a better defensive team. And if the team, because of age and Dwight Howard's recovery, isn't going to be good on that end of the floor, why even try?

More importantly, D'Antoni will be around the team like most coaches would be. And if the Lakers needed a new coach so badly that it fired their last one -- a man who has never finished short of the conference semifinals in his career -- then they couldn't have settled for a part-timer, right?

Does anyone know what DeMarcus Cousins said to Sean Elliott? If not, the only reasonable conclusion is the NBA drastically overreacted in suspending Cousins for two games after he confronted the Spurs color commentator. This isn't to say Cousins did nothing wrong. However, that the public has no idea just what he said to Elliott makes my spidey-sense tingle. Cousins, who has battled immaturity and has documented struggles with impulse, did enough to get suspended ... but not enough for someone to leak the particulars? The Spurs play-by-play man was close enough to see the exchange, but he couldn't hear what was said, yet Cousins did enough to get the same suspension Thomas Robinson received for brutally elbowing Jonas Jerekbo in the throat?

Maybe this suspension is on the up-and-up. But until someone tells us what happened, I can only assume DeMarcus Cousins got suspended for being DeMarcus Cousins, and that's not right.

Turnover time in the SEC. If only because Martin Rickman said so -- and also because I'm not blind -- Derek Dooley's time is about up at Tennessee. If anyone at Auburn has any sense, they'll announce Gene Chizik's "resignation" the week of the Iron Bowl, allowing War Eagle fans to spin that likely beatdown into closure. Joker Phillips' fate is sealed. And given the possibility Dan Mullen realizes he's already hit the ceiling at Mississippi State -- and yes, this is pure conjecture -- the job in Starkville may also come open this offseason.

Here's the question, though -- if you were a coach, which of those jobs would you want? The SEC is clearly tiered. Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida are on one level. Everyone else is below. And, for the first time in recent memory, all of them are really, really good at the same time. Who's signing up to take jobs in that next tier, where every school has some conspicuous competitive disadvantage? Guess we'll find out soon enough.

There's a reason they won't bench the starter. Hopefully, for their own sakes, some Jets fans turned off the shellacking they received from Seattle to watch some of Eagles-Cowboys. If they had, they'd see that when the masses want a quarterback change, and an embattled coach won't make it happen, there's probably a reason. Eagles fans watched Nick Foles throw some of the softest passes since Chad Pennington hurt his arm, while the Cowboys defense knocked him around and picked him off. He does not look like he's close to being ready for primetime. This, of course, is something we should have known. Andy Reid was desperate enough to can his defensive coordinator during a bye week, but he wouldn't bench his turnover-prone quarterback?

Well, for the fifth time this year, Mark Sanchez couldn't complete half his passes. If he keeps it up, he'll get Rex Ryan fired. And it looks like he'll get every chance to do so. Like Reid with Foles, Ryan has seen more of Tebow than we have. And if he doesn't think Tebow can save his job, it's probably best to believe him.

Oh, and Sanchez? While I'll never fault him for leaving school early, and agree there's a time and place for everything, never forget Pete Carroll was right.

The curious case of Marquess Wilson and Mike Leach. Unless Wilson makes his allegations more specific -- which, based on the lawyerly tone of his statement, might happen sooner or later -- there will be no way to know if Leach and his coaching staff have gone too far with their players. That said, Leach better be able to explain himself very well. That's not just because of Adam James' allegations from Texas Tech. It's because, unlike James, Wilson doesn't have a PR firm behind him, nor does his father work at the most influential entity in sports media. Wilson's just a dude on the football team, and the language of his letter was too harsh to allow a reasonable person to write off his allegations as sour grapes.

It's a big deal when most athletes quit teams -- especially if doing so also means leaving school -- and Wilson is one of over a dozen players to leave Washington State since Leach's arrival. This, if nothing else, is worth looking into, and Wazzu's president should be applauded for asking the Pac-12 to do just that.

What will be interesting to see is how the issue is covered. Writers typically love Leach for his quirky ways and his detachment from the typical norms of football coaches. ESPN -- for whom, in the name of disclosure, I do a fair amount of work -- is in the tricky place of covering a man who sued them for their handling of an issue very similar to this one. There's plenty of reason to withhold judgment on this one, notably because neither party has earned the benefit of the doubt. But it should be taken seriously, no matter who much anyone likes Mike Leach.

Did Tommy Tuberville need his undivided attention that badly?


Had Tuberville dressed down a player the way he did grad assistant Kevin Oliver, I'd certainly been up in arms. But given that he did this to a grown man with a lot more freedom and, presumably, temerity than a college student, I've got a simple question: he just let Tuberville do him like that?

Hey, I get that football's different than the real world and all of that, but the grad assistant didn't look to consider any sort of response to his boss. Forget being aggressive. He didn't turn away, nor did he even seem shocked. He just stood there and listened after Tuberville snatched the headphones off his ears.

Did he just trust that Tuberville was going for the headphones? Had the head coach slapped him, it doesn't look like he would have moved. Is this sort of stuff in the job description for a grad assistant? If so, that job doesn't pay nearly enough.

Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon play the feud!

A travesty. This was just a travesty, a disgrace to sports. These guys are role models, OK? Role models. And role models shouldn't behave like this. They were fighting like animals. I felt unsafe just watching. Is this sports or a gang fight?

(Oh, wait, this is NASCAR?)

Oh man, the only thing that was missing was Waylon singing the theme to "The Dukes of Hazard!" Look at ‘em putting the "good" in "good ol' boys!" Sorry for the confusion.

And a bonus 11th item, for the Atlanta Falcons. I tried to warn you. Listen to me now. Believe me later on.

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