Don't Kill The Mellinger

Twitter Tuesday: College football, Chiefs melting, refs failing, KC’s biggest villains

Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelce fumbles the ball with pressure from Arizona Cardinals Deone Bucannon
Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelce fumbles the ball with pressure from Arizona Cardinals Deone Bucannon AP

I’ll root for chaos. I’m one of those. Specifically, that means Alabama losing. That means the top seed, the sport’s biggest power from the sports’ best (and most overrated) league, losing. Nothing against Alabama or Blake Sims or Amari Cooper or anyone else.

I just want chaos.

I want the system to break down, and then I want the system to be re-built, hopefully with more teams, hopefully as many as 16 because the first time I read about The Wetzel Plan, I was hooked.

Years ago, Dan Wetzel popularized a proposal for a 16-team college football playoff, first through his column on Yahoo and then with the subtly named book, Death To The BCS. The plan is fairly straightforward, and awesome: take the 10 conference champions, plus five at-large bids, seed them 1-16 and play the first three rounds on campus.

The only part of the plan that bugs me is adding more games for unpaid players, which is not an insignificant problem, but one that could be worked around. Cut the regular season down to 11 games, give players a cut of the playoff money.

This year, using the final College Football Playoff rankings, the bracket might look like this:

1 Alabama (SEC champ)

16 Georgia Southern (Sun Belt champ)

8 Michigan State (at-large)

9 Ole Miss (at-large)

5 Baylor (Big 12 champ, sorta)

12 Boise State (Mountain West champ)

4 Ohio State (Big 10 champ)

13 Northern Illinois (MAC champ)

6 TCU (Big 12 champ, sorta)

11 Kansas State (at-large)

3 Florida State (ACC champ)

14 Louisiana Tech (Conference USA champ)

7 Mississippi State (at-large)

10 Arizona (at-large)

2 Oregon (Pac-12 champ)

15 Memphis (American Athletic champ, sorta)

Who would be against this? One of the beauties of this plan is that every team in FBS is, literally, a championship contender. The conference seasons become tournaments in themselves for a playoff spot, and everyone, even the team picked last in the preseason Sun Belt poll, can dream.

Maybe someday.

This week’s eating recommendation is the shrimp burrito at Burrito Brothers. The reading recommendation is Tim Graham on the heartbreaking story of Darryl Talley. I know I’m shamefully late with that link, but if you haven’t read it, it’s an amazing story. And either way, the story has helped raise more than $100,000 for the former Bills star.

As always, thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.

Well, that was … something.

The biggest thing here is the Chiefs, obviously, not just because the Chiefs are always the biggest thing but because they lost a critical game in spectacular fashion. I know the popular thing is to rip on the refs, and I did think they made two bad and very important calls against the Chiefs, but the lack of accountability implied with whining about officiating is just incredibly frustrating to me.

Yes, the Chiefs might have won the game if those calls went the other way. We’ll never know for sure, obviously. But at the very least it would’ve been a completely different game. Not to rehash the column here, but the Chiefs still led by five after the Fasano call. Smith didn’t have to throw an interception there, and the Chiefs didn’t have to let Drew Stanton — who is what Matt Cassel would look like if Matt Cassel wasn’t as good — throw the game-winning touchdown to the No. 6 receiver.

And even after the Kelce call, they still had more than enough time to stop the Cardinals’ bad offense, get the ball back, and at least get a field goal and push it to overtime.

This was not a game stolen by the refs, is what I’m saying. This was not some egregious call on the last play of the game, no time to make up for it, nothing you could do about it. This was two plays out of 145, in a game the Chiefs absolutely would’ve won if they hadn’t dropped three interceptions, hadn’t thrown a terrible one themselves, hadn’t forgotten that Jamaal Charles is awesome at football, and hadn’t let Drew Stanton turn into Joe Montana in the fourth quarter.

Also, the conspiracy theories I’ve heard about this being a way for the NFL to stick it to the Chiefs … please stop. Why would the NFL want Drew Stanton and the Cardinals to win this game, making it harder on in-division glamor teams Seattle and San Francisco? And if the NFL rigged games like this, why do the teams in Chicago and New York stink so much?

When I was in college, the stereo in my car got stolen. I was infuriated. I saved up enough money to replace it, and a few weeks later, the replacement stereo got stolen. I was INFURIATED. This was something done unto me, I was a victim of something out of my control.

Then I realized that, the second time, I left my car unlocked. So then I was infuriated at my own stupid self.

The Chiefs can feel like they got robbed with those two calls, but they need to also recognize that they left their car unlocked.

That’s a well-executed tweet there.

I mean, I don’t see it:

Looks like the kind of thing that would get that man fined by Adam Silver.

I’ve watched this a thousand times, and I’m not sure. Here are a couple angles:

I mean, in some ways, sure, it looks like Kelce is ready to shoot the arrow or give a big first down signal or maybe something really cool that I don’t even know about. But if that’s what it is here, it’s not clear to me. Or, more accurately, it’s not clear that wanting to get up and celebrate is what caused the (non-)fumble. Sometimes it looks to me like the ball was just clean knocked out of his hands — when he’s on the ground — and that Kelce is either getting up to celebrate anyway, or perhaps trying to "sell" it that he didn’t fumble.

Whatever, it’s a tough week for Kelce. I like that he plays with personality. I think it’s part of what makes him good, part of what motivates him, and in general I think we need much more of that in sports, not less. But if it ever gets to the point where it hurts the team — and he’s getting closer, it seems — that’s something that needs to stop immediately.

If you hit a home run, you can pimp it around the bases and I’ll defend you. But if that ball bounces off the wall and you’re thrown out at second, you will be justifiably crushed.

Kelce is a terrific player, and if you made a list of the Chiefs’ most valuable commodities, he’s certainly in the top 10. But there are some rough edges on his game that need to be smoothed out. He’s essentially in his rookie year, so I don’t think it’s a huge concern.

"This is a good and easy column if I need one."

I know we touched on this earlier, and I also know I think Smith is better than most fans I hear from, but I wonder sometimes if we’re judging him on a fair level. He’s good. He’s not great. He won a playoff shootout with Drew Brees, and was damn near perfect in his playoff game against the Colts last year.

The Chiefs — not just Smith, but the whole team — are not built to win a game by driving the length of the field in the last two minutes. A lot is made of Smith’s arm strength, and that’s certainly part of it, but who exactly are the receivers capable of beating anyone deep, even if the Chiefs had Dan Marino at quarterback? And who are the linemen giving him enough time to do it?

No, but I bet I can answer this question for him, if he was being honest and not a blame-hogging robot:

"Thanks for the question, and I’m glad you asked because apparently you completely forgot about the Buffalo game. I pulled that win out of my awesome mustache. I think we had a sellout crowd for the Seattle game, too, so I hope people remember that day when we beat the defending champs. And did they put the Chargers game on TV back in Kansas City? We did alright there, too.

"Listen, I’ve been doing this a few years. I know what this is all about, and I know that when we lose we’re going to get a lot of criticism. People care about this team, and we’re all paid a lot of money and worked really hard to get these jobs, so that’s all fair game. But is it too much to ask for a little perspective? Too much to ask for memories that are longer than a week?

"Also, has anyone noticed that we have a good quarterback, a stud running back, an emerging tight end and then eight guys who might be your neighbor on offense? We’re 16th in points scored, and I guarantee you I can find 16 teams with better offensive talent than we have.

"We made the playoffs last year, still have a good chance to make them this year, and last I checked I’m not exactly coaching the 1970s Steelers here. They won two games the year before I came. When’s the last time this franchise made the playoffs two years in a row? Don’t Google it, I’ll tell you: 1995.

"But, I don’t know. Maybe you guys want Romeo Crennel back."

So, here’s the thing. The AFC playoff picture is far too muddy to say much of anything with certainty, but if the Chiefs win their next three games they’d be 10-6 with head-to-head wild card tiebreakers against the Steelers, Chargers, Dolphins and Bills. That may or may not matter, particularly if there are more than two teams tied for one spot, it’s a good situation to be in.

And look at the three games. If the Chiefs lose to the Raiders at home, then we have real problems. Bigger problems than worrying about a playoff spot. The two weeks after that, if the Chiefs don’t beat the Steelers and the Chargers, they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs anyway.

I think we all understand how meaningful this is, but here it is anyway, the official DKTM projection:

vs. Oakland, win probability: 95 percent.

at Steelers, win probability: 40 percent.

vs. Chargers, win probability: 60 percent.

So, as you can see, the Chiefs’ playoff chances are exactly 22.8 percent.

That’s just science.

If he’s 75 percent of what he was in 2013 next year, and 90 percent of it in the second year, it’s a very good contract.

I believe in Hochevar … as a relief pitcher. I still think it’s odd, after seeing Wade Davis go HAM^ on the American League last year.

^ I believe the statute of limitations on use of HAM is expired, so I accept whatever punishment you deem fair.

Look at their careers, their profiles, everything, it’s very similar. Hochevar made for a rotten starting pitcher, no matter how much the Royals tried to believe otherwise. But as a reliever? He was fabulous.

The way the bullpen is constructed at the moment, Hochevar is the Royals’ (at best) fourth-best relief pitcher. How many teams have a sixth inning guy who in his last full season struck out 82 and walked 17 in 70 1/3 innings?

The problem, and Andy was the latest to write about this, the Royals are spending an awful lot of money on one-inning relief pitchers. There’s some value here, and a lot of the team’s success last year was in exploiting a sort of loophole in how other teams build, but the price on the bullpen is going up and it’s more likely that the group as a whole underperforms 2014 rather than outperforms it.

The payroll should go up this year, at least to $100 million and perhaps more, but even so I’m not sure spending 20 percent or more of your money on a bullpen is the best way to do it.

Which, obviously, brings up a point here …

… and something I’d like to explore a bit more with scouts and executives. Because, it seems to me, the value of relief pitchers is at an interesting place right now. Greg Holland is set to make $9 million in arbitration this year, and if he remains anywhere close to his current badass self, he’ll make even more in 2016.

The Royals aren’t a big-money team, obviously, but right now Holland is projected to make more money than anyone on the roster who is not Alex Gordon.

So, there’s good money to be made coming out of the bullpen.

But it’s also true that there is usually not much of a trade market for relief pitchers. Teams feel comfortable giving relievers big money — Andrew Miller, who is awesome but has averaged 46 innings over the last five years and has one (1) career save just got $36 million from the Yankees — but are starting to be hip to the game when it comes to the trade market.

Relievers, historically, just haven’t been worth much in trades. You can’t, for instance, trade a top five closer and get a top five right fielder. Maybe the trade value will increase as the game shifts more toward relief pitching, but at the moment, I don’t know, would Greg Holland for an average No. 5 starting pitcher do anything for you? Could I interest you in something like David Murphy?

Again, Holland is good enough, and established enough, and the Royals are dealing from a position of strength. So the rules may be different. The Dodgers have too many outfielders, for instance, and they have a lot of money.

Vahe wrote about this the other day. Mizzou football is in a strange spot at the moment. Like Vahe said, they’re good enough to win the big game to get to the BIG game, but the last two years have fallen short in the BIG game. That’s a frustrating thing, to come so far and then see that you’re still so far.

But I look at it like this: making the SEC title game two years in a row — no matter what conditions you want to put on it with divisional strength or anything else — is a hell of a thing. Wouldn’t most schools love that?

If you took the people who wanted Pinkel to be on the hot seat a few years ago — and I’m not saying it was a lot, but it was some — wouldn’t they be impressed if a new coach got Mizzou to two straight SEC championship games?

I know I’m not answering your question here, but I don’t think it’s that simple. I don’t think it’s just, "recruit better linemen," or whatever. Mizzou is doing a lot of infrastructure work to support the football program’s rise to the SEC, and that has to help. The stadium is being improved, facilities, the exposure and success of the last two years has to help with recruits.

What I’m saying here is that I’d be very encouraged, not discouraged, about the direction of the football program. There are a lot of teams trying to get to Alabama’s level.

Oh, hell, why not? I’m absolutely certain I’m forgetting someone.

10. Ron Prince — bright side, he did give Bill Snyder a chance to show even more awesomeness.

9. Frank Haith — I know I’m skewing recent here, and maybe I should have Tyus Edney or Matt Davison or someone here, but just going peace-out with a text message on your way to Tulsa, and leaving a team devoid of apparent talent for Kim Anderson to clean up, is quite a move.

8. Lew Perkins — he did a lot of good things at KU, actually, many of them hard but necessary. He makes this list for running off Mangino and making a suspect hire of Turner Gill a disaster with a completely unnecessary and over-the-top contract. I always said if I was Gill, after being fired, I’d have bought a house on the beach and a yacht, that I’d name, "Sweet Lew."

7. Al Davis — just because.

6. George Steinbrenner — just because, but also because Steinbrenner’s Yankees led the heavy spending in the 1990s and 2000s that left the Royals so far behind.

5. The pre-2006 version of David Glass — nobody around here likes it when I point this out, but Glass has been a pretty damn good small-money owner since 2006. The Royals were 19th in payroll last year, with revenues that ranked in the game’s bottom four. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t inexcusably awful before 2006, though.

4. Elvis Grbac — the face.

3. Lin Elliott — Grbac should send Elliott chocolates and bourbon every Christmas, because with those missed field goals and Derrick Thomas vowing to "kick his (rear)" on a radio show, Elliott has become the symbol of Chiefs frustration.

2. Madison Bumgarner — you know, when I started this list, I didn’t think he’d be this high. He sure does seem to be a likable fellow, and no matter what, the Royals’ 2014 season is a point of pride, not disappointment. But this is also true: the Royals would be the World Series champions right now if Bumgarner did not exist.

1. Peyton Manning and John Elway — you could say this in a lot of cities, but Manning has stonewalled promising Chiefs seasons more than perhaps any other man. And Elway, after a career spent largely torturing Chiefs fans himself, is the man who brought him to Denver. Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, this video of John Elway refusing to snap the ball because it’s too loud at Arrowhead Stadium is astounding on so many levels. The 1:45 mark is the ref’s cameo, but you might want to stop by the 1:00 mark, too. If you’re not at work, anyway.

The Big 12 deserves every snarky joke and criticism it gets for pumping the One True Champion marketing line, then actually being the only major conference without One True Champion, having its commissioner and a coach get into a heated exchange for reporters to see, and then having the commissioner say, basically, you know, I couldn’t break the tie of my One True Champion league but if I did I’d have picked TCU.

So, whatever crushing the Big 12 gets based on anything in that paragraph, cool, fair game.

But, I’d also point out a few things. First, I don’t think Baylor or TCU got screwed being left out of a four-team playoff. If you want to be in, be better. Baylor shouldn’t lose to West Virginia (or schedule SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo in the non-conference). TCU shouldn’t blow a 21-point lead to Baylor (or almost lose to Kansas).

Bowlsby said he’d have picked TCU as the conference champion, so let’s just look at them. They lost to the best team they played, a team that by definition here is not good enough to make the playoff. TCU’s best win was against K-State, and their second best win was either Minnesota (25th in the final rankings) or Oklahoma (unranked). All of those games were at home.

Ohio State beat No. 8 Michigan State on the road, won at Minnesota, and absolutely emasculated Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship game. Beating Michigan State in East Lansing is certainly a better win than K-State at home, beating Minnesota on the road is better than beating them at home, and turning Wisconsin into a punching bag is light years better than beating Oklahoma. I just don’t know where TCU has the place to feel jilted here.

Also, nobody mentions this, because it’s not how it turned out, but everyone clamoring for a conference championship game would be mighty silent if Florida State and Ohio State would’ve lost last weekend. Probably would’ve put two Big 12 teams in the playoff. As it stands, do we really think TCU splitting with Baylor would’ve pushed them above Ohio State, and a better resume?

The Big 12 has some problems, and should consider expansion if there are good options. But the problems aren’t in their schools being left out of this playoff unfairly.

I say yes.

But, then again, I’m a dreamer.

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