Sam Mellinger

Mellinger Minutes: Where the Chiefs go now, Hall of Fame vote, does Clark Hunt want to win

Titans 19, Chiefs 17: Postgame analysis

On Facebook Live, ​​The Star's Sam Mellinger, Vahe Gregorian, Blair Kerkhoff and Terez Paylor dissected the Kansas City Chiefs' 19-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans after the game Sunday. They tried to figure out the source of the offense's woes, an
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On Facebook Live, ​​The Star's Sam Mellinger, Vahe Gregorian, Blair Kerkhoff and Terez Paylor dissected the Kansas City Chiefs' 19-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans after the game Sunday. They tried to figure out the source of the offense's woes, an

There can be disagreement about where the Chiefs are at the moment, and disagreement about whether Andy Reid is earning his high salary, and disagreement about whether the Chiefs can make a Super Bowl run.

For the record, my stance on those topics, in order:

▪ Still OK, particularly if the Raiders lose one of the next two, but either way in solid position for a spot in the dance.

▪ He made some mistakes that cost the Chiefs on Sunday, but I’m old enough to remember him killing it in three consecutive wins at Denver, at Atlanta, and against the Raiders before that.

▪ I believe they can, with the right breaks.

But what there can be no disagreement about is whether Alex Smith has been good enough so far. He has not. There have been flashes. He was great at the end in Denver, terrific in Atlanta, and very strong against the Raiders. But there have been too many other moments, too many other shortcomings, and if we can oversimplify here goes:

Without two predetermined, telegraphed interceptions in the end zone against the Bucs and Titans, the Chiefs are 12-2 and nearly certain to be no worse than the AFC’s No. 2 seed.

The simplification leaves out a lot of context, and nuance, because he certainly wasn’t the only reason they lost to the Titans. But he was a big part of it, and in a season that set up to be his best in Kansas City it is instead playing out to be his worst in some ways.

I know I’ve written a lot about Smith this season. And all of it, primarily this and this and this, remain true, so I don’t want to rehash it here.

But if there is one thing the Chiefs need, more than anything else, to advance in the playoffs it’s for Smith to be what he’s supposed to be — dependable, mistake-free, make the right reads and accurate throws, find plays when the present themselves, won’t win the game for you but also not going to lose it.

Far too often, he’s been short of that relatively low standard. That has to change.

This week’s reading recommendation is the absurdly talented Chris Jones (not the Chiefs’ defensive lineman) on The Woman Who Might Find Us Another Earth, and the eating recommendation is the kitchen sink at Succotash.

Please give me a follow on Facebook and Twitter, and as always, thanks for reading, and thanks for your help.

The Kansas City Chiefs lost 19-17 to the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. We look at some interesting numbers, including the extreme winter weather, that played a role in the game.

The twitter was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man, trying to send back soup in a deli.

Maybe this is just my own changing Internet habits, but I feel like message boards were more of A Thing. Twitter has sort of become the world’s message board, or at least the sports world’s message board, and there are good and bad things that go with that.

My theory: 60 percent of the immediate Twitter reaction is reasonable folks blowing off steam, 30 percent is intentional nonsense, and 10 percent is sincere and soulful overreaction that changes with the wind of weekly results.

A few things to keep in mind...

▪ The Chiefs are 10-4, which is still pretty decent.

▪ They remain a virtual lock to make the playoffs, and can take the No. 2 seed and a bye into a home divisional playoff game by beating the Broncos at home on Sunday, winning at San Diego on New Year’s Day, and having the Raiders lose to either the Colts at home on Saturday or at Denver on New Year’s.

▪ I do believe the No. 2 seed is important, but not critical, because the Chiefs have beaten at least four playoff caliber teams on the road, and I don’t have to tell you that first-round byes do not guarantee playoff wins.

Even by the NFL’s standards of parity, this season is bonkers. You can make a case that they are two Alex Smith end zone interceptions away from being 12-2, and you can make a case that they are Tyreek Hill and a few lucky breaks from being 6-8 or so.

This is where we all make our own decisions as sports fans, and where our preconceived notions bleed into how we see the world.

Speaking of...

...thank you for asking this! I love this question!

Because I believe the record that truly indicates how good the Chiefs are is ... wait for it ... TEN AND FOUR.

They are a 10-4 team.

That’s what they are. That’s exactly what they are. They have won 10 times and lost four. That’s not as good as some teams, and better than most, which is another good way of describing the Chiefs.

Look, I get that they’ve been lucky. Nobody has pointed out their luck more than me. But they won those games. You don’t get half credit for wins if the field goal banks off an upright, and actually, this is a good example of what I’m talking about here.

Because that game in Denver has become sort of shorthand for the Chiefs being lucky, but let’s be real about a few things.

They kept it close in the first half despite a horsebleep offense, in part because the defense made plays, and Tyreek Hill was amazing, and Alex Smith was terrific in that final drive of regulation, and even if you want to ignore the fact that Cairo Santos’ last kick actually did go in, and from a distance he’s basically FDIC insured*, it would’ve meant a tie, not a loss.

* After Sunday, Santos is 27 of 29 in his career from 30 to 39 yards, which is better than Steph Curry at the free throw line.

But, anyway.

I always go back to this. Let’s pretend Santos missed the field goal, and Marcus Peters didn’t strip Kelvin Benjamin, and Eric Berry doesn’t win a game in his hometown.

At that point, even if you’re not giving the Chiefs credit for playing through injuries to — deep breath — Justin Houston, Alex Smith, Dee Ford, Jeremy Maclin, Jamaal Charles, Marcus Peters, Derrick Johnson, Jaye Howard, Phil Gaines, Allen Bailey, and Spencer Ware ... they’re 8-5-1, right?

And how many of you are talking about how they’re really just a few plays away from being 10-4, and in contention for a first-round bye?

The answer is none of you. Zero of you. This is professional football, and teams win or lose based on the final score. I’ve mentioned here a few times how you can make a pretty simple case that the Broncos were lucky to have a first-round bye last year, and probably would not have made or won the Super Bowl without that luck, but that doesn’t make their Super Bowl trophy any less shiny.

You are what your record says you are. That’s not just a line from Bill Parcells. It’s the truth.

I understand and respect the point you’re trying to make, but let’s talk about the Royals defeating the Shuttlecocks. They did this in 2014, with that run to Game 7 of the World Series, but remember July of that year?

They were under .500, and of all the things I’ve taken grief from readers about, the top of the list may be that I didn’t write that Ned Yost and Dayton Moore should be fired. I’m not saying I expected all of that, but I did think the calls for heads were senseless

Anyway, the point here is that as much as we can all talk about how we’ve seen this show before, because the Chiefs have done nothing but not win Super Bowls for the last 45 years, the unassailable truth is that we have not seen this show before.

The 1990s were long enough that I don’t want to say anything close to definitive, at least not without giving it some more thought, but I do think this is the best Chiefs team in the 21st century.

If your reply is that’s a low standard, it’s a fair point, but what I’m saying is that for all the legitimate fears about this Chiefs team or the Chiefs as an idea, there is still a lot to like about about this team.

With the notable exception of the Pittsburgh game, the defense has ranged from so good the Chiefs could not lose to good enough to win even when they don’t. They have a terrific resume, with wins at the Raiders, at the Panthers, at the Broncos, at the Falcons and again against the Raiders. If there was an NFL RPI, it would be difficult to find anyone with wins like that, and all of the losses are against teams that are either in or just outside a playoff spot.

Also, here is the point that I think is overlooked more than any other: ALL teams have flaws, even teams with Tom Brady. Every Super Bowl champion since the ’85 Bears has been flawed, somehow, somewhere.

Well, I’m not here to give you hope, or to kill your hope. I’m just here to tell you what I see, and what I think.

And I still see a team that can — can — make a run.

Blair made a great point in the postgame chat: the Chiefs’ run of wins at the Broncos, at the Falcons, and against the Raiders is as impressive a three-game stretch as any team will have, and roughly equivalent to what it would take to make the Super Bowl from a wild-card spot.

So, yeah. There it is.

Look guys, my thought on this team is the same as it was at 11:59 Sunday morning: they are absolutely good enough to play in the Super Bowl, and absolutely flawed enough to break your heart and piss you off with some sort of wretched playoff collapse that makes a 28-point lead at Head Trauma Stadium appear mild.

My bet at the moment is a loss in the AFC Championship Game, but who knows. We’re all guessing.

I don’t know what’s going on with that, but I have a theory, which I’ll share after the following paragraph:

Four games ago, the Chiefs gained just 49 yards in the first half, and 224 after halftime, including a clutch drive at the end of regulation in Denver, so let’s stop short of calling the Chiefs’ inability to score after halftime more than a three-game trend.

But it is a concern.

And, I would argue, a major concern.

Some of this will be laid at Andy Reid’s feet, and I suppose that’s fair. This is a coaches’ league, and Reid makes a lot of money, so his outcoaching Gary Kubiak, Dan Quinn and Jack Del Rio in successive weeks is what he’s paid to do, and blown leads — particularly when it’s the offense’s fault — like Sunday is fair criticism.

I do think the Chiefs could and should open it up a bit. Their best offense is with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce involved — and Jeremy Maclin, and if he keeps playing like he did on Sunday — and particularly against a bad pass defense this is where the Chiefs could make some profit.

But I also think the players are the ones who play, and they had opportunity after opportunity to win this game. Alex Smith threw a terrible interception, made worse by the reality that he is valuable precisely because he avoids terrible interceptions. They blew two 3rd-and-2s in the fourth quarter, and couldn’t get in with two shots from the 1, and this is where my theory takes the next step.

The Chiefs’ offensive line is generally OK or better in pass protection and in space, but is not physical, and struggles to win head-to-head, up front, man-to-man blocks. It’s easy to wonder, then, if the line wears down as the game goes on. Because, at least without going through the film again, if there’s a common denominator with the second half failures it seems to be an inability to convert short yardage.

Well, maybe the Chiefs’ line — already at a weight and strength disadvantage — wears down faster than the other side.

That kind of thing can be covered up with superb execution, but short of that, the whole thing struggles.

I don’t know. Just a theory.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was frustrated with team's 19-17 loss to Titans on Dec. 18, 2016.

There was, but they traded him for Knile Davis.

There are always things to criticize, but really, on the whole, I was OK with the big decisions.

The interception is on the quarterback. I didn’t love the option call on 3rd and 2, but the players can still execute. I’ll always defend a coach going for it on 4th down in that situation, particularly because the downside isn’t all that down, as was shown when the Chiefs were stuffed, forced a punt, and got the field goal back on the short field anyway.

We can always quibble with particular play calling, but in general I think play calling is among Reid’s best strengths, and I hope any Chiefs fans criticizing the runs up the middle haven’t been criticizing him for “getting too cute” in previous games.

If nothing else, I hope it helps drive home the point that Reid has to get creative in those short yardage situations, because this isn’t an offensive line you can trust to get you a yard when you need it.

My biggest complaint about the coaching was not making sure Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill were more involved after the first or second quarter. That can’t happen. The quarterback and coach share the blame there, but whatever criticism is levied here toward either is fair.

I also thought they should’ve challenged De’Anthony Thomas’ run in the second quarter, but understand Reid had information from assistants that it wouldn’t have been overturned.

So, I don’t know. I thought Terez grading them with a D was fair.

Well, I do think they’ll open it up a little, but not because of what Kelce said.

I wrote about this in the column, but I do hope it’s noted about how a teammate seemed to calm Kelce down before he said those words about the play calling.

Kelce was frustrated he didn’t get the ball more, and he should be, because he should’ve had the ball more. I don’t know how that can be argued. More than anyone else, even Tyreek Hill, Kelce is the one who opens the offense for everyone else. At the very least, get him on the dang field with the game on the line.

This is a little anecdotal, but the Chiefs are 3-3 when Kelce has fewer than 50 yards, and 7-1 when he has more than 50 yards. The Chiefs know this, and if they didn’t, Kelce certainly told them after the game.

In that context, I thought this was interesting from Andy Reid after the game:

“You can sit here and point fingers, you can do all that stuff that bad teams do, or you fix the problems. So we’ve got to make sure we do that.”

Reid doesn’t give you much, particularly in his postgame, but this was revealing. His greatest strength, to me, has always been how he simultaneously allows his players to be themselves while still demanding discipline.

I don’t think this is a major test of that, at least not compared with two years of getting the best from Marcus Peters. But it is a test, and you didn’t ask, but it’s a test I expect him and the Chiefs to pass.

I do.

This might be presumptuous, but I think this is a reference to the column on Clark that ran in Sunday’s paper. There’s a lot in there, good and bad, some reporting with views from people who like him and don’t, so I hope you read it.

Shameless plugs out of the way, yes, I absolutely believe he cares about winning. There are a lot of things Clark is often criticized for unfairly, and one of them is this narrative that he only cares about profits and doesn’t care if the team wins.

I don’t know if this is a crossover from baseball, where an owner’s willingness (or unwillingness) to spend can have an outsized impact on the team’s success, but the current CBA has rules in place that both limit how much a team can spend and require teams to spend a representative amount on payroll.

It should be said that the Chiefs, at least in the last decade or so, have never been one of the teams that don’t spend. Their cash outlay on players has consistently been in the top half of the league, and sometimes the top half of the top half. So whether Clark OKs spending money on players has never been the issue.

Clark has had two major decisions to make with football: replacing Carl Peterson and Herm Edwards after 2008, and replacing Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel after 2012.

He failed in an obvious way the first time, succeeded the second time, but if you judge the thought process more than the result I think he did well in both.

At the time, Pioli was the consensus best GM candidate in the NFL. Clark identified that, hired him, and then let the football people run football. I would — and have, most recently in that Sunday column — pointed out that Hunt should’ve been able to see that Pioli and Todd Haley could not succeed together. He lacked the street smarts, or people skills, to see that and the franchise suffered.

But the general process — hire the best people, then let them do their jobs — is hard to fault.

Now, if we’re going to blame Clark for that failure, it’s fair to give him credit for learning. He changed the leadership structure of the franchise, adding safeguards against the kind of problems Pioli helped create, and again hired the best football people available.

I also believe he’s finding a good balance between letting Reid and John Dorsey do their jobs, while also staying involved enough to head off potentially fatal problems.

The Chiefs have so far topped out at one wild card playoff win, and that’s what matters, but I’m unclear what more Clark is supposed to have done.

The limitations, as they’ve been for most of the last 40 years, have largely been with a quarterback not good enough to cover flaws in the rest of the team, surrounded by a team not good enough to cover the quarterback’s flaws.

This is an endless conversation point around Kansas City, and even in this unapologetic timesuck we don’t have time to do it justice, but unless you think the Chiefs should’ve drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round this year I don’t know that they’ve passed on legitimate opportunities to improve at quarterback.

Whatever you think of Alex Smith, he was the best quarterback available when Reid and Dorsey took over in 2013. The Chiefs picked first overall that year, but this was a season after Andrew Luck, and a season before Derek Carr (though Blake Bortles was the first quarterback selected in 2014).

The first quarterback taken in the 2013 draft was Geno Smith in the second round, and without giving away too much, I can tell you the Chiefs would not have drafted him in the seventh round, and have been proven right on their skepticism of him.

I do think it’s time for the Chiefs to invest in a young quarterback. They can realistically walk away from Smith after this season, but even if they don’t, they would do well to take a long look at next year’s quarterbacks, including, in my opinion, Clemson’s DeShaun Watson.

So, we can quibble with a lot about Clark. I believe he does himself a disservice by not communicating to fans more consistently and openly. I believe that being the first non-needy franchise to move a home game to London sent a bad message, even as I appreciate that he was in a difficult position having served on the international committee. We could have a good discussion about his faults.

But as far as football, I think he’s been a good owner. Winning matters to him. He’s never said this, and he might genuinely disagree with this, but I believe he wants to win at least in part because his father’s teams couldn’t do it for so long.

Clark is constantly living in his father’s shadow, and he is ridiculously confident and competitive. I don’t think anything would make him happier than being the chairman when the Chiefs finally make it to the Super Bowl, and he probably would never say this publicly, but I believe part of the joy would be in accomplishing something his father couldn’t for so long.

You guys, fantasy football is the dumbest thing in the world. We are grown adults, at least in theory, and instead of our friends and family and careers and lives, we decide to spend actual money and time constructing fake teams full of strangers who play a kids game for millions of dollars.

This is so dumb. We have to stop. Do you have any idea how much better we could make the world if, instead of wasting giant chunks of time trying to find some nobody undrafted free agent who has a favorable matchup on Sunday, we volunteered? Did something constructive? Anything constructive?

It’s embarrassing. You all need to stop this silliness. Grow up*.

* This rant written by an idiot who is about to finish fourth for what feels like the 72nd straight season despite having Aaron Rodgers, Todd Gurley and Odell Beckham, because Jeff Fisher sucks, and Beckham doesn’t have enough around him, and Rodgers took a midseason siesta, and the idiot in charge of this dumb fantasy football team can’t be bothered to spend more than a few minutes to find someone else to help the stars. Screw fantasy football.

This year, my Christmas dinner will be all the chips and salsa in the Arrowhead press box!

I’m actually more excited for Christmas this year than most. The toddler will be 3 in February, so this is the first time he’s sort of understanding what’s going on. I don’t like the Elf on the Shelf thing, but my lovely wife started it one weekend I was out of town, and I have to admit, the blackmailing has been useful.

I’d rather not work on Christmas, obviously, but Christmas Eve night is a bigger deal in our family than Christmas night, so all things considered, a home game long after presents have been opened is about as good as it can be.

We’ll go to my in-laws for Christmas Eve, then have my family over for brunch after presents. It’ll be this egg strata* with fruit or whatever. It’ll be great.

* Though, pro tip if you use that recipe: trade out Canadian bacon for real bacon, and add sausage.

If we were cooking Christmas dinner, it would probably short ribs, something like that. I can’t get excited about ham, and turkey is for Thanksgiving.

But, more than anything else, I’m just excited I’ll be home. The toddler is all in on Santa. Part of me is already dreading the inevitable talk about this in a few years, but I’m as excited to see the magic on his face as anything I can remember other than marrying my wife and seeing my kids born.

Step 1: Stare at the ballot, think about how cool of a privilege this is, and all the memories — good and bad — about covering baseball for the last decade-plus.

Step 2: Make phone calls, sometimes for advice, but more just to hear others’ views on what makes a Hall of Famer, and the process of voting. I probably talked to a dozen or so — a few voters, two current managers, maybe five or six players, including two Hall of Famers, and a few other friends in the game.

Step 3: Lots of research.

If I had to vote immediately, the Hall of Fame version of a lightning round, I think I would’ve voted for Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Trevor Hoffman, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Vlad Guerrero.

Aside from the phone calls and conversations, I spent, probably, a total of five to 10 hours over a few weeks studying as much as I could, before voting. My ballot, and what I thought was a good discussion in the replies, can be found here.

The research changed my mind on two spots. As you know, rules limit us to 10 votes. Hoffman and Guerrero dropped off, replaced by Mike Mussina and Larry Walker.

I think I’ll expand on my thoughts in a column or post sometime, but an abridged version of my thinking:

By definition of the job, a closer can only have so much impact on a game, and without a Mariano Rivera-type stack of postseason accomplishment, it was hard to justify when I thought others had more impact on more games. I acknowledge I’m penalizing Hoffman for his role, which may or may not be fair, and I could easily see myself voting for him in the future. His case is compelling, but on what I think is a loaded ballot, I had to drop him.

I think Vlad Guerrero is a Hall of Famer, and I hope he gets in. If he doesn’t, I hope I can vote for him next year. He’s an MVP, with other finishes of third, third, fourth and sixth. He had an 11-year run where he was among the very best hitters in the game, and I don’t know how much this should matter, but he was also so damn fun. Again, I think he’s a Hall of Famer, but I don’t think his case is overwhelming, so he was vulnerable with the 10-vote limit. I ended up dropping him, and adding Larry Walker, which surprised me but...

Walker also won an MVP, and three batting titles, and led the league in on-base and slugging twice in the same year. He won the so-called modern Triple Crown in 1999: .379, .458 on-base, .710 slug. His 1997 season is one of the best in history: .366/.452/.720, 49 homers, 33 stolen bases, 46 doubles, four triples, 130 RBIs, 143 runs, and a Gold Glove. But the question has never been about statistics with him. It’s been, basically, about Coors Field.

But here are some things that stood out to me from the research:

▪ Walker’s road OPS was actually higher than his home OPS in that MVP season.

▪ Fewer than one-third of his career plate appearances came at Coors Field. Others played more games there, and we’re not here talking about any of his teammates. He hit everywhere he went: .322/.394/.587 and led the league in doubles his last year in Montreal, and had an OPS over .900 over leaving the Rockies for St. Louis, where he played as a 37- and 38-year-old.

▪ His career OPS+, which is a translation of OPS adjusted for factors that include ballparks, was 141. That would rank 32nd among the 135 Hall of Famers that come up on a Baseball-Reference Play Index search, ahead of Duke Snider, behind Eddie Collins, and ahead of such Hall of Famers as, ahem: Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., George Brett, Al Kaline, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Carl Yastrzemski, Roberto Clemente, Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson and many others.

▪ Walker won seven Gold Gloves, and had a reputation as an outstanding all-around player. He stole more than 10 bases 11 times, and had a reputation for knowing when to take an extra base.

▪ Various advanced metrics, including WAR, WAR7 (sum of a player’s best seven seasons), and JAWS (Jay Jaffe’s system on Baseball Prospectus) put Walker ahead of Vlad, among many others. It also helped that this is Walker’s seventh year on the ballot, and Vlad’s first, so Walker’s vote is more urgent.

I did not expect to vote for Mussina, for several reasons, most of which can be vaguely summed up with, Meh, he was never great. But!

▪ While he never won a Cy Young, he did finish in the top 6 nine times, over a span that covers him from age 23 to 39, including a second-place finish in 1999.

▪ He didn’t have the three- or four-year run of dominance I like from Hall of Famers, but he has a better ERA+ — essentially the pitchers’ version of OPS+, accounting for league and ballpark factors — than Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine, Bert Blyleven, Steve Carlton, and others.

▪ He threw more than 200 innings 11 times, and made 30 or more starts 12 times. Again, I value peak over consistency, but if there’s a position to reward longevity and durability it’s starting pitcher. That’s not easy to do.

▪ He had a ridiculous 3.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is higher than every pitcher in the Hall of Fame except Pedro Martinez and Cy Young.

▪ He was actually (slightly, but still) more effective in the postseason than regular season, when judged by ERA, strikeouts, hits, and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

▪ I didn’t think about it this way, but if I could have Mussina or Hoffman on my team, I would absolutely take Mussina.

Again, I may expand on this soon, but that’s the basics. I enjoyed the process, even as the actual vote was difficult, and have enjoyed the discussion.

I stand with the incoming governor.

I just don’t think this is complicated. Look, nobody loves sports than me. I can’t think of many to whom sports are more important, personally but obviously professionally, too.

Sports are great!

Please, sports, stay in Kansas City forever!

But I don’t know how this kind of taxpayer funding is justified other than, Screw it, we can get away with it.

The vast, vast, vaaaaaaast majority of credible studies that have ever been done show this type of thing to be a waste of money. It just doesn’t make sense, and, c’mon, one of my favorite things about sports is how they make us do and think irrational things, but there are schools and roads and programs that need our money much more than billionaire sports owners or, if you prefer, I would make the case that we need our money much more than billionaire sports owners.

I’d actually be OK with this type of spending if it was honest. Sometimes middle-aged men spend way too much money on a sports car. That’s fine. But don’t tell me you did it for the gas mileage, or as some sort of investment.

When these teams come begging for public money in order to run their private for-profit business, they always present these laughable economic surveys that try to convince smart people these are good investments when they know damn well it’s only a good investment for the team owner who benefits.

Tax breaks are one thing, and I do think there is a line in there somewhere. Governments give breaks to businesses all the time. But not to the extent that we bankroll these palaces, so that wealthy businessmen can better profit from their largely foolproof businesses.

Kim Anderson’s plight at Mizzou makes me sad. They should better than this. They should be further along than this.

This was the year they were supposed to make progress, and correct me if I’m wrong, but the highlight of the season so far is an overtime loss to Xavier, in which the point guard made a dumb foul at the end, and they were blow’d out the next morning.

They’ve lost to North Carolina Central, and Eastern Illinois, both at home, and it’s not even like either team played the game of its season. NCC shot 36.5 percent, missed 16 of 22 three-pointers, and had more turnovers than assists. Eastern Illinois shot 33 percent, missed 23 three-pointers, and had more turnovers than assists.

The excuses are old, and tired. Anderson took over a terrible situation, but this is year three, and it’s not football. The roster is better than what he inherited, but the results aren’t. I want Anderson to do well. He deserves it. This is a program that should consistently be in the SEC’s top half, but at this point, it’s hard to imagine them not finishing last for the third straight season.

It’s just ... sad. I’m not ready to talk about who they should hire. That will come. Anderson and his team can still save his job. I’m with you, I don’t necessarily expect that to happen, but it might. I hope it does. They should be better than this.

Hoo-boy, well, I’m typing these words just minutes after checking the bank and credit card statements for the first time in a while, mostly because I’ve been terrified, and, well, I’m going to need a minute.

OK, that’s done now, so I can tell you that the wife and I have what I think is a really good thing going with Christmas. We sort of give each other one big gift, something for the house, or that we can enjoy together. Last year, it was a gas oven. This year, plans to hopefully redo the kitchen.

I know it’s not romantic, but it’s practical, makes both of us happy, and besides, after buying out the Little Tykes catalog there’s only so much we can do.

It’s just one way to do it. Works for us, and, besides, I know this is corny but I’m not going to remember anything about this Christmas other than the toddler’s reaction to it.

Have a good week, guys.

Sam Mellinger: 816-234-4365, @mellinger

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