WHITT’S END: 10.8.21
Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …
*First glimpse of Luka Doncic this season provided a comical reminder that he isn’t perfect. I mean, sure, in the Dallas Mavericks’ preseason opener this week he was back to maneuvering where and when he wanted. But at the end of the first half the Utah Jazz fired a half-court short that caromed off the rim.
Fancying himself as a soccer star, Luka attempted to juggle the rebound on his leg. The ball, however, violently bounced off his knee right into his face.
Maybe a bloody lip. Definitely a humble reminder to stick to being an MVP candidate in basketball.
*The move? Nope. The moment? Sorta. If you’ve been paying attention, you weren’t shocked by the Dallas Cowboys swiping left on linebacker Jaylon Smith. For years he’s been an inspirational story devolving into an average player.
In the end, his lack of bang was no longer worth his luxurious buck.
More than anything, his release this week was about the team looking to a 2022 in which Smith would’ve been the fifth-best linebacker (behind Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, Keanu Neal and Jabril Cox) with a $9 million injury guarantee. Granted the timing feels uncomfortable, given that last Sunday Smith was a captain for a team on a three-game winning streak. But he played only 16 snaps in the season opener and was becoming less and less of an integral part of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s game plans.
There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing, and Smith – one way or another – wouldn’t have been on Dallas’ 2022 roster.
We can criticize him for his ill-timed “swipe” celebrations and bizarre play that included diving – in an attempt to knock down a pass, we can only assume – at balls a good 10 yards from him, and for gently ushering Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson out of bounds and then sharing a laugh with him in a blowout loss last December.
He also seemed consumed with his “brand”, paying approximately $500,000 last Spring to switch from uniform No. 54 to 9. But we should absolutely give Smith credit for his remarkable recovery from the nasty bowl-game knee injury and his tireless off-field philanthropy. The irony of Smith’s tale in Dallas: his durability ultimately wasn’t a factor. He made a Pro Bowl early. He played in 68 straight games, and 97 percent of the defensive snaps in 2020.
The real problem was – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – owner Jerry Jones paying him too much too soon. After the linebacker made the Pro Bowl (as an injury replacement) in 2019, he was given a five-year, $64 million contract extension that included $35 million guaranteed. He wasn’t worth it. Now one of Dallas’ most talented-yet-troubling enigmas will play this season in Green Bay as a $770,000 bargain.
*“Defense wins championships” took one on the chin this season, thanks to your Texas Rangers.
I was watching the NL Wild Card game Tuesday as the announcers praised the St. Louis Cardinals’ fielding. Turns out the Cards’ defense saved 82 runs in 2021, second in baseball behind only the … Rangers. Somehow a team whose extraordinary defense saved 88 runs also managed to lose 100 games.
*I mean, I guess we’re supposed to praise law enforcement for diffusing this week’s shooting at Mansfield’s Timberview High School and for having several agencies arriving on the scene. But – at the risk of being hyper-critical – the on-the-scene press conference’s first three minutes were devoted to extensive back-patting for the display of “unified support” of various local and federal first responders. Great. But only after did we get an ID of, gulp, the “armed and dangerous” shooter still on the loose. In my business, that’s what you call burying the lead. Let’s stop the suspect before we take time to congratulate ourselves for stopping the suspect. Deal?
READ MORE: Diggs Wants More INTs Against Giants
*Call them the September Sprinters. Cowboys scored a combined 77 points in their first two home games. Thinking that was a bunch, I dug into some research.
Turns out, NFL teams have rarely enjoyed visiting Dallas out of the gate. This year’s 41-36 scoring start is only the fifth-highest in franchise history. The 1968 team amassed 87 points. Last year’s offense – before Dak Prescott’s injury – scored 40, 38 and 37 points in its first three home games.
*Most promising news out of Mavs’ training camp isn’t coach Jason Kidd or newcomer Reggie Bullock or a supposedly happy Kristaps Porzingis. It’s that 7-foot-2 and former McDonald’s High School All-American Moses Brown is being tutored by none other than Tyson Chandler.
*In the history of the Rangers there is only one player to be named the team’s Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year in the same season: Adolis Garcia, 2021.
READ MORE: Mavs' Kidd Debunks Luka vs. KP Tension
New Start: Dennis Smith Jr. Makes Roster
“I was happy that he was able to have the opportunity to show what he’s been doing,” said coach Chauncey Billups of Smith Jr.,
Mavs Moves on Justin Jackson & Tyrell Terry
Back in the Mavs family fold is Justin Jackson. No longer with the club is Tyrell Terry.
LISTEN: Kidd's Mavs Makeover; KP Bounce-Back Year?
On this episode of the Mavs Step Back Podcast: Why Kidd make the same mistakes he made as a head coach in Milwaukee and Brooklyn, Kristaps Porzingis looking much better both physically and psychologically, and much more!
*Though it’s been available since early 2021, only 52 percent of Texans aged 18+ have received the COVID vaccine. Surprised-not-surprised.
*Most amazing thing about Texas-OU weekend is that the Cotton Bowl – in 2021 – remains void of a corporate naming sponsor. It’s still just the Cotton Bowl. Bravo.
*In a 2016 NFL Re-Draft, how high would Prescott go?
*I love me some NBA. It’s just that – after a COVID-confusing calendar the last couple of seasons – I’m not sure I’m craving the NBA. Seems like just yesterday the Mavs were blowing 2-0 and 3-2 leads in their playoff loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. And it was only 10 weeks ago the Milwaukee Bucks won their first title. A Christmas Day launch makes waaaaay more sense.
*We'll believe it when we see it: The Rangers promise to spend big in free agency.
*College’s new NIL rule can work for all the right reasons, as an SMU football player helps his ailing Mom with medical bills.
READ MORE: Rangers Need New Coaching 'Voice'?
*Went to the State Fair of Texas last weekend and was reminded of two things: 1. Fried PB&J is deelish; 2. No one this side of Steph Curry can win those basketball games on the Midway. Combine overinflated balls with tiny, taut rims and prepare to be humbled, if not humiliated. On a regular court, I could make seven of 10 free throws right now. But in that rigged game I'd be lucky to make one of 50. I’d love to see the combined shooting percentage on that game at the end of the Fair. I’m predicting shooters make less than five percent.
*Cowboys fans are the most loyal in the NFL, so says this new study. But these findings I’m struggling to swallow: The Carolina Panthers’ fan base is No. 4? And 43 percent of NFL fans would turn down a job offer if it meant moving to a rival team’s city/state? Naw. Really?
*Step aside Stephen A. Smith, ESPN has a new Cowboys-hatin’ leader in the clubhouse.
*Texas has raised a staggering $54 million in private donations to build a physical wall along the Rio Grande because, of course, citizens are fed up to here with America’s supposed open borders. I predict every one of those donors would be shocked to learn that the U.S. admitted 11,411 refugees in the 2021 fiscal year – lowest number in 40 years.
*Couple crazy Cowboys stats: Only seven players in the last 25 years – most recently Terence Newman in 2010 – have had 5+ interceptions in a season. Trevon Diggs has five in four games. … Prescott had four passing touchdowns and Ezekiel Elliott 140 rushing yards in the win over the Panthers. Last duo to produce those gaudy numbers was Roger Staubach/Tony Dorsett in 1978.
READ MORE: Amari Cooper Injury Update vs. Giants
*A Facebook whistleblower this week testified on Capitol Hill that the company knowingly incites political violence by spreading misinformation. This is where the whole “fake news” narrative runs its dangerous end-around. Do people actually get their news from Facebook? (face palm emoji)
*RANGERS RISK: Bad news is the Rangers were as bad as we predicted. Good news, as also predicted, we made some money. But not nearly as much as you’d think. Betting $100 against Texas in all 162 games this season – regardless of odds – would’ve turned you a profit. But, despite winning 38 more times than losing, your grand total would only be $772. What that says is the Rangers were big underdogs most of the season. When we won, we earned $100. But when we lost, it cost us an average of $150. FINAL RECORD: 62-100 FINAL TOTAL: +$772.
*Even in the wake of yet another school shooting, there are those that will hotly protest against kids wearing masks at school but merely shrug at kids bringing guns to school.
*Lots to do and see at AT&T Stadium. And this season there’s even more to drink. The good folks at Granbury’s Revolver Brewing have teamed up with the Cowboys for three limited-edition beers: Watermelon-Hi, Barrel Aged Dem Berries and 2 Beers in a Barrel. Yes, please.
*Smith wore Nos. 54 and 9 with the Cowboys. But instead of Randy White and Tony Romo, in the end he reminded us more of Bobby Carpenter and Jon Hilbert.
*This Weekend? Friday let’s trek to College Station for a weekend of tailgating with buddies before A&M-Alabama. With any luck, Sunday we’ll be back in one piece in time for Cowboys-Giants. As always, don’t be a stranger.