We start with the NFL — or, more specifically, with the bottom of the NFL. The New York Jets made a very bad play call that cost them their game last week against the Las Vegas Raiders but kept them in the hunt for the first pick of next year’s draft. It immediately ignited all sorts of theories about tanking. However, individual players and even coaches don’t have big incentives to tank in the NFL. Case in point: Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was fired after that bizarre blitz against the Raiders. But the evidence that the Jets ownership is, in fact, tanking for Trevor is all in the fact that they haven’t fired head coach Adam Gase. Tanking also isn’t nearly as effective in the NFL as it is in a league like the NBA. Trevor Lawrence could well be a generational talent on the order of a Peyton Manning, but if he walks into a dysfunctional team that has been completely cleaned out of talent and lacks a winning culture? Well, Joe Burrow learned this year that there’s only so much a quarterback can do.
Next, we catch up with the NBA’s abridged offseason. Giannis Antetokounmpo still may or may not sign a long-term extension with the Milwaukee Bucks, but LeBron James and Anthony Davis are locked in with the Lakers … and the rest of the Western Conference is locked in with a team that appears poised for continued dominance, if not quite the sustained greatness of the Golden State Warriors of the past decade. But the most interesting move of this short offseason has to be the Houston Rockets and the Washington Wizards exchanging their respective albatrosses at point guard in the trade of Russell Westbrook for John Wall. It’s very hard to say how Wall in particular is going to fit into Houston’s team, given that James Harden seems to be anywhere but the practice court. If he didn’t seem so determined to get out of Houston, Harden might have a promising supporting partnership with Wall and new center Christian Wood. But every member of the Hot Takedown team agrees that Harden isn’t helping his case by getting photographed without a mask at big parties. Brooklyn or Philly might want him, but maybe not if he’s bringing COVID-19.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, we’re joined by FiveThirtyEight NFL analyst Josh Hermsmeyer, who walks us through the world of football coaches … on film! Josh categorized nine classic football films (well, eight classic football films and “Varsity Blues”) on an alignment chart of good/evil and lawful/chaotic. Obviously, fictional coaches don’t have to be effective play-callers to be compelling characters, but including the tensions that real coaches have to deal with — balancing analytics and human interaction; sticking with what you know versus embracing new philosophies — can also make the movies better.
What we’re looking at this week: