We start with the NFL, where the Houston Texans fired dual GM and head coach Bill O’Brien after the team’s 0-4 start. Several other teams with bad starts, including Houston’s neighbors in Dallas, aren’t quite out of things yet. But the Texans’ situation is particularly bad, as they don’t even have many draft picks they could use to tank for next year. Their investment in running backs is in opposition to how most of the league operates, and it works against the incredible talent they have in Deshaun Watson. Maybe only Bill Belichick could coach and GM successfully, but O’Brien definitely wasn’t up to the job(s). Speaking of Belichick, we also discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on his team and the rest of the league this week. The NFL has precious little wiggle room if more teams suffer outbreaks, but on a league level, so far it’s a navigable situation. On the team level, there’s hope for a renewed effort to prevent outbreaks, as no one wants to be in the position Cam Newton was in this week — watching the New England Patriots hang in with the Kansas City Chiefs until they couldn’t.
Next, we’re joined by Lyndsey D’Arcangelo of The Athletic to talk about the WNBA Finals between the Las Vegas Aces and the Seattle Storm. The Storm could clinch the title as early as tonight after putting in dominating performances the first two games. A lot of that is down to the team’s depth — Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart are having a great postseason, as many would expect, but the Storm had five players in double figures in Game 2. They have a well-rounded and opportunistic style of play that has kept them dangerous throughout the playoffs. The Aces haven’t found a way to win without Dearica Hamby, even though regular-season MVP A’ja Wilson scored 20 points herself in Game 2, but if they can tighten up their defense, they might be able to claw a game back. The real winner this year has been the WNBA itself, though. Expanded access to games on ESPN and increased visibility has helped grow the league’s popularity — one bright spot in the midst of 2020. But that means the WNBA will need to really push for that visibility to continue into next year. There are no laurels to rest on yet.
Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, we talk about the curious case of Dion Waiters, who played for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat this year and so will be getting a ring regardless of who wins the NBA Finals. Neil takes us on a tour of other players who were guaranteed rings because of a trade — there aren’t too many in basketball or football, but it turns out there’s a good group of baseball and hockey players who were guaranteed a ring by playing both sides.
What we’re looking at this week: