Flock & Tingle: Sound and fury, signifying everything

Flock & Tingle is John Teti’s interim column about pro football, published here at The Avocado on the gracious invitation of the moderators while John works on a new website to publish his things and have fun and such. In fact, John is the one typing this introductory paragraph. Thank you for having him, John says. Enjoy the football this weekend, John says.

When your team loses its luster, it’s time to bluster

doug-marrone-looking-sad
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone at his Oct. 24 press conference, looking sad.

The football media fixated on Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone’s Week 7 decision to bench quarterback Blake Bortles in favor of Cody Kessler as the Jaguars lost 20-7 to the Texans. By mid-week, the coach had tired of all the questions about Bortles, so he gathered the press to drive home one talking point above all: The Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of terrible players.

Among factors ailing the Jaguars, the quarterback is not alone.

“It’s not just that one person,” Marrone said Wednesday morning[.]

So reports John Oehser of Jaguars.com, who was there when Marrone said it. Later in the midweek press conference, however, Marrone brought his focus back to the specific terribleness of Blortles. The Jacksonville coach insisted that his starting QB would receive “starter reps” in practice — which is to say that as the first-team quarterback, Borbles would get to throw the ball (or hand it to another person) a certain number of times during practice, and nobody would get to throw the ball (or hand it to another person) as many times as that.

Doug Marrone has strong feelings on this matter.

“I’m going to go back to what I said on Monday,” Marrone said. “I sat here, looked you guys all in the eye and said whoever the quarterback was is going to take starter reps. I’ve believed in that my entire life. I answered the question on Monday and I’ll answer the question again: Yes, Blake will take all the starter reps.”

About halfway through, Marrone dilated his timescale to jarring effect. His scorn over the all-too-easily forgotten events of Monday gave way to a deeper indignation, and suddenly he was considering the course of his belief system since birth. In fairness, though, let’s assume Marrone meant his professional football life. Even still. We are supposed to accept that in his years of coaching he’s never had a moment—a lapse, a flash of apostasy—when he looked into his soul and questioned his beliefs about starter reps? Come on. We’ve all had those profound moments of doubt.

But maybe Marrone is just wired different from the rest of us, able to confront life’s caprice with absolute certainty. His permanence of outlook extends to other matters, too. In response to questions about the team’s turnover woes, Marrone was emphatic:

“We’re going to make sure we’re putting more of a major emphasis on something we’ve emphasized since the first day I’ve gotten this job,” Marrone said. “That’s what we have to do.”

Doug Marrone surveyed his tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He recalled that on day one—as soon his briefcase hit the desk—he established an emphasis on ball security. He has maintained that emphasis every day until now, when his emphasis has failed in plain view, for all to see. “This calls for more emphasis,” he concluded.

I mock, but such testosterone-laced folderol is exactly what the job of “NFL head coach at a press conference” demands. It’s not enough for Marrone to say that the starting quarterback will take the starter reps. He must insist on it with a lifetime’s worth of passion, even though a tautology, by its nature, does not require such conviction. The coach’s postures, not his words, are the real substance of a Wednesday NFL press conference—the emotional fuel that drives the narrative onward when there is, in truth, nothing to talk about.

bick-brambles
Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Bick Brambles

What more can Doug Marrone say about Blark Bottles? The story remains the same. Brobbles has his stretches of woe, but he can also show fits of brilliance, because he does possess a few tricks up his sleeve. On some downs, for instance, Blobules will neither throw the ball nor hand it to another person—rather, he will run around with the ball, a shrewd maneuver that demoralizes defenses with its clumsy, lumbering effectiveness. This is the psychological advantage the Jaguars gain from having Balki Bortokomous on their squad.

doug-pederson
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is also named Doug.

If the fans in London seek a distraction from Jacksonville’s malaise when the Jaguars come to Wembley Stadium for a “home” game this weekend, they won’t find much more sparkle on the opposing sideline, either. The Super Bowl champion Eagles are coming off a game in which they built up a 17-point lead against the Panthers only to fold in the fourth quarter like some sort of folding chair (if you can imagine such a thing). Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson reacted by saying, cryptically, that the “pressure’s off” his team, which caused much huffing and puffing among football reporters, as this is not on the approved list of vapid platitudes. Therefore the Eagles are under a great deal of pressure to prove that their pressure-free approach can reverse the 3-4 team’s recent fortunes.

Do not shed any tears for the Jaguars and Eagles, though. You’ll need to save that reservoir of sorrow for yourself if you choose to tune into this game, for it will be narrated by an unprecedented four commentators in the NFL Network booth: Rich Eisen will do play-by-play, and his NFL GameDay Morning colleagues Kurt Warner, Steve Mariucci, and Michael Irvin will provide analysis, to use the term loosely.

four-man-booth
All four of these people will be talking about football while you’re trying to just have a moment of goddamned peace this Sunday morning.

The league drummed up advance publicity for the rare programming move by apologizing in advance for it. “The four-man booth hasn’t been attempted for a good reason,” Eisen told reporters. “[W]e’re all aware that four people in a broadcast booth for an NFL game is not the norm,” NFL Network vice president Mike Muriano said. It’s all well and good for the network to acknowledge that its clown-car concept of sports broadcasting is an objectively bad one. But as league executives asked America to face the prospect of a Sunday morning that begins with Eisen, Warner, Mariucci, and Irvin jockeying for airtime during a dreary London football game, they failed to answer the crucial question: Who gets the starter reps?

Your Week 8 FuturePicks™

Flock & Tingle is the only interim football column with FuturePicks™, an NFL prediction system that employs temporal quantum-tunneling technology to compress all of human existence, indeed all of time itself, to a single point. The result is a weekly slate of football game picks that are guaranteed to be correct because, from the perspective of FuturePicks™, they have already happened.

NOTE: Foreknowledge of the future necessarily alters the future. Flock & Tingle is not responsible for any disruption to causality that emerges as a result of sentient persons viewing the FuturePicks™ in advance of Sunday’s pro football contests. Please do not read the picks.

FuturePicks™ and the entire Flock & Tingle enterprise were knocked offline for the last two weeks by a fever, a couple days where I itched a lot for some reason, and a stomach bug. The FuturePicks™ system may be able to calculate all existence, but it cannot account for a tummyache. Here are the results from the predictions that were published before Week 5, the last time I got my sorry ass out of bed to write this column.

Week 5 games within acceptable parameters: 10

Week 5 divergences from FuturePicks™: 4

Overall FuturePicks™ integrity in 2018: 53.5 percent (23-20)

Here are the Week 8 picks; do not read them.

THE NFL PRESENTS: A SALUTE TO HUBRIS — SUNDAY MORNING FOOTBALL IN LONDON

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL Network): Philadelphia 20, Jacksonville 13. A sampling of the text messages I’ve received this week from Gameological alumnus and official Flock & Tingle Philadelphia Eagles correspondent Drew Toal: “Barnett is out for the year. We are boned.” “Patrick Peterson would help, but that might not be enough.” “We still play the Rams and Saints too, it’s just all bad.” All’s well in Philadelphia when Eagles fans are miserable—they get nervous in any other state (e.g., happiness, contentment).

SUNDAY — EARLY GAMES

Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs (CBS): Kansas City 31, Denver 21.

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS): Pittsburgh 28, Cleveland 20. In case you were wondering, the previously noted Instagram account @samepictureofhuejackson is still committed to its gag, continuing to post the same picture of Hue Jackson daily until Cleveland notches three wins. The 2-4-1 Browns have a chance to end the joke against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field this Sunday, and then the 2-5-1 Browns will get another chance against the Chiefs next weekend. Stay tuned to see if the 2-6-1 Browns will manage to banish Hue’s photo once and for all.

New York Jets vs. Chicago Bears (CBS): Chicago 27, New York 23.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers (CBS): Baltimore 5, Carolina 2. Does it count as a safety dance if Men Without Hats aren’t involved?

Washington vs. New York Giants (Fox): Washington 24, New York 12.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Detroit Lions (Fox): Seattle 26, Detroit 24. The Lions traded a draft pick to the Giants in exchange for defensive tackle Damon Harrison, whose nickname is “Snacks.” Harrison told Justin Rogers of The Detroit News that he doesn’t really like the nickname, but he’s “fine” with it. Football can be a strangely beautiful world, where people can call a 355-pound man a name he doesn’t like, and he just has to put up with it. I understand Harrison’s irritation, though. I wouldn’t want a nickname based on my eating habits, either. So please don’t call me John “Half A Jar Of Peanut Butter Consumed At Midnight While Staring Into The Middle Distance Wondering About The Decisions I’ve Made With My Life” Teti. It’s not as catchy as “Snacks” anyway.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Fox): Cincinnati 31, Tampa Bay 17.

SUNDAY — LATE GAMES

Indianapolis Colts vs. Oakland Raiders (CBS): Indianapolis 20, Oakland 9.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals (Fox): San Francisco 23, Arizona 20. The New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. has gotten a lot of negative press this season for criticizing his teammates’ performance. But “diva” wide receivers are a league-wide problem. Here is San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis openly calling out his teammate George Kittle for not liking Christmas music. This is the kind of conduct that can tear a team apart—keep it in the locker room, Dante.

Green Bay Packers vs. Los Angeles Rams (Fox): Los Angeles 40, Green Bay 28.

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings (NBC): Minnesota 33, New Orleans 30.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills (ESPN): New England 50, Buffalo 15.

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