Monday, January 02, 2006

NFL Snubs Jacksonville, Invites Notre Dame To Playoffs

The Jacksonville Jaguars completed a 12-4 regular season with a 40-13 rout of Tennessee on Sunday.  Often ignored by the national sports media, the Jaguars planned on earning everyone’s respect with a postseason victory in New England this Saturday.  However, the NFL has denied them that opportunity.  The league passed over Jacksonville in order to grant Notre Dame a wild card berth in the AFC playoffs.



The decision shocked most observers, considering that wild card invitations were believed to be granted to NFL non-division winners with the best records.  A league spokesman noted that that method has been followed each year as a matter of tradition.  However, a little-known provision in the league bylaws dictates that only division winners receive automatic postseason bids.  Also, the NFL must invite Notre Dame to the playoffs if it finishes in the top 6 of the BCS rankings.  The Irish squeaked in at #6, earning quarterback Brady Quinn a bid to Wimbledon and the Masters as well.  The league chose Pittsburgh for the other at-large spot in the AFC.



Television ratings appear to be behind the NFL’s decision.  Notre Dame will travel to New England for a Saturday night game on ABC.  The matchup provides a compelling storyline as Irish head coach Charlie Weis takes on the team he helped to three Super Bowl titles as offensive coordinator.  The Golden Domers are sure to draw larger ratings than the relatively anonymous Jaguars, who had zero appearances on “Monday Night Football” this season.  An ABC executive even referred to Jacksonville tailback Fred Taylor as Fred Sanford.  Then he performed his rendition of the “Sanford and Son” theme song, which will run through your head long after you’re finished with this article.



This latest slap in the face is yet another example of disrespect toward the Jaguars.  Despite the team’s 12-4 record, defensive tackle Marcus Stroud is its lone representative on the Pro Bowl roster.  The San Diego Chargers, at 9-7, are sending six players to Hawaii.  Jacksonville wide receiver Jimmy Smith has been to five previous Pro Bowls and is seventh all-time in NFL receptions, but he is far less famous than many of his contemporaries.  Asked for his thoughts on the longtime star, a league official responded, “Jimmy Smith is great!  I love ‘The West Wing,’ and I hope he wins the election over Alan Alda.”



Particularly infuriating to the franchise is that Notre Dame is not even the best team in college.  An NFL spokesman explained that the USC-Texas winner could not take on the Patriots due to the short turnaround after Wednesday’s Rose Bowl.  However, Ohio State dominated the Irish with 617 yards of offense in its 34-20 Fiesta Bowl victory.  While impressed with the Buckeyes, the spokesman noted that OSU head coach Jim Tressel has never worked with Bill Belichick of the Patriots.  Therefore, Tressel cannot provide an angle as interesting as the mentor/disciple relationship between Belichick and Weis.  “Besides,” added the spokesman, “Tressel’s sweater vests are really lame.”



Notre Dame is unlikely to provide much resistance to the defending champs, who are 9-0 in the postseason with Tom Brady at quarterback.  However, the Irish are happy about one thing.  Brady won’t be throwing to Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes.