April 30, 2016

Wild Ride: Dwyane Wade's season-saving heroics, Laremy Tunsil's selection, Dee Gordon suspension equal wildest 24 hours in Miami sports history; plus Dolphins' Day 2 draft, history of Fins OLs and UM DBs in 1st round & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 30. Fare thee well, April! 2) Ray Lewis' son, Ray Anthony Lewis III, briefly a Miami Hurricane, has been charged with criminal sexual misconduct in South Carolina. Story here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins draft Laremy Tunsil No. 1 with poll, live-mocking my Mock Draft with results, Fins' sad track record in first round, Marlins best team in town, your Bosh vs. Heat verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Curious Pick, Major Gamble, the latest, on Dolphins making Laremy Tunsil their No. 1 draft pick last night. Heat Has Bigger Concerns Than #BringBoshBack, off Miami's damaging Game 5 home playoff loss. Keep It Simple, Dolphins: 2 Names, on what Fins should be thinking for their top draft pick.

SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS' WILDEST 24 HOURS EVER?: I think we've just experienced Miami sports' most dramatic 24 hours ever in the stuff I hit on in this blogpost. I think I'd nominate the 24 hours from late Thursday night through late last night. We had the Marlins finish a road sweep of the Dodgers on a Giancarlo Stanton homer followed immediately by the 80-suspension of Dee Gordon. We had the Dolphins creating the most buzz in the entire NFL Draft first round in selecting tackle Laremy Tunsil despite that infamous gas-mask-bong video. And we had Dwyane Wade sinking two late 3's (a shot he'd last made in December) in a must-win that kept the Heat season alive. Wild ride. Thank you, again, sports.

G6: HEAT 97, CHARLOTTE 90: WADE'S LATE HEROICS LIFT MIAMI, FORCE GAME 7: Not yet. The Heat aren't done yet. There will be a Game 7 Sunday at 1 p.m. back in Miami after last night's 97-90 Miami win in Charlotte evened this first-round playoff series 3-3. Dwyane Wade led Miami with 23 points with 10 in the telling fourth quarter -- including two 3-point baskets. Wade had last hit a 3 in December. What wonderful late heroics by the Heat's all-time great. D-Wade took it upon himself to save this game, and series, and keep the season alive. ..... Original post: The Heat never have blown a 2-0 playoff series lead and lost. Thirteen times they have led 2-0 and 13 times Heathornetsthey have advanced. That historic franchise streak is at risk tonight in Charlotte with Miami trailing 3-2 and the Hornets a 2-point favorite. A Charlotte streak could end, too. The franchise last won a playoff series 14 years ago. That and the underdog role in this series has the Hornets playing with a "a huge chip on our shoulder," as G6Kemba Walker put it. Miami is stunned to find itself in this predicament after winning the first two games at home by a combined 44 points, seemingly in control. Charlotte's defense has limited Miami to 38.6 percent shooting in the three games since. And the Heat's own defense has struggled stopping Hornets guards Walker and Jeremy Lin. Charlotte's 3-point shooting also came alive in the last game. Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "Nobody said this was going to be easy. Nobody's giving out free tickets to the second round. You do have to earn it. It's our first real test when our backs are against the wall. These are the games you remember." Miami tonight will need more of the vintage Wade who scored 25 in Game 5, but Wade needs more help. Calling Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, especially. Because only the season depends on it. It will end tonight for the Heat, or survive for a Game 7 on Sunday back in Miami.

AFTERSHOCK: LAREMY TUNSIL HAS DOLPHINS IN SPOTLIGHT: I don't step back from my column; click on Curious Pick, Major Gamble to read in full. Many in the national media are swooning over Miami's unexpected windfall. So are many Dolfans (see poll below). I'm more skeptical, acknowledging Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil is a great talent but also admitting his off- Tunsil
Gasmaskfield issues and injury history make his Bust Potential bigger than most. Also, Miami has just spent its top pick on a tackle (not a position of urgent need) with plans to try to make him a guard. Hmm. He'll be the world's biggest, least-experienced guard. Weird. I haven't even gotten to the gas mask yet. Let's talk about the off-field baggage. The domestic assault charge (later dropped) against his stepfather, who is suing him. The seven-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits. The admission he took cash from an Ole Miss coach. And of course the hacked Twitter account that last night exposed the image shown of Tunsil smoking pot through a gas-mask bong. A bleepin' GAS-MASK BONG! "Years ago," Tunsil said of the photo. Well, two years ago, it turns out. Somebody did Tunsil dirty with that hack job. I feel bad his big draft night was enveloped in controversy. But it is him in the photo. So, who is Miami getting here? The great talent who will eventually be Ryan Tannehill's blindside protector for many years? Or a guy who needs a gas-mask because he can't get enough smoke -- a guy whose risk may outweigh his potential? Even with those doubts I would give Miami high marks for the totality of their first round, because it must include cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso, who arrived from Philly when Miami first traded down from 8th to 13th. In effect, the Dolphins just got three starters in the first round. But! It also is fair to note Maxwell is coming off a terrible season, Alonso must reverse his decline since his excellent rookie season, and Tunsil arrives with character questions. So: If, if, if. If Maxwell bounces back and is starter-caliber. If Alonso shows the rookie we saw was no fluke. If Tunsil proves everybody wrong and is the steal of the draft. If all three happen Miami just had an A-plus first round. If.

And ... weird got weirder: Top Dolphins draft pick Laremy Tunsil could not attend his 3:30 introductory press conference yesterday because (it was said) he suffered an "allergic reaction" of undetermined origin at the team's Davie facility. Allergic to questions about gas masks, maybe, because he did speak about 70 minutes later, seemed fine, but would not address any controversies, saying he was there only "to talk about the Miami Dolphins."

Dolphins' Day 2 draft:

2nd round (38th overall) -- Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor: Smart position-need pick, 6-foot, 200 pounds, big, physical corner, good against the run, 9 interceptions past two seasons. Miami traded up 4 spots (giving up a 4th round pick) to select Howard, suggesting a lot of love and the hope he'll start as a rookie opposite Byron Maxwell. 

3rd round (73rd overall) -- Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama: Needed a running back. Got one. Would have preferred fellow 'Bama RB Derrick Henry, but he went 45th overall. Like that Miami targeted and hit on its two main position needs on Day 2.

3rd round (86th overall) -- Leonte Caroo, WR, Rutgers: Miami traded up into round for this added third rounder at large cost, giving up two Day 3 picks. Dolphins tried to trade up to select LB Myles Jack. I'm more interested in what they did do on Day 2. Trading up twice comes with a cost in sacrificed picks and depth. Rounds 3 through 7 are today.

SAY IT AIN'T SO, DEE: BOMBSHELL ROCKS MARLINS: It was 1:17 a.m. in the East on Friday morning. The Marlins had just wo a fifth straight game by completing a four-game road sweep of the DeegordonL.A. Dodgers on a win by Jose Fernandez fueled by Giancarlo Stanton's seventh home run. The Fish were riding a season high. That's when the news broke that star second baseman Dee Gordon (pictured) had tested positive for testosterone and another PED and was suspended immediately for 80 games without pay by MLB. (Full story here). The gut reaction? "Him, of all people?" Second reaction: "If he's dirty, is anybody clean!?" This rocks the stereotype of PED use; this rocks the faith. Gordon is a waif of a man, the opposite of the power hitter looking for artificial muscles through illegal juice. Gordon also is the Good Guy personified, of the (formerly) perfect image, a great, smiling face of the franchise and of the too-few African Americans in baseball. A role model. All that. And all that takes a hit now as Gordon sits humiliated until after the all-star break, his earliest return set at July 29. Gordon called it an innocent mistake in a statement Friday, saying, in part: "Though I did not do so knowingly, I have been informed that test results showed I ingested something that contained prohibited substances. I made a mistake and I accept the consequences." Of course the shocker of a suspension has a pragmatic effect, too. Gordon is the reigning NL batting champion and stolen base leader. Though he was hitting only .266 so far this year, he's tough to replace. Derek Dietrich will be the likely new regular at second base. Who'll replace Gordon as leadoff hitter is dicier. With no great candidate it could be Martin Prado, who does not have classic leadoff speed but gets on base, a plus for that role. Meanwhile, what a bone-rattling disappointment! Say it ain't so, Dee. [Update: Dietrich at second, Ichiro leading off tonight at Milwaukee].

THE LIST: HURRICANES FIRST-ROUND DEFENSIVE BACKS: Of 61 Miami Hurricanes selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since the first in 1956, 13 have been defensive backs. The 13th happened last night with Artie Burns, who is pictured on the phone with the Steelers at his draft party held at The Betsy hotel on South Beach. UM's 13 1R DBs, in reverse chronology, with asterisks indicating players still active, and with NFL career grades at right my own relative to draft slot:

Player                            Year (No.) / Team                NFL Starts/Pro Bowls/Grade

ArtieburnsArtie Burns-*                   2016 (25th) / Steelers          TBD

Kenny Phillips-*               2008 (31st) / Giants             59/0/C

Brandon Meriweather-*    2007 (24th) / Patriots          112/2/B

Kelly Jennings                 2006 (31st) / Seahawks        91/0/C-

Antrel Rolle-*                  2005 (8th) / Cardinals         155/3/B+

Sean Taylor                     2004 (5th) / Redskins           55/2/A

Philip Buchanon               2002 (17th) / Raiders          122/0/B-

Ed Reed                          2002 (24th) / Ravens           174/9/A+

Mike Rumph                    2002 (27th) / 49ers              43/0/D

Duane Starks                   1998 (10th) / Ravens           97/0/C

Darryl Williams                1992 (28th) / Bengals          156/1/B

Bennie Blades                  1988 (3rd) / Lions               136/1/B-

Burgess Owens                 1973 (13th) / Jets               137/0/C+

THE LIST: DOLPHINS FIRST-ROUND OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: The Dolphins have drafted an offensive lineman in the first round 11 times, the 11th last night. Miami's 11 1R OLs, in reverse chronology, with asterisks indicating active players, and with NFL career grades at right my own relative to draft slot:

Player                             Year (No.) / College            NFL Starts/Pro Bowls/Grade

Laremy Tunsil-*                2016 (13th) / Ole Miss         TBD

Ja'Wuan James-*              2014 (19th) / Tennessee       23/0/Inc.

Mike Pouncey-*                 2011 (15th) / Florida           72/3/B

Jake Long-*                     2008 (1st) / Michigan           100/4/B-

Vernon Carey                   2004 (19th) / Miami             121/0/C+

Billy Milner                      1995 (25th) / Houston          30/0/F

Richmond Webb               1990 (9th) / Texas A&M        184/7/A

Roy Foster                       1982 (24th) / USC                 127/2/B

Jon Giesler                      1979 (24th) / Michigan         105/0/B-

Darryl Carlton                  1975 (23rd) / Tampa            36/0/F

Doug Crusan                     1968 (27th) / Indiana          82/0/C

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 18, 2016

This is the Heat team that can beat LeBron and Cavs. Miami 'perfect' in 123-91 Game 1 rout of Charlotte; plus Panthers fall in OT, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), Hassan Whiteside and Jaromir Jagr named Heat/Panthers season MVPs & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 18. Heat's Hassan Whiteside finishes third in NBA Defensive Plahyer of Year vote; Spurs' Kawhi Leonard wins again. 2) ESPN's mock-draft picks for Dolphins selecting 13th are two Ohio State Buckeyes -- OLB Darron Lee (says Mel Kiper) and RB Ezekiel Elliott (via Todd McShay). So it won't be either, then. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Panthers tie Islanders series, Dolphins schedule, Heat-Hornets, Heat/Panthers MVP polls, history of Miami playoff games, your Warriors vs. Kobe verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

NEW COLUMN: On Heat's refreshing reliance on rookies Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson: Shipping to Tuesday's inky pulp editions but available to you now. Click on Rook 1, Rook 2 to read. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: This Is the Upside, off last night's hugely impressive Heat Game 1 win. Luongo Saves Day, And Maybe Season, off Friday night's necessary Panthers Game 2 win. Now We See About the Panthers, off the series-opening loss.

Cats give one away: The Florida Panthers aren't making it easy on themselves. They lose Game 1 at home. Then, last night, they lost Game 3 in Brooklyn, 4-3 in overtime, after leading 3-1. Florida nows trails their NHL first-round series to the Islanders 2-1, with Game 4 Wednesday night back up there.

G1: HEAT 123, CHARLOTTE 91: DENG, WHITESIDE LEAD 'PERFECT' GAME: As bad as the Heat were in that late collapse in Boston four nights earlier, the Heat were that good Sunday night in starting the playoffs with an impressive home bang. Miami set club playoff records for most points in a game (123) and quarter (41) and most field goals made (49). Goran Dragic called it "a perfect game on both ends." It was almost literally so for Luol Deng (31 points) and Hassan Whiteside (21), who combined for 20-of-24 shooting. Miami wasn't as bad it it looked in Boston last week and can't be as great as it looked Sunday, but we saw how good this team can be. And the team we saw Sunday night can beat anybody in the East, LeBron James and Cleveland included. Game 2 is back here Wednesday night. Click on This Is the Upside for my game column off last night's gem. ..... Original post: When last we saw the Heat on the court, they were Heathornetssundaysuffering a regular season-ending meltdown in Boston akin to Jordan Spieth's in The Masters. No time for a hangover effect now, with the first-round playoffs set to begin as No. 3 seed Miami hosts No. 6 Charlotte this evening in Game 1. Despite the seed disparity both teams were 48-34 in the season and split their series 2-2, so it's understandable that Charlotte is a trendy upset pick with some in the national media. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson will be a challenge, and it's a series where Chris Bosh's absence could be conspicuous after so many weeks of Miami seemingly not missing him. Charlotte has had the third-best record in the league since the all-star break and is 26-9 since Jan. 31. That's impressive. Miami is a narrow betting favorite in this series at 5-8 odds to Charlotte's 8-5, but must prove here that it is capable of playing all the way into the Eastern finals. Miami is one of only five of 122 franchises in the Big Four sports to make the playoffs at least 17 times and win at least three championships in the past 21 seasons, along with Lakers, Spurs, Red Wings and Yankees. The Heat have more playoff seasons than the Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers combined since Miami became a four-sport city in 1993. But I see a serious early challenge here for the Heat. So does ESPN, which ranks this series No. 1 of the eight for upset potential, which it estimates at 46 percent. My pick: Heat in 6 games.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature (updated Mondays) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Wow! Miami saves its best game of season for playoff opener:  Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets were a trendy pick to upset the No. 3 Heat in this best-of-seven, but the Heat last night said, "I don't think so." And emphatically, in a 123-91 rout in the downtown bayside arena led by Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside's combined 52 points on combined 20-for-24 shooting. If last night was the real Heat, then this team is capable of beating anybody in the East ... including that guy from Cleveland, whatshisname.

2. PANTHERS: Cats give one away in crucial Game 3 loss to Islanders: One game after Roberto Luongo saved the day for Florida, the Panthers last night blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads in a 4-3 overtime Game 3 loss in Brooklyn. Islanders now are up 2-1, with Game 4 back up in New York Wednesday night. Must win? Well, don't they all sort of feel like that in a best-of-seven playoffs?

3. DOLPHINS: Season schedule is out (uh oh) as Fins prepare for draft: Does new Dolphins coach Adam Gase have enemies? Apparently one — the guy who scheduled Miami to open the season at Seattle and at New England. Fins hope they fare better in the April 28-30 NFL Draft than they did with the schedule. I can't wait for the draft ..mainly because it puts a merciful end to the endless speculation of national mocks drafts and local flat-out guessing on what Miami might do.

4. MARLINS: Shh. Don’t tell anybody, but Fish in midst of homestand: Miami is in the midst of seven games in a row at Marlins Park. The question is, with the Heat and Panthers both in the playoffs and Dolphins’ draft soon, will South Florida even notice? The homestand may not be a good thing, considering it has opened with three straight losses to previously winless Braves, making Miami now 0-5 at home this year. Fish's early-season problem is clear. If your arm is loose, report immediately to the bullpen, please.

5. HURRICANES: UM’s spring game ends offseason football practice: Hurricanes’ annual Spring Game, the first under new coach Mark Richt, was Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Green beating Orange 24-7 behind Brad Kaaya's 345 yards passing before some 14,000 fans at Lockhart Stadium. Want a sad fact? Canes baseball is ranked No. 1 in the nation, but more UM fans care about a glorified football practice taking place five months before season starts.

6. NBA: Big end to regular season segues to playoffs: Basketball's regular season ended with Golden State’s record-setting 73rd win and retiring Kobe Bryant’s 60 points in his final game. Top that, first round!

7. NHL: It's No, Canada! as Stanley Cup playoffs begin: Canada invented hockey. You wouldn't know it. A Canadian team hasn't lifted Lord Stanley's Cup since 1993, and now, for the first time since 1970, no Canadian team even made the playoffs.

8. NFL: Rams trade up for No. 1 pick in draft: Good offseason for Los Angeles. First the city gets the Rams back from St. Louis. Now, in first trade involving a top pick since 2004, the team gets the No. 1 draft pick from Tennessee. 

9. GOLF: Fans still abuzz over Spieth's Masters meltdown: It's been a week and golf fans still can't get over Jordan Spieth blowing The Masters and literally handing over the green jacket to Danny Willett. Then again, at least Jordan, who tied for second, had $880,000 to help dry his tears.

10. SAILING: Miamian wins Star-class world title: Miami and Coral Reef Yacht Club hosted the Star-class world sailing championships, which is of apparent tremendous interest to Star-class sailors. No, seriously, it's a big event, and Miamian Augie Diaz parlayed home-wind advantage to victory.

Missing the cut: Sidelined Chris Bosh addressed his Heat teammates and advised them to "savor the playoffs." Had he told them to take the playoffs for granted, now that woulda been newsworthy! ... Tyler Summitt (Pat's son) resigns in disgrace after impregnating one of his basketball players. Um, what were you thinking, Louisiana Tech, hiring a then 22-year-old as a head coach? ... Dolphins are conducting voluntary offseason workouts, meaning all players are expected to "volunteer" ... FIU's spring football game was canceled by bad weather. No, seriously ... A company called U-Glove makes protective disposable gloves to wear when pumping gas. Shouldn't The U demand a cut of the action? ... MLB going high-tech with iPads in dugouts for analytic research during games. Can an iPad pick up a bat or throw a slider? Then I'm not impressed ... Kyle Busch became first NASCAR driver in 25 years to win multiple races on consecutive weekends. America still doesn't like you, Kyle! ... It has come to our attention badminton is a high-school sport, begging the question, Why?

Jagr WhitesidePOLL RESULTS: HASSAN WHITESIDE, JAROMIR JAGR NAMED HEAT AND PANTHERS' REGULAR-SEASON MVPS: It was a fairly close two-man race on the basketball side, but you had Hassan Whiteside (left) as the Heat's 2015-16 season MVP over Dwyane Wade by 51.8 percent to 41.4%, with the other 6.8% voting for "someone else." Mild upset, or no? It was a landslide on the hockey end. Jaromir Jagr (right) at age 44 won with 62.9 percent of the vote, followed by Roberto Luongo (13.8%), Aleksander Barkov (11.1%) and Aaron Ekblad (also 11.1%), with "someone else" at only 1.1%.

THE LIST: HEAT'S MIAMI REIGN: How often the Miami Heat have made the playoffs relative to SoFla's other other big teams:

Team                Seasons    PO years    Pct.

Miami Heat            28        19           .679

Miami Dolphins     50        16           .320

Florida Panthers     22         5            .227

Miami Marlins       23         2            .087

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 11, 2016

The new Hot Button Top 10, starring Heat, Cats, Fish, Masters, Warriors, Kobe, Miami FC, Fins, Pacquiao and Nyquist; plus Dolphins woes quantified, your verdicts on LeBron/Kobe & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 11. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Should Heat retire LeBron James' number poll, Kiper's latest Dolphins mock draft, Heat and Panthers playoff outlooks, does golf miss Tiger Woods poll, Dolphins preseason schedule, your Rock Hall verdict, mourning Merle Haggard & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

The Last 3: My three most recent general columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Now the Proving Begins, as Panthers end regular season and face playoffs. Out Of Excuses, off Marlins Opening Night. Power and Porcelain, Marlins season preview.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature (updated Mondays) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami wins home finale, zeroes in on home court for playoffs: Heat whipped Orlando 118-96 in its home final Sunday but enters last three days of the regular season still unsure where it will finish or who its first-round opponent will be. Simplest scenario: Miami will have home-court advantaged if it finishes 2-0 by winning at Detroit Tuesday and at Boston Wednesday. That Boston game could be winner-take for the home court. Finish delicioso! Meantime Hassan Whiteside says he won’t campaign for the NBA defensive player of year award while casually mentioning he has more blocks than a Toys ‘R Us.

2. PANTHERS: Cats await Islanders in playoff Game 1 Thursday: Cats won their home finale Saturday (my column here) and now face the New York Islanders in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series here Thursday night, with Game 2 here Friday night -- an odd postseason back-to-back. Cats dodged a bullet by not getting the tougher first-round draw vs. the Rangers. Either way, this was known: Florida -– unlike the entire country of Canada -– is competing for the Stanley Cup.

3. MARLINS: Fish trying to bounce back from rough early start: Has Jeffrey Loria fired Don Mattingly yet? Kidding, sort of, but an 0-2 start at home including the end of Jose Fernandez’ record 17-game Marlins Park winning streak wasn’t the season launch Miami hoped for, and now Miami is 1-3 in the midst of six straight road games vs. the division-power Nationals and Mets. One (very) early-season certainty: How much Marlins' TV broadcasts are missing Tommy Hutton.

4. GOLF: Spieth's collapse snatches green jacket from his hands: World’s No. 2 golfer and top American Jordan Spieth carried a 5-shot lead into the back nine of The Masters at Augusta on Sunday, then collapsed with a quadruple-boey 7 on the par 3 12th hole, and Danny Willett waltzed past him for the green jacket. Poor Danny. The 2016 Masters will be remembered not as the one he won, but as the one Spieth gave away.

5. NBA: Golden State's pursuit, Kobe's final game hog stage: Simple now for Golden State (72-9). Warriors must win at home vs. Memphis Wednesday night to break the Chicago Bulls' 1996 NBA record of 72 wins. On the Kobe Watch, Lakers are on road tonight, then Kobe Bryant plays his final NBA game at home on Wednesday -- same night Warriors go for the record. Has an NBA regular season ever finished bigger?

6. SOCCER: Miami FC makes inaugural home debut: Expansion team Miami FC tied Tampa Bay 1-1 in its home debut in the NASL Saturday night. More important, the new team drew more than 10,000 fans to FIU Stadium, decidedly more than most FIU football games draw. 

7. DOLPHINS: Ross names successor as draft nears: With the April 28 NFL Draft bearing in, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross named New York real estate mogul and longtime business partner Bruce Beal as the potential successor who'll have first rights to buy franchise when Ross, 75, sells or dies. Super Bowl or bust, Steve. Tick tock.

8. BOXING: Manny Pacquiao wins his (supposed) final fight: He beat Timothy Bradley in a unanimous decision last night in Las Vegas. Pacquiao therafter immediately announced he was retiring, which is boxspeak for, "Anticipation of my eventual comeback will hopefully stoke interest in the PPV bonanza of a Mayweather rematch."

9. HORSE RACING: Nyquist wins Florida Derby as Triple Crown season looms: Nyquist's impressive triumph in the Florida Derby positions the horse as an early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Surprising bloodline. Nyquist's sire, Nyquil, was best known for falling asleep in the starting gate.

10. HURRICANES: UM spring football wraps up in five days: Miami's annual intrasquad offense vs. defense Spring Game is this coming Saturday afternoon, April 16, at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. I'm betting big on the Hurricanes to win. And lose.

Missing the cut: Thousands will swarm Miami’s ocean sands Sunday for the finish of the Global Champions Tour of Olympic-style equestrian show jumping. I’m betting on Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani, a Qatar royal, because I hear his family just bought Miami Beach, the ocean and the event to assure he’ll win ... R.I.P., former New Orleans Saint Will Smith, shot dead in a road-rage incident ... U.S. women's soccer has filed a lawsuit demanding equal pay to the men. That is so ridiculous. Based on performance, the women should make at least three times more ... Entering Sunday's MLB games only the Baltimore Orioles remain unbeaten. "Good luck with that," sneered the '72 Dolphins ... First time since 1970 no Canadian teams in Stanley Cup playoffs. New national anthem: No Canada! ... This just in. UConn women's basketball has been awarded the next six national championships in a time-saving measure ... Recently (I'm serious) the No. 75-ranked Hurricanes men's tennis team hosted No. 41 North Carolina State. Um, is it possible college tennis might wanna tap the brakes on how many teams it ranks? ... An unnamed MLB scout told us that an anonymously quoted rival scout is full of s--- ... Novak Djokovic won the Miami Open but Serena Williams did not. For once, women's tennis is less predictable ... The 24th-ranked men's tennis player is an American named Jack Sock. He's a shoe-in ... The Lakers' D'Angelo Russell was wired for sound the other game. Not for TV. To secretly record his teammates ... No. 2-ranked UM baseball was snowed out of its series at Notre Dame. Duh. Games shoulda been here like Jim Morris said ... Finally, Ernie Els 7-putted the first green at The Masters. There's a phrase for that in golf: "Greg Cote."

THE LIST: THE DOLPHINS: THE (SAD) COMPANY THEY KEEP: The Dolphins' last winning season (no, .500 doesn't count) was 2008. I wondered how many of the 122 franchises in the Big Four sports have a longer drought, including the current NBA and NHL seasons. Answer: Seven. Longest droughts since last winning season (LWS):

Team                                League    LWS

Oakland Raiders                NFL        2002

St. Louis (now L.A.) Rams  NFL        2003

Edmonton Oilers                NHL       2004

Minnesota Timberwolves    NBA        2005

Sacramento Kings              NBA        2006 

Cleveland Browns              NFL        2007

Jacksonville Jaguars          NFL        2007

Miami Dolphins                 NFL         2008

Note: Marlins' LWS was 2009, longest drought in MLB. Panthers' LWS had been 2000, worst in NHL, but that drought ended this season. 

Poll result: No! Most don't favor Heat retiring LeBron's jersey: We asked, and 58.0 percent of you said no. Much disagreement, though, with 34.6% saying yes and 7.4% undecided.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

March 21, 2016

Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Angelic Canes, Heat, Cats, tennis, Fins and Fish lead the way; plus our NCAA bracket (updated) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 21. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): South Florida's Super Sports Saturday, March Madness Haiku Challenge winner, my NCAA bracket, Cote advances in media bracket, your who'll-win verdict & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature (updated Mondays) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES/COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Sweet! UM men beat Wichita State, reach the 16: Miami Hurricanes men beat Wichita State 65-57 Saturday to reach the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, led by Angel Rodriguez's 28 points. "Heaven-sent Angel lifts Miami" -- too perfect. Canes will next face Sunday-winner Villanova on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. So your bracket is in ruins, but at least the Canes are winning.

2. HEAT: Miami routs Cavaliers, humbles LeBron to stay in hunt for third place: LeBron James now is 0-3 in Miami since leaving after the Heat's 122-101 rout of Cleveland on Saturday. LeBron returning to Miami is still a big deal, sort of. But here’s a bigger deal: The Heat is in a four-team scramble to finish third in the East and avoid seeing LeBron again until the conference finals.

3. PANTHERS: Cats stay in NHL division despite Spacey loss to Red Wings: Florida has clawed back up into the division lead despite Saturday's 5-3 home loss to Detroit. The game featured a visit by actor Kevin Spacey, who inspires the “Spacey in Space” sweatshirts that inexplicably are part of the mojo of this Cats season. The sweatshirts bring luck, although apparently Spacey himself doesn't.

4. TENNIS: Federer, Serena in spotlight as Miami Open tennis sets to launch: Perennial favorite Serena Williams, defending champ Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer’s return from knee surgery top the marquee for Miami Open tennis, which begins its annual two-week run on Key Biscayne this Tuesday. Event’s future is in some doubt, so treat the present like a gift.

5. DOLPHINS: Mixed results, disappointments continue team’s free agency run: Bumper sticker: Honk If You’ve Left the Dolphins Facility Without Signing a Contract. Running backs C.J. Anderson and Chris Johnson were the latest to do so as Miami’s first week-plus of free agency resulted in much activity but little discernible improvement.

6. BASEBALL: MLB visit to Cuba, LaRoche saga steal the headlines: Adam LaRoche of the Chicago White Sox abruptly retires after team tells him his 14-year-old son shouldn't be in the clubhouse so much. This Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cuban National Team in Havana. Man, baseball will do anything for attention, won't it!?

7. MARLINS: Shenanigans with the Opening Day starter: Barry Bonds, 51, out-homered Giancarlo Stanton in a friendly hitting drill. But the big news out of Marlins spring training was the team not naming ace Jose Fernandez its Opening Day starter on April 5. Ostensibly it's to give him more rest but more like it's that, with a big crowd guaranteed for the opener, the club wants to deploy Jose to help boost the gate for Game 2. Gawd, that is soooo Marlins.

8. UM/WOMEN'S NCAA: Canes make a quick exit: The Madness started and ended quickly for coach Katie Meier's women Canes, with Saturday's 74-71 upset loss to South Dakota State in their NCAA Tournament opener. Humbling: Losing your opener. Insult to injury: Losing to team nicknamed Jackrabbits.

9. NFL: Boca Raton hosts league meetings: A league executive, Jeff Miller, became first NFL official to acknowledge a direct link between football-related head trauma and brain disease. Meanwhile the NFL owners meetings are Sunday through Wednesday in Boca. Haven't seen the complete agenda but I understand the main order of business is a resolution to make Jeff Miller quit speaking.

10. UM FOOTBALL: Canes open first spring practices under Richt: The Hurricanes began spring practice with enthusiasm and praise for Mark Richt. Shocking! It was the 89,403rd consecutive time in the history of football that players praised their new head coach after his first practice. 

Missing the cut: R.I.P., Tray Walker ... Barry men reach Elite Eight in Division II. Good job, Barry ... Its Miami FC in its inaugural NASL game next Saturday at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. A natural rivalry is born! ... So a jury awards Hulk Hogan $115 million because Gawker published his sex tape -- more than double what Erin Andrews received. Pays to be a cartoon character, I guess ... This just in. Looking to place people where no one will find them, the federal witness protection program has now begun hiding people in the NIT tournament ... Gall, redefined: FIFA wants back its bribe money confiscated by the U.S. government. No, seriously ... Answer: Ultra Music Festival. Question: "Where do 99.9 percent of South Floridians want to be nowhere near this weekend?" ... Barack Obama's presidential bracket had Kansas winning the men's NCAA Tournament. Republicans demanding equal time berated Kansas as overrated ... Without being able to  vent on Twitter anymore, what's Miko Grimes doing, kicking the family dog? ... IndyCar season is underway. Wake me for the Indianapolis 500 ... The Colts are building a statue of Peyton Manning. You know who else should? The city of "Omaha!" ... What's poor FIU gotta do to get another mention here? Any more scandals on deck?

NCAA BRACKETEERING UPDATE: Sunday--I went 5-3 on my teams advancing in men's NCAA Tournament games. Overall--I'm 35-13 thus far. Cinderella Meter--33.3% (16 of 48 games have been by-seed upsets so far). Today--Madness is off until Thursday.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

March 12, 2016

Are Dolphins better? Have early free-agency gains outweighed losses? Poll. Vote now!; plus Chris Bosh eyes return, Hurricanes men await Selection Sunday, UM football arrests, Dear Marco Rubio & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 12. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins' dubious start to free agency, Erin Andrews vs. Kim Kardashian, Marlins' big problem, sympathy for Maria Sharapova, your verdict on Peyton Manning, Dollar Bill Murray & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

"No surprise FIU fired women's basketball coach Marlin Chinn. NCAA violation, allegation of sexual misconduct, awful record -- it's the trifecta of career suicide!" --Greg Cote 

Arrested UM football players catch break: Welcome to Miami, Mark Richt. No new coach is fully indoctrinated until he has dealt with his first player arrests. Hurricanes offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Jahair Jones -- Darling the starting left tackle -- were arrested in Miami Beach this week for "resisting officer without violence" after they reportedly were impeding traffic and refused orders to disperse. But Jones' case will not be prosecuted and Darling is expected to similarly be cleared related to what the state attorneys office called a "legally insufficient" arrest form. In other words the cops screwed up on the report. Still, I have a feeling Richt will think his players screwed up too.

ChrisboshBOSH SPEAKS ON HEALTH, IS HOPEFUL TO RETURN THIS SEASON: Chris Bosh's full statement this week on his health, with the underlines for emphasis my own: "I know there have been many questions regarding my health and when I will play again. My situation this year has never been life threatening. I am feeling great and currently I do not have deep vein thrombosis. Together with the Miami Heat, I am working with doctors, exploring the best precautionary treatment options and taking every necessary step to make sure I am healthy for myself, my family and my team. I have been working out, training with the team, watching film of the games, walking through plays, and have attended home games despite not being visible to the public. I will continue to support my teammates in every way possible. I remain positive that I will be able to return this season. I truly appreciate everyone's concern and support." I argued strongly on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on Feb. 23 that Bosh and the Miami Heat owed it to fans to stop the speculation by being up front about the star's condition regarding blood clots and his prolonged absence from the court. I'm glad that, now, we have that update. And that it was good news, considering the growing assumption had been that Bosh was done for the season and perhaps even that his career might be in jeopardy.

MiketannenbaumGRADING THE DOLPHINS IN FREE AGENCY THUS FAR: Miami has gotten off to a rough start in free agency but scored a potential nice get with running back C.J. Anderson signing an offer sheet. Fins executive VP of football ops and roster-builder Mike Tannenbaum is pictured looking mighty relaxed but probably should be sweating and wringing hands a bit based on the team's early FA results. The most noteworthy additions, the three to the defense, all are guys coming off disappointing seasons in Mario Williams (whom the BIlls had cut), Byron Maxwell (spectacularly overpaid) and Kiko Alonso (health concerns). Meanwhile the two big losses, Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller, are seismic. Miami was priced-out of both because, lacking foresight, the club failed to secure them to long-term deals earlier and avoid losing them in free agency now. Digest this synopsis of the team's notable gains and losses thus far, then take a dip in our poll. Wonder if adding C.J. Anderson would alter your opinion?

Notable roster gains, in order of significance: DE Mario Williams, star caliber as a proven but aging sacker. RB C.J. Anderson, only 25, 4.8-yard career average, very productive in limited role. (He isn't locked up yet, though Fins are hopeful. Denver still could match the offer). LB Kiko Alonso, a steal if he can stay healthy and regain rookie form. CB Byron Maxwell, OK starter but not a shutdown corner. OT Sam Young, backup tackle. S Isa Abdul-Quddus, backup caliber, though he may start. OT Jermon Bushrod, projected to compete for starting guard spot. W (wife) Miko Grimes, outta here, an addition by subtraction to be rid of the this meddlesome, crass woman. Bottom line: Williams is a downgrade from departed Olivier Vernon, especially factoring age. But Anderson  may be every bit as good as Miller. Alonso has big upside but health a major if. Maxwell isn't as good as Brent Grimes.

Notable roster losses, in order of significance: DE Olivier Vernon, to Giants. RB Lamar Miller, to Texans. Five draft spots in first round, down from 8th to 13th in Maxwell/Alonso trade with Philly. CB Brent Grimes, cut. WR Rishard Matthews, to Titans. DE Derrick Shelby, to Falcons. CB Brice McCain, to Titans. WR Greg Jennings, cut. Bottom line: Vernon is a significant loss and Miller is almost as big. It is fair to say both were overpaid to leave and Miami was priced out. But it also is fair to say Miami -- with foresight -- would have locked up both to affordable long-term deals last year and not allowed them to reach free agency. Invisible losses for the Dolphins also must include players they explored/needed but failed to get, including CB Adam (Pacman) Jones, help at guard and RB Matt Forte, the latter of whom I pushed for the Dolphins to pursue in this column on Feb. 12.

DREAM SEASON? HURRICANES MEN GO 1-1 in ACC TOURNEY, AWAIT NCAA BID: The No. 11-ranked Miami men of Jim Larranaga can be as good as just about anybody. Dick Vitale and other Sheldoncollege hoops experts have said UM is Final Four-capable. Based on rankings alone you'd think the Sweet 16 should be a starting point on how we measure this season's success. Well, the time to show it has begun and started with this week's ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C., where the Canes beat Virginia Tech 88-82 but then lost last night to No. 4 Virginia, 73-68. UM is 25-7 as it awaits Selection Sunday and its slot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament -- March Madness. How Miami fared this week in the ACCs probably didn't boost Miami's likely seeding or help it much. Maybe if they'd been bounced earlier or reach the final, yes, but going 1-1 was average. Now Miami and leading scorer Sheldon McClellan (pictured) await UM's destination for the big tournament. Joe Lunardi's updated Bracketology for ESPN has the Canes slotted a No. 3 seed in the East; their first game will be Thursday or Friday. UM practiced all this week at George Mason, where the 2006 Final Four banner hangs. That was Larranaga's finest moment in coaching. Can he top that this year? The regular season has offered only teases and hint, and the ACC Tournament was not definitive. The real knowing is about to begin. And now is when the window is flung open wide for UM, which starts four seniors. This must be the year.

RUBIO CAMPAIGN GASPING FOR AIR: Dear Marco Rubio: Even your most ardent supporters must now know you would be smart to start crafting your concession speech Emptystadiumabout "suspending" your campaign for president. It isn't working -- and to a degree it becomes embarrassing to keep denying the obvious. Bad enough your only two primary-season victories thus far have been minor ones (Minnesota caucuses, Puerto Rico), while Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have pulled away. Worse for you is what's happening in Florida, your home state. Polls show Trump leading you by as much as a 2-1 margin. And any hope for a miracle surprise on March 15 gained no steam Wednesday night, when your rally in Hialeah drew only a couple of hundred supporters to a high-school football stadium you'd hoped to fill. Instead of filled bleachers, your crowd gathered in an end zone. The photo from that rally, pictured, is devastating. It looks like an FIU football crowd. (Ouch. Sorry, FIU. Couldn't resist). First Jeb Bush, now Rubio. Both might have been a star in what should be a winnable Republican nomination. Instead Florida is 0-for-2 on "favorite sons" running for prez in '16.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

February 20, 2016

How concerned are you Chris Bosh's blood-clots issue could shorten his Heat career? New poll. Vote now!; plus Kiper's latest mock pick for Dolphins, Manny Pacquiao, Sam Bruce, verdict on Miami's G.O.A.T. team, me in Big Canoe & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20. Here us a really meaty Rolling Stone piece on why Mike Love (of the Beach Boys) is considered such an a--hole. Recommended reading. 2) Been away a few days (we have something on our journey here below). Still not back in the paper, but happy to be back in the blog saddle. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The G.O.A.T. of all Miami championship teams with poll, Chris Bosh's latest health scare & more. 4Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Heat minor players at trade deadline: Miami traded guard Brian Roberts and a future second-round draft pick to Portland for cash, after earlier acquiring him in the Birdman Andersen deal. Heat also dealt Jarnell Stokes to New Orleans in a salary dump of a bit-part player. Both minor deals that barely rate the transactions wire.

WHAT IS YOUR CONCERN LEVEL ON BOSH'S HEALTH AND HEAT FUTURE?: Blood clots can be akin to cancer in that they may disappear with treatment but then reappear. Remission can turn to Boshrelapse. It has happened to Heat star Chris Bosh, who missed the last half of last season with blood clots on his lungs and now is sidelined again, indefinitely, after the detection of a new clot in his calf. Naturally, abundant caution is being taken and no one yet knows (or is saying) when Bosh might return to the lineup. It may be soon, or he could miss the rest of the season. We just don't know. Likewise, we cannot know if the latest health scare will be the last to interrupt Bosh's NBA career, or if this is an issue that possibly could end his career prematurely. Two factors make Bosh prone to a clot reappearance: his height (6-11), which makes circulatkion more difficult, and the long plane flights that are a part of the job. A fear of the calf clot spreading could necessitate a level of blood thinner that could cause Bosh to miss the rest of the season. If the need for those thinners is seen as permanent, the condition could be career-threatening. For now, in the void of not knowing, all we can do is express our level of concern as we wish Bosh the best -- thinking of the man, husband and father first, and the basketball player and Heat second. What is your level of concern? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

KIPER EXPLAINS HIS NEWEST GUESS PICK FOR DOLPHINS IN DRAFT: ESPN's Mel Kiper is out with his second of 4,811 NFL mock drafts (click here to see it in full) and two things jump out. First, Ronniestanleyhe has Ohio State DE Joey Bosa of St. Thomas Aquinas slipping to sixth overall. Second, at NO. 8 overall for Miami, he now has the Dolphins selecting Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley (pictured). Sayeth Mel: "Adam Gase will be charged with getting Ryan Tannehill back on track, and getting a potentially elite tackle is a good way to aid in that process, as sacks have plagued Tannehill throughout his career thus far. Stanley returned to Notre Dame and made himself more NFL-ready. The Dolphins would benefit if he's available here." Sayeth me: I doubt it. In Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James the Dolphins have solid starting tackles, and Miami cannot afford the luxury of drafting in the first round for depth or competition. I'd call Florida Gators CB Vernon Hargreaves a far likelier (and more sensible) 1R pick for Miami at this point.

On chatty Greg Jennings: Dude has lots to say for a guy who caught 19 passes, was a big disappointment and probably won't be back with the Dolphins. He's made a cottage industry of blatting about the state of QB Ryan Tannehill, a topic surely of minimal interest outside Miami. The latest: Jennings on ESPN2’s First Take, asked how far Tannehill is from elite, saying: "Don’t know. With saying I don’t know I guess I’m saying he’s far [away]. I’m being honest. None of us know. I’ve made the statements about them babying him thus far. It’s like he’s been handcuffed. He hasn’t been given the liberty. Until the end of the season when there was a coordinator change, he was not allowed to check out of a play. If you don’t let me be who I am, who you drafted me to be, you don’t trust me." What Jennings says, every Dolfan knows. Tannehill is the mystery new coach Adam Gase must unlock. That Tannehill remains that after four years is why there is a new coach.

PerfectPoll result: Still Perfect: '72 Dolphins the greatest of all Miami sports champs: The Dolphins, UM football, Marlins and Heat have combined to win 12 championships. We listed them chronologically and invited you to pick your top four. After more than 1,200 votes, the results: '72 Dolphins 25.4 percent; '83 UM 21.5%; '83 UM 9.7%; '13 Heat 9.0%; '87 UM 6.8%; '97 Marlins 5.7%; '06 Heat 5.7%; '73 Dolphins 4.5%; '12 Heat 4.0%; '03 Marlins 3.2%; '91 UM 3.1% and '89 UM 1.5%. If everyone cast the maximum four votes, multiplying each total times four would give you an idea of the percentage of times a team was mentioned on a ballot. In other words, the top two teams were clear choices, then it was a free for all. In case you wondered, my four picks were the four maiden champs: '72 Dolphins, '83 Canes, '97 Marlins and '06 Heat.  

MANNY PACQUIAO GETS A LESSON IN REALITY: Nike dropped aging boxer Manny Pacquiao in reaction to his religion-based criticism of same-sex marriage, calling people who do such things "worse than animals." I believe in freedom of speech, as long as you believe in consequences. Pacquiao has every right to feel as he does about gays and their civil and human rights, and to express those views. Just as society (or business partners like Nike) have every right to repudiate those views and remarks as out of step with fairness and a belief in diversity. What he believes is a doctrine of Bible-based faith, I happen to believe is bigoted and wrong. We are all entitled to our views. Unfortunately, there is little room for middle ground, compromise or discussion, is there? I wonder if God ever intended the Bible to become so divisive? Or likewise if the framers of the Constitution every imaged that doctrine also would become so polarizing? Doubtful on both.

SambruceWHAT WERE YOU THINKING, SAM BRUCE?: So receiver Sam Bruce abruptly withdraws from St. Thomas Aquinas High after it is revealed he sent a threatening photo of himself with a gun to a former classmate who had been involved with the same girl. The other kid called the cops. It should be noted Bruce (pictured) has not been charged with a crime, in that stupidity is not yet a crime. (Oh, if only!) This is only notable news because Bruce is a major part of the Miami Hurricanes' incoming 2016 recruuting class. It raises a red flag. Why does a teenager even have a gun to pose with? I'd be concerned if I were UM coach Mark Richt. The larger view is to again wonder what it is about athletes and guns? It seems to be a part of the football culture. We see it with adults in the NFL and that's sad enough, but not as sad as when we see it with kids making the move from high school to college.

HikingWHAT GREG COTE DOES ON A BRIEF HOLIDAY: We spent Sunday though Wednesday in Georgia, flying into Atlanta, renting a vehicle and driving about 90 miles north into the Big Canoe area, where friends who were away had invited us to stay in their mountain chalet. Idyllic! Did a lot of exploring, driving into surrounding small towns. Also spent much of a day hiking to Lower Falls, a gorgeous, huge waterfall. We found an abandoned cabin en route and I am pictured on the front porch violating two rules of the great outdoors. 1) I am hiking in dress shoes. 2) I am smoking a cigar in a forest. Anyway. Great time, no fires. Spent the final day in Atlanta, visiting the Georgia Aquarium (which made me lament that South Florida of all places does not have a world-class aquarium), and also the historic Oakland Cemetery. Yes, I am a graveyard junkie, a macabre hobby my wife indulges. The notable deceased there include Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949), the Gone With the Wind author, on whose unassuming tombstone rested a single flower and two pens. Nice touch.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

February 13, 2016

Should Dolphins look into suddenly available Matt Forte? Poll. Vote now!; plus here's how bad Heat 3-point shooting is; also Dwight Howard, Panthers' record pace, ex-Canes at Combine, Ted Cruz's porn star, Kanye West's heavenly video game & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13. ICYMI, click on Riley's Last Push for my column earlier this week on Pat Riley's drive to win another Heat championship. 2) Marlins pitchers and catchers report in six days to spring training in Jupiter. 3) In The Previous Blogpost: Heat players in Top 100 and how much they were ours, Dolphins two-round mock draft, Shaq verdict, Riley's imperative, The List (Marlins homers), chocolate bunny under siege & more. 4Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Pats' owner throws shade on Mannings: Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a radio interview this week, referring to Archie Manning: "He has two sons who have won two Super Bowls [each]. But with all due respect, we've got one son who's won four."

ForteMATT FORTE TO THE DOLPHINS MAY BE WORTH EXPLORING: That's if Lamar Miller leaves and if Forte is affordable. That is the gist of my newest column; click on The Forte Factor to read. Matt Forte, the career-long Chicago Bears running back, announced yesterday the team would not re-sign him, meaning he will be a free agent free to sign with any team come March 9. Adam Gase, the Dolphins' new head coach, knows Forte as well as anyone, having been Chicago's offensive coordinator. And Miami may have a need at the position if, as expected, pending free agent Miller is not re-signed. At the least, Forte's sudden availability is worth exploring if the price is right. The downside: He just turned 30. The upside: Just about everything else. Forte has been durable, starting 120 of a possible 128 games in his career. He has averaged 1,075 rushing yards and 61 catches per season, and would offer the dual-threat Miami has rarely had. Also, because of his age alone, it could be a buyer's market; I suspect he'd be affordable -- the only circumstance under which this would make sense. I wonder what Dolfans think. Should Miami explore signing Forte or avoid him? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

BoshQUANTIFYING HOW BAD HEAT'S 3-POINT SHOOTING REALLY IS: At the All-Star Game break Miami's .323 accuracy on 3-point shots ranked third from the bottom in the NBA, ahead of only Minnesota and the L.A. Lakers. The Heat's 6.1 3's per game ranks fifth from the bottom. But I find more telling how this season ranks in Heat franchise history. Miami set a franchis erecord for 3-point accuracy at .396 just three seasons ago. Now? Here is the club's all-time bottom five in terms of 3-point accuracy. Chris Bosh (pictured) doesn't get enough help, especially with Tyler Johnson out injured. Note that three of the bottom-five lows happened in the franchise's first three seasons, when 3's were much less a part of the game and Miami had the excuse of being an awful expansion team. Bottom-five seasons for team 3-point percentage in Heat history:

Pct.    Season        Made-Atts.    Leader

.293   1989-90      88-300          Jon Sunvold, 44

.302   1990-91      140-464        Glen Rice, 71

.316   2003-04      348-1,100     Eddie Jones, 177

.323   2015-16      322-998        Chris Bosh, 81

.326   1988-89      97-298          Jon Sunvold, 48

DwighthowardDWIGHT HOWARD TRADED TO HEAT? WHAT ARE YOU, DRUNK?: There is speculation to that end as the Feb. 18 NBA trade deadline bears in and the Houston Rockets shop around a possible deal for Dwight Howard, 30, the 6-11 center. Certainly Miami would be an interesting landing spot if the the Heat feels it will need to replace Hassan Whiteside. Here is the problem. Howard has indicated his intention to become a free agent July 1, which severely limits trade interest in him unless the acquiring team can agree to a long-term deal rather just rent him for half a season. That's the same reason there is little chance the Heat could trade Whiteside before the deadline. Another problem: Would the Heat want to make Howard its big-money signing and effectively withdraw from the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes. Pat Riley loves big, bold moves and likely is doing his due diligence on Howard's availability. But call it unlikely that we'll be seeing for real the photoshop presented here. If Riley does make a pre-deadline deal, it'll more likely be for a quick-fix to the 3-point crisis.

ReillysmithFIRE ON ICE: THE PANTHERS' RECORD PACE: Florida not only is leading its NHL division but is on pace for the best regular season in franchise history. The top five seasons based on points percentage and points per game, noting that fifth place, '95-96, was the Stanley Cup Finals year. Current figures are updated through Friday's night's home loss to St. Louis:

Season        Pts.Pct.    PPG    Leading goal scorer

2015-16      .636        1.27    Reilly Smith, 18 (pictured)

1999-00      .598        1.20    Pavel Bure, 58

2011-12      .573        1.15    Tomas Fleischmann, 27

2008-09      .567        1.13    David Booth, 31

1995-96      .561        1.12    Scott Mellanby, 32

FIVE EX-CANES INVITED TO NFL SCOUTING COMBINE: It's Feb. 26-29 in Indianapolis, and former Miami Hurricanes footballers Artie Burns, Deon Bush, Ufomba Kamalu, Raphael Kirby and Rashawn Scott will be among the more than 300 draft prospects invited. It's a rather weak crop for UM. The cornerback Burns probably is the highest-regarded prospect, generally pegged as a likely third-round pick who could sneak into the low second round.

AmylindsayOOPS, SAYS THE TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: I love love love this story. Ted Cruz's Republican presidential campaign has scrambled to yank an ad released Thursday because it was reported an actress in the commercial formerly starred in soft-core porn. In the ad, the women refers to Marco Rubio as just a "pretty face." Well, that actress, Amy Lindsay, formerly appeared in such film titles as "Erotic Confessions," "Secrets Of a Chambermaid" and "Carnal Wishes." The controversial thespian is pictured at right. I'll say this in defense of the Cruz campaign. This does not make me like him less, because nothing could. I cannot confirm that Rubio criticized the ad ... and then repeated the criticism verbatim four more times.

KANYE WEST CREATES WORLD'S MOST DEPRESSING VIDEO GAME: Rap mogul and all-roound modest guy Kanye West has developed a video game called Only One, which centers around his mother (who passed away in 2007) and her path to heaven. He previewed a trailer Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, and we present it below. And, yes, it is every bit as strange as you might imagine:

 

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

February 10, 2016

Do you agree with Heat retiring Shaq's jersey number? New poll. Vote now!; plus a video ode to Peyton Manning ("Omahallelujah!"), Miami Jackson High's historic gamble, how and why Super Bowl 50 let us down & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10. Carly Fiorina, who looked, talked and acted like the one teacher at school every student hates, dropped out of the Republican presidential race today. 2) Oy! Dolphins are ranked a depressing 24th in ESPN's post-Super Bowl 2016 NFL Power Rankings. 3) In The Previous Blogpost: Super Bowl 50 with postgame poll, Hot Button Top 10, Hurricanes men rise in polls & more. 4Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Congrats to Canes' four brainiacs: xFour Miami Hurricanes football players -- quarterbacjk Brad Kaaya, offensive linemen Alex Gall and Nick Linder and punyer Justin Vogel -- were among 56 players named Wednesday to the All-ACC Academic Team.

The new 'Back In My Day': Just posted it on my Facebook page.

Super Bore 50!: Let us count the ways Sunday's big game and its surrounding attractions let us down. Lady Gaga's national anthem was great. Otherwise? From the game itself to the pregame show, the broadcast, the halftime show, the TV commercials and the postgame, there was much not to like. That's the gist of my latest column. Click on I Want To Kill Puppymonkeybaby to read in full.

ShaqSHOULD THE HEAT BE LIFTING SHAQ'S JERSEY INTO THE RAFTERS?: The Miami Heat yesterday announced it would retire Shaquille O'Neal's No. 32 uniform number at the start of next season, making him only the third player in club history (Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning) afforded such an honor. But is it justified? Leading the "yes" argument: Shaq had a huge hand in helping win Miami's first NBA championship and raising the franchise's profile to a whole new level. Leading the "no" argument: Longevity. He played only 3 1/2 seasons for the Heat (July 2004 'til February '08), and left on frosty terms. There is also the fact he is much better known as a Los Angeles Laker, for whom he spent his prime seasons and had his greatest success. So, yes or no? Your call.

Peyton"OMAHALLELUJAH!": It figured that a video tribute to Peyton Manning would come via the homespun radio variety show, A Prairie Home Companion, the Garrison Keillor production based out of St. Paul, Minn. Cam Newton would have gotten  some sort of rap treatment for winning the Super Bowl, one imagines. Peyton gets bluegrass from the Midwest. Check this out, though. Smarted lyrically and created and performed just in the past few days:

 

HISTORY! MIAMI JACKSON'S BOLD MOVE:  Miami Jackson High School makes history today by becoming the first Florida high school to hire a female head football coach. She is Lakatriona
"Bernice" Brunson (pictured), perhaps previously best-known as a recent star of the truTV reality tow-truck series, South Beach Tow. The Jackson Generals further make news by hiring Luther Brunson"Luke" Campbell, originally famous as the leader of the 2 Live Crew rap group, as defensive coordinator. Campbell previously has coached prep football at Central, Northwestern and Norland. If the hirings prove to be as successful on the field as they are instantly attention-getting, Jackson will have found itself a bounty. Brunson was graduated from Miami Northwestern High in 1995, playing basketball and track and field. She threw shot put and discus and helped lead one of the state's powers in the sport, later playing basketball and graduating from Tennessee State. She teaches phys-ed at Jackson. Campbell told the Miami Herald: "At first I thought this might be crazy because I take football real serious. But after a conversation with her, I said, 'Naw, she knows her football. She's on point.' I don't take this as a joke. I didn't want to be a part of no circus." In my blog headline I call this a "bold gamble " for Jackson. I say "gamble" not so much because Brunson is a woman, but because she has no coaching experience. It would be bold in any case, but the inexperience at the job is what makes it a gamble.  Jackson hopes the new regime can finally help win the school's first state football championship after three semifinal losses, most recently in 2012. It is close to impossible to not wish the trail-blazing Brunson well.

Poll result: You found Super Bowl 50 to be a bit below average: We asked how you rated the Broncos-Panthers Super Bowl experience, and it was "worse than average" at 43.4 percent, "about the same" at 33.0% and "better than average" at 23.6%.

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February 06, 2016

Super Bowl With a Smirk V: Parties rage, Goodell dabs, Lombardi sings, (Florida) Panthers vs. Broncos; plus Kid Shula vs. Son of Bum, our SB 50 pick, Smirk IV, your verdict on Canes recruiting & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6. In The Previous Blogpost: National Signing Day with how-Canes-did poll, Super Bowl With a Smirks II and III, updated NBA/NHL title odds & more. 1Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

The Super Bowl's hidden key matchup: Click on Kid Shula vs. Son of Bum for today's latest column by me. I write how the game could come down to whether Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula or Denver defensive chief Wade Phillips gets the better of the other. A generation ago their fathers, Don Shula and Bum Phillips, also famously dueled.

Canton calling: Pro Football Hall of Fame will reveal its 2016 inductees during the NFL Honors show tonight. Ex-Hurricanes running back Edgerrin James is the only former Cane or Dolphin on the balot but is expected to fall short. Beyond certain first-ballot inductee Brett Favre, others with the best shot to make it are Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Kevin Greene and Tony Dungy.

"So great seeing retired Herald legend (and one of my mentors) Edwin Pope back in the paper yesterday with a Miami Super Bowl memories column. Had to be an unexpected treat for lots of surprised readers, like happening upon a family heirloom you thought you'd lost." --Greg Cotexx

SUPER BOWL 50 PREDICTION: UPSET! DEFENSE RULES, BRONCOS WIN: Carolina is 17-1 and favored by 5 1/2 points, which is a lot. Denver has a fading, hobbly quarterback about to turn 40. Get all of that. But still like Broncos in an upset because I don't think Peyton Manning will need to play hero Sunday night in Santa Clara, Calif. I think his defense will do that for him. Fripix"AAAWWWK!" crows the Upset Bird, even though he's only supposed to appear during the regular season. "Peyton Maaawwwk! Omahaawwk!" A friend of mine who has his bookie on speed-dial loves the phrase, "The masses are asses." He says that to explain his pet betting philosophy-hunch: That when everybody else is zigging to one team, that’s when you zag to the other. Let the lemmings herd toward the cliff; I’ll head the other way. This crossed my mind as I decided to pull the trigger on an upset in the Golden SB — Denver not only covering the point spread but beating Carolina outright. That did not influence my decision, though, as much as this: I am sold on this Broncos’ defense, and I believe in it enough to think it will get the better of Cam Newton and a pretty awesome Panthers’ offense. This is a Denver D that limited Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh to 16 points in the first playoff game, and only three field goals after the first quarter. This is a Denver D that utterly frustrated Tom Brady and New England in the AFC title game, budgeting Brady to a 56.4 passer rating and under 50 percent completions and intercepting him twice. I know that Carolina’s ground attack out of the shotgun, including Newton’s run-threat, presents a challenge Brady and the Patriots did not. But I still see Denver up to that challenge. The irony of Manning in what could be his final career game is that most of the winning will be done with him on the sideline if his defense takes charge as I believe it will. My pick: Broncos, 23-20.

ESPN experts overwhelmingly like Panthers: ESPN polled 70 of its NFL experts on who'll win the Super Bowl and it was 53-17 for Carolina, or 75.7 percent. Notables for underdog Denver (meaning people I'd heard of): Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Suzy Kolber, Todd McShay, Adam Schefter, Mark Schlereth and Trey Wingo.

SMIRK V: EXCESS REACHES CRESCENDO WITH REGAME PARTIES: Here is the last of five Super Bowl With a Smirk columns for 2016: You know the Super Bowl is getting really close when the biggest parties are happening. Hey, is that Snoop Dogg? Look, it’s a Kardashian! A Super Bowl city on the eve of the Big Game is when you might hear someone shout, “Ludacris!” and not be Smirk Playboypartysure if they spotted the rapper or were commenting on the absurdity of it all. Playboy’s 16th annual Super Bowl party happened Friday night under a 35,000-square-foot tent erected in the parking lot of the Giants baseball stadium. At the party they handed out the first issue of the new-era Playboy that includes no explicit nudity. I believe that’s when the party immediately ended. Rolling Stone, GQ, ESPN, Maxim and Vanity Fair were among other major party hosts. The ESPN soiree was highlighted by an appearance from New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and, we imagine, a lurching, leering Chris Berman inadvertently sweating into women’s cocktails. Smirk culled through his many A-list party invites and ended up at the annual bash hosted by the recently paroled half-brother of former Monkee Peter Tork. Two NFL-related parties happen Saturday night. The fourth annual NFL Honors will include the announcement of major award winners including MVP and the naming of the newest Hall of Fame class, following voter deliberation in the Bob Kuechenberg Disappointment Room. Elsewhere will be the 25th annual Taste of the NFL, a fundraiser featuring a dish by a chef from every league city. Carolina will be represented by Springer Mountain Confit Chicken Wings Kentuckyaki, and Denver by Oak-Grilled Lamb Neck. Miami, last in a Super Bowl 31 years ago, will be represented by Rum Pork Belly with a Glaze of Dolfans’ Tears.

Goodelldabs▪ NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has killed the Dab. Cam Newton made the dance move Dabbing popular. But Goodell, un-hippest man in America, was coerced to do it by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, and so now the Dab is dead.

▪ Goodell announced the Raiders and Texans next season would play the first NFL regular-season game in Mexico since 2005, unless Donald Trump has sealed off the entire country with his giant wall by then.

▪ ESPN’s endless pregame show Sunday includes a segment called Riding With Vince, a Carpool Karaoke ripoff in which Cris Carter, Mike Ditka and a Vince Lombardi impersonator are lip-synching to songs. Oh how I wish I were making that up.

▪ A new University of Texas-Dallas study of NFL arrests between 2000 and 2014 found 573 players had been arrested 774 times, but only 209 of those arrests (or 27 percent) were for violent crimes. AWRIIIGHT!

▪ The NFL has issued a warning regarding counterfeit Super Bowl tickets. Folks, if you bought a Super Bowl ticket that seems exceptionally small, is stamped “Regal Cinema” and mentions the 4:40 showing of Dirty Grandpa, you might have been ripped off.

Wrongcats▪ Montreal’s Le Telejournal, a French-language news show, mistakenly used a Florida Panthers logo to preview Super Bowl 50. Wonder if they said the quarterback was Jaromir Jagr?

▪ Further indications we are out of stuff to write about and the game needs to start: ESPN reports that Robin Leach, ancient host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, picks Carolina 27-21. Also, the Amazing Kreskin offered his Super Bowl prediction on Friday, surprising analysts who thought the Amazing Kreskin had died years ago.

▪ Finally, Smirk signs off for the week after having seen way too many previews of Super Bowl commercials. Again last night I had that recurring nightmare in which Betty White is nursing the E-Trade Baby while running terrified from a herd of singing sheep.

SMIRK IV: THE 2-WEEK PREGAME SHOW, NFL'S APOLOGY TO WOMEN, NO-DRONE-ZONE, STOCK MARKET PREDICTOR: Here is the fourth of our five daily Super Bowl With a Smirk notes
columns: We must fine-tune what we mean when we say "Super Bowl excess." It does not mean our avid interest in the game itself, or the fact some 43 million Americans will host Super Bowl parties, or the magnified attention given the halftime show or the hyped-up TV ads. No, it is Your Friend the Media that is the engine of the excess. We are to Pregameshowblame. We are the ones giving you what amounts to a nonstop two-week pregame show, like it or not, want it or not. Smirk says television is the main culprit, especially host network CBS, the ubiquitous ESPN and, of course, NFL Network. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton gave voice to the ludicrousness of it on Wednesday morning as he met with hundreds of media after doing the same thing Tuesday night. "How can I reword answers to questions I’ve been asked so many times?" he said. "Nothing much has changed since I’ve seen you guys 24 hours ago [except that] I had an unbelievable sleep. I sound like a broken record.' NFL Network is airing 88 live hours of on-location coverage this week featuring 36 on-air personalities. Sunday it will air 10 hours of pre- and post-game coverage. CBS and ESPN similarly are inundating you. CBS Sports has more than 550 employees in the San Francisco Bay Area, will have a four-hour pregame show and will use 70 cameras during the game. Highlight of CBS’s pregame show is expected to be a 2 p.m. interview with Barack Obama. The president is expected to say he is looking forward to a good game, after which Republicans demanding equal time are expected to argue they are not looking forward to a good game and why America should not be, either. You know why America will be so excited to see Sunday’s game kick off? It isn’t because Panthers vs. Broncos will finally be starting. It’s because the two weeks of mind-numbing buildup will finally be ending.
 
Bombast▪ Coldplay and Beyoncé will have a lot to live up to Sunday. Super Bowl halftime shows are even more highly anticipated than the game itself, according to the latest annual survey by the National Association of Super Bowl Halftime Producers.

▪ The NFL held its first Super Bowl Women’s Summit on Thursday. Feels to Smirk like either pandering or an apology. Cannot confirm the event was subtitled, "Just to Remind You We Don’t Condone So Many of Our Players Being Arrested for Domestic Violence."

▪ The NFL Foundation’s Super Bowl alumni bowling tournament takes place Friday. It’s the best place to watch former players hobble and grimace as they gripe loudly about lack of medical benefits.

Drones▪ Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: “The FAA has banned drones from flying within 32 miles of the stadium Sunday.”

▪ The so-called Stock Market Predictor — Super Bowl win by NFC means market up for the year, AFC win means market down — has been accurate with 40 of the 49 SBs, including seven in a row. Throes of a dilemma: Broncos fan who invests heavily in stock market.

▪ Super Fact: The Broncos are 5-0 in games in which Sunday’s referee, Clete Blakeman, has worked. "I don’t care about that. I'm just glad to see another guy named ‘Clete’ out there," said deceased baseball player Clete Boyer.

Wherewatch▪ Finally, I saw a consumer-oriented story with the headline, "Where to watch the Super Bowl." The target demographic: Football fans who own no television, have never heard of a sports bar and have no friends.

Previously: Click on Smirk I, Smirk II and Smirk III for this week's earlier Smirks. Click on Super Bowl Primer for our preview column outlining the top national and Miami-related storylines to Broncos-Panthers.

Poll result: Richt, Canes get strong rating for 2016 recruiting class: We asked you how you thought Miami did on National Signing Day, and it was 58.5 percent "good," 26.2% "very good," 11.4% "average" and only 3.9% "below average." That's an overall stamp of approval for new coach Mark Richt, with 84.7% saying good or better vs. 15.3% saying average or worse.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

February 04, 2016

Rating the Hurricanes' Signing-Day bounty: New poll. Vote now!; plus skill positions, linebacker head Richt's incoming UM class; also, new Super Bowl With a Smirk III on the power of the chicken wing, updated NBA/NHL odds & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4. Gulp! Today I'm at Friday Page HQ deciding who'll win the Super Bowl. 2) In The Previous Blogpost: Super Bowl With a Smirk I, Ted Cruz looks like a vampire & more. 3Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Florida Panthers remain better title bet than Heat: Latest betting odds from from Bovada have Golden State now even at 1-1 for NBA championship, with Cleveland and San Antonio next at 11-4 each. Miami is tied for eighth at 66-1. NHL title odds are led by Washington at 4-1, Chicago 5-1 and Los Anegles 15-2, with Florida tied for sixth at 16-1. (Cats could become a trendy bet; they just won at Washington, 5-2). Prohibitive MVP faves are Warriors' Steph Curry at 1-4 and Blackhawks' Patrick Kane at 1-3.

AMID THE OVERBLOWN HYPE OF NATIONAL SIGNING DAY, CANES AND RICHT SCRAMBLE TO NAIL DOWN SOLID CLASS: [Click HERE to meet the Hurricanes' newly minted 18-man 2016 recruiting class]. I get why so many fans are drunk with interest (or perhaps just drunk in general) over National Signing Day. It is to college football what the NFL Draft is at the higher level. The pipeline. The replenisher. It's a first indication how successful your team might be in the Nsdnext few years. What amuses me, though, is the media and fans' instant and self-assured analysis of something inherently unpredictable. We are talking about 17- and 18-year-olds. The coveted five-star recruit might flame out. The lightly recruited two-star guy could become your program's savior. The preps-to-colleges outlook simply is not as readable or reliable as the colleges-to-pros jump because there is a greater lump-of-clay factor. High-school players are not fully formed; they need Allisondevelopment. They  need coaching. Al Golden and his staff did not do that sufficiently. That's why Mark Richt is now running Miami Hurricanes football. Richt was hamstrung by coming into Canes recruiting late but seems to have made up ground. UM's class was ranked No. 19 nationally by ESPN, with 10 Top 300 prospects among its 18 recruits. I know there are thin areas and have been some notable defections, but I like what I see of the Canes' 2016 class. The linebacker gets are extremely impressive. And the offensive skill-position bounty seems very good, led by QB Jack Allison (Palmetto), RB Travis Homer (West Palm) and WR Sam Bruce (St. Thomas Aquinas). Allison (pictured), a 6-5 pro-style passer, will be groomed as the heir to Brad Kaaya; Bruce has five-star speed and skills but is downgraded for being only 5-8. Here is ESPN's synopsis of the UM bounty, condensed: "The Hurricanes surged after the hire of Richt. They landed ESPN 300 DE Patrick Bethel on Dec. 14. He is joined in the class by QB Allison, playmaker Bruce and fellow speedster Dionte Mullins. WR Ahmmon Richards (No. 212 in ESPN 300) was a great addition on signing day. Adding another ESPN 300 prospect, Homer and his 4.48 speed, was a big win at running back. The Hurricanes' class at receiver and linebacker is especially impressive, including LBs Shaquille Quarterman and Zachary McCloud. Three-star defensive tackle prospect Tre Johnson has considerable upside." Richt called Sam Bruce "very explosive," a slot receiver whose speed "gives him the ability to get on the edge as well." The coach called Travis Homer "A very skilled back," adding, "He was the second guy I watched after Jack [Allison] and I had a big grin when I watched the tape." Richt was hamstrung by his latte arrival in a recruiting game built on relationships. "When you have everything in place and all your support staff is clicking, there's some energy and synergy going on," he said. "But when you start that train from ground zero and try to move that thing, getting to know (everybody), there's so many things to do in such a short time." Richt and this class should be graded on that curve. The new coach sounded subdued Wednesday. Tired. "But it's a good tired," he said. We invite your initial thoughts on UM's 2016 recruiting bounty in the poll below. None of us can know for sure, of course. But that doesn't mean we don't have an opinion, right?

SMIRK III: CHICKEN-WING METRIC FAVORS CAROLINA, SB BLING UPDATE, HERDING THE HOMELESS, '17 SB ODDS: Here comes Smirk III, the third of five daily Super Bowl With a Smirk notes Smirkcolumns. The National Chicken Council — whose name alone conjures a clandestine assembly of poultry elders convening in George Orwell’s Animal Farm — has released its Chickens2016 Wing Report, the bible of Super Bowl snacking. The NCC estimates a record 1.3 billion wings will be eaten by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday, 39 million more than last year. The wing is king; pizza bows and curtsies. For example, Domino’s estimates it will sell 12 million slices on Sunday. Those 162.5 million pounds of wings, if laid end to end, would stretch from Charlotte to Denver almost 53 times. That amounts to 600 wings for every seat in every NFL stadium in the United States. Smirk has a word for that many wings: Dinner! Wings will not only probably dominate your Super Bowl party. The jointed marvels also have proven an accurate predictor of the game, based on the competing cities’ average expenditure on wings. This season that barometer went 7-3 in the playoffs and has accurately forecast four of the past five Super Bowls. Now the National Chicken Council reports (befitting a drum roll) that Charlotte residents spend $1,400 on wings per $1 million spent in local grocery stores — nearly three times the $480 devoted to wings in Denver. "It would be nice to see Peyton Manning go out with a victory, but numbers don’t lie," says the NCC’s fabulously named communications director, Tom Super. "Follow the chicken."

▪ The betting over/under is 2 minutes 20 seconds for Lady Gaga’s pregame national anthem on Sunday. What prevents Gaga from telling all her family and friends to bet big on the “under” and then coming in at 1:57? Hey, I’m just asking!

▪ Repucom, a sports and entertainment research company, measures the metrics on more than 3,800 athletes and celebrities and says Panthers QB Cam Newton now has a better "influential score" — the ability to change people’s perceptions — than President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. President Newton?

Jesuspendant▪ Super Bowl Week Bling Update: Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib wears a Rolex watch valued at $80,000. Denver safety T.J. Ward counters with a similarly priced gold-encrusted pendant depicting the face of Jesus, replete with thorny crown.

▪ The game is in surburban Santa Clara, but San Francisco clearly is "Super Bowl City" in terms of festivities, and Fusion.net reports the city quietly has herded its homeless population to a four-block tent city three miles away. Apparently the host committee thinks NFL fans OK with concussions and player arrests would be aghast at the sight of a panhandler.

▪ Broncos-Panthers ticket prices are falling. The cost on StubHub on Wednesday started as low as $2,950. Or, you can get a much better seat for a fraction of the cost. It’s called "your couch."

Budhelen▪ Helen Mirren will star in an anti-drunk driving Super Bowl ad for Budweiser. Hmm. C’mon, Bud! Anheuser-Busch doesn’t get to preach against drunk driving any more than Smith & Wesson gets to bemoan gun violence.

▪ Super Bowl security on Sunday will include the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Air Force heading a task force of more than 60 different federal, state and local law enforcement agencies — and that’s just to make sure the footballs aren’t deflated.

▪ OK we have officially run out of things to talk about and write and need the game to start. Evidence? This headline (I swear) on FoxSports.com: "Super Bowl history of missed extra points."

Fifty▪ Finally, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook already has laid betting odds to win next year’s Super Bowl, and it’s Patriots, Steelers and Seahawks on top at 8-1. (Panthers are 10-1 and Broncos 14-1.) Smirk needed a miner’s helmet and pickaxe to find the Dolphins. At 50-1, only the 49ers and Browns have longer odds than Miami.

SMIRK II: THE UNEXPECTED INSPIRATION FOR SUCCESSFUL SUPER BOWL ADS, MISS UNIVERSE, A REF NAMED CLETE, GREYHOUND FORETELLS RESULT: Welcome to Smirk II, the second of
five daily Super Bowl notes columns. As we all know SB television commercials are as highly anticipated as the game itself, according to an annual survey conducted by the Gustavfreytag
Donkey National Association of Self-Serving Advertising Executives. Well, those TV ads also are as closely watched and analyzed as the game, apparently. A new study of each year’s highest-rated SB ads was conducted by researchers Keith Quesenberry of Messiah College and Michael Coolsen of Shippensburg University. Quesenberry told Time.com they concluded that the most successful, well-liked ads are presented as mini-movies in a five-act story structure such as that favored by legendary playwright William Shakespeare. The study also found most of the best Super Bowl ads follow “Gustav’s Pyramid,” the five-part story structure — exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement — espoused by 19th Century German novelist Gustav Freytag. A separate study by Smirk found that most successful Super Bowl ads feature yodeling animals in straw hats. (Pictured left: Gustav Freytag and a typical star of a Super Bowl ad). In an unrelated story, Dan Marino and actor Alec Baldwin star in a Super Bowl television commercial for Amazon Echo, which has the electronic voice of “Alexa” answering your questions. Amazon denied it was a blatant ripoff of Apple’s Siri. “Yeah, right!” snorted the entire country.

▪ Panthers quarterback Cam Newton arrived at the Super Bowl in a pair of Versace zebra-print pants that retail for almost $900. Oh, and gold-tip loafers. By contrast, I think Broncos QB Peyton Manning arrived in a Jim Tressel sweater vest and Hush Puppies. GQ “Style Guy” Anthony Green revealed to ESPN that Newton’s daring sartorial splendor could be a good omen for Carolina.

▪ Super Bowl Opening Night (formerly Media Day) featured Newton freestyle rapping, an Austrian sportscaster in ski clothes, a man dressed in a gold leotard, a leprechaun in Broncos colors and Josh Norman in a Luchador wrestling mask. In other words, pretty much the usual stuff.

▪ I don’t wanna say I’m beginning to doubt Manning’s denial that he ever used human growth hormone, but at Tuesday’s weigh-in he was 6-11 and 314 pounds.

▪ This could be a dull Super Bowl Week if we don’t get some decent controversy beyond that silly HGH story. Smirk will do his part at Wednesday’s media session by attempting to plant deer-antler spray on Ted Ginn Jr.

Missuniverse▪ Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzbach (Phillipines), is covering the Super Bowl for Inside Edition. Apparently an embittered Miss Colombia was denied a credential. At least that’s what Steve Harvey told me.

▪ CBS held a news conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center to reveal it has more than 550 personnel and 100 cameras swarming the Bay Area. The event went well before degenerating into a fistfight between Jim Nantz and Phi Simms. OK Smirk made up that last thing.

▪ Federal officials said Tuesday there is no specific, credible threat to this week’s Super Bowl, other than it tanking in the ratings because Carolina is so far ahead.

▪ The NFL announced its Sunday officiating crew headed by referee Clete Blakeman, and nobody cared except the men’s immediate families.

Grammar▪ Panthers fans are more grammatically correct than Broncos fans, according to a Twitter study by grammarly.com. Carolina fans (6.6) made fewer grammar mistakes per 100 words than Denver fans (7.6). Both deploy the language far better than Dolphins fans, who ranked 30th of 32 teams at 11.9.

▪ A skirmish arose Tuesday along “Radio Row” when competing producers for rival stations 790 The Ticket Miami and WQAM came to blows over first dibs to a profusely sweating Chris Berman.

Carolinadog▪ Finally, at Palm Beach Kennel Club, a greyhound representing Carolina beat a dog representing Denver. Track officials denied speculation the race might have been a publicity stunt.

Previously: Click on Smirk I for Tuesday's debut. Click on Super Bowl Primer for our preview column outlining the top national and Miami-related storylines to Broncos-Panthers.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote