Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Florida/Georgia Ideas

I couldn’t be happier that the Florida/Georgia game has been renewed through 2016. I really thought it might be going away after nearly 80 years in Jacksonville.

The drumbeat from the Georgia fans and boosters was loud as they talked about moving the game. Where? There were several options. With big stadiums in both Athens and Gainesville, talk of a home and home, like 93 and 94 when the Gator Bowl was being renovated, was rampant. There was talk that the Georgia Dome was interested in having the game on a rotating basis. Perhaps Jacksonville and Atlanta could host. Or even all four cities on a rotating basis. There was even talk of a home and home series being augmented by the game in Jacksonville every third year.

But instead, it’s just staying here. And that’s good news.

Clearly boosters in South Georgia, including UGA’s second biggest contributor, Sea Island’s Bill Jones, were interested in the game staying in Jacksonville. It’s good for their business. And although they haven’t taken advantage of it in recent years, it’s good for Georgia’s recruiting. Sure, they’ve been getting beat down by the Gators in recent years, but they owned the series in the ’70’s and ’80’s under Vince Dooley.

Moving the game to accommodate ‘Dog fans in middle and north Georgia (particularly Atlanta) was a bad idea. A six-year extension is longer than what the contract has been lately and I hope it doesn’t make the city complacent when it comes to “owning” the game. We don’t “own” the game, but we should.

It should be a much bigger deal than it is.

I’ve talked with Mayor John Peyton about creating a more festival like atmosphere surrounding the game, especially near the stadium. If the stadium holds 84,000 for Fla/Ga, more than 100,000 people show up for the weekend, many without tickets. With that kind of built in audience, why not close Bay Street like they did during the Super Bowl and bring in some vendors, some free concerts and invite people downtown?

It’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.

RV City is open all week and it’s a fun place to go but unless you’re staying there, you’re out of place. Extend that feeling all through downtown. The Landing is out of control that week so why not incorporate it into what fans might want to experience? While I’m no condoning any kind of public drunkenness, relaxing the open container law and getting control over what’s going downtown in a somewhat organized fashion is a better idea than just letting it expand all over the place without a plan.

I even talked with Bill Longenecker on the radio the other day and we hatched a beaches “Flag Football” tournament to include the beaches in Fla/Ga. The ideas are easy. Getting the city to execute some of them seems to be the hard part.

We should be celebrating our heritage as a college football destination instead of making apologies for hosting the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

And by the way, why not do the same thing in the spring around the Gate River Run?

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Change Afoot?

Right now, it’s bad.

I’ve been around this team since their first day of practice in 1995 and it’s bad. Maybe worse than their first expansion team.

As much as I liked what I saw last week, this week was a step backwards. As in back in time. They were listless and unfocused. They couldn’t execute. Penalties caused stopped the smallest of drives. Fumbles gave the Cardinals the ball. They’re not disciplined. Each time it looked like something might be happening, the Jaguars created their own problems.

And, oh by the way, Arizona went to the Super Bowl last year and played like the defending NFC Champions. Kurt Warner threw on time and with accuracy. (24-26 223) Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin caught everything thrown in their direction. (In fact Warner tied a club record for consecutive completions at the beginning of the game.)

I knew they’d take their lumps this year. Starting four rookies including two rookie tackles on offense was supposed to be the start of a rebuilding process. But this was not good. Arizona looked like a professional football team contending for a division title and perhaps a championship.

The Jaguars looked lost.

There are lots of reasons this stuff can happen but it starts at the top, especially with the head coach. Wayne Weaver is a competitive guy and a good owner when it comes to trying to win. But I think it’s time to really take a hard look at what Jack Del Rio is doing as the head coach of this club.

The penalties the Jaguars incurred in the first half were the product of sloppy play, undisciplined actions and a lack of focus. As John Madden used to say, “Discipline isn’t wearing ties on the plane, it’s not jumping off sides when it’s third and 4.”

Del Rio has adopted this “cool” personality and it’s rubbed off on his team.

This week Torry Holt said when asked how to get going in the right direction that this team needed to figure out what they wanted. “Do you just want to say you’re in the NFL, that you play for the Jaguars or the Cardinals? Or do you want to try and be great? It’s an all the time thing. You can’t just turn it on and off. It has to start when you wake up in the morning.”

I was pretty concerned when heard those comments. While he didn’t call anybody out individually, he left the impression that this team was fairly “cool” toward their objective. If that’s the case, something drastic has to change.

With the game in reach and the breaks going their way, the Jaguars did just about everything they could to back away from success.

I’m also concerned about Garrard. He’s a big trigger shy, a little late on just about every throw. He should be made to watch Warner operate his offense, looking like he knows where the ball’s going before the ball is snapped. Garrard isn’t anything like that. And what’s disappointing is how he’s ‘regressed from the player he was in 2007.

So they have multiple problems, with none looking like they’re going to be solved in the next couple of weeks in the division at Houston and at home against Tennessee.

0-4 doesn’t look like any fun.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

A Plan Comes Together

Sometimes in radio and TV things get crazy. You know, the best laid plans and all that. And sometimes, rarely, it all comes together. Yesterday on the radio show was one of those “all comes together” days.

I had asked my friend, tennis legend Tony Trabert to come on the show to talk about the U.S. Open. He’s a fantastic guest, as you might expect after over 30 years in broadcasting. He also happens to be a great guy and I’m lucky to count him among my friends. Anyway, I did a little research and found a cover story on Trabert from August 29, 1955.

He had already won two legs of the Grand Slam and was prepping for the US Open and the Davis Cup. Tony laughed and said “25 cents Sam,” in reference to the price on the cover. (It also says $7.50 a year.) I read him a quote that ended something like, “I work and train hard and I don’t want to lose a match because some linesman isn’t paying attention.” When I asked Tony if he could ID the person behind that quote he said, “I don’t know, McEnroe?”

Of course it was Trabert himself, quoted in Sports Illustrated.

It was only funny because Trabert has always been known as the ultimate sportsman and McEnroe’s behavior on the Davis Cup team while Tony was captain was so boorish that it eventually lead to Trabert’s retirement. Tony went on to explain that during that era in big time tennis, they got the linesmen out of the stands.

“Sure, they’d get club members, but there weren’t any professionals or people trained to do that.”

“Yeah, but what Aussie was going to make a call against John Newcombe?” I asked.

“You’re right about that!” Tony agreed.

The rest of the interview was much more like a conversation about tennis rather than an interrogation. Like I said, sometimes it comes together.

Following Trabert, legendary NFL scout Gil Brandt came on the air and told some stories I’d never heard. “Bob Hayes was so strong we figured he’d be able to handle the NFL,” Brandt threw in when talking about drafting early.

“How you determine he’d be able to play in the NFL though?” I asked.

“It’s funny how we got Hayes,” Brandt continued. “We had the draft right after the last regular season game because of the AFL and about 1 o’clock in the morning we had gone through just about everybody and he said ‘Who’s the fastest guy up there?’ ‘Bob Hayes,’ I answered. So we took him. “

” Two rounds later after there were a bunch of chicken bones and coffee cups strewn around it was our turn and Tex said ‘Who’s the best football player?’ ‘Roger Staubach,’ I said. So we took two Hall of Famers in the middle of the night, kind of on a hunch.”

I listened to that story with my mouth open just amazed that a) I’d never heard it before and b) Brandt was telling it on our air. Brandt went on to tell a half-dozen stories like that with me being more amazed by each one. He did say they drafted 9 Hall of Famers in their first fifteen years. I couldn’t help compare that to the Jaguars track record since they became a franchise.

Just one of those days when it all comes together.