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#pounditSaturday, January 22, 2022

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Caleb Williams reportedly deciding between 2 schools

Caleb Williams warming up

A new report says that Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams has narrowed his potential transfer destinations down to two schools.

Williams is deciding between USC and LSU, according to Dean Blevins of KWTV. There is no indication when a decision may be made.

USC has long been Williams’ rumored destination. Some reports have even claimed it is a done deal, though this one runs counter to that. The Trojans have no clear No. 1 quarterback for 2022 with Kedon Slovis and Jaxson Dart transferring, and Lincoln Riley appears keen to bring Williams along from Oklahoma.

LSU hunting for a quarterback upgrade makes sense, as the Tigers likely are not sold on Garrett Nussmeier. Even if they are a finalist for Williams, however, it’s quite likely they are the underdogs to secure his commitment at this stage.

Photo: OU quarterback Caleb Williams is set to lead the Sooners against Oregon on Wednesday in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

Mike McCarthy makes surprising admission about Cowboys

Mike McCarthy on the sideline

Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy made a somewhat surprising admission about the team’s mentality early in Sunday’s playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

McCarthy admitted during his news conference Wednesday that he sensed nerves from his team early in Sunday’s loss. The head coach felt that his team was nervous during the team prayer, and believes it impacted them early in the game.

The first half suggests there might be some truth to McCarthy’s assessment. The Cowboys allowed a touchdown on the first drive of the game, and did not get on the board themselves until the second quarter. By that point, Dallas was already down 13-0.

On the other hand, this isn’t something McCarthy should want to admit. Not only does it reflect poorly on the mental preparation of the players, but it suggests McCarthy did a bad job getting them ready for the game. That may have shown in other ways that hurt Dallas at the end of the game.

There had been some chatter that McCarthy could lose his job over how the season ended, though that has been dismissed by the team. Despite that vote of confidence, quotes like this will not inspire a lot of confidence that McCarthy is the coach to lead Dallas to a championship.

Photo: Dec 19, 2021; East Rutherford, N.J., USA;
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy looks on during the second half of their game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Russell Westbrook nearly left the court after benching

Russell Westbrook dribbles

During a 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers benched Russell Westbrook.

That decision caused immediate outrage. Westbrook skipped his media availability and promptly left the arena. Charles Barkley ripped the team for scapegoating and almost immediately trade rumors began to surface.

After taking a day to calm down, Westbrook used a soft-ish tone to describe his disappointment.

“Surprised, yes. I was disappointed I didn’t go back in, but I’m more disappointed that we lost the damn game,” Westbrook told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

As calm as Westbrook appeared in that moment, he wasn’t at the time of his benching. In fact, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register reports that Westbrook nearly stormed off the court.

The 33-year-old point guard nearly left the floor after he was subbed out for Malik Monk,but teammate DeAndre Jordan shepherded him back. Westbrook watched the next few minutes unfold, apparently jawing from the bench with his jersey untucked, although exactly what was said (and at whom) is still unclear.

The relationship between Westbrook and the Lakers is undeniably deteriorating. And at this point, there may be no going back for either side. A parting of ways almost seems necessary and would likely benefit each side equally.

Report: Jim Harbaugh would accept Raiders job

Jim Harbaugh in a Michigan hat

Jim Harbaugh continues to be linked to the Las Vegas Raiders coaching job, and the latest word out of his current employer is only going to fuel those rumors.

There is a belief within Michigan that Harbaugh would accept the Raiders job if it were offered to him, according to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic. People within the program have reportedly long believed that Harbaugh would want to coach in the NFL again, but also concede that the coach can be difficult to read.

What is not clear is whether the timing is right for Harbaugh. Michigan is coming off its best season under him, while the Raiders are in an uncertain situation without a general manager. However, Harbaugh and Raiders owner Mark Davis are longtime friends, and Harbaugh also met his wife in Las Vegas.

Harbaugh has been mum on his status for next year, leaving everyone else guessing. Some reports have indicated the Michigan coach may be using the rumors as leverage in contract negotiations with Michigan. Other stories suggest that money isn’t even a factor in any move to the NFL.

There is an argument that at this stage, Michigan knows best where things stand with their coach. This report will be of clear concern for those who want him to stay in Ann Arbor.

Photo: Aug 31, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh before the game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

NFL coach could have interest in replacing Jim Harbaugh at Michigan?

Jim Harbaugh in sunglasses

If Jim Harbaugh leaves Michigan to return to the NFL, the Wolverines will reportedly have strong interest from a pretty big name.

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule would be interested in the Michigan job should it become available, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. It is unclear whether that interest would be mutual, and it’s worth noting that Rhule has no ties to the university.

Rhule has apparently had his eye on college jobs for a while, as he reportedly looked at the Penn State job before it became clear that James Franklin would stay put there. He also may have reportedly pushed for the LSU job had the school been more interested.

These reports certainly suggest that Rhule is looking for a route out of the NFL and back to the college game, where he was much more successful. He had success at both Temple and Baylor, but is just 10-23 in two seasons with the Panthers. The feeling might be mutual, and Carolina’s owner might be very pleased at the chance to get out from under Rhule’s contract.

Of course, Harbaugh would have to make the jump to the NFL for any of this to be relevant. The Michigan coach might be open to making that move, but there is nothing concrete so far.

Photo: Nov 16, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts during the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook skips media availability after being benched

Russell Westbrook dribbles

Russell Westbrook was benched at the end of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, and he was not happy about it.

Westbrook shot 5-17 and scored 14 points in 27 minutes during the Lakers’ loss on Wednesday. Westbrook made a 3-pointer with 6:33 left to make it a 5-point game. Then he committed a foul a minute and a half later, and he was replaced by Malik Monk with 3:52 left. The Lakers were losing by seven when he exited and lost by the same margin.

Westbrook never came back into the game after being subbed out for Monk.

After the game, the veteran guard was dismayed and did not speak with reporters.

LeBron James apparently indicated Westbrook was not happy about his benching.

This reaction from Westbrook is to be expected. He was steamed and in no mood to talk to reporters, though he should face them regardless. Obviously he’s upset, and he’s pulled this move before.

Westbrook has been taking heat for weeks over his poor play and poor fit with the Lakers. Getting benched late in the game is the cherry on top of a bad season. There’s almost no turning back once that happens.

Photo: Dec 28, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) in action during the game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreek Hill fined by NFL over cheerleader pom-pom celebration

Tyreek Hill holds pom poms

Tyreek Hill was fined by the NFL for an odd reason.

Hill scored on a 31-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter of his Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round of the playoffs last weekend. The Chiefs receiver grabbed some cheerleader pom-poms to celebrate his score:

Hill was not penalized by the referees during the game, but the NFL got to him afterwards.

NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero reported on Saturday that Hill was fined $12,875 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Hill avoided the in-game penalty, but not the meager fine. For a guy taking home around $18 million this season, $12,875 is nothing.

NFL files to dismiss Jon Gruden lawsuit, says there were more emails

Jon Gruden smiles

Jon Gruden filed a lawsuit against the NFL back in November claiming the league intentionally leaked his private emails in order to ruin his career. The NFL immediately responded by denying the allegations, and they have now backed up that denial with a court filing.

The NFL filed a motion to dismiss Gruden’s lawsuit in Nevada this week, according to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. In the filing, the league’s attorneys argue that Gruden sent offensive emails to at least five other recipients besides former Washington Football Team executive Bruce Allen.

“Gruden sent a variety of similarly abhorrent emails to a half dozen recipients over a seven-year period, in which he denounced ‘the emergence of women as referees,’ and frequently used homophobic and sexist slurs to refer to Commissioner Goodell, then-Vice President Joseph Biden, a gay professional football player drafted in 2014, and others,” the NFL’s attorneys wrote in the filing.

The emails that led to Gruden’s resignation leaked as part of an investigation into workplace misconduct with the Washington Football Team. In one of them, Gruden mocked NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith over the size of his lips. More emails leaked days later in which Gruden used a gay slur and other problematic language.

In the motion to dismiss, the NFL argues that the emails were damaging to both Gruden and the league. The league also says the emails, which it insists were not intentionally leaked, “would have and could have permitted the Commissioner himself to sanction and fire Gruden.”

More than 650,000 emails were reviewed as part of the WFT investigation, but the NFL has reportedly claimed Gruden’s were the only damaging ones.

The lawsuit from Gruden may not be the only one the NFL faces over the situation.

Photo: Aug 18, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden during a joint practice against the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hawaii puts June Jones on blast in new statement

June Jones on the sidelines

Hawaii has found itself in a very awkward public spat with June Jones over his possible return as football coach, and the school escalated things further on Saturday.

Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl offered a set of odd and somewhat incendiary comments in a press conference Saturday about Jones’ public statements about the Hawaii job. Meisenzahl praised Jones as the best coach in school history, but said that Jones had “too much power” in his first stint at the school. The spokesperson also said Jones showed “zero integrity” throughout the current process.

When asked if Jones was still a candidate for the job, Meisenzahl deferred and simply said the job remained open.

On Friday, Jones confirmed he had received an offer from Hawaii and was interested, but that “no coach in their right mind” would accept the terms offered to him. Hawaii clearly felt the need to keep Jones’ remarks from going unchallenged publicly, resulting in this rather extraordinary series of statements.

Jones getting the job seems far-fetched now. This is a lot of bad blood to spill publicly if these two sides are really expecting to be able to work with each other.

Photo: Feb 8, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Roughnecks head coach June Jones reacts after a play during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Wildcats in a XFL football game at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Brown addresses concerns about his mental health

Antonio Brown in Bucs uniform

Antonio Brown has had numerous outbursts both on and off the football field in recent years, leading many to speculate that his mental health is not in the best place. The veteran wide receiver insists he has no issues in that area.

Brown addressed the concerns about his mental health during an appearance on Brandon Marshall’s “I Am Athlete” show that will air in full next week. He said his decision to rip off his pads and leave in the middle of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game against the New York Jets a few weeks ago had nothing to do with mental health.

“If we’re all players and we’re all saying we care about mental health, why every time something happens bad or how someone reacts (they say), ‘Oh, he’s crazy. There’s something wrong with his mental health?’ There’s nothing wrong with my mental health. Someone told me, ‘Get the f— out of here.’ I’m not passive aggressive.”

Brown, of course, was referring to Bruce Arians. The Bucs head coach has admitted he kicked Brown off the sideline. Arians says Brown threw a fit about not getting the ball enough. Brown claims he was unable to play due to an ankle injury and Tampa Bay’s coaches tried to force him to go back into the game.

Whatever the case, even Tom Brady seemed to hint that he believes Brown’s sideline meltdown was about more than just football. One former NFL player speculated that Brown hasn’t been the same mentally since a specific hit years ago. Brown clearly doesn’t appreciate that narrative.

Photo: Nov 8, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Antonio Brown before the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports