Badgers don’t belong in NCAA Tourney anyway

Let’s be honest!
The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team doesn’t belong in this year’s NCAA Tournament. I’m not so sure if Coach Greg Gard’s Badgers even belong in the National Invitation Tournament for fear of embarrassment.
Seriously, the Badgers (17-14) aren’t a very good team. Even when they were 11-2 and ranked 14th in the country way back in November, I had reservations about their talent and depth.
As I preached to family and friends who, like me, watched UW lose time and again in the last few minutes this season, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Plain and simple, there is a serious lack of talent.
There was no “go-to” player to rely upon to make that last-second shot, or steal, or secure a rebound. In essence, there was no Johnny Davis to take them to the finish line.
Before the season began, we all thought senior forward Tyler Wahl would carry the team on his shoulders. However, an early-season ankle injury sidelined him for several games and he never was the same the remainder of the season, albeit a couple of games.
Junior forward Steven Crowl and sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn were also expected to supply the majority of scoring support and leadership. That didn’t happen either.
Freshman Connor Essegian provided much-needed scoring punch and excitement when he broke into the starting lineup, but understandably has plenty of room for growth within the physical Big 10 Conference.
Junior transfer Max Klesmit also added some valuable offense, but didn’t play with any consistency. Same could be said of Johnny’s twin brother, junior Jordan Davis, who lost his starting job midway through the season. Still, Jordan always provided a valuable offensive and defensive spark off the bench.
One player I begged to see on the court more minutes was guard Isaac Lindsey. He showed good shooting skills and better than average defense for a sophomore.
And, then there is Gard, whom I respect very much. His job is nowhere in jeopardy yet, but I thought he made more than a handful of questionable coaching decisions. And, I can’t figure out why this year’s Gard-led Badgers always played up to their competition, but down to their competition as well.
The last time the Badgers were in the NIT Tourney I was 49 years old. Now, at 76 I will probably tune into the NIT again  unless Wisconsin declines the invitation. Maybe that’s the best decision. If not, I hope they don’t disappoint us anymore this season.

Aaron Rodgers won’t retire just yet

If I were a betting man, I would say it is a lock that Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers will return at least one more season.
I have no clue what NFL team jersey Rodgers will wear, but he will play at least one more year.
Why, you ask? Because Tom Brady retired. So did J.J. Watt.
It all comes down to one thing: EGO!
All three players are shoo-ins as first ballot NFL Hall of Famers. However, three’s a crowd if Rodgers were to also retire. And his ego is too big to pull the pin just yet.
To become eligible for the NFL’s Hall of Fame, a player and coach must have been retired at least five years before he can be considered.
For example, any individual who last played in 2017 is eligible for the first time in 2023. There are five semifinalists eligible for the first time this year: longtime Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas, fellow offensive lineman and six-time Pro Bowler Jahri Evans, 2008 Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, fellow former pass rusher Dwight Freeney and former cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Brady's and Watt’s retirement officially begin this year which means the earliest they can be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is 2027.
Watt, the Arizona Cardinals’ pass rusher announced on Dec. 27, that he would retire at the end of the season. Watt could still play if he wished, but after battling injuries much of his career, he decided to walk away from the game he loves so much.
Brady retired after the 2021 season, decided to “un-retire,” in 2022, then on Wednesday, said this is his final retirement decision.
Brady will grab top billing for the 2027 Hall of Fame awards ceremony. Watt will be No. 2 unless Rodgers also decides to retire now. My guess is Rodgers doesn’t want any part of playing second fiddle or even No. 3 in the 2027 ceremony.
That’s why Rodgers will return for at least the 2023 season. That way he is assured of taking over the spotlight whenever he is inducted.

PHOTO: Green Bay Packers

Badgers’ Fickell, Leonhard both classy guys

To my knowledge, I can't remember ever meeting Jim Leonhard during my working days.
For sure, I haven’t met Luke Fickell. However, I admire both Fickell and Leonhard for different reasons.
Fickell certainly showed class in his first game as new University of Wisconsin head football coach Tuesday night. His first classy move was allowing interim Badgers’ coach Leonhard to finish out the season. Yet, the classiest move Fickell made was calling Leonhard up to the podium to accept the Guaranteed Rate Bowl trophy after the 27-14 victory over Oklahoma State.
Fickell understands Leonhard’s disappointment in not being named Wisconsin’s coach. Fickell went through the same ordeal when his alma mater Ohio State turned him down as head coach after one season as interim head coach.
Fickell also thought enough of Leonhard to ask him to remain the Badgers’ defensive coordinator. However, the former Badgers’ and NFL star, turned down Fickell’s offer for what he described as “other things that happened.”
I, like most in Badgers Nation, was shocked when “Luke Who” was named head coach rather than Leonhard, the presumed shoo-in. However, after learning more about Fickell, his background and what he accomplished at the University of Cincinnati, it was a solid choice to lead the Badgers to hopefully the next level, not just a Big Ten Championship, but a College Football National Championship.
Fickell, in only five short years at Cincinnati, took his fourth-ranked Bearcats to the College Football Playoff semifinals last year before losing to No. 1 Alabama, 27-6, in the Cotton Bowl. It was the Bearcats’ only loss in 14 games in 2021.
Now we can sit back and watch how Fickell’s style plays out in Madison.
Meanwhile, Leonhard is also sitting back, weighing other coaching offers he has already received or deciding if he wants to make a career change. The classy Leonhard has always put his family, players and coaching peers first. He also has a deep, deep love for the game of football.
We’ll see. But if Leonhard does remain in coaching, I, like many fans, would like to see him as the 2023 Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator, a position he turned down two years ago.

Packers’ brass must make critical decisions now

Win and you’re in. Snooze and you lose...zzz…zzz…
The Green Bay Packers “little train thought it could,” but  failed miserably Sunday night. The train lacked firepower, steam and leadership as it tried in vain to climb the last mountain of the regular season.
The entire Green Bay crew lacked intensity, desire, tenacity and immediacy. Costly penalties, mental mistakes, poor passes, dropped balls, fumbles, questionable signal-calling and decision-making led to a disappointing 20-16 season-ending loss to the Detroit Lions.
The Lions were a much hungrier team. Coach Dan Campbell deserves a ton of credit. The Lions’ playoff hopes were dashed an hour earlier when the Seattle Seahawks won. However, Campbell made it perfectly clear his Lions still wanted to beat the Packers and finish the season with a 9-8 record, their first in umpteen years. They took the fight to Green Bay, controlled both lines of scrimmage, and proved they are no longer the NFC’s North Division doormat. The Lions did what they needed to win. The Packers didn’t, capping off an 8-9 season, their first sub-.500 season under fourth-year Coach Matt LaFleur.
On the other hand, the Packers’ loss was for the best. They would have been rolled by the San Francisco 49ers this weekend. Besides, who could watch another disappointing playoff game under LaFleur?
Here’s three key decisions Green Bay president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst should make quickly:
* Defensive coordinator Joe Barry must go despite what his buddy LaFleur says.  
* Give aging quarterback Aaron Rodgers a 30-day ultimatum to reach a decision about returning, retiring or requesting a trade to another team. That’s 30 days, absolutely not one day more.
* Waive veterans Randall Cobb, Marcedes Lewis and David Bakhtiari. The payroll must be cut and this is a good place to begin.

An open message to a longtime friend

Longtime friend Bruce Lindseth, from Onalaska, sent me an email recently.
“Lindy” and I exchange emails and texts every so often about deer hunting and golf, particularly the La Crosse County Amateur Golf Championships.
Lindy owns hunting land near elk territory in northern Wisconsin. Here’s Lindy’s latest note about his success during Wisconsin’s recent gun deer hunting season.

“Hope all is well with you and the family. Nothing on the meat pole this year, but we did get Andrew (his son) back from Colorado for opening weekend and Thanksgiving. The high point of the season was having two bucks chasing a doe come past me on the second Saturday. Smart deer stayed in the thicker pines offering not much of a shot. 
Trailcams were a little light as well, with a couple shots of elk being the highlights. Stay healthy and I'll see you around.”

Great to hear from you, Lindy,
No deer for youngest son Evan and me again this year. Third year in a row we were skunked after both of us getting bucks in 2019.
As you and I agree, we only care for a deer, whether buck or doe, to carry us over for the winter. I still haven’t figured out a way to cook, bake, fry or grill antlers……..
I have a couple of health issues to take care of, but know God is on my side.
Thanks for your note and God Bless you always.
Keep in touch - bob