The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always kind of a weird one, almost like a calendar-imposed purgatory. You’re recovering from one holiday while prepping for another. Enough people are on vacation that even if you’re working it feels low-stress. Meanwhile, everyone is talking like the current year is over, even when there are a few days left.
As far as sports go, this week traps us between the NBA’s Christmas Day showcase and college football’s New Year’s (Eve) spectacle of marquee bowl games. We’re stuck with some second-rate bowls and underwhelming NBA and NHL match-ups.
And with that enthusiastic intro, let’s run down what happened Tuesday. Welcome to The Cheat Sheet.
Rex and Rob Ryan get the boot in Buffalo
Rex Ryan was supposed to be the savior of the Buffalo Bills, the man who finally restored the franchise to relevancy.
That did not quite happen.
Instead, Ryan and his brother Rob, who served as Bills defensive coordinator, were fired Tuesday. Amusingly, the announcements were made in successive tweets.
Here’s how Rex Ryan stacks up against his most recent predecessors in Buffalo.
Ryan — 15-16, no playoff appearances
Doug Marrone — 15-17, no playoff appearances
Chan Gailey — 16-32, no playoff appearances
Dick Jauron — 24-33, no playoff appearances
Hey, at least he brought some improvement!
Still, Ryan’s firing represents yet another failure for one of the NFL’s most woeful franchises. The Bills have not made the playoffs since 1999, and in the 17 seasons since then they’ve had six coaches and hardly a whiff of a postseason appearance. Only once in that period have the Bills won more than half their games—they went 9-7 in 2014, after which Marrone walked out.
Although Buffalo feels more and more like a franchise that will never win, Ryan had some talent to work with and couldn’t mold it into a contender. The luster has fully worn off his coaching resume. After a hot start to his career, he’s now 41-54 over his past six seasons as a head coach, with the Bill and Jets.
It might be a little while before we see him in a head coaching role again.
Bowls happened, and they were pretty fun
There were four bowl games Tuesday, and while none of them looked too exciting on paper, they provided us some fun plays and close finishes.
In the Holiday Bowl, Minnesota (which, of course, decided not to boycott after all) defeated Washington State 17-12, thanks in part to a comedy of errors from the Cougars. The most ridiculous mishap was this could-have-been-interception/should-have-been-incompletion that turned into a pivotal touchdown.
The Military Bowl gave us featured the only ranked team in action Wednesday, but No. 24 Temple didn’t live up to its billing, losing to Wake Forest 34-26. The Demon Deacons may have benefited from not leaking their game plan to the opposing team this time.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl was closer than expected, with Army putting away North Texas 38-31 in overtime. This was a pretty exciting game, with lots of points and a big second-half comeback from North Texas, which entered the game with a 5-7 record. The win was Army’s eighth of the season, marking the Black Knights’ first eight-win campaign since 1996.
Finally, Baylor beat Boise State handily in the Cactus Bowl. Sometimes bowl season allows a mid-major to show it can compete with the big boys. Other times, a 10-2 team from the Mountain West loses to a 6-6 team from the Big 12 and you remember why mid-majors always have doubters.
– “Star Wars” fans suffered a blow Tuesday, as Carrie Fisher died. Fisher was, of course, most famous for portraying Princess Leia, but she’ll also be remembered for her wit and charm, as well as her advocacy for people with mental health issues. R.I.P.
– Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had a wonderful response to Terry Bradshaw’s comment that he was a better cheerleader than a head coach.
– Not much happened in the NBA on Tuesday, but Rockets forward Trevor Ariza waited outside the opposing locker room to confront Mavericks center Salah Mejri. There’s a lot of dispute over who said what.
– Also in NBA news, Lakers part-0wner Jeannie Buss and Knicks president Phil Jackson have ended their engagement. Buss went with the classic “it’s just not fair to you,” tact.
– Here’s a headline you don’t see very often: An NBA superstar is defending the referees after they were blamed for costing his team a game.
– How many wings can an entire football team eat in one sitting? Four thousand, apparently.
– Remember that Army-North Texas game we mentioned earlier? It was so intense that a North Texas running back puked on the field, causing him to miss a snap.
– Winnipeg Jets player Mark Scheifele will appear in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker. Hockey, ballet, what’s the difference?
– This is the cockiest shot in basketball history.
– Christmas is over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share cute Christmas videos.
One last moment of procrastination
Princess Leia was a badass, and so was Carrie Fisher.