Dust off those old Michigan No. 16 jerseys — John Navarre is back in town. As of yesterday, Navarre is the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, and that means that — come Sunday, when the Cardinals travel to Detroit — Navarre will be running the show.
And the move was announced in what may well go down as one of the most overly dramatic, blown-out-of-proportion press conferences in the history of American sports. You can thank Arizona coach Dennis Green for that.
It wasn’t enough for Green to say Navarre was starting. It wasn’t enough to say Navarre had been doing a nice job on the scout team for the Cardinals, or that it’d be nice to have him play in front of his fans from Michigan.
Nope — instead Green unloaded a rant that would’ve made every American politician from Bush to Washington grin.
“Isn’t that the American dream?” Green said in a press conference yesterday. “Isn’t the American dream all about opportunity? If one guy hasn’t worked out and another guy hasn’t worked out, why shouldn’t the other guy get a chance?”
Well, Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Johnny Navarre is getting a start! Ask not what the Cardinals can do for you, Johnny, ask what you can do for the Cardinals!
Man, Navarre thought he knew what pressure was when he played for Michigan? Now, he’s the poster child for everything America has stood for since it was founded in 1776. Now that’s pressure.
But before Green unfurls a 40-foot American flag and bursts into “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” let me be one of the first to toss my congratulations out to Navarre.
In all seriousness, the guy endured all sorts of criticism in Ann Arbor — and broke just about every Michigan passing record before concluding his career with a Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. And along the way, while everyone was watching to see if he would screw up, Navarre actually turned into a pretty good quarterback.
So hopefully, Navarre will be able to show off his strong throwing arm and the moxie he developed while playing at Michigan. With his first game coming against the porous Lions’ defense, he’ll probably toss four or five touchdowns and get another start next week.
And, if not, he can always be Green’s campaign manager.
On the other end of the rabble-rousing speech spectrum, Texas coach Mack Brown also put forth his best “I’m-a-head-coach, so-let-me-pretend- I’m-running-for-president” effort while lobbying to get Texas in the BCS after the Longhorns’ win over Texas A&M on Friday.
“If you’ve got a vote, vote for us,” Brown said. “I’m asking you to do that, and I’m asking everyone across the nation. This team deserves to be in the BCS. They deserve to go more than some teams that are being talked about.”
After that, I think he mumbled, “I’m Mack Brown and I approve this message,” but I can’t be sure.
Regardless, someone needs to tell Brown to lock up his mouth and throw away the key. First off, Texas didn’t even win its conference championship — beat Oklahoma and then we can talk BCS.
And secondly, Brown didn’t do the Longhorns any favor by popping open the bottle of whine. It’s not as if voters across the country were sitting at home thinking, “Well, I was going to vote California ahead of Texas … but since Mack begged, let’s put Texas in the national title game.”
The whole BCS system is based on the combination of two human polls and several computer rankings. In both cases, there are inherent flaws in the way things are run — like the fact that a loss in September doesn’t reflect nearly as much as a loss in November to the human polls. So as long as this is the system, then some teams are going to go home disappointed.
It’d be better if they didn’t have to go home embarrassed by their coaches, as well.
To head back to the sight of Navarre’s pending debut — Ford Field — for a moment, the organizers of the Motor City Bowl cannot be too thrilled that Northwestern decided to head to the islands of Hawaii for a 12th game this season.
That’s because the Wildcats got shredded by quarterback Timmy Chang to fall to 6-6 on the year, making them ineligible for a bowl. Combine that with Michigan State’s implosion at Penn State on Nov. 20, and it means that the Big Ten won’t be able to fill its seven bowl tie-ins this season.
Last year’s Motor City Bowl had an attendance of 51,286 — the largest in the bowl’s seven-year history. And the attendance numbers have increased every year since the game’s inception. But that streak is now in jeopardy, thanks to Northwestern.
The 2004 version of the Motor City Bowl will now pit the MAC champion (Toledo or Miami OH) against an at-large team — likely Boston College or Connecticut out of the Big East. The Boston College-Toledo Motor City Bowl in 2002 drew more than 45,000 fans, but I’d be surprised if Boston College’s fans would be thrilled with a second trip to Detroit in three years.
Landing the Big Ten as an affiliate was a huge boon for the Motor City Bowl last year — it’s the only bowl game easily accessible for Big Ten fans and their teams. But with Northwestern’s fall, it’s going to be quite a challenge for the Ford Field executives to continue building this game this year. It’s looking like a step back for the Motor City Bowl.
Maybe they should get Dennis Green to tell people it’s their American duty to come to the game.
Chris Burke can be reached at email@example.com.