Monday Notebook: Joey Connors' Hit, Coaching Pay Cuts? JI's Return And Gum

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - LSU v Central Florida

Photo: Getty Images

It was the hit heard around the...well, the country that day at least. Joe Burrow has become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He is headed to a second straight AFC Championship where he will once again face Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, where the Bengals won in overtime to advance to the Super Bowl. While many say Mahomes is the best young quarterback in the league behind veterans like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, Burrow might be pushing the argument about who sits behind Mahomes. But mention Joe Burrow around UCF fans and you might get a different reaction.

On January 1, 2019 UCF was trying for a second straight 13-0 season as the Knights played LSU in the Fiesta Bowl. UCF was an underdog and playing without McKenzie Milton, who had suffered his severe knee injury weeks earlier and was trying to beat Ed Orgeron's Tigers with first-year starter Joe Burrow. Burrow had a decent college season in 2018. He threw for 2,894 yards, 58% completion percentage and 16 touchdown passes with five interceptions. 

LSU went 9-3 in the regular season and lost 74-72 to Texas A&M in College Station, in a game that went seven overtimes. Despite a number of starters and a few reserves not playing in the game, The Tigers were favored over unbeaten UCF. Burrow was viewed as a solid starter but didn't wow people after transferring from Ohio State.

Down 7-3 in the first quarter, LSU was driving deep into UCF territory when Burrow threw outside and Brandon Moore stepped in front of the receiver and raced 93-yards for a touchdown to give the Knights a 14-3 lead. After the pick, Burrow tried to get outside to make a play on Moore but he was blindsided by a legal hit from Joey Connors.

Here's the clip of the play:

Burrow dropped and laid on the field as Moore scored and UCF celebrated. I remember watching the replay in the broadcast booth and seeing Burrow down and thought he was done for the day. But Burrow did get up and he went on to throw four touchdown passes and had 394 yards passing. It may have been a coming out party for LSU, who beat UCF 40-32 that day.

In 2019, Burrow put up one of the greatest seasons a college quarterback ever recorded. LSU went undefeated and won the national championship. Burrow shattered numerous NCAA passing records. He had a 76% completion percentage. He threw for 5,671 yards with 60 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Burrow won the Heisman Trophy and was the number one pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

He played in just 10 games in his rookie season and the Bengals went 2-7-1 in his starts before tearing an ACL and MCL. But Burrow started week one of the 2021 season and has been spectacular since. He already has five playoff wins and has won at Arrowhead in January before.

Joey Connors became a coach and was on Scott Frost's staff at Nebraska. I am not saying Burrow would not have gone on to become the quarterback he is today if he didn't take that massive hit from Joey Connors. I am saying his career took after that hit and from that day in Arizona four years ago I never questioned how tough Joe Burrow is...

They will never say it publicly but scream about it privately. College football head coaches can't stand the pay-for-play world we now live in. They are frustrated with negotiating with players, parents and agents. They are screaming at their collectives that they need more money. They are concerned about managing a locker room where players know what others are getting paid. But here's one thing you won't hear a coach say: "Hey, you can take some of my millions and give it to the players."

I am guessing any coach complaining to his collective, AD or anyone who will listen that he needs more money to pay players is not about offer up two million of his own to be shifted out of his pay to the players.

Anyone remember the coach who offered up that idea about 11 years ago?

At the SEC coaches meeting in Destin back in 2011, then South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier said he was all for paying players a $300 stipend each game. He then added "70 guys at $300 for the game is only $21,000." He even added names of other coaches he thought were on board with the idea including Nick Saban, Dan Mullen and Will Muschamp. Spurrier even added that he would be willing to pay the $300,000 out of his own pocket to cover the total per game payout.

Joke Phillips, then coach at Kentucky, said the coaches had a positive conversation but didn't expect to go any further. Then SEC commissioner Mike Slive said it was a nice gesture but that coaches supported the idea of full-cost scholarships.

Spurrier's idea never got any steam and coaches still talked the talk for years about paying players but never did anything about it. Well, here we are in 2023 and coaches are screaming inside their office walls about a system they believe is out of control and never having enough money. But don't hold your breath if you are waiting for a coach to suggest a change to this system and certainly not offering up some of their pay to add to the pot...

August 2, 2020 was the last time Jonathan Isaac played in an NBA game. He played just over 14 minutes in a Magic 132-116 win over the Sacramento Kings in a game played in the Disney bubble. It was his second game back after missing seven months due to an injury.

Now Isaac is set to return to play for a Magic team that is showing signs of what it can be with developing stars in Franz Wager and Paolo Banchero. After a 5-20 start, the Magic have gone 12-9. No one knows what the team will get from Isaac and no one should have any expectations. The fact he is playing again is a story itself. The sixth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft has played 136 career games in what is his sixth NBA season. There is little precedent to show Isaac can get to an elite level. If he becomes a role player he may help Orlando in its race to make the NBA's play-in round of the playoffs. But there is also the scenario where the Magic get to see what they have in Isaac and whether he can be part of their future. 

Once Isaac failed to play in 25 games last season his contract was amended. His $16M salary for 2022-23 drops to $7.6M for 2023-24 and has $0 guaranteed for 2024-25. There may be little market for Isaac if the team wanted to move on from him after this season but his salary is easily moveable and even if he stays on the roster, he is not impacting their salary cap in the remaining years.

Here's hoping Isaac has success at any level for Orlando. His journey back should be celebrated and the on-court results don't matter for now...

Final note: The first piece of gum was invented by John Curtis in the late 1840s. Curtis opened the first chewing gum factory in Portland, Maine in the 1850s

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