Happy Monday and congratulations to those who are still crushing it on a long weekend. We take no days off here on this newsletter train (other than, you know, the two days a week we take off) so I'm here to deliver your sports news this morning. If you didn't feel loved on Valentine's Day yesterday, you should today.
There's been some insane weather across the country these past few days and I hope it hasn't affected you quite as much as it affected the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 yesterday. I couldn't believe my eyes when I turned on the TV around midnight last night and saw the race was still going. Shoutout to my colleagues Shanna McCarriston and Andrew Julian, who did a great job weathering the storm (literally?) and working overtime to provide some great Daytona coverage on the site -- we'll get to some of that coverage here shortly.
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We'll also discuss a certain team that could be the top landing spot for J.J. Watt, who was cut by the Texans shortly after we sent out Friday's newsletter, plus some golf and GOAT talk to round out the morning slate.
Let's get the week going then, huh?
📰 What you need to know
1. Where will J.J. Watt play next season? 🏈
After a decade in Houston, J.J. Watt's tenure with the Texans is over. The team granted Watt his release on Friday after the star pass rusher asked to move on in hopes of contending for a Super Bowl. It shouldn't come as a much of a surprise that a number of teams have already expressed interest in Watt's services over the weekend, but is there a team leading the ... pack? (that's an elite play on words, in case you didn't catch it. 😎)
- The Packers are reportedly among one of many teams that have reached out with interest in signing Watt
- Watt is from Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin and grew up cheering for the Packers
- Money could be an issue. The Packers were able to clear around $8.3 million in cap space thanks to David Bakhtiari restructuring his contract, but GB is still projected to be over the cap
Green Bay could be a great fit for Watt both as a Wisconsin boy and a veteran looking to win his first title. The Packers have made two straight NFC Championship games and could use the help on the front seven, but how effective (and healthy) will a 32-year-old Watt be next year and beyond?
He played 16 games this season for just the second time in the last five years and recorded only five sacks -- his fewest total in a 16-game season since his rookie year. Still, his 101 sacks rank 2nd in the NFL since he entered the league in 2011 and he's tops in tackles for loss (172) and QB hits (281) in that span.
It seems like he could still help the Packers, but will they get priced out? Or is he interested in taking a hometown discount to play for the team he grew up idolizing? We may find out sooner rather than later since Watt doesn't have to wait until the start of the new league year to ink a deal.
Meanwhile, how insane is it that the Houston sports scene has lost: Jadeveon Clowney, DeAndre Hopkins, Watt, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, George Springer and possibly Deshaun Watson in just a matter of a few years? Tough stretch.
2. Michael McDowell wins the Daytona 500 🏁
Yesterday was a lonnnnnng day for anyone who wanted to take in the Daytona 500, as inclement weather and early crashes forced major delays. But the 2021 season-opening race featured a wild finish as a reward to those who were patient enough to stick it out until the end ... and the winner was a bit of a shock.
- The race began at 3:05 P.M. ET and did not end until after midnight (a major wreck on Lap 14 forced a caution flag that preceded a weather delay that lasted more than five hours)
- Denny Hamlin was gunning for his third straight Daytona win and led a race-high 98 of 200 laps but finished fifth
- Michael McDowell entered the race as a 100-1 long shot to win and didn't lead until the final moments
- A fiery crash near the finish line propelled McDowell to his first career Cup race win
That crash during the final lap was pretty scary in the moment, but luckily everyone seemed to be OK and all drivers managed to climb out of their cars relatively unscathed.
It's also worth noting that Bubba Wallace made his debut in the No. 23 car for 23XI Racing -- the new team co-owned by Hamlin and Michael Jordan -- and he finished 17th.
There's a little bit of irony in the fact that weather turned the event into such a mess. This was the largest sporting event in terms of attendance since the pandemic sent the sports world into a lockdown last March. Over 30,000 fans were in the stands (and a few thousand more in the infield) for the race yesterday.
3. Daniel Berger eagles for the win at Pebble Beach 🏌
While I was bundling up and spreading buckets of salt across my frozen driveway this weekend, there was some entertaining golf being played in the sun at Pebble Beach. It's moments like these that make me wonder if I got into the wrong line of work.
A man who clearly got into the right line of work is Daniel Berger, who won this weekend's Beach Pro-Am and did so in pretty spectacular fashion. The course's 18th hole was an adventure for Berger over the weekend but, luckily, he managed to save his best golf for last on Sunday and it set up a tremendous finish:
- Berger double-bogeyed the 18th on Saturday, taking him out of the final grouping on Sunday
- However, Berger was co-leader heading to the final tee box on Sunday and eagled the 72nd hole to clinch the tournament
- Berger now has nine top 10s in his last 19 events (including two wins) dating back to last year's Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Berger said the long putt he drilled on the 18th green Sunday was the best putt he's ever hit in his life, and what a spot for it, huh?
You can find a full breakdown of the leaderboard from our Kyle Porter right here.
4. Ranking the greatest athletes of all time 🏆
Ever since Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl title last weekend, there's been plenty of GOAT (greatest of all time) chatter. And while there's basically no question that Brady is the greatest to ever do it in the NFL at this point, there's been lots of comparing him to other all-time greats.
Is he the best team sport athlete ever?
In that spirit, our Jeff Kerr has taken it upon himself to rank the all-time GOATs and determine where Brady fits in among them. Here's Kerr's top five:
- Michael Jordan: Jordan won six titles (and six NBA Finals MVPs) in the span of eight years. His five regular season MVP awards are tied with Russell for the second-most in NBA history as well
- Babe Ruth: He won seven championships, led the American League in runs eight times, home runs 12 times (twice past the age of 35), RBI five times, and walks 11 times. He finished his career as a .342 hitter with 714 home runs (3rd all-time), 2,214 RBI (2nd all-time), 2,174 runs scored (4th all-time), .690 slugging (1st all-time) and 1.164 OPS (1st all-time)
- Tom Brady: He's got the most rings in league history and has won Super Bowl MVP five times (in addition to winning league MVP three times). Brady also has the most passing TDs in history (581) and the second-most passing yards (79,204)
- Bill Russell: The Celtics great has the most championships of any athlete in the four major North American sports. He made the NBA Finals in all but one of his 13 seasons in the league, winning 11 rings. He also won league MVP five times
- Wayne Gretzky: The Great One won four Stanley Cups but his true greatness is in the absurdity of his statistical totals. He owns every NHL scoring record -- goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857). If you took away all of his goals, he would still have the most points in NHL history. He also won a record nine Hart trophies as league MVP
You can find the full list (along with some analysis) right here. It's important to remember that the GOAT debate comes up so often and is so widely discussed because it's something that nobody can ever seem to agree on. Every sports fan has their pick and they'll go to war for their guy (or gal), so I can only imagine how much of a disaster Jeff's mentions must be right now.
📝 Odds & Ends
- UCF wants to hire ex-Auburn coach Gus Malzahn to take over the program
- Johnny Manziel returned to the football field to play QB in the new Fan Controlled Football league
- The Eagles are expected to cut or trade TE Zach Ertz, possibly in the Carson Wentz deal
📺 What to watch tonight
🏀 No. 9 Virginia vs. No. 17 Florida State, 7 p.m. | FSU -1 | TV: ESPN
🏒 Flames vs. Canucks, 10 p.m. | VAN +110 | TV: ESPN+
🏀 Heat vs. Clippers, 10 p.m. | LAC -5.5 | TV: NBA TV
🥇 The best thing I saw this weekend
Buccaneers GM Jason Licht had the perfect response to the woman who asked Tom Brady to apologize for throwing the Lombardi Trophy during the Bucs' championship parade.