Area sports fans have a lot to be thankful for and on Thanksgiving it is only fitting that we show a little gratitude. So here is a thank you to:
Joe Kinnan -- A true genius. Along with his football knowledge, he has used the social media evolution to turn Manatee into a national power and brand name across the country. As with a vintage bottle of wine, he gets better with age.
Paul Maechtle -- He might be under appreciated these days because the Noles haven't reached the stature of bygone years. By dealing with a dwindling enrollment, the Southeast head football coach has done a magnificent job keeping things at a high level.
Greg Schiano -- To long suffering Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, this is the savior, Christmas and Thanksgiving all wrapped into one. And for Christmas, we hear Tampa residents are rushing to buy a set of toes on the line.
Joe Maddon -- The longtime resident scholar of the Tampa Bay Rays, is believed to be able to walk on water. But what he has done with a Rays' lineup that was put together with
old chewing gum, crumpled up dollar bills and disappearing glue is more impressive.
John Harder -- There are some who don't like this John Wooden disciple, but that's more out of jealousy and an unwillingness to put in the time he invests into his passion. He is a father figure to many who played for him and fixed a lot more things than zone defenses.
Jim Phelan -- Joe Kinnan's defensive mastermind behind the scenes, this curmudgeon genius has never seen an offense he couldn't stop. It's a reason Kinnan and his point-a-minute offense will never let him go even it means giving him a percentage of Manatee High.
J.P. Gordon -- All those smash-mouth football enthusiasts and Woody Hayes followers are thankful for the Bayshore coach. He is the area's link to the past. Here is a man who believes if you can't get 3.333444555 yards per carry, you don't deserve to win. So wave the red, white and blue. This is a true American hero.
Willie Taggart -- The Manatee County legend has laid down a path to success for every football player around here to follow. He even rescued those who fell off the road by offering them a second chance with his Western Kentucky football program.
Shawn Trent -- Some might surprised that the Lakewood Ranch athletic director/football coach made this list. But consider he has arguably made the two best hires in recent years with volleyball coach Perri Hankins and this year's new cross country coach Kristina Bratton, the most successful female runner Manatee County has ever produced.
We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge those in sports who should be thankful on this Thanksgiving, but perhaps are not aware of their good fortune or are keeping their feelings secret:
Skip Holtz -- Should be very thankful he is USF's football head coach and will likely return next year despite the fact he earns $2 million per year (second highest in Big East) and has literally run the football program into the ground, sending it to depths it never experienced until his arrival.
Doug Woolard -- Should be thankful he is still USF's athletic director after giving Holtz a contract extension through 2017, despite his flop last year when he went 1-6 in the Big East and lost seven of last eight games. One thing Woolard is not any more is a fan favorite. The big question is how long will he allow himself to be tied to the Holtz problem.
Around the nation
Aqib Talib -- Thankful there is a Bill Belichick, because if not for the willingness of the New England Patriots coach to open the NFL's bureau of lost souls, the bewildered Talib would be out of a job.
Bill Belichick -- Forbes magazine lists Belichick as the highest-paid coach in American professional sports, earning a cool $7.5 million annually. His first NFL job paid him less $50 per week, but no one is questioning whether he deserves what he gets today.
Josh Freeman -- Thankful Bucs shipped Kellen Winslow out of town so he doesn't have to hear the tight end whine when he doesn't get the ball.
Josh Freeman -- Here he is again, which makes us believe the Bucs signal caller has more to be thankful for than any other quarterback in the league.
He should be thankful for Doug Martin.
He should be thankful for Vincent Jackson
He should be thankful for Greg Schiano.
And most of all he should be thankful for everyone who is eligible to catch his passes.
Pro Football Focus calculated Freeman has had only 5 percent of his 320 passes dropped, which is tied for fourth best among the league's top 33 quarterbacks.
If you take those dropped passes (in the hands of the receiver that PFF says he should've been caught) and credit them as completions you have a different set of stats.
According to PFF's adjusted completion percentage, Peyton Manning is No. 1 in completion percentage (76.34 percent), and Freeman drops down to 33d with a 61.25 completion percentage. Unadjusted stats have Manning completing 68.5 percent of his passes and Freeman 56.4 percent
If you believe in these stats_-- and why shouldn't you? -- then Freeman should be taking every receiver on his team out for a special Thanksgiving dinner while the Denver pass catchers should be doing likewise for Manning and be grateful he is still throwing passes to them.
And thank you for bearing through all of this.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 1221. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.