The Daily Briefing Monday, September 18, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
Forbes says the average value of an NFL team jumped 8% since last year despite the gathering storm clouds. Kurt Badnehausen of Forbes:
The NFL and its players are butting heads at seemingly every turn regarding player discipline on and off the field. TV ratings declined 8% last season and dropped again during the NFL’s opening weekend. The league’s image is taking a hit from the long-term health problems of players, and some fans are getting turned off by the gladiatorial nature of the sport. Yet for all the bad press surrounding the NFL, the league remains a financial juggernaut.
The average NFL franchise is worth $2.5 billion, up 8% by FORBES’ count over last year. The Dallas Cowboys were the only NFL team worth $2 billion five years ago. Now all but five of the NFL’s 32 teams are worth at least $2 billion (the Buffalo Bills bring up the rear at $1.6 billion).
NFL owners are minting money thanks to hefty TV contracts and a favorable labor deal with the players. Operating profits (earnings, before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) were a record $101 million per team last season, with every team north of $40 million. The $3.2 billion in league-wide income is $500 million more than the combined earnings of teams in the NBA, NHL and MLB.
The Cowboys are the NFL’s most valuable team for the 11th straight year and the world’s most valuable sports franchise. America’s Team is worth $4.8 billion, up 14%, with profits of $350 million thanks to a booming merchandise business and the revenue opportunities at their new practice facility, The Star.
The Cowboys generate more than $150 million annually from sponsors. Owner Jerry Jones revolutionized the sponsorship template in the NFL two years after he purchased the team in 1993. He secured agreements with big brands Nike, Pepsi and American Express tied to his stadium, instead of the team, to get around the NFL’s control of sponsorships for clubs. Lawsuits flew before Jones settled with the NFL, and a new era was ushered in with teams actively selling sponsorships. The NFL’s 32 teams generated $1.4 billion in revenue last season from sponsorships, ad signage and stadium naming rights.
Jones renewed one of his landmark deals at the end of 2016 with a 10-year extension with PepsiCo. He is now actively selling sponsorships at The Star. The practice facility alone had $20 million in sponsor revenue last season — more than some teams generate overall from sponsors.
Jones has leveraged the Cowboys to launch new businesses. The Cowboys are the only NFL team to distribute their own merchandise. Silver Star has merchandise agreements with other entities like USC and generated more than $200 million in wholesale revenue last year. Jones owns one-third of Legends Hospitality, which manages ticket sales, concessions and sponsorships for clients like the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Dallas Mavericks and Notre Dame. A minority stake was sold in the spring, valuing Legends at $700 million.
One of Jones’ latest ventures is Blue Star Sports. Jones and his partners launched the company last year to roll up a number of youth sports apps and sports tech businesses. The NFL’s private equity arm, 32 Equity, invested in Blue Star this year. It is understood to be the first time the NFL invested directly in a company owned by one of its owners (our valuation for the Cowboys does not include Legends or Blue Star). The league has made other strategic investments like its $90 million stake this year in Fanatics, which operates the NFL’s online store.
Jones was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame last month for his role rebuilding the Cowboys into the sport’s preeminent business and brand. Jones has been the NFL’s ultimate power broker behind landmark deals like the NFL TV packages and the Rams move from St. Louis to Los Angeles.
The Patriots rank as the NFL’s second most valuable team at $3.7 billion, up 9% after their stunning 34-28 comeback, overtime victory in Super Bowl 51. The Patriots merchandise revenue increased by over 50% and the legacy value of the team’s winning brand will be felt with long-terms sponsorships for years. The team has a paid ($100 deposit) season ticket waiting list of over 70,000.
Rounding out the top five are the New York Giants ($3.3 billion), Washington Redskins ($3.1 billion) and San Francisco 49ers ($3.05 billion).
New and renovated stadiums are adding to team coffers. The Vikings opened $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium last year and venue revenue jumped more than $60 million, pushing the Vikings value up 9% to $2.4 billion (the Vikings had a 38% gain last year ahead of the opening).
The Falcons are worth $2.48 billion, up 19%, with the opening of their $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium last month. The Falcons have commitments for over $900 million in sponsorships at their new stadium, including naming rights.
The Dolphins’ $500 million renovation of Hard Rock Stadium, which is owned by the team, is paying dividends with the team now worth $2.58 billion. The Dolphins inked an 18-year, $250 million naming rights agreement with Hard Rock, the third richest in the sport. The stadium investment by owner Stephen Ross secured future Super Bowls in South Florida, including in 2020.
NFL teams are also set for a windfall from the relocations of the Rams and Chargers to Los Angeles, plus the Raiders expected move to Las Vegas in 2019 or 2020. The 29 non-moving teams will divvy up $1.65 billion with the Chargers and Rams on the hook for a $650 million fee and the Raiders at $350 million. The moving teams will make the payments over 10 years starting in 2019.
NFL teams generated $7.5 billion from media deals last season, or 57% of the league’s $13.2 billion in total revenue. Most of those deals are locked up past 2020, but there are opportunities for incremental revenue.
Amazon.com paid $50 million for the right to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this season. The price is a fivefold increase on what Twitter paid the previous year. CBS and NBC hold the broadcast rights to five Thursday Night games. A new deal is expected to be announced in the coming weeks at a significant bump to the $450 million CBS and NBC paid annually the past two seasons. Verizon’s $250 million per year pact for streaming rights to NFL games expires this year with an extension likely on the horizon at a big increase.
While ratings are off, the NFL is still the best way for advertisers to reach a large audience. Sunday Night Football has been the top-rated primetime program for the past six years. Monday Night Football regularly leads its time slot, while Sunday afternoons draw more than 20 million viewers. The Super Bowl is a ratings beast with 117.5 million tuning in this year, second-most all-time. Super Bowls represent 19 of the 20 most-watched programs ever, with the series finale of M*A*S*H in 1983 the outlier.
Forbes team values are enterprise values (equity plus net debt) based on the multiples of revenue of historical transactions, as well as offers to buy and invest in teams currently on the table. The values are adjusted for teams moving into new stadiums.
Revenue and operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) are for the 2016 season, net of stadium debt service. Revenue from non-NFL events, like concerts and stadium tours, is included when such revenue is pocketed by the team owner or an entity the owner controls. We gathered our information primarily from the teams, public documents, sports bankers, credit rating agencies, network executives, and media rights experts like SNL Kagan.
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A tale of two leagues – in both MLB and the NFL, a Boston team was found to have cheated around the edges of the rules, caught in a bit of gamesmanship (although perhaps the Patriots were not caught). The MLB scandal is already history while Deflategate seized the sporting world’s psyche for two years. Jason Mastrodonato in the Boston Herald:
The Red Sox appear to be getting off easy for their use of Apple Watches in the dugout to help facilitate sign-stealing efforts during a series against the New York Yankees earlier this season.
An undisclosed fine, which will be donated by the commissioner’s office for hurricane relief efforts, is all the Red Sox will receive, according to commissioner Rob Manfred, who released a statement announcing the verdict on Friday afternoon.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said he was relieved the probe had ended.
“I’m glad it’s over with and I’m satisfied the commissioner’s office did a thorough investigation,” Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski added the Red Sox did not impose any fines on anyone inside their organization.
“I’m sure this won’t happen again,” he said.
Manfred said recently at Fenway Park that he wanted to make sure his punishment would be a deterrent for teams thinking about taking illegal measures to steal signs. Stealing signs in itself is not illegal, but using electronic devices in the dugout to do so is against the rules.
Manfred noted that the Red Sox immediately stopped using the Apple Watches after they were told not to and they cooperated fully with the league, which led to a light punishment that will take away no competitive advantage from the Red Sox in the future. Neither their draft picks nor international bonus pool allotment was touched in the punishment.
“In assessing the significance of this violation, the investigation established three relevant points,” Manfred said in a statement. “First, the violation in question occurred without the knowledge of ownership or front office personnel. Second, when the Red Sox learned of the Yankees’ complaint, they immediately halted the conduct in question and then cooperated completely in my investigation. I have received absolute assurances from the Red Sox that there will be no future violations of this type. Third, our investigation revealed that Clubs have employed various strategies to decode signs that do not violate our rules. The Red Sox’ strategy violated our rules because of the use of an electronic device.”
Manfred said he notified all 30 clubs that future violations would result in more serious sanctions, such as the loss of draft picks. But the Red Sox clearly got off the hook easily for this.
No million dollar investigation. No NFL lies about what was found. No fuming and aggrieved owner. No courtrooms. It would seem at first blush that MLB handled it better, but in terms of getting the public to talk incessantly about your product, not so much.
Meanwhile, MLB has failed miserably to speed up its games. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com says a similar NFL project is showing promise.
The clock was moving. It began ticking the moment Martavis Bryant crossed into the end zone. It continued as Bryant took a knee and began to celebrate by “throwing dice” with Pittsburgh Steelers teammates Antonio Brown and Eli Rogers.
The clock kept moving as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin signaled for a two-point conversion attempt and as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger searched for the play on his armband. Then, as Roethlisberger was getting players in position on the line, it hit zero. Flags flew. The foul: delay of game on the Steelers.
That scene, in the first quarter of the Steelers’ 26-9 victory against the Minnesota Vikings, illustrated the impact of the NFL’s offseason efforts to improve the pace of games. One of its time-saving tools is an instruction for referees to start the 40-second game clock immediately after touchdowns, effectively limiting the length of celebrations even through restrictions on their content have been relaxed.
Average NFL Time Of Game
YEAR WEEK 1 WEEK 2
2015 3:03 3:15
2016 3:04 3:12
2017 3:02 3:04*
Through nearly two full weeks of the season, the result of the league’s efforts has been notable. The average time of games has been lower in Weeks 1 and 2 compared to the same time periods in 2015 and 2016, as the chart shows. Of Week 1’s 15 games, 10 finished in less than three hours, and no game in Week 2 has gone longer than 3:16. (The numbers do not include Sunday’s 1:05 weather delay in Denver.)
Although it’s difficult to unpack the decrease fully in a relatively small sample size, it should be attributed at least in part to changes that commissioner Roger Goodell suggested could shave as many as five minutes off an average time of game. (It reached 3 hours, 8 minutes last season.) The post-touchdown timing we saw Sunday in Pittsburgh is one of multiple factors likely at play. Among the others:
A new 40-second clock after PATs when there are no commercials. Per multiple officials who gave media seminars this summer, the clock begins the moment the kick or two-point conversion is complete. After 40 seconds, officials start a 25-second game clock for the kickoff. So in those situations, no more than 1:05 can pass between a PAT and a kickoff. If the kickoff team isn’t lined up when the 25-second clock starts, officials are instructed to put the ball on the ground and be prepared to call delay of game if it expires.
The timing of halftime has been reorganized to minimize what the league referred to as “discretionary” time. A countdown of 13:30 begins when the second quarter clock hits zero and ends when the 25-second clock for the third quarter kickoff begins.
Replays are reviewed in the league’s New York headquarters, a shift that over time the league believes will speed up the process. Referees are also permitted to announce the results before the television audience returns, if it is in commercial, rather than wait and cause further delay.
The NFL is more focused on the pace of game — moving through dead time faster — than reducing the actual length. But a successful effort would likely affect both.
The reality is that the NFL had seen its time of game creep up nearly six minutes in the past 10 years. (It was 3:02 in 2008.) An anecdotal Vox.com study revealed that game action occurs on roughly 8 percent of an average NFL broadcast, and the Wall Street Journal once estimated there to be action in 11 minutes of a three-plus-hour game.
The NFL isn’t going to change its product fundamentally with this initiative, but it might well prove successful in shaving down some of the most obvious factors in the slowdown. The Steelers’ penalty Sunday made the game a bit longer, but it should now serve as a valuable incentive to keep a better eye on the clock in future situations for both them and any other team watching.
In this case, Tomlin scrapped his plan for a two-point attempt. Rather than try for it from the 7-yard line, after a 5-yard penalty, he sent out place-kicker Chris Boswell for a 38-yard extra point.
The impact of some segments of this policy will be difficult to measure. The NFL is experimenting with split-screen commercials during replays, which could help bridge interest from the television audience, and is also minimizing the recurrence of two commercial breaks between scores and the first play from scrimmage after the kickoff. But the early numbers we can access are in, and they’re encouraging. We shall stay tuned.
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The NFL is starting to lose more of the folks who made the game great in the 60s and 70s. Over the weekend it was Jack Teele, a generalist front office operative of the kind you don’t see much anymore. Here’s a short tribute from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Jack Teele, a longtime NFL executive whose work included helping to organize the first Super Bowl and helping to popularize the legendary Los Angeles Rams defensive line of the 1960s and 1970s, has died.
According to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Teele died at age 87 on Wednesday.
During Teele’s 21-year stint as an executive with the Rams, he popularized the use of the nickname “Fearsome Foursome” to describe their line of Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy. (The first known use of that nickname, however, came in 1957 with a defensive line Grier played on with the Giants.)
Teele was also an organizer of the first Super Bowl, which at the time the league referred to with the clunky name of the NFL-AFL World Championship Game. Later in his career he spent time in the San Diego Chargers’ front office, and then he helped get the Barcelona Dragons of the World League of American Football off the ground.
An NFL vet, not easily impressed, wrote the DB with this terse summation:
Jack Teele was a legend in the NFL. Someone every team executive looked up to and admired.
Will the loss to the Steelers be the only game QB SAM BRADFORD, suddenly a superstar, miss? Ian Rapoport:
After a surgical, dart-slinging performance against the Saints to open the season, Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford hit the injury list with a cartilage issue in his knee.
Head coach Mike Zimmer complicated the return timetable a bit after Minnesota’s loss to the Steelers on Sunday by saying “Sam is fine. He might play one game from now, he might play six weeks from now. Either way, he’s fine.”
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Monday Bradford’s injury is believed to be a bone bruise, per a source informed of the situation. And according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, one game from now sounds more accurate — with a qualifier.
Rapoport reported on Good Morning Football Monday morning that “the belief was … this was a one-week injury for Bradford. The ACL is fine, the other ligaments are fine, this really was just a swelling and discomfort issue from taking a shot to his knee last week.
“The only thing is, they really don’t know how his knee is going to respond to treatment; how his knee is going to handle getting worked on all week and when he’ll be able to fully bend it like he needs to. They think it’s going to be one week. They think he’ll be under center next week. But until you go on a few days and see how the treatment takes hold, there’s really no way to know for sure.”
This was obviously a point of frustration for Zimmer, who told reporters Monday that Bradford is improving but remains day to day. “I don’t have a crystal ball,” he added, “… I wish I did, I’d call some games better.”
If Zimmer has learned anything during his tenure as head coach of the Vikings, it’s to treat his quarterbacks like Fabergé eggs. Bradford put on a clinic against New Orleans’ porous defense last Monday and, even if he’s 75 percent as effective next week against the Buccaneers, it’s good enough to keep Minnesota in the hunt for a playoff spot this year.
Bradford’s career has been a series of frustrating starts and stops; new offensive coordinators, head coaches, systems, schemes or injuries that end up sapping months from his career. While the Saints defense is not an accurate measure of comfort or progress for a quarterback, it was encouraging to see the Bradford that NFL scouts raved about for years. Zimmer has no choice but to bottle that hope and ensure that there are no kinks in Bradford’s drop back when he returns to the field. If that takes more than a week, so be it.
Further diagnosis on Garett Bolles: High ankle sprain/deep bone bruise. Out a couple weeks per source. #9sports
Just as Roger Goodell has never reversed himself on appeals of his rulings, Judge Amos Mazzant denies the NFL’s appeal of his ruling that RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT can play.
A federal judge in Texas has denied the NFL’s request to suspend his injunction that blocked a six-game suspension for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant on Monday was expected and came after the NFL had already moved on to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans with the same request.
In his ruling, Mazzant criticized the NFL for not waiting for his decision after using the argument of premature filings against the NFL Players Association in Elliott’s request for the injunction. The judge wrote that the “irony is not lost on the court.”
The NFL filed a request for an emergency stay with the appeals court Friday, and the union issued a response the next day. The league responded to the union’s filing Monday. All the filings make similar arguments from the original lawsuit the NFLPA filed on Elliott’s behalf in Mazzant’s court.
Meanwhile, the object of all this legal maneuvering acted like he was suspended for part of Sunday’s loss in Denver:
I don’t like what Ezekiel Elliott did Sunday. At all.
With the Cowboys down 18 to Denver in the middle of the third quarter, Elliott, the defending NFL rushing champion, ran a route from the left slot. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for the receiver just outside Elliott to the left, Dez Bryant; the ball went through Bryant’s hands, and Denver’s Chris Harris intercepted it. At the time of the interception, Harris was about five yards away from Elliott. Elliott immediately stopped and put his hands on his hips and didn’t chase Harris. Harris ran to his left, passing maybe four yards from Elliott at their closest point. Eventually, in a zig-zag course, Harris ran back to his right and was tackled by a Dallas lineman.
I give you the play-by-play to describe without prejudice exactly what happened on an important play in the eventual Denver rout of Dallas. Elliott stopped. Elliott did not chase the Denver interceptor, though he certainly would be instructed by any coach in the history of football to pursue the man who intercepted the ball until he was down. Elliott stood there with his hands on his hips. He did nothing.
It was a stunning lack of effort in the middle of a game that was still certainly in play. Dallas, down 28-10 at the time of the Harris interception, had six possessions after that. So often in cases like this, the player gets a pass. And very often, Dallas players get passes, because the Cowboys take chances on great players who have character or behavior or ethos flaws. Elliott might have all three of those. To give up on that play was horrendous. Dallas coach Jason Garrett has to do something about it—if he has not already. Owner Jerry Jones should back his coach 100 percent when Garrett does discipline Elliott. And if Garrett does not, then there’s something seriously wrong in Dallas.
It’s one thing to be frustrated. It’s another thing to quit. Elliott is a good football player who quit on a play. Don’t sugarcoat it. He quit on a play in the middle of a game that was still a game. And he should not be allowed to get away with it.
Here is what LaDainian Tomlinson said on NFL Network on Sunday night about Elliott. “He absolutely quit on his team today.”
Maybe Elliott was frustrated at his awful day (nine carries, eight yards). Maybe the pressure of his suspension and his court case to try to overturn the suspension are getting to him. Maybe he simply doesn’t handle failure or rejection well. The 42-17 loss to Denver was an eye-opener for Cowboys players and coaches and owner Jerry Jones. But that changes nothing about what we saw in the middle of the third quarter, with the game slipping away, and one of the best players on the team giving up on a play he could have tried to make. Inexcusable.
The Redskins left Los Angeles with a win over the great Sean McVay and his Rams, but also a pair of key players banged up. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:
The Washington Redskins posted their first victory of the 2017 season Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams but could have issues going forward as both starting TE Jordan Reed and starting RB Rob Kelley are day-to-day with injuries according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
The oft-injured Reed is dealing with a bruised chest but at this point it does not sound like the injury will keep him out of the team’s Sunday Night Football date with the Oakland Raiders in Week 3. The bigger issue continues to Reed’s broken toes. It seems doubtful he will get many practice reps this week as the team tries to manage that injury.
Kelley suffered an injury to his rib cartilage Sunday, also there is nor fracture as was initially feared. Coach Jay Gruden expects to have a good idea of Kelley’s Week 3 status by Wednesday’s practice. Kelley was tearing up the Rams’ defense before exiting Sunday’s game. Touted rookie Samaje Perine struggled in his place but passing-down back Chris Thompson was able to keep the offense rolling. The Redskins will need both Reed and Kelley to perform well if they are to have any shot at keeping up with the high-flying Raiders offense.
Can something be “slightly torn”? A tweet from Zach Klein of WSB:
NFL league source tells me Falcons LB Vic Beasley has a slight hamstring tear and is expected to miss at least the next month
Sean McDermott, the former DC of the Panthers, returned to Charlotte on Sunday and gave up not a single TD. And he lost to his successor, Steve Wilks, by a 9-3 score. Peter King likes the cut of Wilks’ jib:
When defensive coordinator Sean McDermott left for Buffalo be to be the head coach, Ron Rivera took about 10 seconds to decide on Wilks to run his defense. Wise move, if the first eight quarters are an indication. Wilks’s unit has allowed six points, zero touchdowns and just 292 total yards in Carolina’s 2-0 start.
And this from King:
Christian McCaffrey is finding a tough road in pro football, but it’s early. He’s averaging just 2.7 yards on his 21 carries. Amazingly, Carolina’s 2-0 … and averaging 2.9 yards per rush. Running was a huge focus for the team in the offseason.
TE GREG OLSEN had surgery on Monday for a broken foot. He’s probably out 6-to-8 weeks.
This from Peter King:
Until the other day, I had never seen this in my years covering the game: an NFL game book (the official statistical record of every NFL game) with only 10 players in a team’s starting lineup. (See screengrab below.) It happened a week ago, New Orleans at Minnesota, when the Saints defense played the first snap of the season with 10 men on the field. It appears that third corner De’Vante Harris somehow, some way, didn’t take the field for the first play of 2017. Harris played 44 snaps in the game. He apparently should have played 45. Hat tip to Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly and FanRag Sports for catching this first.
Left unsaid by King, the Vikings gained four yards on that play, a 4-yard pass to DALVIN COOK that presumably a corner could have been helpful on.
The Saints have allowed 1,021 yards on the other 134 plays they have tried to defense, apparently all of them with 11 defenders. That is an average of 7.62 yards allowed per play, which is godawful. We thought that would be a distant last, and it is 32nd in the NFL. But the mighty Patriots are a close 31st at 7.55.
Still, maybe the Saints should play with 10 more often.
Which also got the DB thinking. In the opener against the Vikings, S KENNY VACARO committed an aggregious personal foul penalty, but at the four-yard line. That’s only a 2-yard penalty for a shot to an opponent’s head. But what if Vacaro was penalized 15 plays, instead of the Saints 15 yards – and he couldn’t be replaced. What if a team had to defend with 10 (one short like in hockey) after a flagrant defensive personal foul for 15 plays (or 5 or some other amount)?
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Peter King notes that RB EDDIE LACY was a healthy scratch against San Francisco. “Talk about a career going downhill fast,” wrote King.
Ace rookie T GARRETT BOLLES is hurt, but not as bad as feared per Mike Klis:
Further diagnosis on Garett Bolles: High ankle sprain/deep bone bruise. Out a couple weeks per source. #9sports
Peter King was at The Black Hole for the lovefest between the Raiders and their Oakland fans as RB MARSHAWN LYNCH stole the show:
I’ve covered the NFL for 34 seasons, and I haven’t seen many love fests between fans and team like I saw inside this run-down old barn during Raiders 45, Jets 20. Did you see Marshawn Lynch, game in hand late, dancing on the sidelines like he was trying to win “America’s Got Talent?” Did you see the happiness? At one point in his dance, I looked down at the stands, and the people were swaying in unison, dancing with Lynch.
“It was just joy,” said GM Reggie McKenzie, still beaming in the locker room afterward. “So much fun. And it was all natural. It just happened. Football needs more fun like that.”
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Truthfully, it was going to be hard to hate the Raiders on Sunday if you were in the Coliseum, no matter how mad you were at Mark Davis, or Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, or Roger Goodell, or Vegas. Because the Raiders looked like Super Bowl contenders, and because Lynch did everything right all day, starting with bringing his much less famous backup backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington out on his flanks when he got the loudest ovation in years during pregame introductions.
That decision was pure Lynch. When he told Richard and Washington he wanted them to take the field on either side of him, Richard said: “I was like, ‘They cool with this?’ Lynch said, ‘It doesn’t matter what they say. You boys are coming out with me.’ That just got me pumped from the get-go.”
The Jets have a good run defense but got gashed by long gainers here. No one should be surprised positively or negatively by Lynch’s pedestrian rushing line Sunday—12 carries, 45 yards—because he was the tough-yardage back. Richard and Cordarrelle Patterson, the hybrid wideout/back in Oakland’s offense, were the changeup pitchers, and they combined to rush nine times for 115 yards. Near the end of the first half, the Raiders nursing a 14–10 lead at the Jets 4, Lynch was the lone setback behind Derek Carr. Everyone knew where the ball was going. Lynch over right tackle in a pileup; no gain. Lynch slamming behind left tackle Donald Penn; gain of two. On third down, with interior linemen Gabe Jackson and Rodney Hudson parting the Jets’ big middle, Lynch torpedoed through the hole for a touchdown.
The Raiders have some great weaponry. Carr to the back shoulder of Michael Crabtree is football artistry. Patterson as a back, a la Ty Montgomery, is a revelation. Amari Cooper is the franchise receiver. Richard is sneaky fast and instinctive.
But no matter how many weapons you’ve got, you’re never going to win everything without being able to make third-and-2s with some consistency. Lynch is 31, and he had 600 days between NFL games with his two-season retirement. So who knows how long he can last playing at the level he’s played for the first two weeks? He is a dangerous, physical back. You can’t buy 16-game insurance for backs like that. So offensive coordinator Todd Downing will continue to spread around the carries ; Lynch is on pace for a 240-attempt season, and the Raiders would probably like that to be a little less. Whatever, it’s no sure thing Lynch will make it through a full season, especially considering how battered he was late in his Seattle career.
However long it lasts, Lynch is going to love it. For 45 seconds in the fourth quarter, the game clinched, Lynch danced on the Raiders sideline to a rap song called “Oakland,” by Vell featuring D.J. Mustard. The team gave him his space, he danced with the same vigor with which he ran over Jets defenders earlier in the afternoon, and the crowd went absolutely batcrap.
“After that,” linebacker Marquel Lee told The MMQB’s Kalyn Kahler, “the crowd was ‘turnt,’ and we were ‘turnt’ because of the crowd.”
“It is Marshawn being Marshawn,” Penn said. “That’s him. He’s playing in front of his hometown team. If you grew up cheering for a team, and you get to play for them, I mean, wouldn’t that make you so happy?”
Lynch spoke after the game, a rarity for him. But this response from the Raiders’ post-game quote sheet was more Lynch than anything he uttered.
Q: Was it what you imagined it would be like in your head?
Lynch: (Nods head yes.)
And so what of the relationship between team and city, team and fans, fans and their bittersweet love/hate that Mark T. of San Lorenzo tried to put into words in the parking lot before the game? I will add that Mark T. wasn’t the only one we met who is conflicted about the situation.
The quarterback is too.
“Our true fans are hurting just like we are,” Carr told me just off the locker room, in a taping for The MMQB Podcast With Peter King set to air this week. “The city of Oakland is hurting because we’re leaving, and we’re hurting because we’re leaving, you know? But that’s out of our control, that’s out of the players’ control, it’s out of our fans’ control. And what you see is people who are hurting are coming together. We’re not turning on each other. I think there’s really a bigger story there … amongst people.”
“The fans were incredible today,” Penn said. “I didn’t sense they were thinking about Vegas today. Did you?”
Not for the three hours that counted in the standings. Lynch scored. The franchise players played like franchise players. The Raiders put up 45 in their home opener. The crowd, as Lee said, was turnt. There might be better teams in the NFL in 2017—and I stress might—but there won’t be more compelling ones.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Chargers first game as a home team in Los Angeles in something like 57 years saw TE ANTONIO GATES make history with his 113th, setting a career record for a tight end.
Not many folks saw it – by design. Arash Markazi of ESPN.com samples the atmosphere:
As Younghoe Koo’s potential winning field goal sailed through the air, the crowd of 25,381 at the StubHub Center, the temporary home of the Los Angeles Chargers, roared as the cannon that fires whenever the Chargers score went off.
There was only one problem with this scene for the Chargers — Koo’s field goal was wide right and the Miami Dolphins won 19-17.
Struggling kicker Younghoe Koo has made just one of four field goal attempts thus far, and Chargers coach Anthony Lynn didn’t rule out bringing in others to compete for the job this week.
For the second week in a row, Koo missed a field goal attempt at the end of the game as the crowd celebrated, but this time his miss occurred at home, or at least what will serve as the Chargers’ home for the next three seasons.
“I thought there was great energy in the stadium,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said after the game. “Obviously the loudest roar came at the end after the missed field goal. That’s where you really got to see how many Dolphins fans there were. I heard the roar before I saw the official’s signal. I wasn’t sure which roar it was.”
ESPN.com measured the noise levels at the StubHub Center throughout the Chargers’ first regular-season game at the StubHub Center, and Koo’s missed field goal attempt and the ensuing crowd reaction following the Chargers’ last second loss registered the loudest volume of the day at 106.1 A-weighted decibels (dBA).
For comparison’s sake, the average volume during an NFL game is estimated to be in the mid-90-decibel range (the average at StubHub Center on Sunday was about 80), and the Kansas City Chiefs hold the noise record for the loudest outdoor sports stadium, registering a 142.2, which is similar to being on an aircraft carrier deck.
There were approximately 12 moments in the game in which the noise level at StubHub Center broke 100 dBA, and Dolphins fans accounted for five of them, including Cody Parkey’s go-ahead 54-yard field goal with 1:05 left. The Chargers, however, are no strangers feeling like the road team when playing at home. That was often a point of contention for Chargers players during the end of their time in San Diego. Home games against teams like Miami, Oakland, Kansas City and Denver, all teams they are playing at StubHub Center this season, often felt like away games.
“I think it’s always been a little bit of something you battle,” Rivers said. “We battled it down in San Diego — I think just obviously the weather, the climate lends to that. If I was somewhere else and was a fan picking a road game to go to, this would be a destination. We’ve always had to battle that a little bit more. I think that’s something [where] if we get going and put some wins together — we’ve got to get one first — then we’ll see more and more of our fans.”
It wasn’t that the Chargers fans didn’t make noise during the game. The second- (105.9) and third- (105.8) loudest sounds the crowd made occurred when Melvin Ingram and Chris McCain sacked Jay Cutler on a pair of third-and-goal situations in the second half and forced the Dolphins to kick a field goal. The fourth loudest (105.1) came when Philip Rivers hit Antonio Gates for his record-breaking 112th touchdown as a tight end.
“I thought the energy was good in the stadium, and I thought our fans were good,” Rivers said. “They were loud on the third downs and they cheered at all the right times. The Dolphins fans weren’t loud to where in third downs, we had a hard time operating or anything like that. It was unique, but it wasn’t by any means a disappointment as a player coming out there.”
Rivers’ bar for a good home crowd is fairly low considering he and the Chargers were forced to resort to silent counts during many home games over the last two seasons.
“The Dolphins traveled well today,” Chargers center Matt Slauson said. “But we didn’t have to use our silent count, so that was nice. I think it was a good crowd, [there was] a lot of energy out there.”
The Dolphins have a surprising amount of fans in Southern California (or willing to travel to LA). They played last year before quite a few Aqua and Orange dressed fans at the Rams in the Memorial Coliseum, as well.
“The Chargers are hemmed in by anger from the south and apathy from the north.”
—Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, in a perfect representation of the Chargers’ reality now that they’re playing before scattered empty seats in a 27,000-seat stadium in a southern L.A. suburb.
Desert to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the south – and a whole bunch of Raiders fans amongst them.
Bad news for the Ravens – ace G MARSHALL YANDA is done for the year with a knee injury.
Peter King on the offensive shakeup in Cincinnati:
I think if you think the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese precipitously in Cincinnati—Bill Lazor takes over the offensively inept 0-2 Bengals—you’re probably right. But there almost had to be a sacrificial person here, and it wasn’t going to be Andy Dalton, and it’s too early for it to be Marvin Lewis. (Though I won’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Paul Guenther or offensive line coach Paul Alexander takes the head-coaching job if the Bengals start something like 0-6 or 1-8.) But an offensive shakeup at this point is smart. The Bengals’ first unit has gone 29 straight drives without a touchdown (four preseason drives in Week 3, 25 in the first two regular-season games); Cincinnati’s once-potent offense has scored 28 points or more once in the past 11 regular-season games. Plus: Once your stars start to openly question the direction of the offense, particularly mild-mannered team guys like A.J. Green (18 targets, 10 catches in two 2017 games), management’s going to notice.
Ten thousand straight plays for T JOE THOMAS! Peter King:
Joe Thomas, in this day and age, is absurd.
The streak of consecutive snaps played by the franchise left tackle for Cleveland is now 10,062. It’s comical to suggest that any position player has ever played every snap of every game over a decade or more. Your shoe splits and you have to come out for a snap. You get a busted face mask that has to be fixed. You get stepped on. Something. Not Joe Thomas.
Five things about the streak you should know:
1. No one acknowledged it Sunday in Baltimore when Thomas played his 10,000th straight snap. It happened on a nine-yard Isaiah Crowell run … to the right side, on the fourth offensive play of the game. “We were in the middle of the game,” Thomas told me afterward. “It was just a regular play, like so many others. Not like you ignore it, but no one really says anything. It wasn’t ’til later in the game that a couple of guys on the Ravens said something. Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley, they both congratulated me on the field.”
2. He’s played through a grade-two LCL tear, three MCL strains, and two high ankle sprains. “In 2012 I got the LCL tear mid-game in the last game of the year, and I was able to hobble through it. If it wasn’t the last game, I might have missed some time.”
3. The streak came closest to ending on Oct. 12, 2014. Near the end of a rare blowout win over Pittsburgh, the Browns were subbing in backups to rest vets. Earlier in the game, center Alex Mack broke his leg, so there was more motivation to keep everyone else on the line healthy. “Yeah, the famous Vinston Painter incident,” Thomas said, laughing, on Sunday. “I was not hurt, but they sent Vinston in to replace me. I think they were just paranoid after Alex Mack got hurt. But Vinston got out there, and I wasn’t leaving.” By that time—he began to realize the rarity of playing every snap of every game in 2012 or 2013—Thomas knew he was doing something great.
4. The ethos. “How did it happen? To be honest, I never set out to do it. It just sort of happened. It’s ingrained in you as a young athlete: ‘Get up! Play the next play!’ It’s the job. You know, obviously, the losing hurts. I’m human. But something I’ve found comfort in is, Just do your job. I’ve got people in my family who get up and go to work every day and they don’t complain. Regardless of the record, I get to play a kids’ game. I am blessed to do what I love to do so much.”
5. What does it mean? Thomas tries to not overthink this. “I just hope it means I’m a regular guy who gets up every morning and goes to work, and plays as hard as he can, and is a good teammate. I hope that’s what they say about me.”
The Browns are 4-35 since Thanksgiving 2014, and they’re on their way to another lost season. It is not Thomas’ fault. The walk-in Hall of Famer (and if you know me, you know how much I hate pronouncements like that—but this one is easy) has now played every snap of his 11-year career, and passed snap No. 10,000 Sunday at Baltimore. He plays the game right, and he makes no excuses, and he doesn’t want pity because he’s on a consistently lousy team. Celebrate Joe Thomas.
A walk-in Hall of Famer who is 48-114 in his career? What would the Browns’ record be if they had not had a “walk-in Hall of Famer” at a critical position for those 162 games? Could someone have gone 48-114 at any other position and been a “walk-in Hall of Famer”?
For what it’s worth he’s allowed 38 sacks as Stats, Inc. reckons and has been flagged for 17 accepted holding penalties.
Unlike Thomas, WR COREY COLEMAN will miss some time. He broke his hand against the Ravens. An OL might be able to play with a broken hand, not a guy whose job is to catch the football.
Jim Wyatt tweets on the second half in JAX:
The @Titans scored 31 points in the 2nd half Sunday — the most 2nd H points in “#Titans era” & most for franchise in 2H since at least 1991.
Not sure about the wording, a ProFootballReference.com search yields this:
1971-12-19 vs. San Diego 42
1965-10-24 vs. Kansas City 38
1989-09-24 vs. Buffalo 31
1991-09-01 vs. Raiders 31
2017-09-17 @ Jacksonville 31
So, it is the most since 1991 when they also had 31 in a second half against the Raiders. They have not scored more in a second half since they scored 42 in 1971 (which is the record) against San Diego. In that game against the Chargers, the Oilers trailed 23-7 at the half before winning 49-33.
Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on the curious case of LB LAWRENCE TIMMONS who made himself scarce over the weekend.
The Dolphins have waited to say anything about the Lawrence Timmons situation, but apparently filed a missing persons report with police in Los Angeles this weekend.
According to TMZ, the Dolphins were concerned when Timmons wasn’t in his hotel room Saturday night at bed check, and began looking for him.
When a round of calls to friends and family turned up nothing, they filed a missing persons report. He was apparently found by police at the Los Angeles International Airport, where he was attempting to fly back to Pennsylvania to attend to a family matter.
The report says a Dolphins official met him there and left with Timmons.
So far, all we know is that his agent called it a personal matter, and that Timmons reportedly wants to return to play. Whether the Dolphins are fine with that, or whether Timmons is fine, remains to be seen.
And this update on Monday from Mike Florio:
The mystery of Dolphins linebacker Lawrence Timmons continues to deepen not resolve.
Despite reports suggesting that Timmons will return to the Dolphins and, presumably, everything will continue as if nothing happened, the Dolphins have made no decisions about what to do with Timmons, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with a $5.5 million signing bonus earlier this year and a whopping $11 million fully guaranteed at signing.
It would be unwise to cut Timmons over the incident, given the sizable guarantee. They could, at most, suspend him four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team, which would wipe out all future guarantees and permit recovery of a portion of the signing bonus. They then could cut him, if that’s what the organization decides to do.
Coach Adam Gase addressed the situation with reporters on Monday, but didn’t really provide any new information.
“I have nothing to add for what I have right now,” Gase said. “Really just gathering a lot of information.”
Gase added that he hasn’t spoken to Timmons, and that he has “no idea” whether Timmons was even in the building. It became clear through Gase’s comments that he’s far more concerned about the players who capped a trying 10 days of hurricane-related delays and relocations and turmoil by fighting for a win, and that in turn he doesn’t have much sympathy for guys who failed to participate.
“Be on time and play hard,” Gase said regarding his rules. “I don’t know if that’s real hard.”
Asked about his tolerance level for violations of those principles, Gase said, “What do you think? I got two rules. It’s not that hard.”
It sounds like it will be hard for Timmons to get back in the good graces of the team and, more specifically, his coach.