AROUND THE NFL
So how do the players feel about the NFL’s possible push for 18 games in a season?
There has been a supposition that they don’t like it, that they don’t want the wear and tear of two more games, even if they did make something like 15% more cash.
But Phil Simms says that’s not true. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Players say they don’t want 18 games. The players quite possibly do.
The NFL Players Association, the union that represents all players, consistently has taken the position that there will not be an agreement to expand the regular season. One former player believes that, if all players had a chance to vote on the issue, they’d welcome two more games.
“More money,” Super Bowl XXI MVP Phil Simms said on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. “More game checks. It’s pro-rated. Give me two more game checks. If you put it up to a vote by the NFL players, it’ll overwhelmingly go over and say yes. Some of the elite quarterbacks and a few players, no. Well yeah, you’re making 25 and 30 million. But the guys that are making a million or less . . . two more game checks? Are you kidding me? Think about what those checks look like and how much that is and how much of a difference it makes in their lives.”
The elder Simms, affectionately known by his son as “Big F–cker” (it’s an obscure Green Mile reference), realizes that the players may not get the chance to vote on it if the folks who run the Players Association never give them the opportunity.
“The players probably won’t have much say in it. It’ll probably be a select few players with their [executive] committee and DeMaurice Smith,” Phill Simms said. “If you put it up to vote, there’s no doubt the players would vote to go 18 games. I do think it’s heading that way. Just think when the owners get into all of this. Two more weeks of TV money. TV would want it too. Just because it’s the greatest thing on every network. I never thought it would come about but I agree with a lot of what you guys said [Tuesday] morning [regarding a smaller preseason] . . . .Last year, you know I love watching preseason games. It was awful. Here’s what was awful about it. One, nobody was playing. Two, you got all these young guys on the offensive side and they’re trying to do their thing. Like you said, there’s a couple guys that can make a team. Then the defense is over there and the defensive coordinator doesn’t care. ‘Oh these guys are going to make the team let’s just blitz them all.’ Of course the offensive guys get very few reps in practice and the games are just total disasters in my eyes. I probably watched less preseason football last year than I ever have. There are some years where I watch almost every one of the games because I just want to see the guys, got to get a feel.”
Still, Phil Simms believes the NFLPA eventually will relent on expanding the regular season and shrinking the preseason.
“It’s on its way out,” Phil said. “There’s no question. This 18-game schedule definitely will be part of the NFL when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement comes around.”
It’s happening because it’s clear that the owners want it. They’ve wanted it for years, and they now see the opening to get it. Consider this anecdote from the Big Effer.
“I went to practices a few years ago when it was kind of starting to arise, this 18-game schedule,” Phil said. “And I was really speaking out against it on Showtime and everywhere. I had owners come up to me in practice and go ‘Why do you hate us so much?’ And I’m like ‘Whoa, what do you mean?’ ‘Well you don’t want 18 games, why are you so against it?’ And I go, ‘Well, I guess I’m just against it for the players.’ And they were taking it personal. It just tells you it’s a gold mine right now for everybody really. The players, the networks, the owners. . . . It’s going to work for all. There’ll be an extra two games and talk about the physical well-being of the players, I don’t think it’s what we think it is.”
Phil would know. When he played, there was a much greater degree of brutality and unnecessary violence. Over the past decade, the evolution in health and safety has become, in comparison to 30 years ago, a revolution. The game is much safer than it used to be, and it’s just a matter of time until management shows the NFLPA a reel of routine plays from yesteryear that featured players routinely getting knocked into next week.
The argument will be that, if this worked with 16 games, 18 games under today’s rules can also work. And the argument likely will prevail. Because money will ultimately drive it.
But this from Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Giants long snapper (and son of a Simms teammate) Zak DeOssie is on the NFLPA executive committee as a vice president and he was asked about going to 18 games this week.
“We don’t need 18 games,” DeOssie said, via Bob Glauber of Newsday. “It’s just more opportunity to get hurt. The game is physical enough. It’s hard enough. The argument is there’s more money to be had collectively to play 18 games, but health and safety is paramount to us. Always has been. And we think the NFL is going pretty well right now, so I don’t see why adding two more games would be necessary.”
DeOssie and Simms both mentioned that more games would lead to more money and that’s why many feel that the league will eventually offer a concession to the union that paves the way to a longer season.
The Eagles and QB CARSON WENTZ reach a big money deal. ESPN.com:
The Philadelphia Eagles have signed franchise quarterback Carson Wentz to a four-year extension through the 2024 season, the team announced Thursday.
The extension is for $128 million and includes $107.9 million guaranteed, including $66 million due at signing, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The extension can escalate to a max of $144 million. Wentz’s total deal is now six years for $154 million and can grow to a max of $170 million.
The extension is similar to the one the Seattle Seahawks gave Russell Wilson, who signed a four-year, $140 million extension with $107 million in guarantees in April.
The Eagles have been open about their desire to lock Wentz into a megadeal. Howie Roseman, the executive vice president of football operations, said at the owners meetings in March that “having Carson here long-term is our goal” and the organization will “work toward that.” Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie added he would “absolutely” be comfortable extending Wentz this year, even though Wentz is coming off two significant injuries and was under contract through 2020.
The price for premium quarterbacks is only going to go up, and with Patrick Mahomes eligible for a contract after this season, the cost could soon skyrocket. By extending Wentz now, the Eagles assume some significant risk but will save millions on the back end if Wentz returns to MVP form, as they expect him to.
Wentz said in a video posted on his Twitter account that he was excited to re-up with Philadelphia.
“I can’t even explain to you how excited I am right now to be a part of this great city for this many more years,” Wentz said. “From the moment I got drafted here, I knew this place was special.”
The second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, out of North Dakota State, Wentz has been dynamic when on the field, but his short NFL career has been marred by injuries. After playing in all 16 games as a rookie, he has missed eight games over the past two seasons, including five last year.
In December 2017, Wentz tore his ACL and missed the team’s final three games of the regular season and entire postseason run to a Super Bowl title. The injury also forced him to miss the first two games of 2018.
Wentz returned in Week 3 to put up a 5-6 record in 11 games before suffering a stress fracture in his back that forced him to miss the final three games of the season. He finished with 3,074 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 69.6% completion rate.
Wentz was a full participant in OTAs and hasn’t looked this healthy since 2017. He is no longer in the knee brace that restricted his movement last season and does not plan to wear one during games this season. Neither Wentz nor coach Doug Pederson would say whether the stress fracture in his back has fully healed, but Pederson said he was not putting any limitations on his quarterback for this portion of team activities.
Tim McManus of ESPN.com likes it.
Signing quarterback Carson Wentz to a four-year extension was the right move for the Philadelphia Eagles, even if it comes with significant risk.
That risk, of course, is linked to Wentz’s health. He has suffered season-ending injuries in each of the past two seasons. He tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee during the 2017 season and was shut down this past December after a stress fracture was detected in his back. He broke his wrist in college, broke his ribs during the preseason his rookie year and had a separate stress fracture in his back during his adolescence that was discovered his freshman year at North Dakota State.
It’s hard not to think about that injury history when weighing the merits of signing Wentz, 26, to an extension through 2024 that’s worth $128 million and includes $107 million in guarantees, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Wentz had two years remaining on his rookie deal, and the more cautious approach for the Eagles would be to see how the 2019 season plays out before committing to Wentz for the long term.
But this is an organization that has been defined by its aggressiveness in recent years. That’s different from recklessness. The Eagles use all of the tools at their disposal to analyze a situation, and once they have determined a course of action, they pounce. That includes locking players up early if they view them as a core piece, and it doesn’t get any more core in their eyes than Wentz. They fell hard for him during the pre-draft process in 2016, moved up twice to select him No. 2 overall that April and have been unwavering in their belief in him since — through injury, through attacks on his character and through magical runs orchestrated by then-backup, Nick Foles.
The Eagles know that by getting Wentz into a long-term contract now, they will save millions on the back end if he returns to MVP-caliber form. The NFL salary cap continues to push north, and the price for premium quarterbacks will continue to skyrocket — especially when Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes, who is eligible for a new deal after this season, gets his payday.
With the money for Wentz now allocated, the Eagles know precisely what type of budget they’re working with as they build their roster for the long term.
They also know Wentz isn’t the type of player with whom you play games. If you’re committed, commit, and avoid any negative feelings that could stem from a long, drawn-out process.
Yes, there is a chance this could all go wrong in a pretty big way. Wentz might prove to be injury-prone, and the Eagles could end up holding the bag — and a hefty one at that. The upside is they get him locked in at what will soon look like a discount, leaving them extra coin to spend on bolstering their supporting cast.
It’s a big bet, but the Eagles believe Wentz is the type of person and player to make bets on — they always have.
Bruce Allen is not mystified by the absence of T TRENT WILLIAMS, but he does not mind if everyone else is. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
While there are few specifics surrounding the absence of Washington left tackle Trent Williams at the moment, team president Bruce Allen doesn’t seem concerned about the unknown at the moment.
Allen told J.P. Finlay of NBCSportsWashington.com that he’s not surprised by Williams’ absence.
“I know what Trent told me so I know what the truth is,” Allen said. “I’ll leave my conversation with Trent between the two of us.”
There have been reports that Williams wants out of Washington, for reasons beyond his contract. Earlier this offseason, Williams had a benign tumor or growth removed from his scalp.
Williams has two years left on his contract, which will pay him more than $27 million, but none of the money is guaranteed. He skipped mandatory minicamp this week.
“Trent has been a valuable player for us and that’s why we signed him to the contract he has,” Allen said.
Asked about the possibility of Williams not returning, Allen replied: “I’ve talked to Trent a few times. He’s explained some things to me and I’ll leave it at that.”
Allen’s clearly trying to put out a fire here, and the situation has taken a strange turn quickly. Williams’ importance to them on the field can’t be overstated, as they’re on the verge of starting over at quarterback, who might like to be protected. Williams has always been a drama-free oasis in a desert of dysfunction, but now he’s in the middle of a situation that seems very typically Washington.
QB DREW BREES is in court, testifying about an ex-friend. If the friend’s attorney is to be believed, Brees is a diamond addict.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees is missing practice this week to testify in court in San Diego that a jeweler he once considered him a friend defrauded him out of millions of dollars by lying to him about the value of jewelry.
Brees says the jeweler, Vahid Moradi, convinced him they were friends and then persuaded him to spend as much as $8 million at a time on diamonds.
“I cared for him, cared for his wife, cared for his kids,” Brees said. “He became somebody that I referred family and other friends to.”
But the jeweler’s attorney says Brees and Moradi had nothing more than a business relationship, and Brees simply couldn’t stop spending huge amounts of money on jewelry.
“They were not friends. Vahid Moradi was Mr. Brees’s friendly jeweler,” attorney Pete Ross said. “Drew Brees has an obsession for jewelry. He was drawn in like an addict with a drug.”
At issue is whether Moradi misled Brees about the true value of the jewelry he was buying, or whether Moradi was simply running a profitable business selling expensive jewelry to a millionaire who had the money and was willing to spend it. The trial will continue into next week.
To be clear, the court case is not a criminal proceeding. Brees has brought the civil suit himself. More from Channel 7 in San Diego:
The civil lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court accuses jeweler Vahid Moradi of breach of oral contract, fraud by intentional misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud by concealment.
Brees and Moradi met through a teammate when he was in college and he had invested in a previous business with Moradi before he decided to spend money on colored diamonds as an investment, Brees’ attorney said Thursday.
The two men entered into 10 transactions since they first started discussing diamonds as investments in 2010.
Moradi told Brees he would find a diamond at below market value with his contacts and that Moradi would be paid by the seller of those diamonds, according to attorney Rebecca Riley.
In 2012, when Brees asked for a pink diamond to present to his wife for their 10th wedding anniversary, the jeweler told him he had a diamond for him for a price of $1.75 million, Riley told jurors.
The defendant sent Brees an appraisal saying the ring was worth $2.35 million, the attorney argued.
However, she said she will have experts testify in the trial that the ring was not worth that amount.
Brees bought other diamonds from Moradi including a blue diamond for $8.18 million, the attorney said.
After becoming aware the value of the diamonds was not near what he was told, Brees asked the jeweler to sell the diamonds because he thought Moradi will make right on cheating, the attorney said.
“They were now friends for more than 10 years. They thought they were friends,” Riley said.
“Well, Fahid became a good friend. He became somebody I referred family and other friends too. I don’t do that lightly,” Drew Brees said Thursday in court.
Brees took the ring to Moradi and told him a ruse that he needs to be liquid to purchase some property.
When the jeweler couldn’t sell the blue diamond, Brees decided to take legal action.
The defense argued diamonds are a good investment and explained the difference between wholesale diamonds and retail diamonds to the jury.
The typical retail profit on a diamond is 1.6 percent of the diamond’s value, according to the defense. Using a calculator, the attorney showed how the diamonds sold to Brees had a 1.55 to 1.6 percent markup.
Moradi’s attorney said each diamond that was sold to Brees was accompanied by a certificate from GIA.
“Drew Brees could not possibly have believed that Fahid Moradi was acting as his broker such that Drew Brees would acquire diamonds directly from the suppliers at wholesale costs,” defense attorney Peter Ross said.
A miracle recovery for DE JASON PIERRE-PAUL does not seem to be in the works. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:
Even if Jason Pierre-Paul doesn’t require surgery for a cervical fracture he suffered in a one-car accident May 2, the Bucs don’t expect him to be ready to play until sometime in October, coach Bruce Arians said.
“I would think so, just to be safe and not rush it,” Arians told the Times. “And knowing him, he’s one of those fast healers, so. I hate to put a time limit on it, but the earlier the better. As long as he’s healthy.”
Paul lost control of his Ferrari in wet conditions on I-95, striking a concrete barrier near Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at around 2 a.m. last month.
He was transported to a Broward hospital. The Bucs had Pierre-Paul consult with specialists and it was decided that he would be re-evaluated 11 weeks after the accident, or sometime in late July, just before training camp. If the fracture is healed on its own, Pierre-Paul can begin the slow process of preparing for the season.
If the injury requires surgery, he would be placed on the reserve non-football injury list (NFI) and out for the season. Arians said recently that he expected Pierre-Paul to miss up to six months following the accident.
Of course, Pierre-Paul has defied medical predictions before. He lost a finger and part of a second one in a fireworks accident on July 4, 2015 but still played in eight games that season.
Last year, Pierre-Paul had a team-best 12.5 sacks last season, his first with the Bucs after playing eight years for the New York Giants. It was the second-most he had in his career only to the 16.5 he recorded in 2011.
Pierre-Paul has a base salary of $13.65 this season and a $1-million roster bonus. A guarantee of $7.5-million went into effect in March, but the Bucs could be eligible to recoup that if he remains on the NFI list.
The Bucs don’t have many established pass rushers and are switching to a 3-4 under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Carl Nassib, who had a career-high 6.5 sacks after being claimed off waivers from the Browns last season, will start at one outside linebacker spot. The Bucs signed Broncos free agent Shaq Barrett, used a fourth-round pick on Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson and have third-year edge rusher Noah Spence returning.
Arians believes Pierre-Paul will be the only Bucs player not cleared for training camp. Safety Justin Evans has been battling a toe injury that landed him on injured reserve last season and recently had a procedure to fix a heel problem on his other foot and is in a walking boot.
“I think we’re fine,” Arians said. “I think Justin Evans is a big question. I think everybody on the offensive line should be ready to go. Evan (Smith) went through the walk-through (Wednesday). He did some individual (drills). (Cameron) Brate (hip) should be fine. Mike (Evans) could probably go right now, we just don’t want him to.”
WR LARRY FITZGERALD with some thoughts on the changes in Arizona. Herbie Teope of NFL.com:
Kyler Murray’s personal “security blanket” has plenty of good things to say about the Arizona Cardinals signal-caller’s progress.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald indicated he’s seen plenty of Murray to not be worried about where the No. 1 overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft currently stands.
“He knows the system better than we do,” Fitzgerald said, via Mike Jurecki of the Cardinals’ official website. “He can get us into any play at any time and then he has the ultimate weapon in the exit button.”
The “ultimate weapon” part from Fitzgerald likely pertains to Murray’s elusiveness, which the dual-threat quarterback flashed numerous times at Oklahoma last year to the tune of 1,001 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on 120 carries.
Rookie quarterbacks often endure a learning curve when making the jump from college to the NFL, but Murray might be on track to become the exception to the norm based on the comments coming out of Arizona.
And Fitzgerald becomes another Cardinals player to lavish high praise on Murray.
Just last week, some of the team’s biggest stars, including running David Johnson, made lofty comparisons of Murray’s skill set to the NFL’s reigning MVP, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Whether Murray will live up to the hype remains to be seen.
But one thing is certain as the team prepare for mandatory minicamp on June 11-13 before taking a break ahead of training camp: Murray’s progress will be a fascinating storyline to monitor throughout the summer.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Maurice Jones-Drew, the Rams’ radio analyst, says we don’t know all that RB TODD GURLEY has been dealing with. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Maurice Jones-Drew, the former NFL running back who currently works as the Rams’ radio analyst, says that running back Todd Gurley was hurt for the entire 2018 season.
Jones-Drew says that Gurley — who was not listed on the injury report until Week 16, the first game of the season that he missed — actually hurt his knee in the first game of 2018.
“Yes, he was banged up throughout the season. He got hurt in Week One, played through it the rest of the season,” Jones-Drew said on NFL Network. “He got banged up in Week One, he played through it, and he kind of just got worn down toward the end of the season.”
Jones-Drew said the Rams are going to give Gurley plenty of time off all summer to ensure that he’s healthy enough to play in Week One this season.
“Todd has a plan to be ready throughout the course of the season. They want to make sure they don’t run Todd as much as they did last year and the year before, all the way to where he can’t perform the last two games of the year,” Jones-Drew said.
Going forward, Jones-Drew said, Gurley can probably expect to see fewer snaps than he has in the past. In 2018 Gurley played 75 percent of the Rams’ offensive snaps, and in 2017 he played 76 percent. In 2019, it sounds like Gurley may be closer to 50 percent — and even then, only if he can stay healthy.
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A Pete Rozelle Award for the Rams PR staff:
The Professional Football Writers of America voted the Rams public relations staff as the 2019 winner of the Pete Rozelle Award.
The Rams staff was lauded for excelling in helping Southern California and national media cover the club during a season when the Rams advanced to Super Bowl LIII.
They won the 30th Rozelle Award, having won it for the first time in team history in 1997.
The Ravens, Bills, Broncos, Texans and the Patriots were the other finalists for the award.
The Rozelle Award is given annually to the NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media. The award is named for Rozelle, NFL commissioner from 1960-89, who started his career in sports PR roles.
The Rams 2019 PR staff consisted of Artis Twyman (senior director of communications), Julia Faron (manager, communications), Tiffany White (lead communications specialist), Travis Langer (coordinator, communications), Joanna Hunter (senior director of corporate communications) and Chase Isaacs (communications specialist). The Rams also were assisted by interns Morgan Evans, Chris Licata and Ryan Perez.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
RB MELVIN GORDON feels good about the 2019 Chargers. Logan Reardon of NFL.com:
The Los Angeles Chargers had a renaissance season in 2018.
The Bolts won more than nine games (12-4) for the first time since 2009 and made their first postseason appearance since 2013.
Winning 12 games wasn’t enough to claim the AFC West, as the Kansas City Chiefs matched that record and took the division on a tiebreaker. This season, Chargers running back Melvin Gordon expects the team to make another leap.
“We’re the team to beat,” Gordon said, via ESPN, when asked if the Chiefs were again the team to beat in the division. “We’re just special, and I definitely feel we have the best team in the NFL. You just have to walk around with that confidence.”
Gordon later admitted, “The AFC West is no joke,” but he’s clearly confident in his squad.
The fifth-year veteran is entering the final season of his rookie deal and is seeking a contract extension. Gordon sat out OTAs for the past three weeks, but says he will report to mandatory minicamp (June 11-13). He is set to make $5.6 million in 2019.
The Chargers haven’t won the division since 2009, which was LaDainian Tomlinson’s final season in San Diego.
Kansas City has ruled the AFC West for the past three seasons and should be dangerous again with MVP Patrick Mahomes entering his second year as a starter. The Chiefs also added two impact players — defensive end Frank Clark and safety Tyrann Mathieu — to a defense which ranked 31st in yards allowed. But they lost linebackers Dee Ford and Justin Houston, so the defense could remain a weakness.
Denver and Oakland continue to rebuild in 2019, but the Broncos could be a darkhorse challenger for the Chargers and Chiefs. The Broncos (6-10 last year) traded for quarterback Joe Flacco — a former Super Bowl MVP — and already employ another one in linebacker Von Miller. New head coach Vic Fangio ran the No. 3-ranked Chicago Bears defense in 2018, so perhaps Denver could recapture some magic from the late-Peyton Manning years where the defense carried the team.
Jon Gruden is back for year two of his second stint in Oakland after the Raiders limped to a 4-12 record in 2018. The Raiders added three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL draft — defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs and safety Johnathan Abram — but their biggest acquisition came via trade. Gruden traded for former Steelers wideout Antonio Brown to give quarterback Derek Carr a much-needed No. 1 option. The Raiders should improve in 2019 as well.
There clearly won’t be many easy wins in this division, but the Chargers should be fighting the Chiefs all year for the crown. Philip Rivers is a year older, but he’s coming off an MVP-level season (32 touchdowns, 4,308 yards) and shouldn’t drop off much at all. He has ample weapons at his disposal, including Gordon, wideout Keenan Allen and tight end Hunter Henry, who is healthy after tearing his ACL last May. Defensive end Joey Bosa, 23, and safety Derwin James, 22, lead a young defense that was top 10 in passing and rushing last year. The best player that the Chargers lost in free agency was wide receiver Tyrell Williams, who was Rivers’ No. 2 or 3 wideout for much of the year.
Maybe Gordon is on to something.
Whispers that TE HAYDEN HURST might be injury prone. RedZone.org:
Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst missed practice with a “tweaked hamstring” according to Ryan Mink of baltimoreravens.com.
This is considered a minor injury and head coach John Harbaugh said he believes Hurst will be cleared to participate in the team’s minicamp next week. Any injury news is bad news, however, for a player whose rookie season was mostly derailed by a foot issue. The No.25-overall pick in the 2018 draft out of South Carolina, Hurst fractured his foot last August and never really looked healthy in the 12 games he appeared in. He ended the season with 13 receptions for 163 yards and one touchdown.
To improve his durability, Hurst put on “20 pounds of muscle” during the offseason. The weight gain theoretically would help his blocking assignments and perhaps in the red zone but it has to concern the coaching staff that Hurst suffered a soft tissue injury just days after announcing the weight gain.
Even if the Patriots go just 3-13, they still will have the best record of any team in any decade in the 20-Teens. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
To say the Patriots are a dominant team is an understatement. In 2019 they’ll wrap up the most dominant decade in NFL history.
In the decade of 2010 to 2018, the Patriots are 129-37, a winning percentage of .777. As noted by Rene Bugner, New England could go 3-13 in 2019 and still have the best winning percentage of any NFL team in any decade.
The best record in any decade currently belongs to the Cowboys of the 1970s, who went 119-46. They’re followed closely by the Dolphins in the 1970s, who went 112-44-1. (These records include the postseason.)
After those two 1970s teams, the next-best record of any decade belongs to the Patriots from 2000 to 2009. They went 126-52 in that decade, and that includes a 5-13 record to start the decade before Drew Bledsoe got hurt and gave way to Tom Brady.
It’s been an incredible run for the Patriots since Brady became their starter, with two of the four most successful decades in NFL history. And perhaps a year from now we’ll start to talk about how far Brady can go into a third decade.
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In case you wanted, the Patriots latest Lombardi Trophy still has a lived-in look. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
The New England Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl LIII victory Thursday night, receiving their rings and reveling in the franchise’s sixth title.
One revelation from the event: The team didn’t fix the Lombardi Trophy that newly retired tight end Rob Gronkowski dented by attempting to bunt with it before the Boston Red Sox’s Opening Day festivities earlier this spring.
The dinged-up Lombardi brought out the laughs Thursday night.
Bill Belichick’s hearty chuckle when Tom Brady asked, “Is this the one Gronk dented?” underscores why the depression should never be repaired.
Gronk made his mark on the Patriots’ dynasty as a matchup nightmare with a personality most adored. Now he’s got a dent for all to remember him by.
THIS AND THAT
JOE HORRIGAN WINS HIS DAD’S AWARD
This release from the PFWA:
Joe Horrigan, regarded as the foremost historian on pro football who retired on June 1 as executive director after 42 years on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s staff, has been selected as the 2019 Jack Horrigan Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Joe, the son of the late Jack Horrigan, is the 47th Horrigan Award winner. Joe is the second person who has worked for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to receive the honor, joining Don Smith (1997).
The Jack Horrigan Award is given to the league or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job. The award is named for Horrigan, who was a sportswriter for UPI and the Buffalo Evening News, public relations director for the American Football League (1963-66) and vice president of public relations for the Buffalo Bills (1966-73).
Horrigan was nominated for the award for his meticulous documentation of pro football history and making that history accessible to journalists during his tenure at the Hall of Fame.
Other 2019 nominees for the Horrigan Award were Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, Dallas Cowboys owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones, NFL Network communications manager Andrew Howard and Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay.
“You can debate the greatest player in NFL history. Or the greatest quarterback. Or the greatest coach. But at one position there is no debate. There has been and will only be one gatekeeper to Canton –that’s Joe Horrigan,” said Rick Gosselin, the 2004 PFWA Dick McCann Award winner who is a member of the Hall’s selection committee. “He is to the game’s history what Jim Brown is to the game itself. There is no greater authority of his sport. When the game’s greatest players, coaches and owners enter the Hall of Fame, Joe has been there holding the door for them.”Horrigan began his career with the Pro Football Hall of Fame on June 1, 1977 as a curator. He served in a variety of executive positions during his career at the Hall of Fame, including executive vice president of museums, selection process and chief communications officer before he was named executive director of the Hall in 2016.
As executive director of the Hall of Fame, Horrigan oversaw all aspects of the nationally accredited museum and its related objectives. He also administered the Hall’s enshrinee selection process.
Classy guy that Joe Horrigan. He will be hard to replace.
THE BEST OFFENSIVE LINES
Per the metrics of ESPN’s Seth Walder:
Pass blocking is the NFL’s secret — or at least, underrated — method for winning.
Analysis based on ESPN’s pass block win rate (PBWR) — a metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats that we first unveiled last season — led us to that conclusion and can be found right here.
Since PBWR is a mere 8 months old, we don’t have a formal method of predicting pass blocking just yet. But what we do have are past results, expected starters (thanks to ESPN’s Mike Clay) and a dash of my own subjectivity. Blend that all together and we’re left with our predicted pass-blocking superlatives for the 2019 season.
Only thing you need to know: PBWR is simply the rate at which an offensive lineman sustains his pass block for at least 2.5 seconds. The full methodology can be found right here.
Best pass-blocking line: Indianapolis Colts
Expected starters: Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Braden Smith
The Colts finished the regular season ranked No. 9 overall in PBWR, but there are two main reasons I expect them to fly up the list in 2019 even though they’ll play the exact same group they rolled with toward the end of last season.
Most of the other top pass-blocking teams lost valuable offensive linemen: Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan are gone from the Los Angeles Rams. The New England Patriots no longer have Trent Brown. Mitch Morse bolted from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Buffalo Bills.
Because the Colts didn’t start last season with this exact group: They mixed and matched early in the season while not at full strength before deciding on those five beginning in Week 6. From that point on the Colts had a PBWR of 60 percent, fourth best in the league in that span.
Add in that the oldest player on the line (Castonzo) is only 30 and two others were rookies last season (Nelson and Smith), and there’s every reason for quarterback Andrew Luck to expect to have elite protection in 2019.
Runner-up: Green Bay Packers. They boast two of the best — if not the best — pass-blocking tackles in the league in David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga.
Most improved pass-blocking line: New York Giants
Expected starters: Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, Kevin Zeitler, Mike Remmers
At one point during my high school swimming career, I won the team award for most improved swimmer. The subtext for the award was not subtle. The real message was that I had been an embarrassingly slow freestyler and morphed into an acceptably below-average freestyler. Technically, most improved!
That describes the Giants’ offensive line.
It will not be good, but it should be better than last season. Though trading Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns was a net negative, one positive of that deal was receiving Zeitler in return. Zeitler’s PBWR last season at guard was 80 percent. While that is roughly the league average, he instantly became the Giants’ best pass-blocking lineman upon arrival.
No acquisition personifies the Giants’ improvement more than Remmers at right tackle, however. His 73 percent PBWR (at guard) puts him around the 25th percentile of offensive linemen with significant playing time, but that was significantly better than what the Giants had at right tackle in 2018 — Chad Wheeler (with a touch of Ereck Flowers and Brian Mihalik mixed in). That group combined for a 66 percent PBWR — worst of any team at right tackle.
Also: There might be hope yet for Solder, the expensive 2018 free agent. After a rough beginning to last season, his PBWR improved to solidly above average (84 percent) over the second half of the year.
Runner-up: Tennessee Titans. On paper, they might be the most improved, but Jack Conklin’s health questions provide quite a bit of uncertainty.
Worst pass-blocking line: San Francisco 49ers
Expected starters: Joe Staley, Laken Tomlinson, Weston Richburg, Mike Person, Mike McGlinchey
General manager John Lynch used major resources to acquire big-name defenders Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander this offseason but left an offensive line that finished 29th in pass block win rate largely untouched. That seems like a mistake.
While the Niners are in fine shape at tackle (though Staley is 34), the interior of the line is a sieve. Conventional wisdom is that tackles are the most important pass-blockers, but that becomes almost irrelevant if the guards and centers are poor blockers. We know this because that’s the problem the 49ers faced a year ago with the same set of offensive linemen we’re expecting them to play in 2019.
Staley was above average; McGlinchey, slightly below. But between Tomlinson, Richburg and Person, interior rushers were given almost free rein to rush at Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens. On one play against the Broncos, Person basically did the sacking himself:
Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan must be banking on continuity resulting in interior O-line improvement. Otherwise, Garoppolo’s return to health will be for naught.
Runner-up: The Miami Dolphins, who face a similar weakness: Laremy Tunsil and Jordan Mills should be fine on the outside, but they’re full of unknowns at guard and center.
Sneaky good pass-blocking line: Carolina Panthers
Expected starters: Taylor oton, Greg Van Roten, Matt Paradis, Trai Turner, Daryl Williams
The quietest breakout star of 2018 might have been Moton. The 2017 second-round pick was thrust into action when Williams went down in Week 1 with a knee injury. Moton not only stuck at right tackle but excelled, posting an 89 percent PBWR — fourth best in the league among qualifying tackles.
Williams, who was a shade above average in 2017, re-signed with Carolina on a one-year deal this offseason. Paradis, the former Denver Broncos center, was signed via free agency after posting a strong 85 percent PBWR before fracturing a fibula in November.
He’ll play alongside Turner, a four-time Pro Bowl guard whose PBWR of 88 percent was first among guards last season. The line’s expected weak point is Van Roten, but even he was roughly average last season.
Runner-up: The Baltimore Ravens. Outside of Marshal Yanda, it’s a young group that already has a track record of success. Orlando Brown Jr. looks like a steal as a third-rounder from a year ago.
Biggest wild-card pass-blocking line: Buffalo Bills
Expected Starters: Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Mitch Morse, Spencer Long, Cody Ford
There are a lot of moving parts here. Morse, Long and Spain all played elsewhere last season to varying degrees of success (per our numbers: Morse was good, Long was OK and Spain was quite poor), and Ford is a second-round pick out of Oklahoma. The Sooners, for what it’s worth, had a superb offensive line last season.
We haven’t yet studied whether continuity is a factor in predicting pass-blocking success, but it seems reasonable to speculate that it might be. As it stands now, this much turnover along a line makes me think there will be an awful lot of variance in how well Buffalo blocks for Josh Allen. And if there’s a quarterback who needs good pass blocking, it is Allen, who led the league in time to throw last season.
Runner-up: Atlanta Falcons. They could end up playing two rookies (Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary) on their offensive line, but both are first-rounders, so there is definite upside.
NBA vs. NFL
Clay Travis has some comments on NBA ratings:
Retweeted John Ourand
Yikes. The post-LeBron NBA is not going to be pretty.Clay Travis added,
The Raptors-Warriors Game 3 on ABC averaged 13.101 million viewers on ABC, down 27% vs. last year’s Game 3 (Warriors-Cavs had 17.941 million viewers).
Which makes this headline from Complex even more laughable now than it was when it and an accompanying story was published last October:
Why the NBA Has Surpassed the NFL as ‘America’s Sport’ | Complex
On a typical regular season weekend in 2018, this is how many people watched the NFL:
FOX Game of the Week 22.12 million
CBS Sunday National game 21.2 million
NBC Sunday Night Football 19.25 million
FOX TNF 14.3 million
ESPN MNF 11.647 million
We get something like 88 million for the five platforms (obviously many folks watch more than one).
But let’s look at the NFL Wild Card round this year, not even the finals. Four different games.
The NFL’s strong regular season of TV ratings continued into its opening weekend of the postseason.
The league said on Monday that there was an average of 28.4 million viewers for the four wild-card round playoff games, which is a 12 percent increase over last year.
The Philadelphia Eagles game against the Chicago Bears on NBC averaged 35.89 million viewers, making it the network’s most-watched wild-card game on record. NBC’s previous best was the Jan. 3, 1988, game between Seattle and Houston at 35.86 million. The audience for Sunday’s game peaked at 45.1 million viewers during the final nine minutes.
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Sunday’s first game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens on CBS averaged 25.4 million.
Fox’s telecast of Saturday night’s Seattle Seahawks-Dallas Cowboys game averaged 29.5 million while the weekend’s first game between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans averaged 22.8 million on ESPN and ABC.
Digital streaming also increased 139 percent, with an average-minute audience of 496,000.
One thing that has worked against the NBA is that in most years there are only two or three teams that you can identify at the start of the year as being able to win the title – and one of them almost invariably does.
That’s why the possibility of the Raptors winning the title this year is so un-NBAlike. At the start of the season they were the 9th overall favorite and some lucky fans (probably all North of the Border) are going to take home $400 on a $10 wager.
Opening Odds To Win 2019 NBA Title
TEAM OPENING ODDS
Golden State 5/4
San Antonio 25/1
Los Angeles 20/1