AROUND THE NFL

The big stories of Week 2 were the injuries to aging QBs BEN ROETHLISBERGER (season-ending elbow) and DREW BREES (6 weeks, thumb).

 

And, as happens several weeks each year – the perfect storm of bad officiating featuring two referees (one veteran in Walt Anderson, one rookie in Adrian Hill) and the NFL’s sometime over-officious VP Al Riveron.

 

Peter King:

 

What we are talking about? Another craptastically blown call in a Saints game, causing Sean Payton to spin into orbit, justifiably. A couple of controversial calls in the last-second (literally) Chicago win over Denver. The inability to get pass-interference right.

 

When a rookie referee, Adrian Hill, makes two awful roughing-the-passer calls (the second of which was huge in Chicago coming back to beat Denver), it’s not a shock; seven of the league’s 17 refs are in their first or second year, and they’re clearly green. But when the worst call of the weekend is made by one of the best in the game, 17-year referee Walt Anderson, what hope is there?

 

Writing about it seems fruitless. Raging about it, equally fruitless. Nothing’s going to change. The league might (probably will) make reviewing pass-interference calls and non-calls a one-and-done monument to unintended consequences and kill it after one year. There’s not much momentum either to expand replay or to eliminate it; bad calls would exist regardless. Of course we should just live with them, but when you see what’s happened to the Saints in their last three games—the blown interference non-call in the NFC title game, the mysterious disappearance of 15 seconds on the clock in Week 1, and the inadvertent whistle that cost the Saints an 87-yard touchdown in a 3-3 game Sunday against the Rams—raging against the machine seems proper.

 

The Lead: Officiating

With six minutes left in the second quarter of Saints-Rams, L.A. had the ball at the Saints 11-yard line. Jared Goff was pressured heavily. He cranked his arm to throw and, before he did, the ball fluttered out of his grasp. Saints defensive end Cam Jordan picked it up at the 13 and started to run. But the play was ruled dead, apparently because of a whistle blown by Anderson.

 

When the whistle blows, regardless why, play is dead. With no whistle blown and the ball free, a defender can pick it up and run with it—and the play needs to be reviewed and called back; that’s why there’s replay. “We tell the referees to let it play out because we can always come back and make it an incomplete pass,” NFL officiating VP Al Riveron told pool reporter Larry Holder after Anderson’s gaffe. “As happened here, we blow the whistle early, so the most we can do is give the ball to the defense.” With no return.

 

The game was tied 3-3. Instead of the Saints going up 10-3, they turned it over on downs and the Rams kicked a field goal. So they weren’t up seven late in the first half. They were down three. Ten-point swing. And probably New Orleans, without the injured Brees, would have lost anyway; the final was Rams 27, Saints 9. But no one knows.

 

 

 “What I did as a referee,” said NBC’s rules expert, Terry McAulay, “and what refs should do unless they know what happened unequivocally, is just stay away from it and let it play out. This was a critical error.”

 

“You get no chance to redeem yourself if you blow the whistle,” said FOX’s rulesmeister, Mike Pereira. “Walt is a good official. He will be sick about this. He won’t just be sick for a week. He’ll be sick about it for years, every time he thinks of this play.”

 

In Denver, Hill appeared to be doing what the league asks officials to do—trying to protect the quarterback. But he flagged Chicago’s Eddie Goldman for a clean tackle to the midsection of Joe Flacco just as he released the ball. And he flagged Denver’s Bradley Chubb for tackling Mitchell at his moment of release.

 

Was Hill flagging each guy for the dreaded “body-weight-on-the-quarterback sack?” Maybe, but neither was a good enough example of that to call. The Chubb call, with 24 seconds left in the game, was crucial. Denver led 13-12 and Chicago needed to gain about 35 yards to have a decent shot at the game-winning field goal. The Chubb call gave the Bears nearly half of that, 15 yards, to the Chicago 45. The Bears got to the Denver 35 with a second left, and Eddy Pineiro’s 53-yard field goal won it.

 

FOX’s Mark Schlereth was apoplectic about each call. “Garbage call, but that’s the world we live in today,” he said after the Goldman play. And post-Chubb, Schlereth noted: “I guess we’re gonna legislate contact out of a contact sport.”

 

Maybe not contact entirely. But most contact on a quarterback—that’s for sure. The refs, almost solely responsible for quarterbacks hits and quarterback safety on the field, have had it drilled into them to err on the side of over-protecting the quarterback so much that they get whistle-happy when there’s a crowd around the passer, or when a passer gets hit hard legally. The refs have a tough job. But particularly in the case of the Anderson call jobbing the Saints, there’s simply no excuse for it. It’s stunning an official of Anderson’s résumé blew it.

 

And what about the one second that was restored to the clock to the instant WR ALLEN ROBINSON went down.  Vic Fangio is peeved, per Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Robinson went to the ground in order to get the timeout, but many felt that the final second had already melted away before the call could be made.

 

Broncos head coach Vic Fangio made it clear on Monday that he’s part of that group.

 

“Nothing in life in the world happens simultaneously,” Fangio said, via 104.3 The Fan. “There was lag time there.”

 

Best guess is that the time that elapsed from Robinson going to the ground and the clock hitting zero was about .2 seconds.  It wasn’t obviously reviewed.  The folks in New York are able to whisper in the referee’s ear, did they come up with a second or did Adrian Hill do it on his own?

 

We also wonder if the understandable reaction of the Broncos defender to touch Robinson ended up costing Denver.  Robinson’s going to the ground was not as obvious as a traditional slide.  If he had been untouched, when should the whistle blow?

 

King doesn’t even get into the most problematic event – the use of a boot review triggered by the Sean Payton Rule to take away a Vikings TD on something not even the Packers were complaining about.

 

Riveron claimed that it was “clear and obvious” that Vikings RB DALVIN COOK was blocking downfield while teammate WR STEFON DIGGS was catching a short TD pass several (10?) yards away.  It looked like a Packer got in the way of Cook’s pass route and Cook tried to push through.  It certainly was marginal to the play.  If everyone in the TV truck is looking for what it is they are even reviewing, it isn’t “clear and obvious.”

 

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer saw what the DB saw:

 

Zimmer disagreed with Riveron’s assessment.

 

“I think it was a bad call,” Zimmer said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “Got replayed, and I still think it was a bad call. The guy was not trying to block anybody. He was trying to get out of the way.’’

 

Tony Dungy was puzzled throughout Sunday:

 

@TonyDungy

These Pass Interference reviews by NFL officiating are not making any sense. Clear DPIs last week not overturned. Clear push off by Antonio Brown does not get overturned but Minnesota TD pass gets called back due to blocking downfield. Not sure what the standard is right now.

 

@TonyDungy

Now in the Seattle game a non call Defensive Pass Interference does get overturned against Pittsburgh. I have no idea what is “clear and obvious” pass interference and what isn’t.

 

@TonyDungy

That was clearly Pass Interference by Douglas on Julio Jones. Again I’m not sure what the standard is for reversing calls via replay??? But it is very inconsistent.

 

The only question is whether or not having a rule that allows all parts of all pass interference decisions to be reviewed or having Al Riveron conduct those reviews was the worse idea.  As we’ve said before – if you are to have review, it should be limited to decisions made at the point of reception – not away from the ball, not when the receiver makes his break, leave those to the on-field officials.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

Peter Schrager with a tweet:

 

@PSchrags

Sean McVay, Matt LeFleur, and Kyle Shanahan— all once on the same offensive coaching staff as assistants in Washington— are a combined 6-0 as head coaches through two weeks.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

It dawned on the DB this summer, while looking at QB CARSON WENTZ and his new contract, that QB DAK PRESCOTT was a better QB than we, and most other folks, had thought.  Looking at some numbers, we felt that Prescott was roughly the equal of Wentz which a month ago would have been a contrarian position.  Now, two weeks into the season, that seems to be at least the case.

 

Mike Sando of The Athletic has some thoughts on Prescott vs. Tony Romo:

 

The Cowboys, 31-21 victors at Washington, have won 34 of Prescott’s 50 regular-season starts, a success rate the team has not surpassed in any 50-game stretch since Troy Aikman was behind center. With Pittsburgh losing Sunday, Dallas trails only the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs for NFL winning percentage since Prescott became a starter in 2016.

– – –

Three full seasons have passed since Tony Romo made his final NFL start for the Cowboys. It’s a different team and a different era, but Romo’s tenure remains a relevant baseline for comparison. Dallas had a 31-19 record over Romo’s final 50 starts. The record is 34-16 with Prescott, and as the table shows, improved defense has been an equalizer.

 

QB                               Romo            Prescott

Starts                            Final 50                    First 50

W-L                                31-19          34-16

Win %                            .620           .680

Team OFF PPG 24.6              23.2

Team PPG Allowed        24.3              20.0

 

Romo made his final 50 starts over four seasons, from 2012 through 2015. Dallas ranked 31st in defensive expected points added (EPA) over those seasons. The Cowboys are 18th by that measure since 2016. Dallas has ranked among the top 10 in offensive EPA over both 50-start periods.

 

The coaches and executives polled for my annual Quarterback Tiers survey placed Romo in the second tier over his final three seasons with the Cowboys. They ranked Romo between eighth and 11th among starting quarterbacks over those seasons. The less-established Prescott has ranked between 14th and 17th over his three seasons, solidly in the third tier. One evaluator quoted in the 2019 survey predicted Prescott would have the kind of season he’s enjoying so far: seven touchdowns, one interception and an unsustainable 10.9-yard average per pass attempt.

 

“When they got Amari Cooper, he really ascended,” this evaluator said before the season. “Throw in the O-line, the running back, they add (Randall) Cobb in the slot, and I think (Tier) 2 could be the low number. I could see them winning 12 or 13 games and having people come back next year saying, ‘Oh, maybe he is closer to a 1.’”

 

Facing the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 should help. The schedule gets tougher from there. Prescott surely will be tested more than he was against the New York Giants and Washington.

 

“Dallas is a complete team, but the Giants are just terrible on defense and I have never seen so many guys running clean in a game with not even anyone to throw it over,” a veteran coach said about the Cowboys’Week 1 win. “It looked like a walk-through. That said, Dak hit the throws. He threw a fade against press-man that was perfect —  really impressive. And he is getting it out quick. If he plays like that and the protect him, they will win a lot of games.”

 

The better Prescott produces, the less anyone thinks about whether the team might be better off with a vintage Romo in the lineup.

 

Prescott’s lower turnover rate and added rushing threat fit well with a team requiring fewer points per game to win.

 

“Tony was going to do his own deal too many times — he cannot help himself,” another coach said. “It’s like Aaron Rodgers. Did you see the end of the Chicago game where they are trying to run out the clock and Rodgers throws the ball into the flat and the coach almost lost his mind? He is going to do his own thing and that was Tony, too.”

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Peter King:

 

I think my over-under on Daniel Jones taking over for Eli Manning is Week 7. The Giants would be, say, 1-5, coming off a loss at New England, with Arizona coming to New Jersey. Manning will have something to say about it, of course. But he doesn’t seem able to elevate his game, particularly when his receiving corps is so poor.

 

Looks like it could be sooner than that.  Adam Maya of NFL.com:

 

The Giants might have a new starting quarterback this week in Tampa Bay.

 

Pressed on whether Eli Manning was still QB1, New York coach Pat Shurmur essentially told reporters Monday maybe, maybe not.

 

“He’s been our starter to this point,” Shurmur said. “I’m not ready to talk about that.”

 

Not publicly, at least. Shurmur said he’s still deciding on whether rookie Daniel Jones should get the starting nod over Manning. Jones, whom the Giants drafted with the No. 6 overall pick in April, completed 3 of 4 passes in mop-up duty against the Cowboys a week ago. He might be asked to do a lot more than that on Sunday against the Buccaneers.

 

“We’re gonna talk about everything moving forward,” Shurmur said. “I think that’s fair at this point.”

 

A quarterback switch, of course, would likely signify the end of the Manning era in the Big Apple. He’s been the Giants’ starter for all but one game since Week 10 of the 2004 season. (Manning was benched in Week 13 of the 2017 season by then-coach Ben McAdoo, only to reclaim his job the following week.)

 

Shurmur, who took over in New York last year, has intimated for months that a changing of the guard in 2019 was possible. General manager Dave Gettleman and co-owner John Mara have stated their preference for the rookie to redshirt behind Manning this season. But Jones’ play in the preseason, spawning the nickname “Danny Dimes,” likely expedited the inevitable change.

 

Shurmur didn’t attempt to quell any controversy when told his latest non-committal to the 38-year-old Manning would lead to speculation.

 

“I understand,” he said. “… To this point what we’ve done hasn’t been good enough.”

 

The 0-2 Giants have scored 31 points, which is tied for 26th in the NFL. Manning completed just 26 of 45 passes and threw two interceptions against the Bills this past Sunday. Moreover, Big Blue has won only eight of 34 games since the beginning of the 2017 season.

 

With his starting status now up in the air, Manning said he isn’t seeking clarification from Shurmur and isn’t motivated any more by the uncertainty of the situation.

 

“Motivation is to win. There’s nothing more than that,” Manning said. “You want to win because that’s why you work hard, that’s why you train, that’s why you do everything and prepare and practice so you can go out there and win football games and build something special. So nothing changes.”

 

Manning will always be celebrated for guiding the franchise to two Super Bowl victories. But he hasn’t won a playoff game since the second one, more than seven years ago, while the Giants have just one postseason appearance over that stretch.

 

The book of Eli has become a tougher read the longer he’s remained their starter.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

QB DREW BREES is having surgery on his battered thumb and the prognosis is a six-week timetable for his return.  He can take his time since the 7th week is the bye.

 

Here is what the 1-1 Saints face with some combination of TEDDY BRIDGEWATER and TAYSOM HILL:

 

SEP 22            at Seattle

SEP 29            DALLAS

OCT 5              TAMPA BAY

OCT 13            at Jacksonville

OCT 20            at Chicago

OCT 27            ARIZONA

 

So – three tough games (Seattle, Dallas, probably Chicago) and three at a lesser level (Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Arizona).

 

Even if the Saints go 0-3 in the tough ones, if they can go 2-1 in the others, they would be 3-5 at the midpoint in an NFC South that seems surprisingly suspect through two weeks.

 

The last eight games, presumably with Brees, including five division games plus San Francisco, Indianapolis and at Tennessee.  4-1 against Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay, 2-1 in the other three and New Orleans is 9-7.  And that might be good enough to win this year’s South.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Michael Silver of NFL.com on the Rams passing attack with WR COOPER KUPP back in the mix:

 

“The best part of all four of those guys (Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds), they’re all selfless,” Goff said. “They’re all rooting for Cooper when he’s catching the ball and blocking their asses off and trying to get him into the end zone. I’ve never been around anything like it. It’s all ‘team, team, team; win, win, win’ with all four of them. Some teams will say they have that, but we really do. I’m very, very lucky to have that group.”

 

The band is back together now, but Kupp’s absence was felt during the second half of last season, and especially in the Super Bowl. He stood on the sidelines in Atlanta in February and agonized as his teammates struggled against the Patriots, at times writing route adjustments on a greaseboard to share with his fellow receivers.

 

Then, once the offseason began, Kupp dove into his rehabilitation with a vengeance.

 

“He’s only gotten better and stronger since his injury,” Goff said. “He was back in August. He won’t say that, you could tell — he had his feet under him. Today, he was able to show that off.”

 

Veteran Rams cornerback Aqib Talib said Kupp had been “going nuts at practice. I could’ve told you (he was back).”

 

Added cornerback Marcus Peters: “We’re glad to have that boy back. He worked his ass off to get to this position. It shows that hard work pays off.”

 

Goff repeatedly made the Saints pay on Sunday, at a time when they were vulnerable because of Brees’ absence. I’m not a big single-game passer rating guy, but I’ll make an exception here: This was the 16th time since the start of the 2017 season that Goff registered a rating of 110 or more in a game, tying him atop the NFL with the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson during that span. That’s consistency and no, a system quarterback can’t just do that on demand.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

A note from ESPN Stats & Info:

 

@ESPNStatsInfo

The Broncos became the first team to convert a 2-point attempt down 1 in the 4th quarter and still lose since the NFL adopted the 2-point conversion in 1994, according to @EliasSports.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

In Sunday’s win, QB LAMAR JACKSON became the first player to pass for 250 yards and run for 120 in a game – a regular season game that is as ESPN pointed out and Chris Mortensen put the exclamation point on:

 

@SportsCenter

Lamar Jackson is the first to ever do it in the regular season.

 

Colin Kaepernick had 263 passing yards and 181 rushing yards in a game against the Packers during the 2013 postseason.

 

Chris Mortensen

@mortreport

Ravens OC Greg Roman 49ers OC in 2013

 

 

PITTSBURGH

The season, at least, is over for QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER.  He issues a statement, that as these things go, seems pretty genuine:

 

Statement from Ben Roethlisberger:

I’ve been informed that I need season ending surgery on my elbow to continue playing football at the level I expect. This is shocking and heartbreaking for me, to miss this much of a season and feel like I am letting down so many people. I can only trust God’s plan, but I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season. The Steelers committed three years to me this offseason and I fully intend to honor my contract and reward them with championship level play. I will do all I can to support Mason and the team this season to help win games. I love this game, my teammates, the Steelers organization and fans, and I feel in my heart I have a lot left to give.

 

Apparently, the injury didn’t come out of the blue:

 

Roethlisberger grabbed his right elbow after throwing a pass against the Seahawks in the second quarter of the game in what was the biggest outward sign of trouble before the team announced Mason Rudolph would be taking over. It appears that the team wasn’t taken totally by surprise by an elbow problem, however.

 

Rudolph said on Monday, via multiple reporters, that he first heard about Roethisberger feeling discomfort in his elbow after the team’s loss to the Patriots in Week One. Roethlisberger did not practice last Wednesday, although the team’s injury report said that the reason was veteran rest rather than an elbow issue.

 

The league may look into that bit of injury reporting given what Rudolph had to say on Monday, but the end result for the Steelers is going to be the same whether they get a slap on the wrist or not.

 

Considering the valuation of the positions, maybe the Steelers would rather the injury news was good for Big Ben and bad for RB JAMES CONNER.  But at least Conner seems to be okay.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

After getting some very bad injury news about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers got better news about running back James Conner.

 

Conner, who suffered a knee injury yesterday, said today on 93.7 The Fan that he’s confident he will play on Sunday against the 49ers.

 

Conner, who became the Steelers’ starter during Le’Veon Bell‘s season-long holdout last year, hasn’t been able to do much this year. Through two games he has 21 carries for 54 yards and seven catches for 56 yards.

 

With Roethlisberger out for the season with an elbow injury, the offense is going to need more out of everyone else, and having Conner healthy will be important to any hope the Steelers have of avoiding a disastrous season.

 

The Steelers traded QB JOSHUA DOBBS to the Jaguars last week, but they actually had a pretty decent 4th QB before the trade and QB DEVLIN HODGES, a champion duck caller in his spare time, gets promoted from the practice squad.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Hodges is now the only quarterback behind 2018 third-round pick Mason Rudolph, who is set to make his first NFL start against the 49ers in Week Three.

 

Hodges was undrafted out of Samford and signed with the Steelers after a tryout at this year’s rookie minicamp. He went 20-of-38 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the preseason.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Off to a disastrous start, veteran PK ADAM VINATIERI hinted at retirement after Sunday’s kicking debacle in Nashville Sunday.  But as Mike Florio reports, not so fast:

 

The Colts have talked Adam Vinatieri into sticking around.

 

Amid widespread speculation on Sunday that the future Hall of Fame kicker would be retiring on Monday (and it was leaning in that direction), Vinatieri will stay with the team.

 

Coach Frank Reich told reporters on Monday that Vinatieri will kick for the Colts on Sunday, in the home opener against the Falcons.

 

Vinatieri missed two kicks in Sunday’s win over the Titans, following three misses in a Week One lost at the Chargers. His brief comments to the media after the 19-17 victory sparked a belief that Vinatieri would retire today.

 

Reich called Vinatieri an “instrumental leader” on the team, which is an important element as the team continues to trudge forward still only 23 days after the stunning retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck.

 

Vinatieri continues to get treatment on his knee, but Reich said that, physically, the kicker is a “powerhouse.”

 

The Colts will be without ace LB DARIUS LEONARD this week.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Adam Vinatieri will be kicking for the Colts this week, but they may not have Darius Leonard at linebacker against the Falcons.

 

Head coach Frank Reich announced on Monday that Leonard has been placed in the concussion protocol. Leonard was not knocked out of the game, but reported symptoms later and was placed in the protocol after consulting with doctors.

 

Leonard had 10 tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss in Sunday’s 19-17 victory over the Titans. Leonard missed one game during his rookie season, although that did not keep him from being named a first-team All-Pro at the end of the year.

 

Reich also said that cornerback Pierre Desir has a knee injury that the team will monitor throughout the week.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Peter King on Week 2 déjà vu and the Bills:

 

On the first two weekends of the NFL season—Sept. 7-8 and Sept. 14-15—there was a sameness for the Buffalo Bills, who played road games against the Jets and the Giants in New Jersey on the first two Sundays of the season.

 

On two straight Saturdays, the Bills had a 2 p.m. departure on a United Airlines charter from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, flying to Newark International Airport.

 

On two straight Saturdays, the Bills checked into the Westin Jersey City shortly after 4 p.m.

 

On two straight Saturdays, quarterback Josh Allen checked into room 701 at the Westin Jersey City.

 

On two straight Saturdays, between 4:15 and 5:15 p.m., Bills coach Sean McDermott and a few key players had their network production meeting with the CBS TV crews doing the games in the Constellation Room on the fourth floor of the hotel.

 

On two straight Saturdays, Josh Allen ordered the barbecued ribs from room service for dinner.

 

On two straight Saturdays, at 8:30 p.m., McDermott convened the weekly team meeting in the hotel’s Newport 1 ballroom.

 

On two straight Sundays, the first of four team buses left the Westin Jersey City at 9:15 a.m. for the 25-minute ride to MetLife Stadium.

 

On two straight Sundays, the Bills kicked off minutes after 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium, under mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the high seventies.

 

On two straight Sundays, Allen threw for 250 yards and change (254 against the Jets, 253 against the Giants).

 

On two straight Sundays, the Bills won road games in New Jersey.

 

On two straight Sundays, the Bills finished within a minute of the same time: at 4:14 p.m. against the Jets, at 4:13 p.m. against the Giants.

 

On two straight Sundays, the Bills’ United Airlines charter left Newark International Airport and landed back in Buffalo within five minutes of each other. Arrival last week: 7:27 p.m. Arrival this week: 7:22 p.m.

 

 

MIAMI

This from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

@MichaelDavSmith

When the Browns went 0-16 in 2017 they were outscored by 176 points over 16 games, and never lost a game by more than 24.

The Dolphins have been outscored by 92 points over 2 games, and losing those games by 49 and 43.

Miami may prove to be a uniquely awful team in NFL history.

 

So what are the teams with the worst point differential in NFL history?  Well, six teams have been -250 or worse, some in a 14-game season, some in 16:

 

Buccaneers     1976    14        -287         0-14

Colts (Balt)      1981    16        -274         2-14

Patriots            1990    16        -265         1-15

Rams (StL)     2009    16        -261         1-15

Browns            2000    16        -258         3-13

Patriots            1972    14        -254         3-11

 

So, for the Buccaneers of 1976, that is -20.5 points per game.

 

The 2019 Dolphins are at –46 points per game.

 

In defense of the Dolphins, they could have started the season with two of the three best teams in the AFC – and their Week 3 opponent, the Cowboys, might be one of the three best in the NFC.  Then it is the Chargers, before a home meeting with the Redskins on October 13.  Those two games might be a better test of whether the Dolphins are bad, historically bad or unfathomably bad.

 

Scott Kacsmar lets the Dolphins know that -92 is not the worst differential after two games ever.

 

@ScottKacsmar

#NFL Worst point differential thru 2 games since 1940

1961 Raiders minus-99

1973 Saints minus-92

2019 Dolphins minus-92

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com hears that the Dolphins master plan could involve the team being even worse in 2020 than it is this year:

 

Many believe the Dolphins are tanking for Tua. They actually may be tanking for Trevor.

 

There’s a growing suspicion in some league circles that Miami’s tear-it-down-to-build-it-up approach may not be a one-year thing, and that they may embrace a Cleveland-style two-year suckfest aimed at loading up the roster with young talent via multiple drafts. The ultimate goal, of course, is to find a franchise quarterback. But they may wait until 2021 to make the move.

 

If they take Tua Tagovailoa (or whichever quarterback emerges as the best of the bunch) with the first pick in 2020, what else will they have? And who will protect him? Like the Browns in 2017, who eschewed the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson for Myles Garrett, the Dolphins may pass on a passer next year, waiting for Lawrence in 2021.

 

While the strategy could eventually pay off, it will be a long two years for a franchise that, regardless of whether it’s trying to be competitive, simply isn’t. Cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick currently seeks a trade, and others could join him.

 

Running back Kenyan Drake, for example, is indeed on the block; conflicting reports emerged regarding that point on Sunday. As the trade deadline approaches in six weeks, the Dolphins surely will make available anyone and everyone, with the lone exception of cornerback Xavien Howard.

 

At the moment, QB RYAN FITZPATRICK is scheduled to face the Cowboys on Sunday:

 

The Dolphins may be considering making a change at quarterback, but they’re not willing to act on it yet.

 

Via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, Dolphins coach Brian Flores said that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick would remain the starting quarterback for now, at least for this week’s game against the Cowboys.

 

“But after a couple of weeks like that, we’re evaluating all positions,” Flores said. “We haven’t made any final decisions yet.”

 

It’s reasonable to consider a change, after Fitzpatrick threw two pick-sixes yesterday, and the Dolphins have been outscored 102-10 with him as the starter.

 

Josh Rosen has come in for mop-up duty in both games, which says more about the games themselves than Rosen.

 

Through two games, Fitzpatrick has completed 25-of-50 passes for 274 yards, with a touchdown and four interceptions (passer rating 39.9). Rosen is 8-of-21 for 102 yards with two interceptions (passer rating 14.5).

 

It’s a horrible situation for either of them, without enough help to make a difference. It seems inevitable that a change will come, but they aren’t ready to blame it all on any one player at this point.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com did some reporting – and as we suspected, WR ANTONIO BROWN has a long history of being a knucklehead.  Long story here, highlights/lowlights below”

 

SI conducted interviews with more than two dozen people who have employed, worked for, coached, or played alongside Brown—some who have taken legal action against him, and others who have not—and reviewed police and court documents from jurisdictions ranging from Miami to Pittsburgh to Oakland. In a half-dozen lawsuits, he is accused of refusal to pay wages to former assistants and part-time employees. Court documents and interviews also suggest a pattern of disturbing, sometimes bizarre behavior—including, SI has learned, a second woman’s allegations of sexual misconduct by Brown. Neither Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, nor his lawyer, Darren Heitner, responded to SI’s emailed list of questions, seeking Brown’s responses to each of the accusations within this story. (UPDATE: After this story published, Heitner tweeted that Brown had reviewed the new sexual misconduct allegations against him and “denies that he ever engaged in such activities.”)

 

In total, the stories of those who have encountered Brown paint a portrait of a superstar athlete living a rockstar lifestyle, of a man who rose from poverty and anonymity in Miami to stardom and wealth on a national stage, only to make a habit of insulting, attacking and betraying people he saw as being beneath his station.

 

In June 2017, Brown agreed to host a charity softball game in Pittsburgh to benefit the National Youth Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based all-volunteer group of women that promotes inclusion and gender equality, as well as developing academic skills in kids. During an auction of artwork donated by regional artists, Brown noticed a portrait of himself as well as its artist, a woman in her late 20s in from out-of-state. She had resolved to keep her silence on the events that ensued. Through the foundation, Sports Illustrated contacted the artist, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about her dealings with Brown, which she has not previously revealed publicly.

 

According to one of the organization’s co-founders, Sophia Hanson, Brown liked the painting so much that he trumped the would-be winning bid of $450 with a $700 offer to buy it himself. Hanson says she took Brown at his word when he promised payment at a later date—after all, Brown has earned more than $69 million before taxes during his on-field NFL career, and that’s not including national endorsement deals with the likes of Pepsi, Nike, Microsoft and EA Sports.

 

Brown was so delighted with the portrait and the artist that he invited her to come to his home in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh to create another painting of him, this time a mural on a wall in his home. The artist says Brown agreed to a daily fee of $1,000 for her work and sent a van to transport her from New York City, along with some of his friends and associates, to western Pennsylvania.

 

After arriving at his home, the woman at first thought nothing of Brown’s flirtations—an uncomfortable yet constant reality of her professional life—and she was thrilled by his willingness to share her work on social media; he even posted a live video showcasing her progress. “It was very exciting, to have this person interested in my work,” the woman says. “He acted like he trusted me and he let me do my thing.”

 

On her second day, however, the atmosphere curdled. The artist says at one point she was in a kneeling position while painting and turned to find Brown behind her, naked, holding a small hand towel over his genitals. “He was flirty with me but I paid him no mind because I was there on business, plus, I had already seen him with multiple girls in the short time I was with him,” says the woman. “I was about 40% done on the second day, and I’m on my knees painting the bottom, and he walks up to me butt-ass naked, with a hand cloth covering his [penis] and starts having a conversation with me.” She took it as a clear sexual come-on. “Unfortunately, I’ve been tried [by men] a lot of times, so I just kept my cool and kept painting,” she says. “After that, it all ended abruptly.”

 

The next day, Brown told the woman he was heading to Miami. She still believed she’d finish the mural, which her small but growing social media following anxiously awaited, when Brown returned. But days turned into weeks with no contact from Brown. She’d brought another painting to his home, inspired by the concept of Dead Days—a term used in Cook County (Ill.) prisons to describe when prisoners spend more time incarcerated during pre-trial than their eventual sentences—and she hoped he’d share it on social media to raise awareness of the cause. That work was stranded in Brown’s house, she says, and it has not been returned. His various assistants, who had been warm to her for two days, no longer answered text messages. Brown paid her $2,000 for her days of work but otherwise “ghosted” her, she says.

 

The woman is not pursuing charges or remuneration, though she was bothered by his behavior. She said that friends with whom she had shared details of this incident alerted her to the federal lawsuit Taylor filed against Brown last week.

 

As for NYF, social media messages and emails sent to Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, by both the artist and Hanson requesting the $700 payment for the original auction painting, have gone unanswered, according to the artist and Hanson.

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Brown has had acrimonious relationships with several women in his life. Police were dispatched to his Pittsburgh-area home on domestic disturbance calls three times in the last four years. Each incident involved his longtime girlfriend Chelsie Kyriss, the mother of three of his five children; none resulted in an arrest. According to the police report of an August 2017 incident, Kyriss accused Brown of throwing a bottle of cologne and a bottle of lotion at her during an argument, then leaving for a preseason game. Officers observed no injuries to Kyriss, who, according to the report, was hesitant to pursue charges for fear of it affecting Brown’s career.

 

In May 2018, the most recent incident, Brown called police to his home claiming Kyriss took his credit card and a Range Rover—Kyriss was in the vehicle, with the credit card, when police arrived. Kyriss told police that Brown intended to fly to California without providing adequate funds for her to take care of their children while he was gone. Brown gave the officers $500 to give to Kyriss in exchange for the credit card. Kyriss claimed she needed $1,000, but Brown refused to give her any more money. Officers were unable to settle the dispute, which to their knowledge did not turn violent, and left after suggesting that Brown “attempt to speak with Kryiss or another mediator.”

 

According to a Hollywood (Fla.) Police Department report, on Jan. 18, Wiltrice Jackson, who had a daughter with Brown, and the receiver were involved in a domestic dispute. Jackson arrived at Brown’s Hollywood residence seeking reimbursement for their daughter’s hair appointment. A shouting match ensued as Brown refused to let her into his residence, and, per the report, Brown pushed her, causing her to fall backward. Jackson suffered a cut on her left forearm. The next day, Jackson arrived at the Hollywood Police Department to say she didn’t want to press charges, and none were ever filed. Brown’s attorney, Darren Heitner, released a statement claiming, in part, “The closed police report proves that Antonio Brown did absolutely nothing wrong.” Sports Illustrated was unable to reach Jackson through multiple phone numbers connected to her name.

 

Brown’s run-ins with police became stranger and more frequent over the past two years. In April 2018, Sunny Isles (Fla.) police were called to his residence on three consecutive days. On April 23 he called police to report that, upon returning from an 11-day trip, he discovered a handgun and a tote bag containing $80,000 had been stolen from a closet in his apartment. The next day police returned to the apartment after a call reporting that furniture was being thrown to the street from the 14th-floor balcony. Police reported Brown was “very agitated” and yelling that building security had set him up. According to lawsuits filed by the building’s landlord and the family of a 22-month-old boy who was nearly struck by furniture as he walked with his grandfather (which was settled for an undisclosed amount in April), Brown was throwing the items from the apartment in a fit of rage.

 

One day after that, Brown called police to report the theft of his Rolls-Royce. According to the report: “We [two police officers] knocked on the door several times before a male voice responded, “who is it?” I identified myself and a black male [later identified as Brown] opened the door. When I said hello, [Brown] said ‘I found the car’ and closed the door.”

 

In May 2018, on yet another visit by police to Brown’s 8,800-square foot home at the mouth of a quiet cul-de-sac in Gibsonia, Pa., Brown reported that a safe containing $50,000 in cash and jewelry valued at approximately $2 million had been stolen from his bedroom while he was away in Miami. Brown told police he had a suspect in mind: Sam Williams, a personal assistant whom Brown said was the only person with access to the home. Police say Williams passed a polygraph test, and their interviews with Williams and another person of interest in the case revealed that Williams was hardly the only person with access to the house. Williams, who told police he was owed back wages by Brown, surmised the accusation was an effort to do something he’d seen Brown do to others to whom he owed money. It was a “breakup” attempt, Williams guessed in his interview with police, intended to justify Brown not paying him.

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Kolodzi also says that when all else fails, Brown uses assistants in good standing as a buffer between himself and his creditors. In Pena’s case, Brown allegedly verbally agreed to a contract, and left an assistant to handle the details—in Pena’s case it was Rob Santini, who describes himself as Brown’s former brand manager and publicist—then said the agreement between the service provider and the go-between didn’t have his approval. Santini says Brown asked him to put Pena on payroll and that he sent Pena’s information to Brown’s financial manager, Brian Davis, but Santini says he believes Pena was not paid in full.

 

“There’s something wrong with him,” Kolodzi says of Brown. “He doesn’t feel like he has to pay working-class people.”

 

Pittsburgh attorney Jack Goodrich represents Prisk and two others suing or planning to sue Brown. Robert Leo, a car detailer who says he assumed a role as Brown’s personal attendant and valet, says Brown owes him over $16,000 from expenses that Leo covered with his personal credit card. “Leo was dedicated to him, did everything he could for him, worked hard for him,” Goodrich says. “And he just ditched the guy.”

 

There’s more – a guy who installed his fish tank, a personal chef, others meticulously chronicled.

 

If we were Drew Rosenhaus, we’d get our money up front.  Same for any legal counsel.