AROUND THE NFL

Thoughts from Peter King on the AAF and its rules:

 

I think I can’t make any major conclusions on the quality of the AAF product after one weekend, because I just saw snippets. (I’ll watch more in the coming weeks.) But some of the rules I like a lot. No kickoffs or PATs; teams take possession at their 25-yard line and have to go for two after each TD. No onside kick; teams can try to keep possession after a score by making at least a 12-yard gain with the ball placed at the team’s own 28-yard line. I don’t like the ball starting at the 10-yard line in overtime. Seems gimmicky. We’ll see how that plays out.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Is this a shot across the bow of QB MATTHEW STAFFORD?  Michael Rosenstein of ESPN.com:

 

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn said Monday the club is open to taking a quarterback with the No. 8 pick in the draft if they deem someone worthy — even with veteran Matthew Stafford on the roster.

 

And it comes weeks after Quinn said Stafford was the team’s quarterback and would continue to be the team’s quarterback.

 

“We’ll consider any position in the draft at any point in time, whether it’s the eighth overall pick or we have multiple picks later in the draft,” Quinn said. “We’re in a position now with the eighth overall pick that the whole draft board is really wide open to us. We’re not going to really eliminate any prospects.

 

“In previous years, at least my last couple years here, we’ve drafted anywhere from 16 to 22 I believe. It’s a little bit different for us this year. There’s a few more players that are going to be available and if there’s a quarterback out there that we deem could help us this year or in the future, we’ll never close the door on that.”

 

The top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft are Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.

 

The question came up as a question from a fan during the team’s annual season ticket member summit, where fans lined up to ask questions of Quinn, team president Rod Wood and head coach Matt Patricia in the context of how teams in the league have been successful building with quarterbacks on rookie contracts offering more cap flexibility.

 

In recent years, Seattle (Russell Wilson) and Los Angeles (Jared Goff) have made the Super Bowl with quarterbacks on rookie contracts and the Eagles (Carson Wentz) and Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes) have also built consistent contenders around signal-callers on rookie deals.

 

Patricia said sometimes those teams are built to be stacked on one side of the ball and when the quarterback has to be paid, they’ll have to take hits at other positions. Patricia said “it’s tricky water to kind of tread there when you kind of have those situations and we’re trying to balance the overall foundation of the team so that you’re competitive all the way across the board.”

 

Stafford is slated to make $29.5 million against the cap next season — $19 million of it guaranteed. If, as expected, Stafford is on the roster of the fifth day of the 2019 league year, he’ll have $6 million guaranteed to him in 2020.

 

The 31-year-old is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, completing 66.1 percent of his passes for 3,777 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His yardage total was his lowest since the 2010 season; the touchdowns the fewest since 2012 and interceptions highest since 2015. His QBR of 53.8 was his lowest since 2014.

 

After last season, Quinn said he believed the Lions could win a Super Bowl with Stafford and backed what Matt Patricia had said earlier, that they believe in Stafford as their quarterback.

 

“Matthew Stafford is our quarterback,” Quinn said on Jan. 4. “He will be our quarterback here. Listen, this guy is a really talented player and myself, the coaches, need to put him in better situations to allow him to use his skill set.”

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com thinks the Eagles will be allowing WR GOLDEN TATE to walk into free agency without much of a fight:

 

Wide receiver Golden Tate said last month that he is hopeful that his time with the Eagles is “not coming to an end” after the impending free agent joined the team in a midseason trade with the Lions.

 

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said he felt good about making that trade despite middling production –30 catches for 278 yards — from Tate during the regular season. He didn’t say anything about the team’s plans on the extension front and a tweet from Tate on Monday suggests he hasn’t said anything to the wideout either.

 

Tate responded to a tweet about the Falcons signing linebacker Bruce Carter to a one-year extension by writing that it was “good to know” that “you don’t have to wait until March to sign extensions.”

 

The Eagles aren’t laden with cap space at the moment and that obviously impacts their ability to hold onto Tate while making other moves to set the team up for the 2019 season. They can maneuver their way to more space, but that may not leave Tate any likelier of sticking around for a full year in an Eagles uniform.

 

 

WASHINGTON

This:

 

The son of Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with being drunk in public.

 

According to the police report, Jack Gruden was arrested at 2:15 Sunday morning after a series of confrontations in a popular restaurant and bar district in Ashburn, Virginia, about five minutes from the Redskins’ facility.

 

The report stated that a deputy broke up a confrontation between Gruden and another male. Gruden, according to the report, was then involved in two more confrontations leading to his arrest. He has a hearing scheduled for March 21.

 

Gruden, 22, has spent the past two seasons on the Redskins’ staff, first as a volunteer and then as a video assistant this past year.

 

Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on the persistent state of young Gruden’s belligerence:

 

Give Jack Gruden credit. He doesn’t give up.

 

The Washington video assistant and son of head coach Jay Gruden was involved in three separate incidents before he was arrested Saturday morning on public drunkenness charges.

 

According to the Washington Post, the report from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said the 22-year-old Gruden had to be separated from an initial argument by police at a shopping development called One Loudoun. Officers then separated him from a second argument 10 minutes later. He told cops he was getting a ride home, but a few minutes later, he was involved in a third altercation.

 

The sheriff’s office spokesman said the three groups Gruden argued with were not together.

 

The team hired the younger Gruden last year in the video department, after he previously had been a volunteer (i.e. part of an extended take-your-kids-to-work-day program).

 

The incident happened at the same place Washington safety Montae Nicholson was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and public drunkenness in December, after a brawl in the middle of the street. Apparently, one was enough for him.

 

The team issued the usual statement, saying they were aware, and gathering more information.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

S ERIC REID has a big new contract – which contrary to what you might think makes him think the NFL “colluded.”  Jason Owens of YahooSports.com:

 

Eric Reid signed a $1.69 million contract to play with the Carolina Panthers last September.

 

The deal happened four weeks into the NFL season and came months after Reid filed a collusion grievance against the NFL, believing that owners had conspired to keep him unemployed because of his stance on social injustice protests and alignment with Colin Kaepernick.

 

Reid’s new deal

On Monday, he got a hefty raise on a three-year extension in Carolina. The 27-year-old one-time Pro Bowler is slated to make more than $22 million with $10 million in guarantees over the life of the contract that he believes is “fair-market value.”

 

He also believes the contract only bolsters his case against the league that collusion kept him from getting a fair deal earlier.

 

Reid: Contract ‘proves my point from last year’

“If anything, it proves my point from last year,” Reid told reporters. “I didn’t sign until the (fourth) week and did for almost the league minimum. And this year I signed a more substantial contract. And nothing has changed. I’m still the same player.”

 

Reid’s numbers last season fell in line with much of what he’s accomplished over his career. In 13 games, Reid tallied 71 tackles with five passes defended, a sack and an interception.

 

In five prior seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, Reid averaged 65 tackles, two interceptions and 6.8 passes defended over 14 games per season with one career sack.

 

Reid has a point

So yeah. He’s pretty much the same player he always was. Only now he has job stability and is making approximately four times the annual salary he did when the Panthers made the one-year deal last fall.

 

Reid lost a grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals after the team asked him specifically if he intended to continue kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest against social inequality and racial injustice. An arbitrator ruled that the team was within its rights to ask the question.

 

Reid’s collusion grievance ongoing

But his grievance against the league is still ongoing and expected to be resolved this year.

 

Reid’s stance that his new deal only bolsters his claim against league owners has merit. The Panthers eventually decided to bypass the noise of the kneeling protest when a football need presented itself and took a chance that signing Reid would be worth the potential backlash.

 

Hard to predict outcome of collusion case

His performance validated that gamble, and the Panthers are moving forward long-term with their starting safety. There was no valid football reason for Reid to not be on a field.

 

Whether his collusion case is rewarded is another thing altogether. While it’s impossible to reasonably deny that Reid was kept off the field for issues that had nothing to do with his performance, how his claim will be viewed on legal grounds is yet to be determined.

 

The Bengals outwardly decided to make his protest an issue, and an arbitrator decided that was OK.

 

But it only takes two teams to collude. The fact that the Panthers eventually signed Reid would not change that fact.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

More than three weeks after Gary Cavaletto and Patrick Turner failed to discern an obvious penalty, the Commissioner gets back to the Governor of Louisiana.

 

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards received a response from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to the governor’s letter expressing profound disappointment with the outcome of the NFC Championship Game, with a missed call that might have cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.

 

“I fully understand your personal disappointment, and the disappointment and frustration of Saints fans throughout the country,” Goodell wrote in the letter. “As you know, immediately following the game, our head of officiating told Coach Payton that a penalty should have been called on the play in question. I have expressed the same view to both Mrs. Benson and Coach Payton, as well as during my press conference on Jan. 30.”

 

Goodell said that league rules prevented him from overturning the result of the game, and he believed it would be wrong for him to do so.

 

He added that the league’s replay rules will be reviewed to determine if there should be a change that would allow review of calls and no-calls of penalties on the field.

 

Goodell said his response to the governor’s Jan. 22 letter was delayed because it arrived at the league office after he had left for the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

 

Gov. Edwards released Goodell’s letter Monday, saying: “Though it is cold comfort to New Orleans Saints fans, I applaud the commissioner’s willingness to review the officiating error closely to determine if similar errors can be prevented in the future through rule or procedure changes. I appreciate his response to my letter.

 

“New Orleans is a place unlike any other, as evidenced by the Saints fans who celebrated their team and their city in lieu of watching the Super Bowl and raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity in the process. It’s the Louisiana way to be hospitable to guests, as I know we will be when the Super Bowl next returns to New Orleans in 2024.”

 

More from Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

In his reply, Goodell reiterated his belief that he cannot invoke Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1 “to overturn the result of a game because of an officiating error.” He added that he believes “it would be wrong for me to do so.”

 

The commissioner also sounds opposed to making interference calls a part of replay. He does, however, agree the league needs to figure out how to improve its officiating.

– – –

“Our rules do not permit the Commissioner to overturn the result of a game because of an officiating error, and I believe that it would be wrong for me to do so. Nor have the clubs supported an expansion of replay to review decisions by game officials to call — or not to call — a penalty on the field. That said, I agree that it is incumbent on us to review this issue closely to determine if there are changes in our rules or procedures that would prevent a similar occurrence in the future. While there will always be mistakes in any game played, coached, and officiated by humans, we do not want officiating to be the topic of discussion after any game.”

 

Officiating, though, continues to be a topic of discussion more than three weeks after the NFC title game.

 

These tweets from sports lawyer Daniel Wallach:

 

@WALLACHLEGAL

My theory on why the NFL and Goodell waited so long on publicly acknowledging the error: had it been done immediately (such as before Super Bowl week), it could have opened the door to a judge ordering the end of the game to be replayed.

 

More Daniel Wallach

Not saying it would have or should have happened, since there are still insuperable obstacles (such as standing to sue), but with an elected state court judge, you never know . . .

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Bruce Arians on what ails QB JAMEIS WINSTON with Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:

 

Bucs coach Bruce Arians has a plan. Mr. Fix It believes he can stop the leaks and plug the holes in the game of quarterback Jameis Winston.

 

Specifically, he says the turnovers must slow to a trickle. But it will only be accomplished by Arians tightening the screws and demanding more.

 

“I talked to Jameis this morning about it and said, ‘You and I are going to have hard conversations about our football team,’’’ Arians said from his office at the Bucs’ AdventHealth Training Center just days before Super Bowl LIII. “’You’re not a rookie. So when I come to you, I want honest answers.’ We had those conversations earlier today.’’

 

Of course, Winston has been coached hard before. It’s not like Lovie Smith or Dirk Koetter turned a blind eye to his 58 interceptions and 18 lost fumbles over the past four seasons, the second-most in the NFL during that span.

 

However, while Arians does not forgive those mistakes, he’s also not holding Winston solely responsible for them.

 

Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen began the process of watching every throw, every decision Winston made with the football over the past four seasons. In addition to bad decisions, there have been some poor mechanics as well.

 

“I’ve studied a bunch of them,’’ Arians said. “Clyde has watched every throw he’s made since his rookie year and Byron, too. And it’s like you’re trying to look safeties off too long and your feet are crossed. So much of it is mechanical.’’

 

Then Arians began to pull back on Winston, saying much of the blame for his turnovers were the product of directly a poor football team.

 

Too often, Arians said, the Bucs’ defense surrendered a big lead and the running game, either ineffective or abandoned, forced Winston into a position of having to put the entire offense on his shoulders.

 

“The other thing is they’re down (expletive) 21 points,’’ Arians said after watching the Bucs games over the past four seasons. “Anybody down 21 is going to throw a pick or two and he’s down 21 a bunch.

 

“You’re going to throw picks. Tipped balls. Bad balls. Hit throwing. Being Superman. You think you can make everything.

 

“Give him a running game. Give him a defense and see how good he can be. I think we can limit (turnovers). Never get rid of them. There’s nobody that ever does it. But you can limit turnovers. And you talk about it. You talk a bunch about it on the practice field. That’s when it gets ugly. ‘What the (expletive) was that?’”

 

Arians is right. In Winston’s rookie year, Doug Martin rushed for 1,402 yards. Since then, the Bucs have not had a 1,000-yard rusher.

 

Meanwhile, the Bucs defense has never ranked higher than 15th in points allowed. The other three seasons, they were 22nd, 26th and 31st.

 

That’s why Arians has enlisted the help of former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, his former defensive coordinator with the Cardinals.

 

Arians has said he wasn’t ‘pining,’ to get back into coaching during his first year of retirement. But the Bucs opportunity included a rare confluence of events that made it irresistible: He had a previous working relationship with general manager Jason Licht, most of his former assistants were available and he loved Winston as his quarterback.

 

Arians said he’s anxious to see what Christensen and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich can do to improve Winston.

 

“I like to call it the driving range, taking him to the range,’’ Arians said. “Clyde is one of the best and we go to the range 30 minutes a day, just footwork and drills and throwing off balance and making these throws. You don’t get to stand there and throw it (overhand) perfectly all the time.

 

“One of the great feelings as a coach is when you do a drill and you see it in the game. That’s exactly what we practiced last Wednesday and the guy can do it now. That’s coaching.’’

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times thinks the Seahawks will play tag with DL FRANK CLARK.

 

As for Frank Clark walking, that’s not going to happen.

 

Pass-rushers are more valuable than ever in today’s NFL and Clark is Seattle’s only elite edge rusher, one of the top 10 or so in the league. Carroll has said several times the Seahawks will keep him around — and that’s not something he has said as openly and as often about other such situations.

 

Seattle might not immediately work out a long-term contract with Clark, who can become a free agent March 13. But the Seahawks can slap him with a franchise tag, as I detailed last week, beginning Feb. 19, a period that lasts through March 5. Teams often wait until the end of that period to use the tag, seeing if they can work out a long-term option first. But if there is no long-term deal reached over the next few weeks, it’d be a surprise if the Seahawks didn’t tag Clark to assure he stays with the team in 2019, at a contract that will be near or at $18 million.

 

I think at this point K.J. Wright is going to hit free agency. But I do think the door is being left open with Wright to return depending on how his market unfolds, sort of as happened a few years ago with Jermaine Kearse or last year with Mike Davis and Byron Maxwell.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com professes to like the fact that the Broncos didn’t hire a young offensive genius.

 

Now that the brand-new head coaches in the NFL have all been formally introduced with a flurry of ubiquitous “It’s a new day” quotes, it is abundantly clear the Denver Broncos zigged when everyone else zagged.

 

The Broncos didn’t pick a young, up-and-coming assistant. They didn’t pick the latest and greatest offensive playcaller.

 

They didn’t even pick a guy who had been a head coach before in the league.

 

No, they picked Vic Fangio, a 60-year-old first-time head coach — at any level — who has built a substantial and well-respected résumé on the defensive side of the ball. Add that up, and it is the no-nonsense, been-around-the-block-a-whole-lot-of-times Fangio who just might be the league’s most out-of-the-box hire this time around.

 

Following the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever, perhaps the idea was well-founded.

 

“I tried to go into it with the most open mind possible,” said Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway. “We weren’t necessarily looking to do what everybody else was or what everybody else wasn’t. We wanted to make the best decision for the Denver Broncos, and Vic was that guy.”

 

Fangio doesn’t exude a new-age approach, and he already has joked about preferring sweatpants to anything he wore during his whirlwind introduction tour last month. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t evolved in how he thinks about the game.

 

His defenses have been among the league’s best over the course of several changes in offensive thinking. As offenses changed, Fangio has changed to stop them.

 

“I’ve said he just wants people to be responsible to the team, in every drill, every practice, every game,” said Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, a longtime Fangio assistant.

 

This past season, when three different teams topped the 500-point mark — long historical ground for offenses, as just 22 have reached the benchmark in the Super Bowl era — Fangio’s Chicago Bears led the league in both scoring defense (17 points per game) and takeaways (36), while also being one of the least penalized units in the league.

 

It was Fangio’s success over the long haul — his ability to adjust, innovate, teach and succeed across more than three decades in the league — that caught Elway’s eye. It also was Fangio’s promise to sweat the details and the belief players can be taught to sweat those details now just as they could 25 years ago.

 

“We’re not going to cut any corners,” Fangio said. “I’m a fundamentals coach. I think the game of the NFL everybody thinks has changed and it’s a high-scoring league, et cetera, but fundamentals is still what wins in this league. I’m going to stress those; we’re not going to cut any corners. There will be no death by inches. We’re going to stress fundamentals.”

 

And Super Bowl LIII is now, suddenly, Exhibit A of all that. A so-called “less talented” New England Patriots team ended a season of romance for offenses around the league with a no-frills, assignment-sound slugfest to win the sixth Super Bowl of coach Bill Belichick’s tenure with a gold-star defensive performance.

 

An easy argument could be made that the two best coaches on the field Sunday night were the 66-year-old Belichick and the Rams’ 71-year-old defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips.

 

Fangio said he didn’t stress that it took so long to get his first chance at a head-coaching job. In fact, it was only his third interview for a head-coaching vacancy. He said he was more worried about how he did his job than what other people thought.

 

“I don’t want to use the word dream,” Fangio said just after he was hired. “It’s obviously something I’ve thought about throughout my career at various times, but I was comfortable enough in my own skin that it didn’t have to happen. I was happy with being a defensive coordinator in the NFL for close to 20 years. If a good situation ever arose and I matched what a certain team was looking for, I’d be all in. I believe I’ve found that here, and I’m all in.”

 

And with a most unexpected defense-first Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, the Broncos are all in too.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

It looks like Todd Grantham is going to bounce back to the NFL.  This tweet from Will Sammon of The Athletic:

 

@WillSammon

Bengals have formally requested permission to interview Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham for their open coordinator position, sources tell @TheAthleticCFB.

 

feeling is he is a lead candidate, per sources. unclear when he would interview.

 

Here is his coaching path:

 

Indianapolis Colts (1999–2001) – DL

Houston Texans (2002–2004) – DL

Cleveland Browns (2005–2007) – DC

Dallas Cowboys (2008–2009) – DL

Georgia Bulldogs (2010–2013) – DC

Louisville Cardinals (2014–2016) – DC

Mississippi State Bulldogs (2017) – DC

Florida Gators (2018) – DC

 

 

CLEVELAND

Ironically, RB KAREEM HUNT will be returning to the scene of what Cleveland authorities judged not to be a crime.  Fired by the Chiefs after a video shows him kicking assaulting a woman (and a guy, for that matter), he signs with his hometown team.  ESPN.com:

 

The Cleveland Browns signed troubled running back Kareem Hunt on Monday.

 

A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Hunt signed a one-year contract. He will be a restricted free agent after the contract expires, meaning the Browns will control his rights after next season.

 

The Kansas City Chiefs released Hunt in December after a video surfaced that showed him shoving and kicking a woman last February at his residence in Cleveland.

 

He neither was arrested nor faced charges for the February incident. He also was accused of punching a man in June.

 

The NFL placed Hunt on the commissioner’s exempt list shortly before he was released. He is not eligible to play until the NFL completes its investigation into the incidents and a decision on potential discipline is made.

 

A source close to the situation told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that the discipline process was “still ongoing and nowhere near done.” A source told Graziano that Hunt met with NFL investigators in January as part of the process.

 

Hunt, now that he has signed, will again be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list until the NFL makes a final decision on discipline.

 

Browns general manager John Dorsey drafted Hunt for the Chiefs in 2017, when Dorsey was the team’s GM.

 

“I want everybody to know we have done extensive research in regards to this case, this player,” Dorsey told reporters during media availability Monday. “He understands and takes full responsibility for the egregious act he committed. He is extremely remorseful for his actions.”

 

Dorsey said he talked to many people about Hunt, but did not talk to the woman, nor did he talk to groups that deal with domestic violence or violence against women. He said he did not reach out to the woman.

 

Hunt, 23, apologized to the woman in the February incident, the Chiefs organization and his family in an interview with ESPN after his release.

 

He apologized again in a Browns statement on Monday.

 

“First off, I would like to once again apologize for my actions last year. What I did was wrong and inexcusable. That is not the man I was raised to be, and I’ve learned a great deal from that experience and certainly should have been more truthful about it after the fact. I’m extremely grateful that John Dorsey, Dee and Jimmy Haslam and the Cleveland Browns organization are granting me the opportunity to earn their trust and represent their organization in the best way possible on and off the field,” he said.

 

“I am committed to following the necessary steps to learn and to be a better and healthier person from this situation. I also understand the expectations that the Browns have clearly laid out and that I have to earn my way back to the NFL. I’m a work in progress as a person, but I’m committed to taking advantage of the support systems that I have in place to become the best and healthier version of myself.”

 

Dorsey said Hunt voluntarily began counseling shortly after he was released by the Chiefs and “is now working toward being a better man going forward.”

 

He added that Hunt’s signing is “by no means … a guarantee of anything. As we all know, trust has to be earned. That has to be earned with the Cleveland Browns organization and the community of Cleveland moving forward. This will be a day-to-day thing with earning trust.”

 

Asked if the Browns would have a zero tolerance policy with regard to Hunt, Dorsey replied, “You know what, I’ll say yes.”

 

Dorsey said he expects the NFL’s investigation to wrap up in a couple of weeks and he hopes Hunt is present April 1 for the start of offseason workouts.

 

Hunt led the NFL in rushing in 2017 as a rookie with 1,327 yards and eight touchdowns in helping Kansas City qualify for the playoffs. He also had 53 receptions for 455 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he rushed for 824 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games and had seven receiving touchdowns before he was released.

 

“I know this, if you talked to anybody who’s been in the locker room with Kareem Hunt, they’ll tell you he was a really good teammate,” Dorsey later told a handful of beat reporters.

 

Hunt’s signing is a bit of a surprise given the Browns have a talented corps of backs. Nick Chubb ran for 996 yards in nine starts as a rookie, and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The team also has Duke Johnson, who is a very accomplished change-of-pace back and receiver out of the backfield. Johnson also averaged 5 yards per carry (on 40 carries) in 2018, and in 2017 had 1,041 total yards and seven touchdowns. The Browns signed Johnson to a three-year, $15.6 million contract last June. He is under contract with the Browns through the 2021 season.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FORMER PLAYERS

Hall of Fame voter Peter King, answering a letter, on the failure, so far, of Tony Boselli to earn a spot in the Hallowed Hall of Canton:

 

On Tony Boselli and the Hall, from his former offensive line coach. From Mike Maser, of Marvin, N.C. (Maser was Boselli’s only NFL line coach, from 1995 to 2001, in Jacksonville.) “My problem is the selection process for the Hall of Fame. I find it a little ludicrous that a group of writers have the final word on who’s going to be enshrined, and who isn’t. I’m pretty sure most of the selectors have never played the game, or understand the complexities of the various positions they’re sitting in judgment of. For you people to select a center over a prototype left tackle is unbelievable. Having had the good fortune of coaching for 41 years, and having only coached offensive linemen, I find it a little incredulous to take a guy who’s biggest feat was having played for a long time [Kevin Mawae] over a guy who was also an all-decade team member, and played for a shorter period, while being one of the most dominant left tackles of his era. Playing tackle, especially left tackle is an exercise in technique, where week in and week out you face the best pass rushers each team has. I know I am biased because I coached him, but for him not to be selected is a travesty, and for him to be bypassed for a center is a slight that is unimaginable for a guy who had a franchise built around him. Having played only seven years is no longer an excuse. Quality of performance, not quantity, should be the major criteria.”

 

Great letter, Mike. A few points to make:

 

• I understand your frustration about the selection process, and the fact that you believe sports media should not be the selectors. (Dan Fouts and James Lofton have been on the 48-member selection committee for three years now.) I would understand if the Hall went another way with the voters, and I am absolutely not saying that we know the game as well as those who coached or played or scouted it did. But I do not think having players or coaches or GMs exclusively would be nirvana either—unless they were excused from voting when teammates or former players were involved. I do think, however, that Fouts and Lofton have been godsends to the committee. They’re smart and passionate and don’t just extol the virtues of their teammates or former coaches.

 

• Just one man’s opinion (mine), and I am a voter who strongly believes Boselli belongs in the Hall of Fame. But I also think length of career matters. Boselli’s 97 games played is 39 percent the number of Mawae’s games (248), 44 percent of Faneca’s (206), and 53 percent of Hutchinson’s (169). I do not know exactly how to quantify this, but is it not fair to ask this question: If Mawae was a first-team all-decade center, and Boselli a second-team all-decade tackle (both are true), and if Mawae played at a high level at his position almost 10 years long, shouldn’t that be a major factor in the vote?

 

• I do believe Boselli was the best NFL tackle of a very good group in the second half of the nineties. And I believe he will make the Hall eventually—perhaps even next year, when only Troy Polamalu among the newly eligible class of players seems more likely than not to be elected. I will continue to speak and write in his favor. I was in your stadium in Week 2 1998, when Derrick Thomas of Chiefs came in after a six-sack opening game against Oakland, and against Boselli, he never touched Mark Brunell all game—and you and Tom Coughlin didn’t give Boselli help all day. He was on an island, and he dominated the NFL’s heir to Lawrence Taylor. That’s pretty important to me.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Bob Costas says it wasn’t his massive salary for little work that caused NBC to part ways with him.  He says it was retaliation for his brave and bold stand against concussions in the NFL.  Matthew Haag of the New York Times:

 

Bob Costas, the longtime sportscaster and prime-time host on NBC, alleged in an interview that aired on Sunday that the network’s executives abruptly removed him from covering last year’s Super Bowl after he criticized the violence in football and how the “game destroys people’s brains.”

 

His nearly 40-year relationship with NBC Sports, first as its boyish announcer and later as elder statesman, came crashing down over five days in November 2017. At a symposium that month with fellow journalists, Mr. Costas remarked on what he saw as the life-altering dangers of the sport, devastating consequences for its players and existential questions confronting the National Football League.

 

“The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains — not everyone’s, but a substantial number,” Mr. Costas told the crowd at the University of Maryland. “It’s not a small number, it’s a considerable number. It destroys their brains.”

 

His highly critical remarks, while in line with his past public comments about the link between playing football and head trauma, including an hourlong NBC special about it in 2013, quickly grabbed headlines and cast an uncomfortable spotlight on NBC Sports just months before it would broadcast the N.F.L.’s biggest and most lucrative event, the Super Bowl.

 

At the end of that week in November, Mr. Costas appeared on a CNN program in what he later described as an effort to soften the reaction to his remarks. He said that network executives had been well aware of his thoughts about football and that “NBC Sports deserves credit” for supporting him as he expressed his views.

 

Still, network executives were seething, according to Mr. Costas, setting in motion his removal from the network’s Super Bowl plan and his eventual departure from NBC. Mr. Costas spoke about the episode with ESPN last year for a story that aired Sunday on “Outside the Lines.”

 

Within an hour of his appearance on CNN, he said, he received a text message from Sam Flood, an executive producer at NBC. “I think the words were, ‘You’ve crossed the line,’” Mr. Costas told ESPN, adding that he no longer had the text message.

 

Mr. Costas told ESPN that he believed his remarks had cut too close to the delicate, multibillion-dollar business relationship between the N.F.L. and the networks that carry the games.

 

“Look, the N.F.L. isn’t just the most important sports property, it’s the single most important property in all of American television,” Mr. Costas said. “And it isn’t even close.”

 

An NBC Sports spokesman confirmed that Mr. Costas had been told that he had “crossed the line” but said it was not because he had discussed the topic of brain injuries and football. Instead, the spokesman said, it was because Mr. Costas had agreed after the University of Maryland symposium that he would no longer discuss the topic in interviews without prior approval from NBC Sports.

 

He had not sought approval for the CNN interview, the spokesman, Greg Hughes, said on Monday.

 

Shortly after the CNN appearance, Mr. Costas said, he was told he would not be part of NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl LII in February 2018. It was a sudden breakup between NBC and Mr. Costas, its longtime host of the Olympics and of “Football Night in America,” the network’s highly rated Sunday N.F.L. pregame show. Last year, he described the separation in public as “mutually agreeable.”

 

The parting was the culmination of Mr. Costas’s wavering commitment over many years to covering the N.F.L. He stepped away from NBC’s coverage in the 1990s, later saying the decision was because he “had ambivalent feelings about football.” Yet he was a host of HBO’s “Inside the N.F.L.” in the 2000s and then rejoined NBC’s coverage of the sport in the 2006-7 season, when the network started a $600 million-a-year deal with the league for Sunday night games. He continued hosting that program, “Sunday Night Football,” for the next decade, as awareness about the long-term effects of head injuries continued to rise.

 

During that time, Mr. Costas used the top-rated show’s platform to provide commentary on everything from guns to politics. In a halftime commentary in 2012, Mr. Costas called for “enlightened legislation and controls” on guns a day after a Kansas City Chiefs player shot and killed his girlfriend and then himself.

 

The network never received criticism or complaints from the N.F.L. about Mr. Costas’s coverage or commentary, including his remarks at the 2017 symposium, Mr. Hughes said.

 

By the time Mr. Costas appeared at that event, he had already taken a back seat in NBC’s coverage. He hosted the first “Football Night in America” of the 2017-18 football season but then handed off the remaining shows to Mike Tirico, who had moved over from ESPN to become NBC’s face of major sports events. When NBC eventually announced that Mr. Costas would not participate in the Super Bowl broadcast, he said that it would not have been fair to those who had been there the entire season.

 

“It wouldn’t be right for me to parachute in and do the Super Bowl,” he told The Associated Press weeks before the event. NBC and Mr. Costas officially parted ways last fall, when they agreed to end his contract early.

 

So, it was okay for Costas not to want the NFL, but not okay for NBC not to want Costas on the NFL.

 

Jay Rigdon of Awful Announcing is troubled:

 

The implications here are really quite something, because again, this is Bob Costas. If NBC is willing to sort of hang Bob Costas out to dry in order to please the NFL, what kind of message does that send to anyone else in broadcasting who might want to say something that offends the NFL? (The issue exists with other leagues and sports as well, of course, but the NFL is such a singularly valuable and influential property that it has a proportionally larger pull over networks.)

 

Of course, there’s the fact that ESPN is the outlet breaking this story. But this isn’t so much about the influence the NFL wields over an entire operation; ESPN is compartmentalized enough that their (often very good and important) reporting on the league is shielded a bit. If, say, Suzy Kolber (or whoever) wanted to go in on the league a la Costas at that Maryland forum, things would possibly be a bit different.

 

Bob Costas worked for NBC from 1979 through 2019, a career that spanned just about every sport and included a stretch from 1992-2016 wherein Costas was the primetime host for NBC’s Olympics coverage, as symbiotic as a sports broadcasting relationship can be. And that still wasn’t enough for NBC to stand up to the NFL on the Super Bowl coverage, because they spend billions to air NFL games and it’s the NFL that props NBC’s ratings up every year.

 

If it can happen to Costas, it can definitely happen to anyone else. That’s troubling for viewers who might be more interested in coverage that’s willing to push back on the NFL’s PR-friendly narratives on player safety and concussions and player protests and whatever the next issue to arise will be.

 

 

 

2019 DRAFT

It’s official.  QB KYLER MURRAY is all in on football – until he isn’t.  Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA TODAY:

 

Kyler Murray is going all-in on his pursuit of an NFL career.

 

The former Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner announced Monday he was “firmly and fully committing my life and time to becoming an NFL quarterback.”

 

Murray was also the No. 9 pick by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB draft and was due to report to spring training on Friday. But now his focus will turn to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, which begins Feb. 26.

 

“Football has been my love and passion my entire life,” Murray wrote in a picture posted to Twitter. “I was raised to play QB, and I very much look forward to dedicating 100% of myself to being the best QB possible and winning NFL championships. I have started an extensive training program to further prepare myself for upcoming NFL workouts and interviews. I eagerly await the opportunity to continue to prove to NFL decision makers that I am the franchise QB in this draft.”

 

In opting for football instead of baseball, Murray will return $1.29 million of the $1.5 million signing bonus he received last year and forfeit the remaining $3.16 million, according to ESPN.

 

Oakland A’s president Billy Beane said earlier in the day that the team was holding out hope he would stay the course with baseball.

 

“Things have certainly changed since the (2018 MLB) draft, given his amazing football season,’’ Beane said. “It’s based on a historic college football season this young man had. To not recognize that would be somewhat foolish.

 

“He’s a Heisman Trophy winner. He’s projected to be an early pick. We’ve had ongoing conversations as it relates to the conversation and to Kyler’s future. Period. Not just with baseball but potentially with other sports.”

 

As a junior, Murray threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns while adding 1,001 rushing yards and 12 scores on the ground.

– – –

Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout has this list of his top 50 prospects in the draft:

 

The Big Board is not a mock draft. No attention is paid to team needs. This is simply my personal ranking of the top 50 NFL prospects available for the 2019 NFL Draft (the version below is edited):

 

1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State, 6-4, 270, 4.76, junior

One shouldn’t blame Big Ten tackles or NFL scouts for confusing Nick with his older brother Joey as prior to suffering a core muscular injury that ultimately required surgery and ended his college career, Bosa lived up to his billing as one of the elite players in the country.

 

2. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama, 6-3, 295, 4.96, redshirt sophomore

Simply put, Williams was the most dominant player in college football in 2019, exhibiting a combination of raw power and quickness that I haven’t seen from an interior defensive lineman since then-Nebraska star Ndamukong Suh went No. 2 overall (to Detroit) nearly a decade ago.

3. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston, 6-2, 275, 4.82, junior

While a sideline incident with then-Houston head coach Major Applewhite raised some concerns about Oliver’s maturity, there is no denying his talent. His ability to penetrate from the interior makes him a difference-maker against the pass and run, alike – a rarity among interior defensive linemen.

 

4. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson, 6-4, 260, 4.78, redshirt junior

Bosa, Williams and Oliver have earned most of the buzz (and for good reason), but Ferrell is essentially 1D on my board as the best combination of size, athleticism and consistency.

 

5. Andraez “Greedy” Williams, CB, LSU, 6-1, 182, 4.50, redshirt soph.

No program in the country has a more impressive track record when it comes to producing NFL defensive backs than LSU and insiders there suggest that Williams may be the best out of Baton Rouge since Patrick Peterson Embedded video

 

6. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan, 6-4, 281, 4.67, junior

Gary signed with Michigan as one of the most highly regarded preps in the entire country and lived up to his billing, standing out on a defense loaded with future NFL draft picks since his true freshman season. While perhaps lacking the elite burst and bend off the edge of this year’s top pass rushers, Gary can effectively harass the quarterback because of his prototypical blend of size, strength, awareness and refined technique.

 

7. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington, 5-11, 192, 4.45, redshirt sophomore

Boasting an almost unfair combination of agility, ball-skills and physicality that compares favorably to top-drafted cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward the past two years, Murphy ranks as one of the elite prospects of the 2019 draft despite the fact that he reportedly earned just a second round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.

 

8. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama, 6-5, 301, 5.02, junior

Alabama’s ability to control the line of scrimmage is the single “biggest” factor in the Crimson Tide’s remarkable success since Saban took over the helm. Like his predecessor, Cam Robinson (now the Jaguars’ starting left tackle), Williams possesses the blend of length, strength and light feet to remain a blindside protector in the NFL.

 

9. Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky, 6-4, 258, 4.59, senior

Too often overshadowed over his career by the “other” dominant defensive linemen in the SEC, Allen emerged as one of the elite players regardless of position in the power conference as a senior, taking home the conference’s Defensive MVP Award, as well as the Bronko Nagurski, Outland Trophy and Lott IMPACT as the nation’s top defender.

10. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson, 6-3, 300, 5.04, senior

Checking in just behind Allen among top seniors, is Wilkins, who in terms of his production, versatility and leadership, Wilkins might just be the most unique player in the 2019 draft. He is a proven difference-maker regardless of where has Clemson lined him up the past three seasons, showing shocking agility and energy (on and off the field) for a man of his size and seeing time at defensive tackle, defensive end and even fullback.

 

11. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State, 6-2, 220, 4.59, redshirt soph.

Haskins only started one season at Ohio State but what a year it was, guiding the Buckeyes to a whipping of rival Michigan and a Rose Bowl championship to send Urban Meyer off in style. Unlike most quarterbacks who starred under Meyer, Haskins is a classic drop-back passer. He shows good accuracy to all levels of the field, plenty of arm strength and poise in pressure situations – which is the single biggest factor why he checks in as my top-rated quarterback for the 2019 NFL draft.

 

12. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State, 6-3, 301, 4.98, junior

An easy mover with grown-man strength, Simmons would compete for top billing among defensive linemen in most drafts and the fact that he falls just outside of the top 10 is a reflection of this year’s extraordinary talent at the position, as well as the fact that he does come with significant enough off-field concerns that he was not invited to the NFL

 

13. Deionte Thompson, FS, Alabama, 6-1, 193, 4.45, redshirt junior

The Alabama pipeline to the NFL is going strong as ever with Thompson, who emerged as one of the elite prospects in all of college football in 2018.

 

14. Montez Sweat, DE/OLB, Mississippi State, 6-6, 252, 4.78, senior

With his rare length and massive 84.5” wingspan, Sweat casts an imposing shadow off the edge, terrorizing quarterbacks in the SEC and Big Ten, alike, over his career. Teams will want to investigate what led to Sweat’s transfer from Michigan State, which might be why he opted to compete at the Senior Bowl despite a dominant career in which 23.5 of his 30.5 career tackles for loss went for sacks. He was my top-rated prospect entering the week of practice in Mobile and only confirmed his top 15 standing with his performance there.

 

15. Devin White, ILB, LSU, 6-0, 240, 4.64, junior

White rivaled top 10 pick Roquan Smith (Chicago) as the top linebacker in the country last season and, not surprisingly, took the mantle as the Butkus Award winner in 2018. A battering ram with impressive closing speed and excellent strength to wrestle ball-carriers to the ground, White worked hard to prove that he is a full-service linebacker, recording a career-high six passes defensed in 2018

 

16. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi, 6-3, 230, 4.55 (est.), redshirt sophomore

In terms of upside, Metcalf is the most intriguing receiver in the 2019 NFL draft, boasting a prototypical combination of size, speed and leaping ability to project as a legitimate No. 1 target at the next level.

 

17. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia, 5-11, 180, 4.49, redshirt junior

Georgia’s front seven earned much of the credit on defense for the Bulldogs’ SEC crown a season ago but Baker got his due in 2018, taking home the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in part due to his instincts, physicality and penchant for making big plays against top opponents.

 

18. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa, 6-4, 250, 4.77, redshirt sophomore

Statistic-based analysts probably will not be as high on Hockenson as I am but that is because he and fellow Iowa pass-catcher Noah Fant split production in 2018 with neither generating the kind of numbers to earn lavish praise. Hockenson, in fact, opted to leave two years early for the NFL with just nine career touchdowns. His frame, soft hands and stellar blocking, however, suggest that he could follow in the footsteps of another former Iowa tight end – George Kittle – in saving his best play for the pro level.

 

19. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma, 5-10, 195, 4.42, redshirt junior

It is hard to discuss Murray and not venture into hyperbole. What he has already accomplished – winning the Heisman Trophy in his only season as a starting quarterback and being selected No. 9 overall in the 2018 Major League Baseball – already suggest that he is among the world’s best all-around athletes. Projecting him to the NFL as a franchise passer is more difficult, especially given his size. But make no mistake, besides a combination of elusiveness and speed similar to what Lamar Jackson offered a year ago, Murray also flashes rare accuracy.

 

20. Greg Little, OT, Mississippi, 6-5, 325, 5.23, junior

Little is anything but at a rock-solid 6-5, 325 pounds and possesses all of the other traits scouts are looking for in a potential left tackle — including light feet, balance, long arms and core strength. He is considerably less polished than Alabama’s Williams (8th on my board), but that isn’t surprising given that he has just two seasons as a full-time starter.

21. Dexter Lawrence, NG, Clemson, 6-3, 340, 5.27, junior

Given how the quick passing game has taken over the NFL, traditional run-stuffers like Lawrence do not hold the same value they once did. The NFL remains a big man’s game, however, and few boast Lawrence’s combination of size, power and athleticism.

 

22. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama, 5-09, 216, 4.49, junior

An explosive, powerful back with a wicked jump-cut and terrific burst, Jacobs is the only runner to crack my top 32 Big Board, earning this distinction despite the fact that he served as a backup virtually his entire college career.

 

23. Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware, 6-0, 195, 4.50, senior

Having scouted the Senior Bowl since 2001, I’ve learned patience when evaluating so-called small school prospects until getting a chance to evaluate them against elite competition. Often, non-FBS prospects struggle early with the jump in talent with some of the best showing signs of acclimating as the week goes on. It is rare that a small school prospect shines the way Adderley did this winter on the big stage, showcasing the range, instincts and ball-skills to project as an immediate starter at free safety, living up to the standard set forth by his cousin, Herb Adderley, a Hall of Fame cornerback for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s.

 

24. N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State, 6-3, 216. 4.52, junior

Harry was a dominant force from the moment he joined the Sun Devils, beating up on smaller cornerbacks with his exciting blend of size, body control and sticky hands. Perhaps due to how he was used early in his career, Harry developed a reputation as more of a possession receiver than a true, all-around No. 1 type. In 2018, however, Harry showed improved agility to make defenders miss in tight quarters, including on a dazzling punt return against Southern California that showed off his underrated agility and speed.

 

25. Taylor Rapp, SS, Washington, 6-0, 212, 4.59, junior

Given all of its physical and mental requirements, safety is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate. Rapp, however, excels in two areas absolutely critical to success in the NFL at this position: producing turnovers and tackling in the open field. In a draft blessed with a lot of talented of defensive backs, Rapp might offer the highest floor.

 

26. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida, 6-5, 330, 5.35, junior

Teams looking for a dominant run blocking right tackle will certainly be intrigued by the massive Taylor, a three-year starter with experience playing both sides.

 

27. Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame, 6-6, 305, 5.02, senior

As physically imposing as it gets in a dominant class for defensive linemen, this long-armed Louisiana native wins with a combination of size, power and tenacity similar to former Notre Dame (and current Pittsburgh Steelers) standout Stephon Tuitt.

 

28. A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi, 6-1, 225, 4.50, junior

While speed is the trait most look for at wide receiver, I’m also a big believer in competitiveness, which has helped some NFL receivers who perhaps didn’t run so well for the stop-watch still enjoy plenty of success in the NFL. This is where Brown (like Keenan Allen and Anquan Boldin before him) excels, using his frame and physicality to badger smaller cornerbacks to get open or when generating yards after the catch.

 

29. Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State, 6-5, 305, 5.10, senior

Along with Adderley (ranked 23rd) no player on my top 32 board boosted his stock more at the Senior Bowl than Risner, who may well have been the most consistent performer in Mobile this year.

 

30. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri, 6-4, 223, 4.89, senior

Lock set an SEC-record with 44 passing touchdowns (against 13 interceptions) as a junior and some panicked when his scoring strikes slipped as a senior (28), despite the fact that his interceptions also dropped to just eight. When he feels comfortable in the pocket, Lock’s accuracy and competitive fire is undeniable, though his play can get frenetic when he’s taken some hits. It is a skill-set that reminds me a bit of current Oakland Raiders’ standout Derek Carr, keeping Lock as my top-rated senior quarterback all year long.

 

31. Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma, 6-3, 338, 5.30, redshirt junior

Ford started all 14 games at right tackle for the Sooners, pairing with fellow top 64 talent Dru Samia at guard to give the Sooners arguably the best right side in college football.

 

32. Amani Hooker, S, Iowa, 5-11, 210, 4.58, junior

One could make an argument for Duke quarterback Daniel Jones or even fellow Hawkeyes stars Fant or Anthony Nelson for this spot and it is quite possible they earn first round selections in the 2019 draft. Frankly, they were not as consistent in 2019 as Hooker, who emerged from the shadows to earn Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year accolades, showing not only the ball-skills that have helped his former teammates Desmond King and Josh Jackson succeed in the NFL but breath-taking closing speed as a slashing open-field tackler, as well.

 

Best of the Rest

 

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa, 6-4, 241, 4.60

 

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke, 6-5, 220, 4.68

 

Joe Jackson, DE, Miami, 6-5, 265, 4.83

 

Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas, 6-6, 274, 4.86

 

Jachai Polite, OLB/DE, Florida, 6-2, 242, 4.62

 

Devin Bush, OLB, Michigan, 5-11, 233, 4.67

 

Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State, 6-2, 286, 4.96

 

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma, 5-10, 168, 4.34

 

Brian Burns, OLB/DE, Florida State, 6-4, 240, 4.65

 

Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington, 6-7, 321, 5.27

 

Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State, 6-2, 204, 4.55

 

Mack Wilson, ILB, Alabama, 6-1, 239, 4.73

 

Lonnie Johnson, Jr., CB, Kentucky, 6-2, 210, 4.55

 

Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State, 6-0, 208, 4.39

 

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida, 6-0, 203, 4.55

 

Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State, 6-5, 310, 5.10

 

Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State, 5-11, 190, 4.35

 

Trysten Hill, DT, Central Florida, 6-1, 315, 5.10