AROUND THE NFL
Will replay usage be universal? Herbie Teope of NFL.com:
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has been very vocal in recent days on the need for change in replay and how games are officiated.
Payton, a member of the NFL competition committee, provided perhaps his strongest take on both areas since a blatant missed pass-interference call during the NFC Championship Game contributed to the Saints losing the matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.
“We’re not talking about splitting the atom here,” Payton said emphatically Tuesday during the Coaches Breakfast with reporters at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix. “We’re an organization that is pretty small, pretty smart and we’ve made great strides in a lot of areas.
“I just think we need to make more strides in this area relative to not just replay, but relative to what we’re saying about the officials. I don’t think we’re going to see the all-star crews too much.”
Payton previously gave his opinion, which wasn’t favorable, on the use of all-star officiating crews during an interview with NFL Network’s Steve Wyche, and he repeated his stance Tuesday.
When it comes to replay, Payton told reporters that the competition committee proposed an amended rule change (6B) to allow coaches to challenge offensive or defensive pass-interference infractions in the absence of a penalty flag.
“The call has been made, the coach can say, ‘That wasn’t pass interference, that wasn’t defensive pass interference,'” Payton said. “The difference, though, with 6B is no flag is on the field and I can pull my challenge flag out and say, ‘That should’ve been offensive or defensive pass interference.’ So, that’s unique, but the fact that we’re discussing challenging OPI and DPI.”
Whether the proposal makes it through remains to be seen, and the voting is scheduled to occur at some point later Tuesday. But Payton was clear in his stance that something needs to change.
The Saints head coach also believes the league will eventually utilize an eighth official upstairs in the booth to help out with egregious missed calls, which Payton said came up during the coaches’ discussions.
“We’re going to have a point — not this weekend, not today — but we’re going to have a point where this eighth official up in the booth is going to allow this game to flow,” Payton said. “He’s going to allow it to flow and he’s going to buzz that buzzer when he feels a certain level of mistake has been made. How does that sound? That’s going to happen.”
More from Peter King:
The NFL won’t be popular in New Orleans this week. (Not that Roger Goodell could get a table at Emeril’s now anyway.) But during a meeting of NFL coaches and GMs here late Sunday afternoon, a show of hands was asked for. How many teams favored a new rule that would allow challenges of penalties not called on the field such as pass interference? That rules tweak, of course, would be to remedy the defensive pass interference call not made late in the NFC title game that helped propel the Rams, instead of the Saints, to the Super Bowl.
Less than eight hands went up. At least 24 teams would have to vote in favor of the rule for it to become law in the NFL.
“Clearly, there are factions of the membership who say, ‘Where does it end? With every foul or non-foul reviewable?” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told me Sunday night.
The rules change that will have a far better chance when Tuesday’s vote is taken: one that would make offensive and defensive pass-interference calls—flagged on the field—subject to review. That will do nothing to address the Saints’ gripe from the title game. I got two views of the prospects of that proposal at the hotel Sunday: Some on the Competition Committee are optimistic that the proposal to challenge interference calls on the field for a one-year trial will get 24 votes. “I’m not so sure of that,” said one other member of the committee. “I think it’s going to be very close. It might need some arm-twisting.”
“There’s just not enough support for reviewing interference not called on the field,” said Competition Committee member John Mara. “So let’s just take what we can get, work on training the officials better, work on having the same crew together in the playoffs [instead of all-star crews comprised of officials unfamiliar with each other] and attack it that way.”
“We need to make progress,” Vincent said. “It’s a progression, maybe over time.”
If that measure passes—rules proposal 6 on the league’s agenda here, allowing a one-year experiment with interference calls able to be challenged—it would leave non-calls like the one in the Saints game unaffected. The committee, and by extension the league, is going to be questioned harshly if that happens.
“This is a democratic process,” Vincent said. “This is something that the 32 teams dictate by their votes. I’ve been on record as saying that it will not be in the best interests of the league if we leave Arizona without a new rule about [interference] in place. We shouldn’t push it off till the meetings in May. I believe we need to be voting with the coaches in the room.”
Vincent was referring to the possibility of tabling the pass-interference-review proposal until the league’s annual May meetings, this year in Key Biscayne, Fla. But it clearly is an option. The NFL, which clearly wants some change, could take a straw vote during Tuesday’s debate, and if it feels the measure would fail to get 24 votes, the league could table it for two months, hoping to convince some skeptical owners to change their minds in a meeting that is traditionally not attended by the coaches.
A couple of things I’ve heard here: Multiple teams feel replay is far too intrusive on the game, and they are leaning against voting for an expansion of the system, at all. And some teams fear the unintended consequences of allowing challenges of plays on the field that went un-flagged.
Example: the Miami Miracle play, the one that allowed Kenyon Drake to take a lateral and weave through the New England defense for the winning touchdown in the dying seconds of a 2018 game. Suppose a rule was on the books that allowed New England to review the play, and suppose the Patriots had one or more video-review spotters in the press box who is doing nothing but studying every one of the 11 foes on every play to see if a foul had been committed. Then, if the Patriots challenged holding on a Miami player away from the play, and it was determined that there was a hold on the play, even if it had nothing to do with the outcome of the play, the review just might negate the touchdown. Is that the game fans want?
It’s true that the Saints’ play won’t be fixed here, and I have struggled with that. How can the league say it’s doing everything to make the game fair without addressing the rule that might have sent the wrong team to the Super Bowl?
My only idea to address everyone’s concerns: Allow teams to challenge all pass-interference calls on the field, or interference calls they think should have been made. Interference only. Mandate no increase in the number of challenges; most coaches would likely save a challenge for the last five minutes of the game, and the games wouldn’t likely be appreciably longer. This would allow teams to challenge bad interference calls.
“So many interference calls are close,” said the Giants’ Mara. “During the process, we were shown the pass-interference flags from this season, and we [on the eight-man Competition Committee] were asked to vote on them and whether they were fouls. On many of them, we voted 4-4.”
Vincent took three pages out of his binder for these meetings Sunday night. They concerned penalties not called from 2016 to 2018 that the league office deemed errors, and then calls made incorrectly in the same three seasons. Some 24 of the 50 incorrect calls were defensive pass interference penalties. You can bet he’ll use that power-point sheet to try to convince the teams on the fence about replay expansion to vote yes. We could have corrected 24 obvious incorrect calls in the last three years, he’s likely to say. And the nay-sayers will counter: How much more replay? Why more replay?
Should be an interesting debate here. There will be time for Goodell and Vincent to lobby skeptical teams during today’s sessions, and again tonight when the league has a cocktail party attended by everyone here. The one thing I’ve seen over the years is when the league really wants something, it pushes hard to get it. My money’s on the league winning, either Tuesday here or in Florida in May.
This from Mike Florio:
When the owners reconvene later today in Arizona, they will be considering one specific proposal that originated with the league’s coaches.
Per a league source, the owners will take up the possibility of adding a coach’s challenge for defensive pass interference, offensive pass interference, roughing the passer, or illegal hits on defenseless players. This would be a separate challenge, in addition to the current challenge system.
Presumably, this extra challenge would trigger a review of fouls that are called and a review of fouls that aren’t called. It’s unclear whether review would be automatic or whether the red flag would still be required to be thrown in the final two minutes or either half or during overtime.
The coaches came up with this proposal during a coaches-only meeting on Monday. The source predicted that it has a 65-70 percent chance of passing when owners get together late Tuesday afternoon, Arizona time.
Florio also has more about officiating assignments:
Payton wants the league to stop using “all-star” officiating crews in the postseason and instead use the same crews who worked together for 16 games during the regular season. Payton says that when his team was on the wrong end of a missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game, the two closest officials, who had never worked together before, failed to communicate properly.
“I don’t think we’re gonna see the all-star crews as much,” Payton said. “On that specific play, we watched a young official acquiesce to a veteran official. It’s the first time they were working together.”
Payton also said he thinks the postseason officiating assignments are based too much on seniority and not enough on an official’s grades.
“The referee has to be five years a ref before he can work the Super Bowl. What if he’s Patrick Mahomes the referee? What if he’s the best in Year 2?”
Payton also noted that the NFL won’t assign the same referee to two consecutive Super Bowls, and he said they should if a referee grades out the best in consecutive years.
“When’s the last time we had back-to-back referees work the Super Bowl? I know we’ve had back-to-back quarterbacks, we can’t get Brady out of this game, but if the best referee truly was the best, let’s just hypothetically say, last year, this year, let’s say he had a three-year run,” Payton said, then he should get to referee three straight Super Bowls.
Payton raises good points, points that we’ve raised before. The two best teams are on the field in the Super Bowl, and they ought to have their game officiated by the best crews.
It should be noted that Mike Pereira was not a fan of the “all-star crews” but the opinion of others prevailed.
NEW YORK GIANTS
“Sooner than later” is the buzz word from Coach Pat Shurmur on when the successor to QB ELI MANNING will be arriving. Mike Chiari of Bleacher Report:
New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur is thinking about life after Eli Manning.
According to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, Shurmur said Tuesday that he would like to have Manning’s successor on the roster “sooner than later.”
Shurmur also said that he would like for Manning’s successor to spend a year learning under the two-time Super Bowl champion, meaning New York may be leaning toward selecting a quarterback early in April’s draft in Nashville, Tennessee, since Manning’s contract expires at the end of the 2019 campaign.
The G-Men own the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft, meaning they may have a shot at one of the top quarterbacks in the class.
Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins are widely thought to be the top two signal-callers available. Murray has been heavily linked to the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 1 overall pick, though, which means Haskins may be the only top quarterback New York can realistically land.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported that the Giants did more homework on Haskins during the 2018 season than any other NFL team.
The Giants also met with Haskins prior to his pro day at Ohio State, according to Tom Rock of Newsday.
In his lone season as the Buckeyes’ starter, Haskins put up huge numbers. He completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,831 yards, 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions while also rushing for four touchdowns.
Haskins finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Murray and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, respectively, and he was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Although the rebuilding Giants are prepared to give Manning at least one more year as a starter, it is clear that they need their quarterback of the future. Manning is now 38 years of age and has led New York to the playoffs just once in the past seven seasons.
We wouldn’t think a coach would be talking like this if he was satisfied with the first round QB his team drafted just last year. Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
Kliff Kingsbury continues to speak highly of current starting quarterback Josh Rosen. The new Cardinals coach continues to say the team hasn’t made up its mind on what to do with the No. 1 overall pick.
The one thing that’s obvious is how high Kingsbury is on Kyler Murray.
Kingsbury, who coached at Texas Tech last season when Murray won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, is effusive in his praise of Murray.
At the Tuesday morning coaches’ breakfast Tuesday, a reporter asked Kingsbury what he liked about Murray.
“It’s more what don’t you like,” Kingsbury said. “When you watch him play, he can run it; he can throw it; he’s a competitor. I was one of the better Texas high school players to ever come through our state. I don’t know if there is one thing you can pinpoint. He is one of the better dual-threat players to ever play.”
The Cardinals still are weighing their options for the top pick, Kingsbury reiterated, and why wouldn’t they be? Arizona might get a trade offer it can refuse, and if the Cardinals use the choice, they need to feel comfortable it’s the right choice.
“You just want to make sure you are thorough when you have that No. 1 pick,” Kingsbury said. “That’s a pick that can change your organization for many years to come. If you’re not doing all your due diligence possible, then I think it’s a mistake. Steve [Keim] and Michael [Bidwill] feel the same way. It’s been an extensive process, from the Combine and going out and seeing all these people, and I feel like we’re doing a good job gathering information.”
Peter King finds a really smart guy who thinks that it was the Raiders who were the big winners in the trade that sent LB KHALIL MACK to Chicago:
So I’m like most people who watch or work around football: When I heard that the Raiders won the award at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference for “Best Transaction of 2018” for the trade of Khalil Mack to Chicago, I thought it was a story in The Onion.
In fact, it was the strong belief of Richard Thaler, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Economics. Thaler is also a football fan. He co-wrote a widely read paper in 2005 on the value of NFL draft choices (“We find that top draft picks are overvalued in a matter that is inconsistent with rational expectations”), laying out a treatise that the best draft choices actually are those low in the first round and through the second round. He has consulted with an NFL team about the value of draft choices and how to build a team. Thaler, 73, is a professor at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.
I reached Thaler, who was on the committee that chose the Mack trade as the transaction of the year. Oakland traded Mack and a second-round pick to Chicago for four picks: two ones, a three and a five. The Bears then signed Mack to a new contract averaging $23.5-million a year through 2023. The Raiders have the Bears’ first pick, 24th overall, in the April draft, and also Chicago’s first-round pick in 2020 … and Oakland has the fourth overall pick, its own, this April.
“Here’s the argument,” Thaler said. “The Raiders are down, and they will be getting these [four] picks to help them rebuild their team. I believe the only way to win in football is to have players who play better than their salaries. Let’s stipulate that Mack is getting top-of-market value for his services, so it will be hard for him to play better than his salary. Let’s also stipulate Mack is worth the money. But is Mack worth all that money plus four good draft choices?
“Now Jon Gruden can build through these multiple high picks on rookie contracts instead of just having one great player being paid at a market rate. In fact, if Gruden were talking to me, I’d tell him to trade the number four pick for multiple picks. I’d trade down every year. If I had a pick in the top 10, and I wasn’t drafting a quarterback, I’d want to trade down every year. There is value in multiple high picks versus one pick in the top 10.”
A few things to unpack. The thought about multiple high picks being worth more than one is particularly true in a year like this one, when there is very good depth (especially on defense) through three rounds. If the Raiders select, say, Alabama’s Quinnen Williams at number four, and he becomes a star, will they do the same things as they did with Mack, and flip him for more picks? If so, would the Raiders ever keep a home-grown star other than at quarterback? Thaler believes they shouldn’t.
Not to argue with a Nobel Prize winner, but …
I think it’s very hard to watch football and to not think Mack is worth several high picks and 11 percent of a team’s cap, which is about what he is scheduled to earn, on average, over his six Chicago seasons. Twice Mack wrecked the Packers last year (though Green Bay won one of the games in a miracle ending), and he was the best player on the field against Arizona and Tampa Bay. The Bears snapped a four-season last-place streak in 2018, winning the NFC North and improving by seven victories over 2017, and did so with a so-so quarterback performance by Mitchell Trubisky.
I maintain it’s fiscally possible to have more than one star taking up significant cap space on a team. The best team of this era, the Patriots, has mostly acted like Thaler suggests, jettisoning players on the verge of making free-agent riches or negotiating big contracts (Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Trey Flowers, Malcolm Butler, Trent Brown, Nate Solder) in favor of draft choices mostly. That plus Tom Brady’s play and Bill Belichick’s stratagems have served New England well. But not many other teams routinely let great players walk away. Maybe more teams should.
If you could predict that a team would draft above-average or star starters with two or three of the Mack replacement picks, I’d be more convinced that Thaler is right, and that Oakland won this trade. Of course, we won’t know for two or three years at the earliest.
Thaler’s no fan of the Cowboy’s draft-trade value chart, by the way. “Teams still use that stupid chart,” he said. “That chart overvalues high picks. It’s a joke. High picks, to me, are over-valued stocks. Smart teams should have a portfolio manager, to basically analyze every draft decision or trade.” And he thinks football teams should have staffs of analytics experts; most teams only have one, if any.
“Football,” Thaler said, “is way behind baseball and basketball. [Houston Rockets GM] Daryl Morey has a staff of I think 15 full-time analytics guys. Why wouldn’t you want to give yourself every edge when you’re building a team?”
It’s always good to expose yourself to new ideas. I don’t buy everything Thaler is selling, but if Oakland drafts well in the next two years, he and the MIT Sloan program will look pretty smart.
Adam Gase of the Dolphins coveted QB MATTHEW STAFFORD. Does the same hold true for those still with Miami? Will Brinson of CBSSports.com:
The NFL is never short on rumors and there’s a juicy one, albeit one that’s over a year old, that leaked out of the 2019 NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix this week. The Miami Dolphins, unhappy with their quarterback situation heading into last year, reportedly tried to trade for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
According to Armando Salgeuro of the Miami Herald, ex-Miami coach Adam Gase, now with the Jets, spearheaded an effort to try and upgrade from their current situation, which featured Ryan Tannehill on top of the depth chart.
Salgeuro reports that Gase got personally involved and specifically targeted Stafford, going so far as to reach out “personally to Lions coach Matt Patricia to try to pry Stafford away from the Lions.”
Per the report, the Dolphins and Lions didn’t get far enough down the road to try and actually put together any real compensation package, but Salguero believes the Dolphins were willing to offer “at minimum Miami’s 2018 first-round pick and probably more.”
Uh, you think? Stafford is a two- or three-pick QB at least. Maybe Stafford at his age doesn’t command three first-round picks, but there is zero doubt he’s going to get two of them in return, in addition to a little more compensation coming back to the other team.
There’s also the matter of the financial inflexibility that Stafford’s contract would have caused for the Lions: as noted by ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, the Lions would have had somewhere between $46.5 million and $53 million in dead cap space last year if they dealt Stafford. They would need to really not like Stafford as a quarterback if they wanted to move on with that kind of cap hit.
Miami wanting to move on from Tannehill shouldn’t be too huge of a surprise: they traded him this offseason to the Titans with everyone understanding Tannehill, the No. 9 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, would have been released if he wasn’t cut.
Gase always played his hand as if he was enamored with Tannehill as a quarterback, or at least a big fan of the former Texas A&M starter. But Tannehill missed a ton of time, including the entire 2017 season, which forced the Dolphins to sign and start Jay Cutler for an full year. It wasn’t ideal.
Tannehill was never fully healthy last year and the Dolphins got fined for mislabeling his injury status. There was also a bizarre rant that Gase went on in October about HIPAA laws and not being able to talk about Tannehill’s injury.
So despite Gase’s willingness to back Tannehill, perhaps all of these things make more sense in light of the Dolphins trying to trade for another quarterback.
Lions GM Bob Quinn was asked by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free-Press about possibly trading Stafford earlier this offseason at the scouting combine and firmly denied that it was a possibility, although Quinn could simply be making sure Stafford doesn’t think that the Lions wanted to try and trade him or even listened to the possibility.
Figuring out a way to make this happen would have taken a lot of maneuvering in terms of the compensation and the salary cap for both sides, but the “what if” factor here is fascinating from the perspective of how it would have changed the short- and long-term outlooks for both teams involved.
Peter King reports on the retirement of TE ROB GRONKOWSKI:
Some connected with the Patriots felt strongly early last week that Gronkowski was likely to retire, and it chagrins the organization that the free-agent receiver/tight end crop is now totally denuded after established tight end Jared Cook—who I am told will not reconsider his decision—committed to signing with New Orleans last week. It’s no exaggeration to say the Patriots’ skill-position players, post-Gronk, might be the worst in the Belichick Era.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus’ version of the events, told to me late Sunday night here at the Biltmore: He said Bill Belichick reached out to Rosenhaus on Thursday to check about his tight end’s status. Rosenhaus called Gronkowski and said he should give the Patriots a decision soon. And on Sunday afternoon, before Rosenhaus flew from Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix, he said the 29-year-old Gronkowski called him to make the retirement official. “It was time,” Rosenhaus said.
Gronkowski’s words, via Rosenhaus: “It’s time. I just won another championship. I’m going out on top. I just want to do nothing for a while. I just want to be me. I just want to have fun.”
Gronkowski’s friend and Patriot backup, Dwayne Allen, told me Sunday night he was not surprised by the decision. “It was a day-to-day thing in the tight end room last year in New England,” Allen said. “He’d say, ‘This is it.’ And then, after being able to think about it in the offseason, he came to that same conclusion.”
The Patriots are a lesser team today, obviously, because of Gronkowski’s retirement after nine starry seasons. But who can blame him, after three back surgeries, four arm surgeries, an ACL surgery, multiple concussions, and calf, quad and Achilles injuries? Gronkowski entered the NFL in 2010 with a pesky herniated disk condition, and in his 131 games since, he survived his physical maladies to be one of the best tight ends ever.
He blocked as well as any tight end of this generation—and unlike so many gifted offensive tight ends, he embraced blocking as part of his job. He caught the ball downfield as well as any tight end of this generation. The other three greats of this century, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, averaged between 10.8 and 12.4 yards per reception. Gronkowski averaged 15.1, more than Jerry Rice (14.8) and Tyreek Hill (14.6).
More than anything, Gronkowski was there when his team needed him. This year, New England milked him through the middle part of the season, but he played all 169 offensive snaps in two tight games—the AFC title game (97) and the Super Bowl (72). On the 81st New England snap of the title game, Gronkowski beat Eric Berry for a 25-yard completion to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the fourth quarter. On the 94th snap, and on perhaps the biggest third-down conversion of his career, Gronkowski beat Eric Berry for a 15-yard pass to set up the winning score in overtime. On the 60th offensive play of the Super Bowl, in a 3-3 duel with the Rams, he went 29 yards down the seam to catch a Tom Brady pass, setting up the winning touchdown.
As he told Rosenhaus: “I’m going out on top.”
That he certainly is. It’s the tight-end equivalent of Jim Brown retiring on the set of “The Dirty Dozen” in London in 1966, coming off an MVP season as the ’65 rushing champ for Cleveland. Gronkowski played his last game for New England at 29 years, 9 months. Brown played his last game for Cleveland at 29 years, 10 months.
Gronkowski’s decision is sepia-toned this morning, and the Patriots will sometime soon celebrate his nine-year contributions to one of the great teams ever to play the sport. He was well-liked and respected as a teammate, those inside the team say, because of his reliability, his toughness and his daily personality. Said Dwayne Allen: “Not only was he a great player against any defense—double teams, triple teams, chipped by defensive ends, covered by great corners—but he was one of the guys all the time. He was Rob with the media, Rob in the locker room, Rob on the field. And if he was hurt, or hurting, he never talked about it. And as a competitor, I haven’t met many like him. I was at his house once, playing basketball, and once, he just turned it on. He stepped behind the three-point line and started draining threes. Where’d that come from? That was just Rob.”
Yes, there will be cool Gronk stories. But in football terms for New England, reality bites. So much about him walking away is bad, bad news for the franchise.
It leaves the Patriots woefully short of offensive weapons as they try to remain the game’s dominant team. They do not have an established NFL tight end, and after free-agent Allen signed in Miami, the tight-end depth chart (Stephen Anderson, Matt LaCosse, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo) is the worst in the NFL. Julian Edelman is coming off his Super Bowl MVP performance, but there is no veteran help for him beyond Chris Hogan, and there is no consistent deep threat on the roster other than the occasionally effective Phillip Dorsett. The running backs are fine—Sony Michel keys that group. But if Tom Brady takes the field at 42 with that group of receivers, good luck to him.
Lucky for the Patriots there are three legitimate first-round tight ends in this year’s draft. With six picks between 32 and 101, New England will be able to move around to position itself for a tight end and wide receiver early. But we’re assuming all picks hit, and that’s a bad assumption, even for the wise Patriots. More likely, a pre-draft trade (A.J. Green? Mohamed Sanu? Sterling Shepard?) using the Patriots’ draft capital wouldn’t surprise me.
Rosenhaus, 31 years an agent, was a bit melancholy Sunday night. “I’m in a daze,” he said, sitting by the huge lawn in the back of the Biltmore. “Representing Rob was so much fun, something special. Such a great guy, and always the same. Always up. You try as an agent to do everything you can for your clients, and I asked Rob if there was anything I could do for him, if there was anything I could ask the Patriots to make his job better. He said no, there’s really not anything. Then I asked his dad, ‘You sure he wants to give up $10 million this year?’ He told me, ‘Drew, he’s got all the money he needs.’ “
So that’s it … or is it? Rosenhaus said it wouldn’t shock him if Gronkowski decided to come back sometime in 2019. We’ll see. There’s nothing to indicate a return to football now. For now, there’s a void in New England, and in the NFL. A really fun player, a really good player, walked away with something left in the tank.