AROUND THE NFL

If The Season Ended Today in the NFC it really looks like 5 teams are in the playoffs while Dallas and Philadelphia will do battle for the NFC East title.  The 49ers and Vikings both fell behind by more than 2 TDs at home to lesser teams, but both rallied to win.

 

                                                Overall        Div           Conf

1          San Francisco   West     9-1               1          6-1

2          New Orleans     South    8-2              1           6-2

3          Green Bay        North     8-2               1           5-1

4          Dallas                East      6-4                1          5-3

5          Seattle               WC       8-2                2          5-1     

6          Minnesota         WC        8-3                2          6-2

7          LA Rams                         6-4                3          4-3

9          Philadelphia                    5-5                2          3-4

8          Carolina                          5-5                2          3-5    

 

In the AFC – 6-4 will get you in the playoffs as a Wild Card, while the same mark is two games out in the NFC. The Colts have moved into first in the AFC South.


                                                        Overall             Div Rk       Conf Rec

1          New England  East                 9-1                   1                 6-1           

2          Baltimore         North               8-2                   1                 6-2

3          Kansas City     West               7-4                   1                 5-3         

4          Indianapolis     South             6-4                   1                 5-4           

5          Buffalo             WC                7-3                   2                 5-2

6          Houston           WC                6-4                   2                 5-2         

7          Oakland                                 6-4                   2                 4-2           

8          Pittsburgh                              5-5                   2                 4-3           

9          Tennessee                            5-5                   3                 3-4

 

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com on the mystery of QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY’s trip to the bench:

 

In the fourth quarter, with the Chicago Bears offense looking as helpless as it has in this stunningly disappointing season, Matt Nagy got close to Mitchell Trubisky and started talking in his ear.

 

Nagy said he was imploring Trubisky to tell him how injured he was. After that talk, Trubisky was out of the game.

 

The Bears said that Trubisky came out of Sunday night’s game with a hip injury. Bears coach Matt Nagy said that injury is the only reason Trubisky was removed after the Rams took a 17-7 lead with a few minutes left in the game. Chase Daniel came in for Trubisky. Nagy said Trubisky, who struggled again on Sunday night, landed on his hip early in the game and didn’t look right.

 

Trubisky had a slight limp as he walked off the field after the game. No training staff personnel from the Bears was looking at him when Daniel went into the game. Usually when any player has an injury he’ll have a trainer or three around him, and that’s especially true for a quarterback. Nagy confirmed Trubisky never went to the medical tent to get looked at. If Trubisky’s injury was bad enough he couldn’t play, it is very unusual that he never got looked at by the training staff.

 

“I had to pull him aside and talk to him and ask him and say we needed him to be honest with us,” Nagy said. “Trying to play through that is what he was doing.”

 

Whether it was completely related to an injury or not, nobody was all too surprised to see Daniel in the game. Trubisky wasn’t good on Sunday night, and that has been the pattern all season.

 

Mitchell Trubisky struggles again

Trubisky was 24-of-43 for 190 yards. You’re not lasting long in the NFL averaging less than 5 yards per attempt. He couldn’t get anything going, the Bears offense got just one touchdown in the 17-7 loss, and Trubisky’s nightmare season continued.

 

Last season there were some good moments. Trubisky made a Pro Bowl, and whatever you want to think about making it as an injury replacement like Trubisky did, he was a lot better last season. There were moments of promise. He was inconsistent, but he was also a second-year quarterback who didn’t have much college experience.

 

This year, the bottom has fallen out. Trubisky’s step back has been so massive, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the second pick of the 2017 draft isn’t the Bears’ starter in 2020. That might depend on what options they have, or if they can see any signs that Trubisky can turn his career around. Perhaps, if we believe the Bears, Trubisky’s health might also be a factor.

 

Matt Nagy explains his decision

Nagy said Trubisky played through the injury for “one or two series.” Nagy said he could tell when Trubisky tried to throw left that his hip was affecting him. He said he asked Trubisky to tell him how his hip was feeling and apparently Trubisky said it was bad.

 

“It was hard for him to say that, it was really hard,” Nagy said. “But he told me exactly how he felt and I made the decision to put Chase in there at that time.”

 

Nagy said the score didn’t matter, that he would have made the same decision to pull Trubisky even if the game was closer.

 

This will be an interesting week in Chicago. Perhaps we’ll learn that Trubisky’s injury is significant and he’ll miss time. There will be questions about Trubisky’s play and whether he deserves to start even if healthy. The Bears are 4-6 and their season is quickly slipping away.

 

Whether Trubisky finishes the season as the starter, whether that’s related to injury or not, is the biggest story left for the Bears.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

When you win, you are a competitor working the officials for every edge.  When you lose, you are a crybaby.  Christopher Mason of MassLIve.com:

 

It wasn’t your typical tearjerker, but the Patriots had seen it on film before.

 

As the Eagles struggled to get anything going in the second half, Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz turned his ire to the officials, clamoring for a penalty flag.

 

Stephon Gilmore wasn’t surprised.

 

“He was crying,” Gilmore said. “He do that on film a lot. If you get into him, if he don’t get the ball or if he don’t get the call he cries. But he’s a good receiver though, a good tight end.”

 

So coming into the game, New England knew they could get Ertz frustrated like that?

 

“Yeah,” Gilmore replied. “He’s a great player, but when he don’t get his way he complains to the ref.”

 

Gilmore was a standout in the Patriots’ 17-10 win at Lincoln Financial Field, and was tasked with guarding Ertz in some schemes. The All-Pro cornerback explained how different it is trying to defend a tight end.

 

“I’ve gotta slow myself down a little bit because they’re so slow,” Gilmore said. “They’re bigger though. They push off a lot. I’ve just gotta slow myself down a little bit because I’m used to covering faster guys. If I do that I can play them pretty tight.”

 

Gilmore also covered Chiefs Pro Bowler Jason Kelce last year in the AFC Championship Game. Was playing Ertz similar?

 

 

“It was kind of the same,” he said. “They’re great players. I think Ertz pushes off a little more, but they’re great players.”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

The Panthers are not going to rush to get rid of QB CAM NEWTON as so many seem to assume.  Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

Cam Newton’s 2019 season is finished, but his future beyond this year remains unclear.

 

Panthers owner David Tepper gave an excellent reason as to why when speaking with a roundtable of Charlotte-area reporters Monday. Carolina will not make any decision on Newton’s future until he is fully healthy, Tepper said, per The Athletic’s Joe Person.

 

It’s only right to wait until Newton is fully healthy, of course, because there’s no other legitimate way for management get a full understanding of where the former NFL MVP stands at this point in his career. Until then, the issue will have to remain on the shelf. With six weeks left in the regular season, that’s fine, even if it doesn’t help the Panthers during the remaining Sundays of 2019.

 

The Kyle Allen era was gaining strength as a potential option beyond this season — until the most recent Sunday arrived. Allen threw four interceptions in a 29-3 loss to Atlanta and seriously called into question his viability as an NFL starter, both next week and next year.

 

The folks in the “trade Cam” stronghold found themselves nervous Sunday evening after their chosen replacement posted the second-worst passer rating of his career (47.5) and brought his three-game TD-INT ratio to 3-6 as the Panthers fell to 5-5 on the year. The clearly visible path to a positive future without Newton became overgrown rather quickly, leaving everyone to reconsider where the Panthers might go next.

 

Again, though, there is time. Newton is spending the remainder of this calendar year healing up, considering surgery to repair the Lisfranc injury as recently as last week.

 

His financial situation — owed $18.6 million plus a $2 million option bonus in 2020 — makes him a likely candidate to be traded. Allen’s recent struggles would make such a trade more difficult for the Panthers to bear.

 

Carolina won’t have to face that reality until the new year, though, when Newton is healthy, ready to be evaluated and perhaps ready to pack some boxes for shipping. These break-ups are never easy and typically arrive with a suddenness that makes it all the more painful. At least this one might include a little more time for preparation.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

When you win, it is because the tightly-wound head coach is demanding and driven, bringing out the best in everyone by applying pressure.  When you lose, he’s causing tension.  Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com has a whistleblower:

 

Broncos coach Vic Fangio has been having a difficult time connecting with players and coaches in his first season in Denver, with his often gruff demeanor rubbing many the wrong way and creating internal tension within the team, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

 

Fangio, long considered one of the elite defensive minds in football and a highly-successful coordinator, is a head coach for the first time at age 61, and that transition has been rough, the sources said. His defense has been strong, but the team sits at 3-6, and there has been plenty of internal strife.

 

Fangio has had issues with offensive assistants, the sources said, and at one point top receiver Emmanuel Sanders in essence walked out on the team, leading to his eventual trade. Lines of communication have been strained, and Fangio has been quick to dispute play calls and come across as overbearing on the headsets, sources said, which has created issues in-game and otherwise.

 

“There is a negative reaction to almost every offensive play call,” said one source with knowledge of the situation.

 

Other sources noted a disconnect between the offense and defense as well, with Fangio’s “people skills,” in their minds, lacking. There is almost no discussion beyond football, sources said, and that, coupled with some staff and personnel issues as well as lingering angst over an eventual sale of this franchise, has created a difficult climate around the team.

 

“Pretty much everyone gets treated like (crap),” said one source with knowledge of the situation, “but if anything I think it’s brought the (coaches) on offense closer together.”

 

There were questions as to how well veteran quarterback Joe Flacco fit the offense at this stage of his career, as he lacks mobility, was stuck behind a poor pass-protecting line and unable to operate with a moving pocket and the boots and waggles emphasized in the offense. First-time starter Brandon Allen executed more of those staples last week with Flacco out for the season.

 

General manager John Elway, who has churned through coaches since taking over, is under increasing pressure in recent years with drafts, trades and free-agent signings often not panning out. Denver could be headed to its third straight losing season, something that has happened only once since the move from the AFL to the NFL in 1970 (1970-73).

 

The Flacco trade was a bust, recent first-round pick Garret Bolles has been woeful at tackle and the free-agent signing of Ja’Wuan James at the other tackle spot has been roundly panned this season as well. Elway’s difficultly identifying quarterbacks and offensive linemen in particular has set the franchise back. Elway and team president Joe Ellis essentially have autonomy to run the club as it operates within the trust set up by late owner Pat Bowlen, though by 2021 some league and ownership sources believe this team could be positioned for sale pending the various lawsuits it is facing from Bowlen’s heirs.

 

 

KANSAS CITY

The Chiefs won 24-17 in Mexico but WR TYREEK HILL limped off with a hamstring injury after only six plays.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

Peter King notes that the top MAC sacker this year is not the guy the Raiders let get away:

 

Maxx Crosby, defensive end, Oakland. How crazy is it that the Mid-American Conference alum with the most sacks in the league is not Khalil Mack (Buffalo) of Chicago, but rather Crosby (Eastern Michigan) of the Raiders? Crosby, a late bloomer taken by the Raiders in the fourth round last April, sacked Ryan Finley of the Bengals four times, giving him 6.5 sacks for the season. (Mack has 5.5.)

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

In an era when some teams trade up to “’steal” a QB like the great MITCHELL TRUBISKY, Peter King reminds us that the Ravens traded down and still ended up with MVP candidate LAMAR JACKSON:

 

On day one of the 2018 draft, the Ravens had one pick—16th overall. They had gone three straight playoff-less seasons. They had a 33-year-old quarterback they’d started to fall out of love with, though Flacco was five years removed from winning a Super Bowl. Their offensive core needed replenishment. It was GM Ozzie Newsome’s last draft before retirement. This was a big quarterback draft, with Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Jackson all projected to go in the first round. There were scouts in the building who loved Jackson. Secretly, both Newsome and assistant GM DeCosta (Newsome’s heir) loved Jackson. And owner Steve Bisciotti was jazzed about the electric Jackson too, because he wanted to inject some life into a competitive but uninteresting franchise. The disinterest in vanilla football was showing at the gate too.

 

“We wanted quantity that day,” said DeCosta, the rookie GM, after Sunday’s game. “With the way the draft fell that year, we saw a way to really improve our offense. We were hoping the phone was gonna ring, starting at 16.”

 

Baltimore used the 16th pick to deal to Buffalo for 22 and 65. “We get to 22, and all of the players we liked are still there,” DeCosta said. “So we traded again.” Baltimore used 22 and moved it to Tennessee for 25 and 125. Newsome and DeCosta hadn’t shared with the scouts or coaches that they loved Jackson, so it wasn’t a stunner when, at 25, they decided to pick a player. It wasn’t Jackson.

 

Hayden Hurst, tight end, South Carolina. The failed baseball pitcher. Got the yips pitching in the Pirates’ minor-league system and moved to football. “We loved him,” DeCosta said.

 

But, I wondered, you loved a quarterback. Every pick goes by, and there’s a chance you lose him. Cincinnati’s at 21 and might pick him. Maybe Denver or Miami, early in the second round, moves up to pick him. Mobile guy. Great arm. Winner.

 

There was some cynicism about Jackson, too, which helped the Ravens. He’d been asked to work out as a receiver at the combine and refused. “I’m a quarterback,” he said. Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian said he might project as a receiver. There were rumors that the Bengals didn’t like him. As in most drafts, the Ravens used a best-guessing strategy, and a network of people in and around the game and in the media to sniff out information.

 

“You kinda have to use a strategy,” DeCosta said. “We felt like there was a pretty good chance that Lamar might be there later in the first round, early part of the second round. We were willing, if we could, to trade back, trade back, accumulate capital and then possibly either try to trade back again or in a second round, make a play and get Lamar at that point. But, you know, it was a risk.”

 

“Were you nervous about losing him?” I asked.

 

“We were. We were. But I think you’ve got to stay as clinical in the moment as you can, and really just go with all your best information and the plan. So yeah, you’re always nervous. You accept that you’ll lose some players working this way. But I think we try to stay as measured as possible and not get caught up in the moment.”

)

Two picks before Philly at 32, the Ravens called Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman. He wanted out of 32. He’d move down to 52, but it would cost Baltimore’s second-round pick in 2019. So two twos for Jackson? Newsome and Jackson were good with that. “We didn’t share what we were going to try and do with anybody,” said DeCosta. “Drafts are strange like that. It’s just Ozzie and me at the end of the table, the only ones who really know. When you’re trying to make a decision as important as that, you try and keep it as quiet as you can. Because it’s not that you don’t want to share it with people, but the downside—which would be losing the player—is much greater than the upside of sharing the information with somebody that you care about.

 

“We didn’t even interview Lamar at the combine because we didn’t want to be associated with him. We didn’t want rumors about us and him to start. They didn’t. We were proud of that. So we pick him, and to hear him talk, and to hear his emotion and to see Lamar on TV with Deion Sanders, so happy, and to see his conviction, and to see his competitiveness. That’s a powerful thing. So, after the pick was announced, we hadn’t even had the chance to tell the scouts and coaches.

 

“And I think it’s probably the first time in my 24 years that you could hear cheering outside the draft room. You could hear the coaches and you could hear the scouts. That was a powerful moment for us.”

 

Postscript: Remember that 65th pick, acquired from Buffalo? Baltimore dealt 65 to Oakland for 75, 152 and 212. Baltimore dealt 75 to Kansas City for 86 and 122. Baltimore traded 152 to Tennessee for 162 and 215.

 

The 65th pick, yielded five players. Two (Jordan Lasley and Greg Senat) are gone. Third-round tight end Mark Andrews is the fifth-leading tight end in receptions in the NFL. Sixth-round guard Bradley Bozeman is starting. Fourth-round linebacker Kenny Young was traded to the Rams this year (with a fifth-round pick) for Marcus Peters, who has two pick-six TDs in his first four games with the Ravens.

 

Not a bad draft. Baltimore turned the 16th pick in the draft and two twos, basically, into its long-term quarterback and tight end, a starting guard and a major one-year upgrade at corner.

 

The Ravens got gutty. Six trades, and the ability to take a deep breath and be willing to lose a player you’re sure will be a franchise quarterback. What if they lost Jackson? What if someone jumped them to take Jackson? Wouldn’t look like such a smart strategy now.

 

They didn’t lose Jackson. No one jumped them. You take your best shot. You use your best information. What happened here is exactly why the Ravens have been a competitive franchise, and better, since they moved to Baltimore in 1996.

 

 

CINCINNATI

Rookie QB RYAN FINLEY has not been an upgrade at QB for the winless Bengals. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley hasn’t shaken the Bengals out of their season-long winless skid.

 

Nor is it all his fault. That kind of losing can’t be fairly pinned on any one man.

 

But rookie coach Zac Taylor said he wasn’t going to replace Finley for this week’s game against the Steelers.

 

“Ryan is our starter this week for Pittsburgh,” Taylor said, via John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I have a hard time looking beyond that. We feel like he’s going to give us an opportunity to win this week.”

 

Nothing he did against the Raiders last week actually suggests that. He was 13-of-31 for 115 yards with an interception (39.0 passer rating), and was sacked five times. He’s also welcomed to the league by having his best available receiver complaining about a lack of action. But Taylor isn’t ready to go back to Andy Dalton, which would seem pointless since they’re already eliminated from playoff contention and atop the 2020 NFL Draft order.

 

“We wouldn’t play Ryan if we didn’t feel like he didn’t give us a chance to win the game,” Taylor said. “He wouldn’t be on the field. I see enough really encouraging things from him, whether it’s his preparation over the course of the week, how he’s practicing, the difference between Week 2 to Week 1, in a lot of those areas. You can see his confidence starting to grow.

 

“Now he’s playing different styles of defenses each week. Each one gives you certain things and other things that would frustrate you, and you need to learn from them.

 

“I’m encouraged by what his approach has been the last few weeks and the steps he’s taking. It’s not always going to show up in every rep in every single game. I feel comfortable with where we’re at with him.”

 

So, he’s got that going for him.

 

 

CLEVELAND

Judge Peter King would have done to MYLES GARRETT and the rest of last Thursday’s cast of characters about what NFL Justice came up with:

 

Other than the fact that I don’t recall anything quite so egregious in the last 20 years watching the sport, my takeaways:

 

• The NFL I believe got this mostly right. I’d have given Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey two games instead of three, because he’d just seen his quarterback take the most violent attack most of us have witnessed, and a center/leader like Pouncey is the mother hen to his inexperienced quarterback. He’s going to lash out, and violently, at the attacker. I’m quibbling about the length of suspension, but he certainly deserves it.

 

• I would fine Mason Rudolph but not suspend him for his role. I agree that he went overboard trying to get Garrett off him, and whether he was trying to just get Garrett off him by using his foot on his midsection/groin, that’s excessive to me. But it’s not a suspendable offense, in my opinion. And if that prompted Garrett to spin out of control, that’s 90 percent on Garrett, who’s got to have more self-control.

 

• As for Garrett, I certainly hope he doesn’t win his appeal. My experience in two short interviews has been that he’s a thoughtful person and serious about being great at football. It appears he simply snapped. He should serve his time, be repentant, and return to be the great player he is and being the defensive cornerstone Cleveland drafted him to be. Though he’s shown signs of being over-aggressive, this act crosses the rubicon, and the Browns need to find out whether some counseling is in order. If he shows proper remorse and works to make this right with Rudolph and the Cleveland fan base over time, I’d lean toward allowing him back on the field for Week 1 next year.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

QB TOM BRADY is “surly” in victory while Bill Belichick was gregarious.  Nick O’Malley of MassLive.com:

 

he moment Tom Brady stepped to the podium, it was apparent that something was off.

 

The New England Patriots had just finished off the Philadelphia Eagles 17-10, getting back in the win column and retaining their status as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

 

The postgame podium was a Patriots bizarro world. Bill Belichick was dressed in a sharp suit and answered questions with long, informative paragraphs, openly engaging in multiple subjects. Brady, meanwhile, seemed drained and curt. He took nine questions and talked for under two minutes — 1:48 to be exact — before thanking the media and walking away from the podium.

 

Brady was asked about why he seemed discouraged after the team just walked off with a win. He said that he was “just a little tired” after playing for three hours.

 

Over the past two decades, Brady has been beat up on the field and on the wrong side of some brutal losses. But it’s hard to remember the last time he took the podium and looked the way he did Sunday night.

 

It was hard to tell if he was drained or angry, if he had the flu or if he’d had enough with a struggling offense that’s bereft of top-tier receivers. Regardless, something was up with the Patriots quarterback.

 

There’s only so much speculation that can be done here. As such, here’s how Brady looked at the podium along with a transcript of his press conference. You be the judge.

 

On Julian Edelman’s double pass

 

“He made a great throw. It was a great play. We needed it.”

 

On the team’s struggles in the red zone

 

“Yeah, yeah I don’t know. I don’t have any more — I don’t know.”

 

Is there any way to remedy it? Is it practice and execution?

 

“Yeah, I think that’s right — practice and execution.”

 

How would you describe the offense at this point?

 

“Up and down, is what it looks like to me. So we can probably do everything better.”

 

How would you describe your defense?

 

“They’re doing a great job, keeping us in every game.”

 

Tom, you seem pretty discouraged right now, a little different than the norm. I mean, you guys just won a game…

 

“Yeah, I just played for three hours. So I’m just a little tired.”

 

How essential are games like this?

 

“Yeah, it’s good to win. It’s good to win. Going on the road to win is always tough. They all count the same. Any time you go on the road and beat a good team is a good feeling.”

 

Are you concerned about the offense, or do you feel it’s going to work itself out?

 

“I don’t think it matters what I think. It matters what we do.”

 

How much does Julian remind you about his passer rating?

 

“Not much. Good throw. Thank you guys.” (Walks off the podium)

 

That was Sunday, then the Boston Herald monitored this on Monday:

 

Tom Brady sounded better on his interview this morning on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” than during his post-game press conference Sunday. He went from catatonic to morose.

 

The morning after working under pressure and taking multiple shots throughout a 17-10 Patriots win over the Eagles in Philadelphia, Brady still sounded on the dejected side over the state of the offense.

 

At one point, Hill, a skilled interviewer gifted at making his subjects match his loose vibe, was getting so little out of Brady that late in the interview he tried to cheer up the quarterback of the 9-1 Patriots.

 

“I feel like this morning, just in general, I want to reach out on behalf of the entire New England region and give you a warm embrace and just say, ‘You know what: Everything is A-OK,’ ” Hill said.

 

Brady: “Thanks, I appreciate it. I appreciate it.”

 

The porous offensive line, revolving door at wide receiver and sluggish running game clearly have gotten to Brady, who threw 14 incomplete passes in the first half Sunday, the most of any half of his career.

 

“Look, we’re 9-1, and hopefully we can keep learning and growing and you know, as crazy as it sounds, we’re still kind of a relatively new, you know, getting familiar with each other and we’re going to have to play our best football as we go forward and, you know, I think we’re just going to have to maximize what our potential is,” Brady said.

 

The quarterback’s reaction to first-round draft choice N’Keal Harry’s NFL debut (three receptions, 18 yards) matched the receiver’s performance: “N’Keal’s worked hard and he got some opportunities yesterday. We’ve just got to keep trying to get him up to speed. And like I said, he missed a lot of football, so we’re going to try to incorporate him the best way we can and use his skills to see if he can be a productive player for us the second half of the year.”

 

Brady did loosen up during two of the lighter moments of his weekly radio appearance on “The Greg Hill Show.”

 

The first came when he was informed that a fan was spotted in the parking lot wearing a shirt that said, “Breathe if you hate Tom Brady.”

 

Brady: “That’s amazing. I love that. I wonder if I can track one of those down.”

 

The next light moment came when a listener’s texted question was read to him: Have the Patriots eclipsed the Cowboys as America’s team?

 

“I don’t think we’re probably America’s favorite team at this point,” Brady said. “I think we’ve got six states that cheer for us, so six is not bad. Most teams have like one state, but we’ve got six, so I think that’s pretty good.”

 

This silly stat from ESPN.com:

 

Today marked the 1st game in Tom Brady’s career that another Patriot led the team in TD passes when Brady played the entire game.

 

That’s among 317 career starts, including the playoffs.

 

Julian Edelman tossed the lone TD pass for the Patriots in their 17-10 win over the Eagles.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

KAEP

Peter King offers this take on Colin Kaepernick’s weekend adventures.

 

We all can, and do, have opinions about the Colin Kaepernick workout story. Mine: Here’s a guy who asked for teams to work him out for the past two years, and though the arrangements Saturday weren’t to his exact liking, the NFL arranged to have 20 or so teams at the Atlanta Falcons training facility for his first workout in front of NFL scouts (low-level ones, mostly), with the agreement that a video of the workout would be available for every GM and coach and staff in the league to see. That wasn’t good enough, in the end. Kaepernick had a problem with the waiver he’d have to sign. (I’m told this waiver is essentially the same one a tryout wide receiver, say, would have to sign to work out for a team during the season.) He didn’t trust the NFL to send the complete videotape to the teams. He didn’t trust that the NFL motives were pure—inviting scouts to see him work out when the league never does it for anyone else. One … excuse … after … another. Does someone dying for a tryout place all these obstacles in front of him at age 32, and then cancel the NFL workout and move the workout to a high-school field 60 miles away, while his last chances to play in the NFL fade away more and more by the day? If that were me, and I were dying to get back into the NFL, I’d show up and show those NFL scouts how wrong they and their organizations have been—whether this was a real tryout or something that allowed the NFL to say it tried.

 

But my opinion is meaningless. I don’t make NFL decisions. It’s more important to find out what the decision-makers think. I called a couple of veteran and smart NFL people (no names, positions or teams, to ensure frankness) in the 24 hours after the workout blew up.

 

I am going to paraphrase three points that I learned.

 

1. Is a backup quarterback worth this? Maybe he won’t be a backup for long; and maybe if he signed with a team like Cincinnati he’d have a good shot to win the starting job in 2020. But lay the cards out on the table. Nobody had worked him out in more than two years. The NFL said some teams were interested in working him out, but I don’t know if that’s true. I hadn’t heard a single bit of buzz about him as a football player this year. Not a syllable. One person kept wondering why he wouldn’t approach this workout this weekend, regardless of his disgust for the NFL, with the seriousness of a player longing to play pro football.

 

2. You may be surprised at this, but I believe there is some (slight) NFL interest. I told one of the two NFL people: Remember Kaepernick’s last year for the 49ers, 2016? Worked very hard, was cooperative with the press, gave social-justice opinion, kneeled before games, but he was dead-serious about winning and practice and being a team leader. I think it will take Kaepernick saying he’ll come in as a football player for the six or seven months of the preseason and season, leaving his political and social-justice pursuits for the offseason. I don’t know about the kneeling part. It’s obviously going to be a sore spot in some markets and with some teams. Gut feeling: I bet sometime in the next six months (we probably will not find out about it) Kaepernick meets very quietly with a team.

 

3. One person I spoke with said he thinks three coaches would fit with Kaepernick: Frank Reich of the Colts (nothing bothers him, and he’s a good teacher), the Chiefs’ Andy Reid (signed Michael Vick out of Leavenworth, doesn’t care about fires outside his door), and Bruce Arians/Byron Leftwich in Tampa (good teachers, tough-love guys). This person stressed to me how important it was that Kaepernick go to a place that would allow him to focus on football and learn football and get back into a football regimen after three or so years away. The most interesting thing in this regard is the person wondering how long it had been since Kaepernick was hit. By the time he signs, if he does, would it be 40 months since he played the game of football?

 

It’s easy, of course, for me to say, Just suck it up and play, dude. But Kaepernick is wired differently. I thought something I read Sunday night, from Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic, was smart and relevant.

 

“It has been clear for years the league doesn’t want him in it,” Thompson wrote. “And suddenly, the league is extending an olive branch days before Week 11? That reeks of a setup in the works.Yet I’d do it anyway. Because I’m just a guy. I wouldn’t feel big enough, strong enough, to take on a multibillion corporation. I would know I was being hustled but just take the chance I was wrong. Because, in the end, what other option would I have? Some forces feel too great. Some defeats seem too inevitable. This is how most people feel. You take what you can get. Often, you settle for what is less than you deserve. You put up with what you know is wrong because it is not as bad as it could be. I’d tell myself this is the best I can hope for. I’d talk myself into being grateful for the chance. I’d likely call it a blessing, the whole time knowing I’m probably getting played. Who am I not to not take an olive branch if the NFL, holder of dreams, offers one?

 

“But this is why Colin Kaepernick is different, and so beloved. This is why I find him inspiring. He just refuses to bend, to compromise his beliefs.”

 

Something smart to consider, whatever you think of Kaepernick’s decision on Saturday.

 

Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com echoes the suspicions of the Kaep camp:

 

For four days, the reasoning behind the NFL’s breakneck preparations for a Colin Kaepernick workout was a mystery to most anyone residing beyond the walls of the league’s Park Avenue office. From front-office executives to curious players and even Kaepernick himself, there seemed to be a lack of logic.

 

Why was the NFL doing this, especially after three years and a collusion settlement?

 

From Tuesday afternoon to Friday night, speculation was rampant. Maybe it was commissioner Roger Goodell trying to make amends or new league partner Jay-Z trying to build a bridge. Maybe it was an oddly timed public relations ploy, engineered to help a team find cover as it mulled a Kaepernick signing. Or maybe it was nothing more than another miscalculation by a league that has never gotten the Kaepernick situation right.

 

Then came Saturday’s revelation: This workout was a Trojan horse. And when the belly of the ruse finally opened up, all the lawyers came tumbling out.

 

Waiver for Colin Kaepernick wasn’t standard

If you’re measured enough to stop shouting on social media about how Kaepernick “doesn’t want to play,” you might take the time to notice the actual document exchanges that took place over this past weekend and follow the NFL lawyers. One way or the other, they’ll end up making the requests and producing the documents that explain what’s going on.

 

The league’s legal counselors did exactly that as the week went on, by advancing a workout waiver that reached beyond the injury protections that are typically afforded to the NFL and its teams. By now, the NFL’s waiver has made the rounds all over the internet — getting pilloried by a swath of lawyers whose job isn’t shouting hot takes on morning talk shows. What most of them are seeing is this: A document that pushed past normal injury protections and contained language that, had Kaepernick signed it, could have given the league footing to argue that he’d signed away some of his employment protections.

 

The NFL made some attempts to cover for those efforts, of course. In a release on Saturday expressing disappointment at Kaepernick pulling out of the league’s workout, the NFL acknowledged the waiver being a point of contention. There was a key phrase contained in the release. Here’s what the NFL said:

 

“On Wednesday, we sent Colin’s representatives a standard liability waiver based on the waiver used by National Invitational Camp at all NFL Combines and by NFL clubs when trying out free agent players. At noon today, Colin’s representatives sent a completely rewritten and insufficient waiver.”

 

Note the phrase “based on the waiver used by National Invitational Camp at all NFL Combines”. Two words – “based on” – are very interesting.

 

Here’s why the league had to include them: The NFL used an outside law firm to craft the release for this event. Despite the suggestion in its release, it didn’t use typical language in liability waivers. Instead, it went a step further and created its own.

 

Why? I’m willing to bet that it had everything to do with inserting clauses that could allow the NFL to evade future litigation tied to employment claims.

 

Why wouldn’t Kaepernick sign the NFL’s waiver?

In the middle of this supposedly generous (and unprecedented!) offer to give Kaepernick a league-hosted workout, the lawyers slipped clauses into a liability release that would create a foothold to fight against litigation under state and federal employment laws.

 

I believe this is the answer to why the NFL put this workout together. It created multiple outcomes that could all be weaponized against the league’s Kaepernick problem.

 

If Kaepernick said no to the workout or pulled out for any reason, the NFL could say “we tried” and there would be more than a few media personalities ready to carry that water. And if by some masterstroke Kaepernick’s lawyers said yes to the waiver, the NFL would have a signed document guarding against a lawsuit stemming from state and federal employment laws.

 

The workout was the Trojan horse.

 

The NFL’s weapon was the waiver planted inside it.

 

And a sweeping victory was one Kaepernick signature away.

 

Given the broad language of the waiver, the NFL could have altered any agreements made with Kaepernick, regardless of how damaging those changes or actions might have been. For example, the league could have refused to release tapes of the workout with no recourse. Or the teams could have been allowed to instruct Kaepernick that he would be unemployable if he knelt for the national anthem. The NFL could have even instructed all teams not to sign Kaepernick following the workout. While all of those sound preposterous and unlikely, the fact that there would have been no repercussions for any of those actions speaks to how sweeping the waiver was.

 

Getting a signature on that agreement blew up, of course. Kaepernick’s lawyers and agent received the first draft of the waiver on Wednesday and had dissected the potential impacts of it by Friday. By that point, the NFL knew it was unlikely Kaepernick was going to sign it. In the final hours before the workout, the league’s lawyers delivered the only message that mattered: The NFL would accept only its version of the waiver, refusing any edits from Kaepernick’s legal camp. That made sense, considering the NFL hired lawyers to perfectly craft the document for broad protections. It simply wasn’t going to allow anything to be changed at that stage. Especially when the alternative is Kaepernick pulling the plug on the workout — which can be spun in favor of the NFL easily.

 

Of all the takeaways from this thing, that’s the one that resonates. The league went to great lengths to give itself a tangible defense against future litigation. And if nothing else, that shows the NFL believes at least one of two things. Either that Kaepernick’s settled collusion case isn’t the last time his lawyers open fire on the league, or that the NFL may be vulnerable to a federal lawsuit. Indeed, the league may believe both.

 

Perhaps the collusion settlement was just the start. Maybe the next step doesn’t end with Colin Kaepernick on an NFL field, instead engaging the league on a whole other landscape.

 

In front of a judge and a jury. Inside a federal court. And nastier than ever.

 

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

As did the DB, Peter King thought Joe Buck and Troy Aikman did a really nice job when MYLES GARRETT erupted before their faces:

 

A unique first quote of the week, from the waning moments of Pittsburgh-Cleveland on Thursday night, and the byplay of FOX’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman as the Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph brawl escalated. Some lines have been edited out, and Mike Pereira’s role has been eliminated for brevity. I wanted to do the quote this way because I thought the reaction by Buck and Aikman in real time was very good. They neither over-dramatized the incident nor underplayed it, and when they had 10 or 15 seconds to digest the replay, they used the words America used in the following three days to describe what had been seen. Barbaric. Horrible.

 

Buck: “There’s a flag.”

 

Aikman: “Whoa! Hello! Whoa!”

 

Buck: “That’s … What in the world! Can you believe Myles Garrett? Swinging a helmet?!”

 

Aikman: “There’ll be some ejections coming out of this.”

 

Buck: “May be some suspensions.”

 

Aikman: “Right, suspensions.”

 

Buck: “It was Garrett, and it was well after the play.”

 

Aikman: “Well, he tackled Rudolph. Rudolph didn’t like the way he was tackled.”

 

Watching the replay.

 

Buck: “Ohhhh! Gosh!”

 

Aikman: “Oh man!”

 

Buck: “Uhhh-oh! Oh my goodness … rips the helmet off Rudolph’s head and then eventually swings it and hits him with it in the head.”

 

Aikman: “Beyond words, Joe.”

 

Buck: “Ahhh, gosh! That’s one of the worst things I’ve seen on a professional sports field.”

 

Aikman: “This is multiple-game suspension right here. It’s just–, I mean, I-I-I hate that anyone even has to watch this. This is barbaric, is what this is.”

 

Buck: “Eight seconds left in this game, and that’s what everybody’s walking away from this Thursday night game with? It’s horrible. Horrible.”

 

On the other hand, we were among those who thought ESPN’s Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland were a little harsh in condemning 49ers rookie CHASE McLAUGHLIN has having failed in a moment too big for him last week.  Tyler Lauletta of Business Insider:

 

It was an instant classic for “Monday Night Football” with regard to the action on the field, with both teams pulling off late scoring drives to force the best out of their opponent. But even with the great game on the field, play-by-play man Joe Tessitore and color commentator Booger McFarland once again struggled to connect with fans watching at home, even drawing the ire of some for their call on a late missed field goal.

 

With the 49ers needing any score to win after stopping the Seahawks on the opening possession of overtime, San Francisco lined up for a 47-yard field-goal attempt.

 

Kicker Chase McLaughlin, an undrafted rookie playing in his first game for the 49ers, had already nailed three field goals on the night, and with this kick had the chance to play hero for his new team. Instead, he botched the kick, punching the ball wide left to keep the overtime period going.

 

“The moment was too big,” Tessitore said.

 

Tessitore’s turn of phrase might have gone unremarked upon had McLaughlin not already made kicks from 43, 39, and 47 yards earlier in the game, with the last coming as time expired in regulation.

 

The kick McLaughlin made was arguably bigger than the one he missed — the Niners would have lost had he missed his final kick in regulation, but were still alive to win or at least tie the Seahawks after his miss in overtime.

 

On Twitter, fans expressed some frustration with Tessitore’s commentary, specifically his implying that McLaughlin cracked under pressure.

 

nick wright

@getnickwright

A lot of gaul for Booger & Tess to say “the moment was just too big for him” when he had just kicked a FG from the exact same distance with :01 left in regulation to put them in OT.

 

Andrew Marchand

@AndrewMarchand

Tessitore and Booger going all in on SF kicker, saying, “Moment was too big” for him as he misses potential GW FG.

 

Anthony Alford

@AnthonyWTAM

Chase McLaughlin missed the GW FG in OT last night. Joe Tessitore and Booger ruined this kid’s career with the awful “This moment is too big for him” call. Just awful!!

 

Adam Prescott

@APrescott11

Booger and Tessitore both saying the “moment was too big” for Niners kicker Chase McLaughlin after hooking that last FG attempt was lazy and ridiculous. The kid had just buried a 47-yarder to force OT in closing seconds of regulation. #BeBetter

 

@albolte

I like Joe Tessitore, but insinuating that a game-winning field goal attempt is too big of a moment compared to a must-make kick to go to overtime is laughable.

 

Had Tessitore let the moment speak for itself, things would have been fine — fans watching the game already knew McLaughlin was playing in his first game, and a moment like this would have made him a folk hero in the Bay Area for some time.

 

But instead, Tessitore buried him after the miss, and his criticism failed to land since McLaughlin had already proved earlier in the game that “the moment” — kicking a field goal from 47 yards out with the game hanging in the balance — was not too big for him.

 

Kickers miss some times, it’s the nature of the business. Similarly, commentators like Tessitore make mistakes from time to time in their broadcasts, it’s the nature of the business.

 

It’s possible that for Tessitore the moment was too big for him, but we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.