AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

WR TAYLOR GABRIEL couldn’t finish his greatest game.  Jelani Scott of NFL.com:

 

In the midst of his superb showing on “Monday Night Football,” Taylor Gabriel’s momentum was suddenly halted by injury.

 

The Chicago Bears receiver exited Monday night’s 31-15 win over the Washington Redskins and headed to the locker room after a seven-yard rush with 3:48 left in the third quarter. The Bears later confirmed that Gabriel suffered a concussion on the play.

 

Head coach Matt Nagy announced during his post-game press conference that Gabriel has entered the concussion protocol.

 

Gabriel was in the midst of an incredible game prior to the injury: six catches for 75 yards and three touchdowns. All three of his scores came in the first half, making him only the 35th player in NFL history with three receiving TDs in a first half, per Bears PR.

 

Before Monday, Gabriel had never scored three touchdowns in a game. The receiver scored just two all of last year.

 

 

MINNESOTA

The Vikings have brought back WR LAQUON TREADWELL who was languishing near the phone in Bustville.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Vikings will be without wide receiver Chad Beebe for a while due to torn ankle ligaments and that means they only have three healthy wideouts currently on the 53-man roster.

 

They’re set to make a move to bring that number to four and the player who will be added to the roster is a familiar name in Minnesota. ESPN reports that the team is signing Laquon Treadwell.

 

Treadwell was a 2016 first-round pick by the Vikings and spent the last three years with the team before being released this summer. He was let go despite having his salary guaranteed for the 2019 season, so the Vikings were already paying him and will now try to get something for that money.

 

If history is a guide, they won’t be getting much. Treadwell only caught 56 passes over the last three seasons and the Vikings have thrown the fewest passes in the league through three games.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

RB SAQUON BARKLEY could miss half a season.  RB WAYNE GALLMAN is the guy whose Fantasy value is now higher – if still not very high.  ESPN.com:

 

An MRI revealed that New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain that could sideline him anywhere from four to eight weeks, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

The longer time frame is considered more likely, the source said.

 

The Giants have a bye in Week 11, which could give him eight weeks to recover and allow him to return for the last six games.

 

Giants coach Pat Shurmur wouldn’t confirm a time frame for Barkley’s possible return but said the Giants are confident in backup running back Wayne Gallman.

 

 

WASHINGTON

In the wake of Monday’s disaster, the knee jerk hope is that DWAYNE HASKINS will get the call against DANIEL JONES in the first of perhaps many battles between these forever-linked QBs.  John Keim of ESPN.com doesn’t see it happening.

 

The Washington Redskins don’t need a quarterback change. Not yet. Deeper problems exist, as yet another ugly Monday night loss revealed. The Redskins made it interesting in the second half before losing 31-15 to the Chicago Bears, but “making it interesting” is not what fans want after years of frustration.

 

They want hope. And hope often comes with a new quarterback — just ask the New York Giants. But the Redskins don’t think rookie Dwayne Haskins is close, and if you want to give fans legitimate hope, you want that player to have the best chance at success when he plays. The Redskins haven’t shown any reason to believe the season will somehow turn around anytime soon. That means Haskins will get his chance in due time. But it’s also clear how much in this organization needs to change, regardless of when Haskins plays. The guess is that the team will first turn to Colt McCoy, who could return from a broken leg soon, before going to Haskins. The Redskins have the New England Patriots in two weeks. If they’re 0-5 after that game, then the Haskins watch will begin in earnest.

 

Troubling trend: The constant defensive breakdowns. The Redskins do not come across as a well-coached team or defensive unit. The onus, however, belongs on both the players and the coaches. Something just isn’t getting through. There were numerous times when a Bears receiver was running open from a bunch or stack formation or on a crosser. On one 13-yard catch by Taylor Gabriel, for example, the Bears ran him on a crosser out of a bunch look. Three corners went with two receivers, leaving inside linebacker Jon Bostic to try to cover Gabriel. Those mistakes happened all night — and for too long before Monday.

 

QB Breakdown: It was a terrible performance by Case Keenum, who threw three interceptions and fumbled twice. But it isn’t as if he had a lot of time in the pocket. One of the few times he did resulted in a 15-yard touchdown pass to receiver Terry McLaurin. The Bears forced Keenum into making quick decisions — and those decisions often resulted in a forced pass into tight coverage. Entering this game, Keenum had thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions. But he had also left a decent amount of points on the field. He competes, but the Redskins need more.

 

Pivotal play: One play decided this game. The Redskins couldn’t afford to fall behind the Bears, not with their smothering defense. But that’s what happened with 9 minutes, 53 seconds left in the first quarter — a play on which Keenum faced quick pressure. He tried to hit Trey Quinn on an intermediate crosser, but with a safety over the top, the throw needed to be perfect. Instead, it sailed, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix picked it off, racing 37 yards for a touchdown. Clinton-Dix did little during his half-season in Washington last year after a trade. He did his damage Monday.

 

Bold prediction: The Redskins haven’t made an in-season coaching change since they fired Norv Turner in the 2000 season. They didn’t make one during the crazy second season with Jim Zorn in 2009, when they hired Sherman Smith out of the bingo parlor to call plays. But if the Redskins lose at the New York Giants next week, it would not be surprising to see owner Dan Snyder make some sort of move, whether with coach Jay Gruden or defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. The Redskins didn’t quit vs. the Bears, so the team hasn’t quit on the coaches. But the team needs to give Snyder reason to keep this staff around.

 

This from Jelani Scott of NFL.com:

 

Case Keenum has yet to succeed in his first three starts in our nation’s capital, but Jay Gruden is prepared to let his quarterback try (and try) again.

 

As if the night wasn’t already rough enough for the Washington Redskins QB, who had five turnovers and took four sacks, against Khalil Mack and the Bears defense in a 31-15 loss, Keenum was also hit with sporadic chants from fans at FedEx Field calling for rookie Dwayne Haskins to replace him.

 

Gruden didn’t confirm post-game whether or not he heard said fans, but he did take the time to dismiss the notion that a quarterback change is coming.

 

“Not really, no. I think the most important thing is we have to have some continuity. You know, I can’t be changing people every five minutes here. I’ve got to give Case an ample opportunity to play with these new guys,” Gruden told the media after being asked if he’ll make a switch. “This is his first time in this offense, really. Donald Penn, Ereck Flowers, their first time in this offense. Terry (McLaurin). Trey Quinn only played two games last year.

 

“I’ve made this point before: We’re not going to be perfect but we need to be better and I think we can get better. Otherwise, if I didn’t think we had a chance to get better, then I would make a change. But I feel like Case has the tools to become a very efficient quarterback in this offense and get us some victories here moving forward.”

 

Some may view Gruden’s comments as excuses, but he’s speaking all facts: Keenum was a March trade acquisition, Flowers and Penn were free agent additions this past offseason and are trying to help replace what the still-AWOL Trent Williams brought, McLaurin is very productive but still a rook and Quinn is still coming into his own in Year 2 while also serving as the team’s primary punt returner.

 

Like Gruden, Keenum is not shrinking under the mounting pressure created by the team’s 0-3 start. The 31-year-old QB wants all the fire coming his way after his dismal Monday night.

 

“It’s all on me. That’s all on me. Turn the ball over that many times as a quarterback, you know, I let my team down. It’s all on me. I really do. I take complete responsibility,” Keenum said. “I have to take care of the ball better. That’s my number one job. Especially the way our defense was playing early — getting after the quarterback, doing a good job, keeping everything in front of them — they got all the momentum off of the turnovers and scored a lot of points off turnovers. So that’s all on me.”

 

Keenum’s next chance to prove himself will come next week on the road against hot-shot rookie QB Daniel Jones and the Giants. The headlines will practically write themselves in hopes of a showdown between Jones, the 2019 sixth overall pick, and Haskins, the 15th pick, but will Keenum see any of that? Not a chance.

 

“Keep doing what we do. I mean, I don’t read any articles or any social media or anything like that. Nobody’s opinion matters except what’s in that locker room,” Keenum said on what has to be done to stay focused.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Some clarity is beginning to emerge on QB CAM NEWTON’s foot ailment and it looks like a Dreaded Lisfranc Injury.  Andie Hagemann of NFL.com:

 

The Carolina Panthers could be without their starting quarterback for a while.

 

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that Cam Newton is believed to be dealing with a Lisfranc injury.

 

The plan for now is for Newton to continue rehabbing and avoid surgery, but he could be sidelined for some time, Pelissero adds.

 

Joe Person of The Athletic was first to report the news.

 

The development comes one day after the Panthers ruled out Newton for their Week 4 matchup against the Houston Texans. Kyle Allen will get the start this week.

 

“What Cam needs right now is time and rest for his foot,” coach Ron Rivera said in a statement Monday. “We want him at 100 percent when he’s ready, so there’s no exact timetable for his return. At this point, we’re going to go forward with Kyle (Allen) as our starter.”

 

After the second-year QB’s impressive start last week, Panthers fans can rest easy knowing there’s a viable option under center while Newton is sidelined indefinitely.

 

Following this week’s tilt, the Panthers have the Jaguars and Buccaneers on deck before a Week 7 bye.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

QB RYAN GRIFFIN moves up to the seat behind QB JAMEIS WINSTON.  Darin Gantt of NFL.com:

 

The Bucs have gotten along three weeks without their backup quarterback, so they must think they can for 11.

 

According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Buccaneers are putting Blaine Gabbert on injured reserve.

 

That leaves open the possibility of bringing him back eight weeks from now, if they want to or need to.

 

Gabbert suffered a dislocated non-throwing shoulder in the preseason, and has been inactive the first three weeks.

 

That leaves Ryan Griffin as the only other quarterback behind Jameis Winston. They signed outside linebacker Patrick O’Connor from the practice squad to fill the roster spot.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Is RB TODD GURLEY II on a touch count?  Coach Sean McVay says no.  Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com:

 

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters Monday that running back Todd Gurley is not on a load management program.

 

“We’re not doing anything like that,” McVay said. “It’s more along the lines of each week presents a different approach. It’s kind of the feel the flow of the game.”

 

Gurley, a two-time All Pro, rushed for 43 yards on 14 carries in a 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night.

 

“I have to do better about being able to give him a chance to really get more into a rhythm than what I’ve enabled him to do in these first three games,” McVay said.

 

Gurley’s production has been markedly down from the 2018 season when he rushed for 1,251 yards and caught 59 passes for 580 yards. He led the league with 21 touchdowns.

 

This season, through a 3-0 start, Gurley has rushed for 203 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 8 yards. By comparison, through the first three games of 2018, Gurley rushed for 255 yards and four touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown.

 

Gurley played an average of 85 percent of the snaps through Week 15 last season. (He was sidelined in Week 16 and Week 17.) This season, he is averaging 70 percent. He averaged 22.5 touches per game last season, which has dropped to 16.0 this season, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

 

Backup Malcolm Brown has assumed a larger role in spelling Gurley, who was sidelined late last season because of his left knee.

 

Brown has rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Last season, in 12 games, Brown rushed for 212 yards on 43 carries.

 

“I think it’s worked out good in terms of the balance,” McVay said about his usage of Gurley and Brown. “But like I said, I think there is some things you’d like to do a lot better job of giving Todd an opportunity to really get going.”

 

Gurley did not participate in the offseason program and was placed on an every-other-day practice schedule throughout training camp.

 

McVay said at the start of the regular season that Gurley would maintain an every-other-day practice schedule, but Gurley told reporters that his routine would remain the same to what it has been in the past, which would equate to no rest days.

 

Gurley has appeared once on the Rams’ official injury/participation report as a “Did not practice/not injury related.”

 

Gurley’s touch count is 14-19-15 for 48 through 3 games.  That is tied for 18th in the NFL through 3 weeks.

 

Perhaps of more concern is that Gurley is averaging only 4.4 yards per those 48 touches.

 

Backup/co-back RB MALCOLM BROWN (11-7-3) has averaged 5.1 yards for his 21 touches.

 

So it is not like a productive Gurley is being spelled by someone who performing ineptly.

 

That makes only 18 touches for the duo on Sunday night in Cleveland.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

The decision to go for one point or two, to punt or go for it on fourth down is a role of the dice and an exercise in probability.  The difference is that when you kick for one point or punt, the media rarely call you out when things don’t work out the way they do when you do the unexpected and fail.

 

Case in point, John Harbaugh who is under fire for Sunday in KC.

 

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is standing by his decisions in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, decisions that included going for it on fourth down four times, and going for two after three of the Ravens’ four touchdowns.

 

Harbaugh said he talks to the Ravens’ analytics staff and formulates a plan for each individual opponent, and against the Chiefs, the Ravens wanted to be aggressive about trying to make the most out of each possession, which means trying to score eight points rather than end possessions with a kick.

 

“I have a good understanding of the numbers,” Harbaugh said. “It’s very detailed and well thought out. I think I was pretty clear about it last night, but we’re standing by our decisions. Our decisions gave us the best chance to win the game in that particular game. These are not league average choices. These are determined by this game and for this game specifically, in that venue, weather is even factored into it. There’s a lot of factors that go into it that are mathematically calculated. And that’s why we did it. It wasn’t a field position game. It was a possession game. And making the most of each possession was what counted and that’s what we were attempting to do and for the most part we did a really good job of it.”

 

When the Ravens scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 11 points, they went for two and failed. Many observers questioned that decision, but Harbaugh defended it, saying the math is clear that cutting the lead to nine points would have significantly improved their chance of winning.

 

“Getting it to nine gives you a much better chance of winning,” Harbaugh said. “You still have a chance to do that with the second two. And if for some reason they happen to kick a field goal or score a touchdown, it also enhances your odds. So while you may think getting to 10 is the thing to do, it’s the thing to do if you want to go to overtime. It’s not the thing to do if you want to win the game in regulation, and that’s what we were trying to do.”

 

Harbaugh said that while he listens to the analytics staff, he listens more to his own intuitions based on a life spent in football. In this cases, Harbaugh says, the analytics people were in harmony with his gut.

 

“The analytics guys will tell you I don’t follow the analytics nearly enough,” Harbaugh said. “They’ll tell you I go by my gut way more than I go by the analytics, and I do. Because the flow of the game, the feel of the game, situations you’ve been in . . . all those things are something, as a coach, you have a real sense for. So I’ll go against the analytics a lot more than I’ll go with it, in terms of 50/50 close calls. But in a game like that, those were definitely decisions that gave us the best chance to win, and put us in the best position to win the game, no question. If we hadn’t made those decisions, especially the fourth-down decisions, we wouldn’t have been within a score at the end of the game. Period.”

 

Analytics experts would agree with that: The math is clear that NFL coaches should go for it on fourth down more often than they do, and that going for two makes sense at times other than the obvious cases of a team trailing by eight points scoring a touchdown to cut the deficit to two points late in the game. The Ravens lost, but the analytics experts would agree with Harbaugh that he made the decisions that gave his team the best chance to win.

 

Daniel Oyefusi of the Baltimore Sun looks at seven decisions made by Harbaugh:

 

Analytics and advanced metrics have studied when going for 2 and attempting fourth-down conversions are appropriate. Using statistics from FiveThirtyEight and the New York Times 4th Down Bot, The Baltimore Sun looked into whether Harbaugh’s claim was accurate.

 

Note that while the analytics might say to make a certain decision, the situation matters as well, and the numbers don’t account for that.

 

Situation 1: First quarter, 5:08 remaining. Game tied 0-0, Ravens attempt fourth-and-3 from Kansas City 9 (success)

 

Analytics say: Go for it. According to the NYT 4th Down Bot, the general rule of thumb on fourth-and-3 is to “go for it almost everywhere beyond your 40. … As the down-to-go distance increases, your chances of successfully converting a first down become smaller — and the decisions become more nuanced.”

 

Early in the game with the score tied, the Ravens aimed to get the ball in the end zone instead of settling for a short field goal and succeeded. Had they failed, the Chiefs would have taken over deep in their own territory and had to drive the length of the field to score.

 

Situation 2: First quarter, 4:24. Ravens lead 6-0, attempt 2-point conversion (failed)

 

Analytics say: Toss up. According to FiveThirtyEight, the estimated change in win probability, had the Ravens converted the attempt, was 3.3% (vs. 5.2% if they had kicked the extra point). However, because of a penalty, they were on the 1-yard line.

 

But that early in the game, such a risk likely wasn’t warranted. The Chiefs scored on the following possession and took a one-point lead with the extra point.

 

Only one other team through three weeks has attempted a 2-point conversion with a 6-point lead following a touchdown. The Buffalo Bills went for 2 — from the 1-yard line, like the Ravens — against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and converted.

 

Situation 3: Second quarter, 13:26. Chiefs lead 7-6, Ravens attempt fourth-and-1 from Baltimore 34 (success)

 

Analytics say: Go for it. According to the NYT 4th Down Bot, “on fourth-and-1, go for it any place on the field where that is possible, starting at your 9-yard line.”

 

A 5-yard gain from running back Gus Edwards extended the Ravens’ second drive of the game, as they looked to retake the lead. The team later failed on another fourth-down try, but the analytics support going for it with such a short distance to gain.

 

Situation 4: Second quarter, 10:38. Chiefs lead 7-6, Ravens attempt fourth-and-2 from Baltimore 47 (failed)

 

Analytics say: Go for it. According to the NYT 4th Down Bot, “on fourth-and-2, go for it everywhere beyond your 28-yard line.”

 

Quarterback Lamar Jackson threw a low pass to wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, which fell incomplete. The Chiefs took advantage of the short field, using five plays to score a touchdown and take a 14-6 lead.

 

Situation 5: Fourth quarter, 13:21. Chiefs lead 30-13, Ravens attempt fourth-and-5 from Kansas City 27 (success)

 

Analytics say: Take the field goal. According to the NYT 4th Down Bot, “on fourth-and-5, go for it between midfield and your opponent’s 33.”

 

However, with a three-possession deficit, touchdowns trumped field goals at this point, so going for it was probably the better decision. Jackson completed a miraculous 25-yard heave while being tackled to wide receiver Seth Roberts. Running back Mark Ingram II scored two plays later.

Situation 6: Fourth quarter, 12:22. Chiefs lead 30-19, Ravens attempt 2-point conversion (failed)

 

Analytics say: Go for 2. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Ravens’ estimated change in win probability, had they converted the attempt, was 2.2% (vs. 1.3% if they kicked the extra point).

 

Jackson’s pass to tight end Nick Boyle was incomplete. If the Ravens had gone for the extra point, they would have closed the deficit to 10, where a touchdown (with the extra point) and a field goal would tie the game. The failed attempt essentially forced the Ravens to try another 2-point conversion when they scored a touchdown again.

 

“Getting it [the deficit] to nine gives you a much better chance of winning than taking it into overtime,” Harbaugh said. “You still have a chance to do that with the second [2-point conversion attempt]. If for some reason they got to kick a field goal or score a touchdown, it also enhances your odds.

 

“While you may think that getting 10 is the thing to do, it’s the thing to do if you want to go into overtime. It’s not the thing to do if you want to win the game in regulation, and that’s what we were trying to do.”

 

Situation 7: Fourth quarter, 2:01. Chiefs lead 33-28, Ravens attempt 2-point conversion (failed)

 

Analytics say: Go for 2. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Ravens’ estimated change in win probability, had they converted the attempt, was 5% (vs. 2.9% if they had kicked the extra point).

 

As stated, the previous failed attempts forced the Ravens into another try to bring the score within a field goal. The Chiefs converted a third-and-9 on the following possession and the Ravens had no timeouts, effectively clinching the game.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots are going to make WR ANTONIO BROWN fight for every dollar.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

If former Patriots receiver Antonio Brown wants his $9 million signing bonus, he’s going to have to fight for it.

 

Per a league source, the Patriots did not pay Brown $5 million, the first installment of the signing bonus, on or before the Monday deadline specified in his contract.

 

The move was widely expected, even though the team’s argument for not paying earned money to Brown ultimately may fail. He did not commit a “forfeitable breach” under the terms of the labor deal. Thus, the Patriots will have to fashion an argument based on, for example, Brown withholding information as to the threatened sexual assault and rape litigation from the team. The Patriots would argue that they wouldn’t have signed Brown if they’d known about the potential lawsuit, especially since it can (and did) spark an NFL investigation that could result in Brown being placed on paid leave.

 

Whatever the argument, there’s no downside in refusing to pay Brown. If he wins, he gets the money — without interest, attorneys’ fees, liquidated damages, or other costs. Given his recent history of erratic and aggressive behavior, an arbitrator may be inclined to find a way to bend the facts and applicable precedent in the direction of a finding that Brown will get nothing.

 

Brown undoubtedly will file a grievance aimed at getting the $9 million, along with the balance of his $1 million guaranteed salary. As explained on Sunday, his minimum pay from the Patriots will be $283,333.

 

Michael McCann, writing at SI.com, is one attorney who thinks Brown will get his money.  A key fact was New England playing him in Week 2 against the Dolphins, a game in which they had no need for his services.

 

You can add labor grievance to Antonio Brown’s already tumultuous 2019 season. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the All-Pro wide receiver intends to file a grievance on Monday against his most recent employer, the New England Patriots. Brown, with assistance from the NFLPA, will demand that the Patriots—who cut Brown on Friday in the wake of a multifaceted controversy that included inappropriate text messages—pay him the remainder of his 2019 contract.

 

Brown’s contract with the Patriots contained a $1 million base salary, along with a $9 million signing bonus. His contract also included various roster bonuses and performance incentives. Five million of the $9 million signing bonus is due to be paid on Monday, Sept. 23. If the Patriots refuse to pay the $5 million, Brown would have actionable grounds to grieve an alleged breach of contract.

– –

The unsettled interplay between the CBA and Brown’s Contract

 

The dispute between Brown and the Patriots will involve language from both the CBA and his contract. Some of the language could be read to be in conflict or will require further interpretation and clarification.

 

A sensible starting point in this discussion is Article 4 of the CBA. Among other things, Article 4 contemplates circumstances in which a player’s salary is subject to forfeiture at the team’s discretion. Article 4, however, cautions that salary “already earned may never be forfeited.” A signing bonus, such as the one Brown received in his contract, is arguably earned when signed (hence its moniker, “signing bonus”).

 

Article 4 stresses that a player can commit a “forfeitable breach” in four specific circumstances: when a player fails to play or practice (not applicable to Brown with respect to his 11 days on the Patriots); is incarcerated (not applicable to Brown at any time); voluntarily retires (not applicable to Brown while he was a Patriot, though he now says he’s boycotting the NFL until NFL players receive guaranteed contracts); or is unavailable due to a non-football injury that resulted from a breach in the contract (seemingly not applicable to Brown—the Patriots neither listed Brown as injured nor suggested he was hurt).

 

The Patriots will highlight other language, namely that found in Brown’s employment contract. Appendix A of the CBA contains the standard “NFL Player Contract.” Brown’s contract contains additional information, but as a starting point, Paragraph 2 of the standard contract highlights that a player is contractually obligated to “give his best efforts and loyalty to the club.” The player is also required to “conduct himself on and off the field with appropriate recognition of the fact that the success of professional football depends largely on public respect for and approval of those associated with the game.” Meanwhile, paragraph 14 requires that Brown comply with “all reasonable club rules and regulations.”

 

These ambiguous terms advantage the Patriots, since they could be applied to Brown’s employment with the Patriots. The most relevant element of Brown’s time on the Patriots was his texting inappropriate, some would argue hostile or threatening, comments to an artist who accuses him of sexually inappropriate conduct.

 

There are also specific terms in Brown’s contract with the Patriots that offer the team interpretative power. As The MMQB’s Albert Breer has shown, Brown’s salary guarantee is contingent upon Brown avoiding certain acts. Brown, for example, was forbidden from skipping practice without prior consent. He also was prohibited from being suspended under the league’s conduct policy. Brown’s guarantee was also subject to forfeiture if he took “any action that materially undermines the public’s respect for” the Patriots. In any of those scenarios, the Patriots were empowered to render guarantees “null and void.” Brown didn’t miss practice and he wasn’t suspended. However, the vagueness of the standard “materially undermines the public’s respect” is beneficial to the Patriots.

– – –

Brown’s likely arguments in the grievance

 

Brown (and the NFLPA) will surely insist that his signing bonus was earned when he signed his contract. He’ll also stress that he did not commit a “forfeitable breach” as that term is defined by Article 4 of the CBA. Further, Article 4 could be read to supersede or qualify his Patriots contract with respect to guaranteed money. It states that players and a team can’t agree “to contract provisions that authorize the club to obtain a forfeiture of any salary from a player except to the extent and in the circumstances provided [in Article 4].”

 

Brown can also highlight that the Patriots did not, based on what is publicly known, discipline him before the team cut him. In labor law, there is normally an expectation of a progressive discipline policy, meaning a policy where (in general) an employee who runs afoul of a workplace rule is first warned and second suspended/fined before he or she is fired. The underlying logic is that an employee should have a chance a to correct mistakes and learn from them before losing their job. Here, there was no suspension and there is no record that the team fined Brown for any conduct. Brown might query that if New England viewed his behavior as so detrimental to the organization, why was Brown still practicing for the Patriots the day Robert Klemko’s story about Brown’s intimidating text messages had been published? And why was Brown still practicing on a Friday before a Sunday game? It seems the team expected him to play in spite of the controversies.

 

Along those lines, the Patriots have not explained their reasoning behind cutting Brown. He has not been charged with a crime and there is no expectation of forthcoming criminal charges. It’s true that Brown’s former trainer, Britney Taylor, has sued him for an alleged sexual assault and other sexually inappropriate behavior. However, those alleged acts occurred before Brown played for the Patriots.

 

Also, the filing of a civil lawsuit doesn’t prove anything. Taylor hasn’t (from what is known) offered sworn testimony, and therefore hasn’t vouched for her claims under the penalty of perjury. Further, she declined to report her claims to the police, meaning no police investigation occurred when one would have been most helpful. While Taylor met with NFL investigators last Monday, a meeting doesn’t equate to proof. Brown might also note that Roger Goodell declined to place Brown on the exempt list after league investigators met with Taylor. It appears Brown would have played for the Patriots against the Jets on Sunday had he not been cut.

 

For similar reasons, it’s unclear that the Patriots would be able to deny Brown guaranteed money solely in response to Klemko’s findings. Through a combination of investigative journalism and careful scrutiny of police reports, court filings and other records, Klemko uncovered that a second women accused Brown of an inappropriate sexual overture and a third claimed he threw a bottle of cologne at her. Brown has also been accused of various other transgressions, including not paying people he hires and throwing furniture from the 14th-floor apartment balcony onto the street (which was reported last year).

 

While those findings are disturbing, none led to criminal charges. Also, it appears that Brown and his attorneys reached settlements before many of those incidents led to litigation. Regardless, it’s obvious why the Patriots would abruptly cut him for Brown’s past issues that had a limited legal fallout.

 

To that point, the NFLPA could argue that there is an element of “caveat emptor” in signing any player, but especially one as controversial as Brown. When they signed Brown on Sept. 10, the Patriots, like the rest of the NFL, had just seen him undertake a series of disruptive and dramatic acts as a Raider. That pattern seemed to begin with an unusual incident where Brown suffered frostbite after failing to wear proper footwear in a cryotherapy chamber. Brown then pursued two grievances over whether he could wear a helmet that the NFL and NFLPA had deemed unsafe. Then he battled with Raiders general manager Mike Maycock via an on-field exchange and when Brown posted a photo of his fine on Instagram. Brown also recorded a phone call from Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and then published the recording on YouTube. Along the way, Brown racked up multiple fines for missing practices and meetings.

 

New England saw all of this and still signed him.

 

The timing of the Patriots signing Brown is also relevant to the grievance. They rushed to sign him on Sept. 10 after his release by the Raiders. The rush made football sense: the team wanted to sign him before another team did so. However, it’s not clear whether the team engaged in the kind of thorough background checking and due diligence that it might normally conduct before offering a contract to a player.

 

Had the Patriots canvassed social media, they might have noticed a Sept. 7 tweet by @incarceratedbob. The tweet suggested that Brown was in in the middle of a possible legal dispute with a woman. The tweet contains a video that appears to show messages attributed to Brown. If the Patriots saw the tweet, they might have asked Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, about its merits and inquired whether Brown intended to reach an out-of-court settlement with the accuser before the Patriots signed him.

 

Patriots’ likely arguments in the grievance

 

The Patriots, as noted above, will stress that Brown’s contract clearly gave the team the ability to terminate guaranteed provisions (at least some of those provisions) in the event Brown engaged in conduct that undermined the public’s respect for the Patriots or those on the Patriots. Likewise, Brown may have engaged in unlawful or immoral conduct, either of which would have violated his contract. To that point, the chaos caused by Brown was a distraction to the Patriots. It also became fodder for media and social media ridicule of both Brown and the team.

 

The specifics of Brown’s conduct while on the Patriots also warrant attention. Brown texting hostile statements, as well as a photo of a woman’s children, to a woman who accuses of him of misconduct is, at a minimum, indicative of dubious judgment and a lack of self-control. This seems particularly true given that Brown texted her while Brown was under league investigation for allegations brought by a different woman. The timing could not have been worse and it embarrassed the Patriots.

 

It’s also possible, if not likely, that Belichick warned Brown to refrain from conduct detrimental. Perhaps Belichick or other Patriots officials told Brown to put his phone away if he wanted to be on the team. Brown likely knew he had to change his behavior to comport to this team, and if Brown didn’t “get the message” and betrayed a warning, New England can more persuasively argue they cut him for conduct detrimental.

 

The Patriots can also contend that Brown’s signing bonus was structured to incentivize his good behavior over a period of weeks or months. This incentive scheme was apparent in the timing of the payments: Brown would earn $5 million within a couple of weeks if he got off to a good start with the team and another $4 million at a later date. From that lens, the bonus wasn’t “earned” at signing but rather earned over a period of time.

 

The Patriots can also attempt to debunk a progressive discipline argument by emphasizing that the team has discretion when to cut a player. The Patriots aren’t obligated to first suspend Brown before it can release him.

 

Still, Brown’s best card is the CBA and the collectively bargained limitations on forfeitable breaches of guaranteed money.

 

The grievance will take time to play out. Although the matter could be resolved through a settlement, Brown’s ill-advised decision to mock Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Twitter on Sunday doesn’t exactly serve as an olive branch for settlement talks. In fact, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports from a source that Kraft will “never” write a check to Brown after Brown’s tweets.

 

Kraft might not have a choice. We’ll see.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

 

The Patriots and Cowboys sit atop the 2019 Aikman Combined Ratings through Week 3 with New England leading with awesome defense and the Cowboys having the top Aikman Offense.

 

Despite losing to the Chiefs, the Ravens are in 3rd place, propelled there by the tremendous advantage they obtained in over-running the Dolphins in Week 1.  In fact, the top three teams are the clubs that have defeated Miami.  The Aikman Combined Rating of 79.1 for the Dolphins through three games is historically bad.

 

At 172.1, the 49ers have the best Aikman Combined of the teams that have not played Miami.  The 49ers are boosted by an 89.9 rating in Aikman Defense, second to New England.

 

The Chiefs are only 10th in the Aikman Combined due to an Aikman Defense Rating of 61.3 that ranks only 24th.

 

2019 Season Aikman Efficiency Ratings Through Week 3                                                                                                                                                                                  

                                                                                Aikman                                                  NFL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Comb       Off             Def                     Off          Def       Comb

1    3-0    New England Patriots         208.2        93.3      114.9                        5              1              6

2    3-0   Dallas Cowboys                   186.0      110.4        75.6                        3            15           18

3    2-1   Baltimore Ravens                177.6      109.5        68.0                        1            16           17

4    3-0    San Francisco 49ers           172.1        82.2        89.9                        4              2              6

5    3-0    Green Bay Packers             169.6        81.3        88.2                      28           13           41

6    2-1    Minnesota Vikings               166.2        91.3        75.0                      15           12           27

7    2-1    Seattle Seahawks               163.5        90.8        72.7                        9            11           20

8    3-0    Los Angeles Rams              162.7        86.1        76.6                      16             3            19

9    2-1    Chicago Bears                     162.2        74.5        87.7                      29             8            37

10  3-0    Kansas City Chiefs             161.4      100.1        61.3                        2            24           26

11  2-1    Houston Texans                  159.9        96.2        63.8                      17           22           39

12  3-0   Buffalo Bills                          158.8        88.3        70.5                        8              5            13

13  1-2   Philadelphia Eagles           156.5        85.5        71.0                      13           16           29

14  1-2   Tennessee Titans                                155.3        85.6        69.7                      27             6            33

15  1-2   Tampa Bay Buccaneers    151.9        71.1        80.8                      14           14           28

16 2-0-1 Detroit Lions                         151.4        81.7        69.7                      12           23           35

17  2-1   Indianapolis Colts                               148.6        94.6        54.0                      19           18           37

18  1-2   Carolina Panthers               145.4        82.0        63.5                      11             4            15

19  1-2   Cleveland Browns               145.1        72.6        72.5                      24           10           34

20  1-2   Jacksonville Jaguars          144.5        77.2        67.4                      23           20           43

21  1-2   Atlanta Falcons                    142.9        80.7        62.2                      10             7            17

22  1-2   Los Angeles Chargers       141.0        83.2        57.8                        5            19           24

23 0-2-1 Arizona Cardinals                               138.6        79.6        59.1                      25           30           55

24  2-1   New Orleans Saints            138.2        82.6        55.6                      21           28           49

25  1-2   Oakland Raiders                  137.4        80.9        56.5                      26           25           51

26  1-2   New York Giants                  136.4        85.1        51.3                        7            31           38

27  0-3   Pittsburgh Steelers              136.3        71.6        64.7                      30           29           59

28  0-3   Denver Broncos                   130.4        76.1        54.4                      20             9            29

29  0-3   Washington Redskins         125.1        75.5        49.6                      22           26           48

30  0-3   Cincinnati Bengals              123.7        64.5        59.2                      18           27           45

31  0-3   New York Jets                      120.4        53.2        67.2                      32           21           53

32  0-3   Miami Dolphins                     79.9        43.8        36.1                      31           32           63

 

                                                             82.2      67.7

 

 

2020 DRAFT

ESPN’s algorithm’s give us next spring’s draft order today.  We ranked teams need for a QB by RED (yes) to PURPLE (maybe) to BLACK.

 

he Miami Dolphins will own the Nos. 1, 9 and 23 picks in the 2020 NFL draft, according to the 1-32 draft order projections from the ESPN Football Power Index (FPI).

 

The Dolphins traded cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers to add another first-round pick, and they already had an extra first-rounder after trading Laremy Tunsil to the Texans.

 

Each week during the season, the FPI projects the draft order by simulating the remainder of the season 10,000 times. Game probabilities are based largely on the model’s ratings for individual teams in addition to game locations. The order is based on the record the model believes the teams will have after 16 games, and the order is based on each team’s average draft position in the simulations.

 

1. Miami Dolphins (0-3)

Average draft position: 1.4

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 76.6%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 98.7%

 

2. Washington Redskins (0-3)

Average draft position: 6.0

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 4.6%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 54.5%

 

3. Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1)

Average draft position: 6.1

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 4.8%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 55.2%

 

4. Cincinnati Bengals (0-3)

Average draft position: 6.5

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 4.7%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 51.3%

 

5. New York Jets (0-3)

Average draft position: 7.7

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 2.9%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 39.4%

 

6. New York Giants (1-2)

Average draft position: 7.9

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 1.8%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 36.8%

 

7. Oakland Raiders (1-2)

Average draft position: 8.8

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 1%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 30.7%

 

8. Denver Broncos (0-3)

Average draft position: 8.9

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 1.3%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 30.7%

 

9. Miami Dolphins (from 0-3 PIT)

Average draft position: 10.0

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 1%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 25%

 

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)

Average draft position: 10.4

FPI chance to earn No. 1 pick: 0.5%

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 22.2%

 

11. Carolina Panthers (1-2)

Average draft position: 12.6

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 11.6%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 40.1%

 

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)

Average draft position: 12.7

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 12.7%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 40.4%

 

13. Cleveland Browns (1-2)

Average draft position: 13.6

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 9.7%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 35.9%

 

14. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)

Average draft position: 15.5

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 5.2%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 23.9%

 

15. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)

Average draft position: 16.7

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 2.2%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 15.1%

 

16. Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

Average draft position: 17.9

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 3.5%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 17.2%

 

17. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)

Average draft position: 17.0

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 2.7%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 15.4%

 

18. Tennessee Titans (1-2)

Average draft position: 17.4

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 3.2%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 16%

 

19. Detroit Lions (2-0-1)

Average draft position: 17.7

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 1.9%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 11.7%

 

20. Oakland Raiders (from 2-1 CHI)

Average draft position: 19.2

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.8%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 6.6%

 

21. Buffalo Bills (3-0)

Average draft position: 19.9

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.5%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 6.3%

 

22. Indianapolis Colts (2-1)

Average draft position: 20.5

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.8%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 7.2%

 

23. Miami Dolphins (from 2-1 HOU)

Average draft position: 23.0

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.2%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 2.5%

 

24. San Francisco 49ers (3-0)

Average draft position: 23.2

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 1.3%

 

25. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)

Average draft position: 23.2

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 1.5%

 

26. New Orleans Saints (2-1)

Average draft position: 23.6

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 2.3%

 

27. Green Bay Packers (3-0)

Average draft position: 24.4

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 0.9%

 

28. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

Average draft position: 24.5

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 2%

 

29. Dallas Cowboys (3-0)

Average draft position: 25.6

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 0.7%

 

30. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)

Average draft position: 29.3

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 0.1%

 

31. Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

Average draft position: 27.9

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 0.1%

 

32. New England Patriots (3-0)

Average draft position: 29.6

FPI chance to earn top-five pick: 0.1%

FPI chance to earn top-10 pick: 0.1%