AROUND THE NFL

The oddsmakers thought that Patriots-Rams was a pick ‘em game, but the betting public has pushed the line towards New England.  Jay Ginsbach of Forbes.com:

 

The 2019 Super Bowl LIII matchup is set after a pair of thrilling conference championship overtime games won by the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots. The Patriots’ opening touchdown drive in overtime gave New England a 37-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. That followed a playoff-record 57-yard game-winning field goal by Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein to give Los Angeles a controversial 26-23 win over the New Orleans Saints.

 

Shortly after quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots’ win as underdogs, most Las Vegas sportsbooks posted the Rams-Patriots betting line as a pick ’em, with the Westgate SuperBook opening with the Rams as a 1-point favorite. The SuperBook quickly adjusted to pick ’em. By the end of Sunday night, just hours after the final conference championship game was completed, the Patriots were up to a 2-point favorite. By Monday morning, select sportsbooks including Caesars properties had moved the Patriots to -2.5.

 

Early betting action is supporting New England, and the Patriots will try to snap a recent streak that has seen underdogs win six of the last seven Super Bowls.

 

The over/under is listed at 58 total points, which is the highest posted total by the sportsbooks in Super Bowl history.

 

Why the betting line moved so quickly

 

The sportsbooks adjust the point spread and total based on the amount of money wagered. Early money doesn’t necessarily mean significant action from sharp bettors or wise guys. The Super Bowl is a significant event with a unique market that will be flooded with wagers and betting action from the general public.

 

Many sports bettors bet with a recency bias, meaning they tend to bet based on what they have seen from teams and performances most recently. For many bettors, the Patriots were more impressive in their win at Kansas City than the Los Angeles Rams were in their controversial win at New Orleans. While the oddsmakers use power ratings and factor in expected wagering action in setting the point spread, they have to adjust quickly based on the wagering activity and especially with the record volume expected on the Super Bowl.

 

This is the Patriots 9th Super Bowl of the Belichick-Brady Era.  New England is 5-3 outright in those games, but 3-5 against the spread. 

 

The only one of the eight previous SBs to be decided by more than four points was the one that went into overtime and resulted in a six-point Patriots win.  Down 28-3, New England not only won, but thanks to overtime, they covered.

 

The other two New England covers were of course the first Rams-Patriots game, the Spygate contest, when New England was a 14-point underdog to St. Louis and won outright and over Seattle in SB 49 when they won in a pick ‘em game.

 

In Super Bowls where the Patriots were favored, six of them, they have never covered in regulation time.  The only cover came in overtime against Atlanta, so they are 1-5 vs. the spread as a Super Bowl favorite.

 

In general, underdogs are 12-4 versus the spread in the last 17 Super Bowls (one pick ‘em).  Or at least that according to the consensus odds posted below from VegasInsider.com (your odds may vary):

 

 

LIII

2019

Atlanta, GA

New England vs. L.A. Rams

TBD

LII

2018

Minneapolis, MN

Philadelphia vs. New England

New England -4 (49)

Philadelphia 41 New England 33

Underdog-Over

LI

2017

Houston, TX

Atlanta vs. New England

New England -3 (57)

New England 34 Atlanta 28 (OT)

Favorite-Over

L

2016

Santa Clara, CA

Carolina vs. Denver

Carolina -5 (43.5)

Denver 24 Carolina 10

Underdog-Under

XLIX

2015

Glendale, AZ

Seattle vs. New England

Pick ’em (47.5)

New England 28 Seattle 24

Over

XLVIII

2014

East Rutherford, NJ

Seattle vs. Denver

Denver -2.5 (47.5)

Seattle 43 Denver 8

Underdog-Over

XLVII

2013

New Orleans, LA

San Francisco vs. Baltimore

San Francisco -4.5 (48)

Baltimore 34 San Francisco 31

Underdog-Over

XLVI

2012

Indianapolis, IN

N.Y. Giants vs. New England

New England -2.5 (53)

N.Y. Giants 21 New England 17

Underdog-Under

XLV

2011

Arlington, TX

Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh

Green Bay -3 (45)

Green Bay 31 Pittsburgh 25

Favorite-Over

XLIV

2010

Miami, FL

New Orleans vs. Indianapolis

Indianapolis -5 (57)

New Orleans 31 Indianapolis 17

Underdog-Under

XLIII

2009

Tampa, FL

Pittsburgh vs. Arizona

Pittsburgh -7 (46)

Pittsburgh 27 Arizona 23

Underdog-Over

XLII

2008

Glendale, AZ

N.Y. Giants vs. New England

New England -12 (55)

N.Y. Giants 17 New England 14

Underdog-Under

XLI

2007

Miami, FL

Indianapolis vs. Chicago

Indianapolis -7 (47)

Indianapolis 29 Chicago 17

Favorite-Under

XL

2006

Detroit, MI

Pittsburgh vs. Seattle

Pittsburgh -4 (47)

Pittsburgh 21 Seattle 10

Favorite-Under

XXXIX

2005

Jacksonville, FL

New England vs. Philadelphia

New England -7 (46.5)

New England 24 Philadelphia 21

Underdog-Under

XXXVIII

2004

Houston, TX

New England vs. Carolina

New England -7 (37.5)

New England 32 Carolina 29

Underdog-Over

XXXVII

2003

San Diego, CA

Tampa Bay vs. Oakland

Oakland -4 (44)

Tampa Bay 48 Oakland 21

Underdog-Over

XXXVI

2002

New Orleans, LA

New England vs. St. Louis

St. Louis -14 (53)

New England 20 St. Louis 17

Underdog-Unde

 

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

WR COLE BEASLEY implies that Jerry Jones is dictating which receivers get the bulk of QB DAK PRESCOTT’s passing targets – not deposed OC Scott Linehan and not head coach Jason Garrett.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

The Dallas Cowboys let offensive coordinator Scott Linehan go last week. Will Cole Beasley be the next Cowboy to ride on out of town?

 

Beasley, an impending free agent, engaged in an impromptu A.M.A. on Twitter on Tuesday and raised speculation that he will not be returning to the Cowboys while criticizing the nature and source of Dallas’ play-calling.

 

“Utilization is more important than money,” Beasley said responding to a follower who wanted the best of both worlds for the longtime Cowboys pass-catcher in free agency.

 

When prompted with the retort that, with Linehan out the door, Beasley could be utilized more, the Cowboys wideout said that decision is not up to just the offensive coordinator.

 

“Honestly, the front office pushes who they want to get the ball to,” Beasley tweeted. “I haven’t been a huge priority in that regard. Maybe that will change but I’m not sure. More balls come my way in 2 minute (sic) drill where nothing is planned.

 

“I don’t need the ball all the time. Just more than 3 targets a game. Is 5 to 8 targets a game at least too much to ask?”

 

Beasley averaged 6.14 targets per game before Dallas acquired No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders and 4.45 targets per game after the swap, including the postseason. On the whole, he averaged 5.11 targets per game, including playoffs.

 

The diminutive receiver clarified his complaints over targets don’t portend an assured departure, but it’s not a good sign.

 

“Doesn’t mean I’m gone,” the receiver typed. “I’ll play anywhere where I can make more of an impact. I would love for that to be Dallas or anywhere else that will give me more pops to make an impact. I just wanna ball. It’s hard with 3 to 4 opps a game.”

 

Beasley also added that his comments were not meant to reflect poorly on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

 

“I love my QB and I am one of his favorites,” Beasley tweeted.

 

The 29-year-old logged the second-best season of his career in 2018 with 65 receptions on 85 targets and 672 yards, nearly doubling his receiving metrics from 2017.

 

The Cowboys are targeting an in-house candidate, likely quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore, to replace Linehan as offensive coordinator. Dallas have seven receivers signed to its roster for the 2019 season: Cooper, Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Noah Brown, Cedrick Wilson and Devin Smith.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Cody Benjamin of CBSSports.com tries to figure out the market for QB NICK FOLES:

 

Nick Foles has quarterbacked the Philadelphia Eagles through two straight playoff runs, racking up improbable victories and a historic Super Bowl title along the way, but with Carson Wentz entrenched as the team’s long-term No. 1, it’s a good bet Foles will be starting elsewhere in 2019.

 

Before the 2018 season, Foles and the Eagles agreed on a revised contract that includes a mutual option for 2019. The team can use it to keep him under contract for $20 million, whereas Foles can opt out of it by refunding a previous $2 million bonus if he wishes to hit free agency. In other words, with Wentz sticking around for the long term, Foles won’t be back, at least at his projected salary. And the way both sides are talking, it sounds like Foles and the Eagles are OK with a mutual parting of ways.

 

Where, exactly, could the Super Bowl LII MVP end up, however?

 

With just this year’s Super Bowl standing in the way of the 2019 offseason, we’ve ranked the most likely landing spots:

 

11. Retirement

If you know Foles’ story, this wouldn’t be a shock if he has a sudden change of heart or can’t find the offer he’s looking for. The veteran revealed during the Eagles’ 2017 title run that he actually decided to step away from the game before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016. He’s also especially unaffected by his reputation and has talked openly about becoming a pastor after football. We’d call this a long shot, but it can’t be ruled out.

 

10. Minnesota Vikings

This is probably about as unlikely as him retiring, but hear us out. This has nothing to do with Kirk Cousins. The Vikings do not have a proven backup under contract for 2019, with Trevor Siemian set to hit free agency. They have an affinity for ex-Eagles QBs (see: Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford). And if Foles has earned the respect of any team, it’s Minnesota, a franchise that reportedly tried landing him multiple times a few years ago. He also played with Cousins in college, so if he can’t find a starting gig and is willing to be a backup again, why not here?

 

9. Houston Texans

Again, like retirement and the Vikings, this only makes sense if Foles is unable to get a great starting opportunity. Texans coach Bill O’Brien has heaped praise on Foles in the past, and beyond that, Houston’s current backup, Brandon Weeden, is set to become a free agent. There’s also probably not a better geographical fit for him outside of Philly. By backing up Deshaun Watson, he’d be just a few hours from Austin, Texas, where he was born and raised.

 

8. Philadelphia Eagles

If there’s anyone who’d take less money to remain in Philly, it’s Foles. The guy loves the city, loves the fans and will forever be a hero for his Super Bowl LII heroics. He’s also been used a whole lot more than normal backups because of Wentz’s injury history. The Eagles are also creative enough to finagle his finances. And yet it really does feel like the time has come for a split, with Wentz entering a prove-it season as the face of the franchise and Foles eligible for probably his last big starting opportunity.

 

7. New York Giants

Foles is better than the 37-year-old Eli Manning, but who knows if New York truly believes their old man has gas left in the tank? The NFC East connection ensures the team would be aware of Foles’ strengths and weaknesses, and coach Pat Shurmur was Foles’ offensive coordinator for the QB’s lone Pro Bowl season. Then again, Shurmur was also part of the regime that OK’d a trade of Foles to the Rams. At least the thought of Foles with Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. should tease New York.

 

6. Washington Redskins

They’ve been all about the retread QB over the years, acquiring two former Andy Reid veterans (Donovan McNabb, Alex Smith) since 2010. Foles would represent a third, and with Smith’s future murky after surgery, Washington looks like a place that could have a starting job open. We’re just not sold Foles would be jumping up and down to join this organization unless the team goes after him with a full head of steam.

 

5. Cincinnati Bengals

Here’s your oddball of the bunch. The Bengals are expected to hire Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to replace the ousted Marvin Lewis, and with such a serious change figures to come serious evaluation of the QB position, from which Andy Dalton can be cut or traded at no cost. Perhaps Taylor will admire Dalton, but he’ll also hear good things about Foles from his brother, Press, the Eagles’ QBs coach, a Foles friend and rumored Bengals hire. Even if Cincy was bent on drafting a Dalton replacement, what better way to bridge to the future than with a Super Bowl MVP?

 

4. Oakland Raiders

Coach Jon Gruden and QB Derek Carr have exchanged pleasantries despite a roller-coaster first season together, and yet if there’s anyone in the NFL who’s capable of a surprise blockbuster, it’s Gruden. Who’s to say Oakland won’t explore a trade of Carr, especially if it can get its hands on a more proven big-game QB like Foles? A lot has to happen for this to become reality, but would anyone really be surprised if Gruden and the Raiders found a way into the year’s hottest quarterback sweepstakes?

 

3. Denver Broncos

The Broncos gave Case Keenum, Foles’ former teammate, $36 million a year ago. But it’s fair to wonder if John Elway won’t make sweeping changes (again), especially since Denver can get out of Keenum’s deal pretty easily. Foles has his career similarities to Keenum, another guy who’s flashed in small sample sizes, but Foles also won a Super Bowl, and there are few executives who love title-winning veteran QBs like Elway.

 

2. Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill is still on the team, but he may not be come this summer if Miami opts to spread the dead money of a potential release over the next two years. Team owner Stephen Ross is getting impatient, and at age 30, Tannehill has accomplished far less than Foles. Miami is also expected to hire New England Patriots assistant Brian Flores as their new coach — the same man who watched Foles carve up his defense in the Super Bowl. Even if the ‘Phins draft a new QB, they’d draw fans right away with No. 9.

 

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

This is the mother of all possibilities. It’s almost too good to be true. Blake Bortles figures to be on his way out. Tom Coughlin’s Giants witnessed Foles’ talent plenty of times back in the day — talent that drew praise from Coughlin at the time. Foles has considered relocating to Florida before. And the Jags’ new offensive coordinator just happens to be John DeFilippo, the same man who mentored Foles as the Eagles’ QBs coach during Philly’s Super Bowl run. Jacksonville drafting a future face of the franchise wouldn’t preclude them from pursuing Foles, either, considering this team is just a year removed from an AFC title trip.

 

 

WASHINGTON

The Redskins are feeling good about their decision to claim LB REUBEN FOSTER and guarded about their hopes for QB ALEX SMITH.  John Keim of ESPN.com:

 

The Washington Redskins aren’t yet ready to say when quarterback Alex Smith might return. They also know they don’t need to say a whole lot right now, and their eventual actions this offseason in free agency and the draft will reveal their thinking on their quarterbacks.

 

Meanwhile, they’re more confident about another player for 2019: linebacker Reuben Foster. Domestic-violence charges against Foster were dropped earlier this month. The league was still investigating his situation to determine whether or not Foster would be suspended.

 

“I think he’ll fit in very well into our defense as a player,” Redskins president Bruce Allen told reporters at the Senior Bowl, via ESPN’s Alisha Miller. “I don’t know why we would expect a suspension, but we’ll let the league finish it.”

 

As for Smith, he attended a Washington Wizards game Monday, still on crutches and with an external fixator attached to the brace on his right leg. He’s endured multiple surgeries after suffering a compound fracture and faces a long road to recovery. There’s no guarantee he will return to the NFL and it’s likely a long shot for him to play in 2019.

 

But the Redskins don’t need to decide just yet whether Smith is in their plans this fall.

 

“We don’t have to make that decision right now,” said Allen, conducting a news conference for the first time since the end of the 2014 season, though he has done one-on-one interviews since that time. “We have some time for free agency and obviously some time for the draft.

 

“He’s moving around and well on his way to a recovery.”

 

But the Redskins are aware of the reality of Smith’s situation. That’s why they are making plans to sign another quarterback to pair with veteran Colt McCoy. It could be someone via free agency, though they only have about $20 million in available cap space. If they go this route, they’d likely add someone on the lower end of the salary spectrum, such as Josh Johnson. Or they could pursue a mid-level QB, such as Teddy Bridgewater.

 

The most likely option would be to sign a low-end end free agent and draft a quarterback. In which round they’d select one remains to be seen, and that could be determined on what they learn about Smith’s future.

 

Allen told reporters that they believed the team was close to playoff contention, but because of Smith’s situation, they’re not the same team that was 6-3 at one point last year. Smith was a pivotal part of that.

 

But for now, the focus for Washington remains on Smith’s wellbeing. Allen said hearing from fans and also players has helped.

 

 “It’s a tough thing for him and his family, but all the love and care has helped him quite a bit,” Allen said. “We’ll see where it goes. We’re optimistic. if anyone can come back, it’s Alex. I’m sure he wanted to shoot hoops at the game yesterday. We’ll see.”

 

As for Foster, if he indeed does play for Washington, he’d occupy one of the starting spots inside. He’s not a playcaller, so he’d have to fill the role currently held by either Zach Brown — who was benched late in the season — or Shaun Dion Hamilton. The latter is a rookie, and a former teammate of Foster at Alabama, who could also play the other linebacker spot. The Redskins could save $5.75 million by cutting Brown this offseason.

 

But, as with Smith, there’s more to learn with Foster.

 

“Reuben has demonstrated since he’s been with us that he wants to play football and he wants to do things the right way,” Allen said. “He wants to be a valuable member of the Redskins not only on the field, but off the field as well.”

 

“The league is still finishing their investigation of it. We finished our investigation with it. He’s working hard, he’s healthy and doing the things that we have mandated he do to ever wear the burgundy and gold.”

 

Allen said the team wasn’t surprised the charges were dropped.

 

“We had a good sense who [Foster] was and we did our own quick investigation of some of the facts that we have heard,” Allen said. “We’re fortunate that the outcome was somewhat anticipated.”

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Sean McVay is reminding people that officiating mistakes cut both ways on Sunday.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Rams coach Sean McVay knows his team benefited from a missed call in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, but he pointed out that his team was hurt by a missed call as well.

 

McVay noted that on the drive preceding the controversial missed pass interference call, Rams quarterback Jared Goff had his facemask grabbed. If that penalty had been called, the Rams would have had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and would have had four chances to gain one yard and take a 24-20 lead. Instead it was third down, and the Rams settled for a field goal.

 

“When you slow it down, clearly you can see some of the things that took place. If you want to do that on every single play, though, there’s a lot of instances. You want to slow some things down with a facemask on Goff, some different things,” McVay said. “What we try to do a good job of understanding is that it is an imperfect game.”

 

Problems with NFL officiating go well beyond one call. Week after week, coaches of all 32 teams complain about calls that didn’t go their way. But the one call that went against the Saints has taken on a much higher profile — higher even than the one that went against the Rams minutes earlier — and might be the missed call that finally makes the NFL take significant actions to improve officiating.

 

That reminds the DB of a McVay decision that remains puzzling.  His choice in that sequence to kick the tying field goal with the ball just inches, maybe a single inch, away from paydirt. 

 

Jackson Fryburger of RamsWire.com collected this explanation:

 

Down three points with a fourth down on the New Orleans half-yard line – prior to a delay of game – with 5:03 left, the Rams coach decided to kick a field goal instead of going for it. Greg Zuerlein converted the chip shot to tie it at 20, keeping the Rams’ momentum going.

 

After the game, McVay discussed his somewhat controversial decision to kick the field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-goal.

 

“With the fourth-down deal, we were moving the ball really well. I think our defense had played really good football up to that point, [so the thought was], ‘OK, if we get it to tie a game, we feel good about the outcome being able to turn in our favor if we are able to get a couple of possessions.’ Ultimately it ended up working out for us because of our players,” said McVay, via the team’s official site.

 

Okay, so that’s an explanation we don’t understand. 

 

Riley McAtee of TheRinger.com says analytics say McVay got it wrong on a percentage basis:

 

While McVay’s decision to get the near-guaranteed points seems relatively sound on the surface, it almost proved to be a disastrous mistake. By passing up the chance to take the lead, L.A.’s shot at winning dropped by more than than 12 percentage points, according to ESPN’s win probability model:

 

Brian Burke

@bburkeESPN

 ESPN’s Win Probability (WP) model says the Rams likely made a major error by electing for a field goal attempt on 4th and goal from the Saints’ 1-yard line. The WP for the FG attempt would be 43.2%, while the WP for going for it would be 55.3%. The Rams… http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-41053540-4

 

The Rams eventually won the game 26-23—after a blatant missed call, a game-tying field goal drive, and an ensuing overtime period—but McVay’s error in judgment could have cost them a Super Bowl berth. And it wasn’t the only time the coach has declined to send his offense out to try and pick up a short fourth down this season. In fact, the incident in Sunday’s game came just one week after McVay made similar calls in the Rams’ divisional-round matchup against the Cowboys. Late in the third quarter of that tilt, McVay elected to punt rather than go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Cowboys’ 47-yard line. And on a fourth-and-3 from the Dallas 7-yard line in the first quarter, McVay had Zuerlein kick a field goal. While neither of those decisions were as damaging for the Rams as the one in the Saints’ game, the analytics were clear in each situation: They should have gone for it.

 

This postseason has exposed a surprising truth about McVay: While the NFL’s Xs-and-Os wunderkind has racked up 24 regular-season wins, two top-two scoring offenses, a shockingly large coaching tree, and a Super Bowl berth in just two seasons, he’s also proven to be a conventional—if not conservative—fourth-down decision-maker. And the last thing the Rams can afford against Tom Brady and the Patriots is to be conservative.

 

While this year’s playoffs have provided the most glaring examples of McVay’s conservative tendencies, he’s been doing this throughout his tenure with the Rams. Just this season we’ve seen several examples. In Week 10 against Seattle, the Rams kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the Seahawks’ 2-yard line with 7:34 left in the game. That gave the Rams a five-point lead, but had they scored the touchdown, it would have become a multiple-possession game. In Week 11 against the Chiefs, McVay decided to punt on fourth-and-1 from the Rams’ 25 with 6:44 left, even though L.A. was holding onto just a three-point lead against the top offense in the league. And in Week 1 against the Raiders and Week 6 against the Broncos, McVay elected to kick fourth-quarter field goals from inside the opponents’ 3-yard lines. In all of these situations, the Rams would have benefitted from a more aggressive approach.

 

McVay got a lot of credit in Week 5 when he went for it on a game-sealing fourth down against the Seahawks, but that was an outlier—as the data shows, McVay plays it safer on fourth downs than almost every other NFL coach.

 

To get a rough sense of how aggressive coaches are, it’s most useful to look at short fourth downs: those with 2 yards or less to convert. From there, we can separate out coaches’ decision-making in three distinct parts of the field: field goal range (from the opponents’ 30-yard line to the end zone), outside field goal range (from the opponents’ 40 to the opposite end of the field), and No Man’s Land (between the 30 and 40). We’re excluding No Man’s Land here since coaches often go for fourth downs in that area not because they’re aggressive, but because there is too much distance to feel confident in a field goal attempt but not enough for a worthwhile punt. We’re also only looking at the first three quarters of games, since fourth-down decision-making can become warped in the final frame as teams try to complete comebacks.

 

Putting both of those situations together gives us a rough estimate of how aggressive teams are on fourth down. Here is how often teams go for fourth-and-2 or shorter in the first three quarters of a game, excluding No Man’s Land:

 

NFL Decisions on Fourth Down

Rank     Team                 Plays   Passes Rushes Punts    FGAs    Go for It %    Success %

1            Eagles               37       3          18         13         3          56.8%           17         81.0%

2          Browns               17       4          5          7          1          52.9%             7         77.8%

3          Saints                 31       4          11         10         6          48.4%          12          80.0%

4          Cowboys           30         2          12         15         1          46.7%          10          71.4%

5          Ravens              25        3          8          11         3          44.0%            7         63.6%

6          Seahawks         25         5          5          13         2          40.0%            6         60.0%

7          Packers            23         3          6          11         3          39.1%            4        44.4%

8          Giants                30        5          6          14         5          36.7%            7        63.6%

9          Bills                   17        1          5          10         1          35.3%            3        50.0%

10         Dolphins            23         3          5          13         2          34.8%            5        62.5%

10         Chiefs                23        1          7          10         5          34.8%            6        75.0%

12         Raiders              32        2          9          15         6          34.4%            4        36.4%

13         Bears                 24        1          7          12         4          33.3%            6        75.0%

13         Steelers            21         6          1          10         4          33.3%            5        71.4%

13         Texans             33         7          4          18         4          33.3%            7       63.6%

16         Vikings             25         4          4          11         6          32.0%            5        62.5%

16         Bengals 25         2          6          14         3          32.0%            5        62.5%

18         Redskins           32         2          8          19         3          31.3%            8        80.0%

19         Patriots              36        6          5          15         10         30.6%            9        81.8%

20         Jaguars             25         1          6          15         3          28.0%            5       71.4%

21         Broncos            26         3          4          16         3          26.9%            5       71.4%

22         Falcons              25        3          3          15         4          24.0%            3       50.0%

23         Chargers           30         1          6          19         4          23.3%            6       85.7%

24         Cardinals           31         2          5          20         4          22.6%               4    57.1%

25         Lions                32         3          4          19         6          21.9%              4     57.1%

25         Panthers           32         2          5          17         8          21.9%              5     71.4%

27         Buccaneers       19         2          2          11         4          21.1%              3     75.0%

27         49ers                19         0          4          12         3          21.1%              3     75.0%

29         Titans                30        0          6          16         8          20.0%              3     50.0%

30         Colts                  31        3          3          21         4          19.4%              4     66.7%

31         Rams                27         2          3          13         9          18.5%             4      80.0%

32         Jets                 33          1          5          23         4          18.2%             4      66.7%

          AVERAGE          27.2                                                      31.8%                     66.9%

 

When in field goal range in the first three quarters of a game, the Rams have gone for it on fourth-and-2 or shorter 35.7 percent of the time over the last two seasons. That’s 27th in the league, and well below the NFL’s average of 53.4 percent. On the other side of the field—when the Rams are outside field goal range—they’ve punted on all 13 of their fourth-and-shorts (again, excluding the fourth quarter). They’re the only team that hasn’t gone for it in that position even once. Altogether, the Rams are 31st in the league in fourth-and-short situations outside of No Man’s Land.

 

These numbers fail to capture some instances, like when teams take intentional delay-of-game penalties and end up outside of fourth-and-short distance, but overall, these figures demonstrate that the Rams under McVay are one of the NFL’s most conservative fourth-down teams.

 

NFL teams in general are far too conservative on short fourth downs, which often present far greater reward and much less risk than teams seem to realize. The Rams’ decision to kick a field goal on the Saints’ half-yard line is a perfect example.

 

While a field goal attempt from that distance is nearly automatic, converting a fourth down from the same spot isn’t much more difficult. QB sneaks have a 70 to 90 percent conversion rate leaguewide, and the Rams have the best run-blocking offensive line in football. The Rams’ chance of punching the ball in from the half-yard line was only slightly worse than their odds of making a chip-shot field goal, and the reward would have been much greater. Going up by four points would have completely changed the Saints’ game plan on their ensuing drive.

 

After L.A.’s win, McVay was asked about that fourth-down call. He reasoned that giving the ball back to the super-powered Saints offense with the game tied was fine, because the Rams defense was playing well. “With the fourth-down deal, we were moving the ball really well,” McVay said. “I think our defense had played really good football up to that point, [so the thought was], ‘OK, if we get it to tie a game, we feel good about the outcome being able to turn in our favor if we are able to get a couple of possessions.’”

 

Yet McVay’s analysis is backward. If he felt good about his defense, that’s all the more reason to go for it on fourth down. Even if the Rams had failed, they would have had a 99.5-yard cushion to stop the Saints and get the ball back, giving the team—which still had three timeouts left—a great chance to force a punt and mount a game-winning drive. Instead, the Rams tied the game, gave Brees a relatively normal-length field (New Orleans got the ball on its own 30 after the kickoff), and the Saints nearly ended the game in regulation.

 

The Rams ultimately won, of course, and coincidentally won in all the other games where McVay made conservative fourth-down decisions. But it’s a small sample size, and these subtle maneuvers have often put the Rams in worse positions to win games. Sooner or later, one of these calls will catch up with them—and it may even happen in the Super Bowl.

 

It would be unfair to characterize McVay as an unaggressive coach. He’s called six fake punts this year, including a critical one in the NFC championship game when the Rams were down 13-0. He also essentially benched Todd Gurley, his franchise running back, in the biggest game of his career because Gurley was underperforming—clearly, McVay isn’t afraid of making big moves. In a league that often treats convention like dogma, McVay still provides a breath of fresh air through some of his aggressive decisions—that mind-set just hasn’t translated to his calls on fourth down.

 

The call was horrific, but T ANDREW WHITWORTH thinks the Saints and their fans are making too much of it.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

As the rage throughout Who Dat Nation continues following Sunday’s no-call on a pass interference on Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman, L.A. prepares for the Super Bowl.

 

The blatant non-call has led to a cavalcade of anger from New Orleans Saints players, fans, and many non-partisan spectators. In an odd twist, the pervasive bitterness now seems poised to morph into a locker-room rallying cry in Los Angeles.

 

Respected veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth joined the Rich Eisen Show on Tuesday and noted the call wasn’t he only one missed in the game.

 

“You see the arguments from some of the Saints’ players about the rule about the commissioner restarting the game over or from that point or whatever,” Whitworth told Eisen, via Turf Show Times. “My argument to that would be, Rich, is then Jared Goff got a facemask on the second down on the possession before that was not called. That’d be first and goal at the one down three points. If you look at our odds from the one this season, that’s seven points. So, they’d be down four, and a field goal wouldn’t matter. They would have had to score in that situation either way.

 

“So, the reality is, where is the last foul that you want to argue? Whether it’s blatant or not is not a matter. It’s whether it’s a foul.

 

“So, it’s just one of those things that’s a slippery slope, and it’s an excuse. [However] you cut it. And the reality is they got football after that snap. They played in overtime with the football. New England had the same situation and won the game. They didn’t score; we did.

 

“We can argue about it all day, but they had an opportunity to win the game and we won it.”

 

Heading to the first Super Bowl of his 13-year NFL career, Whitworth has had his experience with bitterness after playoff losses following referee’s decisions. He was part of a Cincinnati Bengals team that fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers after former assistant coach Joey Porter coaxed a personal foul penalty.

 

“I’ve played a ton of games. I’ve had a ton of calls that could have gone one way or the other or should have or whatever that have claimed to have been missed,” he said. “But I’ve lost a playoff game to a coach being on the field getting a personal foul drawn from our players.

 

“So, I’ve experienced it, man, and I know it’s tough. But the reality is, football was played after that snap, and you know what, whatever team tries to win the game from there and wins it won the football game.”

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

Longtime Andy Reid aide Bob Sutton pays the price.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Two days after his defense was unable to stop Tom Brady in overtime, Bob Sutton has been fired.

 

The Kansas City Chiefs announced Tuesday that the defensive coordinator was relieved of his duties.

 

“Bob is a good football coach and a great person,” coach Andy Reid said in a statement. “He played an integral role in the success of our team over the last six seasons. I’ve said before that change can be a good thing, for both parties, and I believe that is the case here for the Chiefs and Bob. This was not an easy decision, but one I feel is in the best interest of the Kansas City Chiefs moving forward.”

 

The longtime assistant coach joined K.C. when Reid took over in 2013. Sutton had spent the previous 13 seasons with the New York Jets as a linebackers coach, DC, senior defensive assistant and associate head coach.

 

Reid had long defended Sutton, despite defensive struggles the past two seasons. In 2018 the Chiefs allowed 405.5 yards per game in the regular season, second-most in the NFL, and 26.3 points per game, ninth-worst. The past two seasons, K.C. ranked 26th and 30th in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders metrics.

 

Sunday’s 37-31 overtime loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots was the final salvo for Sutton in K.C. The Chiefs allowed three straight touchdown drives to end the game, including giving up three third-and-10 plays to Brady on the game-winning TD drive in overtime. Sutton’s D allowed 524 total yards, 348 passing yards, 176 rushing yards and an outrageous 13 of 19 on third downs, and generated zero sacks and just one QB hit in the AFC Championship loss at Arrowhead Stadium.

 

It’s an interesting dynamic to ponder whether Sutton would have a job in K.C. in 2019 if linebacker Dee Ford had lined up onside on a potential game-changing interception that was wiped away.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that over the past few days, the Chiefs talked with players and coaches about Sutton, whose lack of adjustments had been a non-stop frustration.

 

With a high-flying offense behind Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill, and some playmakers on defense, including Chris Jones and Dee Ford (if he returns), the Chiefs’ newly opened defensive coordinator position should be an attractive landing spot in the coming weeks.

 

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that the name of Rex Ryan is humming along the rumormonger wires for the job.

 

@AdamSchefter

 

Here’s a name to watch for the now vacant Chiefs’ DC job, per sources: former Jets and Bills’ HC and current ESPN analyst Rex Ryan, who has been approached about other DC openings in recent seasons.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

TENNESSEE

The people who know him both like the elevation of obscure Arthur Smith to OC of the Tennessee Titans.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

When the Tennessee Titans announced the hire of Arthur Smith as the team’s new offensive coordinator, the collective response from most outside the organization was: “Who?”

 

One player who knows Smith well, tight end Delanie Walker, shed some light on the new OC, and loves the move for Tennessee.

 

“I would say he’s a great hire,” Walker said of Smith, via the team’s official website. “The guy has worked on defense, offense, and he’s been in every room. He knows the game, he studies his butt off and I know he is going to be a great OC. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure I can provide for him and make sure he is successful.

 

“The dude knows what he is doing. He understands football.”

 

Smith has worked in Tennessee the past eight seasons, surviving three coaching changes. The past six years he’s worked with tight ends in some capacity, the past two the full-time TE coach.

 

As Walker’s primary coach, the veteran knows Smith’s mental acuity, work ethic and preparedness as well as anyone. The 34-year-old Walker gives Smith’s ascension into the play-calling role two thumbs up.

 

“When he first took over for Mike Mularkey, the way he taught us the plays and the way he gave us the ideas on the concepts of what the coaches wanted,” Walker said of Smith, “It was probably one of the best ways I ever had a coach teach up the plays, and I think everyone in that room could say the same thing about his structure.

 

“Giving him this opportunity and the way he wanted it, I know he is going to take advantage of this and never look back. I am excited to find out the offense he is going to run, and how he is going to install it. … I will be there supporting him every step of the way. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see him get this job.

 

“I know his goal is to be a head coach in this league, and this is just another step for him.”

 

Smith’s hire might be a surprise to some, but to hear Walker talk about the 36-year-old coach, he’s ready for the challenge.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

QB TOM BRADY is one of the reasons the Patriots have such a deep roster.  Scott Davis and Cork Gaines of Business Insider:

 

The New England Patriots have ruled the NFL for two decades in a way no other team in league history ever has.

 

A big part of that has been finding a legendary quarterback in Tom Brady, who not only has dominated on the field but has sacrificed to put his team in a good position.

 

Brady has made plenty of money in his NFL career — about $197 million — but what if he had not taken less or restructured contracts over the course of his career to help the Patriots out? Brady would be a richer man, and perhaps the highest-paid player in NFL history.

 

If Brady consistently signed deals equal to those of the biggest quarterback contracts, we found he could have made $257.9 million to this date. That is about $60 million more than his actual earnings, and approximately $9 million more than Peyton Manning made in his career, the most in NFL history (you can see how we reached this number below).

 

Tom Bradys actual vs potential career earnings

How much Tom Brady could have earned without team discounts.

 

Measuring such a thing is not an exact science. In the NFL, even the best and highest-paid players rarely see the end of a contract. In Brady and the Patriots’ case, they have frequently adjusted his deals to lower his base salary and cap hits to address roster needs while giving him a bigger signing bonus and money upfront.

 

To project Brady’s non-discounted career earnings, we kept his rookie deal and first extension the same. In 2002, Brady signed a four-year, $28 million contract. His next extension came in 2005. By this point, he had won three Super Bowls and was a 2-time Super Bowl MVP. It is safe to assume that by 2005, he could have started commanding top contracts.

 

We imagined a scenario where Brady signed new deals in 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2017 that were the equivalent of the going rate for the top quarterback at the time. In each of those four years, we gave Brady a new contract equal to that of the biggest contracts for veteran quarterbacks that had been signed before that season or the previous season. We also imagined that Brady only played four seasons under each contract and then signed a new deal.

 

Here are the contracts we used:

 

2005: Peyton Manning — 7 years, $99.2 million

2009: Eli Manning — 6 years, $99.8 million

2013: Drew Brees — 5 years, $100 million

2017: Ben Roethlisberger — 4 years, $87.4 million

 

An important note: In 2017, Matthew Stafford signed the largest quarterback deal at five years, $135 million. However, with Brady turning 40 that season, we hedged, imagining the Patriots exercising caution and not committing such a number to a player entering his 40s.

 

Again, that’s a conservative estimate. If we were to use Stafford’s $135 million contract in 2017, Brady would have given up something closer to $76 million to this point in his career.

 

One could also argue that Brady could demand better than the top quarterback deals in any given year. A more aggressive estimate would suggest that Brady has sacrificed something closer to $100 million.

 

Of course, it’s possible that if Brady took a max contract every chance he could, his legacy and the Patriots’ might be different. In 2007, Brady restructured his deal to make room for Randy Moss. In recent years, he has taken money upfront so the Patriots could re-sign key free agents. Perhaps if Brady had not restructured or agreed to new deals, the Patriots would not have been as good, taking some of the luster away from both parties.

 

Brady has said he wants to play until he’s 45, meaning he has a few more opportunities to still cash in. But at the moment, the best quarterback in NFL history won’t go down as the highest-paid.

 

It’s not like $200 million in career earnings is chump change.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

NO CALL IN NOLA

Louisiana lawyers is trying to find a Louisiana judge to force The still-silent Commissioner to invoke Rule 17.  Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:

 

At least two lawsuits have been filed by local attorneys on behalf of Saints fans who want to compel Goodell to use his power under the NFL rulebook to replay the final 1 minute, 49 seconds of regulation of New Orleans’ overtime loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

 

Fans (and some Saints players) clamoring for a rematch have pointed to an obscure NFL rule that deals with “Extraordinarily Unfair Acts.”

 

According to Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1, the NFL commissioner has the “sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.”

 

However, Article 2 states, “The Commissioner will not apply authority in cases of complaints by clubs concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials. Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed.”

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com doesn’t think much of the lawsuit and its chances:

 

The chances of a court ordering the Commissioner to order a do-over of the end of the NFC Championship game were slim. The chances have now slid as a practical matter to none.

 

Lawyer Frank D’Amico, who when he isn’t copying and pasting our content as a press release is recording videos that taunt Commissioner Roger Goodell, disclosed in said video that a hearing in D’Amico’s lawsuit will happen on Monday. Which means as a practical matter that there’s no way any court will order the NFL to re-do the final 1:49 of the game.

 

With the Super Bowl coming only six days after Monday, and with this coming Sunday the most obvious date for a re-do, a do-over won’t happen. And it’s entirely possible that D’Amico didn’t even try to get this matter teed up this week, knowing that there was really no chance of securing emergency relief and unwilling to ride the legal rollercoaster that would be unleashed as the NFL tried through every available courthouse in every available jurisdiction to overturn any such legal mandate.

 

So this one currently feels like a publicity stunt, not a serious effort to compel the Commissioner to invoke the broad powers available to him under Rule 17. Given the amount of money lawyers spend on local advertising, the free media coverage coming from this half-hearted effort to seek justice will carry plenty of value for D’Amico.

 

Maybe it will allow him to hire a publicist who doesn’t simply copy and paste online media reports for press releases.

 

On the other hand, Florio does fight back against the notion that Article 2 precludes The Commissioner from using the nucleur option when it is his officials who have created the calamity.

 

Some have suggested (actually, insisted) that the exclusive authority given to the Commissioner in Rule 17 to rectify extraordinarily unfair results does not encompass judgment errors made by game officials. Those taking that position have relied on Rule 17, Section 2, Article 2.

 

But while a quick and simple reading of Rule 17, Section 2, Article 2 can lead to that conclusion, a more careful parsing of the provision reveals what it does, and doesn’t, say.

 

Title “NO CLUB PROTESTS” (an important clue), Article 2 states as follows: “The authority and measures provided for in this entire Section 2 do not constitute a protest machinery for NFL clubs to avail themselves of in the event a dispute arises over the result of a game. The investigation called for in this Section 2 will be conducted solely on the Commissioner’s initiative to review an act or occurrence that the Commissioner deems so extraordinary or unfair that the result of the game in question would be inequitable to one of the participating teams. The Commissioner will not apply authority in cases of complaints by clubs concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials. Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed.”

 

Article 2 doesn’t prevent the Commissioner from deciding on his own to take action in response to “judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials.” Instead, Article 2 expressly (and only) prevents teams from making official protests or complaints based on Rule 17, Section 2.

 

The purpose of this specific rule seems obvious. If Rule 17, Section 2 were a path for making protests, the Commissioner would be constantly investigating and deciding whether a protest made by a team is valid. Article 2 makes it clear that teams should not, and cannot, rely on Rule 17, Section 2 as a device for initiating challenges to the outcome of games, especially when a team disagrees with the manner in which judgment is exercised.

 

If the NFL wanted to slam the door on the ability of the Commissioner to remedy an extraordinarily unfair result based on “judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials,” the NFL should have (could have) written the rule to expressly state that the Commissioner’s authority cannot be exercised in the event of “judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials.” Article 2 isn’t that broad; instead, it refers specifically to club complaints based on such matters.

 

While it’s possible that the sentence in question was poorly written, sloppiness isn’t relevant if/when the time ever comes to discern the precise meaning of the language used. As constructed, the language speaks only in terms of complaints made by teams, preserving at all times the power of the Commissioner to decide on his own to take action when he believes that an outcome creates an extraordinarily unfair result, independent and irrespective of any complaints that the team affected by the extraordinary unfair outcome would potentially try to make.

 

That’s the interpretation that ultimately gives the Commissioner the power to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. Why would anyone think that he would interpret and apply that rule in any other way.

 

Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on how the Saints would be going to the Gray Cup if they and the Rams were in the CFL.

 

Everyone knows it was wrong. The NFL has suggested it will explore the possibility of correcting the wrongness in the future.

 

Of course, a solution exists, and has worked — in Canada.

 

John Kryk of the Toronto Sun does a good job of explaining the CFL’s version or replay rules in this story, an idea which could have been of benefit to the Saints when an obvious and non-called pass interference penalty cost them a chance to advance to the Super Bowl.

 

In the CFL, coaches have the ability to challenge pass interference calls, with some limitations. Teams aren’t able to challenge the NFL equivalent of defensive holding near the line of scrimmage, but do have one challenge per game (as long as they have a timeout) which would apply to situations such as Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman whacking Saints receiver Tommyleee Lewis in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

 

And while some have concerns about the time of game getting out of hand by expanding replay, games have actually gotten shorter in Canada since they adopted a revised set of replay rules in 2017.

 

According to the CFL, during the 2014 the average duration of a game was 2:55 (not including overtime games). In 2017, when rules were revised to limit reviews to one per game, it was 2:50, and last season it was 2:51. Teams averaged 2.22 challenges per game in 2016, but just 0.88 per game in 2018.

 

If the NFL adopted such a change, and used a bit of foresight to implement it (though that isn’t the NFL’s strong suit), it offers a reasonable chance to solve a significant problem.

 

 

JOE HORRIGAN

A great guy is retiring at the Hall of Fame.

 

Joe Horrigan, perhaps the most knowledgeable historian in the sport, is retiring as executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on June 1.

 

Horrigan has spent 42 years at the hall, and this summer will release his book on the NFL’s first 100 years: “NFL Century: The Rise of America’s Greatest Sports League.” The league begins its 100th regular season in September.

 

“Joe has been an enormous asset to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for more than four decades as the foremost historian for the game,” Hall of Fame President David Baker said Tuesday. “Everyone associated with the Hall of Fame has deep respect for all Joe has accomplished.

 

“Joe’s climb through the company began as the curator and ultimately led to his role as executive director. All along the journey, he has been intimately involved in major expansions and renovations, led communications, and oversaw the selection process. He always committed himself to the Hall of Fame and always made what was best for the hall his top priority.”

 

Even after June 1, Horrigan will continue to host the “Hall of Fame Radio Show” on SiriusXM and will be involved in special projects such as the Black College Hall of Fame Football Classic.

 

More praise and background collected by Joe Scalzo in the Alliance Review:

 

 When Hall of Famer Marv Levy was thinking about retiring from the Buffalo Bills — for the second time — he told Joe Horrigan, “When you’re thinking about retiring, you probably already have.”

 

“That always stuck with me,” said Horrigan, the Hall of Fame’s executive director and historian. “I was thinking more about it (retiring) and realized that probably the reason I’m thinking about it is because, subliminally, I’m ready.”

 

On Tuesday, Horrigan made it official, surprising his coworkers with the news at the Hall’s monthly “Team Huddle.”

 

The South Buffalo native, who has worked at the Hall for 42 of its 55-plus years in existence, will officially step down June 1, the 42nd anniversary of his first day in Canton.

 

“There was no one event or reason,” Horrigan, 67, said of his retirement. “It was just time, you know. That’s the beauty of retiring from someplace you love. I’m not leaving angry. I’m not leaving happy because I’m leaving. I’m just looking at it as, ‘I’ve completed this chapter, I’m pleased with it and it’s time to move to another one.’

 

“Everyone comes to this point where you have to make this decision. You’re just happy if you can make it on your own.”

 

For many years, Horrigan has served as the face and voice of the Hall to media outlets around the country. He has served in many roles since arriving in Canton in 1977 and has spent most of his career as a member of the Hall’s executive staff.

 

“Joe will forever be a part of the Hall of Fame family,” said Pete Fierle, vice president of communications and chief of staff. “He has been such a part of the Hall of Fame and the face for so long. It’s mixed emotions. … It’s a job you don’t get a lot of free weekends, and we are excited for him to spend time with his wife, Mary Ann, and the rest of his family.”

 

The Hall of Fame has changed dramatically since Horrigan arrived in 1977. The building was still just a modest museum at that point, although it was undergoing its second expansion, growing from 34,000 square feet to 55,000 square feet. Thanks to gallery renovations in 1995, 2003, 2008 and 2009, it is now 118,000 square feet and the campus will continue to grow over the next decade thanks to the Johnson Control Hall of Fame Village project.

 

“Every time it has expanded or been renovated, I felt great about the direction it was going,” he said. “I always tell the staff, particularly the younger staff, that they should look out the window and kind of create a mental photograph, because in a year or two, you won’t remember what it looks like.”

 

Hall of Fame voter Peter King, who has covered the NFL for 35 years, compared Horrigan to the late Steve Sabol, praising their institutional knowledge and passion for the game.

 

“I’m sad to hear the news because it is a tremendous loss to me and more than that, it’s a tremendous loss to football fans everywhere,” King said. “You could ask him (Horrigan) any question about any era in football history and he would know more than anybody.

 

“He’s the internet of football.”

 

But Horrigan isn’t just knowledgeable, King said. He is generous with that knowledge.

 

“He viewed his job as much of a service job as anything else,” King said. “He helped so many people on so many projects to advance the NFL. Whoever replaces him ought to remember this job has to be about service and a deep and abiding knowledge of this game.

 

“There are a lot of people who know what’s gone on in the last 20 years. There aren’t a lot of people who know what’s gone on in the 100 years and Joe led the league in that one.”

 

Of the nine people employed by the Hall in 1977, four of them were still working in Canton in recent years. Two of them — Tammy Owens and Dave Motts — retired in 2016, while Kay Hatfield is now in her 47th year at the Hall.

 

“Between those four people, that’s about 125 to 130 years of experience and that’s remarkable,” Baker said.

 

Horrigan, who will oversee the voting for this year’s Hall of Fame class on Feb. 2, will continue to be involved with his radio show on Sirius as well as the Black College Hall of Fame. But he isn’t worried about leaving behind a void, saying the Hall currently has the “best and most qualified people we’ve ever had to do the jobs that are ahead.”

 

And while he plans to stay involved with the Hall — “I’m not going anywhere and hopefully I’m not getting any dumber,” he said — he insists this isn’t a fake retirement.

 

“I’m not looking to redefine my job,” he said. “I really, truly am retiring.”

 

One thing is certain, Baker said. He will be missed.

 

“To me he is not just a Canton treasure, he’s a national treasure,” Baker said. “He has so much knowledge about the game.

 

“He could have stayed until he was 98, as far as I am concerned.”

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Chris Trepasso of CBSSports.com at the Senior Bowl with this report on some players in the passing game:

 

UMass stud Andy Isabella was ridiculously explosive in and out of his breaks while running routes and routinely generated major separation down the field but the North quarterbacks didn’t stretch the field very much. He created serious yards after the catch on two screens in team drills and dazzled with a spin move well down the field. Isabella did deal with a few drops, especially in one-on-ones. “He’s definitely got juice. I think his hands could be a problem,” according to one scout.

 

Missouri’s Drew Lock didn’t have a super-clean showing, as he held the ball too long on a few reps in 7-on-7s, yet true to form lofted a perfect deep ball for a touchdown and made an extremely long throw from the far hash on deep crosser near the sideline that hit the receiver in the hands but was dropped.

 

Duke’s Daniel Jones struggled early, particularly in a quick-passing drill. Once the jitters dissipated, he settled in and threw in-rhythm and on-target to the short and intermediate portions of the field. Like Lock, he found tight ends open on deep crosses a few times.

 

ESPN (Todd McShay and Steve Muench) had this to say:

 

QUARTERBACK REPORT

Let’s look at how the signal-callers did on Day 1, along with their quarterback ranking from Scouts Inc.:

 

Drew Lock, Missouri

Team: North | Uniform number: 3 | QB ranking: 3

Lock is big (6-foot-3, 223 pounds), possesses a strong arm and shows athleticism, but he was inconsistent on touch throws and when on the move Tuesday. It was similar to what you see from him on tape. He really needs to become more consistent with his trajectory on touch throws and deeper passes. And a big talking point of the day was his 9-inch hands at the weigh-in. It was pretty surprising and is obviously a concern when it comes to ball security, pump fakes and handling poor weather. — McShay

 

Will Grier, West Virginia

Team: South | Uniform number: 7 | QB ranking: 4

Grier looked pretty good on drops from under center Tuesday. It’s all new to him, but he seemed comfortable for the most part and showed quick feet. I felt he was decisive when passing if his first read provided the answer, but he still tends to lock onto his primary target too long at times. He did show off a stronger arm than expected but was a little inconsistent when throwing on the move and out of play-action. — McShay

 

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Team: South | Uniform number: 8 | QB ranking: 7

I thought Stidham got more comfortable as the day progressed. There’s no denying the strong arm and smooth stroke, and he was at his best on out-breaking routes Tuesday. He was late on some of his reads but seemed to improve as he settled in. It’ll be something to keep an eye on during the course of the week, as will hitting his spots. He missed within the strike zone too often, and it cost his wide receivers yards-after-the-catch potential throughout the afternoon. — McShay

 

Tyree Jackson, Buffalo

Team: South | Uniform number: 3 | QB ranking: 16

Wow, this kid is just massive in person (measured at 6-foot-7 and 249 pounds), and he has the strongest arm of the group. He has a long-levered delivery and appeared a bit heavy-footed on drops, but because he’s so tall, it’s hard for him to consistently get his footwork and balance correct. He overshot a deep ball to an open wide receiver at one point in the 7-on-7 drill. — McShay

 

Other quarterback notes from McShay:

 

Duke’s Daniel Jones showed good anticipation and touch on some intermediate routes. He even let a couple of strong deeper throws fly, something you don’t see a ton of on Duke tape — although he overshot a deep ball that he should have connected on.

 

Ryan Finley of NC State was consistent and accurate on short-to-intermediate passes. His quick reads and ability to make intermediate timing throws stood out. He played it safe on a lot of the throws I saw him make today — a lot of check downs — and his arm strength is average at best.

 

Washington State’s Gardner Minshew was decisive and got the ball out quickly, but he has an average arm and didn’t take a lot of chances vertically, playing it safe most of practice. He was missing within the strike zone quite a bit, and I want to see that improve throughout the week.

 

As expected, Penn State’s Trace McSorley is the smallest of the eight Senior Bowl quarterbacks (6-0 1/4, 200 pounds). His hand-span (9.25 inches) is on the smaller side too. He has average arm strength and doesn’t drive it like some of these other guys, but he is very comfortable throwing on the move, and the ball placement on short-to-intermediate throws was pretty good overall.

 

DAY 1 DRAFT RISERS

These are the under-the-radar prospects who had a strong day of practice and whose college tape deserves closer inspection:

 

Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

Team: South | Uniform number: 1

Samuel showcased his ability to stretch the field during one-on-ones, and it’s not just about his speed. He quickly beats press coverage and tracks the ball well. He made a nice over-the-shoulder catch during practice. He also knows how to use his hands to create late separation without blatantly pushing off. — Muench

 

Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State

Team: North | Uniform number: 10

This kid just ran right by cornerbacks on two occasions, using his wheels on some vertical routes. The speed is real. He was the fastest player tracked Tuesday (22.2 mph max speed), according to Zebra Technology. — McShay

 

Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall

Team: South | Uniform number: 11

The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Brady looks like a natural pass-catcher with good length and big hands. His physicality and ability to quickly build speed stood out during one-on-ones. He looked explosive. — Muench

 

David Long Jr., LB, West Virginia

Team: South | Uniform number: 11

Long stood out a few times in team drills, and sure seemed to be around the ball a lot. He’s a player I have not done tape on yet, and I’m interested to see if he continues to make plays this week. — McShay

 

L.J. Collier, DE, TCU

Team: North | Uniform number: 91

During one-on-ones Tuesday, Collier overpowered Kansas State offensive tackle Dalton Risner and then showcased his versatility by kicking inside to beat Charlotte guard Nate Davis with a nice push pull move. He moved well after weighing in at 280 pounds and he has excellent length (34-plus-inch arms).

 

QUICK HITTERS

Here are some additional scouting notes on players who stood out on the practice field:

 

McShay:

 

Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat had a strong first day. He flashed some power, including knocking Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard over on a power move. Sweat has a lot of speed and bend off the edge. He has some great battles Tuesday with Washington State OT Andre Dillard.

 

San Jose State tight end Josh Oliver had a good showing on Day 1. He has average speed but solid size (6-4, 246) and very good ball skills. He’s showing that he’s a reliable target in the passing game.

 

Offensive linemen Dru Samia (Oklahoma) and Ross Pierschbacher (Alabama) were very good in the run game. Jacksonville State’s B.J. Autry also had some dominating snaps in the run game, even though he’s not much of an athlete and has limitations in pass protection.

 

Boston College tight end Tommy Sweeney isn’t much of a vertical threat and doesn’t offer much run-after-catch ability, but he catches everything in his zip code. And he was a really consistent route runner Tuesday, making a lot of plays in 7-on-7 and team units.

 

UMass receiver Andy Isabella showed off his quickness and speed. He might just be the quickest wide receiver in attendance.

 

Western Illinois defensive lineman Khalen Saunders, who stayed in Mobile even while his fiancée was in labor, impressed with a perfect backflip at the end of practice. It’s pretty impressive seeing a 320-pound defensive lineman pull that off in person.