The Daily Briefing Monday, June 19, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
Former NFL officiating head Dean Blandino, now transitioning to FOX, says he would have been fine with a plethora of ties. That and more from an interview with Colin Cowherd:
Former NFL senior VP of officiating Dean Blandino left the league after more than 15 years of service in April, and he joined Tuesday’s episode of “The Herd” as FOX Sports’ newest NFL and college football rules analyst.
In an interview with Colin Cowherd, Blandino opened up on the NFL’s recent rules changes, the problem with overtime and what it’s really like inside an officiating meeting.
Colin Cowherd: Is it your opinion that the NFL has suddenly, in the last six to 12 months, become much more celebration friendly, Dean? Why would that be?
Dean Blandino: “Well I think that part of it is trying to reach the millennial and this new age of fans and having more fun. And there was a committee, I was part of that committee with different people at the league office in looking at our game, looking at in-game downtime, looking at how our fans watch the game, looking at eye-tracking technology and where their eyes are going.
“It definitely has been something that’s ramped up. I would say it started even earlier than six to 12 months. This has probably been two to three years in the making.”
Colin Cowherd: When you’re in those officiating meetings and rule meetings… is it largely about what will make a better TV product? Why are rule changes made, generally?
Dean Blandino: “Three things. I think when the competition committee gets together and they’re thinking about a rule change, it’s player safety, it’s competitive equity, and then it’s officiating consistency. That’s the three things they look at when they’re going to change rules.
“And certainly a lot of these rules over the years have been slanted probably toward the offense, because more scoring, more points … usually most fans correspond that to a more exciting game. That’s been my experience over the past 20 years.”
Colin Cowherd: When you’re in these VP of officiating meetings, who else is in these meetings? Give me a sense of the room when you’re in these meetings.
Dean Blandino: “It’s the competition committee, there’s nine members, so you have ownership represented, you have coaches, you have front office. There’s liaisons from the league office. Troy Vincent from football operations, there’s a group of people from football operations.
“And everybody’s together and they’re just talking about the game. They’re looking at injuries and trends, potential trends on the injury tape so we can look at ‘is there a change we need to make the game safer and protect our players from unnecessary risk?’”
Colin Cowherd: I have argued that if you’re trying something for 40, 50 years and you just can’t get it right, just eliminate it. I think overtime should be eliminated. The league would be fine with ties. When you were in those rooms – this year, they’ve shortened [overtime] to 10 minutes – has anybody ever argued what I believe? Get rid of overtime!
Dean Blandino: “Yours truly. I agree with you. We started talking about overtime and reducing it from 15 to 10 because we were worried about additional snaps, players playing a full quarter more of football and then potentially having to go play on Thursday.
“Well, if we’re worried about player safety, then eliminate overtime and play to win in regulation. It would make the last two minutes that much more exciting.
“If a team’s sitting there with 30 to go and the ball on their 20, and they know the game could end in a tie because there’s no overtime, they’re going to go for it, take chances, take risks.
“We did talk about that. I think there would be some serious backlash from the fans if we got rid of overtime … but when you really break it down and you say, ‘OK, you’ve got to play to win in regulation, I think ultimately that would be a good thing.”
Colin Cowherd: You’re no longer in the NFL, you can be honest now. Is there anything in these meetings that would drive you crazy?
Dean Blandino: “Well there’s definitely a lot of red tape, that would drive me nuts. There’s definitely things about that job that, like any other job, annoy you. Dealing with – we have an officials union that we have to deal with, and most of the time it’s a good collaboration, and sometimes we don’t see eye-to-eye.
“I think on the rules part, I think the competition committee really does have the best interests of the game at heart. I don’t know if that’s the case with everyone at the league.”
The DB isn’t sure that would be the case under the NFL’s current standings format. But if a team got three points for a win and just one for a tie as in international soccer?
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Peter King notes a milestone in the NFL and talks to John Wooten about it:
This is a historic day for the league, really. It’s a bit of an invented stat, but it’s true: The 32 NFL franchises now have a total of 15 minorities either coaching the team or running the personnel side of the team. Never in league annals have at least seven head coaches and general manager/personnel czars run teams. But this year there will be a total of 15 minorities coaching or running the personnel side. (It was 10 as recently as 2013.)
“It’s so gratifying,” Wooten said from his home in Texas over the weekend. “It tells me how far we’ve come as a league. I will never forget, years ago, when [Dallas president] Tex Schramm said to me, ‘You’re trying to tell us who to hire!’ I said, ‘No, Tex. We simply want a chance to interview for these jobs.’ And now, everyone is just trying to do what they can to make equal opportunity in coaching and the front office a reality.”
• The minority coaches (eight): Ron Rivera (Carolina), Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati), Hue Jackson (Cleveland), Vance Joseph (Denver), Jim Caldwell (Detroit), Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers), Todd Bowles (New York Jets), Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh).
• The personnel czars (seven): Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore), Sashi Brown (Cleveland), Rick Smith (Houston), Reggie McKenzie (Oakland), Chris Grier (Miami), Jerry Reese (New York Giants), Doug Williams (Washington).
Williams never thought he’d get the shot. But he grew up being told opportunities would come because of merit, not color, and that was reinforced by his coach at historically black Grambling, where Williams played quarterback. “Eddie Robinson never said, ‘You can do this because you’re black,’” said Williams. “He said, ‘If you’re ever going to get a chance, you’re going to get a chance in America.’ And here it is.”
King also notes this about Williams, the new kid on the block:
Teammates on the South squad in the 1978 Senior Bowl: Grambling quarterback Doug Williams and Alabama tight end Ozzie Newsome.
Personnel czars 39 years later in the corridor surrounding the nation’s capitol: Washington senior VP Doug Williams and Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome.
Eric Karabell at ESPN.com says you should not hesitate to draft RB JORDAN HOWARD in your Fantasy Football league:
Fantasy owners might talk themselves into ignoring Bears running back Jordan Howard in the top 20 because of either the changes at quarterback or Howard’s real-life, later-round draft status. Neither angle makes much sense. The Bears featured mostly incompetent quarterback play last season, and still Howard emerged to finish 10th among fantasy running backs in PPR scoring. He achieved that despite barely playing the first two weeks, as the team foolishly relied on Jeremy Langford, and with little involvement in the passing game. As for being a fifth-round NFL pick, so what? Most every running back in the NFL was awesome in college. The kids can play. It’s about opportunity and adjustments in the NFL.
WR DAVANTE ADAMS is closing in on a big payday. Rob Reischel in the USA TODAY:
Twelve months ago, Davante Adams’ future in Green Bay was tenuous, at best.
Today, Adams could be positioning himself to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid wide receivers.
Adams is coming off a huge 2016 season in which he tied for second in the NFL with 12 touchdown receptions, caught 75 passes, and fell just short of 1,000 receiving yards at 997.
Adams, set to enter his fourth NFL season, is in the prime of his life and just so happens to be entering a contract year, as well. Adams won’t turn 25 until Christmas Eve, has a complete understanding of everything the Packers do on offense, and is loved by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins shapes up as the No. 1 free agent wide receiver in March 2018. After Hopkins, though, Adams could be No. 2 among a group that might also include Philadelphia’s Alshon Jeffery, Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins and Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson.
“That’s definitely not the type of focus you want to go into a season with,” Adams said of his impending free agency. “I’ve seen so many guys come into that way and lose focus and lose sight of what they’re actually playing for. You play to get a ring, so I’m not out here thinking about the money. I’m just trying to play ball and do what I can to help this team out. All that stuff will take care of itself at the end of the year or whenever it does. We’ll let it happen then.”
The Packers will have a gifted group of potential free agents in 2018 that includes safety Morgan Burnett, center Corey Linsley, guard Lane Taylor and cornerback Davon House. But Adams has jumped to the head of that class following an extremely impressive 2016 campaign that silenced many of the doubters.
Adams, a second-round draft choice in 2014, flashed during a solid rookie season. But in 2015, Pro Football Focus ranked Adams 118th out of 119 receivers after he averaged a pedestrian 9.7 yards on his 50 receptions, dropped 12 passes and had just one touchdown.
Adams battled an ankle injury throughout 2015, which clearly had an effect on his production. When healthy in 2016, Adams blossomed into a quality starter.
“Davante Adams made a huge jump,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think a number of things. I think he’d be the first to tell you the injury that he fought through in Year 2, he was definitely much healthier in Year 3.
“Complete understanding of all the positions, obviously an advancement in the route running and the time clock of the coordination between him and Aaron Rodgers was definitely much better last year.”
Do the Vikings have a better offensive line in 2017? Coach Mike Zimmer likes what he sees (and the DB is glad he’s seeing it). Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
In an interview with Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Zimmer praised various aspects of the unit that will be charged with scoring more points more consistently than in the past.
“Riley Reiff is playing left tackle, and he has done a nice job,” Zimmer told Hartman. “He’s going to go to work every day, make you compete, he’s going to make you work. I really like his mentality. Mike Remmers, who is playing the right tackle, is really doing the same thing. The thing I like about Mike is you know he gets a chance to go against Everson [Griffen] every day, so he’s going to give him a lot of different looks, and Danielle Hunter, he gives him a lot of different looks, different sets, changes things up, and he’s a battler and he’ll compete. The one thing, other than the way they’re fitting into the program, is that these two guys will really battle and compete.”
Zimmer believes Reiff and Remmers are “better in the run game, but these two guys have really impressed me this spring in the passing game, as well.” Zimmer added that the entire offensive line has done a better job with awareness as to pressure, and that “they’re all working on the same page.”
It’s still way too early, however, to make any sweeping proclamations about the team’s line, given that they’ve yet to truly block or hit.
“I’d say mostly now it’s just eye contact,” guard Alex Boone recently told PFT Live regarding the amount of contact in non-contact* practices. “Every now and then, somebody will accidentally trip and fall into somebody and the practice kind of stops. For the most part, as you look at practice, the ones versus ones is a very well-contained group. Guys understand how to control themselves. There’s not a lot going on. Twos versus twos, it kind of gets a little more ramped up, guys kind of falling into each other. Threes versus threes, it can be a little bit of a cluster. You really just kind of got to watch yourself. I think the key is, if you see someone falling or going down or you think you’re going to take someone out, just stop. I think that’s the one thing about the old veterans, you’ll kind of just see them slow up real quick.”
If that’s what’s truly happening, it’s hard to project the performances of Reiff, Remmers, and the rest of the line during OTAs and minicamp into what they’ll do when the real games begin in September.
Speaking of Hartman – Peter King on the relationship between the 97-year-old (that’s 97 years old, yes) scribe and Randy Moss.
Look at this photo. Tom West, the longtime Vikings PR man, took it the other day in fellow PR man Bob Hagan’s office at the Vikings’ headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn.
It’s beautiful. Hartman, 97, the longtime Minnesota columnist and radio host who is still working every week, is on the left, interviewing Moss, 40, who was in town to be told his number was being retired, and he would be enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor. The two have had an interesting relationship. When Moss was under fire as a Viking for playing hard when he felt like it, Hartman interviewed him, and Moss famously said, “I play when I want to play.” They clashed over that, though all Hartman was doing was quoting (and in effect excoriating) the best receiver in the game.
I talked to Moss about the photo, and asked him about the meaning of his meeting and his interview with the raspy, indefatigable Hartman.
“Respect your elders,” Moss said. “I love Sid.”
It was interesting to hear Moss talk about Hartman the day after he met him, and the day he was honored by the Vikings. If you recall, Moss was pretty ticked off when the Vikings dispatched him to Oakland after seven starry seasons in 2005. Moss had the best debut of any receiver in NFL history—he had 53 touchdown catches in his first four years. When people thought he was a loafer in the twilight, at 30, he had the greatest season a wideout ever had, catching 23 touchdown passes at age 30 for New England in 2007. An amazing career, yet the petulance dogs him. He knows. And he’s matured about it all.
“All the flak I took, everything I dealt with coming from high school and college, and then for them to give this award, the Ring of Honor, I am speechless. I really am,” Moss told me. “It was such a great day. I am so honored. What it makes me realize is: I did something right.”
“When we talked, the conversation was so genuine,” Moss said. “I loved it, really. Good or bad, our relationship developed. Through everything, Sid showed me respect. To sum it up, I am speaking for a lot of the guys I played with here in Minnesota: He earned his stripes. He earned our respect, by working, by being there. He’s done it, for so long, for so much of history. He’s seen so much. He’s old enough to be our great-grandfather.”
On Sunday morning from 9 to noon, Hartman hosted his weekly radio show on WCCO in Minneapolis. It’s been a community staple for more than 20 years. “People get out of church and turn on the radio to see what Sid’s saying,” Hagan said. “It’s been that way for years.” Nice guest list this week: Moss, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau … and little old me. Hartman doesn’t hear as well as he used to, and sometimes the questions have to be re-asked to him. But he answers them. “Why,” I asked Hartman, “does someone your age who grew up in a different world than guys like Moss get along with them so well?”
“I can’t explain it,” Hartman said over the airwaves. “It’s just worked out from day one. The biggest mistake the Vikings ever made was trading Randy Moss.” Now Moss is back in the fold, sort of. Bygones have faded. And Hartman and Moss, 57 years apart, are left standing.
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WR MICHEAL FLOYD has a somewhat plausible reason for failing his alcohol tests that are mandated by his probation. John McMullen at FanRagSports.com:
Ultimately science will define whether Michael Floyd’s kombucha-tea defense is at least plausible, but the Minnesota Viking receiver was greeted with eye rolls when he and his camp peddled it.
TMZ was the first to report that court records in Arizona showed the big-bodied wideout had violated the terms of his house arrest by testing positive for alcohol. Now Floyd must return to Scottsdale, Arizona, to show cause in court later this month.
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Floyd lobbied and got his house arrest transferred from Arizona to Minnesota last month, in order to participate in the Vikings’ offseason training activities on a work-release detail. In order to get that done, Floyd agreed not to drink at all and was subject to random screenings six times per day.
Here’s where things at least become plausible for Floyd’s story. He obviously understood he was getting tested six times a day and had passed each and every test with only five days to go in his house arrest.
After decrying the reports as “totally false” at a Joe Mauer charity event, however, that slowly shifted into confirmation with the explanation of kombucha tea.
In a statement released by Floyd’s agent came the news that the receiver tested positive for alcohol three times on June 11, with his blood-alcohol content registering .055, .045. and .044. Floyd then claimed he went to sleep after the third failure and missed a fourth at 6:33 a.m.
“Michael was five days away from the end of his home monitoring,” the statement read. “Prior to and after this incident, Michael has not had any alcohol whatsoever since the start of his home monitoring.
“Unfortunately, the kombucha teas that Michael did drink resulted in a positive blood alcohol content reading. As a result, the Court wishes to hear from Michael on June 26. At that time, Michael will have an opportunity to explain how this unfortunate test result happened.”
A quick check of WebMD confirms that kombucha tea can indeed yield trace amounts of alcohol.
This comes down to two things. Could trace amounts reach the level of .055 of a blood-alcohol test, or is this a case of coming up with an excuse after the fact to fit the evidence?
The NFL has a zero-tolerance policy on substance abuse, but this is not really a league matter, in that the Vikings already understand Floyd will be suspended for the original incident. This will unlikely add to that.
The court system, meanwhile, will allow Floyd his argument.
The lawyer in me says the 180 from Floyd — denial to explanation — points toward guilt. Stranger stories have turned out to be true, however.
Remember when Houston Texans offensive tackle Duane Brown was hit with a 10-game PED suspension and beat it by proving he consumed clenbuterol-tainted beef in Mexico?
For Floyd, though, the mechanics of this court case aren’t the most important thing.
He already knows the real truth. If the tea defense is a red herring, obscuring a relapse may help him from a legal standpoint, but it won’t address the larger issue.
We found this from blogger Emma Christiansen on kombucha tea:
What Is Kombucha Tea?
Kombucha starts out as a sugary tea, which is then fermented with the help of a scoby. “SCOBY” is actually an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” It’s very close cousins to the mother used to make vinegar.
The scoby bacteria and yeast eat most of the sugar in the tea, transforming the tea into a refreshingly fizzy, slightly sour fermented (but mostly non-alcoholic) beverage that is relatively low in calories and sugar.
Let’s talk about that scoby — you can see what it looks like in the picture above. It’s weird, right? It floats, it’s rubbery and a bit slippery, brown stringy bits hang from it, and it transforms sugary tea into something fizzy and sour. It’s totally weird. But if you take a step back, it’s also pretty awesome.
There are a lot of theories about why the bacteria and yeast form this jelly-like layer of cellulose at the top of the kombucha. The most plausible that I’ve found is that it protects the fermenting tea from the air and helps maintain a very specific environment inside the jar that is shielded from outsiders, aka unfriendly bacteria. I think of it as the mobile home for friendly bacteria and yeast, happily traveling from jar to jar of kombucha.
And this in The Atlantic:
How much alcohol is in kombucha?
This is the key question. Like most health questions, it’s actually about money.
If you’ve kept up with the kombucha wars in the United States over the past few years, then you know Jared Polis. Polis doesn’t come from kombucha money. He founded Blue Mountain e-greeting cards and sold it for $780 million at age 23. Since 2009, he’s been a U.S. Representative from Colorado’s second district. In his office in DC he showed me a picture of him having a kombucha with Cindy Lauper.
Polis took up the mission when he learned that some small kombucha breweries— actually, that’s a loaded term … kombucheries?—were feeling the impact of federal regulation. In 2010, there was a federal crackdown over some hyper-fermented bottles that made news. According to Kombucha Brewers International President Hannah Crum, “the kombucha crisis” began when with a routine audit of a Whole Foods in Portland, Maine. There a consumer-protection inspector with Maine’s department of agriculture found that some of the kombucha bottles were leaking, which got him thinking about what happens when you combine sugar and yeast: “Kids could get hold of this and get a buzz.”
Samples of several brands were sent to the University of Maine, Crum recounts, where tests showed alcohol levels of 0.5 percent to 2.5 percent by volume. (Beer tends to be around 5.0 percent.) None of that is legal to be sold to minors; the U.S. government’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) requires anything above 0.5 percent to be regulated as an alcoholic beverage.
Whole Foods pulled kombucha from its shelves until it could figure out how to proceed. Crum describes this as a devastating blow to the industry just as it was taking off. GT’s and other brands tweaked their formulas and made it back to shelves, and Whole Foods implemented testing requirements. Though that added costs for kombucha producers, things seemed to be clearing up for the industry. But then, again, in 2015, a series of kombucheries received warning letters.
Polis came to the rescue, issuing a stern letter back to the TTB. The crackdown threatens small businesses, he writes, which are unfairly punished by standards that hold producers accountable for alcohol levels that may be the result of improper storage. He also wants a more accurate, less expensive testing process for alcohol content, which the kombucha industry is currently working with scientists to develop and vet.
The alcohol-level testing process is difficult for several reasons— including the caveat that according to the TTB, “Regardless of the alcohol content of the finished beverage, when kombucha reaches 0.5 percent alcohol or more by volume at any time during the production process, it must be produced on a TTB-qualified premises and is subject to TTB regulation.”
Emphasis mine; essentially this means that a product is being regulated based on what it was, not what it is. And because fermentation continues after the product leaves the kombuchery, some variables are beyond the control of the producers.
If almost-GM Doug Williams has his way, the Redskins will throw a boat load of money at WR KIRK COUSINS. Conor Orr at NFL.com:
The Redskins’ new head of personnel has made his feelings clear about Kirk Cousins, and he wants the quarterback in Washington for the long haul.
“In the worst way,” senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche on Up To The Minute Live on Friday. “Let’s face this thing, the last two years, Kirk Cousins has had tremendous years. And one thing in this league that’s hard to find is that guy to run the football team and Kirk does a tremendous job doing that. And with the weapons that he has and the offensive line that he has and I think our defense is a little better than what we were last year, quite naturally you want Kirk Cousins as quarterback.”
Williams said that negotiations have already been going on between Cousins and team officials and that he won’t stick his head into administrative matters. That didn’t stop him from making a sales pitch.
“All I can do is hope and pray that Kirk looks at the big picture and looks at this football team and realizes we do have a pretty solid football team, solid offensive line, he’s got something to work with,” Williams said. “Having said that, [vice president of football administration] Eric Schaffer and [president Bruce Allen] have been on this negotiation for a long time. I think it’s unfair for me to stick my head into it at this time. Now, I’m aware of what’s going on, but as far as my two cents into it and talking to Kirk and what have you, I think I have to step back from that.”
The interview is well worth your time, diving into what alternative route the Redskins might take if Cousins brings his talent to the free agent market. It’s highly unlikely the Redskins would franchise Cousins for a third straight season, guaranteeing Cousins almost $35 million for one year of play — an insane amount of money that would earn Cousins roughly $10 million more than Colts quarterback Andrew Luck makes in a year.
Williams mentions 30-year-old backup Colt McCoy as a potential placeholder or “long distance” starter in the future.
“If that doesn’t happen, if Kirk doesn’t sign a long-term contract — which I hope he does — that tells if not, we gotta go to work,” Williams said. “We gotta search long and hard to find that guy. But at the same time, we got a capable backup here in Colt McCoy, who can hold the fort down for a while or even take it the long distance.”
Williams is wisely putting some distance between himself and whatever is happening between Cousins and management. In the new collaborative Redskins front office, it seems like Williams is content to stay in his lane of acquiring, developing and selecting players — one that will become extremely challenging if Cousins ends up elsewhere next season.
The Saints will spend the upcoming vacation respite worrying about LT TERRON ARMSTEAD and C MAX UNGER.
Mike Triplett of ESPN.com on Armstead’s injury:
– The hits just keep on coming for the New Orleans Saints this offseason.
Left tackle Terron Armstead is expected to miss four to six months after suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder during Wednesday’s practice.
Heartbroken when I found out I need surgery! No one is more frustrated than me after working so hard. I’ll be back #WhoDatNation STRONGER!!
It’s unclear whether there is any expectation that he will be able to return by the end of the season.
Armstead, 25, is one of the best young tackles in the NFL, and he signed a contract extension worth $13 million per year. His past two seasons have been plagued by nagging knee and quad issues — and now the shoulder injury.
Armstead appeared in seven games last year because of the knee and quad issues. He appeared in 13 games in 2015, but his quality play that season prompted coach Sean Payton to say, “There’s not a left tackle I would trade him for in the league.”
John McMullen of FanRagSports.com:
Veteran guard Zach Strief confirmed the injury came during individual drills when Armstead was simply hitting a heavy bag.
Just from a calendar standpoint, the Armstead injury is obviously the more concerning loss because, in the best-case scenario, he will miss a large chunk of time in the regular season.
The Saints remain hopeful that Unger will be back and ready to go by Week 1, but spending an offseason centered on rehabilitation instead of preparation is never optimal for any player, even a veteran who understands what it takes to play in the NFL.
The next-man-up theme is a popular one in the NFL, almost a necessary path forward due to the injury rate in this league. However, it is also a hollow rallying cry rooted in optimism and little else.
Starters in the NFL are starters for a reason. Teams don’t give $65 million extensions to players (which New Orleans gave Armstead last offseason) they don’t think highly of.
New Orleans is lucky enough to have more options than most in a similar situation. Veteran Khalif Barnes as well as first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk, the spoils from the Brandin Cooks trade to New England, could fill in the gaps. The team could even consider kicking out Andrus Peat from left guard if forced.
No matter how positive you want to be, however, having a journeyman or a kid learning on the job to protect Brees certainly wasn’t Sean Payton’s plan in 2017. Nor was the domino effect of a position switch.
Plans are just that, however, and Payton has been around long enough to understand that when coaches plan, the football gods laugh.
Any NFL season is about overcoming adversity. The 31 other teams around the league will not take it easy on the 38-year-old Brees because of what is going on.
The strong always prey on the weak in this sport, and that’s why this has to be about getting Ramczyk up and rolling as quickly as possible and hoping another cliche — sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good — takes hold.
Remember last season in Dallas when the Cowboys tried to secure Connor Cook as their developmental quarterback and had to “settle” for Dak Prescott?
Then both Tony Romo and Kellen Moore (people tend to forget Moore) had to get injured before the Cowboys were forced to let the rookie sink or swim. It turns out Prescott wasn’t a stone, he was Michael Phelps — Dallas raced to the gold medal of 13 wins.
In other words, the Saints should forget about blowing the trumpet of next man up and just cross their fingers.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Left unsaid here is whether QB JERAD GOFF is smarter this year, whether Goff is delusional about what he knows or whether Sean McVay is a better coach with a more understandable offense. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
Rams quarterback Jared Goff didn’t look like he had a particularly good handle on how to run an NFL offense last season. This year, he says, is different.
Goff says new Rams coach Sean McVay told him they’ve already installed about 95 percent of the new offense, and Goff has picked that up quickly.
“I’d say I’ve understood all of it and grasped all of it so far,” Goff said, adding that he’s catching on much more quickly than he did as a rookie in a different offense last year.
It would be hard to play much worse than Goff did as a rookie, when he completed just 54.6 percent of his passes and threw five touchdown passes and seven interceptions and fumbled five times. Of the 36 quarterbacks who threw more than 150 passes last season, Goff ranked dead last with a 63.6 passer rating. The Rams need Goff to pick things up faster this year than he did last year, and he says he’s doing just that.
Larry Stone of the Seattle Times takes the pulse of the Seahawks in mid-June, with the headline predicting either triumph or turmoil. He notes that at the moment, the players are saying all the right things:
One after another they took the podium, the highest-profile, most outspoken and most influential players on the Seahawks, to quell the talk of dissension tearing apart the Seattle locker room.
It was a veritable kumbaya singalong, and they didn’t even need coach Pete Carroll to conduct.
But amid the condemnation of unnamed sources and reaffirmation of fidelity that marked organized team activities and minicamp — the final bridge to the official launch of the 2017 season — it was defensive lineman Michael Bennett who summed it up best (as is so often the case).
This was a gift, Bennett said, after opining that a recent ESPN article instigating the angst in Seattle was a result of what he called a “media drought” — the dreaded period with no actual football to generate story lines.
“People want to be a part of a story, build up a controversy, and so now we have a story, so thank you,” he said. “We have something to build upon. You already started our narrative. That’s good for us. We already know where our story starts, and we have to define the ending of our story.”
Bennett knows this topic isn’t going away, no matter how much Carroll might like it to. But he also recognizes the Seahawks can actually use all this to fuel their latest drive to get back to the Super Bowl. Teams are always hungering to “prove everyone wrong,” right? What better way to show that strife and discord aren’t ruining the Seahawks than to reply with a title?
That’s a long way off, of course. But the first salvo couldn’t have gone much better. Everyone was watching to see if cornerback Richard Sherman was going to present himself in the same defiant manner he did after his sideline tirade (blowup No. 2) during a division-clinching win over the Rams in December. Given an opportunity to apologize and defuse the incident back then, Sherman instead wound up escalating it.
But this time, after an offseason as the centerpiece of the dissension talk, with trade rumors thrown in, Sherman did a nearly flawless job of deflecting and defusing. He professed love for all his teammates, including quarterback Russell Wilson, declared his desire to remain a Seahawk for life and made a convincing case that whatever tension exists in Seattle is not only normal but ultimately beneficial.
“He (ESPN writer Seth Wickersham) could have easily made a story about how a great team has a great competitive environment, competitive locker room and an iron-sharpens-iron mentality from offense to defense. That would have been fantastic; it would have been a fantastic story,’’ Sherman said.
“He could have made the story about ‘Wow, their offense and defense really go at it every day and really push themselves to the limits.’ Really celebrated the competitiveness and appreciated how great the team is, how great the locker room has to be for guys to be able to be that competitive on the field and then come into the locker room and have a fantastic relationship. But he didn’t because he needed (online) clicks. He wanted to make it controversial.”
Player after foundational player, from receiver Doug Baldwin to strong safety Kam Chancellor, made essentially the same point, which is the crucially important first part of whatever reboot needs to take place. One can only imagine the turmoil that would have resulted if just one player had fanned the flames this week.
Yet it’s also naïve to think the story is buried for good. In June, all the players are far removed from the stresses of the regular season, and nearly healed from the bruises — physical and emotional — of the previous one. Let’s see what happens when adversity inevitably strikes during the everyday grind of an NFL season.
The roots of some of these issues are deep-seated, and while that doesn’t mean they can’t be worked through and managed, even maximized, it also means the possibility of renewed blowups always exists. So let’s see what happens during the swirl and glare of September through December, when a close loss, a poor game by Wilson, or a misfiring play at the goal line has the potential to roil the harmony.
The good news is that the Seahawks clearly understand all this, and seem determined to show such speculation is nonsense. In this case, defiance can be a healthy response. Surely, this will be the most scrutinized Seahawks season in recent memory, with more eyes on them than even after their Super Bowl loss.
That could make it volatile, or that could make it triumphant (or, in fact, both). As Bennett recognized, the Seahawks have it within their power to define the ending.
Roy Cummings of FanRagSports.com thinks the Broncos have sufficient quarterbacking.
During an offseason dominated at least early on by talk of adding a veteran quarterback to push Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch back down the depth chart, Elway focused instead on rebuilding his team’s infrastructure.
It was a smart move, because one of the best things a team can do, not only to help a young quarterback get better, and to build up his confidence and that of his coaches, teammates and fans, is to build up the team around him.
So, while most everyone else was watching to see if he would successfully lure Tony Romo first out of Dallas and later out of retirement, Elway kicked off the offseason by luring fifth-year left guard Ron Leary out of Dallas instead.
For the Broncos, it was by far the better of the two options. After all, the chances of any quarterback, veteran or otherwise, succeeding behind the offensive line the Broncos finished the 2016 season with were pretty slim.
That Broncos line allowed 40 sacks and 98 quarterback hits (ninth- and eight-most in the league, respectively), but Leary, who didn’t allow a sack in the 13 games he played last year, according to StasPass, should help fix that problem.
So, too, should rookie left tackle Garrett Bolles, the Broncos’ first-round draft pick, who along with the signing of running back Jamaal Charles, should give a much-needed boost to the Broncos 27th-ranked running game as well.
Like the signing of Leary, the additions of Bolles and Charles were designed at least in part to make life easier on the young quarterbacks. So, too, were the moves Elway made in free agency and in the draft to improve the defense.
Elway signed tackle Domata Peko in free agency to clog up some of the holes in a leaky run defense that allowed 2,085 yards (fifth-most in the league) last year, and drafted end DeMarcus Walker to add some heat to the pass rush.
Again, they were moves designed at least in part to take pressure off the team’s two young quarterbacks, who may not have earned the confidence of Broncos fans just yet but have surely earned Elway’s.
The more the offseason dragged on the more it became apparent that the Broncos were never all that interested in bringing in Romo or any other veteran quarterback, for that matter.
Though it seemed no one wanted to believe him at the time, Elway said as much as far back as the scouting combine, and he and coach Vance Joseph reiterated that point a month later at the NFL owners meetings.
“We have two young guys that we feel really good about,’’ Joseph said. “I’ve said it 10 times; this team won nine games last year with two rookie quarterbacks, and they probably could have won 10 or 11.’’
That’s not hyperbole. Look back at the Broncos’ Week 12 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Siemian, reading a zero blitz, lofted a perfect touch pass over the head of Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines to Bennie Fowler that created the 76-yard touchdown pass that extended the Broncos lead to 24-16 with three minutes to play. But it was the Broncos defense that failed to hold onto not only that lead, but the 27-24 lead Siemian helped create in overtime.
And while they lost them both, it really wasn’t Siemian’s fault that the Broncos dropped their Week 14 and Week 15 games to the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots, either. While Siemian produced a 93.1 passer rating, the Broncos ran the ball just nine times for 18 yards against the Titans. And in a game in which Siemian actually outplayed Tom Brady, at least statistically, it was the Broncos’ inability to stop the run that led to their demise against the Patriots.
And don’t forget their 20-10 Week 13 victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville, the one in which Siemian watched from the sidelines while nursing the foot sprain he suffered while beating the Chiefs the week before. It was Lynch who stepped up and in what was only his second career start and played solid turnover-free ball while effectively managing the offense to keep the Broncos’ playoff hopes alive.
It’s easy to see then why Elway and Joseph have so much faith in Siemian and Lynch. Though they both have a lot of growing to do, both have already displayed the ability to play at a high level and win important games.
And when you factor in the natural improvements both should make between last season and this season, the competition between the two that should only make them better still, and the improvements the team has made in the talent around them, the Broncos have every reason to feel confident that no matter which one steps in under center in 2017, he’ll be much better than he was last season.
Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY visits RB MARSHAWN LYNCH in Oakland.
One of Marshawn Lynch’s cousins worked the front door last week at Beast Mode, the downtown apparel and merchandising store that is undoubtedly a nerve center that captures the buzz about the connection between the Oakland Raiders running back and his hometown.
The man, in his 50s, would only identify himself as Avery, although another of Lynch’s relatives maintains that he is better known as “Peanut.”
“You’d better be glad he didn’t knock you out,” assures Rolanda, who worked the cash register.
Oh. It seems that “Peanut” also handles personal security for Lynch.
In any event, as Lynch handled his business at the Raiders minicamp, there were no security issues on this visit. Just a steady stream of customers, many of whom were greeted at the door by Avery.
He chatted up two more women who popped in after spending the bulk of the day at the Cannabis Business Summit and Expo nearby at the Oakland Convention Center.
Another out-of-town patron stopped after spotting the store while driving down Broadway. Another shopped while in town for the NBA Finals. And several locals mingled in the mix, too. The store, which opened in February (with another store in Seattle) features an array of licensed merchandise from the line that plays off his nickname.
In a back corner, there’s a set-up for a mini-barber shop. A woman is cutting a boy’s hair, while another kid sits and waits his turn. This is one of the perks that Lynch provides for his community: free haircuts for kids who bring in their report cards.
“This is where his heart is,” Avery said. “Marshawn is all about education and uplifting our kids. Especially those in Oakland.”
Even when Lynch, 31, played for the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills during the first 10 years of his NFL career, he never really left Oakland. As much as Lynch’s reputation includes his distant relationship with the news media, it is also bolstered by his dedicated community service in his hometown. He’d come home on an off-day before Thanksgiving and pass out turkeys. Stage summer camps. Fund educational initiatives.
That’s why Lynch’s decision to come out of his one-year retirement to play for the Raiders – he insists that he made up his mind when the franchise’s pending move the Las Vegas was finalized in March – has some deep substance.
When Avery was asked to identify people who had tremendous influence on Lynch over the years, he gave a one-word response: “Oakland.”
That’s the city, the big-city challenges, like poverty, educational disadvantages, crime, drugs and so many factors that can derail the type of young people that Lynch used to be. He’s a hero in his hometown now, in part, because he won’t turn his back on it.
“It’s almost a cult-like status that he has,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s like the Pope.”
Last month, Lynch, who played his college ball at Cal-Berkeley, tweeted an invite for any and all to join him at his annual “ride-along” bike ride. The next day, hundreds showed up at his high school, Oakland Tech, for the ride to and from Berkeley, escorted by five police cars. It was just one of many examples of Lynch’s appeal.
Then again, it’s Lynch being authentic Lynch.
Lynch would not grant an interview last week but told reporters during a rare press conference at the Raiders’ headquarters this month: “Yeah, I got the whole town riding with me. The way we feel just about where we’re from is so hard because we know what the struggle is.”
He added, “It ain’t like I’m saying, ‘I’m coming to y’all’s city and I’m riding with y’all.’ This is actually like born and raised and bred … and running down them alley ways. I really did that right here and now I get a chance to play here.”
What a deal for the Raiders, who have drawn heat from some fans for their upcoming move to Las Vegas in 2020. Lynch is the perfect ambassador to combat some of the controversy, a smart PR and football move by Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.
“He could’ve done a lot of PR stuff early on to help this team win a couple more games but not build for the long term, but he never did,” said Davis, whose team is coming off a 12-4 record, snapping a 13-year streak of losing seasons.
At the minicamp last week, Lynch moved well in non-contact drills. If he stays healthy, he’ll add an important layer – power rushing behind one of the NFL’s best and most physical offensive lines – for a unit that is built around emerging quarterback Derek Carr and was among the most productive in the league last year. Add Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to the returning players, and the potential versatility of the offense is striking.
Still, when it comes to Lynch, his impact goes beyond football.
“I know his mom better than I know him,” Davis said.
It’s a Bay Area thing. Davis said he crossed paths with DeLisa Lynch at boxing matches that featured Andre Ward, the world champion who hails from the Bay Area.
Davis added that the hit on season ticket sales since the franchise announced its move to Las Vegas has been marginal, with those giving up their seats quickly replaced by others on a waiting list.
“If we weren’t sold out,” Davis said, “we would be because of Marshawn’s family.”
To play off one of Lynch’s signature phrases, it’s surely about that hometown action, boss.
The first injury of DE MYLES GARRETT’s NFL career is a lateral foot sprain. The Browns hope it is not the first of many. Nick Shook, not a doctor, of NFL.com is not worried:
The swirling cloud of uncertainty hovering over Berea, Ohio, is no more.
The Browns announced Saturday that first-overall pick Myles Garrett has been diagnosed with a lateral foot sprain, and is expected to be ready for training camp. Garrett suffered the injury during minicamp on Wednesday, limping off the field with the rest of the team at the practice’s conclusion. Garrett didn’t practice on Thursday.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Thursday that Garrett was “fine,” which can now be assumed meant will be on track to participate in camp. The defensive end was spotted wearing a walking boot at Cleveland Hopkins Airport on Friday — something that makes more sense as a recovery aid than a cause for concern.
If you need something to stress over to keep your motor going, feel free to connect this injury to an ankle injury suffered at Texas A&M. Rational thought will instead tell you to shelf any worry about his foot. Breathe easy, Northeast Ohio.
One flaw in the current CBS, at least if you are a first round pick, is that second round picks get their big pay day after three years, while first rounders can be held in check for as long as five. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com talks to Steelers LB RYAN SHAZIER about it.
Lengthy rookie contracts shouldn’t stop NFL stars such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Donald from wanting new contracts, fellow 2014 first-rounder Ryan Shazier says.
The New York Giants wide receiver and the Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle are among the game’s best players, but they aren’t due to become free agents until 2019 because of the fifth-year-option system that applies only to top picks.
“At the end of the day, if you’re playing at that level, you should be able to get that opportunity,” said Shazier, the 15th pick in that class who saw his option year picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers. “At the end of the day, that’s between you and the team. If the team wants to do that, it’s great. … If you play at that level, you should be able to re-up whenever you want to.”
Beckham and Donald, selected 12th and 13th overall, respectively, in 2014, are playing on four-year rookie deals worth more than $10 million overall. Both want new, significantly larger contracts after three seasons, which has been uncommon for first-rounders under this collective bargaining agreement.
Top defensive veterans now make $100 million-plus, and Donald easily falls into that class. Beckham’s new deal might surpass the recent four-year, $68 million extension the Steelers gave receiver Antonio Brown.
Shazier, an emerging star linebacker for Pittsburgh after making the Pro Bowl last season, said he hasn’t thought about his contract. In recent years, the Steelers have extended first-round picks Cameron Heyward and David DeCastro after four seasons. Shazier knows the Steelers have a system in place and he respects it.
But the bigger question is whether first-round picks will soon have equal leverage after three years to that of second-round picks such as Miami Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry and Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who are working on new deals before hitting free agency in 2018.
“Yeah, that kind of sucks,” Shazier said of the system. “Sometimes guys have to wait five years. Other guys don’t. But that’s what they agreed on in the past. Next time we’ve just got to do a better job of structuring what we want to do. At the end of the day, if you play at a high level, things should pan out for you.”
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More talk that WR MARTAVIS BRYANT is going to break out. Kevin Patra at NFL.com:
The biggest offseason addition in the AFC might be the one that didn’t come through free agency or the draft. Martavis Bryant’s reinstatement from a yearlong suspension could be the one move that lifts the Pittsburgh Steelers into a position to knock off the New England Patriots.
The Steelers sorely missed Bryant’s game-breaking speed opposite Antonio Brown last season. His return has gone well, according to Ben Roethlisberger.
“Good — learning some of the stuff we put in last year he didn’t know about, remembering things that we had in before,” Roethlisberger said of Bryant on Sunday at his youth football camp Sunday, via Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He looks like a stud, as usual, so we’re excited for him to be on the field this year and help us out.”
In his first two seasons, Bryant combined for 76 receptions for 1,314 yards and 14 touchdowns in 21 games, before missing all last season due to suspension. The Steelers offense has proven to be much more explosive with the 6-foot-4 speedster on the field, scoring 30 points or more in about half the games Bryant has played since 2014. The big step for Bryant will be proving he can stay on the field for 16 games.
“Well, I think it’s just proving to us he can be out there all season,” Big Ben said. “We need him all year, so I think that’ll be big for us.”
Bryant’s return, coupled with the selection of JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round of the draft immediately makes the Steelers’ receiving corps exponentially more dangerous than 2016. If Roethlisberger, his wideouts, and star running back Le’Veon Bell can all stay healthy, this could be Pittsburgh’s most explosive offense of the Big Ben era.
The Titans have added ex-Jet and ex-Bronco WR ERIC DECKER.
Excited to be joining the @Titans and my new band of brothers! Gotta keep that energy flowing from the @PredsNHL this fall!
It’s a one-year deal. Decker is said to be healthy now after only playing three games last year with hip and shoulder ailments. But the Jets still cut him loose on June 12.
Decker’s wife Jessy Jones is a country-pop singer so Nashville should be a good fit.
Peter King notes this from Bills coach Sean McDermott:
“I’ll tell you the guy that’s really stood out—Andre Holmes. He’s done a phenomenal job, not only on offense, but on special teams. And I really appreciate his leadership.”
—Buffalo coach Sean McDermott, on former Raiders wideout Holmes, a five-year-veteran, after a full-squad practice last week.
THIS AND THAT
Frustrated by the forces conspiring against him, like Donald Trump, Colin Kaepernick lets loose an unhelpful tweet. John Breech at CBSSports.com:
Since Kaepernick’s protest started in August 2016, one of the most high-profile cases involving an officer shooting was the death of Philando Castile. Castile died in July after he was shot five times by Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop.
After Castile died, Yanez was charged with manslaughter in a case that went to trial on May 30. Eighteen days after the trial started, the verdict was announced on Friday, and Yanez was found not guilty in Castile’s death. The verdict upset many people, including Kaepernick, who took to Twitter on Friday after the outcome was announced.
My heart aches for Philando’s family.
After sending condolences to the Castile family, Kaepernick used the social media forum to compare modern police to the runaway slave patrol of the 1700 and 1800s. Kaepernick’s tweet was retweeted more than 30,000 times.
A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!
If Kaepernick has proven one thing over the past 10 months, it’s that he’s not going to stray from his message at any cost, even it means that NFL teams won’t sign him. Despite being arguably one of the top-3 quarterbacks on the free agent market this year, Kaepernick only visited with one team (the Seahawks), and he still hasn’t signed with anyone.
We should say that there was not anything to like about the Castile verdict as the Hispanic-American officer had no reasonable cause to shoot. Still, there were some consequences – he is out of a job and unlikely to have any future career in law enforcement.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com calls for him to do an interview, perhaps with PFT.
The ongoing unemployment of Colin Kaepernick raises plenty of important questions regarding truth and lies and right and wrong in the NFL. But Kaepernick has done himself few favors when it comes to nudging public opinion in his favor.
On one hand, it may not matter; public opinion tends to cure quickly, and to become more permanent than a tattoo. On the other hand, Kaepernick may not care. Regardless, Kaepernick hasn’t helped himself — if his goal remains to get a job with an NFL team.
All we’ve heard from Kaepernick came from the well-timed leak to Adam Schefter that Kaepernick will stand for the national anthem in 2017.
“Kaepernick no longer wants his method of protest to detract from the positive change he believes has been created,” Schefter wrote one week before the start of free agency. “He also said the amount of national discussion on social inequality — as well as support from other athletes nationwide, including NFL and NBA players — affirmed the message he was trying to deliver.”
Kaepernick has never said that directly, however. Kaepernick has publicly said nothing at all about his unemployment, his football objectives, his plans (or lack thereof) to engage in further public gestures or statements on the sideline, in the locker room, on the practice field, or during games. Apart from telling Shannon Sharpe that things being said publicly about his contractual expectations ($9 million or $10 million for 2017) aren’t true, Kaepernick has provided no facts regarding what he wants or expects.
To the extent that Kaepernick deliberately opted to sit back and wait for the phone to ring or for teams to line up to sign a guy who nearly won a Super Bowl in early 2013 and who threw 16 touchdown passes against four interceptions in 2016, the strategy proved that teams that should have wanted him didn’t, for reasons that seem flimsy at best. At some point, that strategy needed to change — if Kaepernick’s goal was and is to play NFL football in 2017.
At some point, his agent needed to pick up the phone and call every team and tell them what they needed to hear to possibly develop genuine interest in Kaepernick.
We still don’t know what he wants, because we haven’t heard it from him. We still don’t know his financial expectations. We don’t know if he’ll take any spot he can get on an NFL depth chart. We don’t know whether he’d consider going to Canada if that’s what it takes to continue playing football.
We do know that he still has concerns about the interactions between the police and African-Americans and people of color, based on the tweet he posted in response to the acquittal of the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile.
“A system that perpetually condones the killing of people, without consequence, doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be dismantled!” Kaepernick said, with a photo of a modern-day police badge next to a “Runaway Slave Patrol” badge. Apart from giving those who already dislike Kaepernick’s views more ammunition for doing so, his tweet should invite speculation as to whether what was leaked to Schefter in early March still applies in mid-June, and whether the outcome in the Castile case makes Kaepernick inclined to kneel during the anthem, again.
Plenty of people have been pushing back against the flawed assumptions and false narratives being circulated by a league that stubbornly won’t admit he’s being shunned for reasons other than ability. At some point, Kaepernick needs to get involved in the process. Sit for an interview. Issue a statement. Write a column. Create a video. Do something to break the silence that possibly started as a sociological experiment to see whether he’d get the same attention in free agency that guys like Brock Osweiler and Mike Glennon did in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
With offseason programs over and Kaepernick still unsigned, it’s time for Kaepernick to address what he wants, what he plans to do, what his interactions with teams have been, and whether he believes he’s been overlooked due to talent or politics. Until he says something on his own on these topics, there’s nothing more to say about his status.
FOX continues to inch into ESPN’s bowl monopoly, adding the Holiday Bowl to the Foster Farms Bowl. The release from FOX:
FOX Sports adds the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl to its loaded college football lineup for 2017. Coverage of the game begins Thursday, Dec. 28, at 8:30 PM ET, followed by kickoff at 9:00 PM ET on FS1 and in Spanish on FOX Deportes, marking FS1’s first ever college football bowl game. Today’s announcement was made by FOX Sports and the San Diego Bowl Game Association.
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The San Diego County Credit Union features top teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences and is played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The Holiday Bowl has been played annually in San Diego since its inception in 1978 and celebrates its 40th game this December.
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The Holiday Bowl is FOX Sports’ second bowl game of the 2017 postseason, joining the Foster Farms Bowl, which was added to the FOX Sports lineup in 2016. Coverage of the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl begins at 8:00 PM ET on Wednesday, Dec. 27, on the FOX broadcast network and in Spanish on FOX Deportes.
During the 2017 season, FOX Sports televises top games from the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences. FOX Sports is home to some of the most anticipated matchups of the season, including Ohio State at Michigan, Oklahoma State at Oklahoma in the annual Bedlam rivalry, and Texas at USC in the first rematch of the 2006 BCS National Championship Game.
ESPN will be carrying the Alamo Bowl from San Antonio on the 28th, opposite the Holiday Bowl.
OFF SEASON GRADES
Buffalo Bills: When the Bills fired former coach Rex Ryan, owner Terry Pegula sought a new coach who in many ways would be the opposite of Ryan. The Bills believe they have that in Sean McDermott.
New England Patriots: The Patriots have reloaded to try to win a third Super Bowl in a four-year span. Their aggressive approach has some asking if this year’s attack could rival the team’s record-setting 2007 offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs had two clear goals this offseason: get more speed on offense and get more physical on defense.
Arizona Cardinals: The most compelling offseason goal was to get past last season’s underwhelming and underperforming 7-8-1 record. For the most part, Arizona did that.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns bolstered the offensive line in free agency, added three players in the first round of the draft and filled in needs here and there with some other smart additions.
Indianapolis Colts: GM Chris Ballard cleaned house on the Colts’ aging, slow defense by releasing or not re-signing unproductive players like Art Jones, Trent Cole and Patrick Robinson..
Los Angeles Chargers: New Chargers coach Anthony Lynn sought to create some comradery and chemistry in his initial work with his new players. Mission accomplished.
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins entered the offseason hoping to improve their 29th-ranked defense. Their moves paid early dividends, as Miami’s team speed on defense and ability to create turnovers are already showing.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons didn’t need to make many significant changes coming off an unexpected Super Bowl run, but they did want to establish quality depth while getting stronger up front.
Baltimore Ravens: This offseason was a reaction to the disappointing finish in 2016. The Ravens upgraded the secondary by signing Tony Jefferson and drafting Marlon Humphrey.
Denver Broncos: Had free agent DL Calais Campbell opted to join the Broncos, Denver would have been able to tick off virtually every item on the team’s offseason to-do list.
Detroit Lions: GM Bob Quinn wanted to revamp the team’s run game and he accomplished that by adding two of the top offensive linemen in free agency, right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard T.J. Lang.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars entered the offseason with three things in mind: Get faster, get tougher and get better on special teams.
Los Angeles Rams: When the 2017 season begins, the Rams expect to have as many as six new starters on offense and three new starters on defense, not to mention three returning starters transitioning to new positions.
New York Giants: The offense struggled to score points last season, so the Giants went into this offseason looking for fixes on offense while trying to keep their defense together.
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders wanted to add to their already high-powered offense, and Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson more than did that.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles’ primary objective was to provide quarterback Carson Wentz with the necessary tools to be successful. On paper, they did well by their young signal-caller.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers set out to add much-needed depth in several areas, particularly on defense. They sense the urgency of a championship window but won’t overreact with overspending.
San Francisco 49ers: This offseason for the 49ers was all about trying to finally establish some stability and direction for the franchise. It started with an exhaustive search for a new general manager and head coach.
Tennessee Titans: A year after finishing off an offensive line rebuild, emphasizing the run game and stopping the run, the Titans moved to the outside. The team needed better perimeter players on both sides of the ball.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals wanted to get younger and faster on defense and add some speed to their receivers group, but they lose points for not addressing their offensive line issues.
Dallas Cowboys: Coming off a 13-3 season, the Cowboys knew this would be an offseason marked by change on defense. They lost seven starters or key contributors.
Green Bay Packers: The goal should have been to fix their defense — and fast. GM Ted Thompson devoted his first four draft picks to the defense, yet it still didn’t feel like quite enough.
Kansas City Chiefs: This will be viewed as a great offseason for the Chiefs if Patrick Mahomes II develops into the franchise quarterback that the Chiefs envision him being — and a failure if he doesn’t..
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings made no secret of how they intended to invest in their offensive line, and they gave $36.8 million in guaranteed money to two tackles before drafting a center.
New Orleans Saints: Injuries aside, the Saints’ offseason is a bit tricky to grade because they never made that big-splash move to address one of their two most glaring needs at edge rusher or cornerback.
Carolina Panthers: The Panthers wanted to shore up an offensive line that was depleted by injuries last season and add more explosive weapons to take pressure off quarterback Cam Newton.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins wanted to improve their defense, finding more help with the pass rush and adding youth along the front. But for every positive, there seemed to be a negative.
Chicago Bears: Chicago’s top offseason priority was to upgrade the quarterback position. Five years from now, the only thing Bears fans will remember about the 2017 offseason will be the quarterback moves.
Houston Texans: The Texans still return the majority of last season’s No. 1 defense, but it remains to be seen whether they have made enough improvements to an offense that struggled so much in 2016.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks’ had two main goals this offseason: getting their run game back on track and increasing their depth on defense.
New York Jets: After their sixth straight season out of the playoffs, the Jets decided to tear it down and start a long, painful rebuild — a radical approach..