The Daily Briefing Monday, May 22, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

Peter King says that 40 players talked some sense into The Commish and the threshold for a celebration penalty will be significantly higher in 2017:

 

• Vernon Davis, you can shoot that jump shot again, without getting whacked. The NFL flagged and fined 26 players for excessive celebration last year; most of those this season will not be penalized or fined. Commissioner Roger Goodell and his staff met on at least two occasions this spring with a large group of players (one club official told me Goodell talked with more than 40 players about this issue) and came to his senses: It’s asinine to use the “ball as prop” reason to penalize players, and even more asinine to fine someone $12,000 for the simple act of expressing joy after scoring a touchdown. Most of those will disappear Tuesday at the league meeting. For instance, this “foul” will be wiped off the books: Remember when Davis, the Washington tight end, caught a touchdown pass against the Eagles last October and then calmly shot the football over the crossbar, as if was shooting a basketball into the hoop? Last year, that was a 15-yard penalty and a $12,154 fine. This year, if the league approves, it will be neither a penalty or a fine. (That has more than just sportsmanship aspects to it. Last year, the 15-yard flag against Davis caused Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins to make a short kickoff, and Eagle returner Wendell Smallwood returned it for an 86-yard touchdown.) Thankfully, intelligent heads will prevail, and that silliness is very likely to be knocked off the books in 2017.

 

And he also has thoughts on some other issues:

 

• It’s widely expected that the overtime period will be shaved from 15 minutes to 10. I hate ties. We all do. But I doubt more ties, by percentage, will result from this result, designed with an eye on player safety and reducing the number of plays in overtime. Coaches will adjust, and will play faster now in the extra period. This proposal may have passed by vote in the league’s March meeting, but the league didn’t want to jam it through before teams had time to deliberate. They have now, and it’s doubtful that at least nine will vote against it. (There must be a three-quarters majority to pass the rule; the league believes it has 24 yes votes.)

 

• The Los Angeles Super Bowl is in flux. Because or torrential rain in L.A. in the first four months of 2017, the projected opening for the new Rams/Chargers stadium got pushed from summer 2019 to summer 2020. That means the Super Bowl the league awarded to Los Angeles for February 2021 is now in doubt, because the league has an unofficial policy of making new stadiums get the kinks out in year one and not allowing a Super Bowl to be played in a new stadium till year two of its life. The L.A. forces will argue that Minnesota and Atlanta will have 20 games played before their Super Bowls—the same number as the L.A. stadium will have. Why? Because the Rams and Chargers, with 10 games each in the new stadium (eight regular-season, two pre-season), will give the same 20-game experience as the other new palaces. It’s not a big deal anyway … because the league is going to play four or five Super Bowls in Los Angeles, and whether the first one is in 2021 or 2022 in the grand scheme of things isn’t very significant.

 

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com says a field goal on the opening drive could be enough for the team winning the coin toss to win the game:

 

When the NFL changed its overtime rule in 2012, it was supposed to guarantee both teams the ball, unless the team that received the overtime kickoff scored a touchdown on its first possession. But as the NFL prepares to change its overtime rule again, that “guarantee” is no longer so solid.

 

The league is expected this week to shorten overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. That means that if the team that receives the opening kickoff marches into field goal range on a long, sustained drive, it could just try to run out the clock until there’s a second or two left in the game, send out the field goal team and win the game with a kickoff at the end of a 10-minute opening possession.

 

Granted, 10-minute possessions are rare, but they’re not unheard of: According to Pro Football Reference, since 1999 there have been 29 possessions that took 10 or more minutes off the clock and ended in a field goal. An additional seven possessions that took 10 or more minutes off the clock ended in a missed field goal.

 

There’s never been a 15-minute possession (the longest drive of any kind in the Pro Football Reference database lasted 12:29), so this wasn’t a concern with the longer, 15-minute overtime. But with a 10-minute overtime, it’s a real possibility that a receiving team could win with a field goal, and the kicking team never gets the ball.

 

While Smith’s exact example is unlikely, we think there will be situations where the team with the opening drive will milk eight or nine minutes off the clock before kicking the field goal.  And that will leave the other team with just a short time to march down the field – and in such a situation a matching field goal for a tie is far more likely than the winning touchdown. 

 

So, we wouldn’t be surprised if there will be several ties after a 3-3 overtime.

 

We would think that with the 10-minute overtime in the current rule there will be ties in about a quarter of the overtime periods.  Last year, there were 18 overtime games.  Two ended in ties, four were decided after more than 10 minutes of play.

 

There have been five ties in the five years since the NFL modified overtime in 2012 with the end of true sudden death (as opposed to 2 in the previous 15 years of true sudden death).

 

– – –

This from Calvin Johnson, retired Lions receiver, on the topic of concussions.  Broadly defined, he says everyone who plays football gets them:

 

Asked if he ever concealed a concussion from team doctors, Johnson answered, “Of course.”

 

“They’re going to dispute that, but anytime you black out, anytime you hit the ground and everything is stars and stuff, any time your brain hits your skull, that’s a concussion,” Johnson said, via the Detroit Free Press. “No matter how severe it is, it’s a concussion. Now granted, some people get nausea. That’s a severe concussion when you get hit like that and you get nausea and stuff like that. But if you play football long enough [you’re going to have concussions].”

 

Tom Brady’s wife said last week that he had a concussion last season, which the NFL says was never diagnosed. Johnson said players frequently don’t get diagnosed by team doctors because they don’t want to miss any playing time.

 

“Guys get concussions, they don’t tell the coaches,” Johnson said. “It happens. I don’t tell the coach sometimes cause I know I got a job to do. The team needs me out there on the field. And sometimes you allow that to jeopardize yourself, but that’s just the nature of the world.”

 

As the NFL has mandated removing players from games when they suffer concussions, an unintended consequence is that players who don’t want to leave a game won’t seek medical help if they feel concussion symptoms. Johnson knows that first hand.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY (as the second overall selection) wasn’t the only Bears pick that raised eyebrows.  Peter King:

 

In his last five games—against Ohio Dominican, Walsh, Michigan Tech, Kentucky Wesleyan and Lake Erie College—Ashland College tight end Adam Shaheen had 39, 27, 26, 21 and 53 yards receiving. There will be just a little bit of pressure on Shaheen, and on Chicago GM Ryan Pace, to justify the 45th overall pick on Shaheen.

 

 

DETROIT

WR CALVIN JOHNSON talks to Dave Birkett in the Detroit Free Press. He’s been billed as ripping the Lions in this interview, but the actual quotes aren’t that incindiery.

 

Calvin Johnson and Marshawn Lynch left college a decade ago and went 10 picks apart in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft.

 

They worked out together as they prepared for the NFL combine, and they walked away from the game together months apart after the 2015 season.

 

But while Lynch reconsidered his retirement and eventually returned to football earlier this spring, Johnson, the Detroit Lions’ all-time leading receiver, said Saturday that he’s never once thought about joining his friend back on the field.

 

“I don’t really think about it too much because I got so much going on,” Johnson told the Free Press after his annual “Catching Dreams” football camp Saturday at Southfield High. “I came in with Marshawn. We worked out together down in Orlando with Tom Shaw. I’m going to see him next week because I’m going out there to work with Oakland. But I don’t feel any kind of mixed emotions about it now.

 

“It doesn’t make me think about coming back, not at all.”

 

Johnson, 31, is content in retirement even as he says he doesn’t want to “talk Lions too much just because the way our relationship ended.”

 

He’s happily married and planning a move to his native Georgia later this year. He’s less than a month away from getting his real estate license in Michigan. He still wants to finish his degree at Georgia Tech and is hoping it offers more online classes to allow him to do so.

 

Johnson still is heavily involved in both the Detroit and Atlanta communities, refurbishing houses in the inner city and running events like his camp Saturday for nearly 100 players from Southfield and L’Anse Creuse high schools.

 

Unlike many NFL players, Johnson neither advertises nor charges for his camp, which he runs through his Calvin Johnson Jr. Foundation.

 

On Saturday, he was joined on the field by a star-studded cast of former teammates: Ziggy Ansah, Ameer Abdullah, Darius Slay, Tahir Whitehead, Rob Sims, Joique Bell, Devin Thomas and new Lions draft picks Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

 

“This is something I started, so honestly it’s a responsibility that I have,” Johnson said. “But I enjoy doing it, too. There’s so much knowledge I gained that I can give back to these guys and they just absorb it so it makes it that much more fun because they’re attentive to it.”

 

Johnson spent Saturday working hands-on with a group of about a dozen receivers, and sharing the wisdom he gleaned from nine years in the NFL with the camp as a whole.

 

He smiled as much as he ever did as a player, and looked like he could suit up for the Lions if he wanted.

 

“Stuff like this, being able to come out here and work with guys every now and then, it’s like (my cousin with) his ministry, I feel the same kind of way,” Johnson said. “It’s my way of giving back and teaching these kids and teaching them how to do things the right way.”

 

Johnson caught 731 passes for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns in his career. He holds the NFL single-season receiving record with 1,964 yards, and still bears some physical scars from his time with the Lions.

 

On Saturday, Johnson wore a splint on the left index finger he required surgery on a few years back, and said he feels aches from playing the game.

 

“If I’m doing stuff physically, yeah, you’ll feel it,” Johnson said. “I feel fine as long I’m not running around.”

 

That, of course, is the crux of why Johnson retired in March of 2016 at the age of 30 with four years left on his contract. His body had started to break down.

 

“You love the game, but it’s hard to do the things you do when you’re feeling like you’re a leg down all the time, literally,” said Johnson, who battled finger, ankle and knee injuries in his final few NFL seasons. “Or you’re always beat up, even coming into the season. So it’s just not as fun when you’re down, and you got to work your way up. And you can’t really get there because you’re so beat up.”

 

Johnson said he misses “hanging around with the guys,” and people still ask him about returning to football “every time I see somebody in public.”

 

His response?

 

“It’s not happening,” Johnson said.

 

Instead, Johnson said he has put his business hat on and is working on a handful of projects in real estate and as a wide receiver consultant for players and teams (hence the upcoming visit to Oakland).

 

He said he’s not sure when the Lions will retire his jersey, and while he said he holds no animosity towards the team, his retirement is starting to resemble Barry Sanders’ departure from the game.

 

“I don’t even like to talk Lions too much just because the way our relationship ended,” Johnson said when asked about his No. 81 being retired. “If they see me around here, we’ll see. But hey, I don’t know.

 

“I just didn’t feel like I was treated the way I should have been treated on the way out. That’s all. I mean, it’s all good. I’m not tripping. I don’t feel any kind of way, just hey, that’s what they did. Hey, it is what is.”

 

Asked to explain how he was treated, Johnson declined to go into specifics.

 

“I mean, it’s simple,” he said. “It’s simple. It’s easy when you think about it.”

 

The Lions required Johnson to pay back part of the $16 million signing bonus he earned on the contract he signed in the spring of 2012.

 

NFL Players Association records showed Johnson paid the Lions $320,000 at the time of his retirement, or about 1/10th of the $3.2 million signing bonus proration they would have been entitled to under the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

 

The Lions pursued a similar payback when Sanders retired prematurely in 1999.

 

“They told me they wouldn’t trade me if I came back and stuff like that, but it wasn’t about that,” Johnson said. “It was about how I felt.”

 

How Johnson feels now is great. About retirement, about life and about what’s next.

 

He said he’s done as a dancer, though his time last year on “Dancing With The Stars” — he finished third — gave him immense respect for that profession.

 

He has a charity bowling event planned for next month in Atlanta that will benefit pancreatic cancer research, another football camp around the same time — his foundation always awards scholarships to graduating football players — and in July he’s planning a refugee meal distribution.

 

“Retired life’s good, man,” Johnson said. “My schedule is freed up. It’s not entirely free because I’m doing a little work here and there independently, but it’s been good. I can’t complain. I’m spending time with my family, I’m going to move home soon, so it’s been good.”

 

 

MINNESOTA

Happy 90th birthday to Bud Grant.  Sounds like he is doing quite well as Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune found out:

 

Bud Grant, the man who has spent a lifetime preaching the unmatched importance of durability, turns 90 on Saturday.

 

“How does it feel?” asked the Hall of Fame Vikings coach. “Well, I just came back from turkey hunting in Nebraska. The week before that, I was with my son hunting turkeys up by Battle Lake and Ottertail. Between that, I was in Wisconsin for their fishing opener. So I don’t know that I feel any different.”

 

Grant missed Minnesota’s fishing opener while getting ready for his popular three-day garage sale that ended Friday. On Saturday, Grant will celebrate at his home in Bloomington while surrounded by his six children, 19 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

 

“One great-grandchild lives in Seattle,” Grant said. “Everyone else lives within a half-hour of my house. That’s pretty good.”

 

Asked for the key to healthy longevity, Grant said, “Your parents.” Then he thanked his mother, Bernice, and father, Harry Peter Sr., for the genes they passed down.

 

“I can’t do the things I used to do,” Grant said. “I’m stooped over, and I got an arthritic back. I got two artificial knees. Modern medicine can keep us going, but the main thing is if you’ve got your mind. I’m lucky. I can entertain myself with my memory.”

 

Grant’s sense of humor came out when the big 9-0 was first brought up. He mentioned his “closest friend,” Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman, who turned 97 two months ago.

 

“I’m trying to catch Sid,” Grant said. “But I don’t think I’m going to catch him.”

 

Grant was born May 20, 1927, in Superior, Wis., a rundown city limping toward the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and lasted 10 years.

 

“My dad was a city fireman,” Grant said. “A lot of people didn’t have jobs. But during the Depression, a lot of times my dad didn’t get paid. They’d give him an IOU. When the city would get some money, he’d turn in the IOU.”

 

Bernice is the one who gave Grant the nickname that would last a lifetime.

 

“We had two Harrys in the house,” Grant said. “When you call ‘Harry,’ who’s going to come? So she called me, ‘Buddy Boy.’ ”

 

When Grant was stricken with polio as a child, his parents encouraged him to play sports as a way to strengthen his legs.

 

“My doctor told my dad, ‘Get the kid a baseball glove and let him go running around,’ ” Grant said. “One leg was shorter than the other. I didn’t have it as severe as some people had it. Right now, one foot is smaller than the other. That’s the only residue I got from polio.”

 

Grant, of course, went on to play for the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers (1949-51), the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles (1951-52) and the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1953-56).

 

Each year, Grant comes across long-forgotten gems as he sorts through his belongings while preparing for his garage sale. Last week, he found a commemorative watch given to him in 1945 when he played right end for Paul Brown’s football team at the Great Lakes Naval training station near Chicago. Grant didn’t put the watch up for sale, but it did provide a walk down memory lane.

 

“Paul always called me ‘Harry,’ ” Grant said of his fellow Hall of Fame coach. “We beat Notre Dame that year. After the season, we had a banquet. Paul introduced a half dozen of us players. When he came to me, he said: ‘This is Harry Grant. I want you all to remember him because you’re going to be hearing a lot about this guy.’ That made me feel pretty good.”

– – –

The health of another Vikings coach is in question as Mike Zimmer has an 8th eye surgery.  Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer disclosed over the weekend that he recently had an eighth surgical procedure on his right eye. On Monday, Zimmer has disclosed that the development will cause him to miss some of the team’s OTA sessions.

 

Zimmer told Paul Allen of KFAN that the fourth-year coach will miss an undetermined number of offseason practice sessions while he rests at home following the latest operation.

 

“We all agree Mike’s health is the priority and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term,” the Vikings said in a statement. “We anticipate Mike back on the field in a few weeks.”

 

The OTA process represents the culmination of the offseason program, during which much of the offense and defense for the coming season is installed. Apart from the impact of Zimmer’s absence on this preparations, the situation will serve for any of the players who were on the roster last year as a reminder of one of the most bizarre and disappointing seasons in team history.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Bucky Brooks at NFL.com loves him some TE EVAN ENGRAM:

 

It’s uncommon for a tight end to be viewed as the missing piece to a championship puzzle, but Evan Engram is the dynamic offensive weapon the New York Giants have desperately needed to make another run at a Lombardi Trophy.

 

Now, I know it sounds crazy to expect a first-year pass catcher to shoulder a huge burden on an offense that features a two-time Super Bowl MVP in Eli Manning, one of the most electric playmakers in football in Odell Beckham Jr. and a perennial Pro Bowl “chain mover” in Brandon Marshall, but the Giants need their rookie tight end to play like a stud to help the team’s stars take their respective games up a notch.

 

Let me explain.

 

Every NFL defensive coordinator slated to face the Giants this season will make a concerted effort to neutralize Manning and his top targets. This will ultimately result in double coverage directed toward Beckham, with a few bracket tactics also thrown in Marshall’s direction at times. Considering the sterling résumés and impact potential Beckham and Marshall have shown throughout their respective careers, opposing defensive coordinators will attempt to force Manning to depend on his complementary playmakers to move the ball down the field.

 

“You want to make the quarterback play ‘left-handed,’ ” said a former NFL defensive coordinator. “Ideally, you want to make him lean on his second and third options instead of his primary weapons in the passing game. If he can win with the ‘others’ making enough plays to beat you, you tip your cap and move on.”

 

With most defensive coaches subscribing to similar theories, the Giants needed their complementary players to emerge as legitimate threats in 2017. Last season, Sterling Shepard snagged 65 passes for 683 yards (10.5 avg.) and eight scores as the Giants’ WR2, but teams didn’t view him as a dangerous playmaking threat, as evidenced by the lack of double or breacket coverage he faced as a rookie. Now, that doesn’t mean opponents didn’t respect his talent or game, but they didn’t think enough of his big-play potential to map out a plan that completely removed the young pass catcher from the mix.

 

The same could be said for the tight ends on the Giants’ roster one season ago. Will Tye, Jerrell Adams and Larry Donnell combined for just 79 receptions, 609 receiving yards and three scores as the team’s “Y” (traditional tight end) targets. Those numbers hardly register a blip on the danger radar, and they’re certainly not robust enough to make defensive coordinators overhaul their game plans to better defend the middle of the field. With the Giants’ passing game built on quick-rhythm passes designed to attack between the numbers, the lack of production from the tight ends resulted in Manning forcing too many throws to a heavily guarded Beckham.

 

Looking at Manning’s subpar performance in 2016, it is not a coincidence the 36-year-old quarterback only averaged 6.73 yards per attempt, which ranked 25th in the NFL. Despite the presence of Beckham, the Giants’ dink-and-dunk scheme didn’t deliver many big plays or produce a lot of points due to a lack of playmakers between the hashes. Sure, Shepard was solid in the slot, but the team didn’t get enough “explosive” plays from its tight ends and lacked a dominant red-zone threat on the outside. While Marshall’s arrival should add some spice to the lineup as a big-bodied pass catcher with a knack for putting the ball in the paint (82 TD receptions in 11 seasons), the team desperately needed to find an electric playmaker to make splash plays over the middle.

 

That’s why I believe Engram is the missing piece to the Giants’ offensive puzzle. The 6-foot-3, 234-pound tight end is an athletic freak with 4.42 speed and a 36-inch vertical jump. He enters the NFL after putting the finishing touches on an impressive résumé at Ole Miss as the Rebels’ all-time leader in receptions (162), receiving yards (2,320) and TD catches (15) by a tight end. The two-time team captain, who finished with 42 career starts, is a polished tight end with all of the tools to be an impact player in his first season.

 

“The thing that is really intriguing about Evan is the speed component,” Giants offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan recently said during rookie minicamp. “This is a legitimate vertical threat, but he’s not just a receiver. … There is a versatility that he has that we’re hoping can create some problems for the defense from a matchup standpoint because of his speed, and because of the way he runs his routes like a wide receiver.”

 

Studying the tape, I was convinced Engram was the most polished route runner of the 2017 tight end class. He exhibits outstanding timing, patience and body control at the top of his routes to create separation from defenders in tight coverage. Engram has a feel for finding voids in coverage but is also crafty enough to win consistently against linebackers and safeties in man-to-man. Given his spectacular combination of size, speed, athleticism and route-running ability, Engram is a “new-school” tight end capable of aligning anywhere on the field, from out wide to in the slot or in a more traditional hand-in-the-dirt position.

 

Interestingly, the Giants have attempted to downplay Engram’s potential as a “big” receiver, but reports out of rookie minicamp suggest the rookie pass catcher is slated to have a big role as a “move” tight end in the team’s offense. In the Giants’ version of the West Coast offense, Engram will learn the Y and U (flex tight end) positions before mastering other roles. However, the multiplicity of the scheme allows the team to place the Y or U in a number of slot or out-wide positions depending personnel groupings.

 

For instance, the U lines up opposite the Y or as a wing on the same side. He can also align in the slot or out wide based on the call. Thus, the Giants can position Engram as a receiver by simply calling a designated formation that places him in a displaced position. Considering how each of the Giants’ receivers is expected to know multiple positions, the team has the potential to make Engram a Jordan Reed-like playmaker by shuffling the deck with players at different spots on any given play.

 

For a team that prefers to throw the ball all over the yard (63:37 pass-run ratio in 2016), the Giants need their young tight end to eventually command enough respect so defensive coordinators can’t double team Beckham (and Marshall) on most downs. If Engram emerges as the Giants’ deep-middle threat, he could push them over the top in the NFC East.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The Falcons fired defensive line coach Bryan Cox – and he offers up a reason that does not have to do with his coaching.  D. Orlando Ledbetter in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

 

Former Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox believes his firing was not performance-related and that he was dismissed for an off-the-field incident.

 

Cox, who was with the Falcons for three seasons, believes he was fired for shoving a low-ranking scout from the Arizona Cardinals at the scouting combine in 2015, according to The Charlotte Observer.

 

“You go from your unit playing really well in the Super Bowl and sacking the quarterback five times and having (nine) quarterback hits … and (three) days later you get fired,” Cox said this week during a phone interview with Joe Person of the Observer. “I wasn’t given an answer to why I was fired. I was left to go back and kind of play stuff over.

 

“And the only thing I can come up with is the combine incident that kind of led to it.”

 

Cox did a great job helping to develop defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks last season, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who had three sacks in the Super Bowl.

 

Cox was fired along with former defensive coordinator Richard Smith. However, defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel, who also had an incident at the 2016 combine, was promoted to defensive coordinator.

 

“I don’t know why I was fired,” Cox said. “Wasn’t given an answer. It doesn’t even much matter anymore. You move on. I ain’t got no hard feelings. I’ve got people in that building I love. I’ve got people in that building I love a little less.”

 

His son, former Florida defensive end Bryan Cox Jr., was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Carolina Panthers.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com looks at the quarterback battle in Denver.

 

Denver is a good place to begin because it’s not every day that you see such a win-now roster fluid at arguably the two most important spots in any football operation—head coach and quarterback.

 

Joseph understands the position he’s in. Last year he was part of Dolphins coach Adam Gase’s teardown in Miami. This is different. Denver won the AFC West five straight years before missing the playoffs in 2016, and much of the club’s 2015 championship core is intact.

 

But that doesn’t mean Joseph can’t apply things he learned during the Dolphins’ facelift. And the No. 1 factor, as Joseph sees it, is making the facility the place to be. “The biggest thing we did as far as culture change,” Joseph recalls, “was making it an environment where [Dolphins players] loved to come to work. We didn’t have a bad day last year.”

 

The idea is that new systems on each side of the ball—the change will be more drastic on offense than defense—should work to energize the vets. The hope is that dialing up competition will generate juice all the way around.

 

“There’s going to be a scoreboard on everything,” Joseph explained. “It’s going to be a grading system on everything, from how many loafs to how many missed tackles to how many turnovers we can force to how many touchdowns we throw for or run in. It’s going to be a grading system on every drill we do. … We want our offense to develop a confidence and a swagger that says they can go out and play with anyone.

 

“And defensively, we want to continue our culture of playing dominant defense. I think competition, that’s going to be the first thing that’s different with OTAs, starting Tuesday, for the players.”

 

For a team with a lot in place—a revamped offensive line, good skill-position talent and a defense stocked with in-their-prime stars—that leads us to the question that will determine the ceiling for the early-era Joseph Broncos. What will they get out of the quarterback spot?

 

Joseph’s feel for the two is just what you’d think. He says Siemian plays “a game of patience, it’s a game of confidence. He is in control. … He’s a smart guy, he throws the ball where it should go most of the time, he’s got a high football IQ.” And on Lynch, Joseph says, “The physical ability is there. He’s a first-round pick, great height, great arm talent, great mobility.”

 

But where those two stand going into OTAs isn’t nearly as important as where they’ll be coming out of camp in August. The coach repeated what he’s said before—there’s “no deadline” on making a decision. “If it goes down to the final week,” Joseph says, “I’m not opposed to that, because our goal is only to have the best guy win the job.”

The criteria is a little clearer.

 

“I’d say decision-making is going to be a major factor in who wins the job,” Joseph said. “That’s the position in the NFL—the guy who makes great decisions with the football, not turning the football over, and the guy who lets his teammates play for him, that’s the guy I want to lead our football team. Obviously, ball placement in the pass game, the ability to get us into the best play, those things are important.

 

“But it comes down to decision-making—that’s the biggest factor in this decision I’m going to make.”

 

Joseph knows how significant this is. He’s got a prideful defensive group that has seven players who are: A) making more than $5 million per year; and B) between the ages of 27 and 31. He has cornerstone offensive weapons in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. He has a boss, John Elway, whose philosophy in team-building, he once told me, has been not “win now” but “win from now on.”

 

The upshot is that Joseph has a new/old coordinator in Mike McCoy who’s won with all different styles of quarterbacks—from Tim Tebow and Jake Delhomme to Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers—and should be able to build the offense around the strengths of the cerebral Siemian or the talented Lynch all the same.

 

And yes, there’s pressure to get that call right. But there’s pressure in general, too, and everyone embraces it.

 

“Winning nine games and not going to the playoffs last year was not good enough,” Joseph said. “And everyone’s motivated, everyone’s engaged in trying to make this thing better moving forward. So that’s what I’ve noticed from day one from every guy in the building, every player, every person who works here, from the chef to the personnel people—last year was not good enough.

 

“Absolutely, they took it personally. And everyone’s working to make it better.”

 

So the Broncos just have to figure out who’ll play the most important position in team sports. No big deal.

 

 

OAKLAND

RB MARSHAWN LYNCH led a gang of cyclists through the streets of Oakland Sunday, with a police escort no less.

 

It’s safe to say Raiders fans are excited about Marshawn Lynch joining the hometown team. How excited? Lynch sent out one simple tweet with a time and a location, and that brought out hundreds of Oakland citizens for an impromptu bike riding parade.

 

Here’s Lynch’s original tweet (with a picture of bicycle)…

 

@MoneyLynch

RT @MoneyLynch: 2morrow at Oakland Tech 1 o’clock

 

And here’s the result…

 

@GehlkenNFL

Marshawn Lynch on a Saturday bike ride with his friends — hundreds of them. Group will ride to Berkeley and back to Oakland.

 

SFGate estimates that about 300 to 400 riders showed up for Lynch’s bike party. Five police cars escorted the parade.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Peter King on the delay in the construction of the new Inglewood stadium:

 

I think the Chargers have to be crushed about playing three seasons in a 30,000-seat minor-league venue. It’s like asking a big-league baseball team to play in a Triple-A ballpark for three years. Imagine if you’re a Charger … Two years already felt like a stretch. Now three? Not only are you going to have to adapt to playing in a smaller ballpark with fewer fans and quite possibly some games with the visiting team having more support, but now you’re going to feel like you’re living out of a suitcase for three years. I mean, it’s no one’s fault that winter deluges in southern California pushed the opening back a year. But it does neither team any favors. Three years is a career for many players. 2020 will be Keenan Allen’s eighth year in the NFL; will he even be a Charger then? Melvin Ingram, their franchise pass-rusher, will be in his ninth season. Somewhere. That’s a long time to be transient.

 

(And) I think one last point to make, and one I didn’t see in any press release about this unfortunate turn, is whither Philip Rivers? Rivers turns 39 during the 2020 season. So it’s entirely possible Rivers will never take a snap in the next Rams/Chargers stadium. There is certainly no guarantee he’ll be playing football at 39.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

An interesting idea has come up for Browns training camp.  Steve Doerschuk in the Canton Repository:

 

Pro Football Hall of Fame Village will be bigger than you think.

 

At least, it will be bigger than I thought prior to joining a late-week huddle with key people at the museum-turning-wonderland.

 

The Village is rising like Atlantis a mile from where the NFL champion Canton Bulldogs once played along Meyers Lake.

 

The key people wore the look of magical elevator men ready to receive passengers, greeting each with, “Going up!” Their shared, joyous overtone: “Can’t tell you where the top floor is; sky’s the limit.”

 

They talked of the best little stadium in the USA, a hotel grander than any of the palaces built downtown when Canton headed into its mid-20th Century heyday, a jewel of an indoor arena, magnetic shops and restaurants, “the world’s best sports bar,” and football fields as far as the eye can see.

 

It had escaped me that the Village will include a water park. Master developer Stuart Lichter lit up like a 12-year-old halfway down a tall slide when he talked about it.

 

“It’s football-themed,” he said, “and it’s cool. It will be indoors, in use year-round. It’ll be the coolest water park in the country.”

 

It was clear more than two years ago that the Village was going to be something new and pretty big. From there, people from the Hall of Fame and from Lichter’s company, Industrial Realty Group, viewed it as having planted a gigantic seed from which even bigger things will grow.

 

Steve Strawbridge, the overseer representing the Hall of Fame’s interests, drew out the “think-big” mantra:

 

“In every single meeting we have,” he said, “people that come in here want to add or do something else to be a part of it. We’ve seen everything grow, and we want to continue to grow.

 

“It’s big to make sure that we’re ready for what’s next, and we’re ready to adapt.”

 

The Village would be more than willing to adapt to playing host to Cleveland Browns training camp. Much would have to be arranged, but on so many levels, Browns camp in the Village would be a natural.

 

It is worth noting that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam (his wife, Dee, is co-owner) became a member of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors within the last couple of years.

 

“Both Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell prevailed on me to get to know Jimmy,” Hall of Fame President David Baker told us. “Jimmy and Dee have been coming down here recently a lot, and our relationship with the Browns has gotten better than ever before.

 

“I think we’ve had some discussions about potentially having their training camp here some day, about having the (intrasquad scrimmage) here some day, and about playing in the Hall of Fame Game, which hasn’t happened in a while (last Browns appearance: 1999).

 

“We’ve also talked a little about collaborating not just on the draft but on the centennial.”

 

 

Baker said the Hall has developed a good relationship with the Haslams and their chief financial officer, David Jenkins.

 

The Village could help attract the 2020 NFL Draft to Canton. Strawbridge represented the Hall at last month’s draft in Philadelphia.

 

Strawbridge, who grew up in Philadelphia, praised his native city for being an excellent host, but the whole time he was there, his eye was on the “going up” button.

 

“You could really see how great a draft could be in Canton,” he said. “You could imagine that what we could do here could blow any of these other cities away.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars have kicked the tires on CB ALTERRAUN VERNER.  It is apparently the first interest anyone has shown in Verner since the Buccaneers cut him loose on February 23.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Peter King on a parting present from ex-GM Doug Whaley:

 

I think I’d love someone in the Doug Whaley administration to explain to me why the Bills paid a lapsing kicker, Steven Hauschka, $4 million guaranteed in a three-year deal averaging $2.95 million a season. Sheesh. The guy missed 10 PATs in the past two years, and missed two field goals inside the 30 last year. How possibly does that make you a better kicking team?

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

KAEP

Bucky Brooks at NFL.com makes the football case that Colin Kaepernick is perfect for the Seahawks:

 

The skeptics will certainly point to Kaepernick’s struggles in 2015 as proof that he is unfit for the job, yet they fail to credit the 29-year-old playmaker for a solid 2016 campaign where he posted a 90.7 passer rating and a 16:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Keep in mind, he posted a passer rating above 100 when combining his last four games of the season (67.8 percent completion rate, 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio with one rushing touchdown).

 

If that’s not enough to build a case for his signing, the fact that he has outplayed each of the notable quarterbacks who have already found new homes this offseason should prompt the Seahawks to make the move.

 

» Kaepernick: 28-30 win-loss record; 72:30 TD-to-INT ratio; 88.9 passer rating

» Mike Glennon: 5-13 win-loss record; 30:15 TD-to-INT ratio; 84.6 passer rating

» Josh McCown: 18-42 win-loss record; 79:69 TD-to-INT ratio; 78.2 passer rating

» Geno Smith: 12-18 win-loss record; 28:36 TD-to-INT ratio; 72.4 passer rating

 

With the recent signing of turnover machine Ryan Fitzpatrick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (46-69-1 win-loss record; 166:133 TD-to-INT ratio; 79.7 passer rating) after a horrific season in which he posted the lowest passer rating in the league (69.6), it might be time for Kap to join a squad in desperate need of a strong QB2, and that squad should be the Seahawks.

 

From a schematic standpoint, Kaepernick is certainly capable of executing the zone-read plays and RPOs (run-pass options) that are a part of the Seahawk’s offensive package. In addition, he is better suited to play in a system like Seattle’s that also features a number of half-field reads on traditional drop backs or movement drops (bootlegs) that put every route in his line of sight. Not to mention, he has a strong enough arm to push the ball down the field on the vertical routes that complement the team’s power running game. Naturally, Kaepernick needs to continue to refine his footwork and mechanics to become a more accurate and efficient drop-back passer, but he is certainly capable of manning the QB1 spot in the short term if needed.

 

“I believe he can play, but you have to control him,” an NFC pro personnel director told me. “He’s not a traditional drop-back passer, but he is a playmaker who can make things happen. If he plays under the right coach, he can succeed in this league. … He looked like a superstar under Jim Harbaugh. Look at how he played during their run to the Super Bowl. You can’t ignore that. A great coach found a way to bring that out of him.”

 

An NFC personnel director added: “I’m not his biggest fan, but he can play. He’s athletic and talented with a big arm. Although he is more a thrower than passer, he can succeed in the right system with a strong running game and a movement-based passing game.”

 

Considering how the Seahawks tailored the offense to fit the dynamic talents of Wilson as a dual-threat playmaker, the move to acquire Kaepernick would be sensible for a team poised to make another run at the Super Bowl.

 

Speaking of Wilson, the addition of Kaepernick would encourage the three-time Pro Bowler stay razor sharp as the team’s QB1. Sure, he still has two years left on his contract (which included $61.53 million in guarantees), but the Seahawks value competition at every position, and the sight of Kaepernick in the room will serve as a daily reminder for Wilson to continue earning the respect of his coaches and teammates with his play.

 

Clay Travis at OutkickTheCoverage.com is tired of all the hand-wringing among sportswriters and broadcasters about Kaepernick being unsigned.

 

The five most covered free agents in 21st century sports are: 1. LeBron James (twice) 2. Peyton Manning 3. Bret Favre 4. Kevin Durant and…5. Colin Kaepernick. The first four men are first ballot hall of famers in the NFL and the NBA who all immediately changed title odds to a massive degree when they joined new teams. James brought titles to Miami and Cleveland, Manning took the Broncos to two Super Bowls, winning one, Kevin Durant may well help the Warriors reclaim the crown this year and Bret Favre nearly took the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl as well. The fevered coverage of all four of these men during their free agencies was directly attributable to their football and basketball talents.

 

The fifth is Colin Kaepernick, who, even if he were signed tomorrow, may not take a snap in an NFL game this fall. In the entire history of sports free agency, no one has ever been covered more who mattered less than Colin Kaepernick.

 

So how did this happen? How did a guy who was beaten out by Blaine freaking Gabbert in the offseason last year and elected to leave the San Francisco 49ers of his own volition this past spring after going 1-10 on the football field as a starter, become the biggest story in the NFL offseason? How are the three biggest football free agents in the 21st century now Manning, Favre and Kaepernick and how has Kaepernick now received more media attention as a free agent than either Manning or Favre did? And what does the sports media attention to Kaepernick tell us about the degree to which sports in 2017 have been overrun by political considerations?

 

Let’s discuss all of these questions below.

 

But first, let’s begin here: it is indisputable that the fevered media coverage of LeBron, Manning, Durant, and Favre during their free agencies was about first ballot hall of famers pursuing championships. While you may have thought helicopters following Peyton Manning on his team visits, flight tracking of Bret Favre as he came out of retirement, the decision spectacle of LeBron James heading to Miami followed by his open letter on his return to Cleveland, and Durant’s July 4th announcement that he was joining the Warriors after years of speculation about what he would do in free agency, all represented overcovered free agent stories, the impact on the field and court of these four men justified every moment of breathless commentary they received. These were massive free agent sports stories. The same was also true, by the way, of prior free agents in sports who received breathless media coverage, whether it was Reggie White, Shaquille O’Neal, Barry Bonds, or Deion Sanders, all four of these guys altered the championship trajectory of their respective sports as well.

 

None of that’s the case with Colin Kaepernick or the media coverage surrounding his free agency.

 

The fevered coverage of Colin Kaepernick is about biased left wing sports media, 96% of whom voted against Donald Trump in the 2016 election, blatantly rooting for Kaepernick to be signed and calling out the NFL, NFL teams, and NFL personnel for the fact that he remains unsigned. Unlike LeBron, Manning, Favre and Durant, the team that eventually signs Kaepernick will hope that he never takes the field for a single snap. This isn’t about sports on the field at all, it’s about the left wing sports media using Kaepernick to advance their own political beliefs.

 

Indeed by the time Kaepernick signs with a team it’s possible that only LeBron James will have received more media coverage of his free agency than Kaepernick. And just about every article you will have read or Tweet you will have seen from someone in sports media will have been praising Kaepernick and ripping the NFL for not signing him. It isn’t just that Kaepernick’s free agency isn’t a story deserving of the attention it receives, it’s that just about all of this media attention will be pro-Kaepernick.

 

The sports media has completely abandoned the notion of objectivity in reporting when it comes to Kaepernick.

 

Now I don’t have a problem with politics intersecting with sports — I frequently write about both from a radical moderate perspective that is neither left nor right wing in its perspective — what I have a problem with is sports intersecting with only left wing politics. Which is why this will probably be the only column you see calling out the left wing sports media for their obsession with Kaepernick’s free agency. Never have we seen so many in the sports media cast off all pretensions of objectivity in favor of rabid rooting and endorsement of Kaepernick.

 

If you doubt my thesis about the left wing sports media falling all over themselves to praise Kaepernick, go search Kaepernick’s name with any other free agent quarterback who has been signed this offseason, most recently Ryan Fitzpatrick. The liberal sports media is on their knees begging teams to sign Kaepernick and excoriating the league for his continued unemployment. With every free agent quarterback signing, the same left wing voices rise up on social media and spout their same left wing pablum, it’s virtue signaling brought to the football field, political battles being fought on the gridiron. There is no athlete that has ever mattered less and been covered more than Colin Kaepernick. How bad is it? Colin Kaepernick makes the NFL coverage of Tim Tebow, another running quarterback who NFL defenses figured out, look downright spartan.

 

The simple truth is this: Colin Kaepernick isn’t a free agent because he protested the national anthem last fall, he’s a free agent because he protested the national anthem last fall and he isn’t a very good quarterback. If Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees took a knee during the national anthem and became free agents, every NFL team would line up and make an offer for their services. That’s because Super Bowl winning quarterbacks at the peak of their quarterbacking abilities are rare.

– – –

This isn’t unique to football, by the way, this is how America works. So long as your talents exceed your problems you will always be employed. There’s a reason Johnny Depp can flake out during the filming of the most recent “Pirates of the Caribbean,” it’s because no one else can play Captain Jack Sparrow like him. Same with Robert Downey, Jr. playing Tony Stark in “Iron Man.” Hell, Michael Jackson probably molested a bunch of kids and most people overlooked it because he made “Thriller” and no one else could moonwalk like him.

 

And it’s not just celebrities either, look at your own businesses, the guy or girl who sells the most houses can get away with a ton more than the person who sells the 35th most houses. I knew a named partner in a law firm who got caught banging his secretary on the conference room table over the weekend. Guess what? He was at work on Monday. You know why? Because the law firm would have collapsed without him.

 

You may not like it, but this is how capitalism works, the rules are different for the people who are the best at what they do. And unfortunately for him, Kaepernick’s not very good at what he does. In the past two seasons Colin Kaepernick has completed less than 60% of his passes and gone 3-16 as a starting NFL quarterback. At 29 years old, Kap’s gotten worse every year since 2013, his first full year playing quarterback in the NFL. This suggests NFL defenses have figured out that if you keep Kaepernick from running, he can’t beat you from the pocket. He’s not as fast as he used to be and he’s taken a lot of big hits over the years. Being a running quarterback approaching 30 years old is not a good recipe for success when every NFL quarterback with long term success has had to demonstrate he can win passing the football from the pocket.

 

No one gave a damn about what LeBron, Durant, Manning or Favre, the four biggest sports free agents in the 21st century, thought about politics because they all made it more likely that their new team would win a championship. Colin Kaepernick isn’t unemployed because he took a knee during the national anthem, he’s unemployed because he took a knee during the national anthem and isn’t good enough at football for owners, GMs or coaches to overlook his political beliefs and the negative attention they bring to a team, a city and a state. Put simply, Kaepernick is still a football free agent because his problems exceed his talents.

 

This is not complicated to understand. Most NFL teams have thus far decided they don’t need the distraction that would come from a back-up quarterback like Kaepernick. NFL teams want back-up quarterbacks to be like children in the 19th century, they want them to be seen, but not heard.

 

So why can’t the left wing, liberal sports media caping for Kaepernick just understand that?

 

Because the liberal sports media doesn’t cover sports stories any more; sports are an opportunity for many “journalists” to advocate for own their left wing political opinions through the world of sports. That’s the only way to explain how Kaepernick is one of the five most covered free agents in the 21st century.

 

So far there are three quarterbacks who started games in 2016, haven’t retired, and remained unsigned: Kaepernick, Shaun Hill, and Robert Griffin III. None of these three men distinguished themselves as top flight signal callers on the field in 2016. It’s why all three are unsigned. So why have we heard nothing about Shaun Hill and RGIII compared to Kaepernick? You may recall that RGIII and Kaepernick’s careers look strangely similar. Both debuted to great success as athletic, running quarterbacks and have struggled to ever reclaim the magic of their initial seasons. Yet we hear nothing of RGIII this offseason in free agency and are overloaded with Kap news.

 

Why?

 

Politics is the only reason.

 

Heck, why was Jay Cutler’s free agency almost totally uncovered this past offseason before he decided to retire and do TV? Brock Osweiler started an NFL playoff game and I have no idea what’s going to happen with him. Neither do you. Hardly anyone has written about him.

 

So why has Kaepernick received a thousand times the coverage of all of these quarterbacks combined? Why has Kaepernick so captivated the sports media? Why is everyone in the liberal sports media constantly arguing on behalf of Kaepernick?  I’ll tell you — because this is an opportunity for social justice warriors who used to write about sports to instead inflict their political opinions into sports.

 

Colin Kaepernick’s protest was dumb and illogical. It made no sense from the moment he began the protest, but most in the sports media were either too dumb to see this, afraid to publicly castigate him because they were afraid of being called racist, or, most likely of all, they agreed with Kaepernick’s protest themselves because it reflected their own biased world view.

 

Kaepernick protested the killing of black men by police officers while wearing socks depicting the police as pigs and showing up in a Fidel Castro tshirt. While he never elucidated a coherent political philosophy motivating his decision to kneel, Kaepernick apparently wanted the United States government to take the killing of black people by police more seriously and ensure that police coverups weren’t happening when minorities were shot by police. (I’m the only person in sports media who pointed out that bees, wasps and hornets killed more unarmed people every year than police. Or that white people were more likely to be shot by police than black people. Or that trains, TRAINS!, kill five times as many unarmed people every year as police. Look out for lighting, it kills almost as many unarmed people too.)

 

But these are just facts that demonstrate how full of crap Kaepernick’s motivations were. More important than all of this is that Barack Obama, a mixed race black man, and Loretta Lynch, a black female attorney general heading up the justice department, were already having the federal government conduct their own federal inquiries into police shootings of minorities. Kaepernick’s protest made no sense because he was protesting and demanding an action from his government THAT WAS ALREADY HAPPENING. This was the protest equivalent of walking into McDonald’s at 12:30 PM and taking a knee to demand that breakfast be served all day.

 

Except, guess what, McDonald’s already served breakfast all day.

 

How dumb would you look if you protested McDonald’s not serving breakfast all day by taking a knee and McDonald’s was already serving breakfast all day? Well, that’s exactly what Kaepernick did. Yet instead of ridiculing him for the stupidity of his protest, many argued he was the Muhammad Ali of his generation.

 

ALI?!

 

If you’re not going to stick to sports, shouldn’t you at least have to stick to rationality?

 

How many people in sports media were actually willing to criticize Kaepernick? Three or four? Less?

 

Kaepernick was so politically engaged, HE DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO VOTE IN THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION!

 

Given that Trump won the election by roughly 77,000 total votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, you can even argue that Kaepernick’s protest may have flipped the election to Trump. I mean, is it really inconceivable to think that 38,500 football fans, less than half of the crowd in a single Big Ten football stadium, could have flipped their votes from Hillary to Trump based on their disgust with Kaepernick’s protest and the fawning coverage he received from the liberal sports media?

 

I don’t think so.

 

In fact, I think you can make a decent case that Kaepernick got Trump elected president.

 

Which makes this all the more remarkable — Kaepernick stopped his protest after the election. So Donald Trump won the election, potentially because of Kap’s protest, and Trump immediately rolled back federal oversight of police shootings and intensified the government’s prosecution of minority offenders for minor offenses under a new attorney general, and KAEPERNICK STOPPED HIS PROTEST.

 

If anything, the liberal sports media should be ripping Kaepernick for having the courage of his convictions only when his contract was guaranteed.

 

But of course the liberal sports media isn’t going to do that.

 

They’re too busy praising the Smithsonian for putting Kap’s jersey on display.

 

Seriously, this is really happening.

 

Colin Kaepernick isn’t a top free agent like LeBron, Manning, Favre or Durant yet he’s being covered like one. Heck, he isn’t even a top thirty quarterback in the NFL, yet he’s now probably the most covered NFL free agent in the history of the sport. All because of the left wing beliefs of the sports media.

 

How insane is this? And how insane is it that no one else has pointed out this insanity?

 

If everyone in the left wing sports media thinks Kaepernick’s so worthy of employment, why don’t all of you start asking these media people an interesting question on social media — why don’t the CEO’s of your companies employ Kaepernick? Instead of ripping the NFL and its teams, shouldn’t you be ripping your own bosses for not hiring him too? I mean, if Kaepernick’s so articulate and brave and outspoken — the modern day Ali — shouldn’t ESPN, NBC, CBS and Fox all be fighting to sign him for their own NFL coverage?

 

It’s a no brainer, right?

 

The fact that even MSESPN won’t employ Kaepernick should tell you everything you need to know –Kap’s not employed because his problems exceed his talents.

 

Even in TV.

 

There’s no grand conspiracy working against Kaepernick in the NFL, he’s just not good enough to be a starter and his protest makes him too much of a distraction to be a back up.

 

Anyone in the sports media arguing anything else isn’t really arguing about Kaepernick at all, they’re just using sports to argue for their own left wing political opinions.

 

 

BREAKING IN YOUNG QUARTERBACKS

Waiting is not an option for a young quarterback in today’s NFL says Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com:

 

Every year we see NFL teams draft an unready quarterback in the first or second round, with the intention of having him learn from the bench as a rookie. The Bears (Mitchell Trubisky), the Texans (Deshaun Watson) and especially the Chiefs (Pat Mahomes) will toy with this idea in 2017. It’s a logical and admirable approach. Every team wants its guy to be like Aaron Rodgers emerging from Brett Favre’s shadow, turning an apprenticeship into stardom. The only problem: that never happens anymore.

Literally. It … does … not … happen. Since 2006, no team that drafted a quarterback in the first two rounds sat him for the entirety of his rookie season and then saw him become a long-term franchise quarterback. In fact, only two QBs in that time who sat out their entire rookie seasons have even gone on to start at least 48 games: Colin Kaepernick, with the 49ers, and Chad Henne, with the Dolphins.

 

The previous generation of quarterbacks saw a handful of highly drafted players sit and learn. The best examples were Carson Palmer in Cincinnati, Drew Brees in San Diego, Philip Rivers in San Diego, and, of course, Rodgers in Green Bay. There were also the unique cases of Tony Romo and Tom Brady, guys who were brought in to fill the back of the roster and wound up developing well enough to become quality starters once they took the field. (Incidentally, both permanently replaced Drew Bledsoe.)

 

But those quarterbacks were all drafted at least 12 years ago. No one has followed that path since.

 

What’s changed in those dozen years? You can start at everyone’s favorite place and blame the culture. The NFL is an impatient, win-now league more than ever! There’s some truth to that, plus the simple fact that teams who draft a quarterback in the early rounds usually do so because they didn’t have a good one to begin with. The Favre-led Packers selecting Rodgers is an extreme outlier. Many teams with highly drafted QBs don’t have a solid starter for him to sit behind.

 

But the bigger issue is time. In 2011, the current collective bargaining agreement significantly reduced practice hours, both during the season and and during the offseason. Naturally, it’s the backup players’ reps that disappear. There’s barely enough time for the first-teamers to practice. Which means the only way to evaluate a QB and let him learn kinetically is to put him with your first team. And voila! There’s your new starting quarterback.

 

Eventually, something will give. Stylistically, the NFL and college games are drifting farther and farther apart. Incoming NFL quarterbacks are less prepared each year. With fewer chances for them to practice, young quarterbacks must continue to learn under the fire of live games. This diminishes the NFL’s product and can help ruin careers.

 

There is, however, one saving grace. The nature of today’s pass-happy NFL is prolonging quarterbacks’ careers. The days of repetitive deep dropback passes are practically over. Teams now regularly throw the ball quickly after the snap. Quicker, shorter passes place a greater emphasis on the intellectual side of quarterbacking and less on the physical side. A quarterback no longer has to consistently throw the ball as far or hold it as long. Instead, he’s reading the defense more before the snap, which is how he’s able to throw so quickly after it. (This is how most college offenses operate, but they’re executing many of those quick throws differently than what you see in the NFL. In college, the hash marks are spaced farther apart, which allows for wider formations. The wider side of these formations create more defined, almost indefensible quick throws. Everything becomes easier for the quarterback.)

 

Look at all the thirtysomething quarterbacks who are still performing at their highest levels:

 

Tom Brady, almost 40

Drew Brees, 38

Carson Palmer, 37

Eli Manning, 36

Philip Rivers, 35

Ben Roethlisberger, 35

 

Peyton Manning threw for 5,477 yards at age 37 and, after finally getting pushed up against the ropes by Father Time, still won a Super Bowl at age 39.

 

The NFL no longer gives young quarterbacks enough time to develop, but at least more stars at this position are staying around a little longer. At some point, of course, new quarterbacks will be needed. Hopefully in the next CBA teams can get back to practicing more. Developing QBs from the bench needs to be a real option rather than the pipedream that it has become.