The Daily Briefing Monday, November 20, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

If The Season Ended Today in the AFC –

 

The Steelers and Patriots role on, the Jaguars jump into the 3rd spot and the Ravens slide ahead of the Bills for the final playoff spot.  And look out for the Chargers, just one game off the playoff line.

                                             Overall     Division       Conference

Pittsburgh Steelers      ACN      8-2               3-0                6-1

New England Patriots  ACN      8-2               1-0                5-1

Jacksonville Jaguars   ACS      7-3              2-1                  7-2

Kansas City Chiefs     ACW      6-4               2-1                4-2

Tennessee Titans        ACS      6-4               2-1                5-4

Baltimore Ravens         WC      5-5               2-1                 4-3

Buffalo Bills                              5-5               1-1                 3-3

Miami Dolphins                         4-6               1-1                 3-3

Oakland Raiders                       4-6               1-2                 4-5

New York Jets                          4-6                2-3                4-4

Los Angeles Chargers              4-6               2-2                3-5

 

– – –

 

There was a consensus among the experts that JAMEIS WINSTON (the player) and MARCUS MARIOTA were generational quarterbacks while the teams trading up for JARED GOFF and CARSON WENTZ were reaching for marginal talents in a bad QB year in the draft.

 

Peter King looks at the numbers:

I’m not sure exactly what word to use about the state of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, picked 1-2 in the 2015 NFL draft, after 2.5 seasons of their careers. Worrisome, perhaps, particularly with Mariota’s abysmal performance in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

 

If you combined their passing line in their third NFL seasons, Winston and Mariota, together, would be rated 25th. The combined numbers of the first and second picks in the 2016 draft, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, would place those two fourth in the ratings.

 

• Winston/Mariota: 83.4

• Goff/Wentz: 101.1

 

Here’s the stunner … and it is not exclusively the misguided, careless performance of Mariota on Thursday night at Pittsburgh. Touchdowns to interceptions this season:

 

• Winston/Mariota: 18-16

• Goff/Wentz: 44-9

 

– – –

 

Sad news as we go to press – former NFL WR Terry Glenn has died in an auto accident in Columbus, Ohio.  He was age 43.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

Peter King critiques QB BRETT HUNDLEY:

 

I think Brett Hundley’s play is making moot Aaron Rodgers’ potential return in Week 15. Hundley has played five games since Aaron Rodgers got hurt, including the last 52 minutes of that game, at Minnesota. He’s 1-4. His performance Sunday against Baltimore, in a game the 5-5 Packers had to have to be strong playoff contenders down the stretch in a power conference, was poor. Hundley is just not an instinctive player. He took a fourth-down sack to start the third quarter that was just not smart. I’ve said this before, but this could be a good learning experience for Mike McCarthy. His backup quarterback, on a team when a backup has been needed fairly often, is a very important player, and the backup should be getting some playing time in the fourth quarter of games that have been decided—and maybe in the first three quarters of some other games. Hundley just does not look ready to succeed against pressure.

 

The DB thinks Hundley’s ongoing failures are also an indictment of Green Bay’s coaching staff and front office for not having an option to AARON RODGERS. 

 

CASE KEENUM has been wonderful in Minnesota, RYAN FITZPATRICK passable in Tampa Bay.  Not everyone can find a quality backup, but the Packers didn’t.

 

 

MINNESOTA

Coach Mike Zimmer sounds like he would love to yank CASE KEENUM out of the starting QB position and has high hopes that the opportunity will present itself.  But for now, Keenum is playing at just too high a level to justify it.

 

“It’s going to be hard to yank him out of there right now. He’s playing good. I still have really high hopes. You know a lot of things happen throughout the course of this season so we’ll just see how it goes.”

 

—Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer, on the dilemma of whether to continue to play Case Keenum, who has led the Vikings to 95 points in the last three games—all wins—or the man thought to be the long-term starter in Minnesota, Teddy Bridgewater. For now, it sounds like Zimmer will stick with Keenum.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Looking at ELI MANNING, Peter King makes the case that Jerry Rice no longer holds the most unapproachable record in football:

 

I think the 297 straight starts at quarterback for Brett Favre will be a tougher record to break than Jerry Rice’s 1,549 career receptions. I note that after Eli Manning moved into second place Sunday with his 209th straight start at quarterback for the Giants.

 

If Manning were to pass Favre, he’d do it in Week 3 of 2023. Manning would be 42 years, 9 months old. Favre’s 297 games are the equivalent of 18 full seasons and nine games into the 19th.

 

Not to be disrespectful of Rice’s mark, and that, too, may never be passed. But I think it’s realistic to think a couple of great receivers will come along (or are here now) who one day could threaten Rice’s mark. If Antonio Brown (708 catches, age 29) stays healthy and continues his pace from the past five years—both big ifs—he’ll be around 1,500 catches at age 36. I’m not saying it’ll happen. I just think it’s more possible than a quarterback starting every game for 19 years.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Peter King on the ascendant position of the Eagles:

 

The 37-9 annihilation by Philadelphia (9-1) of Dallas (5-5) on Sunday night gave the Eagles a four-game lead (plus tiebreaker edge) over the Cowboys … and it all but assures that this will be the 13th straight year this weird division does not have a repeat champion. The Eagles are just too good, and Dallas just too flawed. For the Cowboys to rebound, missing Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee (and probably Tyron Smith too) Thursday against the Chargers, with a season that ends with games against Seattle and Philly, seems just too impossible.

 

The Eagles have never been in such a strong position to win a Super Bowl. And there’s one X factor that could make it even more attainable. Most teams are struggling physically by this point of the season. Philadelphia got back its number one cornerback, Ronald Darby, from injury Sunday night, and he had an interception of Dak Prescott. Second-round cornerback Sidney Jones, recovering from an Achilles tear, could return in December. What a boost they should give, particularly against strong receiving corps (Vikings, Saints, Rams) that the Eagles could face in January.

 

 

WASHINGTON

The Redskins may finish 6-10 or so, but jeez they’ve kept fighting through a brutal schedule and injury adversity.  They lost RB CHRIS THOMPSON to a gruesome leg injury on Sunday.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

The Saints big comeback win over Washington came at a price.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

The New Orleans Saints earned the win Sunday but suffered a big loss on defense.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that pass-rusher Alex Okafor is out for the season with a torn Achilles, according to sources informed of the situation.

 

Okafor was carted off in the fourth quarter of the overtime win over the Washington Redskins.

 

Okafor, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal in New Orleans after four seasons in Arizona, was one of the best free agent bargains this season. The 26-year-old was in the midst of a breakout campaign opposite Cameron Jordan, earning 4.5 sacks, 27 tackles, four passes defended, and two forced fumbles in 10 starts. He was set to cash in this offseason before the season-ending injury, which might force the fifth-year pro to take another prove-it deal.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

In March of 2016, QB JAMEIS WINSTON took an Uber ride that may ruin his life. First, a letter from the NFL’s Linda Friel leaked saying that Winston was under investigation by her team of NFL operatives.  Buzzfeed broke the story:

 

The NFL is investigating an allegation that Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston grabbed a female Uber driver’s crotch in 2016, BuzzFeed News has learned.

 

A letter, viewed by BuzzFeed News, was sent from the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, Lisa Friel, to the Uber driver on Thursday. “The League has been informed that you may have been the victim of such a violation perpetrated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston. The league takes allegations of this nature very seriously and has opened an investigation into this matter,” the letter read.

 

“The matter is under review,” Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, told BuzzFeed News. “The allegation was shared with the NFL and we have reached out to Uber to request any information they may have.”

 

Kate, a female Uber driver, was hailed to the lively party scene of downtown Scottsdale, Arizona to pick up a passenger around 2 a.m. on Sunday March 13, 2016. There, Kate told BuzzFeed News that a small group of men excitedly told her that she would be chauffeuring someone famous that night — Jameis Winston, 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and now quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

The men placed Winston in the front passenger seat — Kate said he was the only passenger. “I started driving, and right away, Jameis behaved poorly” by shouting, in part, homophobic slurs at pedestrians, said Kate, who did not want to be identified by her full name for fear of negative attention and potential backlash from football fans. He then asked to stop for food.

 

Waiting in line at the drive-thru of Los Betos Mexican Food, “he reached over and he just grabbed my crotch,” Kate said, alleging that Winston held his hand there for three to five seconds and removed it only after she looked up in shock and said, “What’s up with that?”

 

“I wasn’t just creeped out,” said Kate, who had been driving with Uber for more than two years at that point. (She no longer drives for the service.) “I was frozen.” She described Winston as “very physically imposing.”

 

“I mean he’s an NFL quarterback and I’m 5 ft 6. I’m not prepared for that. So I completely froze,” she said, worried that she might provoke an unwanted reaction.

 

 Winston seemed to have a pretty good defense, he wasn’t in the front seat, there were others in the car and he had at least one witness.  Adam Schefter of ESPN.com:

 

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby said he was in an Uber ride with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston on March 13, 2016, and is vowing his college teammate did nothing inappropriate with the driver.

 

The NFL is investigating an allegation that Jameis Winston groped a female Uber driver in March 2016. The Buccaneers QB denied the allegation later Friday, saying that the “accusation is false.”

Darby, who played with Winston at Florida State, released a statement Sunday, two days after the NFL confirmed it was investigating the female Uber driver’s allegation that Winston groped her.

 

“I felt the need to come forward and clarify some inaccurate accounts of the evening of March 13, 2016 when myself, a friend and Jameis Winston took an Uber ride in Arizona,” Darby said in his statement. “There were three of us in the car, not just one as has been reported. Myself and Jameis were in the backseat. I am confident that nothing inappropriate in nature happened in the car that evening and Jameis did not have any physical contact with the Uber driver. The accusations are just not true.”

 

Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, found out about the Winston case last week and launched the league’s investigation shortly after.

 

It is considered standard practice for the NFL to inquire about cases such as this. However, a source said that as of Sunday morning, the league still had not informed the NFL Players Association that it is investigating of one of its players, which it is required to do. In the past, the NFL has been accused of not informing the players’ association when it has investigated a player.

 

This raises more questions about the NFL’s checkered history into looking into cases that involve high-profile stars. Many around the league are bracing for another drawn-out, messy process with Winston, one of the league’s most well-known young players.

 

Perhaps emboldened by the knowledge that Winston already has settled one claim with Erika Klinsman from an incident at Florida State (that ultimately resulted in no sanctions against Winston), “Kate” has lawyered up.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When defending himself against a new set of accusations, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will be facing a familiar foe.

 

Via ESPN.com, attorney John Clune is representing the still-unnamed Uber driver who contends that Winston groped her in March 2016. Clune previously represented Erica Kinsman in her lawsuit against Winston, arising from an alleged rape in December 2012.

 

Clune already has gone on the offensive, questioning the veracity of a contention from Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby that he was in the vehicle at the time, and that nothing happened.

 

“We have asked the NFL this morning to investigate Mr. Darby and are demanding that he immediately turn his phone over to the NFL so the GPS history can be forensically examined,” Clune tweeted.

 

Coincidentally, Darby also was a witness to the December 2012 incident.

 

“[T]o be clear, no one else was in the car besides Mr. Winston and if anyone is ‘confused’, it isn’t the Uber driver,” Clune added. “Mr. Winston’s friend from his FSU days is just making things worse by inserting himself into this.”

 

How much worse can it get for Winston? As noted last night, if the Uber driver cooperates with the NFL — and if the NFL believes her (perhaps not even completely, as Ezekiel Elliott learned) — Winston will be looking at a baseline suspension of six games.

 

That said, the involvement of Clune gives Winston a window for resolving this matter in a way that virtually ensures no NFL punishment. If Winston’s lawyers can broker a civil settlement with Clune that entails a release of claims and an agreement not to cooperate with the NFL, the case necessarily would be closed.

 

It’s unclear whether she’d even be interested in a settlement. Clune tweeted that the alleged victim’s “sole purpose is to put other women on notice of this unacceptable behavior as so many other women have recently done.”

 

Of course, no one ever admits that situations like this are about money. Once a lawyer is retained, however, securing a settlement or a judgment often becomes the only way to pay the lawyer’s fee. And if a contingency agreement is in place, the lawyer has a natural incentive to recover as much money as possible.

 

Given the threat to Winston’s NFL career, a potential lawsuit has much more value than it otherwise would. In other contexts, that could be viewed as extortion. In the legal industry, it’s called the fair negotiation of viable claims.

 

If there was another fellow in the front seat, who may or may not have groped “Kate”, we would think it is incumbent on him to come forward.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Peter King sings the praises of WR LARRY FITZGERALD but he leaves the DB puzzled:

 

I think I need to note that Larry Fitzgerald moved into fifth place on the all-time receiving yards list, passing Tony Gonzalez on Sunday. With 15,157 yards, Fitzgerald needs 778 yards to move up three more spots, to number two, behind only Jerry Rice in NFL history. He also signed a contract for the 2018 season last week. So there a good chance that, barring injury, Fitzgerald finishes his career behind only Rice. And this came to mind recently: Fitzgerald is a lover of football history, and he respects those who came before him quite a bit. The competition for the all-century team at wide receiver will be fierce, but I think he’d be a strong competitor for one of the four spots, particularly if he finishes second all-time, with a good playoff résumé.

 

We think King means the first 100 years of NFL football, not the 21st century.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

GM John Elway says the Broncos have gotten “soft.”  They play a soft game and lose to Cincinnati.  They get mad at Elway.  Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com:

 

In the moments after the Broncos’ 20-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the team’s sixth consecutive loss, John Elway’s assertion the Broncos had gotten “a little bit soft” during their losing streak was still reverberating in the locker room.

 

Elway, the team’s top football decision-maker, made his comments at a Friday night team event and also expressed support for first-year coach Vance Joseph, as he seemed to direct his criticism at the team’s players. And it was clear he got his players’ attention.

 

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said Sunday’s loss could be more a reflection of the teams’ talent levels.

 

“Everybody in this organization is accountable for how we’re playing right now,” Harris said. “Ain’t nothing soft in my bones.”

 

Asked if he was bothered by the comments, linebacker Brandon Marshall said: “Absolutely, absolutely. Because I’m out there on the field, I’m out there on the field, I know my guys are out there on the field, none of us are soft. We go out there and bust our ass week to week, play good technique, we work hard, we’re not just getting pushed over, pushed around … for him to call us soft just rubbed us the wrong way. But he can say what he wants to say.”

 

Marshall was asked if “soft” was among the worst things a player could hear.

 

“Especially for an NFL player, a football player, our game is so physical, you get shunned out of this league for being soft,” Marshall said. “Coaches don’t teach soft. Players, our personalities, we’re not soft.”

 

Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas said he felt like Elway was “basically calling out everybody” and that Joseph reminded the team of the Hall of Fame quarterback’s comments Saturday night.

 

“I felt like everybody came out and fought hard, but we came up short … I just think (Elway) is telling the truth,” Thomas said. “He wouldn’t have said it if he wasn’t telling the truth. We’ve lost six in a row, I think there’s a little softness in us somewhere and he’s talking about everybody, including me.”

 

Speaking Friday night at a ceremony to honor former Broncos coach Red Miller and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis, Elway made his strongest comments about the team’s current struggles. And that was before Sunday’s loss that dropped the Broncos to 3-7 and gave them their first six-game losing streak since 1990.

 

“I think at this point we’re still trying to figure out how we can get through it,” Elway said Friday night. “So, there’s no question at the end of the year we’ll evaluate it and we’ll look back and see what happened. But I will tell you I think we got a little bit soft. To be dead honest with you, we got a little bit soft.

 

“We went 4-0 in the preseason, we started out 3-1, then we get a bye week, and if you exhale in this league, you’re in trouble. To be dead honest with you, I think we exhaled, and it’s hard to recover from that. So, it’s a lesson that hopefully we all learned and prevent it from happening again.”

 

The Broncos were 3-1 after a Week 4 win over the Oakland Raiders, had a bye week and then were upset, at home, 23-10 by the previously winless New York Giants. That victory over the Broncos is still the Giants’ only win this season.

 

The Broncos haven’t won since Oct. 1. They experienced blowout losses — to the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, being outscored 92-39 — in the two weeks leading up to Sunday’s loss to Bengals.

 

“He’s the head guy, his comments, he’s the boss, he said what he said,” said Broncos linebacker Von Miller said of Elway. “I was kind of taken aback by it, and you should be if you have any type of emotion about you. If you just take a look at it, truth is, that’s what we’ve been putting out there, that’s the type of team that we’ve developed into. That’s what we got, the truth; he was telling the truth.”

– – –

Mike McCoy was once a coveted young coach.  But his tenure in San Diego was uneven and now his rehabilitation tour has hit a huge pothole with the Broncos.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Broncos are in the midst of an ugly six-game losing streak, and now the first head has rolled.

 

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was fired this morning, and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave was promoted to take his place, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

 

The Broncos’ offense has struggled all season, first with Trevor Siemian at quarterback and then with Brock Osweiler after Siemian was benched. The next move may be benching Osweiler in favor of Paxton Lynch.

 

McCoy was in the first season of his second stint as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator. He was previously the Broncos’ offensive coordinator from 2009 to 2012, and that got him the head-coaching job in San Diego, where he coached the Chargers for the last four years.

 

Musgrave is also in his first season with the Broncos’ staff, having spent the last two years as the Raiders’ offensive coordinator.

 

It’s rare for a team to make a major change to its coaching staff at this time of year, but the Broncos need to change something. Head coach Vance Joseph’s first season in Denver is not going as planned.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

It’s Donald Trump vs. RB MARSHAWN LYNCH as the eccentric Twitter president chastises the eccentric running back for misplaced priorities. Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:

 

President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Monday morning to criticize Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch for standing during the Mexican national anthem but sitting during the anthem for the United States prior to the Raiders’ loss to the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca.

 

 Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Marshawn Lynch of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican Anthem and sits down to boos for our National Anthem. Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down.

 

Lynch was actually standing during the first few bars of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday before taking a seat. And while he stood for the Mexican anthem, he was not completely at attention.

 

In a speech on Sept. 22, Trump said players kneeling or sitting during the anthem should be fired, which prompted much backlash across the league.

 

Lynch, who has remained seated during the playing of the national anthem since coming out of retirement this season, has not said why he sits. He wore a T-shirt that read “Everybody vs. Trump” prior to the Raiders’ game against the Broncos in Denver on Oct. 1.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Peter King notices that the team without any fans could make a run at the AFC West title as the Chiefs continue to falter.

 

Since Oct. 8, the AFC West’s power teams—Kansas City, Denver and Oakland—are 4-14.

 

Since Oct. 8, the AFC West’s weaklings, the Los Angeles Chargers, are 4-2.

 

“I’m glad the division is coming back to us,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said from California on Sunday night. “We dug ourselves a pretty big hole, and this team did not know how to win early on.”

 

Go figure. Two months ago the Chiefs dispatched New England and Philadelphia, Denver was 2-0, and the Raiders just mauled the Jets to go to 2-0. L.A. was 0-2. Sad sacks. But now the Chiefs have lost all pretensions of being the deep-strike offensive team that embarrassed the Patriots in Foxboro; the loss to the Giants on Sunday made them look like the John Mackovic Chiefs. Denver is on a six-game losing streak, and GM John Elway called them “kind of soft” the other day—a clear indictment of rookie coach Vance Joseph. Oakland lost by 25 to New England on Sunday; no one would have been surprised if it was by 45.

 

But the Chargers put 54 on the Bills on Sunday, coming off a terrible loss at Jacksonville last week. “Last week we stunk it up,” Lynn said. “Worst lost of my NFL career. Championship teams don’t made decisions like we made last week. So we played this game today angry.”

 

With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram playing like the best 1-2 pass-rush threat west of Jacksonville, and with Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen rediscovering their combined greatness, the Chargers are going to be trouble if Kansas City (6-4) keeps slumping and L.A. (4-6) can make up another game or two quickly, starting on Thanksgiving at similarly desperate Dallas.

 

After the 54-24 rout of the Bills, Lynn told his team it reminded him of a Bible verse—2 Timothy 1:7 … For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. “Our guys have heart, they play for each other, and they refuse to give in,” Lynn said. “I just thought of that verse, because I think it’s who we are.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

The Ravens now have 3 shutouts, the first team to do so in a season since the 2003 Patriots.  Many other teams also did so in earlier years.

 

If you get to 4 shutouts, now you are getting into more elite company as 6 teams can make that claim, including most recently the great 2000 Ravens defense.  The NFL record of 5 shutouts in a season is shared by the 1976 Steelers and the 1945 Giants.

 

Peter King:

 

The Ravens are just 5-5, including a 37-point loss to the Jags. But Baltimore has shut out Cincinnati 20-0, Miami 40-0 and, on Sunday in Wisconsin, Green Bay 23-0. “To be able to come in here—you know we only play here once every eight years—and win a game at Lambeau Field … this is a pretty historic place,” said Joe Flacco after embarrassing the Packers.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Has there ever been a team actually above the playoff line that ever felt as much a goner as the Bills?  Coach Sean McDermott made a QB decision that blew up in his face in Week 11, even as his defense crumbles.  Michael Beller of SI.com:

 

The Bills entered Week 11 sitting in playoff position, holding onto one of the wild card spots in the AFC at 5–4. They had been one of the hardest teams to peg from week to week, from the highs of a road win in Atlanta to the lows of an ugly Thursday night loss to the Jets, and a thrashing at the hands of the Saints last week. Still, they had full control of their playoff chances.

 

That’s only part of the reason it was so hard to understand why the team benched Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman this week. Taylor was playing well before his surprise benching, throwing for 1,684 yards, 6.63 yards per attempt, and 10 touchdowns against three interceptions, while adding 237 yards and two scores on the ground.

 

The results of Peterman’s first start were all too predictable. They also showed the folly of making the indefensible quarterback change.

 

Peterman’s first possession as a starter ended with a pick-six. His second one ended with an interception. By time the first quarter ended, he matched Taylor’s interception total for the entire season (three). Peterman threw two more picks in the second quarter, giving him five in the first half. He’s the second quarterback in NFL history to throw five interceptions in his first start, joining Keith Null, who did it with the Rams in 2009. He’s the fourth one to get picked five times on 15 or fewer attempts, a club that also includes Dan Pastorini (1977), Archie Manning (’73), Fred Enke (’53) and Tom O’Malley (’50). It’s been a long time since we’ve seen such putrid quarterback play.

 

Taylor took over for Peterman in the second half, but by then it was far too late. The Chargers went into halftime with a 37–7 lead, putting the game on ice well before Peterman gave way to a quarterback he had no business supplanting in the first place. For what it’s worth, Taylor played well, throwing for 172 yards, 6.62 YPA and one touchdown, and running for 36 yards and another score. He was unable to lead the Bills back from a 30-point deficit, though, which, given the organization’s uncanny ability to not appreciate one of its best players, will probably be added to his list of faults.

 

The Bills may have lost more than just a game as a result of Taylor’s unjustified benching. This is the way a coach loses a locker room, a risk that Sean McDermott invited when he embarked on this foolish path. Again, the Bills began Week 11 in one of the AFC’s two wild card spots, a point that cannot be overstated. Taylor was one of the primary reasons they were in that position, and, given the way their defense has fallen apart over the last month, would likely need to remain one for the team to earn its first playoff berth since 1999. By benching Taylor, a bizarre decision that likely will only last one ignominious half, McDermott threatened the Bills future this season. A head coach cannot do that.

 

The Bills are now tied for the last AFC wild-card spot with the Ravens at 5–5, though they technically hold it for the time being, by virtue of having a better conference record. Their schedule gets no easier over the next few weeks, with a trip to Kansas City followed by a home game against the Patriots—the first of their two meetings—on tap. It’s safe to say that Taylor will be at the helm to start both of those games. Whether too much damage has already been done remains to be seen. For once, this won’t be something for which the Bills can unfairly blame Taylor. If he’s playing for another team next season and they once again have to spin the quarterback roulette, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

 

And defensively, aided by a few TDs on offensive turnovers, the Bills have given up 135 points in the last three games while being gashed for more than 200 yards rushing per game.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

It’s crazy that the Saints are 8-2 after trading away as great a talent was WR BRANDIN COOKS.  Marc Sessler of NFL.com:

 

The seemingly unstoppable Patriots have the power to unleash a different weapon weekly.

 

One day it’s Rob Gronkowski, the big-bodied, touchdown-scoring tight end; the next it’s Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and the roster’s gaggle of interchangeable and versatile runners. On Sunday, Brandin Cooks emerged to play his finest game of the year.

 

The former Saints wideout, acquired in an offseason trade, torched the lost-at-sea Raiders for 149 yards off six catches, headlined by his lightning-quick, 64-yard touchdown grab in a 33-8 romp over Oakland in Mexico City.

 

“Nobody works harder than Brandin,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He has the speed an acceleration to create mismatches and does everything well, from slants, outs and deep passes. He’s been a good player for us.”

 

Oakland’s secondary is a mess, but that doesn’t diminish what Cooks accomplished on the scoring bomb from a nearly perfect Tom Brady, who lofted the ball into the arms of the pass-catcher as he tore past defenders alone toward the Mexican pay dirt to bury the Raiders for good.

 

“It’s hard to catch him from behind,” Brady said of Cooks, who showed off his blazing speed on the play. “With the thin air, you just have to let it go and hopefully you’ll connect deep. It was a great play-calling by [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] and it worked on the fade. The defense bit it and Cooks was all alone, so I just needed to put the ball in there.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

JERRY vs. ROGER

Jerry Jones explains what he is trying to accomplish in his fight against Roger Goodell.  Clarence Hill in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is admittedly holding up the contract extension for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

 

It has resulted in a threatened lawsuit against the NFL and caused owners to threaten him with suspension for conduct detrimental to the league.

 

But Jones is not simply angry because Goodell suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games under the personal conduct policy and allegedly lied to him about no suspension.

 

 “I’ve never addressed that in a negative way,” Jones said following the Cowboys 37-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. “To sum it all up, what I want of all is I want accountability, more accountability. I want unprecedented accountability to the ownership. That simple.

 

“It’s unfortunate that motives are being pressed: ‘It’s all about Zeke. It’s all about that,’ which questions your motive, but Zeke is done. Zeke is over. But some of the things that make that happen are still around.”

 

Jones is still miffed with the league’s 13-month investigation of Elliott for allegedly committing domestic violence against former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson.

 

Elliott was never charged or arrested in the case and the league’s lead investigator recommended no suspension.

 

Jones is bothered with how Goodell handled the national anthem protests and the league’s declining television ratings.

 

He believes the time is now to address those issues before an contract extension is finalized.

 

“Our commissioner is probably the most powerful, relative to his constituency, he’s the most powerful person in America,” Jones said. “He’s been given that kind of power, so what you want to do if you want to make some positive changes is you want that power to be accountable, in my case, to the owners.”

 

Jones has no problem with the process not being smooth or pretty on the outside. But he says he is doing what’s in the best interest of the Cowboys and the NFL.

 

“Every entity that there has ever been has a time to evaluate, re-access, freshen up and do it better,” Jones said. “I’ve never been with one that didn’t. Let’s just say – we aren’t – but that we were getting in somebody new, that’s when you sit down and say to them, ‘This is how we’d like these issues to be done.’ I’m one vote. I’m only one vote, but we need to have that opportunity, and we can. We have plenty of time. We have a lot of issues.

 

“Everything we’re doing here is about making this league better. By the way, that usually comes with angst. My experience has been with angst, very much angst.”

 

Jones is aware that he has been made the target as well as the villain in the process.

 

It’s not an unfamiliar position, considering his rebellious entry into the league in 1989.

 

“We won’t talk about that right now, but do you think?” Jones said, laughing. “You don’t want to go with me tonight, I promise you that.”

 

But Jones denied a report that other owners want him to pipe down. He said he has never been told that.

 

And what would he say if he “Ask them to pipe down,” Jones responded.

 

He also doesn’t believe his fights with the NFL over Goodell’s extension has overshadowed the play on the field or been a distraction for his team, which is 5-5, riding a two-game losing streak.

 

“No. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. None whatsoever. At all. None,” Jones said “I don’t in any way have a second thought about that. Not at all. You know I really do want to be inspirational to our players, my players. I want them to know that I’ll do everything I can to help the Dallas Cowboys and help the NFL. They should benefit from that.”

 

Peter King’s latest on the subject, wherein he has a more conciliatory response directly to Jones from the Compensation Committee than the bellicose media threats to strip him of his franchise should he continue to confront The Commissioner.

 

I’m led to believe that the Roger Goodell contract extension through 2024, despite the best efforts of Dallas owner Jerry Jones to derail it, is likely to be signed by Christmas. “If the owners table it to next year,” a source close to the talks tells me, “that’s a win for Jerry. And [the Compensation] Committee does not want to do that for Jerry after the recent events.”

 

The recent events. Good way to word it—particularly with the Compensation Committee in a legally peacemaking mode right now. Nothing good can come from continuing to joust publicly with Jones, particularly after Jones’s tone in the ESPN.com story Friday in which Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta have him declaring war on Goodell after the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. So even after Jones sent a letter to the committee with an assumption that the committee would put the Goodell contract to full league vote, the six members on Saturday wrote this pointed but non-inflammatory response, as obtained by The MMQB:

 

“Dear Jerry,
We were hoping to avoid the need for further letters, but feel compelled to reiterate our position based on the statements in your November 17 letter.
Your letter entirely ignores the May 2017 Resolution, unanimously approved by the owners (including by you), which expressly approved a contract extension with Roger and specifically authorized the Committee to finalize the terms of that extension. As we have stated repeatedly to the full ownership and to each owner individually, the Committee has been working diligently for the past six months to negotiate the terms of the extension and intends to continue to work to fulfill its mandate under the Resolution and to do so in a manner that is fully consistent with the parameters approved by the membership.

 

“In the interests of full transparency, the Committee intends to continue to review the progress of the negotiations with each owner and to respond to any questions that might be raised.
Suffice it to note that the Committee is working in good faith to do the job the ownership directed it to do. And the members of this Committee most assuredly are not ‘trying to subvert the League Constitution’ or ‘attempting to deprive [the ownership] of this opportunity to address the League’s direction.’ Such statements are disappointing and undermine the spirit of partnership that has served our sport so well for so many decades.
Sincerely,
Arthur Blank, Chairman; Clark Hunt, Robert Kraft, John Mara, Bob McNair, Art Rooney.”

 

I don’t expect much action this week, in part because of the holiday. There are regularly scheduled NFL committee meetings in New York on Nov. 28 and 29, at which approximately 20 owners/top club officials will gather, with others available via conference call. You can bet there will be some Goodell discussion there. If Jones has a cadre of owners to challenge the Goodell contract, it would be wise for him to have them state their objections at this meeting. The next full league conclave is Dec. 13 on Jones’s home turf—Dallas.

 

There has been much discussion about the form Goodell’s contract will take. As I explained in part last week (with more details now), here’s the way Goodell’s contract has been explained to the owners:

 

• A base annual salary of slightly less than $4 million.

 

• Approximately 88 percent of his compensation, potentially, in bonuses based on league performance in areas such as TV ratings, gross revenue and the new collective bargaining agreement.

 

One of the problems I hear Jones has with the proposed deal is the potential 88 percent pool would be “very discretionary,” an ownership source said. NFL committees with more than half the current owners on them will all play a part in recommending bonuses for Goodell that the Compensation Committee would be empowered to approve.

 

The bonus protocol was put in place because Goodell’s old deal was hugely one-sided. There was a provision in that contract that mandated Goodell receive an average of $25 million a year in guaranteed bonuses in a rolling three-year period over the life of the deal. If Goodell did not receive $25 million in bonuses in one year, it would have to be made up over the next two years, and in each three-year period he’d be guaranteed approximately $75 million in bonuses.

 

Unless some owners besides Jones step up to try to halt the contract between now and the middle of December, Goodell’s contract is likely to get done. The question, then, would be what follows a Goodell extension. Would there be a Jones-led cold war versus the league office and Goodell, the way former Jones mentor Al Davis lived for much of his ownership life with the Raiders? Or would it be followed by Jones being a pragmatic businessman and burying his anger, losing one major battle but realizing he would only be hurting the value of the Cowboys long-term by trying to tear down parts of the league?

 

I doubt Jones feels like he’s in an equal partnership anymore. And there’s no question he’d like to do something about what he feels is too much of an iron fist wielded by Goodell in player discipline—even beyond Elliott’s six-game ban. But Davis didn’t have his day-to-day existence influenced by how much he could push up the value of his franchise, which is something that’s always on Jones’ mind. Whenever this is over, if Jones loses, I think it’s more likely than not he grits his teeth, takes a deep breath and works within the league structure.

 

Jonathan Kraft of the Patriots notes that Jones was at one time not all that concerned by the arbitrary way Goodell wielded his awesome power:

 

Jonathan Kraft relaying a message Jerry Jones gave to Robert Kraft during Deflategate: “I think you all should take your medicine and focus on winning football games.”

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Peter King thinks of shoes when he thinks of the view from SkyCam which presumably would make it harder to see the shoes from its perch above the field:

 

I think—and no one will buy this as an impartial opinion because I work for NBC as well as The MMQB and Sports Illustrated—I loved the SkyCam in Titans-Steelers on Thursday night. Here’s why: I love to see what a quarterback sees when he takes the snap, and this was the perfect way to put yourself in the quarterback’s shoes. The running backs’ shoes too, as they took handoffs and looked for holes. When you needed to see a different look, you saw it on replay. If you didn’t like it, that’s fine. It’s just a football game. Why does every one have to be shown the same?