The Daily Briefing Thursday, April 6, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
More money for NFL owners as Amazon ponies up big time for streaming rights:
Last year, the National Football League experimented by letting Twitter livestream 10 Thursday night games.
This year, pro football will continue the test, but will switch it up: Amazon has bought the rights to the league’s streaming package, and will offer the games for free to its Amazon Prime subscribers around the world.
Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube had also expressed interest in carrying the games this year.
Amazon is paying around $50 million for the 10 games it will show next fall, according to a person familiar with the deal. That’s a big increase from the $10 million Twitter paid for last year’s games.
The rest of the deal is roughly similar to the one Twitter had last year: CBS and NBC will each broadcast five games, and Amazon will stream the networks’ coverage, including their ads. Amazon will have the rights to sell a handful of ad slots per game.
Amazon says it may sell ads for those slots, but says it will also use them to promote the company’s other video offerings.
Amazon won’t have exclusive streaming rights for the games. CBS and NBC will also have the ability to stream the games they broadcast, and Verizon will stream the games to its wireless subscribers.
The deal is Amazon’s first significant foray into livestreaming (besides Twitch, the live video game streaming platform it bought a few years ago), and its first major move into sports; Amazon has also worked with the NFL on “All or Nothing,” a behind-the-scenes documentary series that debuted last summer.
But Amazon has been ramping up its interest in live sports. “For us, this is about starting to bring live sports to our Prime members all around the world,” said Jeff Blackburn, the company’s head of business development and entertainment.
Last year, when Twitter beat out Amazon for the NFL games, both Twitter and the NFL made a big deal about the fact that Twitter had around 300 million users worldwide. And they said Twitter could reach even more people with NFL games, because it wouldn’t require anyone to log in to Twitter to watch them.
This year, the NFL seems to have made a different calculation. By putting it behind its Amazon Prime paywall, Amazon will reach a smaller potential audience. Amazon has never disclosed its Prime subscriber numbers, but my colleague Jason Del Rey thinks the company has 66 million subscribers; some Wall Street analysts think the number is higher.
But Brian Rolapp, the NFL executive in charge of the league’s media deals, argues that Amazon should be able to find at least as many viewers as Twitter did, since Amazon Prime members visit and use Amazon a lot.
A blow to DT EGO FERGUSON. Ryan Wood in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Defensive tackle Ego Ferguson failed his physical with the Green Bay Packers and was released Wednesday, according to the NFL’s transaction wire.
The Packers claimed Ferguson on waivers after the Chicago Bears released him last week. He was a 2014 second-round pick in Chicago, but injuries have prevented him from playing all but four games the past two seasons.
Ferguson missed all of last season on injured reserve with a preseason shoulder injury that required surgery. A knee injury put him on IR in 2015. Ferguson had a promising rookie season that included two sacks before injuries derailed his career.
The last time Ferguson played a regular-season game was Oct. 11, 2015 at Kansas City.
The Packers won’t have to pay Ferguson the $980,981 due in the final year of his contract; they would have owed Ferguson that only if he’d made the 53-man roster for the 2017 season.
CB DeANGELO HALL somewhat refutes the claim by deposed GM Scot McCloughan that the players loved him and did not like Bruce Allen. Scott Allen in the Washington Post:
While some Redskins fans continue to blame Allen for firing McCloughan, perhaps out of jealousy or as the result of an internal power struggle over personnel control, Hall stands by what he tweeted last month.
“I still support Bruce Allen and this organization 100 percent,” Hall told Chad Dukes on Tuesday on 106.7 The Fan, when asked about his previous tweets and how players avoid getting involved in front-office drama. “I think the way you get around it is, at the end of the day, no matter what I say, no matter what I believe, no matter what I want to happen, those guys in the front office get paid for a reason and so they’ll make all those decisions. It doesn’t matter if I say yea, nay, I want this guy, I don’t want this guy, fire this guy. It doesn’t matter. They are going to do what they feel is in the best interest of the organization.
“And so, for me, I know the relationship I have with Bruce and the trust I have in him as a person and as a front office guy, that for me to say, ‘Hey, I’m behind Bruce Allen 100 percent.’ I know how much he loves this team and how much he grew up a huge Redskins fan, and he wants this team to do nothing but succeed, the same thing with Daniel Snyder, our owner.”
Hall joined the Redskins in the middle of the 2008 season, one year before Allen was hired to replace Vinny Cerrato.
“I felt like I needed to say that, and then I felt like I followed up by saying, ‘Hey, I love Scot as well,’” Hall continued. “Scot was a great guy. I don’t know him as well. I’ve only been around Scot a short period of time, but the short period of time I was around him, I enjoyed our conversations about football, about life, and I had nothing bad to say about Scot as well. I hate the way it worked out, but I don’t know everything that happened behind closed doors, so I can’t really speak on that situation. You know what I mean? I can only say, hey, my experiences with Bruce have been great. I love him, I support him. Scot, I love him as well. I support him. I wish him nothing but the best, and kind of keep it moving, and that’s essentially what I did. I didn’t go into any more details. I didn’t do interview requests, like I received, because I didn’t know enough about the situation to even speak on it.”
Hall, 33, said he’s spent his offseason rehabbing his right knee from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in Week 3 of last season. Hall has played in only 17 games over the last three seasons due to injuries, but expects to be back with the Redskins in 2017. Last month, new Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky told ESPN 980’s Chris Cooley and Kevin Sheehan that the team wants Hall back to “see what he has left.”
Asked about the possibility of Kirk Cousins signing a long-term deal with the Redskins before the season, Hall said he and his teammates are remaining optimistic.
“I think we’re all hopeful that that happens, because when that happens, you tend to feel like it is a marriage and not just ‘we’re dating,’ you know what I mean?” Hall said. “I know Kirk wants it. I feel like the organization wants it. I know we as players want him as a teammate and so we’re all optimistic and hopeful that we can get it done and Kirk can be our quarterback for years to come.”
The Saints are taking a good look at controversial RB JOE MIXON. Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:
Add the Saints to the list of teams considering the controversial Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon.
“We had a good visit, and that’s really all I want to say about that at this time,” Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis told the Times-Picayune of Mixon. “It’s just part of the process.”
Loomis declined to answer when asked directly whether Mixon is on the Saints’ draft board, but it’s safe to say they wouldn’t have brought him in for a visit if they weren’t considering drafting him.
Mixon is a first-round talent who probably won’t go in the first round because of an ugly incident in 2014, when he punched a woman and broke bones in her face. That incident, which was caught on tape, will be shown repeatedly on the local news in whatever city drafts Mixon, and some teams don’t want that kind of publicity.
Loomis said the Saints are always considering off-field issues, not just with Mixon but with every draft prospect.
“We look at every aspect of these guys, and it’s important decision-making for us,” he said. “And so we gather a lot of information and examine all of it, and then make our decisions.”
Whatever team selects Mixon, it will be one of the most-scrutinized picks in this year’s draft.
Dom Cosentino at Deadspin.com on why the Seahawks are pondering trading CB RICHARD SHERMAN:
Sherman has been a cornerstone of the sustained success the Seahawks have created in recent years, and he’s still playing at a pretty high level, though there have been some slight signs of decline. Per Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks had a passer rating of 63.8 in the 2016 regular season when throwing at Sherman, which ranked sixth in the NFL among cornerbacks with at least 355 coverage snaps. Sherman also averaged 7.7 coverage snaps per target, which was good enough to rank eighth. So, check that: Sherman is still a cornerstone of the Seahawks’ sustained success.
But in a salary-capped world, a big part of what allows NFL franchises to thrive for the long haul is timing, and timing is about knowing how to get the most value out of proven players, and sometimes maximizing their value means trading them while they still have gas in the tank. Sentimentality, though important to fans, has no place in future roster management. The Patriots, Packers, Ravens, Steelers, and—yes—Seahawks have all operated this way for several years, to varying degrees.
As Schneider and the Seahawks look ahead, they can see this:
From a financial perspective #Seahawks have some tough decisions to make in next two years. Graham, Britt and Chancellor are FAs in 2018
#Seahawks FAs the year after are Sherman, Thomas, Avril and Wright.
Sherman has two years remaining on his contract, with cap hits of $13.6 million in 2017 and $13.2 million in 2018. He also just turned 29. Sherman may indeed have the most value of any of the players listed in the tweets above, but that also means he has the most trade value. It behooves the Seahawks to see what sort of assets they could get in return for moving Sherman, especially with this year’s draft class so well-stocked with cornerbacks and safeties. Remember, too, that the rookie wage scale locks in four years of low-priced cost certainty for teams. If the Seahawks think they can land a cheaper version of the next Richard Sherman now, why keep the real Richard Sherman, especially when they might be able to flip him for the chip that might help them land his replacement?
If nothing else, as the rest of Schneider’s comments make plain, the Seahawks are listening. More from Kapadia’s transcription of that radio interview:
“I don’t know if anything would ever happen. But like I tell people all the time, 98 percent of the things we’re involved with, we don’t follow through with. But at least we’ve opened that door, gone down the road and seen what’s behind door A or door B.”
In other words, trade discussions like this one happen all the time; we just rarely hear about them. The only thing that really distinguishes the Richard Sherman trade talks is Schneider’s willingness to let the public know they’re happening.
So which teams might want Sherman? NFL.com asked some of its correspondents and got a variety of answers:
The price obviously would have to be right for Seattle to move the three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, even in light of Sherman’s relatively bumpy 2016. And it’s noteworthy that Carroll said, “I don’t see anything happening at all.” Still, if we assume Sherman is indeed on the block, which team should trade for him?
Chargers and Sherman are a sensible pairing
Richard Sherman is a great talent, but he’s also played in the ideal system throughout his entire career, having spent all six of his NFL seasons with Seattle. He’s not a lockdown corner, so he would need to go to a team that understands his unique skill set. The Los Angeles Chargers make a lot of sense. They just hired a defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, who was Seattle’s defensive coordinator when Sherman came into the NFL. They also have huge needs in the secondary, both at cornerback and safety. Add in the fact that Sherman grew up in Los Angeles and it makes this trade even more logical. He’d make the Chargers better from the moment he stepped onto the field.
Missing (or just missed out on) Malcolm Butler? Sherman’s your man
I can see five teams potentially making a move for Richard Sherman:
1) New England: If the Patriots trade Malcolm Butler to the Saints, Sherman would serve as a top-tier replacement. Bill Belichick has shown that he’s not afraid to take on big personalities like Sherman if it means helping the team win.
2) New Orleans: If, however, New England holds on to Butler, Sherman could be a good fallback option for the Saints. New Orleans and Seattle have done business before, pulling off the Jimmy Graham blockbuster two years ago.
3) Miami: Executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum loves bold moves (think of the 2015 signing of Ndamukong Suh), and Miami could use an upgrade at corner.
4) Indianapolis: The Colts are looking for defensive help and reshaping their roster under new general manager Chris Ballard. Sherman and Vontae Davis would make a nice cornerback pairing.
5) Philadelphia: After the Eagles addressed their issues at receiver in free agency with the singings of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, the biggest problem area on the roster is cornerback.
Sherman could elevate Cowboys’ secondary with leadership, ability
The team I want to see trade for Richard Sherman is the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas will give him the stage to continue to be the star that he is while also being on a team that plays to his strengths. The Cowboys play a lot of man-to-man coverage yet mix in zone. He’s one of the best ballhawking corners that we’ve seen in some time, and the Cowboys will give him the opportunity to make plays and be the leader their secondary needs.
Sherman should stay in Seattle, but he would look good in silver and black
I don’t want to see Sherman leave Seattle, but for the sake of this debate, I think the Raiders would be a good fit. Sherman knows the scheme and the Raiders need help in the secondary. It’s a perfect set up.
Wherever he goes, Sherman will be a boon to his new team — but he’d fit nicely in Atlanta
Richard Sherman is smart, tough and knows how to work. Given any situation, I think he’ll comply with what any head coach demands. Pete Carroll gives Sherman more verbal freedom, but I’ve never seen anything out of the veteran cornerback that leads me to believe he wouldn’t respect the authority of a more restrictive head coach. Sherman isn’t a problem. He’s a gift. And that’s the way his talent and leadership are perceived in this league.
I think Atlanta should trade for him. The Falcons have some young talent in the secondary, but Sherman would be an immediate upgrade.
Scheme fit is a real issue, but the Raiders look like a match
Teams might want to be careful about trading for Richard Sherman. Beyond his personality — which we know can be disruptive — he needs to be in a system where the cornerbacks press and play zone most of the time. I would be very surprised if a team were to give Seattle a first-round pick for him.
That includes the Raiders, though I think they’d be the best match for him. I believe Sherman needs to be with a winner, and he’s an upgrade over Oakland cornerback Sean Smith. Plus, if you’re the Seahawks, you want to trade him out of the NFC. Again, though, I don’t see the Raiders coughing up a first-rounder.
With an extra first-rounder this year, Titans can make a play for the shutdown corner
The Titans are an exciting young team on the brink of wresting control away from the Texans in the AFC South. While the offense emerged as one of the league’s most explosive units for a two-month stretch before Marcus Mariota’s season-ending injury, the defense lacks a playmaker in the secondary and a lockdown cover specialist at cornerback. Sherman would not only offer an impact talent, but would also bring Super Bowl chops to an organization with precious little in the way of playoff experience. With an extra first-round draft pick this season, the Titans are one of the few teams with the ammo to make the Seahawks think hard about parting with a franchise legend.
But the Seahawks aren’t just going to give Sherman away according to Armando Salguero in the Miami Herald:
The Seattle Seahawks are shopping a potential trade for cornerback Richard Sherman, and it’s now clear any NFL team willing to consider such a proposition must be ready to pay dearly for the chance to add one of the league’s premier players.
The specific asking price for Sherman?
The Seahawks have let it be known they would consider trading Sherman, but only for “a very good player plus a high draft pick,” according to an NFL source.
And that’s just the team-to-team cost of a potential deal.
Sherman, who has some leverage in deciding where he would play, would want to go to a team that has a chance to compete for a Super Bowl, which may eliminate perhaps more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams. Sherman is also not giving any money back on his current contract, the source said.
Sherman’s contract has two years remaining and will pay $11.4 million this year and $11 million next year, with salary cap costs above $13 million each year.
So based on Seattle’s demands and the high-priced Sherman’s wishes about what teams he’d be willing to play for, it is unlikely the perennial Pro Bowl player will find himself anywhere other than Seattle in 2017.
The Chiefs are definitely taking a look at the top quarterback prospects. Chase Goodbread at NFL.com:
Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky aren’t the only top quarterback prospects getting a close look from the Kansas City Chiefs.
The club also recently hosted Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer on a pre-draft visit, as well, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. The Chiefs hold the No. 27 pick of the 2017 NFL Draft and have an established starter at quarterback in Alex Smith. Coach Andy Reid has said Smith is the team’s quarterback for the coming season, though he does enter his 13th year at age 32. Kansas City has already scheduled a workout with Trubisky, and met with Watson on Monday.
RB MARSHAWN LYNCH took one step closer to joining the Raiders on Wednesday. Kevin Patra at NFL.com:
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Marshawn Lynch told the Oakland Raiders he intends to un-retire, per a source informed of the situation.
The news comes as Lynch met at the Raiders facility with coach Jack Del Rio. Rapoport previously reported that if Del Rio signs off on Lynch, it could lead to a comeback.
Lynch’s desire to join his hometown team in Oakland is merely the first stage of the process. The running back’s contract is still held by the Seattle Seahawks, who would have to release Lynch or work out a trade with the Raiders.
Speaking on KIRO-AM in Seattle on Wednesday, Seahawks general manager John Schneider said moving Lynch to Oakland would go “in a smooth manner,” due to his relationship with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie, via the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta. Schneider added that Lynch would only want to return to play for the Raiders.
Beast Mode’s connection to Oakland is deep, so it’s understandable why the 30-year-old running back would want play for the Raiders.
For Oakland, adding Lynch would be a perfect fit. The Raiders lack a power back of Lynch’s caliber after letting Latavius Murray walk in free agency. Pairing Lynch with jitterbugs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard would complete Oakland’s backfield. With the running back trio, franchise quarterback Derek Carr on pace to return from injury and Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree catching passes, the Raiders would own an offense to make a Super Bowl run.
The caveat to the pairing would be Lynch’s ability to remain healthy after taking a year away from the NFL. In 2015, the bulldozing back missed nine games due to injury.
There are still several hurdles to leap before Lynch lands in Oakland, but Beast Mode’s desire to return is a big first step.
Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle thinks Tony Romo’s decision to go to CBS was a reflection on the Texans.
Tony Romo says he is healthier than he was in 2014 the last time he played a full NFL season.
Tony Romo says the competitive fire that burns inside athletes, the one that kept Brett Favre returning to the game he loves, always will burn within him.
Tony Romo said the Texans were at the top of the list of teams he considered playing for next season.
Yet, in the end, Romo eschewed all of those positives when he announced Tuesday that he would give up football to try his hand at being a color analyst for CBS, something he has never done.
He said his choice had nothing to do with the Texans.
“Obviously, Houston was at the top of the list of teams I looked at,” Romo said during a conference call to announce his new profession as a broadcaster as the replacement for Phil Simms. “It was a very difficult decision. I went back and forth many times. It had nothing to do with the Texans.”
It was all about his desire to work for CBS, Romo claimed, and no part of him wants to play (especially those parts that don’t want to play for the Texans).
So he’ll leave as a Super Bowl-ringless quarterback, who has never been in a conference championship game and played in only two playoff victories. That’s one more postseason win than Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler combined.
For further perspective, Tom Brady has played in at least two playoff wins in eight different seasons.
Basically, Romo, who never used the word retirement in a conference call to discuss his decision, took a look at the Texans’ situation and told the team “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I imagine the Texans had a Costanza-like conniption.
“You’re giving us the ‘it’s not you, it’s me routine? We invented ‘it’s not you, it’s us.’
Nobody tells us it’s them, not us. If it’s anybody … it’s us.”
In the above rant, the word “it” is a substitute for the phrase “the problem.”
The same problem
If you have learned nothing else in their 15 mostly woeful years of history, you know that when in doubt, assume the problem is the Texans.
A team with an offensive line that can get a young, healthy quarterback hurt, a set of inexperienced receivers that doesn’t frighten defenses and a head coach who to this point has talked (and yelled and cussed) a better game than he has coached.
Let’s not even debate what Romo could have done for the Texans.
He used to be a flawed, overrated quarterback, and just when he had improved to a championship level – his best season was 2014, his 11th – he became a breakable quarterback. He injured his back that year.
In 2015, he played in just four games, twice suffering a broken collarbone, the same one he originally broke in 2010. Last season he was limited to just one series, an end-of-the-year send-off on New Year’s Day, after he suffered a compression fracture to his back in a preseason game.
Regardless, Romo could have spent weekdays in traction and still been by far the best quarterback the Texans have ever had.
The question wasn’t about what Romo could do for the Texans, it was about what the Texans could do for Romo.
If Romo thought the Texans were as much of a lock Super Bowl contender as many believed they would be with him on the roster, he would have passed on the opportunity at CBS.
CBS’s offer wasn’t about to expire. It would have been there a year from now; two years from now.
Television networks would have been just as hot after Romo were he coming off a Super Bowl, as they were with him coming off a season in which he attempted a mere four passes.
As mentioned above, Romo kind of wanted to keep playing, though he says he doesn’t.
“For athletes that’s going to always be there … I think we all understand there’s a shelf life,” Romo said. “But as we learned with Brett Favre, that shelf life can obviously take on a life of its own.”
Favre, Romo’s idol, came back a few times.
Many around the NFL believe Romo is hardly done with his playing career. He is leaving too much meat on the bone. (Insert your own broken bones joke here.)
But would Romo do so to play for the Texans?’
A franchise that can easily win an “It’s not you, it’s us,” debate?
Poor Texans. It’s not CBS, it’s you.
QB DAVID FALES is getting a shot with the Dolphins. Chris Perkins in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The Miami Dolphins have signed quarterback David Fales, a 2014 sixth-round pick by the Chicago Bears. Fales played for Chicago when Dolphins coach Adam Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator.
Fales, who played at San Jose State, joins Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore and Brandon Doughty as quarterbacks that will be on the roster when the Dolphins open their offseason program April 17. Veteran quarterback T.J. Yates was signed for the final few games last season (he took one snap in the wild-card playoff game against Pittsburgh when Moore was briefly sidelined) but he’s an unrestricted free agent.
Fales spent most of the 2014 season on Chicago’s practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man roster in December of that year. He spent much of the 2015 season on the practice squad before being promoted in November.
Fales was cut by Chicago in 2016 before being signed to Baltimore’s practice squad. After being released and re-signed by the Ravens twice, Fales eventually signed by Chicago again and made his NFL debut in the regular-season finale against Minnesota. He was 2-of-5 passing for 22 yards.
THIS AND THAT
The fact that Tony Romo is in, does not mean that Phil Simms is out at CBS. This from USA TODAY, starting with a quote from CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus:
“We are discussing with Phil his future role with CBS Sports. We cannot thank him enough for the way he has represented himself and CBS Sports during his tenure as CBS’s lead NFL analyst.”
Simms’ long-time representative Steve Rosner told Tara Sullivan of North Jersey Media Group and the USA TODAY Network that the analyst had not been fired.
“Absolutely not,”Rosner said. “He has multiple years left on his contract. I’ve had a few brief discussions with CBS in regard to the future and we have decided at the moment that we will regroup within the next month or so and figure out what his future role will be.”
The DB has heard that Simms may just be sliding down to another crew for 2017, that he was willing to do so. The delay may be as CBS figures out the rest of the shuffle of talent and production staff with Simms moving. But that Simms himself is okay with being out of the limelight of the number one role.
The DB also hears that the rest of the top CBS production team had wearied of having to defend Simms from all the criticism directed his way (some warranted, some over the top) and do not have a problem with the network moving in a new, albeit untested, direction.
That said, Gary Myers of the New York Daily News is outraged:
Phil Simms thought Dan Reeves was calling him into his office to sign some footballs sitting on his desk.
It was June of 1994 and Simms was coming off an excellent 11-5 playoff season. But he was also recovering from offseason surgery to his throwing shoulder and making $2.5 million and he was 38 years old and he and the Giants had differing opinions whether he would be ready for training camp.
He was getting ready to work out in the weight room at Giants Stadium when Reeves approached him in the locker room and asked him to stop by. One year earlier in Reeves’ first season as Giants coach, he had a choice of two Super Bowl QBs: He picked Simms and allowed Jeff Hostetler to leave as a free agent.
Simms knew just 30 seconds into a 45-minute conversation that Reeves was cutting him. He was one of the first major casualties of the salary cap era. The move was endorsed by GM George Young, strongly opposed by owner Wellington Mara and it turned out to be a huge mistake. The Giants started a short-lived era of youngsters Dave Brown and Kent Graham at quarterback.
Twenty-three years later, it happened to Simms again this week when CBS became infatuated with Tony Romo and gave him Simms’ No. 1 job as its game analyst. Simms still has multiple years remaining on his contract and CBS may try to demote him to lesser games or just have him do “Inside the NFL” on CBS-owned Showtime or just settle his contract.
So, getting booted out of his starting job is nothing new to Simms.
Does CBS know if Romo will be a flop like Brown or Graham or whether he will become an immediate star like John Madden or Cris Collinsworth? It is betting on him being Collinsworth and praying he’s not Graham. He will be 37 on April 21. Simms is 62. Romo will appeal to a younger audience who never saw Simms play.
What the network does know is it just gave a rookie the spot that Simms held since CBS won the bidding for the AFC package in 1998, and the rookie has never been in front of a camera other than doing locker room interviews.
I think this is a big mistake that will reveal itself when CBS has its first big game, when as many eyes will be on Romo as the quarterbacks on the field.
When the red light comes on in the booth for the first time, it’s like Lawrence Taylor coming around the edge at a rookie quarterback. You better have a plan to survive. Simms learned the business as a studio analyst at ESPN before NBC and then CBS hired him as its No. 1 analyst. Romo goes from the field right into the No. 1 booth. That’s a lot of pressure.
“He understands that this is a really hard job,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said. “This is not something where you just walk into the booth, turn the microphone on and start talking. You’ve got to do your research, you’ve got to look at hours and hours of game film, you’ve got to talk to coaches, you’ve got to talk current players. The best analysts are often the ones that work the hardest.”
This would be easier to understand if CBS was replacing Simms with Peyton Manning, who is a natural in front of the camera and is funny, anecdotal and smart. He’s Peyton Manning. So far, he has shown no desire to do games. If he changes his mind, the networks will be lining up.
I’ve spoken to Romo on many occasions since Bill Parcells made him the Cowboys starter midway through the 2006 season. Really nice guy, speaks well, but he’s not Manning. I never thought he had that kind of outgoing personality that would work for a three-hour game.
The CBS bosses met him for the first time at the NFL’s Friday night Super Bowl party two years ago in Phoenix before the Patriots-Seahawks game. McManus asked Romo what he thought of the game, he gave a 10-minute answer and McManus decided a star was born and he was destined to be a No. 1 analyst. He will work with Jim Nantz, who can make anybody look good, but CBS never had Romo do a practice game with Nantz off the television to find out if he was any good at this.
Simms could provide the insight of what it’s like to be on a championship team, what it’s like to play in the conference title game and the pressure of playing in the Super Bowl. Romo was an excellent player with a total of two playoff victories. His best insight will come from his experience, so he should be very good talking about the frustration of debilitating injuries and season-killing fourth quarterback interceptions.
It’s not fair to come to definitive conclusions following Romo’s one-hour CBS conference call Tuesday, but I was not impressed. He was long-winded, monotone, not particularly insightful and not entertaining.
But he’s a Cowboys quarterback and that means a lot to the network folks. Don Meredith was the original Monday Night Football star. Roger Staubach did games for CBS for awhile and now Troy Aikman is the No. 1 analyst for Fox.
Romo was being courted by Fox to replace John Lynch on its No. 2 team. NBC wanted him also but probably to be part of the studio show. There was no way they would put him in the booth with Al Michaels and Collinsworth. CBS won out by offering him Simms’ job. The players with leverage want to be around the game, not in the studio.
Romo for Simms proves the television business is just as screwy as the football business.
Simms had his detractors among fans if you pay attention to Twitter. But nobody prepared harder or had more knowledge about the game. He was dedicated to his job. He missed the high school and college football careers of his quarterback sons Chris and Matt because when they were playing on high school Friday nights in New Jersey he was watching practice and meeting with players and coaches of the home team playing in the Sunday game he was doing and on Saturday he was meeting with the visiting teams and players.
If he was doing a game in New England, a few times he would sneak home for a game and go right back up to Foxborough. If he was doing a game at the Meadowlands, well, that was convenient. He rarely got to see Chris play at Texas or Matt play at Tennessee. He was compensated well and enjoyed his job. He had a good run.
But if Romo turns out to be Brown or Graham, it’s not going to take long to find out.
Let’s see what Rob Rang of CBSSports.com has in his latest Mock Draft:
1. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M:
The clear top need in Cleveland is at quarterback but frankly it would be a stunner if anyone other than Garrett was the first pick, as he is simply the best player in the draft. Garrett lived up to his hype at the Combine, dazzling with his combination of size (6-4, 272), power (33 repetitions of 225 pounds) and speed (4.64) and explosiveness (41-inch vertical).
2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford:
Head coach Kyle Shanahan was hired to help spark a listless offense that ranked 27th in the NFL in points scored and dead last in passing last season but ignoring better players just to draft a quarterback may only guarantee another poor season in 2017. Thomas is a natural disruptor who has drawn comparisons to LA Rams star Aaron Donald. He could be the perfect finishing touch for a defense line currently better prepared to stuff the run than bother rival quarterbacks.
3. CHICAGO BEARS
Jamal Adams, SS, LSU:
Safety has long been a sore spot in Chicago with only one Bears safety (Mike Brown) earning an invitation to the Pro Bowl over the past 20 years. Adams has that kind of potential and is viewed by some as the safest prospect in the draft. He is a tone-setter with a rare combination of instincts, athleticism and intangibles to make an immediate impact on a defense that made strides a year ago but allowed 24.9 points per game, 24th in the NFL.
4. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU:
Splashy signings in free agency suggest that the Jaguars are looking for an immediate difference-maker with this pick. The Cowboys went from last to first in the NFC during the regular season a year ago in large part because of the stellar play of 2016 No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott and the Jaguars could see a similar bounce with Fournette taking the pressure off of young Blake Bortles and the passing game. Fournette was not as impressive at the Combine as expected but he is a freakish talent, boasting the most exciting combination of size, speed and power since Adrian Peterson.
5. TENNESSEE TITANS (FROM LOS ANGELES)
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State:
The addition of veterans Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien help but only the most optimistic of Titans fans believe that they can turn a secondary that ranked 31st a year ago against the pass into an elite unit. Now if a talent like Lattimore was added to the mix, on the other hand, optimism would be much higher. Lattimore struggled with hamstring injuries early in his career at Ohio State but he was dominant last season, showing the easy agility, acceleration and instincts to project as a future Pro Bowler.
6. NY JETS
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: If the Jets indeed plan on entering next year with Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg at quarterback, adding weapons in the passing game is a must. After spectacular performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine, Howard is gaining traction as the top pass-catcher in this draft and a top 10 pick.
7. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State:
The Chargers won big with Joey Bosa a year ago and could see another Buckeye as an ideal replacement for Eric Weddle, whom the club clearly missed in 2016. The 6-foot-2, 205 pound Hooker possesses the range and ballskills to complement the Chargers’ small but physical cornerbacks.
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama:
Defensive line is not necessarily the biggest concern in Carolina but general manager Dave Gettleman may have a hard time letting a talent like Allen slip any further. Questions about the health of his shoulders and schematic fit could hound the 6-3, 286-pound Allen, but the tape does not lie; he is agile, powerful and technically refined, possessing the ability to play virtually anywhere along the defensive line.
9. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan:
10. BUFFALO BILLS
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson:
With significant losses to both position groups in recent weeks, this selection is likely to be spent on either a wide receiver or a cornerback. Given the commitment made to resigned quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the depth at cornerback this year, GM Doug Whaley may like the idea of pairing the 6-4, 218 pound Williams with his former Clemson teammate Watkins to give Taylor a pair of playmakers on the outside.
11. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama:
The Saints ranked dead last in pass defense in 2016 and may opt to trade this or another pick for New England Patriots’ star cornerback Malcolm Butler in an attempt to fix the issue. Until that occurs, adding talent in the secondary is likely New Orleans’ top priority. Humphrey is an NFL legacy with a rare combination of size (6-0, 197 pounds) and speed (4.41), who at just 20-years old appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential.
12. CLEVELAND BROWNS (FROM PHILADELPHIA)
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina:
The splashy trade for Brock Osweiler is not likely to keep Cleveland from drafting another quarterback. Trubisky is obviously a roll of the dice given that he only started one year for the Tar Heels but he showed impressive accuracy, athleticism and pocket awareness in 2016. The Ohio native possesses the combination of upside and intangibles that Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson prioritized with their draft picks a year ago.
13. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech:
The Cardinals have publicly stated their intention to find a young quarterback to groom under Carson Palmer and teams are excited about Mahomes’ upside. After starring in Tech’s shotgun-heavy Air-Raid offense, Mahomes is undeniably a project but he possesses the gunslinger mentality and arm talent to excite Bruce Arians.
14. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (FROM MINNESOTA)
Jabrill Peppers, SS, Michigan:
Given the dynamic pass-catchers the Eagles face annually in the NFC East, addressing a leaky secondary should be among Philadelphia’s top priorities. Peppers is a polarizing prospect in the scouting community based in large part because he recorded just one interception over his career at Michigan. However, he is an instinctive, versatile player with the open-field tackling skills and competitive nature to quickly become a fan favorite.
15. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford:
Sure, adding a defender would appear to make the most sense but injecting the speed and playmaking ability of McCaffrey into a backfield currently build around steady (but slow) veterans Frank Gore and Robert Turbin could be precisely what the Colts need to spark a return to the playoffs.
16. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee:
Barnett lacks the length and pure explosiveness scouts would prefer, which could lead to his slipping a bit on draft day. Barnett’s instincts, use of hands and production (33 sacks over the past three years), however, could have him ultimately outplay his draft slot.
17. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama:
The Redskins surrendered an average of nearly 120 yards per game on the ground in 2016 and only three teams (the Chargers, Bills and 49ers) allowed more than their 19 rushing touchdowns. Foster was kicked out of the Combine after a run-in with medical personnel but his talent is undeniable. Possessing remarkable closing speed and the physicality to intimidate, he could prove a steal at this point in the draft.
18. TENNESSEE TITANS
John Ross, WR, Washington:
With Marcus Mariota’s speed and the two-headed monster of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the backfield, Tennessee clearly has a run-first strategy on offense. That said, Ross’ incredible straight-line speed would force opposing defensive coordinators to think twice before crowding the box. Further, Ross would add juice to a special teams unit that ranked 20th a season ago in punt return average (7.9) and 26th on kickoffs (19.1).
19. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.):
Cameron Brate has developed into a very solid young security blanket for Jameis Winston but he does not possess Njoku’s big play potential. The 20-year old Njoku is still very much a work in progress but scouts are enamored with the 6-4, 246-pounder’s ability to create mismatches in the passing game.
20. DENVER BRONCOS
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah:
On paper, the signings of former Raiders right tackle Menelik Watson and Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary make up for the decision to let starting left tackle Russell Okung walk in free agency but reality could prove different. Bolles is a work in progress after only starting one year at Utah and comes with some character red flags. He has the highest upside of any lineman in this class, however, boasting the light feet and competitive nature to project as a future standout left tackle.
21. DETROIT LIONS
Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple:
The Lions addressed concerns along the offensive and defensive lines through free agency but lost speed at linebacker with the decision to release DeAndre Levy. Reddick recorded 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks as an edge rusher for the Owls in 2016 before wowing first at the Senior Bowl as a more traditional linebacker at the Senior Bowl and then at the Combine, recording a ridiculous 4.52 second time in the 40-yard dash and 11-foot-1-inch broad jump at 6-1, 234 pounds.
22. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky:
Trading away starting left tackle Branden Albert (to Jacksonville) says a lot about the Dolphins’ confidence in last year’s first round pick Laremy Tunsil. While Tunsil should have no problem re-acclimating to tackle after starring at left guard last season, his absence inside could be an issue. Lamp looks like a plug and play solution after a seamless transition inside to guard at the Senior Bowl.
23. NY GIANTS
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin:
The Giants struggled to protect Eli Manning and rushed for a miniscule 3.5 yards per carry in 2016, scoring a league-low six touchdowns on the ground. Ramczyk has the feet to handle blindside duties and at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, possesses the girth to move people in the running game, as well. He is a clear athletic upgrade than current Giants’ left tackle Ereck Flowers, who projects better on the right side.
24. OAKLAND RAIDERS
Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State:
The Raiders’ rise to the playoffs is directly attributable to its explosive offense but if the club is to take the next step — and remain a consistent postseason threat — help must be on the way for a defense that surrendered an average of 375 yards per game, 26th in the NFL. In his postseason wrap-up, Jack Del Rio stressed the need to create more of disruption on the interior, which is exactly what the 6-5, 285 pound McDowell does best.
25. HOUSTON TEXANS
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson:
Getting rid of the colossal Osweiler contract was a relief in itself but unless a veteran replacement (Tony Romo?) is found, quarterback is now the top priority again in Houston. Watson’s ability to deliver in the clutch intrigues scouts but he also threw an FBS-worst 30 interceptions over the past two seasons, making him a polarizing player in the scouting community. At this point in the draft, however, GM Rick Smith might see him as simply too talented to pass up.
26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
(10-5-1) Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama:
It is no secret that the Seahawks’ top priority over the offseason would be addressing a leaky offensive line. Robinson, the reigning Outland Award winner as the nation’s top blocker, possesses the size and strength Seattle prioritizes with a skill-set which projects well to guard or tackle, wherever offensive line coach Tom Cable needs him most.
27. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Korey Cunningham, OT, Cincinnati:
The Chiefs have some massive shoes to fill up the middle with nose guard Dontari Poe walking in free agency and the 34-year old Derrick Johnson recuperating from his second season-ending Achilles tear over the past three years. The 6-3, 234-pound Cunningham — a two-time First Team All-SEC defender who led the conference in tackles last season — has the length, awareness and speed to help immediately.
28. DALLAS COWBOYS
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri:
The Cowboys’ gambles on recent character concerns at pass rusher have not paid off and adding a playmaker to this unit should be a top priority. Harris possesses the burst, bend and lethal spin move to wreak havoc off the edge and, after only joining the sport as a junior in high school, he possesses the upside for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to develop.
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State:
Running back is far from Green Bay’s biggest concern but after allowing Eddie Lacy to leave via free agency, the Packers will almost surely be looking for help there via the draft. Cook is a top 20 talent but questions about his shoulders and decisions off the field could lead to a surprising drop on draft day.
30. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Obi Melifonwu, SS, Connecticut:
Two years ago, it was former Husky Byron Jones who wowed scouts at the Combine with his sheer athleticism, earning a first round pick by Dallas. Melifonwu was one of this year’s brightest stars in Indianapolis, producing a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, 44-inch vertical and 11-feet-3-inch broad jump at 6-4, 224 pounds. Better yet, Melifonwu’s athleticism translates onto the field and the Steelers could use his range in the deep patrol.
31. ATLANTA FALCONS
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri:
The need for more juice in the pass rush was evident throughout the second half collapse in the Super Bowl. The 6-3, 253-pound Harris would be an ideal changeup to the similarly sized Vic Beasley. Harris may lack Beasley’s initial burst but he possesses a full complement of pass rush moves and plays with the intensity head coach Dan Quinn will appreciate.
32. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (FROM NEW ENGLAND)
Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA:
The Saints ranked 27th in the NFL a year ago with just 30 sacks, a real concern given the quarterback talent in the NFC South. Help is on the way with former Arizona Cardinals’ edge rusher Alex Okafor but he signed only a one-year deal. McKinley’s stock is a bit in flux after recently undergoing shoulder surgery but he possesses the explosive first step, arm length (34 3/4 inches) and high-revving motor to ultimately prove one of the best edge rushers from this year’s class.