The Daily Briefing Friday, March 24, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

The Commish shares your pain when an NFL broadcast “doubles up” with a 2nd round of commercials after a kickoff.  Never again, he says, but that doesn’t mean less time away from the action.  Tom Pelissero of USA Today:

ESPN’s officiating guru Kevin Seifert looks at upcoming changes in replay:

 

The NFL’s plan to centralize replay review is best viewed as the formalization of a trend that has developed during the past three years. Let’s take a closer look at what we know about how the process will unfold during the 2017 season.

 

What’s the big takeaway here?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed this week, including Thursday via ESPN Radio, that senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino will make the final decision on all replay reviews. (Update: Goodell must be confident that the change will meet the approval of NFL owners, who meet next week in Phoenix.)

 

Wait, wasn’t Blandino already doing this?

Technically, no. Realistically, in many cases, yes.

 

Huh?

Well, give me a second to explain.

 

How did the process work before now?

Since the start of the 2014 season, Blandino and several other league officials monitored games from their New York-based GameDay Central room. There were enough people involved to alert Blandino, or senior director of officiating Al Riveron, to a controversial call even before a challenge was initiated. So by the time the referee stopped the game and arrived at the sideline hood, Blandino or Riveron usually had seen the play and had begun forming an opinion.

 

So who made the final call?

By rule, that responsibility rested with the referee. But Blandino was in a position to impose a strong influence.

 

Really?

Sure. Say you went to the office to fix a problem and found that your boss was already there with a proposed solution. You would need a pretty compelling reason to go in a different direction, right? The same concept applies here. That’s not to say Blandino dictated every replay decision of the past three seasons. But it’s reasonable to assume he was able to direct many of them based purely on the convenience of his position in front of the screen.

 

So are the on-field referees completely looped out?

No. The hood will disappear — long live the hood! — but a member of the NFL’s GameDay staff will deliver a video tablet to the referee. He will view all replay angles on that device and be in verbal communication with Blandino via a wireless headset. So the referee will have a consult and also be in a position to explain why the decision was made.

 

Are there any other changes?

Yes. According to Goodell, referees will announce the decision to the stadium — even if the game broadcast is in a commercial break — as soon as it is ready. In 2016, the average time of review was 43 seconds. Advertisements can take up to two minutes.

 

Is this a better approach?

Goodell said Thursday that he thinks the process will move “much quicker” and contribute to a leaguewide effort to accelerate the pace of games. That makes intuitive sense given the technology involved.

 

Is speed the only benefit?

Theoretically, no. With one person responsible for all decisions, replay reviews can be more consistent. Blandino has championed a standard of identifying a “clear and obvious” mistake for overturning any call via replay. The subjective nature of that standard means it can be interpreted differently from referee to referee. It is more likely to be uniform if it is centralized through one person.

 

What’s the downside here?

Off-field authority for game management adds a level of uncertainty and mystery to a process that has traditionally played out in front of our eyes. Whether we agreed with their decisions, we could see and identify the people responsible for making them. Transferring some of that power to officials who operate behind closed doors by definition adds uncertainty and could subtract transparency.

 

So you’re saying this could spawn more conspiracy theories?

In a worst-case scenario, someone with an agenda could advance it much more efficiently if he had direct access to every game.

 

Could that really happen?

I mean, if you want to spend your time worrying that nefarious forces are favoring Team X and targeting Team Y, well, go ahead. (Based on what I see during the season, many of you already are.)

 

So what’s the bottom line here?

Other than replacing the hood with the tablet, these changes won’t be hugely noticeable to outside observers. They do represent a good chance to be more efficient and consistent, however. Over time, replay decisions based on a well-publicized standard will make sense even if we don’t agree with them.

 

– – –

The NFL usually goes to break when a team scores a touchdown, but when they don’t The Commish, now obsessed with game speed after satisfying his desire to punish TOM BRADY, wants a clock ticking.  Marc Sessler at NFL.com:

 

Roger Goodell has speed on the mind.

 

When the NFL Commissioner sat down with NFL Network’s Judy Battista on Thursday, the pace of the game — and, specifically, how to increase it — loomed large.

 

“It has been an effort for a long period of time. We’ve talked about the length of the game,” Goodell said. “This effort’s not as focused on the length of the game. This is focused on what’s happening outside the plays — how fast we get the ball set, the number of breaks, the number of intrusions — so that fans can focus on the action.”

 

 

Goodell stressed a desire to see fewer “interruptions that are unnecessary or unnecessary in length,” saying the league has a “whole package of things that we’ve studied over the last year” to speed things up.

 

One idea? The concept of a “shot clock” that would tick off between an extra point and the ensuing kickoff.

 

“I think there was a very positive reaction to that,” Goodell said of NFL’s Competition Committee. “Most of the players that are on the extra point — maybe a tight end, maybe a kicker — are not on the kickoff team. So their special teams coaches will have to get prepared for the kickoff team and get them out there. Of course, this is when we don’t go to a commercial break. But there’s a lot of wasted time in there where, again, we want to take that out of the game. And this does not affect the 156 plays during the game. This is all about outside of the plays and what we can do to try and take that downtime out.”

 

It would be similar to the clock that now runs in MLB between innings.

– – –

The Competition Committee is proposing a rule that would eliminate the awkward wait the 49ers endured while Kyle Shanahan finished out his time with Atlanta.  Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The NFL has plenty of rules that often are ignored. Unless those rules are going to be enforced, they should be changed.

 

Case in point: The current rules prohibit teams from hiring head coaches employed as assistants by other teams whose postseasons have not yet ended. Twice in the last three years, however, the worst-kept secret in the NFL centered on a team having a deal in place with an assistant from a Super Bowl team.

 

And so the rule could be going away. The Competition Committee has proposed a rule change permitting a club to “negotiate and reach an agreement with a head coach candidate during the postseason prior to the conclusion of the employer club’s season.”

 

It’s a rule that is long overdue. It was overdue two years ago, when the Falcons had a wink-nod deal in place with former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. And it’s even more overdue now, after the 49ers had a wink-nod deal in place with former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

 

Will it be a distraction for the assistant coach? Nope. If anything, it will remove the potential distraction that arises when a guy who knows that, if his team keeps winning, he won’t get hired. That happened five years ago, when the Buccaneers decided they could no longer wait for former Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

The Bears have added QB MARK SANCHEZ to the mix.  Jeff Dickerson at ESPN.com on what it means:

 

Searching for another quarterback to play behind starter Mike Glennon, the Bears agreed to terms with veteran Mark Sanchez on Thursday.

 

Sanchez, 30, spent much of last season as Dak Prescott’s backup in Dallas. The fifth overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft, Sanchez started for the New York Jets for four seasons before being relegated to reserve roles for the Eagles and Cowboys.

 

Terms: One year; financial details still being worked out

 

What it means: The Bears had to sign another quarterback with experience. Chicago re-upped Connor Shaw in the offseason, but he missed all of 2016 with a broken leg suffered in the final exhibition game. Prior to joining the Bears, Shaw played in just one regular-season game, for the Cleveland Browns in 2014. Chicago didn’t want to enter training camp with only Glennon, Shaw and a rookie quarterback on its depth chart. Sanchez has been in the league for seven years, so the Bears know what to expect. The same cannot be said for Shaw and/or whichever quarterback the Bears presumably draft. The Bears can do a lot worse than Sanchez as a backup. And by all accounts, Sanchez did a pretty good job in the quarterbacks room last season as Prescott emerged as the No. 1 guy in Dallas.

 

What’s the risk? Well, the Bears still have to find their quarterback of the future. Glennon — guaranteed $16 million in 2017 — has a sterling reputation, according to coaches he worked alongside in Tampa. However, he hasn’t started a game in more than two years, so a certain leap of faith is required. The smartest approach for the Bears is to nurture Glennon but still actively search for their future franchise passer … and those players are almost always found via the draft. So Sanchez’s arrival cannot alter Chicago’s plan to draft a quarterback, if the correct one is available. Also, Sanchez is basically an average player. The Bears might be in trouble if he is forced to play for long stretches of time, but the same can be said for almost every backup in the league.

 

NFC EAST

 

WASHINGTON

Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com boosts the candidacy of Redskins cap whiz Eric Schaffer for a promotion:

 

The Washington Redskins’ pursuit of a new general manager remains in full swing. It may turn out to be a somewhat futile process in terms of landing the type of prime candidate they purport to be interested in, but the effort, on the surface at least, seems sincere.

 

According to numerous league sources, Redskins representatives are reaching out to some of the more successful organizations in the NFL seeking to find a highly qualified executive to fill their GM job that was created after the club fired Scot McCloughan, a move the team made for cause due for allegations about his drinking impacting his ability to do the job.

 

Running personnel for owner Dan Snyder has generally been an unforgiving road to nowhere and filling this position now will be increasingly difficult.

 

But the Redskins are trying and they are casting a wide net, reaching out to potential general managers who have enjoyed success with Pittsburgh, Seattle, Green Bay and elsewhere. Their goal is to land someone with a very strong resume from one of the NFL’s top franchises — precisely the kind of guys who would generally want nothing to do with this type of opening.

 

Sources said the team is dangling a salary in the $1.5 million-per-year range, which won’t blow anyone uber-qualified away. Several of Washington’s targets have already bailed out at the initial stage — disinterested in even interviewing for the job — because of concerns over how Snyder has run the team and the over-reaching powers of Bruce Allen, the team president.

 

But they most definitely continue to look around and this process is hardly limited to people like former Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik, who worked with Allen in Tampa, or former Chargers GM A.J. Smith (neither of whom is expected to land the position), who was brought in as a consultant years ago and is tight with Allen. Another name mentioned, NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock, has been linked to the job as well.

The Redskins are trying to land someone established and currently with a winning franchise.

 

The primary issue that many of those A-List types have is the age-old one in Washington — who really has the power?

 

Allen isn’t going anywhere in the short term it seems — some believe he is a made man at least unless or until Snyder gets a new stadium built — and that’s a problem. Allen controls the Redskins’ pursue strings, budgets and can effectively veto moves by dissuading the owner from opening the coffers for a particular players (oh, like, say franchise-tag quarterback Kirk Cousins a year ago).

 

If Allen controls the money — and he has since he’s been there even during McCloughan’s brief heyday of “personnel control” — then he controls the building.

Oh, and there are the same old issues as well about whether or not Snyder will really spend sufficiently on his scouts, evaluators and infrastructure within football operations to procure and retain the type of front office staff it generally requires to win at the highest levels. It takes a village my friends, not just a GM, and if the prime candidates feel they won’t get the purse to bring in their most trusted lieutenants, then the job looks even less appealing.

 

So, let’s call it an uphill chore. And one that might ultimately result in few takers.

Which would bring the Redskins back to the kind of figurehead, puppet regime many believe Allen wants deep down inside, with little to no checks and balances in personnel decisions. Furthermore, given the unusual timing of Washington’s GM search, teams could block any current employee from interviewing for the job if they so choose.

 

Nothing is going to happen until after the NFL Draft (April 27-29), though the sense I get is the Redskins would like to have this nailed down before then if possible and certainly want to make the formal transition as close to the conclusion of the draft as possible.

Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder if they follow a recent trend of somewhat outside-the-box hires (Browns promoting lawyer Sashi Brown to GM; 49ers hiring John Lynch out of the FOX broadcast booth to be their GM) and give their longtime ace contract negotiator and cap whiz Eric Schaffer a shot running the team.

 

Schaffer has spent 14 years in a management position with the team — 14 years in Ashburn; that’s astonishing — and is one of the truly key members of the organization. He’s spent more than a decade as the club’s vice president of football administration, finding ways to turn Snyder’s whims into reality and navigating the cap. He’s highly respected as a contract negotiator and well liked within the building by “football people” and “non-football people” alike.

 

Would Snyder consider giving Eric Schaffer a shot at running the team?  Getty Images

Schaffer is a critical thinker and a team player and also serves as the team’s general counsel, advising the team on all legal matters. He is very well thought of inside and outside of Washington and empowering him wouldn’t be anything close to crazy. He is the rare highly qualified person able to last with Snyder and, while not a traditional GM candidate, his promotion would be well received within that franchise and would help rebuild the ebbing morale there.

 

The Redskins could do far worse than promote personnel men Doug Williams or Alex Santos to the job, either. But at a time when the league is moving in some mysterious ways, and given the backgrounds of some of the outside candidates the Redskins are interested in, Schaffer is not all that different in terms of his skill-set than some of them. He can already navigate the many minefields in that building and he understands the challenges of the personalities involved and could bring more strategic thinking to the fore.

– – –

Whatever else one thinks of Daniel Snyder, we admire the way he has stood up to the bullies who want him to change the name of his team.  And now there is this from Patrick Redford at Deadspin.com:

 

Thursday Night Football is the NFL at its worst. Between the half-rested players and the blindingly ugly uniforms, it’s no wonder that Richard Sherman characterized it as a “poopfest.” Two years ago, the NFL made teams play in monochromatic Nike “Color Rush” jerseys for the express purpose of selling more shit, even though they made the game an indecipherable mess for colorblind fans and generally looked like dumb pajamas. The NFL admitted they had maybe gone too far with the jerseys, and toned it down a bit last season. However, “toning it down” still looks (bad).

 

Next week, league owners will meet to vote on a number of proposed new policies, including the Raiders’ possible move to Vegas. They will also vote on 15 new rules, three resolutions, six new bylaws, one of which is a proposal by Washington to eliminate Color Rush jerseys. The team needed to cite a reason for the proposed bylaw, and they simply said “garish uniforms.”

 

Conflicting Club Colors

 

19.9 (B) The home club shall have the option of deciding whether the visiting club shall wear white jerseys or shall wear the colors awarded to the visiting team in any League game, regular season or preseason. The home club is obligated to give written notice to the visiting club and to the Commissioner of its decision on the colors of the jerseys to be worn by the visiting club, which notification must be given by July 1st of the year in which the game is scheduled to be played. If either participating club fails to conform to the jersey colors designated for such game, then there shall be an automatic fine against the offending club of $5,000, which sum shall be payable to the League office; provided, however, that there shall be no discipline imposed upon a club that elects not to utilize the jersey colors designated pursuant to 2014 Resolution BV-2. Despite the foregoing, in the event that the colors of the participating teams as so designated are in conflict for a League game, regular season or preseason, the Commissioner shall have the right to designate the traditional colors to be used by the competing teams in such game.

 

Submitted by Washington

 

Effect: Permits clubs to opt out of the “color rush” jerseys created for Thursday Night Football.

 

Reason: Garish uniforms.

 

John Keim of ESPN.com approves:

 

If the Redskins are able to have the league eliminate this requirement, some will view it as one of Washington’s best offseason moves.

 

And it makes more sense, as some uniforms were quite garish: The Redskins’ unis, if they ever have to wear them, would be gold on gold with burgundy numbers. Denver was all orange (though the souped-up, old-school Broncos helmets were good). But there are stylish ones; Carolina’s blue with black stripes on the sleeves and white jersey numbers springs to mind. But not every team comes across well.

 

This from FoxSports.com:

 

Ironically, the Redskins – along with the Colts, Lions and Browns – didn’t have to wear the jerseys last season because their only Thursday game was on Thanksgiving afternoon, allowing them to sidestep the rule that requires teams to wear Color Rush uniforms during Thursday night games.

 

Judging by the look of the Redskins version, we see why they want no part of the concept.

 

 

@michaelpRTD

Redskins given all-yellow ‘Color Rush’ uniforms, but won’t wear them:

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Plenty of Mock Drafts have the Panthers phasing out RB JONATHAN STEWART with a first round running back.  Still, he just got an extension.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

The Carolina Panthers want running back Jonathan Stewart around beyond 2017.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that Carolina extended Stewart’s contract one year, meaning he’s signed through 2018.

 

The 30-year-old running back was slated to count $8.5 million against the salary cap in 2017. The extension alleviates part of that hefty number this season, while giving Stewart some security for next year.

 

This type of extension for a veteran is a common move for teams to earn cap space in the short term. What it secures, is that Stewart — a player some thought could be a surprise cap casualty — is in the Panthers plans at least this season and perhaps beyond.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

PK NICK FOLK lets the world know he thinks he can beat generational kicker ROBERTO AGUAYO in a fair fight.  Dan Hannzus at NFL.com:

 

Folk has enjoyed a very solid career, fresh off a seven-year run with the Jets where he became the most accurate kicker in franchise history. In a radio spot this week, Folk made it clear he (wait for it) didn’t come here to make friends.

 

“I can hopefully get (Aguayo) going a little bit in the NFL world,” Folk told WDAE-AM, via JoeBucsFan.com. “I had a great guy to learn from in Martin (Gramatica) my rookie year. I kind of picked things off of him just sitting and watching. I mean, hopefully, I can show (Aguayo) a few things, not too many, because I have a family to feed.”

 

YES. GAUNTLET THROWN DOWN. Props to Folk, who isn’t hiding his ambition here: He is a place-kicking terminator brought here to end Aguayo’s Bucs career before it ever really started.

 

All we need now is for Robbie to clap back at a charity golf event or something and we … are … flying.

 

AFC WEST

 

OAKLAND

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News with his views on the Raiders, Las Vegas and what little is left in Oakland:

 

The Raiders’ future? As NFL owners get set to congregate in Arizona over the next few days, all attention is on Las Vegas, its freely available money (whether or not that’s wise), and the Raiders’ desire to relocate there.

 

Not on Oakland. And its lack of available money (which I think is wise). And the Raiders’ and the NFL’s extreme disinterest in, and distaste for, any potential plan to keep the team in the East Bay.

You can blame whoever you want for this, and there is plenty of it to go around, but for all Raiders purposes, Oakland is in the rear-view mirror, past-tense, removed from viability in this conversation.

 

(Except for the plan to keep playing in the Coliseum two more seasons while the prospective Las Vegas stadium is constructed, and yes, that could get quite awkward.)

 

For the upcoming meeting, this is singularly about the owners deciding whether Las Vegas is ready for a “yes” vote.

 

It’s not about Oakland; it’s not about Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf and Ronnie Lott’s development group trying to round up nine “no” votes for Vegas.

 

Because the NFL owners just aren’t listening to any Oakland representative anymore; there just isn’t an Oakland deal there that the NFL will consider and they have that Las Vegas money sitting there on the table.

 

The exact site in Las Vegas hasn’t quite been picked out yet, the terms of the lease agreement are still slightly blurry in some areas, and Bank of America only recently jumped into the picture to fill the $650 million gap opened up when casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (and Goldman Sachs) exited the project.

 

 

There are questions to ask and numbers to clarify, no doubt. And if there is an up-or-down vote for Las Vegas, it likely will be conditional just on firming up some of the numbers that the owners can only assume at this point.

 

But from very credible reports just in the last few days by CBS’ Jason La Canfora, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB and the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s obvious that the NFL’s process has shifted from figuring out if Las Vegas can work … to making sure that it does.

 

If there’s a debate over approval, it’ll be over Las Vegas issues, not because the NFL is trying to give Oakland more time. If there’s a delay over Las Vegas, it’ll be because the owners want more time to clarify the Nevada deal, not over any second thoughts about Oakland.

 

Basically, my understanding is that the NFL itself is tacitly back-boarding the Bank of America loan with a “will not fail” promise to the bank.

 

If Raiders owner Mark Davis cannot meet the future debt-service payments, the strength and liquidity of the NFL will guarantee the payments, and nobody has ever gone bankrupt betting on the NFL’s financial heft.

 

That’s a guarantee that the NFL either was not asked, or was not willing to make, in potential Oakland dealings, by the way.

 

Breer reported another key piece of information: The NFL likely will keep the Las Vegas relocation fee relatively low, under $400 million (payable over many years), instead of the $650 million fee for the Chargers and Rams to move to Los Angeles.

 

This is the NFL deciding that it needs to get the Raiders’ situation concluded and that the only way to do that now is to approve Las Vegas.

 

The owners can’t walk away from the $750 million already approved by the Nevada legislature for this project, and they know Davis is not likely to put together a stadium deal in any other way.

 

And by now the NFL absolutely knows that Davis can’t get this deal done in Oakland.

 

That is the essential point here: Davis plus Oakland is the specific combination that doesn’t work.

 

And if you can’t subtract Davis from this formula, well, there’s only one thing the NFL can do: Split off Oakland from this situation and try somewhere else.

 

Or else this will be stalemated forever and the NFL is signalling that it cannot stomach any further stalemate.

 

Even if the owners don’t especially want to leave the Bay Area with the East Bay booming, even if the owners know that Davis probably could’ve done a lot more to position himself to get a stadium done in Oakland, the relevant truths are that Davis is the owner and he can’t get it done in Oakland.

 

And the owners owe one to Davis, who tried to get a stadium deal in Oakland as best he could, gave up about two years ago, then played along with the owners when they rejected his attempt to move to Carson.

 

Oh, and he’s not selling the team.

 

Yes, the NFL has wanted to try to make Oakland work — or to get Davis to agree to spend a few years in Levi’s Stadium — but what we’re seeing now is some strong percentage of the owners deciding in real time that it’s just not going to happen.

 

So this clarifies things, but just not in the way anybody for keeping the Raiders in Oakland would want.

 

If the league believes the financing is workable for the Las Vegas plan, the Raiders’ application to move will be passed by a relocation committee.

 

If it goes to the committee, approval for Las Vegas will be recommended and it will go to a vote before the full ownership body, possibly by Monday.

 

If it goes up for a final ownership vote, it will — by all indications — get the 24 votes necessary for approval, and maybe many more than 24.

 

And the post-Oakland days for the Raiders, except for those two or three purgatory years waiting for the new stadium, will have officially begun.

 

 

SAN DIEGO

Michael Gehlken, now of ProFootballTalk.com, formerly of the San Diego Union-Tribune, seems to think the Los Angeles Chargers have been selling tickets slowly.  At sky high prices, the DB is surprised they have sold so many:

 

The Chargers will avoid the sight of empty seats in their first season in Los Angeles.

 

They just won’t set any speed records when doing so.

 

According to an ESPN report, the franchise has sold all but about 600 of its season tickets for 2017. However steady the progress, selling out a 30,000-seat StubHub Center has been a process unlike what the Rams experienced when making their Los Angeles return in 2016.

 

The Rams sold all 70,000 of their season tickets in six hours.

 

The Chargers have taken longer to sell less.

 

They began accepting $100 refundable deposits on Jan. 12 and announced season-ticket prices on Feb. 14. They opened business to existing season-ticket holders (those from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego) on Feb. 22 and to other customers on March 9, a club source said Thursday evening. So, it’s been two weeks since the public sale opened.

 

This was never a competition with the Rams. The Chargers know what they’re up against in a new market.

 

Their team slogan, “Fight for L.A.,” was chosen for a reason.

– – –

QB PHILIP RIVERS has seen the Mock Drafts that say the Chargers should draft a QB.  He issues some advice against it if the team is planning on optimizing its draft picks.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com

 

The Los Angeles Chargers continue to do due diligence on young quarterbacks.

 

The L.A. brass has reportedly met with Patrick Mahomes and Josh Dobbs ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft and will work out DeShone Kizer on Friday, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. It continues a trend from the past several seasons of general manager Tom Telesco and his group working out possible heirs to Philip Rivers.

 

The 35-year-old Rivers understands the prudence behind adding a fledgling signal-caller to the quarterback room, but doesn’t plan on handing over the reins anytime soon.

 

“I think it’s to be expected they’re going to get a young guy in the room to try and develop him and groom him,” Rivers told KLSD-AM, via ESPN.com. “It doesn’t by any means really affect me. I think it’s healthy for me. … This thing doesn’t last forever. I have to get to playing better and keep this thing going as long as you can.

 

“As long as I do that, then whoever it is they bring in here, they’re going to sit for a while.”

 

We should note that Rivers led the NFL last year with 21 interceptions.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

T JOE THOMAS must have been watching QB MITCHELL TRUBINSKY’s Pro Day.  Conor Orr at NFL.com:

 

Has Cleveland Browns franchise stalwart Joe Thomas changed his tune on selecting a franchise quarterback?

 

“I know that Mitchell Trubisky is probably the guy that has the most upside potential in a pro-style offense in the NFL, and I don’t see those other guys as obvious fits in NFL offenses,” Thomas said on WKRK-FM in Cleveland, via Ohio.com. “So if you’re going to take a guy, he might be your guy you want to take. With that being said, I think he’s only started for a year, so he’s got a lot of improvement to make before he is ready to be the starting quarterback.”

 

Back in January, the 10-time Pro Bowler told me that the odds of hitting on a quarterback would not be conducive to reaching in the first round of the NFL draft.

 

“You have to accept a couple of tough years,” Thomas said on the same day he told the Dan Patrick Show that the team needs to be careful. “That’s just the way it is. There are no quick fixes in the NFL. You could get lucky and a franchise quarterback falls into your lap, and then you turn your franchise around. But the chances of that happening, even with a top-five pick, are probably 25 percent. You can’t really bet the house on the odds when it’s only 25 percent.”

 

Of course, a lot has changed since then. The Browns made some responsible noise in free agency and now have above average-to-great offensive linemen at four of their five slots. Based on those acquisitions alone, they are far more prepared to draft and develop a rookie passer than they were a year ago.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

Be wary, Jacksonville, be wary.  This from CityAM in London:

 

Jacksonville Jaguars are exploring plans to build a permanent facility in London, in a move that would underline their commitment to establishing themselves as the capital’s National Football League team.

 

The Jags are keen to set up a training facility near Wembley to make it easier for players and staff to prepare when they come to the city for their annual fixture at the national stadium.

 

Officials from the Florida-based team say they have held informal discussions with Brent Council about the proposals, which include provision for community use of the facility when the NFL is not in town.

 

It would also give the NFL a more visible year-round presence in the capital as it ponders whether to give plans for a much-discussed permanent London franchise the green light.

 

The Jaguars, whose owner Shahid Khan also owns Fulham Football Club, want the training base to be as close as possible to Wembley, where they have committed to playing one match a year until at least 2020.

 

They are the only NFL side to play in London every year, first staged a game at the stadium in 2013 and could extend their agreement to 2025 if the NFL exercises an option with Wembley chiefs.

 

Jaguars president Mark Lamping has made clear that they only see the team playing at Wembley, rather than Tottenham Hotspur’s new 61,000-seater stadium, which is set to host an annual NFL game from next year.

 

Jags chiefs believe Wembley’s standing resonates better with a global audience. They also have concerns that using Tottenham’s home might deter sports fans with an allegiance to one of Spurs’ rivals.

 

The London game has proved a huge success for the Jaguars. It is designated a home fixture in the NFL season but generates far more revenue than their Florida matches.

 

Jags senior vice-president for international development Hussain Naqi told City A.M. in September, before the team’s most recent visit: “We very much view ourselves as London’s team and, the way we have been embraced by Londoners, we think that that is a reciprocal view.”

 

Despite that success, the Jaguars say there are no plans at this stage to increase the number of games transplanted to London or to move here permanently as the NFL’s first overseas franchise.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com with whispers:

 

I continue to hear that new Bills coach Sean McDermott has growing cache with ownership and that team could be bringing in vice presidents and/or personnel figures with ties to the coach in the near future.

 

Panthers director of player personnel is someone particularly well thought of who could end up in Buffalo after the draft in one capacity or another. There are already rumblings that the marriage of McDermott and Bills GM Doug Whaley likely isn’t built to last.

 

The name that La Canfora left out, the Panthers director of player personnel, is Don Gregory.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Justice has been done.  The Patriots have their jerseys back from Mexico.

 

 

Tom Brady got his jerseys back. Now it’s time for everyone to take their respective victory laps.

 

First, the proof that Brady’s Super Bowl XLIX and LI jerseys — recovered from alleged thief Mauricio Ortega — are safely behind the doors of Patriot Way. You know it’s a big deal when the owner gets involved with the photo op.

 

The FBI’s Boston bureau included a statement with their tweet.

 

“Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Boston is pleased to return the jerseys worn by New England Patriots MVP Tom Brady during Super Bowl 49 and Super Bowl 51 to the New England Patriots and National Football League. We know how much this means to the Patriots and football fans everywhere, and we are honored to be able to bring these jerseys back to Foxboro.”

 

The incredibly tall guy to the right of Robert Kraft is Massachusetts State Police Colonel Richard D. McKeon.  In its statement, the Mass State Police were one of 11 agencies, count ‘em 11, that are taking some form of the credit for solving this crime.

– – –

And April 19 will be the day that the Patriots (or those that wise to) will visit Donald Trump in the White House. Currently, the media is counting six Patriots as being unwilling to attend.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FULL-TIME REFS

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com on full-time “refs”:

 

The NFL is moving toward having full-time referees, even if some refs aren’t willing to quit their other jobs.

 

NFL Senior V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said on PFT Live that he is concerned some referees will quit if forced to go full-time because they make more money in their other jobs. But he said he ultimately expects the league to have full-time referees anyway.

 

“It’s certainly a concern,” Blandino said of some referees quitting. “When you look at our sport, football is different from other sports. We typically play once a week and as officiating has evolved, that’s why football officials have had other professions, because of the longer gap between games. So that’s a concern. We’re looking at it from a phased-in approach, and giving our referees the opportunity to have two or three years to phase into this and maybe phase out of their other professions. The concern is there, it’s real, you may lose some of your better people, but we think the benefits of full-time officiating outweigh those risks and we’re going to continue down that path.”

 

It seems likely that some referees would, in fact, choose not to be referees anymore if they were told they had to choose. Ed Hochuli, for instance, is a highly paid attorney who would be taking a big pay cut if he gave that up. But with the NFL paying referees six-figure salaries, most of them would probably stick with it. If the league is convinced it would improve officiating, then the league should make referees full-time employees.

 

As a practical matter, quite a few of the current refs have retired or otherwise phased out from their day jobs as they roll into their 60s.

 

Several, like Walt Anderson and Tony Corrente, are involved in officiating all the time as they are the heads of officials for college conferences.  Would Walt Anderson really be a better NFL official if he dropped his role as head of the Big 12 officials?

 

And what about Gene Steratore?  Would he have to give up his family’s janitorial supply business or could he continue in a part-time ownership role?  Would he have to forego his college basketball officiating or is that permissible part-time employment?

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Brad Gagnon at AwfulAnnouncing.com has a three-point plan to improve NFL broadcasts.  The first two are obvious, the third seems distinctly personal to Gagnon:

 

After a season in which ratings took a dip, it appears the NFL is more open than ever to making major changes to television broadcasts. They’ve done studies you know, and it seems viewers have been quicker to bail on NFL games of late, possibly because of the slow pace and because there are, like, 8,504 other things to consume on TV, online and sometimes even in real life.

 

The league and its broadcast partners will soon be rolling out a plan to speed up the pace of play. Commissioner Roger Goodell said so in a refreshing and promising letter to fans this week. But as Pro Football Talk pointed out, Goodell also hinted in that letter that broader changes — beyond those pertaining specifically to pace — could be coming to game broadcasts.

 

That got me thinking about what I’d like to see happen. So I made a short list.

 

1. Fewer commercial breaks

 

Yeah, I know.

 

You might have been able to get away with going to break twice in a two-minute span after a touchdown back when your biggest Sunday afternoon entertainment competition was a Magnum P.I. marathon on USA Network, but times have changed. We live in a world owned by commercial-crushing DVR boxes equipped with anti-commercial On Demand features; a world in which streaming is cooler than Ryan Reynolds; a world in which Netflix is more popular than bacon.

 

I have a 4-year-old at home, and I swear to god she doesn’t know what a commercial is. And she’s not an idiot, either. At least in 4-year-old terms. She can count to 100. Yes, technically that should mean being able to count to at least 199 since counting beyond 100 only requires starting again but remembering to say “One hundred and” before every number, but still — 100! And she’s into all of those shows with bright colors in which — curiously — everything is able to talk except the humans, but she watches all of that shit online or on demand. She ain’t got no time for that, despite the fact she often has literally nothing to do for days on end.

 

I’m paid to watch football, but there are still times when a team scores a touchdown and I consider making a run to the grocery store attached to the building I live in because I can’t stand the thought of having to sit through, like, four consecutive minutes of commercials. Doesn’t even matter if I need groceries. Sometimes, I totally forget what I was watching. I’ll be sitting there scrolling through some useless Buzzfeed listicle that I only clicked on because there was a hot girl in the thumbnail, all while ads for shitty beer play on my TV in the background, and then I’ll hear Sean McDonough’s voice and remember that the Eagles are playing the Packers. Someone scored, right? It’s been nearly five minutes and I lost my short-term memory and attention span in, like, 2005, so I have to rely on Twitter to catch me up on what took place before the latest double-break from hell. They need to start coming back from those things like a hit TV show. “Previously on Eagles-Packers…”

 

And Goodell knows it. “It drives me crazy,” he told USA Today on Wednesday. “We call those ‘double-ups.’ They actually occurred 27 percent of the time (on kickoffs last season). And that’s still too high for us.”

 

But even if the league is able to reduce that “double-up” percentage to zero, it shouldn’t stop cutting there. Halftime is too long and there are too many breaks after possession changes. I know the NFL wouldn’t think of making major changes that would cost the league money, but I’ll gladly live with ads on jerseys if it means fewer commercials. I know purists won’t like that, but it’s the lesser of two evils. And let’s be real. Is a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Antonio Brown going to be any less entertaining because Brown scored while wearing a uniform with Papa John’s face on it? You’d be over it in no time, especially if it meant Pittsburgh’s opponent would take the field in 30 seconds rather than 300.

 

2. Centralized replay

Goodell also touched on this in his letter, noting that “next week clubs will vote on a change to centralize replay reviews. Instead of a fixed sideline monitor, we will bring a tablet to the Referee who can review the play in consultation with our officiating headquarters in New York, which has the final decision. This should improve consistency and accuracy of decisions and help speed up the process.”

 

Cool, but again, sort of a half-measure. Why not just let the folks in New York take advantage of the fact they have a better perspective and more angles by having them fully conduct replay reviews? If a play is challenged or a review is initiated by the folks in New York, the referee’s job should be to blow the whistle and let the teams huddle up while the experts at the officiating headquarters quickly render a decision. Having the ref stroll over to the sideline and grab a wannabe iPad only prolongs and complicates what should be a straightforward process.

 

3. More nerds in the booth

I appreciate that Troy Aikman played the game. I really do. And sometimes former players do indeed offer insight that you simply can’t get from those who never suited up in the NFL. But I’ve found that those times are rare, especially because the game has changed so much since the time so many of today’s color guys played. To boot, few strike me as over-prepared grinders, and fewer have a firm grasp on advanced stats, regular stats or numbers in general.

 

Why do viewers often hate play-by-play and color guys? I think in some cases it’s because broadcasters are relatively impartial and idiot fans foolishly perceive impartiality as bias in favor of their team’s opponent. But I think that antipathy also has to do with the fact fans can’t relate to guys like Aikman, Phil Simms and other rich former athletes who don’t know a thing about fantasy football, daily fantasy or the analytics often used to break down sports in those environments.

 

I’d much rather watch a game with somebody from Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders in the booth. Somebody with the ability to provide statistical context on the fly. Give me somebody who can crunch numbers and put them into context between plays. Those guys exist, but they aren’t famous. Hopefully, the NFL will one day realize that people don’t care if the guy providing instant analysis on a broadcast is a celebrity. Hopefully, one day, viewers will instead have a chance to consume high-quality analysis from smart but relatively anonymous football people, rather than the incoherent drivel that dominates broadcasts today.

 

 

SHORTER OVERTIMES

If the NFL goes to 10-minute overtimes, and if the rules still require a TD to win on the first possession – then there will be more ties.  Give Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times credit for looking backwards to see how a 10-minute overtime rule would have impacted 2016.

 

You don’t see too many ties in the NFL anymore, except for the ones worn by the suits in the league office.

 

But the truth is, ties can come in many stripes. For instance, had the Bucs tied the Oakland Raiders instead of losing 30-24 in overtime last season, they would’ve made the playoffs at 9-6-1. Instead, they played nearly five complete quarters, then four days later, played a Thursday night game and lost to the Atlanta Falcons 43-28.

 

Sudden death has been replaced by an overtime system where both teams get an offensive possession unless the team that has the football first scores a touchdown.

 

Well, now the NFL may mess with the OT system again this week at the annual meetings in Phoenix beginning Sunday.

 

The league is proposing shortening the overtime period in the preseason and regular season from 15 to 10 minutes.

 

The stated purpose is for player safety, and one could also infer, competitive balance. If a team is involved in an overtime game on Sunday and has to play on Thursday night football four days later, well, you’ve got some tired hombres.

 

Just ask the Bucs.

 

If this rule was adopted last year, Tampa Bay may have broken what’s now a nine-year playoff drought.

 

The Bucs defense was on the field against Oakland for 93 plays. Cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves played nearly all of them. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, overcoming his team’s NFL-record 23 penalties, passed for 513 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

 

The Bucs had the game won when Carr’s fourth-and-3 pass from the Tampa Bay 5-yard line fell incomplete. But Jude Adjei-Barimah was flagged for holding, extending a game tying TD drive. Sabastian Janikowski missed a 50-yard field goal at the end of regulation and a 52-yarder at the start of OT.

 

In the end, Carr completed a 41-yard TD strike to Seth Roberts with under two minutes remaining in the fifth quarter.

 

“Of course, we were out there for 93 freaking plays,’’ said defensive coordinator Mike Smith. “We almost played two games.’’

 

The overtime may have cost the Bucs two losses.

 

Four days later, Tampa Bay hung tough for a half against the high-powered Falcons. But the fatigue was obvious in the second half and the Bucs lost 27-17. In those two games, the Bucs allowed more than 1,000 yards of total offense and eight TD passes.

 

A 10-minute overtime may not be the best solution. Some reportedly may actually favor a college-like OT system. Given the ability of NFL players and rules that favor the offense, I’m not sure that would work.

 

One thing the league seems to agree on is that a 10-minute overtime will not result in more ties, just better football on Thursday night.

 

The DB thinks that while Stroud has a case in the unusual situation of the Buccaneers with the Oakland-Atlanta games, if there were one overtime per week and one Thursday night game per week the chances that a team would be put in the situation Tampa Bay found itself would happen once in every 256 games – or about once per NFL season.

 

Is that really worth the shortened overtime?

 

That said, 10 minutes puts more urgency into the overtime and creates more interesting game-deciding situations, so we are not opposed.

 

Here’s Mike Florio with more on the subject at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The NFL’s Competition Committee hopes to shorten overtime in the preseason and regular season from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. Coupled with the two-possession rule that applies if the first team to get the ball kicks a field goal, this rule change necessarily will result in more ties.

 

The Competition Committee disagrees.

 

“We don’t think it will lead to more ties,” Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said during a Thursday afternoon media conference call. “Could it? It could. We’re more concerned about player safety.”

 

If that’s the case, then the two-possession rule should be ditched for all non-playoff games. With it still in place, there definitely will be occasions when: (1) the team receiving the opening kickoff will drive into position for a field goal, consuming half of the 10 minutes or more; (2) the other team will muster a field goal within the remaining time; and (3) there won’t be enough time left after that to break the tie.

 

So just make it sudden death. Or adopt the college overtime rules. Or come up with something else.

 

Here’s an idea, possibly inspired by the creative questions asked by Barstool Big Cat and PFT Commenter during the call. One team’s offense and the other team’s defense would go to one end of the field. At the other end of the field would be the other offense and defense.

 

And then they’d go back and forth attempting two-point conversions, like a hockey or soccer shootout. There could be 20 seconds or so between plays, giving it a frenetic pace that would make it even more exciting. Both teams would get three tries each. If neither team prevails, then it would go back and forth until someone ends up with two more points than the other team.

 

If anyone has a better idea, offer it up below. If the league wants a shorter (and better) overtime period, now’s the time to start embracing suggestions and thinking outside the echo chamber.

 

We are not opposed to some ties in the standings.  They create clean tiebreakers.

 

 

NFL DRAFT

At NFL.com, Bucky Brooks has a Mock Draft that sees teams not reaching for the questionable stack of QBs.  Could QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY really fall to Houston at #25 and QB DeSHAUN WATSON last to Kansas City at #27?  We don’t think so:

 

1   CLEVELAND

Myles Garrett – DE, Texas A&M

The Browns can’t go wrong taking the best player in the draft with the first pick.

 

2   SAN FRANCISCO

Solomon Thomas – DL, Stanford

The 49ers don’t need another big body in the middle, but Thomas is the top player on the board and gives them another disruptive defender to anchor an emerging defense.

 

3   CHICAGO

Jamal Adams – S, LSU

The Bears need an enforcer in the middle to set the tone for the defense.

 

4   JACKSONVILLE

Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU

The Jaguars want to lean more on a run-centric attack to alleviate the pressure on Blake Bortles.

 

5   TENNESSEE

Marshon Lattimore – CB, Ohio State

A team can never have enough cover corners with size, speed, and athleticism.

 

6   NEW YORK JETS

Jonathan Allen – DE, Alabama

Mo Wilkerson’s weight issues and Sheldon Richardson’s behavioral problems could prompt the Jets to take a high-character defender like Allen.

 

7   LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Malik Hooker – S, Ohio State

The Chargers could use a true centerfielder in the middle of the defense with outstanding instincts and ball skills.

 

8   CAROLINA

Derek Barnett – DE, Tennessee

The most polished pass rusher in the draft would enhance a pass rush that should improve with the return of Julius Peppers.

 

9   CINCINNATI

Reuben Foster – LB, Alabama

Foster is a menacing “Mike” linebacker with a nasty temperament and rugged game.

 

10   BUFFALO

Mike Williams – WR, Clemson

The Bills have a WR1 in Watkins but they could use a “bully” on the edge to take advantage of smaller corners.

 

11  NEW ORLEANS

Tre’Davious White – CB, LSU

If the Saints aren’t able to land Malcolm Butler, the LSU standout would be a perfect fallback as a potential CB1.

 

12   CLEVELAND

O.J. Howard – TE, Alabama

Nothing wrong with adding a big, athletic tight end with speed and quickness to the lineup.

 

13   ARIZONA

Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan

The Cardinals need an eventual successor for Larry Fitzgerald as the team’s WR1.

 

14   PHILADELPHIA

Teez Tabor – CB, Florida

The Eagles need a long, rangy corner to thrive as a CB1 in Jim Schwartz’s system.

 

15   INDIANAPOLIS

Chidobe Awuzie – CB, Colorado

The Colts need a young, athletic corner to play opposite Vontae Davis.

 

16   BALTIMORE

John Ross – WR, Washington

An electric playmaker with speed to burn would be a welcome addition to an offense that wants to play long ball with Joe Flacco at quarterback.

 

17   WASHINGTON

Dalvin Cook – RB, Florida State

The ultra-explosive runner would alleviate pressure on Kirk Cousins in the Redskins’ backfield.

 

18   TENNESSEE

Takkarist McKinley – LB, UCLA

Adding a pass rusher isn’t necessarily a pressing need for the Titans, but McKinley would give them another high-motor rusher to add to the mix.

 

19   TAMPA BAY

Jarrad Davis – LB, Florida

Davis is a hard-hitting linebacker with positional flexibility.

 

20   DENVER

Garett Bolles – OT, Utah

Contrary to popular opinion, the Broncos’ offensive line struggles prevented the team from making another run at the title.

 

21   DETROIT

Taco Charlton – DE, Michigan

Charlton is a solid edge defender with a rock-solid game at the point of attack.

 

22   MIAMI

Haason Reddick – LB, Temple

Reddick is an active linebacker with a non-stop motor and a versatile game.

 

23   NEW YORK GIANTS

Ryan Ramczyk – OT, Wisconsin

Giants add a rugged blocker who is capable of keeping Eli Manning upright in the pocket.

 

24   OAKLAND

Cam Robinson – OT, Alabama

The Raiders need a corner but could opt to take a big, physical tackle to groom for a bigger role down the line.

 

25   HOUSTON

Mitchell Trubisky – QB, North Carolina

If the Texans don’t resolve their quarterback issues with a veteran free agent, the team could turn to the North Carolina standout as its QB of the future.

 

26   SEATTLE

Fabian Moreau – CB, UCLA

Moreau is a fast-rising corner with a blue-collar game.

 

27   KANSAS CITY

Deshaun Watson – QB, Clemson

Andy Reid has a knack for transforming athletic quarterbacks into efficient passers (see Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick).

 

28   DALLAS

Charles Harris – DE, Missouri

The Cowboys still need to find a legitimate pass rusher to feature off the edge. Harris is a blue-collar worker with a rugged game and non-stop motor that fits the Cowboys’ profile.

 

29   GREEN BAY

Christian McCaffrey – RB, Stanford

Can you imagine how much fun Mike McCarthy would have creating big-play opportunities for McCaffrey as a runner, receiver and returner?

 

30   PITTSBURGH

Tim Williams – LB, Alabama

The Steelers need a fastball pitcher off the edge. Williams has exceptional first-step quickness and body control.

 

31   ATLANTA

T.J. Watt – LB, Wisconsin

Watt is a versatile edge rusher who would add another dimension to the Falcons’ pass rush.

 

32   NEW ORLEANS

Adoree’ Jackson – CB, USC

Jackson gives the Saints a two-way playmaker to add some sizzle to the lineup.