The Daily Briefing Tuesday, August 22, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

 

Ben Volin of The Boston Globe says that business concerns are trumping the opinions of fans and players as the NFL moves ahead with extending Roger Goodell:

 

Roger Goodell doesn’t exactly have the highest Q score among NFL fans.

 

Patriots fans hate the commissioner for dragging Tom Brady’s name through the mud over deflated footballs. Saints fans hate Goodell for Bountygate. The NFL Players Association’s relationship with Goodell is in tatters. Women’s rights advocates called for Goodell’s resignation for his poor handling of the Ray Rice situation, and health and safety advocates openly wonder whether Goodell has been lying to athletes about the dangers of concussions.

 

But those aren’t Goodell’s constituents. He serves the 32 NFL team owners, and he has spent the last 12 years fattening their wallets to unprecedented levels.

 

So the news Monday that Goodell is close to signing a five-year extension to remain as commissioner through 2024 — first reported by Sports Business Journal and confirmed by the Globe — has to feel like a punch to the stomach for those groups.

 

Goodell’s contract was set to expire in 2019, and the hope among many, especially fans here in New England, was that Goodell had tarnished the NFL brand enough that owners would replace him with a more centrist commissioner, one who puts the best interests of the game first and foremost.

 

But that was always wishful thinking. Here on Planet Reality, Goodell has been good for business since becoming commissioner in 2006. And that’s enough for the 32 billionaires who pull the strings, no matter how one-sided his investigations are or how many draft picks he docks from teams.

 

The NFL declined to comment on the report Monday.

 

The NFL was a $6 billion industry in 2006, with a labor agreement that the owners unilaterally hated. A little more than a decade later, it is a $14 billion industry (and growing), with the most lucrative television deals and most owner-friendly collective bargaining agreement in all of professional sports.

 

Goodell has played a major role in all of it, particularly the CBA. Goodell headed the owners’ faction in the 2011 negotiations with DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA, and emerged unquestionably victorious. The new CBA slashed rookie pay, kept other player costs under control, and created unprecedented prosperity for the owners. Franchise valuations have soared, and the NFL is well on its way to realizing its goal of being a $25 billion industry in 2025.

 

Most important, Goodell persuaded the NFLPA to agree to a 10-year deal, the longest labor deal in league history. And he helped crush the union in court two years ago, securing a landmark victory in the Deflategate case that further cemented his power and that of the 32 owners over the NFLPA.

 

Many football fans will argue the sport is so popular that any half-baked MBA could have led the NFL to these levels of prosperity. But that’s not how the 32 owners see it. To them, Goodell accomplished what previous commissioner Paul Tagliabue couldn’t. And now they’re entrusting Goodell to protect their interests again well into the next decade.

 

Signing Goodell through 2024 is noteworthy for two reasons. He once again will lead the owners in the next round of CBA negotiations, set for the spring of 2021. And he will help negotiate the next round of broadcast contracts, which are set to expire in the spring of 2022. These are the two most important negotiations the NFL will undertake to maintain it long-term financial health, and the owners apparently want Goodell leading the way.

 

In the meantime, it’s business as usual for the next eight years. More squabbling with the union, more distrust from the players. Goodell conducting his own investigations, no matter whether they are one-sided and have a predetermined conclusion. Goodell ruling unilaterally on league matters, no matter how unfair the result may seem. Goodell serving as the shield for The Shield, taking the heat for decisions so the 32 owners don’t have to (the real worth of his position).

 

Smith, the NFLPA executive director, recently told The MMQB that a labor stoppage is “almost a certainty” in 2021. The owners’ message Monday: “Bring it on.”

 

Goodell actually might not have the full support of all 32 owners. But that doesn’t matter. At the May owners’ meetings in Chicago, the owners agreed to allow the six-person Compensation Committee to determine Goodell’s fate.

 

That six-person committee: Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Texans owner Bob McNair, Giants owner John Mara, Steelers owner Art Rooney, and . . . Patriots owner Robert Kraft. And the committee has spoken.

 

It’s unclear whether the committee was unanimous. But either Kraft didn’t have enough juice to persuade his partners that Goodell needed to go, or, more likely, deep down he knows that Goodell has been quite good for him, despite all that huffing and puffing about the unfairness of Deflategate. We reached out to Kraft Monday morning for comment, and haven’t heard anything yet.

 

Jerry Jones’s anger over the Ezekiel Elliott suspension wasn’t enough to sink Goodell. Or Tom Benson’s anger over the Bountygate scandal. Or the embarrassment suffered by the entire league over the domestic violence fiascos of 2014 involving Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson.

 

It’s possible that Goodell did lose some luster with the owners over these incidents. We don’t know how much he is going to be paid over his five-year extension. He made more than $210 million in his first 10 years on the job, and his pay was between $35 million and $40 million last we checked. The NFL removed its nonprofit status in 2015, so it no longer has to publicly report Goodell’s salary.

 

So maybe the owners “punished” Goodell by reducing his salary to a mere $20 million per year.

 

But the message Monday was clear: Goodell has been good for business, and he is here to stay, whether the fans and players like it or not.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com notes that Hall of Famer Jerry Jones has not given even boilerplate support for Goodell’s extension.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was reportedly furious at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. So does that mean Jones opposes extending Goodell’s contract, as the owners reportedly plan to do?

 

Jones himself isn’t saying. On 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Jones said he simply wouldn’t comment on whether he believes he and his fellow owners should keep Goodell in charge.

 

“That’s obviously an internal, very internal thing and I would not comment about it. And I don’t want that to be interpreted. I just will not comment about it. I’m one of the people that are basically involved in how that is being negotiated. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment about it,” Jones said.

 

There have been reports that Jones thinks the owners pay Goodell too much money, and that Jones is not among the six owners involved in negotiating Goodell’s contract extension. But if Jones isn’t satisfied with the job Goodell is doing, it would appear that the majority of his fellow owners disagree with him. And so Jones may think that he shouldn’t speak out publicly, even as privately he’s displeased with the Commissioner.

– – –

As we head into Week 3 of the preseason (not bad) to be followed by Week 4 (dreadful), Mark Maske of the Washington Post looks at the NFL’s fitful attempts to change things.

 

It’s not a new thing that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is talking about the possibility of shortening the preseason.

 

But it is interesting that the topic has come up again publicly. And, with a new set of labor negotiations between the league and the NFL Players Association almost at hand and with the saber-rattling about the potential for a work stoppage in 2021 already underway, the owners presumably will seek something in exchange for reducing the preseason, whether that means a longer regular season or an expanded postseason.

 

The idea came up in the negotiations that led to the 2011 labor deal between the league and union following a lockout. The owners proposed cutting the preseason from four to two games per team and increasing the regular season from 16 to 18 games. The union objected vehemently on player-safety grounds. The league dropped the proposal and said that it would not change the length of the season in the future without the players’ consent.

 

Now, Goodell is once again saying the quality of preseason games is not up to the NFL’s standards.

 

“When I go around to fans, that’s maybe the number one thing I hear,” Goodell said at a recent fan forum for Giants season-ticket holders, according to Newsday. “The NFL should do things to the highest possible standards. Preseason games are not that.”

 

A preseason of two to three games would be sufficient, he said.

 

“There’s value to them, building a team, evaluating players,” Goodell said. “But there are other ways of doing that. I think we could do it in three [preseason games]. Almost every coach has agreed we could get done what we need to in three games.”

 

The question, of course, is what the owners would want in return for a preseason of two to three games. The idea in the past was to keep the total number of games at 20, meaning either two preseason games and 18 regular season games or three preseason games and 17 regular season games. The 17-game season creates the possibility of each team playing one neutral-site game per season, possibly overseas.

 

An owners’ proposal for an 18-game season would likely remain a non-starter with the union, and a 17-game season probably isn’t any more palatable to the players. It remains to be seen if it will come up again.

 

The owners at one point seemed prepared to substitute an expanded playoff field for a longer regular season as the prospective trade-off for a reduced preseason. Either one presumably would serve to boost revenue, particularly from the sport’s network television deals.

 

The expanded-playoffs proposal would have seven teams in each conference, instead of the current six, qualifying annually for the postseason. There would be one opening-round postseason bye per conference, instead of two. That would result in six first-round playoff games instead of four. One of them presumably would be played on a Monday night.

 

The league and union could reach a deal on all of this separately, outside the framework of the next CBA. But that seems unlikely. When they attempted to reach a separate deal on the sport’s system of player discipline and Goodell’s role in it, those negotiations unraveled at the last minute. So now it seems likely that the disciplinary system will be addressed as part of the next CBA.

 

The sport’s marijuana policy likewise could be addressed in the next set of labor talks. The current CBA runs through 2020.

 

Goodell utilized a panel of four outside advisers when he decided to suspend Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games under the personal conduct policy, a penalty under appeal by Elliott and the NFLPA. Could that use of outside advisers in the Elliott case be a precursor to a willingness by the league to make such an independent panel a fixture in the system of player discipline under the next CBA?

 

The league has offered to conduct mutual research with the NFLPA into the potential use of marijuana as a pain-management tool for players. Could that be a precursor to significant changes in the marijuana policy as part of the next CBA?

 

And if the players get a discipline system more to their liking, a marijuana policy more to their liking and a shorter preseason, what would the league seek in return? That is the big picture for all of this.

 

In the meantime, there does not seem to be great urgency among the owners to shorten the preseason, despite what Goodell is saying. The preseason “problem,” in the minds of some on the management side, has been addressed by going to variable ticket pricing, by which customers don’t pay as much for tickets to preseason games as they pay for those to regular season games.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

GB S HA HA CLINTON-DIX notes that there are quite a few slain police officers to go with the occasional suspect that dies at the hands of police.

 

Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix made a statement in support of fallen police officers during Sunday night’s preseason game.

 

Clinton-Dix wrote the names of four police officers who have died in the line of duty on his shoes. Clinton-Dix said on Twitter that he wanted the families of heroes that he wanted them to know they had his support.

 

The four officers Clinton-Dix recognized were Matt Baxter and Sam Howard of the Kissimmee, Florida, Police Department, who were shot on Friday, as well as Orlando Police Sgt. Debra Clayton, who was shot in December, and Orange County Sheriff’s Officer Norman Lewis, who was killed when his car crashed in the manhunt for Clayton’s killer. All four are from the area of Florida where Clinton-Dix was raised.

 

Clinton-Dix was a criminal justice major during his three years playing football at Alabama and is continuing to work on his degree in the offseasons.

 

For all the attention paid to Charlottesville, the national media has been awfully quiet about the circumstances of the deaths of officers Baxter and Howard.  This from The Daily Caller:

 

The Florida man who allegedly ambushed and killed two Kissimmee police officers Friday night is a self-professed member of a black extremist group who appears to have been upset by last week’s events in Charlottesville, Va.

 

Everett Glenn Miller, 45, was arrested and charged with first degree murder in the killing of Officers Sam Howard and Matthew Baxter.

 

Miller, who goes by the name Malik Mohammad Ali on Facebook, allegedly ambushed and shot the officers as they were responding to a disturbance call.

 

Officer Howard was African-American.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

A low hit on Monday night left WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. limping.  Some fumed, but Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com is adamant that it was perfectly legal:

 

The hit that injured New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on Monday Night Football drew gasps around the NFL world. Here was one of the best players in the NFL upended by a low hit in a preseason game with the kind of contact that can cause catastrophic injuries.

 

Reasonable people can argue whether the hit from Browns cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun was necessary, unavoidable, clean or dirty.

 

But there is no arguing this point: It was 100 percent legal.

 

Boddy-Calhoun smashed his right shoulder into Beckham’s left leg, causing what the Giants said was a sprained ankle. Put simply, there is no NFL rule that prevents a defender from hitting a receiver’s leg — above or below the knee — in an attempt to tackle him. There are restrictions on where offensive players can block defenders, including clipping and chop blocks, but those don’t apply to defenders in the same way.

 

In this instance, Beckham qualified for protection under the NFL’s defenseless player rule because he was attempting to make a catch but had not yet had a chance to become a runner. That protection, however, prevents a defender only from hitting the receiver in the head or neck area or with the crown of his helmet. A defenseless player can still be hit low.

 

This puts NFL players in a difficult position, of course. The NFL has prioritized rules that minimize or prevent head injuries, so defenders have changed their techniques notably over the years to target their hits below the neck and to use their shoulders and arms rather than their helmets to initiate contact. That lowers the strike zone and can lead to leg injuries in the trade-off.

 

NFL injury data has shown no dramatic uptick in knee injuries as a result of these rules, but the mantra for defenders is clear: If in doubt, go low(er). Beckham is fortunate that approach didn’t lead to a more significant injury.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

At the moment, at the moment, QB CARSON WENTZ is that rarest of Philadelphia sports stars – the recipient of nearly universal fan love.  But Cian Fahey of PreSnapReads.com has looked at a lot of Wentz on video – and he sees not Peyton Manning, but BLAKE BORTLES:

 

It was December 2015. Jeffrey Lurie was desperate. The Chip Kelly era was coming to a close. What had begun with an offense unlike any seen prior on Monday Night Football in Washington would end with an interim head coach in New York. Kelly was supposed to be the NFL’s next great mind. He was supposed to have been a coup for the Eagles organization. Instead he flamed out fast and the Eagles were worse off than before because of it.

 

Lurie made a decision at that point. According to Thomas George’s book, Lurie looked around the division and decided that he wanted a new quarterback. He then decided that he didn’t want to wait. George’s breakdown of Lurie’s process at this time reeks of desperation:

 

It was find the right guy.

 

The right rookie quarterback.

 

A franchise quarterback.

 

Then to move up to the top of the draft from their No. 13 spot in the first round and swipe him.

 

Decidedly, mercilessly, take a bolder shot at solving their lingering franchise quarterback enigma.

 

Speaking publicly after making the trades to reach the second-overall pick, Lurie outlined his reason for making the move when he did. He claimed the franchise had to be aggressive in 2016 because the talent in 2017 and beyond wasn’t good. That’s an argument that might make some sense if you’re completely unfamiliar with the draft process. If you understand how the draft works, it’s laughable. Lurie’s logic was undercut by his own action. The Eagles traded up for a quarterback who wouldn’t have been on their radar 12 months previous.

 

In December 2014, Carson Wentz was coming off his first season as a starter at the lower level of college football. He had thrown 10 interceptions. Had Lurie looked ahead to future classes in 2014 like he did in 2015, Wentz wouldn’t have been on his radar. As if to compound the lunacy of that statement, Mitchell Trubisky became the first quarterback selected in the 2017 draft. In December 2015 Trubisky wasn’t even the starter for North Carolina. He had thrown 47 passes in nine games that season.

 

It appeared that Lurie had become infatuated with the idea of getting a new quarterback more so than he had become infatuated with the particular quarterback he was drafting.

 

None of that would have mattered if he had landed a truly great quarterback. If you ask around, it’s not hard to find people who think Wentz is that. Former Washington GM Scot McCloughan believes that Wentz is the best quarterback from his class, The MMQB’s Andy Benoit considers Wentz to be the best young quarterback in the league. Three unnamed executives echoed that sentiment to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah.

 

Despite his relative inexperience, Wentz isn’t actually that young. He’s within one year of Blake Bortles, both quarterbacks will be 25 at the end of this season.

 

An even greater issue is Wentz has shown nothing to suggest he’s a great quarterback. He’s done nothing to suggest he could become a great quarterback or even a good one for that matter. Wentz’s rookie season started relatively well as he executed a simple offense against defenses that lacked talent at every level, but from that point onwards he careened off course completely.

 

Lurie emphasized intelligence as the primary attribute a franchise quarterback has to have. Wentz might be a genius on the whiteboard, it would explain why he appears to gain widespread acclaim from those within the league. He ran a fairly simple four vert offense in college and looked lost on the field as a rookie playing in a very quarterback-friendly scheme. Rookies typically struggle with their consistency breaking down coverages but Wentz wasn’t just struggling, he was constantly making inexcusable decisions.

 

Doug Pederson’s offense is Andy Reid’s offense which is Alex Smith’s offense.

 

It’s a hyper conservative system that relies heavily on hard play fakes (misdirection), screens and half-field reads. Pederson transplanted Reid’s route combinations that use three receivers to stress specific areas of the field from Kansas City to Philadelphia. Everything is designed around the concept of easing pressure on the quarterback, minimizing his impact while making it tougher for him to turn the ball over.

 

Wentz still threw 31 interceptable passes last year. 5.11 percent of his attempts were interceptable. 25 quarterbacks in the league were better at taking care of the ball. Not one of the seven who ranked below him threw the ball short as often as him. Four had an Average Depth of Target in the top six in the league, all seven ranked in the top 20 whereas Wentz ranked 27th. None of the quarterbacks who ranked below Wentz in interceptable passes played in an offense that prioritized taking care of the ball.

 

Fahey then shows a whole bunch of “interceptable passes” that you can study here.

 

You may disagree with one of these, you may disagree with two, you may disagree with more than a few, but go back through these plays again. How many occurred under severe pressure? How many happened because Lane Johnson wasn’t on the field? How many happened because it was his reciever’s fault? The narratives of Wentz’s season don’t hold up against this evidence.

 

Rookies make mistakes. Plenty of mistakes. But they typically do it in tougher situations than Wentz played in. The good rookies consistently show off highlight plays to counter their mistakes that could be fixable. Wentz rarely ever made subtle movements in the pocket and wasn’t someone hitting tight windows with anticipation throws because of how quickly he diagnosed coverages. When he got rid of the ball quickly it was generally to check down into the flat.

 

Much like Blake Bortles, Wentz’s greatest attribute is his athleticism and the odd play he makes passing after breaking the pocket with that athleticism. He’s not a refined passer or great technician. His accuracy was nothing short of horrendous last year.

 

He relied on screens more than most quarterbacks, 11.53 percent of his attempts last year were screens, the seventh-highest rate in the league. 11.29 percent of his yards came on screens, the fifth-highest rate in the league. He relied on hard play fakes and yards gained after the catch, 49.68 percent of his yards came after the catch, only seven quarterbacks had a higher rate.

 

Nothing about Wentz’s rookie season suggested he fit Lurie’s definition of a franchise quarterback: “someone who has the physical talent, the mental leadership qualities, and mental toughness to be a consistently winning quarterback that puts you in contention to win a championship. He has to have that ‘it’ factor. The single most important trait is the mental fortitude to handle the challenges that face a young quarterback. He has to be a smart quarterback — in today’s NFL, quarterbacks have to routinely make intricate decisions in 2.5 seconds or less.”

 

Sure, Wentz could get better. He might actually turn into the generational talent he’s often described as, but there’s no rational reason to expect him to.

 

The DB thinks that the floor for Wentz is more at the ANDY DALTON level than the lower level of BLAKE BORTLES.  And the ceiling could be higher.

 

 

WASHINGTON

With the Red Sox looking to purge remnants of their racially-insensitive/racist owner Tom Yawkey, Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post says the Redskins, apparently entrenched with their nickname, should at least take on the blighted legacy of George Preston Marshall.

 

This country, as your blood pressure can attest, is again debating how history should best be memorialized. And that debate has again spread to sports, with Red Sox owner John Henry telling the Boston Herald that he’s “haunted” by his club’s racist history and would like to rename the iconic Yawkey Way – named after former owner Tom Yawkey, who ran the team when it was baseball’s last to integrate, a dozen years after Robinson’s arrival.

 

The response to Henry’s announcement was what you’d expect: some noisy anger, some enthusiastic agreement, and maybe a few quiet reflections about how to remember the past. The announcement made me think, anyhow – mostly about Washington’s related history. The Redskins were the NFL’s last team to integrate, remaining all-white as late as 1961, at which point there were 83 black players in the league, an average of about six per team. Then-owner George Preston Marshall’s franchise then was compared to the Red Sox, and he was pressured to integrate by picketers, activists, journalists and eventually the federal government, whose efforts were publicly cheered by Jackie Robinson.

 

Robinson called the Interior Department’s decision to use the new D.C. Stadium as leverage against Marshall “both inspirational and encouraging,” saying Marshall’s attitude “has no place in sports or in our American way of life.” The owner responded by saying, “Jackie Robinson is in the business of exploiting a race and makes a living doing it. I’m not. He doesn’t qualify as a critic.”

 

Now, there’s no Marshall equivalent to the famous Yawkey Way. Nothing remotely close. But there is a memorial to Marshall that remains outside RFK Stadium, whose future soon will be decided as that campus approaches a comprehensive change. And there is the “Hail to the Redskins Walk,” a historical explainer inside both FedEx Field and Redskins Park that pays tribute to Marshall without mentioning his shameful legacy. And the main bowl at FedEx Field is still formally named the “George Preston Marshall Lower Level,” joining the “Pete Rozelle Upper Level” and the “StubHub Club Level.” (Formerly the “Joe Gibbs Club Level,” for those worried about erasing history.)

 

Not that anyone knows this, of course. I stopped 13 Redskins fans before Saturday’s preseason game: black and white, older and younger, male and female. None had any idea whom the lower level was named for. When I broke the news, just three even knew who Marshall was. But when I asked one of those fans, 52-year-old Darrell Stoney, what he knew about Marshall, he immediately said, “Racist.”

 

“The last guy to allow an African-American to join his football team,” Stoney said. “I can tell you this: He’s the reason why Washington, D.C. has a whole lot of Cowboys fans.”

 

Which is indeed part of this complex story. You could write a book about the team’s eventual integration – and in fact, historian Thomas G. Smith did. “Showdown,” Smith’s comprehensive 2011 look at that history, offers gobs of context, which I tried to summarize for these fans as we talked about the complicated business of remembering.

 

Such as how Marshall had his band play “Dixie” on the field for 23 years; the song was “as much a part of the Redskins as George Preston Marshall and Sammy Baugh,” columnist Morris Siegel once wrote. Or how as early as 1949, Otto Graham was telling the Washington Touchdown Club that he wished “the people of this country and the world had the philosophy of our [integrated] Cleveland football team,” and that “the prejudiced people could take a tip from our success.” Or how the NAACP staged a two-day protest against Marshall outside league meetings in 1957 – five years before the roster was finally integrated – and later picketed Marshall’s home.

 

We learn that black sportswriter Sam Lacy boycotted the team for years, writing in 1956 that Washingtonians “should now hang their heads in shame” over their all-white football team. That black leader Lawrence Oxley said, “When Dixie is played instead of the Star Spangled Banner at a football game or any other place, we know what the score is.” That the Redskins were already the only all-white team by the mid-’50s, but persisted into the next decade, with Marshall saying, “All the other teams we play have Negroes; does it matter which team has the Negroes?” and asking whether the government would similarly “demand that the National Symphony Orchestra have Negroes.”

 

Maybe it’s unfair to judge historical actors by contemporary standards. (Opinions, as you might have noticed, vary wildly on this point.) But even that caveat doesn’t absolve Marshall, because his intransigence went beyond any of his NFL peers, turning the team’s integration into a national story.

 

 “How come the Redskins are the only team in the pro league that doesn’t sign a Negro football player?” The Post’s Shirley Povich asked as early as 1957, when he described the team’s colors as “inflexibly burgundy, gold and Caucasian.”

 

The Redskins were “spotting their rivals the tremendous advantage of exclusive rights to a whole race,” Cleveland writer Gordon Cobbledick wrote.

 

“When we note the thousands of young people throughout the South risking life and limb and going to jail rather than submit to the indignity of racial discrimination, why should we not be able to deny ourselves the luxury of supporting Marshall’s racism?” wrote black leader E.B. Henderson, in calling for a boycott.

 

Marshall was “one of the few remaining Jim Crow symbols in American sports,” Interior Secretary Stewart Udall said. His team was “hopelessly handicapped by Marshall’s white skin policy” wrote Dan Parker in the New York Mirror. “People who can’t play together, can’t live together” read signs carried by picketers at Washington’s 1961 opener.

 

“Marshall is an anachronism, as out of date as the drop kick,” Povich wrote in 1960. “What is important is how the man plays the game, not the notation on his birth certificate.”

 

Marshall finally gave in, while insisting that the team’s integration was entirely coincidental to this public pressure. And in his will, he required that no money from the Redskins Foundation go toward “any purpose which supports or employs the principle of racial integration in any form.”

 

Maybe this is all ancient history, although Marshall’s bigotry has been referenced throughout the ongoing debate about the team’s name. But it’s history you couldn’t learn from the stadium’s historical display, which devotes more space to the team’s cheerleading squad than to its racial legacy. (Bobby Mitchell “broke the color barrier for the Redskins franchise,” the display explains, without any context or follow-up.) You can’t find that history on the RFK Stadium Memorial, either; that hulking tribute merely describes Marshall as “founder of the Washington Redskins” and “pioneer in the National Football League.”

 

Marshall was a pioneer, an innovator and a master showman. You can’t tell the history of sports in Washington without him. But he also watched his team go 2-21-3 in the final two years before integrating; “his bigoted racial views hurt his team competitively and marred his reputation historically,” as Smith writes. He hamstrung his coaches, hurt his fans, and divided the community such that two black fans on Saturday told me they still catch hell from friends for rooting for Marshall’s ex-team.

 

So what’s the point of all this? Well, officials at Events DC already are trying to figure out what to do with the memorials to Marshall and Clark Griffith in a post-RFK Stadium world, and intend to remove them in the near future. It might make sense to shift the Griffith memorial near Nationals Park, but good luck convincing anyone to adopt Marshall. (“We are motivated to find a way to resolve this that could be viewed as acceptable to all parties,” said Events DC Senior Vice President and Managing Director Erik Moses, who has spoken with critics of the memorial and Marshall’s granddaughter about the coming decision but noted that “there are no immediately viable places to relocate the Marshall monument.”)

 

And what of FedEx Field? The ways Marshall is honored there are insignificant and mostly ignored, but then what would be the harm of improving them? Instead of the George Preston Marshall Lower Level, why not name it after Bobby Mitchell, with a display in the main concourse explaining his legacy? Why not add details about Marshall’s racial intransigence to the Hail to the Redskins Walk? Why not prompt the sort of discussions I had on Saturday night with fans on all sides of these issues, who had all sorts of reactions to Marshall’s legacy? That’s not erasing history; that’s engaging with it.

 

(A team spokesman declined to comment on these issues, other than noting that the Marshall memorial is on RFK’s grounds and is not affiliated with the Redskins.)

 

A new stadium will be built at some point in the next decade, which will necessitate even more choices. Will Marshall be honored? Will his past be explored? Will one of the worst chapters in franchise history receive as much attention as the history of the team’s cheerleading outfit?

 

These are all symbolic questions, but those can be plenty powerful, like Henry’s outspokenness about the Red Sox’s unpleasant past. Grappling with Marshall’s legacy would be virtue signaling, perhaps, although why wouldn’t you want to signal shame over an ignoble episode that divided a community? Wouldn’t that be worth the price of a StubHub Club Level sponsorship?

 

The stakes here are small, especially compared to the front-page debates. But seeing Jackie Robinson’s name at Nationals Park has, in my family, prompted some real engagement with history, however brief. Seems like we all could use a bit more of that in our lives.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Mike Martz, in a new book, takes shots at Sean McVay that seem over the top.  Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Former Rams coach Mike Martz has no warm or fuzzy feelings for the franchise’s current coach or possible franchise quarterback.

 

In an excerpt from Thomas George’s Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks, Martz unloads on both Jared Goff and Sean McVay.

 

“I don’t know if he can play or not, but I do know he couldn’t have gone to a worse place,” Martz said of Goff, via SBNation.com. “If you took him and switched him with Dak Prescott in Dallas, who knows what would have happened for Goff there? Goff at Cal came from an offense where they ran as many plays as they could — fast. Jared in college did an amazing job of throwing a true ball off balance, under duress, making things happen. You knew the speed of the NFL would throw that kind of timing off. But he still throws a true ball. The Rams wanted to rewire him to what?

 

“I watched the Rams offense last season. It was awful football. There was nobody there on that staff that could teach him, develop him. You have a high-value guy like that and he went to the worst offensive place, the Rams.”

 

Now, the Rams have wunderkind Sean McVay, who helped get the most out of Kirk Cousins the past two years in Washington.

 

“What is he, a couple of months older than Jared?” Martz said. (McVay is nine years old than Goff.) “They hired a buddy for Jared. The NFL has nothing to do with being the friend or the buddy of the quarterback. You’ve got to coach them and work them hard with respect. But buddy? And this guy is a quarterback expert? An offensive expert? Wait a minute while I puke. Right, he’s going to be able to teach and handle and guide Jared through tough times because of all of his expertise and knowledge? Right. I’m not going to drink that Kool-Aid.”

 

Martz sounds like he’s been drinking something stronger. He comes off as stereotypical Glory Days grump who resents a younger coach doing a job that Martz surely believes he could do better right now. But McVay has been successful as a coordinator, the same path Martz took to become a marginally successful head coach.

 

Yes, Martz took the Rams to a Super Bowl after succeeding Dick Vermeil after Super Bowl XXXIV. However, the Rams arguably should have been to more — and should have won at least one — with Martz at the helm. Instead, Martz had a variety of conflicts within the organization, ultimately alienating future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and, eventually, moving on from him. The Rams later moved on from Martz, who never received serious head-coaching consideration again.

 

It’s unclear why Martz has a problem with McVay. Per a league source, the two men have met briefly only once. Thus, this one possibly can be chalked up to good, old-fashioned old-man resentment of the guy who is getting it down without having to walk five miles in the snow. Uphill. Each way.

 

 

SEATTLE

The Seahawks trade for an offensive tackle, one MATT TOBIN of the Eagles.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Seahawks need tackles after the season-ending injury suffered by projected Week One starting left tackle George Fant. And they got one on Monday.

 

The Eagles have announced a deal that sends Matt Tobin and a 2018 seventh-round pick to Seattle for a 2018 fifth-round pick. Listed as a tackle in the announcement, Tobin also can interior offensive line.

 

Tobin arrived in Philly four years ago as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa. He has appeared in 42 games with 21 starts, but he landed on injured reserve last December with a knee injury.

 

In 2015, Tobin appeared in every game, starting 13.

 

And so, if healthy, he’ll instantly contend for playing time in Seattle. The fact that Seattle got him for a swap of low-round picks suggests that Tobin may have been destined for the looming roster cuts.

 

He’s under contract through 2017 at a base salary of $850,000. The Eagles take a cap charge of only $50,000 by dealing him.

 

Elliott Shorr-Parks on NJ.com:

 

The deal lands the Eagles an extra pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, as they now have two fifth-round picks. The team now owns their own first-round pick, two fourth-round picks, two fifth-round picks and a sixth-round pick.

 

Although Tobin was fighting an uphill battle to make the team, he did start against the Buffalo Bills this past Thursday, and was one of the few veterans for the team at offensive tackle.

 

Now, with Tobin gone, the player that would go in if the Eagles were to lose both offensive tackles would likely be Dillion Gordon, a second-year player who played tight end in college.

 

Of course, if the Eagles were to lose both tackles their season would likely be over, so netting a fifth-round pick for a team already short on picks next year seems like a wise decision by executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The Broncos have decided to settle on TREVOR SIEMIEN to be their starting quarterback.  Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com:

 

The Denver Broncos have named Trevor Siemian as their starting quarterback, with coach Vance Joseph saying Monday that Siemian was the “clear-cut winner” in his competition with Paxton Lynch.

 

“We decided on making Trevor Siemian our quarterback,” Joseph said. “Both guys competed hard. Both guys wanted the job. We’re pleased with both guys, but overall the operation of the entire offense, decision-making, ball placement, was more consistent with Trevor. That’s why he won the job.”

 

Joseph had split work between the two quarterbacks in the offseason program, organized team activities, minicamp and training camp. Siemian and Lynch have each started one preseason game.

 

Siemian likely closed the deal Saturday night when he came in against the San Francisco 49ers with just over three minutes remaining in the first half and led the Broncos on a seven-play, 53-yard touchdown drive.

 

In three possessions, Siemian led the Broncos to 10 points, and on his touchdown pass — a 19-yarder to Jordan Taylor — Siemian bounced back from having a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty on the previous play.

 

Asked Monday whether he could be a franchise quarterback for the Broncos, Siemian said he thinks he can be.

 

“I’ve got a long ways to go. I know where I can get better,” he said. “I also know some of the things I do do well.”

 

Lynch said he was disappointed not to be named the starter.

 

“I gave it everything I had to go out there and win the job, and at the end of the day the coaches made the decision,” Lynch said. “Now, at the point where I’m at, I just have to prepare and be ready.”

 

“Obviously I believe in myself to be the starter, but the coaches made a decision and that’s what I’m rolling with,” he added.

 

In what turned out to be the last chance for both quarterbacks to make their case on the field, Lynch finished 9-of-13 for 39 yards in almost a full half of work and was behind center for three short scoring drives that each began in San Francisco territory following a 49ers turnover. Lynch also had 27 yards rushing.

 

Siemian was 8-of-11 for 93 yards and a touchdown.

 

“I saw Paxton make some plays with his legs, which he should,” Joseph said after the game. “He’s an athlete. And Trevor, he was solid. He was Trevor. He made good decisions, his ball placement was on point tonight, he controlled the huddle. So I was pleased with Trevor.”

 

More from Mark Kiszla in the Denver Post:

 

In a quarterback competition stacked against him, Trevor Siemian emerged as the big winner. The biggest loser? John Elway.

 

In the race to be the Broncos’ starting quarterback, Siemian eclipsed the favorite son of Elway. Everything about the first eight months of 2017 was tilted to give Paxton Lynch every opportunity to win the job. Let us count the ways. Elway changed his coaching staff, overhauled the team’s offensive scheme and erased all of Siemian’s credit for winning eight games as a starter last season.

 

When Denver takes the field for the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers and for the foreseeable future, however, Siemian will be the starter. “It’s a permanent decision,” Broncos rookie coach Vance Joseph said Monday.

 

While Siemian was the clear-cut winner during preseason games against Chicago and San Francisco, it wasn’t so much that he shined brighter than the sun during a protracted competition that began on the final day of last season, after Gary Kubiak’s final big decision as coach was to start Siemian over the franchise’s presumed quarterback of the future in a 24-6 victory against the Oakland Raiders.

 

While Elway can take the long view of winning from now on, Joseph will get quickly run out of town if he doesn’t win now. That’s why picking Siemian over Lynch was a no-brainer.

 

“It’s all about performance, not potential. Trevor’s ready to lead our football team,” Joseph said. “We’ve got two receivers that are all-pro caliber, we’ve got a great backfield and a fixed offensive line, so we need a guy who can operate at a high level all the time.”

 

Condemning Siemian with faint praise, here is Joseph’s one-line scouting report of the starting QB: He’s better than you think. After talking to numerous NFL coaches, Joseph consistently gets the same feedback on Siemian: “He’s a pretty good quarterback.”

OK, for a self-described slappy, Siemian is a remarkable success story. At a salary of $615,000, Siemian also offers far greater value than the $10 million that Miami flushed down the toilet to get rudely disappointed by Jay Cutler. The Broncos can win 10 games and advance to the playoffs with Siemian. But win the Super Bowl with Siemian? Only if your dreams are painted in orange and blue.

 

Despite Elway’s best efforts to help him succeed, Lynch lost out because he has proved to be a dim bulb when making decisions with the football a full 16 months after the Broncos traded up to select a strong-armed prospect out of Memphis in the draft. While it might be unfair to distill Lynch’s failure to beat out Siemian down to a single play, it’s impossible to forget how Lynch failed to recognize a wide-open Demaryius Thomas crossing in front of his eyes on a third-down play against the Niners on Saturday night and instead hurled a pass into double coverage in an ill-advised and futile attempt to connect with tight end Virgil Green.

 

Full disclosure: I gave the Broncos big applause for drafting Lynch, who fit my theory that quarterbacks who lift mediocre college programs are better bets for NFL success than signal-callers surrounded by blue-chip talent at traditional powers such as Alabama and Southern Cal. Every touchdown pass Dak Prescott throws for Dallas makes me look bad for confidence in Lynch. Mea culpa.

 

ut I also strongly advocated for Denver to take Russell Wilson ahead of the 2012 draft, when Elway elected instead to pick Brock Osweiler. Which only goes to show: Whether you own a gold jacket from the Pro Football Hall of Fame or spill yellow mustard on your jacket in the press box, evaluating quarterbacks is an inexact science.

 

Lynch now gets lumped alongside Brady Quinn and Johnny Manziel on a short, ugly list of recent hot first-round prospects who weren’t ready to start at quarterback by the outset of Year 2. Even Tim Tebow, for crying out loud, won the starting job with the Broncos before the end of October during his second pro season. And Tebow’s regular-season record as starting quarterback in Denver was 8-6, which matches what Siemian achieved as a rookie with the benefit of an all-world defense.

 

While Siemian won the fight to be the starting quarterback on a technical knockout scored by doing all the small stuff that leaves Lynch stumped, it might be prudent to resist that urge to think the big debate in Broncos Country is all settled.

 

The quarterback situation in Denver remains very much unsettled, because being pretty good is not good enough for Broncos Country. Siemian can move the chains and keep the seat warm. But just because Siemian is the best choice to win now doesn’t mean he’s the quarterback from now on.

 

If Elway wants another ring, his search for a quarterback capable of winning the Super Bowl has only just begun.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

Mark Maske of the Washington Post is starting to wonder if RB MARSHAWN LYNCH is actually protesting anything when he sits during the National Anthem:

 

Two preseason games into his NFL comeback with the Oakland Raiders, running back Marshawn Lynch twice has chosen to remain seated during the pregame playing of the national anthem. The feeling here is that it’s absolutely fine and it’s his right as an American. But Lynch so far has refused to express his reasons for doing so. Doesn’t he undermine the impact of his own protest by failing to explain publicly why he’s doing what he’s doing?

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

After beating the Giants with a 10-point outburst, Coach Hue Jackson is ready to name a starting quarterback.  Mary Kay Cabot in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

In two days, Hue Jackson will end the suspense and name his starting quarterback not only for Saturday night’s dress rehearsal game in Tampa, but for the season opener against the Steelers.

 

“I kind of want to put this thing to bed by Wednesday,” Jackson said after Monday night’s 10-6 victory over the Giants. “I kind of want to say, ‘Here is where we are going’ and just move forward in that direction.”

 

Will the decision be difficult?

 

“We’ll see,” he said. “I need to watch the tape and honestly answer that question, but I have an idea in my mind based on what I felt and what I saw from our football team.”

 

Jackson is confident that he’s ‘seen enough’ to make the right decision.

 

The Browns quarterback decision nears: Brock Osweiler vs. DeShone Kizer

“I’ve done this long enough in my career and know what it looks like and what it feels like and what it should be,” he said. “I feel pretty good about it. We’ll travel in that direction. If I feel like after watching the tape we need to wait a little longer, we’ll wait a little longer. I just feel like we are at the point where we can move forward and feel good about it.”

 

Not even Kizer or Osweiler had any inkling after the game which way Jackson was leaning.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star senses a tougher edge to Coach Chuck Pagano in 2017:

 

(As reporters approached) he stood his ground and continued what has been an oddly negative preseason for the most positive man in football. Seems to me, Chuck Pagano has made a decision:

 

I’m not going down quietly.

 

And so he throws his rookie class under the bus on Monday, two days after calling his team “pitiful” after a 24-19 loss to Dallas and saying “we need a lot more grown men in that locker room” – and four days after unleashing hellfire on several unnamed players. Hellfire isn’t very subtle, though, and neither was Pagano. You had to have a pretty good idea who he was calling out Thursday, and if you didn’t, hang around. I’ll name names soon.

 

But first, this guy needs a new nickname. Used to be, he was Chipper Chuck. Chopping (wood) Chuck. Cheerleader Chuck. Pagano made his bones by being the hap-hap-happiest guy around, a player’s coach in a sport where a player’s coach works when the team is winning – but not so much when the building is burning down. Pitiful NFL teams don’t need to be cheered.

 

So Chuck, he’s trying on the black hat for a change. Gone is the guy who blamed that season-opening 2016 choke to Detroit on his poor little players being tired: “We just ran out of gas,” he said.

 

Remember Pagano’s take after that 27-21 loss to New Orleans in 2015, when the Saints jumped to a 27-0 lead at Lucas Oil Stadium? Said Pagano that day: “I’m damn proud of the way they responded at halftime and came out and played. We came up short, but they fought their butts off.”

 

Cheerleader Chuck is gone, replaced by Chafed Chuck. This guy, he’s irritated. He’s inflamed. He’s going to be fired at some point if the nonsense the Colts are calling “football” continues. And he knows it.

– – –

This Chuck, he’s not fooling around. If he wanted to get good and medieval, he’d lose the lip service and start cutting players. But cut-down day is coming. For now he’s trying to send the message verbally.

 

Will it work? Doubt it. Pagano is plagued by a roster that, in layman’s terms, you’d call “not very good.” New general manager Chris Ballard is trying to improve it, and probably has, but the cupboard was so empty – especially on defense – that it will take several trips to the offseason grocery store. The offense, meanwhile, is missing quarterback Andrew Luck and two of its top three receivers. It’s a perfect storm for a team to look bad, especially a team that hasn’t seemed especially well coached. What do you get when you combine poor talent with mediocre X’s and O’s?

 

You get the 2017 Colts.

– – –

Pagano surely is talking about more than the 2017 rookie class, but let’s be honest: Thus far, other than running back Marlon Mack’s pleasant debut Saturday at Dallas, the rookies have disappointed.

 

Meanwhile, injuries are mounting and Pagano seems to think some of his younger players (A) didn’t prepare their bodies for camp or (B) aren’t tough enough or (C) both.

 

First-round pick Malik Hooker couldn’t make it through his start-of-camp conditioning test without injuring a hamstring, and three of the team’s top four receivers – Donte Moncrief, Chester Rogers and Philip Dorsett – have missed time with nagging aches.

 

Pagano didn’t name names last week, but those four were surely some of the players he was referring to during a rant that seemed odd, coming this early in the preseason.

 

“My hat goes off to all of the guys that have practiced that have pushed through,” he said. “There are some guys out here that are practicing that are really hurt. They’re sucking it up and they’re pushing through it, and it’s our vets.”

 

But?

 

“But the young guys, they don’t have a clue,” Pagano said. “There’s no offseason (workouts) anymore. We’ve got nine weeks to try to develop guys. The pros get it – they figure it out. … Hopefully, (other) guys figure it out sooner than later.”

 

Pagano is doing rash things like moving a cornerback to safety (Darius Butler) and a safety to cornerback (T.J. Green) and shaking up his offensive line after one preseason game. Remember 2015, when guard Todd Herremans was given the entire preseason and two regular-season games before losing his job? Le’Raven Clark lost his after one exhibition.

 

The normally steadfast Pagano is flailing now, especially on offense without his quarterback, and he seems on the verge of grasping at a straw named Stephen Morris, the third-team QB who has been moved to second team behind starter Scott Tolzien. Pagano said Tolzien will get first-team reps this week, but when I asked him why, Pagano indicated the depth chart there could be shaken up again soon.

 

“We’ve got two preseason games left,” Pagano said, which I interpreted to mean: I’m not done making changes.

 

Stubbornly steadfast for so long, Pagano has pulled his head out of the sand and started coaching as if his career depends on it. Hey, guys figure it out sooner or later.