The Daily Briefing Tuesday, March 28, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
The vote was 31-1 and the Raiders are heading to Las Vegas.
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report leads the naysayers:
The stench of the greed—even for a league that cherishes money over almost anything—is staggering. Like getting used to a smog-filled city and then being hit with the pungent smell of someone who hadn’t showered for several days.
Pigs rolling in an ocean of mud aren’t this fat and happy. Money, money, money. This is the NFL’s motto. The Raiders’ move to Las Vegas proves this. Yes, it is one of many things that illustrate this point, but this is the exclamation point. Just sin, baby.
There is nothing more mercenary, and merciless, than a sports league bolting three cities in the span of 14 months—St. Louis, San Diego and now Oakland. The NFL is allowed to make money. All of us should be. But the league needs to stop pretending it’s about anything more than that. There’s no question now that this is the NFL’s sole purpose: making cash.
It’s no longer about putting on good football games. Or player health and safety. Or the fans. (Certainly not the fans.) It’s cash. The NFL is about as cartel as it gets, yet instead of pushing cigarettes, or alcohol or firearms, it pushes men beating the crap out of each other. I love the sport, and always will, but football has become less about football and more about moneyball. No, not that moneyball, football’s moneyball.
The NFL’s move to Vegas is one of the more significant examples of football compromising itself for cash in ways it never did before, on levels it never did before, in manners it likely never will in the future.
It’s easy to forget how for so long the NFL shunned Las Vegas. It’s a city in which the NFL always said it would never step foot. I distinctly remember former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue at an owners’ meeting, smirking at me after I had asked if the NFL would ever play in Vegas. He looked at me as if to say, “Are you an idiot?”
Barely one year ago, Roger Goodell said he opposed legalized sports betting. Then, at the Houston owners’ meetings in October, the commissioner said: “We remain very much opposed to gambling on sports. … We want to make sure we’re doing what’s right for the game.”
Well, obviously, the cure to gambling on sports is moving to Las Vegas!
The majority of owners strongly wanted this, according to several team officials with whom I texted in the hours after the vote, and the 31-1 vote in favor of the move offers proof. Only the Dolphins voted against.
Team executives expressed surprise this day had come. For people who have been in the league for a long time, or covered it a long time, almost none thought a team would ever play in Las Vegas.
Remember, this is the same league that prevented Tony Romo from holding his fantasy football gathering in Vegas because the event was at a casino property.
“Players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances at or in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos,” an NFL spokesman told Fox Sports at the time.
That was almost two years ago.
More important for the future, the execs wondered if the move to Vegas will be worth it in a football sense. Vegas will test NFL players and league employees like never before, two of the executives said. The city is set up to entice you to gamble, said a scout, and our players and personnel are only human.
This view was best expressed in a tweet by former NFL tight end Ben Watson:
Raiders to Vegas. Character not location determines conduct. However, certain locations challenge character more frequently.
In some ways, this attitude is antiquated. Players can gamble by using their phones or a laptop. NFLers who live in the New York area can drive an hour to Atlantic City and place a wager. There are casinos near NFL locations all over the U.S. And there’s the addiction that has hooked almost all of us: fantasy football. In other words, if you want to gamble, you don’t have to go to Las Vegas.
Still, the executives believe Vegas is different. It’s gambling on steroids. The city is engineered to get people to spend wildly or engage in other various forms of debauchery. It can turn the most pious man into a smoldering pool of goo who’s crying for his mommy while wearing nothing but his underwear.
Playing football in Vegas will test the Raiders who will be living there, and the teams that will be visiting there, like no other place could.
The NFL did this for money, without a doubt. But there’s a deeper level to the greed, as one team exec noted. Las Vegas was one of the last markets where the NFL could exert its influence and make a money grab, so that’s what the league did.
Viable markets for the NFL are drying up rapidly, to the point where there are few, and maybe now none, left. At least none where the NFL could get $750 million in public funding, as it is getting with its Vegas deal.
We cannot go to Vegas because the casinos are a naughty place where…hey, there’s a big pile of money over there. Scratch what we just said.
So the NFL compromised its long-held stance on gambling, and made a run for the cash. And in the process, the league sold its soul.
East Bay resident Michael Silver of NFL.com chimes in and has some interesting comments from former Raiders exec Amy Trask:
Though the circumstances of this move are hardly the same as they were three-and-a-half decades ago, when Mark Davis’ legendary father, Al, defied his fellow owners and initiated a protracted series of legal battles, it’s an equally painful blow for the residents of a city who have taken their share of figurative gut punches. Perpetually overshadowed by cross-Bay neighbor San Francisco, marginalized by cultural critics since the days of author Gertrude Stein and stigmatized in modern times for its crime rate and budget deficits, Oakland gets a lot of grief. However, as I know from personal experience, The Town is a terrific place to live. It has gorgeous views, diverse neighborhoods and vibrant art, musical and culinary scenes, and many of its perceived flaws are overstated.
What Oakland does not have is a football stadium that meets modern NFL standards — nor does the city have the collective inclination to throw hundreds of millions in public money toward building a new stadium for an owner (Mark Davis, who inherited the team after his father passed away in 2011) who lacks the means to build one on his own. This is not unusual in the state of California, where virtually every stadium constructed in the past several decades has been privately funded, either completely or substantially. And because Mark Davis will not build his own stadium, or sell the team (or sell an interest in the team, with a path to eventual ownership) to someone who could, Oakland has been in a vulnerable position when it comes to solving the Raiders’ housing crisis.
Throw in the fact Oakland is also charged with satisfying the stadium-related concerns of the A’s, who annually host 81 regular-season baseball games to the Raiders’ eight, and Davis was going to have a hard time finding satisfaction. After losing out on a bid to relocate to L.A. 14 months ago, Davis set his sights on Las Vegas, ultimately securing a sweetheart deal that includes a $750 million contribution approved by the Nevada State Legislature, the largest public subsidy ever earmarked for an NFL stadium. The facility is expected to open in time for the 2020 season.
So yeah, Oakland was in a tough spot, and this loss was expected. But that doesn’t make its inevitability any less painful for the fans who’ve stayed loyal to the Silver and Black for more than half a century, even after being jilted the first time.
And I do mean loyal: In 1989, seven years after the Raiders moved south to L.A., Al Davis scheduled a preseason game against the Houston Oilers at the Oakland Coliseum — and attracted a raucous, standing-room-only crowd of ebullient Raiders fans eager to reclaim their team. I covered that game for the now-defunct Sacramento Union, and it was positively surreal. The relationship between the Coliseum’s largely blue-collar crowd and the tough, gritty teams which reflected the city’s values had been forged throughout the ’60s and ’70s, and the lingering emotional attachment was a shock to the senses for a rookie NFL writer. I went into that assignment thinking these spurned Oakland Raiders worshippers were semi-pathetic; I left that stadium awed by the unbreakable bond they felt between them and their team.
“I was covered head to toe in goosebumps from the moment I stepped off the team bus to the moment we left the stadium,” recalled former Raiders chief executive Amy Trask, now a CBS Sports analyst. “That very, very special bond between those Oakland fans and the Raiders is hard to articulate.”
It’s a bond that has Trask, who left the team four years ago, wistful about what might have been. She has said on numerous occasions that “there is a deal to be done in Oakland” and believes that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who took office in January of 2015, was far more equipped than predecessor Jean Quan to make it happen.
“Had I chosen to stay with the team and been afforded the chance, I would have relished the opportunity to work with Libby Schaaf,” Trask said. “She brings a level of business sophistication and clear communication and hard work that Jean Quan did not.”
Instead, Schaaf and a group fronted by Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott (who spent two seasons toward the end of his career with the Raiders) put together a proposal that Mark Davis and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell deemed insufficient, and Davis’ partners voted to approve the Vegas move. It’s unfortunate, given this assessment by one knowledgeable source: “If Mark Davis would offer a minority interest in the team with a path to ownership — even far down the road — to buyers who’d then be charged with securing a privately funded stadium in Oakland, there’d be a line out the door of people who could pull it off.”
The reality, however, is that you can’t make someone sell a team, and Davis clearly does not want to relinquish control of the Raiders. Given that state of affairs — and given what awaits him in Las Vegas — getting approval from his fellow owners, all of whom will receive a cut of the hefty relocation fee he’ll be forced to pay, was not going to be difficult for Davis.
Losing the Raiders for a second time? That will be very, very difficult for Oakland. The city already is facing the impending loss of the NBA’s Warriors, who are planning to move across the Bay to San Francisco for the 2019-20 season. And the Raiders’ exit also will be a long goodbye: Awkwardly, they are scheduled to play in Oakland in each of the next two seasons, though they could theoretically get out of that deal a year early and make other arrangements for 2018. In either scenario, it’s unclear where they’ll play in 2019, with the new stadium in Las Vegas scheduled to be ready in time for the 2020 campaign.
Now officially lame ducks, the Raiders might still attract big crowds in 2017. They’re coming off their first winning season and playoff appearance in 14 years and have a pair of young stars in quarterback Derek Carr and pass rusher Khalil Mack, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. And hometown hero Marshawn Lynch is toying with the idea of coming out of retirement, with Oakland his targeted destination.
So yes, there still will be a Raider Roar in the Oakland Coliseum this fall, and the complicated emotional bond between city and team will remain intact, at least for now.
But after Monday’s vote, it will never, ever be the same.
The DB feels bad to some extent for St. Louis. Decent support despite a long run of horrible play on the field. A stadium that wasn’t that old and wasn’t as bad as Rams ownership portrayed it. And there might have been an ability to forge a partnership for a new stadium is Stan Kroenke wanted to stay.
The DB feels bad to some extent for San Diego. Long history of support for the team. But a truly awful stadium that had to be replaced and an overwhelmingly negative vote by the public.
But can’t we all agree that the Black Hole had to be replaced. And even with that reality, the East Bay couldn’t get a deal done. We still believe that most Raiders fans, located all over California, north and south, will find their way to Las Vegas on a fairly regular basis. And that the Vegas market will prove to be better in its support than the naysayers believe.
Alex Marvez of The Sporting News on the obstacles overcome by Mark Davis.
Mark Davis is as salt-of-the-earth as you’re going to get from a primarily pompous group of team owners. There is no air of wealth and privilege even though he had both as the son of late Raiders patriarch Al Davis.
Mark Davis is surprisingly approachable for someone whose personal financial value stands at a reported $500 million. This comes through at Raiders training camp in Napa, Calif.
Usually wearing blue jeans and a long-sleeve white Raiders shirt, Davis takes sincere please speaking with fans and taking pictures at training camp because, in many ways, he’s like one of them — he bleeds silver-and-black.
His suite at Raiders games isn’t filled with big-name celebrities, politicos or television network executives like those of Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft. Davis surrounds himself with former Raiders players with whom he remains close.
The every-man aspect plays out in other ways. As chronicled in a brilliant 2015 ESPN story, Davis regularly eats at P.F. Chang’s and Hooters. He drives a minivan. While other NFL owners were treating themselves to lavish meals at a recent Super Bowl, I spotted Davis dining alone at the media hotel bar.
Such qualities can be considered endearing. His peers might not always have thought the same.
The impression I’ve always gotten is that Davis was considered a real-life version of Chris Farley in Tommy Boy. Even though others amongst them had inherited teams from their fathers, Davis was considered a clown because he held no major sway or front-office position when his father was running the team. His unpolished appearance — complete with soup blow haircut that Moe Howard would love — and the Raiders’ on-field woes in his first four years running the team didn’t help that perception.
Nobody is laughing now.
Proof that Davis earned their respect came Monday when relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas was approved at the NFL owners meeting by a 31-1 vote in Phoenix.
Davis and team president Mark Badain — both of whom once served as Raiders water boys — pulled off what was once considered implausible. That’s getting the league to sign off on letting a franchise move directly into the heart of organized gambling and all the sordid temptations that come with it.
Davis did it by corralling a sweetheart deal that provides $750 million in public funding — the most ever committed to any U.S. stadium project — for a $1.7 billion facility scheduled for completion in 2020. Davis didn’t even have to surrender any ownership stake in the Raiders for more funding capital, which was once considered imminent considering his only major source of wealth is the franchise itself.
The deal wasn’t handed to Davis, either. When prospects of reaching a stadium deal in the Bay Area turned bleak several years ago, Davis began courting his club to different cities like a player in free agency.
Once the governor of Nevada said he was on board, Davis became steadfastly committed to building an enduring trust and shut the door on Oakland. The Raiders then scrambled to save their deal in Las Vegas earlier this year by finding a new partner (Bank of America) after talks went south with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Davis wasn’t gloating on Sunday night when walking alone through the Biltmore Hotel with a serious look on his face. I told him he was the “Man of the Hour.”
Davis replied, “Yeah, right.”
Once the vote was complete, Davis was just that.
“My father used to say the greatness of the Raiders is in its future,” Davis said during a post-vote news conference. “This gives us the opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world, one that gives us the opportunity to achieve that greatness.”
Maybe so, but the work for Davis isn’t nearly over.
Based upon their lease agreement, the Raiders still must play the next two seasons in the dump officially known as Oakland Alameda Coliseum while remaining the NFL’s only team to share a facility — and dirt infield — with a Major League Baseball team (the Athletics). Davis left open the possibility of playing there again in 2019 while the Las Vegas stadium gets completed, but that might be asking too much considering how much earth is scorched with the locals.
Davis knows there’s a broken-hearted Bay Area fan base to deal with as the Raiders leave Oakland for the second time in the franchise’s 58-year history. Davis offered refunds for any season-ticket holder who wants them and said he would speak with Raiders faithful in the coming days to pitch his explanation of why a deal to stay couldn’t be reached. He also asked they not take out their frustrations on players and coaches during the transition to Las Vegas.
Good luck with that. The same for head coach Jack Del Rio in trying to minimize the headaches and distractions all this will cause a Raiders team finally ready to contend for a Super Bowl again.
More challenges are ahead when the Raiders do finally arrive in Las Vegas. Among them: Davis must try his best to maintain a high-character roster and deploy safeguards that insure his players don’t succumb to the persuasions of Sin City.
The hard part, though, is over. Davis did what his father could never do and some of his peers doubted could ever get done.
He found the Raiders a home of their own.
Important point here, “a home of their own” – not sharing a crummy dump with the A’s.
An update on NFL rules changes approved on Tuesday. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
Blocking field goals or extra points just became more difficult.
NFL owners passed a rule to prohibit players from leaping over offensive linemen during kicks, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Monday.
The Philadelphia Eagles proposed the rule change, which was backed by the NFL Players Association with player safety in mind.
“The jumping over on the field goal, I think, is just leading to a really dangerous play for everybody,” offensive lineman Eric Winston, the NFLPA’s president, said earlier this offseason, via the Washington Post. “If you jump over the center, the jumper is in a really bad spot. He can land on his head. I think the guys that are getting jumped over are going to end up getting hurt, with those guys landing on them. So I’ll be very interested to see what they’ll do there. I think something probably needs to be done.”
Defenders leaping from the second level over an offensive lineman, usually the long snapper, has led to exciting plays. Players like Seattle Seahawks Kam Chancellor have impacted games by blocking multiple kicks. Denver’s Justin Simmons famously changed the outcome of last season’s contest versus the New Orleans Saints by leaping over and blocking a would-be go-ahead extra point, which was returned for two points, giving the Broncos a 25-23 win.
Many players might be upset with the rule change, but both the NFL and NFLPA endorsed it for safety reasons.
Other rule changes voted upon Tuesday:
1. The NFL passed a rule for automatic ejections for egregious hits to the head, Rapoport reported. This new rule comes a year after the league installed an automatic ejection system for players who committed two personal fouls in the same game.
Translation: Expect college-like targeting calls to lead to ejections.
2. The Washington Redskins’ proposal to place the ball at the 20-yard-line if the kicker puts it through the uprights on a kickoff failed, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported.
3. The owners approved centralized replay, giving senior VP of officiating Dean Blandino and the New York command center final say on calls in question, NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones reported.
– – –
But overtime will continue to be a maximum of 15 minutes, not 10 as proposed by the Competition Committee. At least in 2017. Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com:
The Competition Committee recommended to ownership a reduction of preseason and regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. The ownership has not yet embraced the recommendation.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the proposal was tabled during Tuesday’s meetings in Arizona. The source added that nine teams were opposed to the change.
By rule, 24 votes are needed to implement a rule change. Which means that nine “no” votes can block and proposed change.
It’s unclear when the matter will be revisited. Or whether another possibility (cough . . . two-point conversion shootout . . . cough) will emerge in its place.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com with some thoughts on QB MIKE GLENNON:
Have you ever looked up on Facebook somebody you vaguely remembered from a party three years ago and thought they looked great? Have you then paid that person three years and $45 million to come to Chicago and hang out with you? Congrats! You’re the Chicago Bears. The money is a huge sum for a player who really hasn’t played much since 2014, but with $18.5 million guaranteed, it’s really likely to be a one-year deal, with the Bears retaining the option to keep Glennon for a couple seasons if he works out.
Even if you think of it as a one-year, $15 million deal, it’s hard to figure whom the Bears were negotiating against for Glennon to the extent that they had to pay this much for a guy with 630 career passes. Brian Hoyer has outperformed Glennon during his career. Jay Cutler, for that matter, has been a far superior quarterback to Glennon. Glennon is not getting as much as Brock Osweiler got from the Texans last year — Osweiler picked up $37 million in guarantees, which prevented the Texans from moving on after one season — but Osweiler was unequivocally better in Denver than Glennon was in Tampa.
Is Glennon really a diamond in the rough? It’s hard to say. Looking back through some of Glennon’s old games, you’ll see a quarterback who flashes competence but was consistently inconsistent. Glennon has the sort of height (6-foot-7) and arm strength coaches crave in quarterbacks, but he struggles to reliably turn that strength into zip on his passes. Some passes come out looking like fastballs, but others pop up as changeups. He’ll miss on deep throws, such as this would-be touchdown to Vincent Jackson in his last start, which ended up as an interception. Glennon was able to get by for chunks of time in Tampa by throwing fades to massive wideouts such as Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, which is less about a quarterback and more about his receivers. If the Bears only had a 6-foot-3 wideout who routinely won on jump balls …
Glennon is certainly capable of pushing the ball downfield, as he has averaged 9.2 air yards per pass as a pro. He stands strong in the pocket and doesn’t stare down at the rush, almost to his detriment at times, as he’ll struggle to feel pass pressure and take sacks he shouldn’t. The Bears have a good offensive line, and it’s possible he’ll grow more comfortable in the pocket with more reps.
The one thing Glennon clearly lacks, though, is accuracy. He completed just 60.4 percent of his passes at North Carolina State, including a 58.5 percent mark as a senior. History tells us that quarterbacks rarely improve their accuracy by a significant amount as they enter the NFL, and indeed, Glennon’s completion percentage dipped to 59.4 percent in Tampa. You can explain some of that by the fact that he has thrown deeper passes, but a closer look reveals the problem:
CMP% SPLIT GLENNON NFL AVG., 2013-16
0-10 Yards 54.5% 73.3%
10-20 Yards 65.5% 67.9%
20+ Yards 43.5% 41.5%
If Glennon can start making those shorter throws in traffic, he’ll be a viable starter. But that’s hardly a sure thing.
The first known nibble for RB ADRIAN PETERSON (since he left Oakland unsigned) comes from the Motor City. Justin Rogers of the Detroit News:
The Detroit Lions have between $7-8 million in cap space, less than most teams, but are still interested in making additions via free agency, including potentially signing a marquee name like running back Adrian Peterson.
“We’re definitely still open for business in terms of free agency,” general manager Bob Quinn said at the league meetings Monday afternoon. “This is a little bit of a lull in the process, but we’re constantly evaluating, looking at our options compared to what might be in the draft and trying to make those things come together and make the best possible decisions.”
Quinn and the Lions have been aggressive on the open market, filling a number of needs the past month. The team has especially poured significant resources into its offensive line, signing tackle Rick Wagner and guard T.J. Lang to lucrative multi-year deals.
But that’s only part of the equation when it comes to solving the franchise’s long-standing woes in the ground game. There continues to be an expectation the Lions will add a running back this offseason to round out its rotation, currently led by Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.
Could Peterson, the seven-time Pro Bowler who has spent his entire career with the Minnesota Vikings, be the solution? Quinn certainly didn’t close the door.
“I think AP still has plenty left in the tank,” Quinn said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Peterson, who is fewer than 600 yards from cracking the top 10 on the all-time list, missed most of last season with a knee injury. Limited to just three games, he mustered just 72 yards on 37 carries. He also missed nearly all the 2014 season with a groin issue.
But in 2015, Peterson still showed signs of dominance, racking up 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Quinn declined to comment whether he’s specifically talked to Peterson’s representation to gauge interest, saying only that the team has kicked the tires on “hundreds of players” and the list of players they’ve called on would be “a mile long.”
The Eagles have signed DE CHRIS LONG. Marc Sessler at NFL.com:
One month removed from winning a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots, Chris Long has found a new team.
The 32-year-old pass rusher has agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles on a two-year contract, the team announced. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport was told that Long’s pact offers close to the $2.4 million he made in New England in 2016.
Long parted ways with the Patriots shortly after their Super Bowl win over the Falcons, stating the reasons for his departure on Instagram:
“This has zero to do with money, etc. It’s the right move in my heart because I want to get back to being the player I was before,” wrote Long, who played just 15 snaps in the Super Bowl. “I’m thankful for my role this year, but as a competitor, I’m itching to do what I do best.”
After posting four sacks last season, Long joins a deep Eagles line that also includes Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry on the edge with Fletcher Cox and Beau Allen inside.
Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post thinks that when the Redskins hired Scot McCloughan they were obligated to keep him in power no matter how much an alcohol relapse may have impaired his ability to handle his duties. Or at least that’s what we read here:
Bruce Allen wants clarity, so here’s a quick dose. The Redskins hired a lauded personnel man, despite his personal demons, at a time when they desperately needed a public-relations boost. They promised to stand by him as he worked through his issues. They said he was “going to be in charge of all the personnel department and the personnel on this team.” They enjoyed their best back-to-back seasons in nearly 20 years. And then — after barely two years — they fired that man in an embarrassing public spectacle, as everything solid melted into air. In the best possible reading of this, the team made a bad hire that ended badly. That clear enough?
Allen finally broke his silence this week. This was 23 days after the team president said General Manager Scot McCloughan was “a great guy” who was “dealing with some family matters” but that “as soon as the family matters are cleared up, we’ll be okay.” This was 16 days after Allen fired McCloughan, as an anonymous colleague trashed the GM as a drunk. And the reason Allen finally offered for making such a nearly unthinkable front-office move on the first day of free agency?
“We wanted to give clarity to our free agents and to our staff of where we were going,” Allen told The Post’s Liz Clarke.
“At the beginning of the league year, we needed some clarity,” Allen told ESPN.com.
“I thought on the first day of the league year, the free agents we were bringing in, we needed clarity,” Allen told CSN. “And for our scouts to continue the good work we were doing, we needed clarity for the season.”
“I made the decision on the first day of the league year in order to give clarity to the players that we were signing to bring into the team, and also for the scouting staff, going forward,” Allen told the Washington Times.
So this was about clarity. Clearly. And now the landscape is finally clear. Clear as industrial sludge.
There are some — maybe many — die-hards who have sided with Allen and the team during this episode. They think McCloughan had alcohol problems of his own making, and that he fumbled away his third chance at a plum NFL gig. They think the team tried to protect him, but couldn’t continue the facade when McCloughan’s side started leaking damaging, one-sided details. They think firing McCloughan was the Redskins making the best of an impossible hand. And they ask why people like me have been so cynical and mistrustful of the front office for this latest shake-up.
And this is what I’ve told them: remember Jim Zorn. The Redskins hired the affable assistant as their offensive coordinator. After two weeks of limbo, they promoted him to head coach, a decision which made no obvious sense to anyone. And as his second year devolved into chaos, the team publicly undermined Zorn, virtually begging him to quit, before finally firing him after a carnival-like final few weeks. The official narrative? “That incompetent buffoon was in over his head!”
Nah. Not anymore. If you hire someone who isn’t qualified for the job, and he then fails, you don’t get to blame the unqualified guy you hired. If you hire someone with a history of alcohol abuse — someone who has openly talked about his struggles, and who has said that he still drinks — and he then fails, you don’t get to blame the struggling guy you hired.
Not when there’s a pattern stretching over nearly 20 years. Marty Schottenheimer came here with a .630 winning percentage; turns out he was a control freak. Mike Shanahan came here with two Super Bowl rings; turns out he was a manipulative leaker. Donovan McNabb came here as a six-time Pro Bowler; turns out he lacked both cardio and brainpower. Robert Griffin III came here as an unblemished and charismatic leader; turns out he was just a grinning, egomaniacal hashtag.
In the most charitable interpretation, all these people — like McCloughan — were just bad hires, and the team had no choice but to cut ties. Squint a bit at each individual case, and that makes sense. But as a group? After this many crack-ups, maybe it’s time to look at the people making the hires. If my boss kept making high-profile hires who bombed out in chaos, I’d start hoping for a different boss.
What has the Redskins boss done? Well, remember Schottenheimer? That whole thing was his fault.
“He’d still be here if he didn’t want to do it all,” Dan Snyder once told author Gary Myers. “He was insistent on doing it all.”
Or Zorn? That was Vinny Cerrato’s fault.
“The general manager needs to prevent the owner from hiring someone who’s not qualified,” Snyder told Myers. “And that’s why Vinny is no longer here, to be truthful with you. He’s not here because his job was to prevent the owner from hiring a not-qualified coach.”
Those two moves, of course, predated Allen, and Snyder also acknowledged “I made a big mistake” in hiring Zorn, for which he apologized. Still, this all feels like an organizational pattern. Now it’s McCloughan’s turn, flicked aside in pursuit of clarity. Allen told ESPN that he and McCloughan actually were “on the same page,” that he still likes McCloughan but that “it feels like our friendship obviously will be strained.” You can imagine Stalin saying the same thing about Trotsky, after that unfortunate misunderstanding with the ice pick. How do you say “I do wish him the best” in Russian?
If you want clarity, you can’t divorce this ending from the two years that preceded it. The whole thing began with fan rage after Allen’s “Winning off the field” news conference, which was soon mollified by McCloughan’s hire. Then came the promise that McCloughan was in control, the months of “In Scot We Trust,” the two winning seasons. If you’re trying to now say McCloughan was incidental to the success, then the last two seasons are suddenly unrecognizable. We were all clinging to a wispy myth.
The reason those two years felt like progress was because the wins seemed paired with front-office normalcy. If you strip that away in pursuit of clarity, you’re going to be left with something else: a murky uncertainty, with fans no longer knowing whom or what to believe.
So what could Allen have said this week? He could have said it was disgusting for a team representative to have trashed McCloughan. He could have expressed regret that the team did not provide an atmosphere or support system in which McCloughan could flourish. He could have acknowledged that this episode was a horrible shock for the team’s fans. He could have admitted the team burned up acres of good will over the last four weeks, and would have to patiently work to grow it back. He could have said that this franchise-altering hire did not work out, and that the final responsibility for that rests with the person who made the hire.
“I screwed up,” he could have said, “and I’m sorry, and I’ll do my best to fix it.” How’s that for clarity?
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com says the Rams, who should be in the fifth-best position going into the 2017 draft rank last instead:
32. Los Angeles Rams
Original adjusted capital: 58.1 points
Actual capital: 31.5 points (minus-45.8 percent)
The Patriots picked up a star wide receiver after winning the Super Bowl, so I suspect they’re not too upset about those missing draft assets. The Rams traded up with the Titans for a quarterback who had one of the worst rookie half-seasons in recent memory, so they might not be feeling quite as sanguine. New head coach Sean McVay will be short the fifth overall selection and the 100th pick in this year’s draft as part of the trade with the Titans.
The Rams did get a fourth-rounder for Rodney McLeod and moved up into the sixth round by sending their seventh-rounder and William Hayes to Miami, but the Titans own a huge chunk of Los Angeles’ original draft capital. The Rams will be feeling its absence even if Goff works out, but if he doesn’t …
Barnwell talks about “draft capital” in greater detail for all 32 teams here
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com likes the way the Chiefs are set for the 2017 draft, saying they have improved their natural “draft capital” (fourth best of any team) by letting other teams sign crummy free agents:
This is even with the Chiefs missing a sixth-round pick as part of their punishment for tampering with Jeremy Maclin before the 2015 offseason, which cost them 1.3 points of capital. The Chiefs haven’t acquired anybody else’s picks, but they have four compensatory selections, including a third-rounder, a fifth-rounder and two sixth-round picks. The players behind those comp picks had star-crossed seasons. Sean Smith was benched by the Raiders at points last year. Chase Daniel already has been released by the Eagles. Donald Stephenson also was benched at times by the Broncos and forced to take a pay cut. And of this while Tyvon Branch spent most of the year on injured reserve.
Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY wonders about the Raiders short term future while still playing in Oakland:
Mark Davis insists that he has no fear.
Shortly after NFL owners formally approved another franchise relocation Monday — the third in 14 months — sending Davis’ Oakland Raiders to Sin City, he was reminded about the backlash brewing back home.
On top of intense debate over whether fans will pay to see a team with one foot out the door, Davis’ home address has been plastered all over the Internet. It makes me wonder whether the needs to beef up his personal security.
“No concern,” the Raiders owner told USA TODAY Sports as he hustled to the next meeting. “That’s part of life.”
Davis pretty much had to make this move in one sense, given the landscape for the business of the NFL and the frustrating but fruitless years of trying to strike a deal to remain in Oakland. Davis expects that in the coming days, he will publicly detail his reasons for the move to the die-hards in Oakland.
Good luck with that.
Regardless of how he explains it, it will be tough to convince some fans in the Bay Area that he could not have held out longer. They are hot, bothered and angry, the latest group of jilted fans whose team is moving away for greener (as in money) pastures.
Ronnie Lott, the Hall of Famer who is part of an investment group that fell short in striking a stay-at-home deal, told USA TODAY Sports last week: “It’s going to get ugly. In San Diego, they were upset to lose the Chargers. People in Oakland will be mad.”
Yet the Raiders, whose $1.9 billion domed stadium in Las Vegas isn’t projected to be ready until 2020, will be staying in Oakland a little longer. The team has annual leases that extend through the 2018 season, and Davis said that getting another for 2019 is also possible.
What a long, lame-duck window that surely some might view as a slap in the face to Oakland. Just move, baby? Not so fast.
“If fans would like us to stay there, we’d love to be there for that,” Davis said in reference to the upcoming seasons. “I’d like to bring a championship back to Oakland.”
Like a farewell gift? This will be so awkward, and just when the Raiders have been rebuilt into a viable Super Bowl contender after more than a decade of futility.
Consider how the Chargers responded after deciding to join the Rams as the second team in Los Angeles. They will play for two years at a temporary home at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., rather than remain in San Diego while their new stadium is built. Apparently, owner Dean Spanos realized it would have only increased the strain — and probably drained ticket sales, too — to stay any longer in San Diego.
The Rams, likewise, knew it wasn’t an option to stay in St. Louis after striking their L.A. deal.
What makes the Raiders different? As one NFL owner told me Monday: “It can work for them where it wouldn’t work for others. The Raiders have such a unique fan base.”
They undoubtedly are one of the NFL’s most passionate national draws. I’d put the Raiders in a group with the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers when it comes to taking over a visiting stadium. The term “Raider Nation” comes with much substance.
One reason the franchise will succeed in Las Vegas, as Davis has suggested, is because of its proximity to California, where Raiders fans are ubiquitous.
“A lot of people we know are down with the move,” said Raul Jaramillo, a Los Angeles native currently residing in Phoenix, who was among a small group of Raiders fans who showed up at the swanky resort where NFL owners are meeting this week.
“It’s closer for us.”
Jaramillo was living in L.A. when the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995, so he understands the bitterness and anger. He said he wouldn’t wear the “Las Vegas Raiders” T-shirt he sported Monday in Oakland, because it would be a slap in the face to fans there.
However we’re going to see just how loyal the Oakland base of Raider Nation will be. In the meantime, the Raiders have the weirdness looming of at least two more years in Oaktown — possibly three if they don’t spend 2019 in San Diego, sharing the 49ers’ stadium in Santa Clara or going to Vegas early.
As Jamarillo put it, “It’s like divorcing your wife and she lives with you for two years while dating someone else.”
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com says the Browns have the most “draft capital” of any team in 2017 and that this is good:
The Browns have 96.7 points to work with in this year’s draft; the 49ers, in second, are at 65.0 points. San Francisco is closer to Minnesota, which ranks 28th in draft capital, than it is to Cleveland. Even more staggeringly, this fails to consider what the Browns have done to ensure that they’re also set up for 2018. They already have three second-round picks in next year’s draft, with selections coming from the Eagles (in the Carson Wentz trade) and Texans (the Brock Osweiler salary dump), as well as extra picks in the fourth round (from when they traded Lee to Carolina) and sixth round (from Pittsburgh for Justin Gilbert).
They also sent a third-round comp pick to the Patriots for Jamie Collins, whom the Browns expect to become a cornerstone of their defense. I wouldn’t expect the Browns to hold on to all of their picks this year; they’ll likely move around in the draft and continue to try to trade for future selections, although they might not be willing to risk the public-relations hit of passing on Myles Garrett with the first overall pick.
Of course, naysayers will point out that the Browns need to hit on their picks to justify their aggressiveness in acquiring extra picks, and it’s true: If the Browns do a terrible job of drafting and developing talent, their strategy will fail. It’s also true that the Browns will fail if they repeatedly trade up and spend a ton of money on free agents and do a poor job of developing those players, as well. There’s no foolproof strategy, but history tells us what the Browns are doing is the most prudent option. They’re maxing out their 401k and piling money into their savings, instead of playing the lottery. Sure, the stock market might crash, but the Browns are banking on the long-term play winning out in the end.
– – –
Owner Jimmy Haslam III confirmed that the Browns are happier with the second round pick they got from the Texans than QB BROCK OSWEILER. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Jimmy Haslam acknowledged what everyone has known about Brock Osweiler since the day the Browns traded for him on the first day of free agency: that he might not be long for this team.
“We picked up a second-round pick,” Haslam said, re-emphasizing that the trade was about acquiring that asset and not as much about the quarterback. “Brock could be on our team or we could trade him. There’s lots of options out there and like I said you guys should cover it with Sashi (Brown) tomorrow.”
Echoing what Hue Jackson told NFL Network Sunday night, Haslam said the Browns will treat Osweiler like any other player as long as he’s around.
“Brock’s on our roster and as long as he’s on our roster, we’re going to coach him hard,” Haslam said. “As you know, with the way the CBA works, we can’t talk to these guys right now so we really have had almost no contact with him and won’t until players report on April 17.”
Did Haslam have to be sold on moving up from the fourth-round to the second for the cost of Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed salary?
“We’re excited about getting the second-round pick and we’re excited to add a guy to our roster who has won games in the NFL,” he said. “We now have eight first- or second-round picks in the next two years. We’re excited about that.”
Haslam’s remarks were similar to what Jackson told NFL Network when asked if Osweiler will be part of the Browns this year.
“He is,” said Jackson, in a segment that appeared Monday. “Obviously, he’s a player on our team and we’re going to treat him just like we do all of our other quarterbacks until he’s not.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle on the timetable for the continuation of Bill O’Brien as coach of the Texans:
Even though Texans coach Bill O’Brien has posted winning records in each of his first three seasons and has won back-to-back AFC South titles, he will not be getting an extension this year.
O’Brien is in the fourth year of the five-year contract he signed with the Texans in 2014.
“We’ll talk to him about it at the end of this year,” owner Bob McNair said Monday. “That’s typically when we do that sort of thing.”
O’Brien has a 27-21 record. Two coaches who were hired the same year as O’Brien – Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer (26-22) and Washington’s Jay Gruden (21-26-1) – signed two-year extensions.
O’Brien is the only one in that threesome who has a playoff victory.
Oakland’s Jack Del Rio (19-13), who was hired in 2015, already received a four-year extension.
“We’ll sit down and see what he’s (O’Brien) happy with and if he wants to be extended and see how we feel,” McNair said.
McNair has hired three coaches. Dom Capers was fired after four seasons. Gary Kubiak, hired in 2006 to replace Capers, earned an extension and was fired in 2013.
The key words there could be “we’ll see if he’s happy.” It sounds like his happiness is not obvious.
THIS AND THAT
KAEP IN EXILE
Does COLIN KAEPERNICK really want $9 million per year? Mike Florio has someone (presumably an agent) say no:
To claim that quarterback Colin Kaepernick wants a chance to compete for a starting job and a salary of $9 million or $10 million per year would be to assume that conversations with one or more teams have progressed to that point. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, they haven’t.
The source said it’s “completely false” to suggest that Kaepernick has requested $9 million to $10 million per year.
Which makes the report that Kaepernick wants a chance to start and compensation in that range rooted in supposition or speculation or assumption that has morphed, perhaps via repetition, into perceived fact. And it’s in the interests of the teams that have ignored him individually and the league collectively to embrace that narrative, in order to push back against the perception that Kaepernick has been shunned for non-football reasons.
Whether he has or hasn’t been shunned for non-football reasons, embracing the idea that he has made demands that would price him out of potential spots presumes that teams would be interested in him at a lower price. Absent evidence that teams that already have signed quarterbacks actually explored what Kaepernick wants, the report seems to be nothing more than an effort to get people to quit suggesting that Kaepernick has been blackballed.
So presumably the source is saying that $9 million is higher than Kaepernick perceives his actual value to be. But do we really know that Kaep might think, in the age of huge contracts for BROCK OSWEILER and MIKE GLENNON, that his value is higher?
And seriously, if there were any discussions at all with Kaepernick (as indicated by John Lynch of the 49ers among other) didn’t someone come up with a general range of a demand or a team offer to which Kaepernick’s people said that’s not enough? We think it would come up in the first 15 minutes.
GRADING THE FREE AGENT DEALS
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com (who generally does not like free agency) has been compiling his opinions of all the free agent deals.
It’s a long, long piece and you can read all the reasoning here. We put his report on the MIKE GLENNON signing in Chicago to give you a flavor.
But here are the grades (from a team viewpoint presumably) from worst to the lone princely A:
DE Andre Branch, Dolphins Grade: F
OT Matt Kalil, Panthers Grade: D-
LB Malcolm Smith, 49ers Grade: D-
OT Luke Joeckel, Seahawks Grade: D
K Steven Hauschka, Bills Grade: D
LB Kiko Alonso, Dolphins Grade: D+
QB Josh McCown, Jets Grade: D+
WR Markus Wheaton, Bears Grade: D+
S Reshad Jones, Dolphins Grade: D+
WR Kenny Stills, Dolphins Grade: D+
WR Robert Woods, Rams Grade: D+
FB Kyle Juszczyk, 49ers Grade: D+
OT Mike Remmers, Vikings Grade: C-
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants Grade: C
RB Latavius Murray, Vikings Grade: C
RB Eddie Lacy, Seahawks Grade: C
DT Lawrence Guy, Patriots Grade: C
DT Nick Fairley, Saints Grade: C
OT Riley Reiff, Vikings Grade: C
ILB Lawrence Timmons, Dolphins Grade: C
QB Mike Glennon, Bears Grade: C
S Jahleel Addae, Chargers Grade: C
TE Vernon Davis, Washington Grade: C
WR Pierre Garcon, 49ers Grade: C+
CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Bengals Grade: C+
TE Jared Cook, Raiders Grade: C+
WR Adam Thielen, Vikings Grade: C+
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Raiders Grade: C+
LT Kelvin Beachum, Jets Grade: C+
CB A.J. Bouye, Jaguars Grade: C+
OLB Chandler Jones, Cardinals Grade: C+
OLB Nick Perry, Packers Grade: C+
WR Kenny Britt, Browns Grade: C+
TE Jack Doyle, Colts Grade: C+
RB Rex Burkhead, Patriots Grade: B-
DT Bennie Logan, Chiefs Grade: B-
WR Kendall Wright, Bears Grade: B-
G T.J. Lang, Lions Grade: B-
CB Stephon Gilmore, Patriots Grade: B-
G Kevin Zeitler, Browns Grade: B-
WR DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers Grade: B-
S Barry Church, Jaguars Grade: B-
OT Ricky Wagner, Lions Grade: B-
WR Brandon Marshall, Giants Grade: B-
DL Calais Campbell, Jaguars Grade: B-
S Tony Jefferson, Ravens Grade: B-
NT Brandon Williams, Ravens Grade: B-
OT Russell Okung, Chargers Grade: B-
OLB Connor Barwin, Rams Grade: B
DT Dontari Poe, Falcons Grade: B
LB Dont’a Hightower, Patriots Grade: B
TE Martellus Bennett, Packers Grade: B
G Larry Warford, Saints Grade: B
DT Stacy McGee, Washington Grade: B
G Ronald Leary, Broncos Grade: B
CB Logan Ryan, Titans Grade: B
QB Brian Hoyer, 49ers Grade: B
RB Danny Woodhead, Ravens Grade: B+
DL Jabaal Sheard, Colts Grade: B+
WR Terrelle Pryor, Washington Grade: B+
OLB John Simon, Colts Grade: B+
DE Chris Baker, Buccaneers Grade: B+
C Joel Bitonio, Browns Grade: B+
DE Charles Johnson, Panthers Grade: B+
QB Tyrod Taylor, Bills Grade: B+
WR Torrey Smith, Eagles Grade: B+
OT Andrew Whitworth, Rams Grade: B+
WR Alshon Jeffery, Eagles Grade: A-
CB Prince Amukamara, Bears Grade: A
And some trades:
Trade: QB Brock Osweiler, Browns (from Texans)
Grade for Browns: B- | Grade for Texans: B
Trade: WR Brandin Cooks, Patriots (from Saints)
Grade for Patriots: B | Grade for Saints: B+
Trade: TE Dwayne Allen, Patriots (from Colts)
Grade for both teams: B-