The Daily Briefing Tuesday, September 11, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

The new head coaches went 0-7 in Week 1.  Five lost at home.

 

Particularly galling had to be the losses of Matt Patricia of the Lions, Jon Gruden of the Raiders and Frank Reich of the Colts.  Close games at the half turned when they were collectively outscored 14-78 in the 2nd half.  Matt Nagy of the Bears was outscored 6-24 in the second half of his crushing road loss.

– – –

One offs or signs of a trend?

 

The three highest scoring teams of Week 1 were the unlikely trio of Tampa Bay (48), the Jets (48) and Baltimore (47).

 

The Jets were 24th in the NFL in scoring last year, the Buccaneers 18th.  The DB was expecting to lump the Ravens with those two in the 2017 bottom half, but was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find Baltimore 9th in 2017 scoring at 24.7 points per game.  More than the Vikings, Chargers and Falcons to name three teams we expected to see above them.

– – –

Before Week 1, we were among those who thought the Steelers were odds on to win the AFC Central.  After Week 1, it looks like a dogfight.

 

The Jaguars in the AFC South and the Rams in the NFC West are the two teams that stand alone in first place of their division after Week 1.  The Bills are already a game behind everyone in the AFC East.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

QB MATTHEW STAFFORD can throw INTs in bunches.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions against the Jets on Monday night. That was nothing new for him.

 

Stafford now has five career games with at least four interceptions, the most of any quarterback in the NFL since he entered the league in 2009.

 

Counting the playoffs, Stafford has played 129 games in his NFL career. To throw four interceptions in five of them, or about 4 percent of his career games, is an ugly tally. Consider that Drew Brees has played 264 games — more than twice as many as Stafford and has only thrown four interceptions three times. Joe Flacco has played 41 more games than Stafford and has only thrown four interceptions twice. Matt Ryan has played 40 more games than Stafford and has thrown four interceptions twice. Cam Newton has played almost as many games as Stafford and has only thrown four interceptions once.

 

And Aaron Rodgers, who has played 167 games — 38 more than Stafford — has never thrown four interceptions in a game.

 

The Lions have paid Stafford a fortune in his NFL career, first as the first overall pick in the 2009 draft under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, which instantly made him one of the highest-paid players in the league, and then with two big contract extensions. They’re now in Year 10 with Stafford, and they still haven’t won a playoff game since they drafted him. If the Lions are ever going to turn things around, those four-interception games are going to have to stop.

 

Now, it should be noted that Monday night’s game was Stafford’s first 4 INT game since 2013 – so it’s not really an epidemic.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Another injury for TE GREG OLSEN – to the same foot.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Cam Newton will be without his favorite target for a long stretch once again.

 

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen re-fractured his right foot, the team announced Tuesday. Olsen will avoid surgery at this time and will be evaluated on a month-to-month basis.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo first reported the severity of the injury.

 

Injured reserve could be an option, per Rapoport, which would wipe out at least eight weeks.

 

The 33-year-old tight end exited the Panthers’ Week 1 victory over the Dallas Cowboys early after injuring the foot. He was seen in a walking boot and on crutches after the game.

 

The right foot is the same one Olsen had surgically repaired last season, which cost the tight end eight weeks. After three straight 1,000-yard seasons, the 12-year pro has seen the last two years derailed by injuries.

 

Rookie Ian Thomas is expected to start in place of the veteran. Olsen’s absence will also put the onus on the Panthers receivers to step up. Devin Funchess played a bigger role last season when Olsen was out. Rookie D.J. Moore could also see his playing time increase moving forward.

 

Olsen’s injury wasn’t the only bad news for the Panthers’ offense. The team also announced that offensive tackle Daryl Williams will undergo knee surgery after exiting Sunday’s game with an injury. The news is a big blow to an offensive line that has been dealing with injury issues all summer.

 

The Panthers won Sunday’s game, but Tuesday’s news brings big concerns for the offense moving forward.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Bucs QB RYAN FITZPATRICK has a game passer rating of 156.3 last week, achingly close to the coveted “perfect game” of 158.3. 

 

Here are the qualifications –

 

A quarterback must attempt at least 10 passes, have zero interceptions, and have minimums of a 77.5% completion percentage, 11.88% touchdown passes percentage, and 12.5 yards per attempt. The passer rating was developed in 1971.

 

Fitzpatrick was 21-28 for 75%, and if he had completed one more pass (22-28, 78.6%) of those 28, he would have been perfect.

 

Wikipedia lists 68 perfect games in NFL history, none since 2015 when the unlikely triumvirate of Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins achieved the feat.

 

Last night, Scott the Terp was wondering whether anyone had pitched one of these “perfect games” while also topping 400 yards passing.  Many of them are achieved with a somewhat limited amount of passes such as Alex Smith in 2013 (17-20, 287 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INT).

 

And, we find out, that combo of perfection and 400 yards is rare.  It’s only been done twice, and Fitzpatrick’s 156.3 rating is the 4th-best in a 400-yard game. 

 

Passing          Date             Tm     Opp      Result      Cmp-Att    Cmp%  Yds   TD Int   Rate

Nick Foles      2013-11-03    PHI    @OAK  W 49-20     22-28     78.6      406     7     0   158.3        

Ken O’Brien   1986-11-02    NYJ    @SEA  W 38-7       26-32     81.3      431     4     0   158.3        

Phil Simms     1984-09-02   NYG    PHI       W 28-27    23-30     76.7      409     4     0   157.6        

Fitzpatrick     2018-09-09   TB     @NOR  W 48-40     21-28     75.0       417     4     0   156.2        

Tom Brady      2013-11-03   NE     PIT        W 55-31     23-33     69.7     432     4     0   151.8        

 

A footnote – Chris Myers of FOX was the play-by-play announcer for both of the F games – Foles and Fitzpatrick.               

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Henry McKenna of The Big Lead is angry in behalf of RB Le’VEON BELL that RB DAVID JOHNSON took a chump change contract that only handed him $30 million on the spot:

 

David Johnson surely didn’t mean to screw over Le’Veon Bell. But he did.

 

Johnson delivered Bell a big blow in the Pittsburgh Steelers running back’s contract negotiations, which have escalated to a Week 1 holdout.

 

Johnson took a deal which paled in comparison to the deal Bell wants. The Cardinals running back signed a deal worth up to $45 million with $30 million guaranteed.

 

@AdamSchefter

 Cardinals signed RB David Johnson to a 3-year, $39 million l extension worth up to $45 million, including $30M guaranteed, per source.

 

Bell shot down a deal from the Pittsburgh Steelers, though it’s not totally clear what that deal looked like. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport has suggested that Bell’s deal included $30 million guaranteed before changing that sum to $10 million guaranteed — a tremendous difference.

 

The Steelers offered Bell more money than Johnson, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But, again, that begs the question: more guaranteed more, more total money or more total? In the NFL where teams have the upper hand financially, guaranteed money is the often the most important barometer for players.

 

The bottom line is that Bell wouldn’t accept the deal Johnson signed. Bell probably still wants $17 million per year, a sum he seems intent upon pursuing in free agency after the 2018 season. And Johnson’s decision to sign his deal cuts the knees out from under Bell.

 

The two running backs are in different situations, without a doubt. Johnson was set to enter free agency after 2018, but he is coming off an injury. That surely impacted his leverage while negotiating now. Johnson was also set to play for $1.8 million in 2018, while Bell was supposed to sign his franchise tag for the second straight year (worth $14.5 million). But in 2016, Johnson and Bell had comparable seasons. In fact, Johnson outplayed Bell. In 16 games in 2016, Johnson had 293 rushes for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns and 80 receptions for 879 yards and four touchdowns. Bell finished with 261 carried for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns with 75 receptions for 616 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games.

 

Bell has been more consistent throughout his career with over 1,800 yards from scrimmage in three of the last four seasons. However, Johnson has proven he can as good and more productive than Bell. Thus, Johnson’s decision to settle for far less than what Bell wants must be disheartening for the Steelers running back.

 

Had Johnson played well in 2018 (or anywhere near where he played in 2016), he and Bell could have worked together to push the running back market upward in free agency. Instead, Johnson settled for security, perhaps for fear of regressing slightly due to his injury. Johnson settled for a below-market contract, which pales in comparison to the one the Rams gave Todd Gurley (four years, $57.5 million and $45 million guaranteed) this offseason. It’s impossible to blame Johnson for taking the deal that he did — he’s getting paid a life-changing sum, and he was not a high pick who has made a lot of money in the NFL to this point.

 

Bell is still a lone wolf fighting to get paid what he deserves. And he doesn’t seem to be getting help anytime soon.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Jon Gruden thinks LB KHALIL MACK had to go because Mack wanted to go.  Here’s what he told Lisa Salters of ESPN.com:

 

“Obviously, Khalil Mack didn’t want to play here. That’s what’s being missed here,” Gruden said. “He was under contract, Lisa. He was under contract. He never showed up for OTAs, he never showed up for training camp, and it was obvious he wasn’t going to show up for the season. So don’t forget that. We have to get ready to play, and I want players that want to be here, that want to help us put this thing back in high gear.”

 

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com points out some alternative methods of dealing with such a player:

 

Of course, there’s nothing that says a player has to be traded just because he doesn’t show up. The Rams didn’t trade Aaron Donald when he didn’t show up, the Seahawks didn’t trade Earl Thomas when he didn’t show up, and many, many NFL teams have worked things out with players who held out of training camp.

 

The Raiders could have done what the Rams did with Donald and given Mack the contract he wanted. Or the Raiders could have done what the Seahawks did and held firm until Mack reported. (Unlike Thomas, Mack likely wouldn’t have reported in time to play in Week One, but if the Raiders had refused to budge he would have reported eventually, as his only other option would have been retiring.)

 

But Gruden is on Year One of a 10-year contract and calculated that the draft picks and cap space he acquired by trading Mack to the Bears will be worth it. In the long term, he might be right. In the short term, he’s wrong to suggest that he had no other choice.

 

This from Shalise Manza Young of YahooSports.com:

 

First, it is true that Mack didn’t show up for OTAs, but those are voluntary. And he was under contract, heading into the fifth and final season of his rookie deal; over his first four years, Mack had been named to three straight Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro nods, including two in the same year at different positions, the first player ever with that distinction.

 

He did skip training camp, but he was using the only recourse he had to show the Raiders that he wanted a new deal — by withholding his services.

 

Because of the fifth-year option for first-round draft picks, Mack’s salary for 2018 is a guaranteed $7 million. It’s certainly not chump change, but it also wasn’t reflective of his status as one of the best defensive players in the league. If Mack reported and played out his final year, he risked Oakland slapping him with the franchise tag in 2019, further restricting him.

 

And there’s also this small matter: Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie reportedly planned for quarterback Derek Carr and Mack to be paid, recognizing that the team had one of the best young quarterbacks and best pass-rushers in the league.

 

What changed? Gruden. Joel Corry, a former NFL player agent, told Las Vegas Journal-Review Raiders reporter Michael Gehlken that Gruden has a history of not wanting to pay top-flight players what they’re worth.

 

One of Corry’s former clients is receiver Keenan McCardell; while McCardell was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Gruden’s time as coach, things got so bad during McCardell’s holdout that he wanted out and was eventually traded.

 

Sound familiar?

 

Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson tweeted that multiple Raiders players and team leaders would disagree with Gruden’s assessment of Mack not wanting to be with Oakland.

 

And this, as in who should have picked up the phone:

 

If only Jon Gruden had used some of his rollover minutes, maybe Khalil Mack still would be a Raider.

 

During NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast, analyst Cris Collinsworth shared a conversation he recently had with the new Bears edge rusher.

 

“I asked [Khalil Mack], if Jon Gruden had called you and said, ‘Hey, you’re our guy, no way in the world we’re letting you get out of here, you’re the best player we have,’ would it have made a difference? And he said, ‘Yeah, it would have,’ ” Collinsworth said near the end of the third quarter of the Bears-Packers broadcast.

 

Earlier in the quarter, Collinsworth dropped this nugget that seems to preface that conversation.

 

“[Mack was] definitely upset he didn’t get more attention from Jon Gruden during the process,” Collinsworth said.

 

That first Collinsworth quote caught the attention of Nick Wright on FS1’s First Things First on Monday morning, and he had harsh words for Gruden for trading Mack.

 

“This is why you don’t trade a player this good,” Wright said. “And Cris Collinsworth slipped something in on the broadcast. Now, maybe Khalil Mack is re-creating history, but I’m going to take him at his word. …

 

Albert Gregory of USAToday’s RaidersWire wrote this on September 1:

 

It appeared from the outside that it was a no-brainer for the Raiders to retain Mack and sign him to an extension, but that’s not taking into account the equity owner Mark Davis already has tied up in his attempt to move the team to Las Vegas.

 

Although Davis was not required to hand over all the money when Mack signed a new deal but he would’ve been required to deposit tens of millions of dollars into the star’s bank account shortly after completing the deal.

 

Many believe that Davis simply did not have the available funds to do so. The message this sends to future players Oakland would like to resign is that no matter what your production is on the field the Raiders could lack the cash to get the deal done. Talking to you Amari Cooper.

 

And these tweets from Greg Gabriel:

 

@greggabe

I had heard 2 weeks ago that the Raiders has cash flow problems. That wasn’t confirmed to me until about 3 min ago in a DM from someone in league

 

@greggabe

 A second source has confirmed to me that Raiders did not have cash flow to do me contract that’s why deal was made

 

Jim Trotter of NFL.com:

 

Since then, I’ve heard some Raiders apologists contend that the team had no choice but to move Mack, because you can’t have two players on the same team making in excess of $20 million a year. Their point is that the players’ salaries and bonuses would occupy too much of the salary cap, thus preventing the team from supplementing those players with other talent.

 

In a word, that’s hogwash. If you’re looking for the proper acronym, it’s CYA. It’s a team essentially saying, “We’re doing it this way because that’s the way it’s always been done,” which theoretically provides cover from criticism. I find it to be groupthink at its worst.

 

Has there ever been a situation with two players on the same team making at least $20 million each in the same season? Our research staff says no, but take a step back and see the forest instead of the trees. The more applicable question is whether signing Carr and Mack to their current deals would have eaten up a disproportionate PERCENTAGE of the salary cap, and the answer is, not really.

 

According to our research staff, the contracts of Carr and Mack would have accounted for 27.4 percent of this season’s $177.2 million salary cap, which is less than the 27.6 percent that quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson accounted for in 2011 with the Lions. And it’s only slightly more than the 26.7 percent that quarterback Ryan Tannehill and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh accounted for in 2015 with the Dolphins.

 

I’d be more receptive to an argument that the Raiders moved Mack because they lacked the cash flow to place into escrow the guaranteed money on another record deal, which Mack’s is and Carr’s was before being quickly surpassed. That makes sense.

 

But to say that signing Mack would have prevented them from restocking a roster that Gruden repeatedly criticizes as lacking in talent? Hogwash. Just ask yourself this: If the script were flipped and Mack had been signed to a record deal last year, leaving Carr to now seek a top-end deal, do you think the Raiders would have traded Carr?

 

The Big Lead sums things up thusly:

 

It has to be wondered, especially with Gabriel’s reports, if this is coming from Gruden’s camp. This certainly changes the narrative in a positive way for Gruden indicating the Raiders financial issues are so bad that they cannot even take care of one of the best players in the NFL. (Of course, Mark Davis had the cash flow to go out and pay Gruden and exorbitant amount of money to come back to coaching).

 

It is bad enough for the Raiders that they just lost their best player and if they truly are in cash flow issues, it could be getting better no time soon.

 

Just remember, things get out because someone wants it to get out.

 

Here’s guessing that Gruden, who always prefers to put whatever cash is available into old offensive players wasn’t begging Davis to go the well for a loan for Mack.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Al Riveron admits that the game officials missed a key call that hurt the Browns in Sunday’s tie.  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

All the “I’m sorrys” in the world won’t change the outcome of the game, but the NFL admitted Monday that the Browns’ Myles Garrett shouldn’t have been flagged for roughing on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that led to a touchdown on the next play.

 

The mistake could’ve been the difference in the game, which ended in a 21-21 tie in overtime.

 

NFL V.P. of Officiating Al Riveron told NFL Network Monday that Garrett didn’t land with most or all of his body weight on Roethlisberger, and therefore it wasn’t a foul.

 

“The rule specifically says ‘most, if not all, of your body weight,'” Riveron said. “So we want that player to make an effort.

 

“And the last three or four weeks, we have pulled extensive video to show the clubs exactly what we’re talking about, and we probably last week showed 5-to-1 or 6-to-1 of legal hits, or legal contact, as opposed to illegal contact. Because the question we get all the time is, well, what do you want our players to do? Well, they have to not put the weight on the quarterback.

 

“And this one [on Garrett] yesterday showed, even though there is some body weight on Ben, this is not what we would consider contact that rises to the level of a foul.”

 

Roethlisberger, facing a third and 7 from the Browns’ 8, threw the ball away in the back of the end zone with Garrett bearing down on him. Garrett hit him after the throw, and was flagged half the distance to the goal, but the hit appeared legal.

 

On the next play, James Conner ran in from the 4 to make it 7-0 with 11:16 left in the half.

 

Browns coach Hue Jackson, also believing the hit was legal, got in the face of referee Shawn Smith and gave him an earful. But it was too late.

 

“There were quite a few times I talked to the officials about things I saw and calls that they made,” Jackson said. “The call on Myles Garrett, I do not get that. “They said that it was roughing the passer. That led to a touchdown.”

 

Garrett, who had two sacks and two strips in the game, was equally perplexed.

 

“It wasn’t a very sensical explanation,” he said. “I don’t know how from that angle I can hit him and put him into the ground, so you don’t want to tackle him. You kind of just have to tackle him into the ground. So you don’t you put your body weight or almost all your body weight into him, so I have to torque myself out of the way.

 

“So hopefully that gets adjusted or something’s changed about that, but we’ll see. I’m not going to change how I’m hitting because that’s how I’ve always been taught.”

 

See it here.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

Something to keep an eye on this week – QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER has an elbow injury of undetermined severity.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Faced with two bad choices, Coach Sean McDermott declined to make one on Monday.  The Buffalo News:

 

The Buffalo Bills find themselves right back where they were at the start of training camp: Without a starting quarterback.

 

Coach Sean McDermott chose not to say Monday if it will be Nathan Peterman or rookie Josh Allen under center Sunday for the home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

 

“Still going through it,” McDermott said. “Certainly respect where everyone is coming from on it. Going to continue to evaluate where we are, dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s. Take it one step at a time.”

 

It may flabbergast Bills fans to hear that Peterman is still under consideration after he melted down yet again Sunday. The second-year veteran finished 5 of 18 for 24 yards and two interceptions – a quarterback rating of 0.0 – in an embarrassing 47-3 loss to the Ravens. It’s the second time in three career starts Peterman has been pulled from the lineup because of performance.

 

McDermott, though, did his best not to single out Peterman on Monday.

 

“When you look at the tape – what I’ve looked at to this point, I’ve been through it a couple times already – we all have to do our job better,” the coach said. “Whether it’s the quarterback position, my position, just to name two of them. You can go around our team and say in all three phases, we didn’t play well enough to win the football game. Not even close.”

 

Allen was better Sunday, but far from great. He finished 6 of 15 for 74 yards, but coming into the game when the score was 40-0 basically amounted to an exhibition game.

 

“I think any rep for any young player is a meaningful rep,” offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. “I think they’re all meaningful for everybody, regardless of the score or the situation is. Focus on one play at a time, trying to play until the end. Again, we’re in a tough spot, a tough situation being down by how many we were down early on in the game. We lost control of the game. Any rep that he can get is meaningful.”

 

Peterman certainly knows the Chargers defense.  He threw 5 INTs in the one half he played against them last year.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

The fruit of the tree.  A tweet from Mark Potash:

 

None of the NFL coaches from the Bill Belichick tree has a winning record:

 

Matt Patricia (0-1)

Bill O’Brien (31-34)

Josh McDaniels (11-17)

Eric Mangini (33-47)

Romeo Crennel (28-55)

 

You could add 41-49 that Charlie Weis managed at Notre Dame.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ESPN RATINGS

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Television ratings for the NFL in prime time are continuing to decline.

 

ESPN saw lower ratings for its annual Monday Night Football Week One doubleheader this year than last year — and last year’s ratings weren’t good.

 

The Jets-Lions game got a 7.5 overnight rating, while Rams-Raiders drew a 7.0. That’s down 4 percent from 2017. And 2017 was down from 2016, and 2016 was down from 2015.

 

Ratings also declined for both the Thursday night opener and the Week One Sunday night game, although Sunday afternoon NFL ratings increased from last year. Overall, the NFL would have to see Week One as a mixed bag at best.

 

Still, a mixed bag for the NFL would be considered great ratings for anything else on TV. NFL games were easily the most-watched programs on network television last week, and ESPN beat everything on both cable and network TV last night. Ratings remain strong compared to everything else — unless “everything else” includes NFL ratings from a few years ago.

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS thru Week 1

After one week, all the Aikman Ratings can tell us is that the Ravens administered the biggest whuppin’ of the week – i.e. the Ravens huge 214.3 combined rating is the inverse of the 85.7 of the Bills and so on through the ratings.

 

The top 11 teams in the Aikman Combined all won and overall the higher-rated team went 13-2-1

 

AIKMAN COMBINED

Rank

Team

Combined

Off

Def

1

Baltimore Ravens

214.3

107.7

106.7

2

Washington Redskins

194.8

99.0

95.9

3

New York Jets

192.5

80.5

112.0

4

Denver Broncos

175.2

92.7

82.4

5

Cincinnati Bengals

169.3

96.7

72.6

6

Los Angeles Rams

169.2

92.9

76.3

7

Philadelphia Eagles

169.1

77.4

91.8

8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

163.3

114.3

49.0

9

Minnesota Vikings

162.9

72.4

90.5

10

Jacksonville Jaguars

162.8

76.0

86.8

11

New England Patriots

162.2

78.9

83.4

12

Cleveland Browns

160.6

78.4

82.3

13

Dallas Cowboys

155.7

77.6

78.1

14

Chicago Bears

153.6

74.8

78.8

15

Miami Dolphins

151.0

64.4

86.6

16

Kansas City Chiefs

150.1

103.6

46.5

17

Los Angeles Chargers

149.8

103.5

46.3

18

Tennessee Titans

148.9

63.4

85.5

19

Green Bay Packers

146.2

71.1

75.1

20

Carolina Panthers

144.4

71.9

72.5

21

Pittsburgh Steelers

139.4

67.6

71.7

22

Houston Texans

137.6

66.6

71.0

23

New York Giants

137.3

63.3

74.0

24

San Francisco 49ers

137.0

59.5

77.6

25

New Orleans Saints

136.7

100.9

35.7

26

Atlanta Falcons

130.9

58.2

72.7

27

Oakland Raiders

130.7

73.6

57.1

28

Indianapolis Colts

130.6

77.3

53.2

29

Seattle Seahawks

124.9

67.6

57.4

30

Detroit Lions

107.5

38.0

69.6

31

Arizona Cardinals

105.0

54.0

51.0

32

Buffalo Bills

85.7

43.4

42.2

 

AIKMAN OFFENSE thru Week 1

Rank

Team

Off

1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

114.3

2

Baltimore Ravens

107.7

3

Kansas City Chiefs

103.6

4

Los Angeles Chargers

103.5

5

New Orleans Saints

100.9

6

Washington Redskins

99.0

7

Cincinnati Bengals

96.7

8

Los Angeles Rams

92.9

9

Denver Broncos

92.7

10

New York Jets

80.5

11

New England Patriots

78.9

12

Cleveland Browns

78.4

13

Dallas Cowboys

77.6

14

Philadelphia Eagles

77.4

15

Indianapolis Colts

77.3

16

Jacksonville Jaguars

76.0

17

Chicago Bears

74.8

18

Oakland Raiders

73.6

19

Minnesota Vikings

72.4

20

Carolina Panthers

71.9

21

Green Bay Packers

71.1

22

Pittsburgh Steelers

67.6

23

Seattle Seahawks

67.6

24

Houston Texans

66.6

25

Miami Dolphins

64.4

26

Tennessee Titans

63.4

27

New York Giants

63.3

28

San Francisco 49ers

59.5

29

Atlanta Falcons

58.2

30

Arizona Cardinals

54.0

31

Buffalo Bills

43.4

32

Detroit Lions

38.0

 

AIKMAN DEFENSE thru Week 1

Rank

Team

Def

1

New York Jets

112.0

2

Baltimore Ravens

106.7

3

Washington Redskins

95.9

4

Philadelphia Eagles

91.8

5

Minnesota Vikings

90.5

6

Jacksonville Jaguars

86.8

7

Miami Dolphins

86.6

8

Tennessee Titans

85.5

9

New England Patriots

83.4

10

Denver Broncos

82.4

11

Cleveland Browns

82.3

12

Chicago Bears

78.8

13

Dallas Cowboys

78.1

14

San Francisco 49ers

77.6

15

Los Angeles Rams

76.3

16

Green Bay Packers

75.1

17

New York Giants

74.0

18

Atlanta Falcons

72.7

19

Cincinnati Bengals

72.6

20

Carolina Panthers

72.5

21

Pittsburgh Steelers

71.7

22

Houston Texans

71.0

23

Detroit Lions

69.6

24

Seattle Seahawks

57.4

25

Oakland Raiders

57.1

26

Indianapolis Colts

53.2

27

Arizona Cardinals

51.0

28

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

49.0

29

Kansas City Chiefs

46.5

30

Los Angeles Chargers

46.3

31

Buffalo Bills

42.2

32

New Orleans Saints

35.7

 

HOT TAKES ON KAEP – “Reminds Me of Ali”

Peter King found a professor who thinks, like King, that history will put Colin Kaepernick next to Muhammad Ali at the top of the list of outspoken prophetic sports heroes.

 

When Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick would be a chief spokesman for the shoe/apparel giant last week, it took the NFL by surprise … to put it mildly. Nike will pay the NFL hundreds of millions through 2028 to be the official uniform and apparel supplier of the NFL for at least the next 11 seasons. When this deal went down last spring, the NFL’s EVP of media, Brian Rolapp, called Nike a “long-time and trusted partner” of the league.

 

Kaepernick is the biggest burr in the NFL’s saddle. He sued the league for collusion, claiming he’s been kept out of football since the beginning of 2017 after he spent 2016 kneeling for the national anthem as a 49ers quarterback, in protest of the treatment of African-Americans in society.

 

I met a University of North Carolina history professor who studies the intersection of sport and politics, Matt Andrews, in 2016. One of his classes, Sport and Civil Rights, made me think he’d be a great resource person here. He answered questions for me over the weekend about Kaepernick, the Nike deal, and the NFL.

 

Me: Kaepernick is starting to remind me a little of Muhammad Ali—hated in his time but appreciated as an icon later in life. Any similarities to you?

 

Andrews: Absolutely. Ali was the catalyst for the revolt of the black athlete in the 1960s. He paved the way. When Tommie Smith and John Carlos used the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics as a platform to express their frustration with the slow pace of racial change in the United States—an act that I see as precisely the same as Kaepernick taking a knee—they were following the path paved by Ali. Kaepernick has been walking that same path. Ali was the first to say that as a high-profile black athlete, he had an obligation to use his fame to bring attention to issues like racial injustice and the war in Vietnam. He put his name, his legacy, and his future earnings all on the line, just like Kaepernick did.

 

Me: Is there a historical precedent for the Kaepernick/Nike deal?

 

Andrews: Yes and no. On the one hand, Kaepernick’s Nike contract isn’t just unprecedented—it’s overturning previous precedent. Previous athletes who made dramatic gestures of protest were shunned, losing endorsements and athletic opportunities, be it Tommie Smith in 1968, Craig Hodges and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in the 1990s, or others. As heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali stood at the absolute pinnacle of the American sports pyramid, and what did he get to endorse? Roach killer. So Kaepernick getting a Nike contract because of his activism flips the script. On the other hand, this is not entirely unprecedented. Being a fierce critic of racism did not preclude Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from getting a lucrative shoe deal with Adidas. Nike clearly believes that linking themselves with Kaepernick will pay off in the long run. They have certainly noticed that LeBron James’s outspokenness and direct criticism of the President has not hurt his popularity one bit. And Kaepenick’s rebelliousness fits the maverick image that Nike has worked hard to craft.

 

Me: What’s the end game for Kaepernick, and do you think he plays football again?

 

Andrews: I’m tempted to trot out the Yogi Berra line here—“I don’t make predictions, especially about the future.” I’ve been wrong about Kaepernick before. I was certain that some NFL team would give him a shot last year. I mistakenly believed that NFL owners wanted one thing above all else—wins. We now know that’s not true. They either fear losing community support if they sign Kaepernick or they are so outraged by his actions that they want to make him pay. It’s probably a combination of both. I would not bet on Kaepernick winning his collusion case. It’s difficult to find the “smoking gun” that proves collusion. Will Kaepernick ever play in the NFL again? Probably not. But at this point, why would he want to? He has his health, he has his dignity, and now he has his Nike contract and, thus, a future platform.

 

The DB would point out that Ali was at the top of his game, the heavyweight champion of the world, when he put his career on the line.

 

We refreshed our memory (memory, because unlike some who read this we were alive) when Ali was doing his thing.  He beat Sonny Liston for the title in 1963 and was still the world champ when this happened.

 

In March 1966, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces. He was systematically denied a boxing license in every state and stripped of his passport. As a result, he did not fight from March 1967 to October 1970—from ages 25 to almost 29—as his case worked its way through the appeals process before his conviction was overturned in 1971. During this time of inactivity, as opposition to the Vietnam War began to grow and Ali’s stance gained sympathy, he spoke at colleges across the nation, criticizing the Vietnam War and advocating African American pride and racial justice.

 

On August 11, 1970, with his case still in appeal, Ali was granted a license to box by the City of Atlanta Athletic Commission, thanks to State Senator Leroy R. Johnson.] Ali’s first return bout was against Jerry Quarry on October 26, resulting in a win after three rounds after Quarry was cut.

 

The three fights against Joe Frazier – New York, The Rumble in The Jungle and The Thrilla in Manila – all followed between 1971 and 1975.

 

Kaepernick was a fringe player at the time his protest began, locked in a battle with Blaine Gabbert to start for the 49ers.  He continued to play and be paid for the rest of his contract and did not lose his license to perform.  The DB would say that his contemporaries are Gabbert and Robert Griffin III, both of whom are employed but at minimal contracts in backup positions.  There are those who want to inflate Kaep to a higher playing status.

 

Also, Ali was outspoken in defending his beliefs (“I Ain’t Got No Quarrel With Them Viet Cong”).  Kaepernick insinuates them with his tweets, but has largely been silent until he read/wrote his script after being paid by Nike. 

 

Ali actually ran afoul of the law, Kaepernick’s stance battles in public appearance.  His only legal fees are involved in trying to get paid for not playing.

 

Ex-NFLer Burgess Owens is not as sanguine about Kaep as King and his professor.  Morgan Gstalter of TheHill.com:

 

Former NFL player Burgess Owens tore into Nike for making Colin Kaepernick the new face of its “Just Do It” campaign, comparing the act to “9/11 and Pearl Harbor.”

 

Burgess, who played for the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders, spoke with Fox Business host Stuart Varney and referred to Kaepernick as Nike’s “Marxist” representative.

 

Kaepernick, a former quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, became the first player to take a knee during the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season as part of an effort to protest social injustice. He became a free agent at the end of the season and has remained unsigned.

 

“We have to look at the bigger picture and understand in America that we’re under assault,” Owens said. “It’s like 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, we’re being assaulted by the left. And we need to understand who they are.”

 

Burgess said that Americans can’t let players “get away” with protesting during the anthem.

 

“It’s not American, it’s not about patriotism. It’s profit and politics for them,” Burgess said of the protests.

 

Burgess’s comments came the day before the 17th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

 

Nike’s move to make Kaepernick the face of its campaign sparked outrage from President Trump and his base, prompting some to post videos and pictures to social media of them destroying their Nike products.

 

Despite the backlash, Nike’s online sales appear to have soared following the release of the campaign.

 

Apparently, Nike has fashioned Kaep in a way that most consumers find appealing.  Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com is quick to spread the good news:

 

The videos of burning sneakers and mutilated socks. The social-media echo chamber of fury and snarky Nike memes. And, of course, President Donald Trump’s inevitable Twitter firebomb – as reliable as the sunrise. If you were seeking anger over the union of the shoe giant and Colin Kaepernick, the Internet provided a seemingly inexhaustible buffet of offerings the past several days.

 

But according to a leading advertisement consulting service, Kaepernick’s first commercial registered as a big hit with consumers. The “Dream Crazy” ad scored high marks with a broad base of the consumer population, according to Ace Metrix, a company that provides real-time impact and analysis data surrounding major advertisements.

 

The commercial – featuring Kaepernick urging viewers to “dream crazy” and “believe in something” – registered in the 10th percentile of Ace Metrix’s “polarity” score. In layman’s terms, it means that 90 percent of advertisements traced by Ace Metrix were found to be more polarizing among viewers. That’s significant, considering Ace Metrix boasts having tracked over 2,500 brands and more than 80,000 advertisements since 2010.

 

According to data released by Ace:

 

• ” ‘Dream Crazy’ saw strong resonance among [Generation] Z and Millennial audiences [on average, Ace Scores were 33% above norm],” the company said in a statement Thursday. “Older viewers, those among [Generation] X, positively regarded the ad as well, but to a lesser degree than those younger than them.”

 

• Ace Metrix polled consumers on how Kaepernick’s signing would impact their plans to spend money with Nike. Thirteen percent of those surveyed said they were less likely to purchase from Nike after viewing Kaepernick’s first ad. That percentage was down to 10 percent among millennials and 6 amongst Generation Z. Conversely, a staggering 56 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to purchase from Nike after seeing the commercial.

 

• Ace Metrix analysis suggested Kaepernick’s first commercial with Nike had a positive reaction on par with the apparel company’s recent tribute ad to Serena Williams, who is considered one of the crown jewel endorsers for the company. Both the Kaepernick ad and the recent tribute commercial for Williams scored very highly with consumers in positive reaction and resulting likelihood of purchasing Nike products.

 

“These results show once again that oftentimes, social-media backlash can be amplified by media attention while representing only a small minority of haters,” Ace Metrix CEO Peter Daboll said in a statement. “Nike is to be commended for executing the messaging so well in this ad. Most objections to such a polarizing figure as Kaepernick were tempered by the very strong likeability of that message across age, gender and ethnicity.”

 

The positive impact of Kaepernick’s advertisement wasn’t the only good news for Nike, either. Apex Marketing – which analyzes the value of social-media impact on brands – reported that in the first three days after the announcement of Kaepernick as a spokesperson, Nike reaped “buzz” mentions that equated to $163.5 million in value. Which means Nike would have had to have doled out that much money to receive the same kind bang it received from the Kaepernick announcement.

 

Interesting that Kaep’s supporters are also big fans of Serena who just split tennis fans with her performance at the U.S. Open.