The Daily Briefing Wednesday, May 10, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

It took three people to replace Dean Blandino, including his deputy for the last few years former referee Alberto Riveron:

 

The NFL announced Wednesday the league named Alberto Riveron senior vice president of officiating.

 

Russell Yurk was named vice president of instant replay and administration. Wayne Mackie will assume the role of vice president of officiating evaluation and development.

 

Darin Gantt at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the league has sent out a memo informing teams that Alberto Riveron has been named to lead the league’s officiating department.

 

The same memo also points out that Russell Yurk will head up the league’s replay department, at a time when unprecedented control has been given to the control center in New York.

 

When Blandino left the league for a television job, they effectively split his responsibilities among two people. While Riveron and his 40 years of officiating experience might be at the forefront, the relatively unknown Yurk will be under as much if not more scrutiny week to week.

 

The league memo points out that Yurk has 10 years of on-field experience at the high school and college level, and has been working in the league’s replay department for the last seven years.

 

Thoughts from Mike Florio:

 

The internal memo communicating the decision (a copy of which PFT has obtained) and the announcement from the league omitted one key job function: Who will be the public voice and face of NFL officiating?

 

According to the NFL, it will be Riveron.

 

It’s a critically important aspect of the job, requiring rules and their application and interpretation to be explained in a variety of settings, from appearances on NFL Network to the valuable in-season weekly officiating video to interviews with independent outlets (like PFT Live). The overall sense of public confidence in the NFL hinges to a large extent on the quality and objectivity of these explanations, with fans and media always probing for any evidence to suggest that the person who is expected to be honest and candid is covering up mistakes or making excuses.

 

Blandino and Mike Pereira before him excelled in that role, for the most part. Carl Johnson, who held the position between Pereira and Blandino, didn’t. Whether Riveron is viewed as thriving as the senior V.P. of officiating will depend in large part on whether he becomes an authoritative and trusted resource for calls gotten right and calls gotten wrong.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Will Brinson of CBSSports is NeverTradeUp as it relates to the Bears and QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY:

 

You don’t get medals in football for trying, you get them for results. And the decision by the Bears to trade up for Mitchell Trubisky will ultimately be judged on the results. If Trubisky is a good quarterback, Chicago general manager Ryan Pace will be applauded for doing what he had to do to get a franchise quarterback. If Trubisky stinks, it won’t really matter, because Pace’s bags will be packed for him.

 

So it’s easy to just throw your hands in the air and wait to find out whether Pace made the right move. But it’s also important to point out that process matters too in these things. And the process for Pace and the Bears in acquiring Trubisky was severely flawed.

 

Let’s look at a few reasons why.

 

The trade itself

The Bears shook up the draft when they moved from No. 3 to No. 2 to take Trubisky . No one saw the trade coming, except the 49ers, and they sure didn’t see the Trubisky pick coming. No one did, not even Trubisky. That’s fine, because you want to make sure your plans aren’t picked up on by other teams.

 

Spending too much time with Trubisky — and by all accounts the Bears did not do that — might have set off some red flags with teams like the Browns, who were also interested in Trubisky.

But it’s pretty obvious that they negotiated against themselves on this one. An interview with 49ers GM John Lynch last week on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” sort of solidifies that idea too.

Lynch was asked how the trade went down and said that he heard from Pace ahead of the draft, with Pace talking about staying in touch because the two GMs were picking right next to each other for several days. Then Pace called back the day before the draft.

 

“The day before the draft, Ryan called back again and I could tell the urgency had heated up and he said ‘There’s a scenario here in the first round where there’s some teams that I understand want to get up to two. Have you had conversations?’ And I said, ‘Yes, indeed we have, with multiple teams,'” Lynch recalled. “At that point, he said ‘We want the opportunity, will you call me if those things heat up.’ And so I said, ‘Yeah, Ryan, we had this discussion, absolutely.’

 

“The next day, the morning of the draft, he called back again. And at that point he was ready to go. So those talks started and meanwhile there were a couple other teams who were interested and it kept getting better.”

 

So while Lynch did tell Pace there were other teams calling about the pick (and swears those teams were real), he also, according to his account of things, didn’t try and leverage Pace into making a deal. Pace was pushing things right along all by himself, ensuring that the two sides could make a deal. That is the definition of negotiating against yourself. 

 

Additionally, while it was probably smart not to tell Lynch who he was taking (because then maybe Lynch uses that to call Cleveland for a higher price), Pace probably could have saved himself on the move up if Lynch knew he was getting Solomon Thomas anyway.

 

The trade up wasn’t cheap . While two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick isn’t an exorbitant amount to land a franchise quarterback, it’s not that simple either.

 

Opportunity cost

The picks that the Bears gave away could end up being really quality pieces and/or players. Let’s start with the No. 111 pick, which the 49ers promptly used to move up from No. 34 to No. 31 and grab Reuben Foster. That could have been the Bears, and they could definitely use a standout linebacker.

 

Even if they don’t make that trade, the players being taken in the range of the actual pick include safety Tedric Thompson (No. 111, Seahawks) and wide receivers Dede Westbrook (No. 110, Jaguars), Josh Reynolds (No. 117, Rams) and Mack Hollins (No. 118, Eagles). You think the Bears could use another offensive weapon for one of their two quarterbacks?

 

Their future third-round pick, actual number TBD, could easily end up being a top-75 pick. It’s very likely. That could be a starting player out of the gate for another team.

 

The one that really stands out to me is the third-round pick the Bears gave up this year, No. 67 overall. The 49ers flipped that pick to the Saints, who snagged running back Alvin Kamara out of Tennessee. Even though the Bears have Jordan Howard, Kamara would be a strong addition to this roster.

 

More important, the 49ers picked up a future second-round pick from the Saints for the trade, along with pick No. 229. The latter pick ended up being Adrian Colbert, a cornerback out of Miami. If he ends up being any good, remember how they got him. And if the Saints end up going 7-9 for a fourth straight season, remember who the 49ers take with their top-50 pick next year. New Orleans picked No. 42 overall this past season and could very well give up a similar pick to the 49ers next season. The draft is a crapshoot, but there were some seriously talented players available at No. 42 this year.

 

The Glennon factor

The biggest surprise about the Bears and Trubisky was the fact that Pace just went out in free agency and signed Mike Glennon to a pretty hefty contract . Anyone who saw the money knew that Glennon wasn’t guaranteed to be the starter in Chicago for more than a single year. But he was finally signing somewhere to be the guy, for at least a season, and that’s likely out the window. Combining these two quarterbacks puts a pretty big wrench in the plans on a couple of different levels.

 

For starters, there’s the obvious: competition. If Glennon struggles early or if the Bears aren’t winning out of the gate, there will be substantial pressure to play Trubisky. Pace has stated repeatedly that Glennon is the starter, but depth chart lip service in May becomes worthless once August and September roll around.

 

Pace knows the construction of this roster better than anyone else, because he largely constructed it. But there is certainly the possibility of a Glennon-Trubisky battle early on managing to fracture the locker room. The same goes for the team refusing to play Trubisky if the Bears are struggling.

 

At the very least, Pace has done a disservice to Glennon by signing him, presumably promising him an opportunity to play and then making a huge splash by drafting a rookie quarterback.

Oh, and he didn’t tell Glennon he was doing it. The incumbent got to find out about his competition while at a Bears draft party held at Halas Hall. Bet that wasn’t awkward at all. No wonder he feels cheated on.

 

Not telling anyone at all

The decision not to tell Glennon was bizarre. But the reported decision to not tell coach John Fox  about the move up to draft Trubisky? That was just wild. It has been repeatedly mentioned that Fox was “heavily involved” in scouting Trubisky and that’s probably true.

 

Maybe Pace even told Fox before the draft, before the pick or before the trade. It’s irrelevant, because it’s pretty obvious that the coach and the GM in Chicago aren’t working hand-in-hand at the moment.

 

Pace isn’t required to tell Fox every move he’s making, but his goal should be providing the best possible team for Fox to coach up and that has to require some input from Fox.

 

The lack of harmony has a bit of “Grigson-Pagano” to it, albeit with less public sniping and fewer wins. Pace might outlast Fox in Chicago, but it’s not a good look to have these public issues happening while the team is trying to acquire a franchise quarterback and get the ship righted.

It just doesn’t scream “harmony” or “competent.”

 

The final take

Again, maybe it all works out of the Bears. The Seahawks drafted a quarterback (albeit in the third round) the same offseason they signed Matt Flynn to a big free-agent contract and got blasted for picking Russell Wilson (who actually kept Glennon on the bench at NC State for two years). That worked out pretty well.

 

But the investment here in Trubisky isn’t a single third-round pick, it’s a fourth-round pick, too, and another third-round pick next year.

 

Pace will be fine with the move if Trubisky becomes a top-10 or top-15 quarterback some time in the next two or three years. But ultimately the process that led to the selection was badly flawed. The Bears shouldn’t be rewarded for their decision-making in that respect, regardless of how this whole thing pans out.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Tyler Dunne, now at Bleacher Report, lets us know that TE MARTELLUS BENNETT is going to be “Marty” as he adjusts to Wisconsin.  Part of it is below, the rest is here.

 

This bright April day, the new Packers tight end lets B/R Mag take him on a Tour de Wisconsin. So bring on a farm, a brewery, a whole lotta cow dung. Standing in front of a tractor afterward, the self-proclaimed Black Unicorn decides that, yes, he’ll start up his own farm.

 

For unicorns, of course.

 

“I’d probably feed them rainbows and cupcakes,” he says.

 

No, there isn’t a player quite like this lightning bolt of personality. He refuses to be another lemming. As Bennett explains, anyone who puts on a helmet—from peewee to high school to college to the pros—is drilled to stay in line, march on, show no emotion. Mindless drones are embraced, thus killing anyone’s inner unicorn.

 

Seriously—the NFL is now developing instructional videos on how to celebrate touchdowns.

 

“You forget how to be an individual on a team,” Bennett says. “I think you can express yourself as an individual and still be part of a team.

 

“You don’t have to fit in.”

 

Right here is proof that the tide can turn. Right here is rappin’, cartoonin’, cow-milkin’ hope that players can be free spirits in a league so quick to suppress them. After toeing the party line for the first half of his career, Bennett blossomed into a symbol of individualism who thinks and acts however he wants without harming a soul.

 

In 2016, the 6’6,” 275-pounder was able to be himself under Bill Belichick and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots.

 

In 2017, he’s now dropped into the Dairy State. Excel here, his way, and maybe Bennett can Make Football Fun Again. Forever. He’s determined to leave that legacy.

 

So, about that end-zone how-to from the league: “The celebration video is shit,” Bennett says. “To tell a guy that they can’t celebrate when they do something so good—it’s crazy. It’s like saying, ‘Wait a year for your birthday but don’t have a party.’”

 

About his ultimate dinner party: Bennett would dine with Jesus Christ, Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo and another version of himself because, hey, he’s a self-described mashup of Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Diddy and Jay Z.

 

“I feel like I’m one of a kind,” Bennett says. “That’s why I’m the Black Unicorn. There’s only one. Although 2 Chainz tried to steal that from me. I heard that, 2 Chainz.”

– – –

On a drive to Milwaukee for Game 3 of the Bucks/Raptors first-round NBA playoff series, Aaron Rodgers saw the Black Unicorn maniacally scribbling into a notebook, asked what he was writing, and Bennett read it aloud. This particular story was about being born in a pile of unfortunate fortune cookies before growing up on the black side of Chinatown.

 

Huh?

 

“I started reading it to Aaron,” Bennett says, “and he’s like, ‘What the fuck? How do you come up with this shit?’”

 

Bennett was “speed writing,” a go-to brain exercise he rips through three to four times per week.

 

Trying to understand how Bennett’s brain works is something like squinting at a collage of math formulas on a whiteboard. His attention flickers 360 degrees. One table away, Bennett sees a woman clutching a pack of Marlboros and shouts to her, “Don’t smoke those!” To his right, behind the bar, he’s interrupted by highlights of Alabama tight end O.J. Howard and isn’t impressed. All Bennett sees are busted coverages.

 

Then, he lets you into his psyche.

 

Bennett was not always this way. Certainly not those first four seasons in Dallas. Back then, he was in an alternative hip-hop band, painted and was the same Marty B…but only at home. Only in spurts. At the facility, he felt muzzled. Incomplete. Bennett even created his own character—“McGuire”—who wore different costumes to represent the different versions of himself. In public, he then masqueraded behind those 20-plus “masks.”

 

Finally, on to the New York Giants in 2012, Bennett shed them all. He settled into one character, the “orange dinosaur,” because he believes a dinosaur is the oldest version of yourself.

 

Bennett knows such liberation is rare.

 

“People do it every day,” Bennett says. “Everybody in America wears masks. We act a certain way around different people. There’s usually a disconnect in people because they only show you what they want you to see. Usually they show what they think is the best thing you would like.”

– – –

While Bennett may leave Rodgers and many of Bennett’s 293,000 Twitter followers shaking their heads, quarterback and tight end do share this same delirious, yet contagious, drive.

 

He realized that immediately.

 

He also knew what other teams really wanted when they asked his agent during free agency, “What’s he like as a person?” Those teams wanted to control him. Shut him up. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy never addressed Bennett that way. So never mind that McCarthy used to scold and fans used to rip Bennett’s former AAU basketball pal Jermichael Finley. During one stretch of relentless criticism, a frustrated Finley even referred to fans as “drinking Miller Lite, stuffing their mouth with cheese curds.”

 

If any cheeseheads start piling on, Bennett will deal with it his way.

 

“I don’t give a shit. I don’t care,” Bennett says. “Why would I be something somebody else wants me to be? For their own liking? Most times, when people try to group you into a category, it’s so they can understand you. But I’m not trying to be understood. I am what I am.”

 

No wonder droves of players tell Bennett after games that they feel suppressed. Every time, he encourages them to speak out.

 

“The biggest way people give up their power,” Bennett says, “is thinking they don’t have power.”

 

So he’ll drop a rap album…write children’s books…tweet about building playgrounds all over the globe…build his “Imagination Agency” empire…and announce on social media that he’s giving out free hugs and high-fives in Green Bay.

 

Bennett scoffs at the suggestion that cultures could clash, too. The fact that Bennett told the world during Super Bowl week he wouldn’t go to the White House if the Patriots won was never an issue internally because he never debated politics with the likes of Tom Brady. The two talked architecture. No, Bennett didn’t text his quarterback clips of Donald Trump. Yes, he did text Brady a book about raising young goats and asked if this was the manual his parents used.

 

 

MINNESOTA

Usually, writes Andrew Brandt, the NFL comes out ahead in its dealings with individual players.  But whether by luck or design, SAM BRADFORD has made a fortune out of a middling career.

 

In a business tilted toward management, the number of NFL players who win in the business of football can be counted on two hands, if not one. Players are squeezed coming into the league by fixed-rate contracts that can’t be renegotiated for three years. On their way out, players are often left with only one-year deals (see Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles) that eventually turn into zero-year deals. If they are lucky, players will have contract leverage once in their career; a chosen few find themselves in that position twice; even fewer still—elite quarterbacks usually—might get three bites at the leverage apple.

 

But one quarterback who has never been categorized as “elite” is now enjoying contract leverage for an extraordinary third time, with three different teams. Sam Bradford is fast becoming a hero to the labor side in the business of football.

 

Sam the Man

Bradford’s timing was invaluable to his financial picture. He was the top pick in the 2010 NFL draft, a year before the current collective bargaining agreement was implemented and rookies were locked into a pay scale. Cam Newton, the first pick of the 2011 draft, received $22 million guaranteed—barely 40% of Bradford’s eye-popping $50 million guaranteed with the Rams. Even now, the top overall pick in the draft earns less than $30 million guaranteed, roughly 60% of Bradford’s first deal in 2010.

 

Bradford, who played behind what can charitably be described as a subpar offensive line in St. Louis, struggled with injuries during his time with the Rams. In 2015, when the team approached him about a significant pay cut in the final year of his rookie deal, he refused. So the Rams found a willing trade partner in the Eagles, who took Bradford in exchange for Nick Foles and a second-round pick.

 

Bradford’s career earnings from the Rams: $65 million.

 

The Eagles’ Missed Opportunity

When adding important players on expiring contracts, two discussions should occur concurrently for the acquiring team: 1) trade negotiations with the offering team, and 2) contract extension negotiations with the player’s agent to ensure more than a 16-game rental. At the time of the trade, the Eagles had a golden opportunity to reduce Bradford’s $13 million number for 2015 and extend his contract at a team-friendly rate. Bradford’s options at the time were to 1) stay with the Rams, who were trying to forge a substantial pay cut and looking for other options; 2) be traded to the Browns, who were, well, the Browns (although I see reason for hope now); or 3) be traded to the Eagles and a coach (Chip Kelly) who had just guided Nick Foles to a Hall of Fame-like season. Getting Bradford under contract for the long term in Philadelphia shouldn’t have been difficult.

 

For whatever reason, the Eagles did not request or demand an extension upon the trade, shifting all the leverage to Bradford. His agent, Tom Condon, used it strategically. After a 2015 season with mixed results, the Eagles re-upped Bradford for $18 million fully guaranteed in 2016 (a $5 million raise from his bloated rookie contract) and another $4 million guaranteed as part of $18 million in 2017. Although the Eagles then mortgaged valuable resources to draft Bradford’s eventual replacement (Carson Wentz), Bradford received an $11 million signing bonus to ensure his status as a starting quarterback at least through 2016 . . . although it would not be for the Eagles.

 

Bradford’s earnings from the Eagles: $24 million.

 

Minnesota Misfortune

The fortunes of two NFL teams changed dramatically last August when Teddy Bridgewater’s gruesome knee injury set off a chain reaction. The Eagles wrangled a first-round pick from the Vikings for Bradford, inheriting his $7 million salary for last season and $18 million for 2017. Bradford had already received his $11 million bonus from the Eagles, earned essentially for some offseason workouts and a couple minicamps.

Bradford kept the Vikings in playoff contention for most of 2016 and now—for the second time in three years—he enters a contract year making top dollar with leverage to forge yet another favorable extension, this time from the Vikings. With Bridgewater’s injury continuing to be a factor, the Vikings chose not exercise an option on Bridgewater’s contract (we’ll discuss that in a future column). This creates another leveraged opportunity for Bradford entering his contract year.

 

The Vikings will soon be coming to Bradford to offer more money and more years just like the Rams and Eagles—teams that each paid at least $24 million to a quarterback who never made the Pro Bowl.

 

Bradford’s earnings from the Vikings through 2017: $25 million

Total Earnings for Bradford through 2017 (through 8 seasons): $114 million

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

The Buccaneers have signed CB ROBERT McCLAIN, familiar to DC Mike Smith.  Greg Auman in the Tampa Bay Times:

 

The Bucs have added a veteran cornerback to their secondary for 2017, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with Robert McClain, who played extensively for Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith with the Falcons from 2012-14.

 

McClain, 28, is 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds and spent last season with the Panthers and Chargers. He overlapped with Smith in Atlanta, totaling 186 tackles and three interceptions during their three years together; Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator that time as well.

 

McClain would serve as a veteran backup to starters Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves — as it stands, their next corner would be second-year pro Ryan Smith, who didn’t play a snap on defense last year. The Bucs also return Jude Adjei-Barimah and Javien Elliott at nickel defensive back as well.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

ANDRE ELLINGTON has moved from phased-out RB to aspiring WR.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Cardinals haven’t had much use for Andre Ellington as a runner over the last two seasons and there aren’t any plans to cut down on David Johnson’s workload, so they have plans to use Ellington differently this season.

 

Ellington began sitting in on wide receiver meetings as last season wound down and the Cardinals plan to make that his primary position this season. Ellington said he’s picking up the nuances of the position, including not tipping his routes and knowing how to make adjustments based on what the defense is showing, and quarterback Carson Palmer is intrigued by the possibilities.

 

“Everything changes when he’s got to line up and there are 11 guys across the ball and he, post-snap, has to make decisions,” Palmer said on Tuesday, via the team’s website. “That’s difficult. But he runs really good routes, and the thing that really excites me is, once he gets the ball in his hands, what is he going to do with it? He’s not a receiver, he’s a running back when he has the ball in his hands.”

 

Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald caught 187 of the team’s 383 completions last season. A return to health and form for John Brown would likely cut into that number, but the Cardinals can’t put all of their eggs in that basket if they want to be fully prepared for the 2017 season. Ellington’s position change is part of those preparations and could be much more if he fares well when faced with a defense trying to stop him.

 

 

SEATTLE

There are those who think that Seattle DE FRANK CLARK is one of those time bombs among NFL players (think Greg Hardy) who someday will wind up booked for a crime. 

 

The fuse may be burning as he takes on a Bleacher Report reporter.  Jayson Jenks in the Seattle Times:

 

Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark tweeted at a female Bleacher Report reporter Tuesday night that he had a job for her cleaning his fish tank when she lost her job.

 

The reporter, Natalie Weiner, had recently written a story about former NFL player Greg Hardy and the issue of domestic violence in the NFL. Weiner did not mention Clark in that article; however, she wrote a critical column two years ago after the Seahawks controversially drafted Clark in the second round of the 2015 draft. Weiner tweeted that she shared that column alongside her Hardy story.

 

Clark was arrested for domestic violence in 2014 but eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

 

@natalieweiner

frank clark, seahawk, just tweeted he had a job for me cleaning his fishtank and that i would lose my job

 

@natalieweiner

writing about domestic violence is fun and risk free pic.twitter.com/XGqCQ6RvNQ

 

Clark deleted his tweet and sent a vague apology later in the day but failed to tag Weiner:

 

@TheRealFrankC_

Apologize to anyone who felt offended by my tweet earlier. We gotta do better supporting these major issues we face in this world.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

In one of the least surprising decisions ever, Peyton Manning is going into the Colts Ring of Honor.  He also gets a statue.  Matthew Van Tryon in the Indianapolis Star:

 

Soon, Peyton Manning will be forever immortalized both inside and outside the “House that Peyton built.” The Colts released details Tuesday regarding plans to honor the longtime Colts quarterback.

 

A statue of Manning will be unveiled outside Lucas Oil Stadium at 3 p.m. on Oct. 7. The statue is being designed by sculptor and firefighter Ryan Feeney.

 

Manning’s jersey retirement and Ring of Honor induction will take place Sunday, October 8, when the Colts host the San Francisco 49ers at 1 p.m.

 

Manning will be the first player from the Indianapolis era to have his jersey retired. He joins seven other players in franchise history to earn the honor.

 

“I am humbled, and I am grateful to Jim and the Irsay family for this tremendous honor,” Manning said in a news release.

– – –

And this on DE ROBERT MATHIS from Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Robert Mathis retired after 14 years coming off the edge as a pass rusher for the Colts, but he hasn’t cut all ties with the organization.

 

It’s quite the opposite, actually. Mathis has been a frequent presence at the Colts’ facility during their offseason work and is serving as an unofficial coach on the defensive side of the ball.

 

Defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said that Mathis spoke to him after the end of last season to ask what he could do to help the team in retirement, adding that it’s a positive “anytime you can learn from a master.”

 

“It’s fun to watch him grow as a coach,” Monachino said, via the Indianapolis Star. “It might be something he wants to do in his future. … He does a nice job. He’s a good communicator, he’s sharp, he thinks ahead, he sees the game through a barn door instead of through a straw. So, I can see how he fits. I think he’s got a trait to [become a coach].”

 

The Colts defense can use all the help it can get to improve during the 2017 season. If Mathis’ insight aids in that effort, there may be an official role on the coaching staff in his future.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

A further sign that Sean McDermott rules the roost in Buffalo as the Bills raid the Panthers to bring in a compadre as GM.  We now have the alliterative Brandon Beane of the Buffalo Bills.  Vic Carucci in the Buffalo News:

 

The expected became official Tuesday: Brandon Beane is the new general manager of the Buffalo Bills.

 

The team made the announcement the day after the former Carolina Panthers assistant GM met with Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula for a second interview.

 

Beane, who spent the past six seasons working with Bills coach Sean McDermott while McDermott was the Panthers’ defensive coordinator, was the only one of four known candidates for the job to be interviewed twice.

 

“During our search for a new general manager, Brandon stood out to Kim and I as he embodies the type of leader and type of person we want in our organization,” Terry said in a statement issued by the team. “Brandon has excelled in a variety of roles for a Panthers team that has consistently competed at a high-level in this league. We feel his vast understanding and experience in many facets of football operations will be invaluable to our club moving forward.

 

“We also believe his vision for the Buffalo Bills combined with his detailed approach will help build a foundation for sustained success. We are pleased to welcome Brandon and his family to Buffalo.”

 

Terry will introduce Beane as the Bills’ 13th GM in franchise history at a news conference Friday morning.

 

Beane, a graduate of UNC-Wilmington and a native of Stanly County, N.C., began his 19-year run with the Panthers in 1998 as a member of their communications department. After that, he filled a variety of roles in football operations and the player-personnel department. The Panthers made him their director of football operations in 2008, and he remained in that job for seven years.

 

Beane’s big break came from another P.R. guy turned GM.

 

In a 2012 profile of Beane written by the Wilmington Star News, Beane explained how he got into the NFL. He was originally hired as a summer training camp PR intern in 1998, and then a football operations intern during the regular season.

 

After his junior year, in the summer of 1997, he landed an internship with the Charlotte Touchdown Club, where he met Bruce Speight, then the Panthers’ assistant media relations director. In 1998, after his graduation from UNCW, the Panthers hired Beane as a summer training camp PR intern and then during the regular season as an intern in football operations. Former Carolina General Manager Marty Hurney eventually hired Beane as assistant director of football operations.

 

Technically, this isn’t his first gig as GM:

 

After Hurney was fired in 2012, Beane was named interim general manager. The Panthers went 6-4 in the final 10 games under Beane’s leadership. The team then hired Dave Gettleman, but Beane gained some valuable experience.

 

Thoughts from Mike Florio:

 

When the Bills officially introduce G.M. Brandon Beane on Friday morning, question will be asked about power and control. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the expectation is that the answer will be that Beane has traditional G.M. powers, at least in writing.

 

The broader question is whether he’ll be exercising those duties. A widespread sense emerged in the aftermath of the firing of G.M. Doug Whaley that coach Sean McDermott will emerge with more power, and possibly with final say. That perception lingers, and the question of who runs the show will remain regardless of what is or isn’t said on Friday.

 

While it’s important for everyone to know their roles and the limits of their authorities, no properly functioning organization consists of people openly proclaiming “I have final say!” in order to get their way. The best approach is to work through all issues with a frank and candid exchange and, ultimately, the achievement of a consensus. If McDermott and Beane can do that, who has final say doesn’t matter.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BILL JOHNSTON AND STEVE DUEMIG

Bill Johnston ended 38 years with the Chargers this week.  The longtime p.r. chief opted to stay in San Diego to stay with his wife Ramona who is stricken with Huntington’s disease.  He did an eloquent Facebook post:

 

As you probably know, I will not be joining the Chargers when they move north. Ramona is getting the best care in the best place for her, which means here with her is the best place for me. So today is my last day with the Chargers.

 

I didn’t know what to expect when I joined the organization as an intern 38 years ago in 1979. I just knew I had been on sports teams my entire life and this made sense. Now, looking back, it has been a great ride.

 

Will I miss it? Of course. I’ll miss being around the team and celebrating after big wins. But most of all, I’ll miss the people – both inside and outside the Chargers – that I’ve been blessed to meet through this crazy business. It’s the people and their passion for the sport that make this business special.

 

Now I need to find someone willing to give me a shot for the next 38 years. No matter where I end up, I will continue to focus whatever free time I have to raise awareness in the fight against Huntington’s disease. Thank you to everyone for your help and support. Take care and keep in touch.

 

We include this if you wish to help Bill, and daughter Hayley, in their fight against Huntington’s Disease:

 

The San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is fast approaching, and Hayley and I and our small band of runners are training hard and raising money to cure Huntington’s disease, the fatal brain disease that has taken my wife and Hayley’s mother away from us and threatens Hayley’s own future. 

 

Please consider donating – if you haven’t already – by going to RUNNING TO CURE HD or just click on one of the following donation amounts:

 

$50  …  $75  …  $100  …  $200  …  $500  …  $1000

 

You can also return the attached form via email or mail it to Hayley at 2095 Monaco Ct., El Cajon, CA 92019.  Your contribution is tax deductible (Tax ID 13-3349872).

 

Feel free to forward this email to anyone who may be interested in pledging or even joining our team. 

 

Thank you again for caring.

– – –

In Tampa Bay, radio host Steve Duemig has been off the air since the Super Bowl as he battles brain cancer.  His story goes public with this from Tom Jones in the Tampa Bay Times:

 

He has made a living fighting with Tampa Bay sports fans. Now he is in the fight of his life.

 

For Steve Duemig, the longtime afternoon drive host at WDAE 620-AM and the dean of sports-talk radio in Tampa Bay, this isn’t about some caller in St. Pete or Brandon, arguing about what’s wrong with the Rays or how many games the Bucs are going to win.

 

This is the most formidable opponent of all.

 

“It’s something you don’t want to hear: cancer,” Duemig said. “It gets pretty scary. But you put your faith in the doctors and the oncologists and the radiologists and you just go from there. But how scary is it? Very. It’s very scary.”

 

In his first interview since the diagnosis, Duemig talked about the night he nearly died, the stunning diagnosis and his arduous road to recovery.

 

It started on Feb. 4 at his Clearwater home. He was getting ready to watch the third period of the Lightning-Ducks game. The next thing he remembers is waking up three days later in intensive care and he couldn’t move the right side of his body.

 

He soon learned why. He had a brain tumor.

 

Duemig, 62, was diagnosed with an astro cytoplasmic tumor. The original prognosis was grim, but Duemig says his outlook is encouraging. He just completed six weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy treatment designed by Duke University. On May 22, Duemig will return to Duke to see how effective the treatment has been.

 

“I’ve got many years left,” Duemig said. “It’s the kind of cancer that’s contained. If they shrink it, it gives you years. This isn’t the worst kind. It’s a Stage 2 cancer. I guess you could it’s not a bad kind of cancer.”

 

Duemig laughs as he says that.

 

“It’s not like there’s a good kind of cancer,” Duemig said. “But this could have been worse.”

 

What’s so odd to Duemig is that, for the most part, he feels okay. He has regained full motion in his body. He has lost 33 pounds, but the side effects of the treatment haven’t been too bad. No nausea. No hair loss. Just fatigue.

 

As far as going back on the air someday?

 

“Absolutely,” Duemig said. “That’s my plan.”

 

On the air is where he has been for the past three decades. Born in Pensacola, and raised in Philadelphia, Duemig became a golf professional before he made the switch to sports-talk radio in 1990. In the early days of Tampa Bay sports radio, Duemig quickly became a staple, and there’s no doubt that he has more of an influence on local sports talk than any other radio host.

 

He earned the nickname “Big Dog,” which has stuck through the years. His afternoon drive show on WDAE is, by far, the most popular sports radio show in Tampa Bay history. Light on guests and heavy on debate with callers, Duemig’s bombastic style has earned three things: big fans, haters. And listeners. Lots of listeners.

 

An example of his impact?

 

When the Rays opened this year’s spring training camp with a news conference, manager Kevin Cash, whom Duemig has often criticized, opened by sending Duemig best wishes.

 

“We’re obviously thinking about him as one of our friends and supporters,” Cash said. “He has got a lot of support in the community. There are a lot of thoughts from our organization for some good news coming his way.”

 

Good news and the ultimate positive outcome of Duemig returning to radio didn’t seem possible less than three months ago.

 

The week before he collapsed watching the Lightning game, Duemig was in Houston for the Super Bowl. He did a week of shows from radio row, as he has done for the past several years.

 

Looking back now, it was there, in Houston, where there were signs of something being wrong. Duemig said he had difficulty on a couple of in-show advertising reads. But he didn’t think much of it at the time.

 

Then came that night watching the Lightning.

 

He and his wife, Jen, watched the first two periods at a local restaurant. They returned home and Jen was in the bedroom as Duemig was getting ready to watch the third period in the living room.

 

“Then she heard me making some not-so-good noises, I guess,” Duemig said.

 

Duemig’s right side went numb. Tremors shook his right arm and leg. He doesn’t remember anything that happened after that.

 

He doesn’t remember Jen calling an ambulance that arrived within three minutes. He doesn’t remember the drive to Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg. He doesn’t remember the next three days as doctors ran a series of tests, including an MRI exam and CT scan, and performed biopsy surgery.

 

He does remember getting the news.

 

“That’s when your life changes, when they tell you that you have cancer,” Duemig said.

 

Next came the trip to Duke then a return home to begin treatment. One day after another. One week after another. Five days a week for six weeks, Duemig made the trip to WellSpring Oncology in Pinellas Park for 10 minutes of radiation.

 

That has been the worst part, the daily routine to have your head zapped with radiation. Six weeks of lying perfectly still in a machine, lying there like you’re, well, you’d rather not think of what it’s like.

 

“What did I learn? That I’m staring a bad situation in the face and beating it,” Duemig said. “To go six weeks straight and to never have a moment of ‘Why is this happening?’ You just get up and you go. You go to the treatments and you don’t look back.”

 

He is fighting cancer with the same determination he used to battle listeners all these years on radio.

 

Since Duemig has been out, WDAE has used fill-in guest hosts, who are always quick to remind listeners that they are “filling in for the Big Dog.”

 

As far as Duemig is concerned, they are just keeping his seat warm.

 

“I will be back,” Duemig said. “I’m not done yet.”

 

 

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS TO CHRIS BERMAN AND FAMILY

Sad news as Kathy Berman, the wife of ESPN’s Chris Berman has died in a car crash.  ESPN.com:

 

Kathy Berman, the wife of longtime ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman, died Tuesday in a car accident in rural Connecticut.

 

Kathy Berman was killed in a two-car crash near Woodbury, Connecticut. Berman, a teacher, was married to Chris for more than 33 years and had two children, Meredith and Douglas. She was 67.

 

“This is a devastating tragedy and difficult to comprehend,” John Skipper, president of ESPN, said in a statement. “Chris is beloved by all his ESPN colleagues and for good reason: He has a huge heart and has given so much to so many over the years. We know how much his family means to him and all we can do at a moment like this is give him the love and support he will surely need at this hour. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chris, Meredith, Doug and the entire family.”

 

The driver of the other car, Edward Bertulis, of Waterbury, Connecticut, also died in the accident. He was 87.

 

Chris Berman joined ESPN in 1979. He married Kathy four years later.

 

 

ESPN THOUGHTS

 

Behind the paywall, the Wall Street Journal has a story about the 3D chess problem confronting Disney CEO Bob Iger who wants to emulate Donald Trump from the Democrat side.

 

ESPN recently announced a new round of layoffs and [Disney CEO Robert] Iger, despite his liberal views, might be particularly impatient for a turnaround at the network—and not just because he wants to deliver robust earnings growth for Disney shareholders. A recent report from the website Axios claims that Mr. Iger is contemplating a run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Such a run would be premised on his business success, so Disney has to be thriving for him to make a Trumpian leap into politics.

 

Mr. Iger may be so eager to spruce up his tarnished cable operation that he’ll consider the analysis by former ESPN and current Fox Sports journalist Jason Whitlock that ESPN’s embrace of leftist ideology is partly to blame for driving away former fans of the sports giant.

 

Progressives across social media have been in an uproar since the Journal published Mr. Whitlock’s op-ed on Sunday night. Mr. Whitlock wrote that ESPN is “diverse on its surface, progressive in its point of view, and more concerned with spinning media narratives than with the quality of its product. The channel has become too handcuffed by politics to protect its most experienced and loyal employees. It’s a massive symbol of everything that fueled Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency.” Mr. Whitlock also opined that ESPN had been highly influenced by attacks from the leftist website Deadspin to adopt its current politicized approach to sports coverage.

 

This from Stephen Green at Instapundit.com:

 

Iger can either take the progressive politics out of ESPN and please his stockholders, or he can continue to use ESPN to please the Democratic base and help him win the nomination, but he likely can’t do both.

 

 

AARON HERNANDEZ – NOW UNCONVICTED

 

What are you going to believe – your own common sense or the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as interpreted by a judge?  Because if it is the latter, the late Aaron Hernandez was not a convicted murderer.  The AP:

 

A judge on Tuesday erased a 2013 murder conviction against former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, ruling that case law in Massachusetts has long established that defendants who die before their appeals are heard should have their convictions vacated.

 

Bristol County Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said she was compelled to follow precedent in ordering that Hernandez’s first-degree murder conviction be dismissed in the death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez killed himself in prison last month while serving a life sentence.

 

Lloyd’s mother fought back tears after the ruling Tuesday, saying the former New England Patriots tight end would always be guilty in the eyes of her family.

 

“In our book, he’s guilty, and he’s always going to be guilty,” Ursula Ward said during a news conference.

 

Prosecutors said they would appeal the ruling to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

 

Lawyers for Hernandez had argued that the SJC had applied the legal doctrine “without exception,” even in cases of suicide. They said his conviction wasn’t considered final because the automatic appeal he was entitled to had not been heard.

 

Prosecutor Patrick Bomberg said Hernandez’s suicide was a “calculated act.” He cited a report issued last week from the Department of Correction that said Hernandez told another inmate he had heard a “rumor” that if an inmate has an open appeal on his case and dies in prison, he will be acquitted.

 

Garsh said there may be “complex and myriad” reasons that Hernandez killed himself five days after he was acquitted in a 2012 double murder. She cited a report from prison officials that some inmates knew about a radio broadcast that speculated Hernandez may have been gay. She also said a “possible mental disturbance” was reflected in a suicide note to his fiancee in which he said his death was “the Supremes, the almightys plan, not mine.”

 

Lloyd’s mother has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Hernandez. Her attorney, Douglas Sheff, said he doesn’t believe the civil case will be undermined by the dismissal of Hernandez’s conviction.

 

An attorney in Hernandez’s criminal case filed court papers last month that said his estate is currently worth “zero.”

 

Sheff said the only identifiable assets he knows of are Hernandez’s house, valued at $1.3 million, and a Hummer. But he noted that a message Hernandez left for his fiancee said, in part: “You’re rich.”

 

“We don’t know what that refers to. We’d like to find out,” he said.

 

Representatives for the Patriots, the NFL and the NFL Players Association declined to comment on whether the team has any outstanding financial obligations to Hernandez or his estate.

 

Hernandez’s appellate attorney, John Thompson, told reporters he believes it’s still uncertain as to whether Hernandez took his own life. Thompson said he has recent correspondence from Hernandez in which he said he was interested in pursuing an appeal of his conviction.

– – –

 

Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III said Tuesday that the legal doctrine that prompted Garsh to vacate Hernandez’s conviction is “archaic.”

 

“Despite the tragic ending to Aaron Hernandez’s life, he should not reap the legal benefits of an antiquated rule,” Quinn said.

 

The practice of posthumously vacating convictions is hotly debated. Some states have doctrines similar to Massachusetts case law that says convictions aren’t final until the merits of a defendant’s appeal have been decided. According to a 2013 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, more than a dozen states allow appeals to go forward even after the defendant dies, and the conviction is only vacated if the appellate court finds that a new trial would have been warranted.

 

Federal courts have widely adopted the abatement principle.