The Daily Briefing Wednesday, April 5, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

ROMO

Charean Williams in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram on the big decision:

 

While everyone was waiting on the Dallas Cowboys to make a decision on Tony Romo, Romo was trying to make up his mind. To play, or not to play: that was the question.

 

Romo began discussions with CBS, as well as other television executives, once the season ended. CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said talks “heated up in the last couple of weeks.”

 

Romo considered continuing his playing career, insisting several teams showed interest with the Houston Texans “at the top of that list.” But Romo and CBS came to an agreement Monday night.

 

The Cowboys released Romo on Tuesday as CBS introduced him as the network’s lead NFL analyst. Romo replaces Phil Simms alongside Jim Nantz.

 

“It wasn’t a simple decision,” Romo said during an hour-long CBS conference call. “It got easier when I started to really get excited about working with CBS. That part of it gets the juices flowing and started to get you excited to be a part of a team and go attack a craft. Obviously, there’s a lot of little things that played a role.

 

“… I do like the aspect of being able to spend time with your kids. That wasn’t just the only reason. That was part of it. Health was a little part of it. Part of it was just, the closer I got, it’s an exciting opportunity to go to CBS.”

 

Romo likely earns induction into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, retiring as the team’s all-time-leading passer. But he went only 2-4 in the postseason, never advancing beyond the divisional round.

 

He could have attempted to fill that hole in his resume by signing with a Super Bowl contender. Romo mentioned the Texans, and the Denver Broncos also likely had interest.

 

  “Yeah, there was absolutely interest [from other NFL teams],” Romo said. “There were plenty of different things that came up … that were available to me if I decided to go down that path.”

 

Instead, Romo will have to be content with broadcasting Super Bowl LIII for CBS in 2019.

 

Romo, who turns 37 in April, has not played a full, 16-game season since 2012 because of injuries. He started only four games his last two seasons, and he lost his job to Dak Prescott last season while recuperating from a compression fracture in his back.

 

“I’m probably as healthy as I’ve been in three or four years,” Romo said. “The weird thing is I’d probably be playing healthier this year than I did in ’14. From that perspective, that wasn’t hanging over my head to make the decision for me.”

 

While Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman announced their retirements from the NFL during tearful press conferences, Romo’s departure from the Cowboys came in a press release.

 

“Tony has been a wonderful representative of the Cowboys organization for 14 years, and he left everything he had on the field,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. “He will leave us with many great memories and a legacy of being, truly, one of the greatest players in Cowboys history.”

 

Romo didn’t completely close the door on his retirement, leaving at least a crack when asked about the possibility of a comeback.

 

 “Do I envision coming back and playing football? Absolutely not,” Romo said. “I’m committed to CBS. I’m going to be there for good. Do I think I’m going to get some calls? I’m sure I will. I envision there’s not enough quarterbacks as is to win 12 games in the NFL anyway. So I do feel like for me the reality that’s going to happen. Now right now? I’m telling you that I don’t think it’s going to be that hard of a decision. I think I’m going to get in the booth; I’m going to like it; it’s going to be a challenge. I’m excited. I just don’t envision that being something that I’m going to have to think long and hard about.

 

“It’s one of those things you do: You never say never. I just tell you it’s about 99 percent.”

 

If he does return, if that 1% comes up, he is no longer Dallas property.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Cowboys did Tony Romo a big favor when they released him today.

 

By cutting Romo, rather than placing him on the NFL’s reserve/retired list, the Cowboys gave Romo the freedom to change his mind about retirement and sign with any team at any time. Romo says he’s committed to broadcasting and is done playing, but many players have said they were done only to get the itch to play again. Romo can, and he doesn’t need the Cowboys’ permission now.

 

But Romo said on a CBS conference call today that the Cowboys were doing him a different kind of favor by cutting him: Romo said the reason he asked the Cowboys to cut him was so that he wouldn’t be obligated to pay back a portion of his signing bonus. If he had retired, the Cowboys could have forced him to pay back $5 million in previously paid bonus money. Romo says Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was doing him a kindness with the roster transaction.

 

“I’ve never had a better boss or mentor than Jerry Jones,” Romo said.

 

It’s still possible that Romo could make Jones regret that kindness by signing on with another team, and helping that team beat the Cowboys. But Romo insists he’s done, and Jones apparently believes him, and is willing to give him a $5 million farewell gift.

 

The Dallas Cowboys did Tony Romo one last favor when they finally decided to release him on Tuesday.

 

Because Romo was cut as opposed to being placed on the league’s reserve/retired list, he was not forced to pay back $5 million in bonus money that he already received.

 

Bill Barnwell at ESPN.com tries to figure out where to rank Romo the player:

 

Barring an unexpected comeback, Tony Romo’s NFL career came to an end Tuesday afternoon after 162 games. Well, Romo’s most recent career. See, eulogizing Romo’s NFL tenure is difficult because he really has been several different players over the course of his 14 seasons in the league. Most Romo takes, particularly the critical ones, focus exclusively on one of those stretches from his career to the detriment of the truth.

 

But the most accurate Romo story revolves around at least four archetypes, each of which Romo embodied at different points throughout his run. Each of those guys Romo resembled could very well be different NFL quarterbacks, ones who are either currently playing in the league or who are recent to the league. Romo had one of the unlikeliest careers in NFL history, as Seth Wickersham noted, so it’s no surprise that he had a very atypical career arc.

 

The first Romo: Underground sensation

Romo was a star before he ever drove the Dallas offense over the one on the field. For a guy who played his college ball at Eastern Illinois and went undrafted before catching on with the Cowboys, Romo had a disproportionate amount of hype before taking a meaningful snap in Dallas. He spent three years riding pine behind a mix of past-their-prime veterans (Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe) and failed prospects (hello, Quincy Carter and Drew Henson). He was not particularly impressive during the preseason, either — Romo threw six picks against six touchdowns on 185 attempts. The 87.0 passer rating he posted on those throws wasn’t bad, but Romo wasn’t exactly pounding the door down to get regular-season reps.

 

And yet, for one reason or another, Romo was the subject of glowing stories before he ever took a regular-season snap as the Cowboys quarterback. One Fort Worth Star-Telegram story referred to Romo as Dallas’ Jake Delhomme, which was a compliment back in 2006, while noting he had the vaunted “it factor.” Sean Payton, who had been Romo’s quarterbacks coach in Dallas, reportedly wanted to trade for Romo before settling for future Hall of Famer Drew Brees in free agency.

 

Romo finally got his chance during 2006, his fourth season with the Cowboys. He threw two passes late in a blowout win over the Texans, and then took over for a benched Bledsoe the following week in the second half of a 12-7 game against the division rival Giants. Romo’s first pass that day was intercepted, one of three picks he would throw in 25 attempts, including a 96-yard pick-six to end the game as a contest in the fourth quarter. It didn’t hold back Romo, as Bill Parcells noted Romo “exuded confidence” before giving him the start against a very competent Panthers defense the following week.

 

From that point forward, Romo was golden. The Cowboys were off to a 3-3 start, but they went 6-4 with Romo at the helm. Romo still struggled with INTs, throwing 10 in 10 games, but he completed 65.2 percent of his passes and averaged 8.5 yards per attempt in those 10 starts. His 96.2 passer rating from Week 8 on was the third best in the league behind Peyton Manning and Brees.

 

Romo became a folk hero in Dallas, where the Cowboys had been longing for a quarterback since Troy Aikman was forced into retirement after the 2000 season. Teammate Bradie James gushed over Romo’s swagger, noting how Romo had been “the coolest guy around for a while,” and how the Romo we were seeing was the same Romo the Cowboys players had seen for themselves on the practice field.

 

For all the cool, Romo made a fatal mistake in his first playoff game. While virtually all starting quarterbacks are on the sideline for special-teams plays, Romo was still Dallas’ holder because he’d been the backup heading into the season. Dallas needed a 19-yard field goal to take a 23-21 lead on the Seahawks with 1:19 left. Romo bobbled the snap, then failed in his subsequent attempt to run into the end zone for a touchdown. Game over.

 

It’s tempting to look back and say that the Seahawks loss was a turning point for Romo and how he was perceived, but it’s simply not true. Through the 2007 season, Romo was getting much of the same press as he had been the previous year as a winner. It was earned, too, because he and the Cowboys were great. Dallas started the year 12-1, with its only loss coming to the unbeaten Patriots. The Cowboys finished as the top seed in the NFC at 13-3, and while Romo wasn’t going to garner serious MVP consideration across from Tom Brady, he finished second behind the Patriots star in yards per attempt and passing touchdowns. Romo was third in the league in QBR and fifth in passer rating.

 

What happened next changed how people perceived Romo. The Cowboys sputtered to a 2-2 December, although one of those losses was in a meaningless Week 17 game against Washington. Romo infamously went to Cabo during his bye week with girlfriend Jessica Simpson and teammate Jason Witten, the latter of whom has almost entirely escaped any scrutiny. The Cowboys then lost to the Giants at home 21-17 in a game where Romo went 18-of-36 for 201 yards and couldn’t lead Dallas on a game-winning drive despite starting his final two possessions on the Dallas 44-yard line and New York 48-yard line.

 

You can see a few NFL players here.

 

It’s not difficult to compare Romo to his eventual replacement, Dak Prescott, although Prescott drew attention for his brilliance in the preseason and didn’t have to wait four years for a starting job. Aaron Rodgers also was hyped while waiting three years for the starting job in Green Bay, although Rodgers was a first-round pick and did struggle at times with the limited reps he got over his three seasons backing up Brett Favre. And there’s Odell Beckham Jr., of course, who has taken most of the flak for the Giants’ infamous trip to Miami before they were ousted from this year’s playoffs by the Packers.

 

The second Romo: The disappointment

From that point forward, the stories about Romo changed. In the way that we often drag athletes down if they struggle in the postseason at the beginning of their careers, everything Romo did had to travel through the prism and perpetually shifting goalposts of coming through in the clutch. In 2008, Romo appeared to have the Cowboys safely in the playoff hunt at 8-4 heading into December, only to collapse. Dallas lost three of its final four games, including the final game at Texas Stadium against the Ravens, before getting blown out 44-6 in what amounted to a play-in game against the Eagles in Week 17.

 

Romo unquestionably struggled that December, turning the ball over nine times in four games. The idea that Romo annually fell apart in December stuck for the remainder of his career, even though it wasn’t accurate. Romo’s splits by month are a matter of public record, and they’re telling:

 

VALUE      G              W- L         CMP         ATT          CMP%       YDS          Y/ATT       TD            INT           RATE

September 38             26-12        682           1,032        66.1%       8,353        8.1            53             24             98.3

October     40             18-22        659           1,021        64.5%       7,906        7.7            57             38             91.2

November  37             29-8          728           1,102        66.1%       8,971        8.1            73             25             103.7

Dec/Jan    41             19-22        760           1,180        64.4%       8,953        7.6            65             30             95.1

 

October was Romo’s worst month, not December. (I included four January regular-season games with the December totals, in which Romo went 1-3 but played well.) His numbers and win-loss record are essentially identical in October and the December/January super-month, and yet you’ll never hear about how Romo couldn’t handle the pressure of winning in autumn. It’s also worth pointing out that, regardless of record, Romo’s numbers were great in every month.

 

This is a theme with Romo: If you aren’t selectively choosing games to fit your story, Romo’s December record isn’t much of a story. The Cowboys slipped and lost their first two December games in 2009, dropping them to 8-5, before Romo led the Cowboys to three straight wins (helped out by consecutive shutouts in Weeks 16 and 17) and then a 34-14 playoff shellacking of the Eagles for his first postseason victory. Dallas was blown out the next week by the Vikings, but you can’t leave out the success it had in talking about Romo in the playoffs.

– – –

Romo’s legacy as a clutch performer is complicated. I don’t think anybody would say that he elevated his game in December and January, but the idea that Romo significantly dropped off is overstated. Because Romo started his career with that brutal fumbled snap in Seattle and took the blame for the trip to Mexico, he spent the rest of his NFL life fighting the perception, right or wrong, that he wasn’t a big-game quarterback. And defenses rarely helped.

 

There’s a natural comparison to be made between Romo and Peyton Manning, who started his playoff career with three losses and threw blanks against the Patriots twice before finally beating them in 2006. Manning overcame that perception by winning two Super Bowls, both in cases where his defense gave him help. His defense allowed just 12.8 points per game during Manning’s first run to the Super Bowl in ’06, before the Broncos’ D allowed just 14.7 points to push a fading Manning to his second Super Bowl in 2015.

 

Outside of perhaps 2009, Romo never got that help.

 

The third Romo: The injured

It might be foolish to separate the disappointing Romo from the Romo who was often playing through or sidelined by injuries, but there’s an important distinction to be made. Romo’s style — often twisting away from free rushers and extending plays before eventually finding an open receiver — lent itself to injuries. He lacked or perhaps abandoned the instincts to avoid those big hits that have kept a similar quarterback in Russell Wilson on the field.

 

Yes, Romo got hurt. But anyone who questions his toughness is worth ignoring. Romo collapsed in the shower after that ugly loss to the Eagles in 2008. He lasted all 16 games during the 2009 season despite suffering broken ribs against the 49ers in Week 2, posting a 102.5 passer rating in the process. Years later, in 2014, Romo broke three bones in his back and missed all of a game-and-a-half before returning to the lineup. Reports suggest Romo regularly required Toradol shots to make it through the grind of seasons.

 

Having said that, Romo’s career was compromised by injuries. Various serious traumas either sank the Cowboys’ season or put Romo and his team into a situation where they had only one shot to make it through to more meaningful action. If Romo had been healthier over the course of his career, he would have had a much better shot of finishing his time with a Super Bowl ring.

 

Two of Romo’s most promising seasons went up in smoke thanks to collarbone injuries. After the 11-5 run into the postseason in 2009, the Cowboys started 1-4 in 2010, but each of the four losses were decided by seven points or fewer. They were an average team with bad luck, but things only got worse when Romo broke his collarbone in a 41-35 loss to the Giants. He missed the rest of the year. Then, after Romo’s MVP-caliber season in 2014, the Cowboys started 2-1 in 2015 before Romo again fractured his clavicle. His backups went 0-6 before Romo returned for two weeks, beating the Dolphins before suffering another collarbone injury in an ugly loss to the Panthers. He didn’t return. Romo underwent offseason surgery to repair the collarbone, but he fractured vertebrae in his back last preseason, which ended up costing him his job once Prescott excelled.

 

That’s three years wiped off the books. Romo also dealt with a fractured pinkie finger and a ruptured disk in his back, among other maladies.

 

The fourth Romo: The guy who was brilliant anyway

Injuries be damned, Romo was as good as anyone in football between 2011 and 2014. Among players with 2,000 pass attempts or more over that time frame, Romo was third in completion percentage, fourth in passer rating and sixth in touchdown-to-interception ratio. He was at his best in 2014, when Romo led the league in completion percentage, yards per attempt, passer rating, QBR and game-winning drives. Romo would have been a totally reasonable MVP selection over Aaron Rodgers that year.

 

Romo is not going to be a Hall of Famer, but he played at a Hall of Fame level for four seasons. That’s more than most.

 

If Romo successfully transitions to broadcasting and doesn’t return to the field, he’ll leave behind a fascinating, complicated legacy as a star quarterback. He went from being a guy who succeeded without any expectations to being a star who often disappointed against lofty expectations. Romo’s career was blighted by injuries, but he was tough, perhaps to the extent where it might have been a detriment. He was the center of controversy when he shouldn’t have been and, by all accounts, a model teammate when Prescott took over despite months of suggestions from the organization that Romo wouldn’t lose his job.

 

Romo’s career began and ended in such an unlikely fashion that the best way to describe him might simply be unique. There were echoes of other players’ careers in Tony Romo, but he was one of a kind.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

Seahawks GM John Schneider seems to want you to think CB RICHARD SHERMAN could be had with the right trade offer.  Brady Henderson at MyNorthwest.com:

 

For anyone who still thought the talk about the Seahawks being open to trading cornerback Richard Sherman was nothing but a media fabrication, general manager John Schneider made it clear that it’s not.

 

“What you’ve seen lately in the news is real,” Schneider told “Brock and Salk” in an interview that aired Wednesday. “That’s on both sides.”

 

Schneider and his wife Traci made their annual trip to the 710 ESPN Seattle studios recently to discuss their work with Ben’s Fund, a charity that provides support to families with autistic children. Asked about the Sherman situation during their conversation with “Brock and Salk,” John Schneider was again transparent on the matter, just as he and coach Pete Carroll were at the owners’ meetings last week when they acknowledged that the Seahawks have listened to teams interested in acquiring Sherman.

 

Schneider’s comment about the Sherman discussion being “real”came in the context of a question about the team’s relationship with the cornerback after his tumultuous 2016 season.

 

“I think we’re a very unique organization in that regard. We have a great relationship with a lot of our players,” Schneider said.” There’s very much an openness. What you’ve seen lately in the news is real. That’s on both sides. It’s just open communication. He knows what’s going on. We know what’s going on. I don’t know if anything would ever happen, but like I tell people all the time, 98 percent of the deals that we’re involved with, we don’t follow through with. But at least we’ve opened that door, gone down the road and seen what’s behind Door A or Door B.”

 

Like Carroll did last week, Schneider left the impression that a trade isn’t necessarily likely but made it clear that it is something the Seahawks have discussed. And they’ve been open with Sherman about that.

 

“Absolutely,” Schneider said when asked if the lines of communication with Sherman are open on this matter. “This isn’t a secret like this just came out of nowhere. People find things out and we’re not going to lie to each other and we’re not going to BS each other. It’s going to be all laid out, and like I said, that doesn’t happen everywhere. We have open lines of communication between our coaching staff and our player personnel staff. It goes through player development, it goes through our sports science group. There’s a lot going on there.”

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on what he thinks is going on here:

 

Some would say the transparency that the Seahawks are applying to the Richard Sherman trade chatter is refreshing. Others would say that the transparency isn’t accidental or aimed at catering to the media but strategic in nature.

 

Sherman’s behavior became problematic for the Seahawks during the 2016 season. From a tantrum during a regular-season win over the Falcons that became an in-game distraction to a tantrum during a regular-season win over the Rams that became an in-game distraction to an “animated” post-game discussion with coach Pete Carroll to a press-conference threat to ruin a reporter’s career to whatever else we don’t know about (and linebacker Bobby Wagner said during a late-season appearance on PFT Live that, generally speaking, plenty of things happen within the confines of a football team that we’ll never know about), the Seahawks have decided that the time has come to at least see if anyone is willing to trade for Sherman.

 

The message to Sherman has multiple layers. First, the willingness to consider offers shows he’s not untouchable, despite what he may have believed. Second, the lack of a land rush for Sherman shows that he’s not as valued elsewhere as he may have believed.

 

How Sherman reacts to the latest blast of candor from G.M. John Schneider remains to be seen. Sherman went from laughing off the talk to a more pragmatic view after Schneider first legitimized the chatter. Now that Schneider seems to be publicly twisting the screws a bit, Sherman may erupt.

 

Or maybe he won’t. Maybe Sherman will realize that, in order to continue earning eight figures per year, there are certain boundaries he must honor — and that few players are so good on the field that they can say and do whatever they want away from it.

 

And Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald says there is a team, a prominent one, that might be nibbling:

 

The Patriots might be lining up a pair of redwoods at cornerback next season.

 

The Seahawks are openly fielding trade requests for superstar cornerback Richard Sherman, and there’s a chance he lands with the Patriots. A source told the Herald today nothing is imminent with a Sherman trade, but there’s a very real possibility it happens in three weeks during the run-up to the NFL draft.

 

The Patriots, meanwhile, have expressed interest in acquiring Sherman, but other teams have pursued him more aggressively to this point, according to the source. But if the Patriots lose cornerback Malcolm Butler, either through restricted free agency or a trade, they could very likely increase their focus on prying Sherman from the Seahawks. Butler has until April 21 to sign his restricted tender to yield a trade, so there’s time for that to unfold before the Seahawks potentially pull the trigger on a Sherman trade.

 

And most importantly, Sherman would be amenable to a trade to the Patriots if it gets to that point. He has long admired the Pats and Bill Belichick’s operation.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

As you may remember, more than a dozen government agencies inserted their name into the press release touting the brilliant police work that found TOM BRADY’s jersey – some federal, some in Texas, some in Massachusetts.  FOXSports also played a role with its many cameras and tapes.  But the real hero is only coming to the fore now.  Frank Schwab at YahooSports.com on Dylan Wagner.

 

For all the untold hours and money poured into finding Tom Brady’s two stolen Super Bowl jerseys, authorities might have never recovered them if not for the help of a teenage New England Patriots fan.

 

According to WBZ-TV’s Cheryl Fiandaca, 19-year-old Dylan Wagner had a strange online discussion with a fellow memorabilia collector last December. Wagner sold Martin Mauricio Ortega a jersey on eBay, then they exchanged photos of their collections. And somehow, Wagner said, Ortega had Brady’s Super Bowl XLIX jersey.

 

“I asked him outright, ‘How did you get that?’ and he says ‘I’ll tell you later,’” Wagner said to WBZ.

 

Then Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey was reported stolen, it became a big story, and Wagner immediately connected the dots.

 

“I knew exactly who had it,” Wagner told WBZ.

 

According to the WBZ story Wagner provided authorities with photos of Ortega’s collection, which included the missing Super Bowl XLIX jersey, and two addresses for him. A video of Ortega, a credentialed member of the international media, entering the Patriots locker room after Super Bowl LI and leaving shortly after with a bag under his arm got a lot of attention, but that alone couldn’t prove Ortega stole Brady’s jersey.

 

“He [Boston ATF Special Agent Christopher Arone] said the video doesn’t prove anything. Without the photos I sent him they wouldn’t have been able to get a search warrant to go into Ortega’s basement and get the jerseys,” Wagner told WBZ.

 

The jerseys got returned to Brady, and Wagner said he hopes to someday meet Brady. Based on WBZ’s account, setting up a meeting is the least the Patriots could do, considering Wagner’s role in recovering Brady’s jerseys.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

CUTLER

There is another quarterback, a known Trump supporter, who has an arguably (arguably we said) better resume than COLIN KAEPERNICK who isn’t getting any interest either.

 

Tony Romo’s retirement to the broadcast booth took one quarterback out of this offseason’s game of musical chairs.

 

Even with a dearth of capable quarterbacks on the open market and few pro-ready signal-callers in the draft, one man can’t sniff a gig: Jay Cutler.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday on Good Morning Football that Cutler’s market is almost zilch.

 

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with general managers or head coaches talking about where these quarterbacks are going to land and it is unbelievable that Cutler’s name rarely, if ever, comes up,” Rapoport said.

 

With Romo out of the mix and Houston heading into the draft with injury-prone Tom Savage as the starter, the Texans have been pondered as a landing spot for Cutler. But Rapoport reiterated that the Texans don’t view Cutler as a fit — he added Colin Kaepernick is also not a fit for Houston.

 

If Romo’s retirement can’t get Cutler into the game, it might never happen. That could leave the 12-year pro with one option: retirement.

 

“There’s really only a couple starting quarterback spots that are even available,” Rapoport said. “The Browns would be one. I doesn’t seem like Cutler would be interested in going there. The Texans would be another. It doesn’t seem they have interest in him. So Cutler may face a similar situation, actually, to Tony Romo, which is to just chill, wait, and if something happens — some horrible camp injury, like what happened to Teddy Bridgewater last year — maybe Cutler’s name would be called. But I do know he’s talked to people that he knows pretty well about retirement being a possibility. He actually might have no choice.”

 

If the call never comes for Smokin’ Jay, at least he’ll walk away having given us one more lasting image.

 

Actually, Jason Lisk of TheBigLead did wonder if Cutler was being blackballed for his political views back about two weeks ago:

 

How is it that there are 32 NFL teams and Jay Cutler is still a free agent?

 

The simple answer is that the quarterback market is still settling. The Tony Romo domino has yet to fall. Teams are going through the draft evaluation process at a time when there are no clear locks in the draft, but several guys who could go in the first round. Jay Cutler has been mediocre, and was injured last year, playing only five games. In fact, over the last three years, he is 6th-worst in adjusted net yards per pass, out of 29 quarterbacks (Colin Kaepernick being 2nd-worst). So those aren’t the kind of numbers that will cause teams to beat down the door immediately. Robert Griffin, for example, was still unsigned at this point a year ago, signing with the Browns on March 24th.

 

But simple answers don’t cut it in March when we can go with broader theories. Don’t you find it odd that Jay Cutler–who came out as a Donald Trump supporter–is still unemployed? Crazy times we live in when a guy who doesn’t vaccinate his kids is getting ostracized for his unpopular beliefs.

 

Cutler has been a free agent since getting cut by the Bears, but it’s been pretty much crickets on the news front. A little too quiet if you ask me. There were some rumbles that he could go to the Jets, but that has fizzled. Adam Schefter reported that he would not be visiting the team after they opted to sign Josh McCown.

 

How is it possible that no one else wants to talk to the charismatic Cutler? Sure, the Bears were only 12-23 over the last three years with him as a starter (only Blake Bortles and Colin Kaepernick have a lower win percentage during that time among those with 25+ starts). But he’s been to a NFC Championship Game.

 

 

 

What crime has Cutler committed to sit here in free agency? Supporting Trump and not vaccinating children are not crimes. Yet.

 

Cutler, though, draws criticism for anything and everything. Here was Stephen A. Smith when his support of Trump emerged. “When I hear the name Jay Cutler, I think about ineptitude, I think about incompetence, I think about loser, I think about leaderless.”

 

Cutler has even been the subject of anonymous sources from a Mike Freeman report, right after his support of Trump came out.

 

“Unnamed source, I’m guessing?” Cutler asked Thursday when queried about the report. “The source could be a lot of people. It could be a made-up source. It could actually be guys in there. If people actually start putting their names on it, we can have a discussion about it.

 

That’s probably a good policy to have when it comes to outrageous quotes from unnamed sources, but until then, you have to wonder if the rest of the league doesn’t want to Make Cutler Great Again.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

So what is going to happen to Phil Simms with the signing of Tony Romo?  David Steele in The Sporting News:

 

It can’t be fun for Phil Simms to hear America celebrating his job being given away to somebody else, even more than the country is debating whether that somebody else can even do the job.

 

The nation is divided on Tony Romo as the next great NFL game analyst … but it’s fully united in telling Simms to pack his headset and beat it.

 

 

However, here’s hoping that Simms lands somewhere in the football broadcast world. Not necessarily a broadcast booth. But that’s on CBS, not him. He’s been calling games mostly for that network for the better part of 22 years. He’s got receipts — he’s won two Super Bowls (and one MVP) and called eight of them.

 

It isn’t until now that someone has a window to consider whether there’s a better way to use him — to make the most out of what he knows and how he gets it across.

 

Former CBS colleague Bonnie Bernstein pointed at that in some heated Twitter comments as the news trickled out Tuesday.

 

@BonnieBernstein

Romo/2 A network’s #1 NFL analyst is one of the most coveted positions in all of sports broadcasting. For those of u who think…

 

@BonnieBernstein

Romo/3 “All they do is talk,” *live* broadcasting so much harder than you realize! Try, on the fly, sharing cohesive thoughts in 10-15 secs.

 

Bernstein probably could turn to Romo’s introductory conference call Tuesday as the perfect example. Right now, Romo is … not smooth. A much smaller audience got excellent insight into what he needs to work on, very hard, between now and September.

 

Simms’ knowledge and how well he conveys it, meanwhile, can be vouched for by personal experience, from a couple of recent visits to CBS’s annual summer previews of their NFL coverage in their Manhattan headquarters. There, all the announcers, from those calling the games to the studio crews and the reporters, were on hand to talk the game and show themselves off. Some of them were better at the latter than at the former.

 

Simms was excellent at the former; he was a go-to interview each time, insightful, thoughtful, perceptive, honest, blunt, not afraid to say whether he might be wrong, but willing to stand by what he believed.

 

In short, he came off like he does on “Inside The NFL,” where he has co-hosted since 2008. For all the heat he takes for his work in the booth — and deservedly so, a little too often — it’s way harder to pick apart his work on “Inside.”

 

Right now, as they gush over Romo’s addition, CBS is “discussing with Phil his future role with CBS Sports,” as CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement and on the conference call. Simms is still under contract, McManus said, and they are “talking about a number of different roles for him in the booth.”

 

It was far from a concrete commitment about anything. Which isn’t good from one perspective, because — to borrow colleague Michael McCarthy’s words — he’s still twisting in the wind.

 

But it’s good for Simms … if other networks are smart. He likely knows that. His agent, Steve Rosner, told NorthJersey.com that after having spoken to CBS recently, he and Simms “will regroup within the next month or so” to decide what’s next.

 

For CBS, though, this should be an easy one, on a couple of levels.

 

First, keep him right where he is on “Inside,” which airs on CBS property Showtime. It’s settled into a good niche. He and James Brown are the only remaining members of the cast from the start of the Showtime era of the show.

 

And speaking of James Brown …

 

There’s an open spot in the “NFL Today” studio. Sports Illustrated reported last week that Tony Gonzalez was leaving after three seasons. Brown, of course, hosts that show brilliantly, even through all the cast changes in recent years.

 

As Gonzalez slides out, Simms can slide in.

 

More than anything, it would give the NFL audience a fresh look at Simms’ strengths. It also would give them less reason to dwell on, obsess with and ridicule what are not his strengths.

 

Presuming, in fact, that they’re really not his strengths. McManus didn’t hesitate to equate Simms’ 20-year run as their lead NFL analyst with the three that preceded him dating back to the 1960s: Pat Summerall, Tom Brookshire and John Madden.

 

“I’m hoping Phil can remain part of the CBS team,” McManus said.

 

Simms shouldn’t limit himself to staying there, though. The NFL spans four networks, including its in-house one. Yes, their studios are bursting at the seams with ex-players. Not all of them have much worthwhile or memorable to say, or even memorable ways to say it (or not say it).

 

Simms can, does and has.

 

If he says it somewhere other than in live-game conditions with a headset on and a partner playing off of him, that’s better for us.

 

And, likely, better for him.

 

 

2017 DRAFT

RB LEONARD FOURNETTE must have helped his stock with a better result from his Pro Day weigh-in.  Mike Triplett at ESPN.com:

 

Leonard Fournette weighed in at 228 pounds Wednesday at LSU’s pro timing day — 12 pounds lighter than at the NFL scouting combine last month, when what he called “water weight” raised some eyebrows.

 

In process, the power running back shed one of the few concerns about him as a projected top-10 choice.

 

It’s unclear how many drills Fournette will perform at his home base on Wednesday. He doesn’t need to improve on his 40-yard dash time of 4.51 seconds at the combine, an impressive time for someone of his size.

 

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had Fournette going fourth to the Jacksonville Jaguars in his latest mock draft Wednesday even before Fournette weighed in at 228. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. projected Fournette at No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers, which has been a popular projection for him throughout the pre-draft process.

 

Fournette, who measured in at 6 feet both times, shrugged off the weight concerns at the combine, saying he drank a lot of water before he weighed in and was surprised it made such a difference. He said at the time that he wanted to weigh 235, but he could easily get down to 225 if teams wanted him to.

 

In today’s Mock Draft, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com puts Fournette in his top 10:

 

Every year we see a few top-tier prospects slide in the first round for one reason or another. In this latest mock draft, my second-rated player (LSU safety Jamal Adams) falls to the 10th spot and my top quarterback prospect (Clemson’s Deshaun Watson) falls all the way out of the first round. Keep in mind, we are still a few weeks away from the actual draft and there will be plenty of movement between now and then.

 

1   CLEVELAND

Myles Garrett – DE, Texas A&M

With all-pro talent, Garrett is the best player in this draft.

 

2   SAN FRANCISCO

Solomon Thomas – DE, Stanford

Don’t be surprised if the 49ers try to trade down, but if they stay put, Thomas provides versatility and pass rush.

 

3  CHICAGO

Marshon Lattimore – CB, Ohio State

Three players that make the most sense for the Bears: Malik Hooker, Jamal Adams, and Lattimore. They can’t go wrong with any of these players.

 

4   JACKSONVILLE

Leonard Fournette – RB, LSU

The Jaguars have an outstanding young defense but they need more balance on offense. Fournette has all the tools to be a workhorse back.

 

5   TENNESSEE

Mike Williams – WR, Clemson

The Titans are another team I could see pursuing a trade-back partner. If they stay at No. 5, Williams would provide Marcus Mariota with a true No. 1 receiver.

 

6   NEW YORK JETS

O.J. Howard – TE, Alabama

The Jets have a need at quarterback but the smarter move would be to take a sure-thing position player. They can find a quarterback option later in this draft or wait until next year.

 

7   LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Malik Hooker – S, Ohio State

This one just makes too much sense. The Chargers have quietly built a very talented defense.

 

8   CAROLINA

Christian McCaffrey – RB, Stanford

The Panthers need to give Cam Newton some help; McCaffrey is a capable runner and dynamic weapon in the passing game.

 

9   CINCINNATI

Jonathan Allen – DE, Alabama

The Bengals need to infuse some youth into their defensive line; Allen would be a tremendous value pick at this spot.

 

10   BUFFALO

Jamal Adams – S, LSU

In this scenario, the Bills land a top-three player. Adams is the best leader in the entire draft.

 

11   NEW ORLEANS

Gareon Conley – CB, Ohio State

Conley has really helped himself with impressive workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and his pro day. He’s a good fit for the Saints, who need to upgrade their secondary.

 

12  CLEVELAND

Corey Davis – WR, Western Michigan

Davis and Corey Coleman would be a terrific pair of pass-catchers for the Browns.

 

13  ARIZONA

John Ross – WR, Washington

The Cardinals could look at a safety here but they really need to add some youth to their receiver group. Ross is a dynamic vertical threat who fits perfectly in Arizona’s offensive system.

 

14  PHILADELPHIA

 Reuben Foster – LB, Alabama

Foster is a tone-setter and would excel in the Eagles’ defensive scheme.

 

15  INDIANAPOLIS

 Takkarist McKinley – DE, UCLA

The Colts made some nice moves in free agency but need to continue to address their speed on defense. McKinley is a fastball coming off the edge whose motor never stops.

 

16  BALTIMORE

 Derek Barnett – DE, Tennessee

The Ravens don’t traditionally get caught up in testing numbers, opting to instead trust what they see on game tape. Barnett didn’t post impressive workout numbers but he is a very skilled pass rusher.

 

17  WASHINGTON

 Haason Reddick – DE, Temple

Reddick can play off the line of scrimmage on run downs and rush off the edge on passing downs. He is an elite athlete who has really helped himself during the postseason.

 

18  TENNESSEE

 Tre’Davious White – CB, LSU

The Titans need to add some playmakers on the defensive side of the ball; White is one of the top cover cornerbacks in the draft.

 

19  TAMPA BAY

Cam Robinson – OT, Alabama

Protecting Jameis Winston will always be a priority for GM Jason Licht and the Bucs’ personnel department.

 

20  DENVER

Forrest Lamp – OT, Western Kentucky

I think Lamp is the best offensive lineman in this draft, and he’s capable of playing all five positions.

 

21  DETROIT

David Njoku – TE, Miami

There’s been a lot of chatter around the league about the Lions’ desire to add an impact tight end to their offense. GM Bob Quinn (formerly of the Patriots) knows the benefit of having two athletic tight ends.

 

22  MIAMI

Jabrill Peppers – S, Michigan

Peppers has the versatility to line up in three different spots on the Dolphins’ defense. The addition of T.J. McDonald shouldn’t deter Miami from pursuing Peppers.

 

23  NEW YORK GIANTS

Dalvin Cook – RB, Florida State

Cook would be too good to pass up at this point in the draft. I like Paul Perkins but Cook is a far superior talent.

 

24  OAKLAND

Jarrad Davis – LB, Florida

Davis is one of the cleaner players in the draft. He has an ideal blend of size, speed, and instincts.

 

25  HOUSTON

Mitchell Trubisky – QB, North Carolina

With Tony Romo out of the picture, expect the Texans to address the quarterback position very early in this draft.

 

26   SEATTLE

Kevin King – CB, Washington

King is an ideal player for the Seahawks’ defense. He’s very long, athletic, and competitive.

 

27  KANSAS CITY

Patrick Mahomes – QB, Texas Tech

Alex Smith is a good quarterback but hasn’t been quite good enough to lead a team to a championship. This is a little early for Mahomes but he has tremendous upside.

 

28  DALLAS

Adoree’ Jackson – CB, USC

Jackson is a polarizing player in personnel circles, but he is a special athlete who would fill a big need for the Cowboys.

 

29  GREEN BAY

Quincy Wilson – CB, Florida

Wilson didn’t run quite as fast as many expected, but he is a physical player on tape with excellent ball skills.

 

30  PITTSBURGH

 T.J. Watt – LB, Wisconsin

Watt has the versatility to play inside or outside in the Steelers’ defense. His best football is ahead of him.

 

31  ATLANTA

 Charles Harris – DE, Missouri

Harris would be an excellent complement to Vic Beasley and provide the Falcons with a deadly pass rush.

 

32  NEW ORLEANS

 Budda Baker – S, Washington

Baker can play nickelback or safety at the next level. He would team with Gareon Conley to add some juice to the Saints’ secondary.