ORLANDO, Fla. -- Everyone here at the NFL owners meetings seems to have a "yeah, but'' reaction when they talk about the overtime-reform rule. As in, "Yeah, the stats are stark that something needs to be done, but we don't like this rule,'' or, "Yeah, I know it's too easy to make three first downs and kick the winning field goal, but I don't like a rule only for the postseason.''
The only drama here this week is whether Competition Committee co-chair
I don't think this is the year. McKay's making progress, but I spoke to three team officials at the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes who aren't ready to support change. Four reasons:
1. Even though the NFC Championship Game was the classic example of what's wrong with the current system -- a single-possession OT with a kickoff return to the 39, two defensive penalties and a 40-yard chipshot field goal to decide the NFC title -- there's no real momentum for change. As one NFC GM told me Sunday night: "Is there a poll anywhere with fans demanding a new format for overtime? Where's the demand coming from? I don't hear it from fans or from players.''
2. Coaches don't seem to want it. "I want to be fair, and I want to hear the arguments from the committee because I respect the Competition Committee,'' one AFC coach said. "But there's going to be decisions that have to be made if you change overtime from sudden death, strategy we're going to have to think about. I think it's just another thing we've got to worry about, with all the other decisions we have to make.''
3. The just-play-defense faction is as loud as the reform faction. I loved what Polian said to a few of us in the lobby Sunday afternoon: "This rule does allow the defense to play defense, because if you hold them to a first down on the first possession, you've still got a shot. It actually forces you to play defense. If you can't play defense, you're going to get [a touchdown scored on you].'' Maybe he can arm-twist his brethren in Baltimore and Cincinnati today.
4. Some don't want a different rule in the postseason from the regular season. The reason the committee is proposing it solely for the postseason is to respect those worried about subjecting players to more plays through the year, and to only have it in the case of the playoff games. "That makes no sense to me,'' said one GM. "What if you have a game in Week 15 with huge playoff implications? To me, that's a playoff game.''
As I wrote last week, this may be one of those rules that needs to be a battering ram, sort of like instant replay was for a few years in the nineties before being adopted. Maybe it'll adopt new converts next year, like
Even after Tebow performed with much-improved mechanics in his on-campus pro day Wednesday in Gainesville, I thought it might be good enough to get him into the second round, but who wanted to spend a second-rounder in a very deep draft on a guy you might need to redshirt for two years?
But something interesting has happened this weekend. Most agents are happy to tell you where their client will be visiting before the draft and which teams he'll be working out for. A top player is usually happy to talk about a conversation he had with
Of course, it's an open secret that Washington coach
What this tells me is teams interested in Tebow don't want the other teams interested in Tebow to know how interested they are. If, for instance, the Seahawks want to add Tebow to the
I now think Tebow's going in the 28 to 45 range, to a team willing to be patient with him at quarterback and maybe to allow him to help the team in other ways immediately. That's how much he helped himself with the aggressive remaking of his throwing motion at his workout Wednesday.
"I got a lot of slack out of my motion,'' he told me Sunday night. "I'm holding it higher, releasing it quicker. It's kind of like in golf, not going back as far on your backswing. I'm not going back as far with my arm, but I don't feel I'm losing any power or any accuracy when I throw.''
I asked Tebow if he thought he'd be a first-round pick, and there was a long pause.
"Heh-heh,'' he said, chuckling a little uncomfortably. "Not sure. Good question. I believe with all my heart that I'll be an NFL quarterback, but who takes me, and where, I don't know.''
The draft is a month from today. For the next 24 days, Tebow can work out for teams in Gainesville or visit teams for interviews at their facilities. He said he may do another workout for teams in Gainesville. And he said he hasn't decided whether to accept the NFL's invitation to attend the draft in New York -- though he sounded like he wouldn't.
"I've got to figure out what will be more fun for me and best for my family,'' he said. "But I have to say I liked what [Cleveland tackle]
If I were him, I'd stay as far away from New York as I could on draft day. If he gets picked low in the first round, the cameras of ESPN and NFL Network will be on him all night. And if he goes undrafted through the first round, all day Friday -- rounds two and three are scheduled for Friday the 23rd -- will be Tim Tebow Watch. But Tebow's life has changed for the better since a lousy Senior Bowl, and he might have done enough to make quarterback-needy teams face a tough decision a month from now.
The Tennessee safety, obviously, is a rare prospect. But the history of safeties in terms of longevity and greatness at the top of the draft is very shaky.
The nature of the position is smallish people throwing themselves around like linebackers, and that doesn't lend itself to long careers. The three best safeties to be drafted in the past decade --
Berry looks like a top-10 pick, but the team that takes him is going to be picking against history. Of the five top-10 safeties this decade, none has had franchise-player impact:
I'm not saying Berry won't be a great player. Maybe he'll be Ed Reed. Maybe he'll know when to dish out the big hit and when to steer a player instead of seek and destroy. But the odds of him being great for a long time -- as opposed to the physical longevity of a tackle or defensive lineman or quarterback not subject to as many high-speed collisions -- are pretty long, based on history.
"I've had years of customers calling and screaming if their product is not there on time,'' Johnson, a fit, eager former line judge, said in an interview at the league meetings Sunday afternoon. "If we kick a call and get one wrong, we've got to admit we're wrong, move on and do better the next time. This is a fast game, and we have to understand every call isn't going to be perfect. But if you're open and honest and upfront with the kind of transparency that Commissioner Goodell wants, I think that's what's important in the job. I just want to build on the job Mike did for the last 10 years and just strive to make it better.''
Pereira was so good at the media part of his job -- he was affable and easily understood on his regular segment on NFL Network explaining the tough calls of the week -- that I wouldn't be surprised to see him transition to ESPN as an officiating czar or stay at the Network to be a full-time rulesmeister there. That's probably not the role Johnson's going to serve at first. The public won't see as much of him on the air explaining calls until he gets comfortable in the media eye.
I asked him how he'd feel critiquing his peers -- whether on his former crew with referee
"We're all professionals,'' Johnson said. "We all expect excellence. If you don't get it right, you've got to get better. I'm going to hold the men accountable, just like I'll be held accountable.''
Johnson's an impressive, earnest guy. But Goodell won't know how good he is until he takes his first few Monday blisterings from
Not the traditional kind of coaching job that we'd think of. He said Sunday he's interested in a job "that would redefine what your idea of an assistant coach is.'' Pereira, who turns 60 in April, hopes to find a team interested in taking him on when he leaves office in May. He believes he could train the team year-round in penalty prevention, working with the coaching staff on what makes officials reach for the flag on touchy calls like pass-interference, and then be in the coaches booth on Sunday upstairs telling the head coach when to throw the challenge flag.
"Say the average team gets 10 penalties for 75 yards,'' he said on a couch at the meetings here. "That doesn't count the calls that weren't accepted. I believe penalties have a bigger impact on the game than anyone realizes. I'm fascinated by the coaching aspect of it, of trying to cut down the penalties. Obviously it's never been done before, and I realize not every team would be interested in something like this. I think it's a matter of who's progressive enough to think about it. Who would take the chance?''
At first glance, I wonder if there'd be enough for an officiating assistant to do. But as Pereira said, a hallmark of so many good teams are those that minimize mistakes. Would it be more valuable for a team to have an assistant special teams coach, or to have a coach who could eliminate 300-400 negative yards from penalties in the course of 16 games?
There's on X-factor for Pereira. Part of the reason he left his job in New York was to be more of a caretaker for his ailing parents in central California. So he'd probably limit himself geographically, needing to be near his folks. Strikes me as something Denver or Seattle or San Diego might consider.
In conversations with NFL Players Association executive director
"Management has aligned with the networks,'' said Mawae, the longtime NFL center, "and that concerns the players. It's upsetting. If FOX and CBS and NBC, for instance, are going to finance the lockout, why should we give them free access to our players? We don't get paid to do interviews for the networks. We don't get paid to do production meetings. We are taking a hard look at our players' availability for the networks that choose to pay the league in the event of a lockout.''
Two counters to that from a source with knowledge of the network TV contracts: There is boilerplate language in the deals struck between the league and Big TV that allows the NFL to call for regular payments in the event of regular-season games being cancelled. But that money has to be paid back over the term of the contract, or has to be deducted from future payments during the life of the contract. In essence, it's a loan. But it still does allow NFL teams to go forward with business as usual if games aren't being played -- and while players would have no income coming in, teams would be getting regular network checks; network money accounts for about $100-million per team annually.
Secondly, the exposure provided by appearances on pregame shows and in productions meetings -- where players meet with that week's TV announcing crew a day or two before the game -- help raise the profile of players as well as educate the play-by-play and color men. Would center
But the players are seeing red over this. Could player leaders like assistant player rep
If some players balk at things like the production meetings, it could set up a challenge from the league -- and possibly warning letters or fines. The league could say players minimum media requirements, for instance, could include the four or five key players meeting with the networks for the production meetings. It's doubtful the league could mandate players doing individual on-camera interviews (
"I'm highly concerned for our franchise and for Ben personally.''
"When has the person working in the auto plant put money in the box to help Ford or Chrysler pay for the building where the cars are built? There's no other way to look at this. The owners are asking the players to help them build the stadiums they play in, and there is no historical precedent for that.''
Recommended reading: SI's
"Yet another example of how Tiger has viewed Orlando since he moved here in 1996. We are merely his tax shelter, not his hometown.''
You want to know how the market was made in the Charlie Whitehurst trade from San Diego to Seattle last week? Look no further than the Green Bay Packers' history of quarterback trades. Green Bay has been involved in three similar deals in recent years and it's no coincidence
The closest men to Whitehurst have Green Bay ties -- and one, ironically, is his main competition for the job in Seattle.
Brunell and Brooks were one year removed from college quarterbacking when they were traded by the Packers. Hasselbeck spent three years in Green Bay backing up
This is how you resolve a travel dispute that could have been one of the real ugly ones:
Late Thursday afternoon, my wife and I got on the train in Boston headed for Providence, had dinner and went to watch the NCAA basketball game between our alma mater, Ohio University, and Georgetown. We had bought tickets to return on the 10 p.m. Acela, which gave us time enough to watch the mighty Bobcats but not the second game of the doubleheader.
At 9:45, we got to the Providence train station to wait for our train. About 15 or 20 travelers were in the lobby of the station waiting for the 10 o'clock train to Boston to be called. At 9:53, I noticed 15 or so well-dressed travelers come up the stairs from the platform, and thought, uh-oh, those are Acela-dressed people. Still no announcement, and none of the others in the waiting room seemed to notice, but I told my wife to hustle up, let's get downstairs. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, the Acela was already moving down the tracks. Gone.
By that time, a few other travelers were coming down the stairs, I guess after seeing us hotfoot it to the platform. "Train's gone,'' I said. "That was it.''
We had to get back to Boston; our dog Bailey hadn't been out since a 7:30 p.m. walk, and we were sure she was just about sitting with her legs crossed by the front door waiting to be let out. The next train wasn't leaving until 11:27. Not good. So we went upstairs to the apologetic Amtrak agent at the counter. He was befuddled by the leadfooted and impatient conductor of the train -- though he did say the fine print of our tickets allowed that northbound Acelas were allowed to leave stations early. (Idiocy, if true, and double-idiocy if not announced in the station that the train was arriving early and would be leaving early.)
He refunded our tickets, and we got into a cab for what turned out to be a $127 ride home, figuring we'd try to get it back from Amtrak the next day. Fat chance, I thought. Maybe it was the euphoria of the stunning OU upset, but we weren't in the stack-blowing frame of mind some of the other travelers were.
Next day, a female Amtrak agent (forgot her name) listened to my story, apologized four times, said she knew nothing of the rule the Providence agent spoke of, and said she could do one of two things: forward us to someone else who would take our application for payment of the cab fare, and maybe we'd get our money and maybe we wouldn't, or give us a $100 Amtrak travel voucher on the spot.
Lord, please don't sentence me to more time on the phone telling this story again. I took the voucher, which wasn't totally justice, considering we still got home a half-hour later than we would have, but under the circumstances a splendid way to short-circuit a dispute with a regular Amtrak rider (which she didn't know I was.) Point is, she could have said she wasn't authorized to do anything but take a complaint, and if I wanted to protest any more, she'd send me further up the Amtrak food chain for someone else who'd give me no satisfaction.
"Very fair,'' I told her.
"You have a nice day, sir,'' she said.
I don't remember the last time I actually had a nice day when I got off the phone after complaining to some customer service person or other. But on Friday I did.
"Bye, Bye Birds.''
"ANDY REID!!! Respekt!!!!''
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of this week's NFL meetings:
a. I wouldn't expect much of a surprise about the first weekend of NFL games when that slate is announced today. Most of the free world believes Minnesota-New Orleans opens the season on Thursday, Sept. 9 (though since the ratings for the first game are going to be high anyway, I'd argue an NFC Championship rematch would be better held for sweeps month in November with, say, an Atlanta-New Orleans game in its place.) ESPN will still do two games Monday night of opening weekend, led off by the Jets hosting someone. Game 2? I'd love to see Pete Carroll's NFL re-opener before a loud crowd at Qwest.
b. It stuns me that in these economic times, the NFL can still print money, getting $720 million from Verizon for the mobile TV rights for the next four years. That's $22.5 million per team, on average, for a minor part of the media puzzle that no owner could have even imagined would generate a dime 15 years ago.
c. I can't see New York/New Jersey losing its bid for the 2014 Super Bowl, likely to be discussed here and awarded in May. I don't care what
d. There's a rule likely to be approved that would make it illegal for teams to line a rusher up directly over the long-snapper. Not very significant (unless you're the long-snapper or his family, of course). The proposal that will get the football's-becoming-wussified crowd in a lather, if passed, is the one that says a defensive player can't launch himself into a defenseless receiver's head, just after the catch, with his head or shoulder or forearm. But it makes sense to me that all hits to the head should be outlawed anyway.
e. There's an unauthorized biography of
f. Come to think of it, who would be pleased about an unauthorized biography?
g. With the Donovan McNabb market dried up in Cleveland and, apparently, Seattle, Andy Reid will likely shake his head in incredulity and leave the meetings Wednesday with zero trade action on the quarterback.
h. It hardly constitutes a grave injustice with the slow free-agent market, but a 39-year-old center who's made the Pro Bowl as a player and an alternate the last two years is getting no action on the market. Is it a coincidence he's the president of the Players Association? "It's a slow market,' said Kevin Mawae, "but I'm sure being president of the PA doesn't help.'' Mawae knows he can return to Tennessee as a backup (
2. I think the movement of the umpire from the defensive side of the ball (in the middle of the field) to the offensive backfield -- as reported by
I thought about that for a second and said to Pereira: "A second-base ump.'' He acknowledged the truth of that, and said, in essence, that's the only one. I asked his successor,
3. I think San Diego got the better of the Charlie Whitehurst deal, and that's putting it mildly. This is a man who has not thrown a meaningful pass since the 2005 season at Clemson (and in his last two years at Clemson, he had a minus-11 TD-to-interception differential). If he's such a bright prospect, San Diego sure had a funny way of showcasing the lifetime third-stringer, sticking him behind a lower-tier backup,
For Whitehurst, Seattle gave a 2011 third-round pick and agreed to swap second-round picks this year, which means in the best draft the NFL has seen in years, the Seahawks agreed to move down 20 picks (from 40th overall to 60th) ... and Seattle rewarded Whitehurst with a two-year, $8 million contract. Seattle's new braintrust, coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider, will be asked to justify the deal when they meet with reporters here.
4. I think I probably wouldn't draft a quarterback in the first couple of rounds if I were running the Steelers -- as football czar
5. I think new Arizona pass-rusher
6. I think because
7. I think I'd consider signing
8. I think if I'm a Colts fan, I love
9. I think these are my quick observations about March Madness:
a. Never seen a game that two teams wanted less than Texas-Wake Forest.
b. Looked like Robert Morris, losing to Villanova, got robbed to me. Wouldn't the Big East be hiding its head in shame this morning if that Thursday afternoon game got called right?
e. Indictment of northeast hoops that there are no teams from the Northeast Corridor in the Big Dance -- Boston (BC), Providence (Providence College or Rhody), Connecticut (UConn), New York City (St. John's), Newark/North Jersey (Rutgers, Seton Hall). There must be some good reason for it, but it's amazing how consistently bad the basketball has been in the greater New York area for the last generation. Three Big East teams, as competitive as the Pirates, Nationals and Royals. I mean, St. Johns hasn't won an NCAA game in 10 years.
f. Good for Seton Hall, firing hair-trigger misfit
h. I hear three-point-shooting machine
i. Spent a nice Thursday night watching my Ohio (Class of '79) Bobcats beat Georgetown at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, leading for 39 minutes along the way. When I sat down to watch, I thought: We look like a high-school team, all under-developed and slim, and they look like an NBA team. And we smoked 'em. Two amazing things about Georgetown: No defensive intensity until it was way too late. Didn't GU scout OU? Didn't
j. Tennessee played defense against Ohio. Simple difference in the two games.
k. It took me a long time to love the three-point shot, but I'm a convert now.
l. Nice facility in Providence.
n. Lookalikes: Wisconsin coach
o. Wish I'd seen more of the Northern Iowa-Kansas game, but watching the highlights, it struck me that fearless good players on any level are the best players.
p. Thursday night, 10 eastern: How can you not watch Kentucky-Cornell?
q. Friday night, 9:40 eastern: How can you not watch Northern Iowa-Michigan State?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week (Feel free to skip the last item of this column if you have no interest in my political views on health care.):
a. "Five For Fighting'' update: As you know, I'm asking $5 (or a donation of your choice) to help the men and women in our Armed Forces -- particularly those who serve at remote bases with only life's necessities and no creature comforts. The goal is to help with recreation equipment for the troops in need in Iraq and Afghanistan. And you continue to respond superbly. You've donated $162,000 for the TV, video games, sports equipment and weights for the 135-soldier company of
Please keep it coming; I'd like to get at least 10 companies or platoons outfitted. If you know someone who would like to keep the donations coming, please pass along
b. Thanks, too, for your continued words of support for
c. Tiger can't win the Masters, can he? Probably not, but those will be some all-time-high golf ratings for ESPN.
e. I am very much against
f. Coffeenerdness: Good Tweet from
g. Don't go,
h. Congrats to SI.com/NFL for winning the inaugural ASME National Magazine Award for best section. A big honor for
i. Very proud to be an American today. Thanks for thinking of the uninsured, Washington.