Lots of responses about the 18-game schedule (many saying they have no idea what fans Roger Goodell is talking about when he says fans want two more regular-season games), but two notes first:
Friday morning's a significant time for four teams. The NFL will hold a coin flip to break ties at two draft positions Friday at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis, where the league office is headquartered at the combine. Carolina and Miami went 6-10 last year, with a strength-of-schedule winning percentage of opponents at .504 (foes of each went 129-127). So they'll flip to see who picks eighth; the loser, obviously, chooses ninth in the first round. Same deal for the 11th and 12th picks -- the Chiefs and Seahawks went 7-9 last year, and their foes went 131-125. So they'll flip too. It's not a franchise-altering deal, certainly, but it is important. The difference in one spot on the draft trade value chart -- the chart most teams use to divine value when making draft-day trades -- between picks that high is 50 points. That's roughly the equivalent of a mid- to low-fourth-round pick on the chart. And with this draft expected to have lots of very close valuations between post-Luck and -RGIII players at the top, the winner of each flip could lead to a valuable chip when the first round goes off April 26. Example: Let's say Kansas City and Seattle both want Iowa tackle Riley Reiff at No. 11. Seattle wins the flip. And let's say there are other suitors for Reiff. Seattle could move down one spot, with the Chiefs, for a third- or fourth-round pick, or seven spots, with tackle-needy San Diego, for something significantly better. Just something to keep your eye on in the two months before the draft.
The reason for the Stanford Routt signing by Kansas City. It isn't, contrary to logic, that the Chiefs assume Brandon Carr is gone in free agency. The Chiefs won't pay him Brandon Flowers money ($9.75 million average), and if there's a team out there that will blow Carr out of away with a $9 million-a-year offer or more, he'll be gone. But if Carr doesn't get a huge offer somewhere else (I think he will), the Chiefs want to bring him back to form the deepest cornerback trio in the league. Now about Routt. There's been something missing in his game in the last couple of years in Oakland: discipline and technique. The good about Routt: He's one of a very small handful of corners to play 1,000 snaps in the last two years and hold receivers under 50-percent completions. The bad bout Routt: He's sloppy; no corner had more than Routt's 28 penalties accepted in the last two years. He's a solid corner who could be very good with better coaching -- and he's coming to the right place. Emmitt Thomas, the secondary coach, was a Hall of Fame player and is a strong technique coach. His assistant, Otis Smith, was a marginal NFL player who had to do everything right to stay in the league -- and Carr and Flowers both benefited from his coaching. I think one of the big reasons Routt went to Kansas City is he's dying to be coached. And he'll be coached in Kansas City. To get a good NFL corner for about $6 million a year over three years is a good signing, and should prove to be good insurance for the Chiefs. (The deal would be worth $10.5 million for two years and $18 million for three ... if Routt is in Kansas City for a third year.)
Now onto your email:
ON THE 18-GAME SCHEDULE. "I make an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent and am signed to a minimum contract. If two games are added to the regular schedule I assume 1) there will be an approximate 10% bump in the salary base and contribution to disability programs for retirees; 2) there will be four or five more roster spots per team, increasing the chance for me to enjoy an average career. The non-stars should welcome it. As a union leader I would appreciate having more money to my lower end players, more roster spots for members and more money for retirement and disability type programs.''-- George, of Columbia, S.C.
All true. You assume it's the 42nd players on the roster who have equal power to Drew Brees and Ray Lewis in this fight, and I can tell you that's not the case. And union leaders are happy for more jobs for lower-end players -- but only if those are the guys who are influential and running the show. They're not. The big leaders this time were all established and/or high-salaried players: Brees, Jeff Saturday, Scott Fujita, Domonique Foxworth. The lower-end guys are the transient guys, and the union, while looking out for them, is not going to fight harder to please the guys who will have two- or three-year careers than for the men who play 12 years. Now, the one point you make there that I love, and that the union should bargain hard for if it ever gets in position to support the 18-game slate, is five more roster spots per team.
KILL THE PRESEASON. "Roger Goodell is half right. Fans want less preseason. The problem is that the league is never going to give up two games worth of revenue, so he ignores the obvious answer (2 and 16 for 18 games total) and pushes for shifting two games to the regular season. BTW, fans want more football? Well, count me among those who is not happy about the expansion of Thursday night games or the decision to have every team make a primetime appearance. There were more than enough stinkfests in primetime last season and all the extra weeknight games do is create more arguments among married guys whose wives are already annoyed by games on Sunday and Monday night.''-- Russell, of Canton, Ga.
Can't help you on the marriage issue. But my feeling about the Thursday night games has changed in the last year or so. I used to think three full days between games wasn't enough -- and, obviously, it isn't. But I had an interesting conversation with Mike McCarthy last November, when the Pack was preparing to play on Thanksgiving. He loved it. He said his players loved it, because it gave the team a long weekend off after playing on Thanksgiving, and he thought it was better to take the players completely away from football for four days late in the season, rather than to continue on the same schedule and only get one or two days off after a Sunday game. That got me to thinking that a mini-bye at an unexpected time during the season is something I'd sure love to have if I were a player.
ON RANDY MOSS. "As I was reading your comments on Randy Moss, I remembered a conversation I had with my older brother more than 10 years ago. I am a 49ers fan, and as I saw Randy Moss dominate with the Vikings, I told him, this guy at the end of his career is going to break all of Jerry Rice's records, and is going to be the best of all time. He told me wait and see, Jerry Rice has something few players have, consistency and discipline. In time, he was right. Do you see any player today be as consistent and durable as Jerry Rice?''-- Carlos Ferrer, of Panama City, Panama
Larry Fitzgerald. At the end of his eighth season in the NFL, Jerry Rice was 30, and had caught 610 passes with 103 touchdowns. Fitzgerald has just finished his eighth year. He's 28. And he has 693 catches. He's way behind in touchdowns (his 73 is 30 behind where Rice was after eight years), but he's the kind of athletic receiver and durable player who wants to be one of the all-time greats. Fitzgerald needs 857 catches to pass Rice, and while it sounds insane, I don't think it is -- not for a guy who's had 90 catches or more in five of his eight NFL seasons.
THE MOTIVATING WORD STARTS WITH A "G.'' "There is no good reason to subject NFL players to two more games that count. The only reason is greed. I agree with you that adding extra games to regular season does not make sense. I think it is time to add playoff teams. Look at the wildcard teams that have won the Super Bowl in the last 10 years. The NFL is so close in talent it's all about who gets healthy and hot at the end of the season. The NFL should go from six teams per conference to eight teams, a total of 16 teams in the playoffs.''-- Jeff King, of Cabot, Ark.
I'm opposed. The regular season would be devalued. Though I'm going to have something in my Monday column from the league meetings on this. Stay tuned. You'll be intrigued.
COUNT ME OUT OF THIS. "America is tired of Ron Jaworski attempting to be more witty than Jon Gruden. He hasn't been a particularly good analyst during the game for years. That was the consensus opinion among all of my friends who watch football. We'd love to watch him on a half-hour show where he breaks down X's and O's instead.''-- Douglas, of Leavenworth, Wash.
You'll see more of that now, so you should be happy. I'm not.
MORE ON JAWS. "I could not agree more on Ron Jaworski. While watching every MNF game this past year, you could feel the tension in the booth between Gruden and Jaworski. To me it sounded that Gruden was very defensive of everything that he said and took offense when Jaworski disagreed, even if it was just opinions. It just seems that Gruden was more interested in his image and control (read - being a coach) while Jaworski was more interested in passing along information to the viewer. It's a loss for MNF but the way it was being run, it had to change but like you I believe they let the wrong one go.''-- Ken, of Syracuse
BC DOESN'T WANT US TO USE THE DEROGATORY WORD ABOUT LIN IN PRINT. "With all of the (completely valid) attention surrounding ESPN's multiple racist remarks with regards to Jeremy Lin, what I also find shocking is in the coverage thereof. Every reporter (including yourself) sees fit to publish the racist epithet used by ESPN. Is that really necessary? As an Asian-American myself, reading it over and over just perpetuates the pain and anger. I ask you: if the racist term at issue here had been the most common ones used for African-Americans or Latino/as, would you all be quoting it as often? And if so, I ask you another question: for what purpose? Isn't it enough to know that it was a hateful, despicable term? Why pour more salt into the wound?''-- BC, of Washington, DC
Good point. I think, in my case, because it had been used in the ESPN headline, it seemed fair game to use in the column. But I'll remember your words the next time a racial slur is used.