Welcome to Week Under Review where we span the league on and off the field, present some new ideas and try to have a little fun. After addressing the jaw-dropping play of the wide receivers last week, we tackle the, well, not-so-stellar game from the quarterbacks...
The quarterback stars of Week 2 have been Sam Bradford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Cam Newton to a point. That’s it.
What a strange quarterback world we live in these days.
Aaron Rodgers’s reunion with Jordy Nelson was supposed to yield monstrous results, yet he has produced two clunkers to start the season; to top it off, Rodgers has now gone 14 straight games without exceeding a passer rating of 100. Ben Roethlisberger threw about 10 would-be interceptions against the Bengals (two were actually caught). Andrew Luck was single-handedly responsible for two Broncos defensive touchdowns (and then uncharacteristically deflected blame onto his receivers.) Russell Wilson led the Seattle offense to a whopping three points against the Rams.
Welcome to a new quarterback era in the NFL, one filled with streakiness and mediocrity, even from so-called “franchise” QBs. Sure, you could throw this one in the early season overreaction bin. Remember in 2014, Tom Brady was so ineffective to start the season that he was benched against the Chiefs in Week 4, before the real Tom Brady drank his kale juice (without strawberries, of course) and led the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl title.
But I highly doubt that’s the case based on what we’ve seen so far this season. For the QBs not tanking in both weeks (hello Kirk Cousins!), we have seen a yo-yo effect. Newton crumbled under mass pressure from the Broncos in Week 1 before torching the 49ers Sunday. Jameis Winston was an instant superstar in Week 1 before morphing into Jay Cutler and throwing four picks in Week 2. Alex Smith discovered the long ball last week before returning to a game manager who could only muster 178 passing yards.
In many ways you can attribute this shift to defenses finally catching up with new rules and taking advantage of spread offenses. Teams are drafting and developing prospects who are versatile two-way players, rather than just stock up on players who can load a box and stop the run. Also, it could be that the past few years have been an unsustainable statistical anomaly, like home runs in baseball, and you should never forget the long-term pendulum that is parity.
There will likely not be any players like Brady of 2014 or Peyton Manning of ’13, a 16-week consistent superstar who put up both stratospheric numbers every week (55 touchdowns, only four games under 300 yards passing) while minimizing mistakes (10 INTs).
But in many ways the unpredictability of the NFL’s most important position is a new, exciting twist. Who knows what Bradford will do next? I don’t but I want to watch. Can Winston revert to Week 1 form? Who will be the Browns QB next week, and can Hue Jackson do to him what he did to RG3 (minus the injury part)? Who in the Andy Dalton-Joe Flacco-Matt Ryan triumvirate will rule week-to-week? Will Blaine Gabbert ever be able to throw an accurate deep ball when his receiver isn’t wide open? If not, will we see Colin Kaepernick? Will we see No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff?
This new world of mediocrity plays into the way we consume the NFL, or maybe it’s the inverse. NFL weeks are treated like their own special events. Everything is an overreaction. Week 1: Winston is the second coming of [fill-in-the-blank]. Stafford has shaken the Lions’ stigma. Kirk Cousins deserves his extension. We deep dive into these players with features. We anoint. We one up each other with adjectives and memes on social media. Then we disregard and go through the drill all over again, submitting a new DFS lineup or delving into the next Patriots quarterback.
What this new look NFL lacks in consistency it more than makes up for with freshness. We have no clue who will emerge as Week 3’s trendy quarterback, which makes watching games exhilarating… and incredibly manic.
Logical idea of the week: The whole truth
As New York Giants kicker Josh Brown trotted onto the field late in the fourth quarter to make a chip shot that would catapult the Giants to victory, Fox broadcaster Kenny Albert said something to effect of, “Brown on to be the hero after being suspended during Week 1…” I’m not sure if those were the exact words, but I do know what was kept out of the narrative: why Brown was suspended. (As a reminder, Brown was arrested last May for a domestic violence assault on his wife, and she alleges at least 20 other similar incidents.)
There should be no begrudging of Albert. Glossing over “the why” is commonplace—Greg Hardy’s length of suspension was mentioned a million times last season without attaching the fact that he was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend.
But here’s a thought: How about broadcasters make a concerted effort to mention why someone is absent. Yes, it’s unconventional. Yes, it would expose the fact the NFL has doled out an unwieldy number of high suspensions, and inversely that the league isn’t made up of choirboys. “Le’Veon Bell back this week after serving a three-game suspension for failure to show up for a drug test. Vontaz Burfict suspended three games for repeated violations of safety-related rules. Brady out another two weeks for failure to produce his cell phone.”
The league would never be in favor of this kind of brute honesty for obvious reasons. But a dose of truth serum can be a potent remedy—and maybe the public shaming will serve as a deterrent to someone down the line. Most importantly, in cases involving a victim, the whole truth is inherently owed.
Tom Brady suspension, Week 2
There is something mystical about Tom [Patrick James Andrew all the other Irish first names] Brady. For example, look no further than the second quarter of the Patriots beatdown of the Miami Dolphins. Brady’s suspension stand in Jimmy Garoppolo was shining so bright to the point that a highly inebriated colleague suggested a quarterback controversy could be brewing. Silly colleague (but really, would Cleveland trade its next 12 first rounders for Brady?)
In any event, right when Jimmy G was peaking, down he went with a shoulder injury. Enter rookie Jacoby Brissett and suddenly fans were back to counting the milliseconds until Brady’s return. Hmmm. Since Brady is always top of mind, let’s revisit the second week of his “punishment.”
1. He served as Michigan’s honorary captain, a gig that included throwing some pregame bullets to khaki-laden wonder, Jim Harbaugh. Of course Michigan won.
2. While at The Big House, dressed in a button down, he tossed a perfect pass to his perfect son who perfectly caught the ball before dabbing with perfection.
3. He continued his career as a publishing mogul.
4. He was Wes Welker. Or Wes Welker was him.
5. He celebrated the one-year anniversary of publicly supporting Donald Trump.