Readers respond to the question: Do you still like football? Plus, discussion about reviewable plays, the Rams-Bucs ending and an overlooked goat of the week
This season, The MMQB is separating Peter King’s Tuesday content into two columns—On Further Review, which usually will look at a understated but important factor or team from the weekend’s games, and the Tuesday Mailbag, where reader emails will be answered.
ALL NFL PLAYERS AREN'T LIKE RICE OR PETERSON. You ask: "Should we still like football?" Here in Carolina, the answer is a resounding Yes. And it has nothing to do with Greg Hardy. It has to do with Cam Newton, who is an entertainer and an icon, and also one heck of a football player. Who's a role model to every kid...not just the kids that he gives game balls to after every touchdown. It has to do with Luke Kuechly who plays the game the right way every play and doesn't showboat on any of his 20-plus great plays each week. It has to do with the fans, who are some of the most polite in the league allowing for a great family atmosphere at the games. And it has to do with Riverboat Ron. And Steve Smith. And DeAngelo Williams’ pink hair. Yes, there are a few bad apples, but maybe if the media spends 10% of their time on the good stories, people will see the NFL through a different lens.
—Craig, Charlotte, N.C.
Thanks very much for writing an important email. I agree with you. We sometimes focus so intently on problems and players who cause problems that we forget 95-98% of the players in the NFL do the right thing consistently on and off the field. As I said in my column on Monday, there are 1,696 active players in the NFL and we spent a week talking about three guys who did some bad things. If I were a player, I would be ticked off to be lumped in with less than 1/2 of 1% of players who have been in the wrong. Thanks again for writing.
TECHNOLOGY'S ROLE IN THIS. Like you described in the introduction of this week’s column, I’ve been growing more dissatisfied with NFL (and college) football in recent years. I’m still a Steelers and Penn State fan, but recent events in those organizations, as well as those mentioned from this season, have made my commitment to the sport wane slightly. I’m not going to stop watching just yet.
The recent player misconduct, plus your mentioning of the apparent addiction people have to their phones, got me thinking. Is the recent spate of misbehavior among professional players truly a new trend? Or is the fact that people are essentially being monitored every minute of every day exposing behavior that has always existed, yet remained hidden? I doubt there’s truly a way to quantify the effect of technology on athletes and society as a whole; the presence of a video camera in the hands of every person has to have an effect on what gets reported, though.
Interesting letter. A couple of years ago, after Jovan Belcher of the Chiefs killed his girlfriend and then himself, Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn talked the next day in a passionate way about how people on the team were too busy checking their phones all the time and not really conversing with each other. He wondered if that might have had something to do with the disconnect between Belcher and his teammates, who Quinn thought might have been so busy in their own little world that they didn’t notice Belcher’s life spinning out of control. That could well be wrong, of course, but I just think a lot of times in our culture now that we’re so consumed by the machines that should be there to help us, that they end up controlling us instead. Thanks for the food for thought.
TELLING ALL SIDES OF A STORY. I respect your writing and have enjoyed MMQB for years. However, I fail to see the relevancy of a teammate's comments of Ray Rice being a good teammate. The issue at hand is not Ray Rice's life as a football player, but rather the actions he took in assaulting his then-fiancée. I understand the desire to paint Ray Rice as being "not perfect"—and none of us are—but why do you feel the need to point that out?
—Michael, Plano, Texas
Why wouldn’t I point that out? Should we only be trying to find out information that demonizes someone who did a terrible thing? Or should we simply just be asking questions and see what other people say? I believe that when I went to journalism school one of the most important things I learned was that finding out the truth was the most important thing that we could do. Maybe the truth sometimes is inconvenient or doesn’t fit with the narrative that people want to hear. If that same person said that Ray Rice is a bad guy and I hated playing with him, I would have said that too, because I truly respect this person’s opinion.
REF DISCRETION ON LATE INJURIES.What if Tampa's Mike Evans had been clearly knocked out cold while making that last-second catch? What if his leg had been broken in three places? Would the outcome have been the same? I know the rule is in place to minimize fake injuries that stop the clock, but can't the NFL give the refs the discretion to see the difference between a real and a questionable injury?
Good question. I understand the anger when a real injury puts a team at a big disadvantage. But the problem that I see is a simple one: An official who sees a player lying on the ground is not able to immediately tell whether that player is legitimately hurt or faking. What if the player is audibly moaning? What if the player appears to be in intense pain? I think if you give the officials discretion, you’re creating a situation for actors and not injured players to get the benefit of an official’s ruling. As much as it might not be fair to some teams, I don’t favor the rule being changed.
MORE PLAYS SHOULD BE REVIEWABLE. Question regarding the review of a scoring play. On San Francisco's first TD yesterday, the process of the catch was reviewed and upheld. However, the play clock had clearly expired prior to the snap. Why is this not reviewable? I believe that if a coach challenges a play, any reviewable aspect of that play becomes fair game. Play clock seems pretty cut and dry to me.
I agree with you. I’ll take it one step further. I believe that any play, and any aspect of any play, should be reviewable. That wouldn’t necessitate an extra review per team. Teams would have to decide judiciously how and when to use their reviews. But I agree with you. If the play clock clearly goes to zero and a play is run, the play should be allowed to be overturned.
QUESTIONING KURT. Could you please provide arguments as to why Kurt Warner was inducted in the Arizona Cardinals’ Ring of Honor? Warner was 27-30 as a starter there and only had two winning records out of five seasons. I do applaud for what he did at his age, especially 100 TDs, but the overall numbers just aren’t there. In my opinion and only evaluating the stats, Kurt Warner doesn’t belong in the Ring of Honor.
—Christopher, Dominican Republic
I don’t know the reasons why the Cardinals put Warner in the Ring of Honor, but I can guess. He is one of the best leaders and best people that I’ve ever encountered in this business. He led the Cardinals on a magic carpet ride to a Super Bowl, something that no other Cardinals quarterback has ever done. This is something I believe should be celebrated.
ON INJURIES. Google injuries in the NFL and you will see articles every year asking why injuries are up. Except for a weird spike in 2011, injuries remain about the same each year. Up a little, down a little. That is life in the NFL and part of the reason why the players get paid what they do. Their career is on the line every time they walk out of a locker room. It is a great game. Remember, it was an injury that introduced the world to Tom Brady. Every injury is an opportunity for another. Brutal, but a fact of the game.
—Michael, Colorado Springs, Colo.
I don’t know what I need to add. That’s a cogent and smart point. But that doesn’t change the fact that the brutality of it often affects my regard for the game.
I MISSED A GOAT. I think you missed a major goat of the week, and it may not be as obvious because it wasn't a statistical underperformance, but someone who let down his team. Muhammad Wilkerson deserves to be the goat of the week because of his actions on Sunday. After the Packers went up 24-21 in the third, Wilkerson was trying to defend one of his teammates, when he lost his composure and threw punches at T.J. Lang. Wilkerson was ejected and the Jets, as we know, wound up losing 31-24. In fact, the first play without Mo ... Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson for an 80-yard touchdown. Wilkerson is known as the level-headed leader of the Jets defense and team. He was voted Team MVP last year, and won the good guy award in the community. He should take accountability for being thrown out, and he deserves to be your goat of the week.
You get no argument from me. I did know he got thrown out and I did know that it was an important period of the game. What I wish I had realized is that the huge play by the Packers followed so immediately. Thanks for pointing it out and you were correct—Wilkerson would have been a perfect goat.