The 32 teams are near unanimous in believing the point after touchdown needs to change. Precisely how is another story. The details of a compromise that goes to vote in May. Plus why the Saints own the draft, and eight coaches on the spot
We’re exactly one month out from round one of the NFL draft. There’s a lot to cover this week, including:
- Ten questions for eight coaches at the league meetings, which just concluded in Arizona
- Pete Carroll tells me he is not tortured. (Didn’t think he was)
- Suddenly, the Saints—who are not finished making over their team—own the 2015 draft
- The Browns have plenty of draft ammo—that is, unless the NFL takes some of it to smite GM Ray Farmer
- Just what parity needs: the Patriots with three prime selections in a six-pick span
- NFL draft wise guy: “This year, the 20th pick is the same as the 50th pick to me”
- Why April 17-18 is very important to this draft
- Nine prospects have separated themselves
- And a cool draft wrinkle the fans in Chicago will like
But first, the biggest change to NFL scoring in the 95-year history of the league is coming. If you don’t like it, get out of the way.
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Post-touchdown could feature three new ways of scoring.
Last year, in a general session at an NFL meeting, the league’s 32 teams agreed—almost unanimously—that the point after touchdown was passé. Had to go. Too automatic. And so eight days ago, when the competition committee gathered in Phoenix to go over potential rule changes for the 2015 season, the committee was stuck on the PAT fix. There was nothing the group thought it could sell that would get the required 24 votes from the teams. (A rule change needs a three-quarter vote to pass.) Find a compromise, the committee was told; the league can’t go another year with 99.6 percent extra-point efficiency—the league average for the past three years.
So on Tuesday, each team had a chance to express opinions on what the new rule should be. Thirty of 32 teams said they wanted the PAT to change, as teams, one by one, had a chance to advance their own solutions. But the opinions on what the new rule should be “were all over the map," one competition committee member told me in Phoenix. “That’s the problem now. No one can agree, and now we have to come up with a compromise that’ll get 24 votes in May.”
This is the most likely compromise to be advanced, and the most likely way the league will amend how teams can score after a touchdown:
- Teams will have a choice whether to go for one or two points after a touchdown, from different distances.
- If the offensive team chooses to kick for one point, the scrimmage line will move from the 2-yard-line to the 15-yard line, making it a 32- or 33-yard attempt.
- If the offensive team chooses to go for two points, the scrimmage line will be either the 1-and-a half- or 2-yard line. There was much debate about making it the 1, the 1-and-a-half or the 2. The feeling about putting it on the 1 was that it could turn into too much of a scrum/push-the-pile play, or a fluky puncture-the-goal-line-with-the-ball-and-bring-it-back play by the quarterback. Putting it at the 1-and-a-half or leaving it at the 2 would increase the chances of a real football play with some drama.
- The defensive team would be able to score two points by either blocking the PAT and returning it downfield to the end zone, or by intercepting the two-point attempt and running it back, or recovering a fumble on the two-point play and returning it all the way.
Again, that’s not certain. Anytime you ask 24 teams to agree on anything, there’s a chance it won’t happen. But if 30 of 32 teams agree that the PAT is broken, there’s a good chance they’d agree to change some form of the rule. And what I’ve laid out is the most likely scenario to be passed in May, during the next league meeting.
There always will be those who don’t want the scoring system to change, because of tradition, or the attitude that football’s not broken, so why fix it? But the PAT is broken. The current system of scoring was invented by the lords of college football in 1912—six points for a touchdown, one for an extra point, two for a safety, three for a field goal—with the two-point conversion added by the NFL in 1994. Now the PAT cries out to be fixed. It’s simply not a competitive play anymore. Fifteen teams have not missed a PAT this decade. Tennessee hasn’t missed one since 2005, Kansas City and San Francisco since 2006. The Patriots and Broncos, combined, are 436 for 436 since 2011. Doing nothing would be the mistake.
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What I’m hearing about the draft, and the significant teams in it.
The Saints will be a headline act. I don’t believe it involves Drew Brees, because I think the Saints are committed to at least one more season of Brees at quarterback. But I hear New Orleans wants to be even more active before the draft, and that could mean dealing stalwart guard Jahri Evans for a third- or fourth-round pick. Or it could mean signing or dealing defensive end Cam Jordan. As of today, the Saints are the biggest power players in the draft. They’re the only team with five picks in the first three rounds. They have 13, 31, 44, 75 and 78. So actually they have five picks in the first two-and-a-half rounds. That gives aggressive GM Mickey Loomis the ammo to start to remake his team.
You want to pick in the top nine. Here’s what a few football people who were at the league meetings are thinking about the breakdown of this draft: Nine prime picks, then eight or 10 really good prospects, then maybe 30 or so of the same-level player. The top nine: quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, defensive tackle Leonard Williams, wideouts Kevin White and Amari Cooper, pass-rushers Dante Fowler and Vic Beasley, offensive tackle Brandon Scherff and cornerback Trae Waynes. After that, beauty starts to be in the eye of the beholder. I had one GM tell me: “The 17th pick on our board might be the 53rd pick on another team’s board—and that could be a team we really respect.”
Todd Gurley is the draft’s fascinating player. Every year, draft prospects injured the previous college football season go back to Indianapolis, site of the combine, to have their surgeries re-checked before the draft. This year, the re-checks will be April 17 and 18 in Indy, two weeks before the draft. Gurley tore his ACL on Nov. 15 and had knee reconstruction by Dr. James Andrews on Nov. 25. So he’ll be drafted five months after surgery. The book on Gurley is that he’ll be good in 2015 and tremendous in 2016. It’ll be interesting, particularly with the devaluation of running backs in recent drafts, to see who picks Gurley, and where. I think he’ll be gone by the 25th pick.
New England could be a big power player late on day two. The Patriots have their own picks in rounds one and two, 32nd and 64th overall. Then they have their own at the end of the third round, a third-round compensatory pick and a pick at the top of the fourth round from the Logan Mankins trade last August. They have the 96th, 97th and 101st overall picks. Don’t be surprised to see Bill Belichick/Nick Caserio flip one of those for, say, a prime 2016 pick.
The Browns and Falcons could lose mid-round picks this week. Cleveland GM Ray Farmer has admitted texting his coaches during games, a violation of league rules, and the Falcons have admitted piping in extra crowd noise at the Georgia Dome. I doubt either transgression rises to the level or a first- or second-round pick as a penalty, but I believe both teams will be docked a pick or picks. Today, Cleveland has six picks in the top three-and-a-half rounds: 12, 19, 43, 77, 111, 115. The league still has a while to go on the Jets-Patriots tampering case.
Other Chicago draft nuggets. As of now, no top prospect besides Jameis Winston has said no to coming to the draft in Chicago … Once drafted, players will do the mandated TV and radio interviews at the draft, with many of the interviews taking place outside the Auditorium Theatre and among the crowd of fans at the draft … Because of space limitations at the draft venue, the draft tables for team representatives will be placed outside in what the NFL is calling Selection Square, in close proximity to the public. The NFL is setting up a "Draft Town" fan festival in Grant Park, across Michigan Avenue from the Auditorium Theatre.
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Ten Questions. Ten [Occasionally Insightful] Answers by Coaches.
Some of the most interesting stuff I heard from coaches at the league meetings in Phoenix:
SEATTLE'S PETE CARROLL
Q: Maybe a torturous one—If you have Jimmy Graham on second-and-goal at the end of the Super Bowl, is your call different?
Carroll: That’s not a torturous question. We didn’t have him! So it’s no big deal. Now, if we were in the situation again, he presents an extraordinary dimension to your offense, and we’ll see how it will unfold for us. We’re looking forward to his factor down there. It’s obvious. Forty-something touchdowns the last three years or whatever it is. [It’s 35.] There’s only a couple of guys who have scored more touchdowns than he has, and one of them is Marshawn Lynch. So we’ll still be doing this and this and you’ll still be going, ‘Well how come you didn’t give it to him, and you could have thrown it to him’ or whatever. That’s a good conversation. That’s a good situation to be in, and we’ll make the most of it. And by the way, I am not tortured by that.
Q: Are you over it?
Carroll: I’m over it. Way over it. But we’re gonna get asked about it, so we’ve got to be prepared for that.
Q: You’ve explained why you called what you called rationally several times. Is your fan base okay with it now?
Carroll: I coach the way I coach. They get what the end result of that is. That’s based on years of experience, based on extraordinary and dedicated preparation, and all that. I don’t have all the answers. I have my answers. I have the answers that we have as a staff, and we try to stick to that as best we can—trusting that the way we prepare and practice over time is gonna give us the best chance to execute when the time comes. So we have our way of thinking. We have the same thinking that everyone could have challenged had we missed the six-second touchdown at the end of the half. That was part of the mentality, the thinking, the preparation—just like it was at the end of the game. I wish the play would have turned out differently, and there’s other choices that we may have called a different play. Next time we do it, it probably won’t be that exact same play.
But it’s all part of the process. It’s why my thinking was clear. I knew it going into the situation. I might have mentioned it—I don’t know if it was captured or not—we knew we were going to throw the ball down there. If it was gonna take all four plays to score, we knew we were gonna throw the ball down there. That was because of the clock situation. We had prepared for that for years. So it was not a difficult situation. The fact that all the focus goes to it—yeah, that’s what it is. I gotta live with that and with our fans and all that. What I’m feeling from our fans? They’re ready to get going. They’re ready to move on. They’ve been so strong … We’ll look back someday and we’ll see what this time period meant. That game is gonna be a marker, just as the game a year ago was a marker. We’ll see what it means when we add it all up. That play was the play. That was that play. It was the result that wasn’t good.’’
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ATLANTA'S DAN QUINN
Q: You come from a team with a dominating presence as a coach in Pete Carroll. How do you establish your own philosophy and personality away from him in this first year in Atlanta?
Quinn: I texted him last week and I said, "I appreciate you challenging me to get my own philosophy in order about a program, because it’s made all the difference as I started." He immediately wrote back and said, "That’s a great text to get. I remember when I was uptight and unsure and then I also know how much fun it is when you let it rip." He was one of those guys who could challenge you like ... "How would you do it, Dan?" So he had a big impact on me to get my own thoughts in order so that I wasn’t running his program, it was how my own style would be. It was a message that I received from a lot of guys. Hey, DQ, be yourself. It’s the relationship that you have with the players and the connection that you make with those guys. That’s why I’m so excited. The first part’s been fun—evaluating the players. It’s part of the job that I do love. I really do. Now is where it gets good. The players are here and I get to build a relationship with them.
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CINCINNATI'S MARVIN LEWIS
Q: Are you worried about Andy Dalton’s play in the playoffs?
Lewis: What worries me is our poor performance on defense in the playoffs. You look at how we’ve played on defense. We haven’t played good enough. Andy had a bad game against San Diego—a bad second half two years ago. The other games it’s been split evenly. We do know, in order for us to be successful, which we can’t even talk about the playoffs because we haven’t gotten there, but the first thing we do, we have to take care of the ball and play better on defense. … We feel Andy’s our quarterback, and we signed him long-term, and we feel good about him … and we will continue to get better with the pieces around Andy. Andy has done a lot of things so far as a pro that not a lot of people have done. We need to keep playing better around Andy, and that will be helpful to Andy.
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DALLAS' JASON GARRETT
Q: What’s your reaction to the league basically not changing the what-is-a-catch rule, meaning the Dez Bryant play still would not be ruled a catch going forward?
Garrett: I cannot explain that. Let me first say, we had 60 minutes to win that game in Green Bay—56 minutes before that play and four minutes after. We didn’t get it done. We have no excuses. However, I do think plays like this one belong in our league as [a valid catch]. This is an opportunity for the league now to address that situation. That’s why we’re here. We want plays like that to be catches in our league. Dez Bryant catches the ball, gets three feet down and a forearm down, keeping possession of the ball. It was a great play, a dramatic play. The Cowboys, back in Green Bay for a playoff game 47 years after the Ice Bowl, and we have a chance at their 1-yard line for the go-ahead score as a great quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, waits on the other sideline for his chance to come back. I think that’s what we want as a league.
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CHICAGO'S JOHN FOX
Q: What do you do to fix Jay Cutler?
Fox: I think he got to the point that he lacked confidence a year ago. To build that back up is going to take time, daily. It takes trust like any relationship. I think he and [offensive coordinator] Adam Gase having a relationship from back in Denver [is helpful] so I think it starts there. Footballwise, there are things you can do in coaching to minimize some of the exposure. Playing complementary football is going to help. I don’t want to just single him out. I have concerns with really everybody we’re going to line up as a starter. But I know this: Unless something good happens, it’s hard to have confidence.
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SAN FRANCISCO'S JIM TOMSULA
Q: Will it be hard to avoid thinking about how much your team has lost, in coaches and players?
Tomsula: No, sir. I can promise you—I would be as far opposite from that as we can. I go back to my roots. In NFL Europe, we had a new team every year. So the team-building process—looking at big-picturewise—you’ve got to first build a team. Same with us now. This is a new year, new team. Every NFL team has those changes. Obviously ours is a little different than most years and most teams. But we’re gonna build a team around the guys we have. We’ve got a great core group, and we’re gonna talk about the future. Learn from the past and let’s go.
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TENNESSEE'S KEN WHISENHUNT
Q: What do you think of Marcus Mariota’s football IQ and his ability to transition to the NFL game?
Whisenhunt: Very high. I think he has very good spatial memory. You say, what’s spatial memory? He remembers plays. He remembers fronts. He remembers things in the short term and the long term. We’re talking about an unbalanced set that USC ran against them three years ago. Like, Oh yeah, that was in this game at this time. Those are the kind of things, to me, that are important for that position. You have to have a memory that can see everything and remember it, because when it happens in a game, then you have to come over and communicate that on the sideline, then you have to have a plan of how you’re gonna adjust to it. That’s what the really successful ones do. So he exhibits that type of quality. We still have a little bit more classroom time with him, but he’s been impressive. He does a lot of things that, no matter what offense you run, transition well to the NFL game.
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GREEN BAY'S MIKE McCARTHY
Q: Anything you’d do differently at the end of the NFC championship game?
McCarthy: [Pause] That’s part of your scheme evaluation. We have done that as a staff. We cut up every situation. So we’ve seen those plays from that game a number of times in our scheme evaluation. Personally I’ve gone back and watched the TV copies a few weeks back, just one more time. So as a coaching staff we’ve kind of moved past that. We’re actually starting to put in our installation for 2015.
I take that as a no.
Quotes of the Week
"It’s NFL free agency … That’s not a big story.”
—New England coach Bill Belichick, on losing cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Jets in free agency.
“I want people to understand I’m not some dumb jock pothead. I’m not. … I don’t wake up every day saying, ‘I’d really love to go smoke.’ It’s not a struggle for me every day [now]. It really isn’t. In the past, hell yeah, it’s been a struggle. Now, I’m focused on my dream.”
—Nebraska pass-rusher Randy Gregory, revealing to Kim Jones of NFL Network and NFL.com that he tested positive for marijuana use at the combine last month.
“I don't trust the lady on GPS. They don't send you the right way. I hit the button, I go like this, 'Park Ridge, New Jersey.' She comes back on, she's giving me directions. Now I figure out where I am. I say, 'Thank you very much, I know exactly where I am now.' She comes back and says, 'You don't have to thank me.' I swear to God, that's what she said. Then I couldn't get her to shut up."
—Giants coach Tom Coughlin, doing battle with Siri recently as he tried to find the site of one of his grandson’s roller-hockey games in New Jersey.
“Another thing you miss after you leave the game is the structure. Imagine driving through a long, narrow tunnel. The road is laid out for you and the walls keep you from straying off course. The path is clear. That’s what your football career is like. Your goals and objectives are clearly defined, and so is the path to reaching them, and every decision you make in your life is made within the parameters of that tunnel with the ultimate goal of being the best football player you can be. Now imagine retirement as a giant, open field at the end of that tunnel. No more walls or road to guide you. No parameters. No rules. There are unlimited decisions and directions and limitless possibilities, but you don’t know the way. You don’t even know the destination. You’re on your own. For 11 years, my life operated on the football clock. I had weekly meetings and weekly goals, and every decision I made in my life—what to eat, when to sleep—was based on football. Suddenly, I didn’t have any direction when I woke up. I didn’t have that purpose. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing.
“In theory, freedom sounds great. We all want more freedom. But when I retired and I had all the freedom in the world, the only thing I craved was that structure. It was all I knew. Adjusting to the lack of structure and schedule is one of the biggest challenges of retirement because the real world moves much slower than the football world. Football is week-to-week, and everyone in the real world is working on the fiscal year. You have to slow yourself down because it’s not a sprint. You can’t attack every day like you do in football. You have to pace yourself and find balance. That’s a new concept for me."
—Former Chargers center Nick Hardwick, who retired at 33 in February after an 11-year career, all in San Diego, in an essay for The Players’ Tribune.
Stat of the Week
According to cap site Spotrac, here are the most and least active teams in the first three weeks of free agency (the market essentially is dried up now):
The five biggest spenders in total contract value of signed players:
- Jacksonville: $172.5 million
- New York Jets: $172.0M
- Miami: $139.8M
- Philadelphia: $117.3M
- Tennessee: $110.2M
The thrifty five in total contract value of signed players:
- Minnesota: $9.3M
- Carolina: $8.8M
- Detroit: $8.6M
- Pittsburgh: $6.6M
- Green Bay: Zero
The Green Bay Packers have spent nothing in free agency, signing no players, after making deals before the start of the signing period with two of their own: wideout Randall Cobb and tackle Bryan Bulaga.
“We obviously have a philosophy," coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s kind of like Groundhog Day. I feel like I answer this every year, so I’ll try to be creative and answer it differently this year. But it’s just the way we operate. We do the evaluations. We just stick to our plan. Our number one priority always has been to sign our own free agents. We go into every offseason—if we have 10 conversations, nine-and-a-half of them are about our own guys."
Spring Training Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Former Colorado Rockies minor-league second baseman Russell Wilson, visiting the Texas Rangers in spring training Saturday, hit a 383-foot home run in batting practice. The Rangers currently hold Wilson’s baseball rights.
The walk-up music for Cincinnati third baseman Todd Frazier, from Toms River, N.J., is "Fly Me to the Moon," by Frank Sinatra.
Bill Madden of the New York Daily News wrote Sunday that the Tigers owe Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Anibel Sanchez $639 million in guaranteed money between now and the end of their contracts.
Costanza voice: “Is that wrong?”
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Three highlights of last week’s trip to Phoenix:
Pizzeria Bianco, at Camelback and 20th north of downtown. No wonder so many NFL types found their way two miles from the meetings to a plain-feeling but beyond marvelous pizza and Italian wine place. Very good thin crust. Very, very good Tuscan wine.
Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, site of the Diamondbacks' and Rockies' spring-training complexes. A good homey feel to it, with lots of places to stand and watch the game around the periphery and, as with the parks now, a comfy berm of grass seating in left and center field, with dispensers of free Banana Boat 30-spf sunscreen. The afternoon I was there, the sunscreen was more important than the beer.
Running in the morning—outside. Even a rank amateur like me can appreciate the smell and warmth and flatness of so many gravel paths all over the area. Running outside for the first time since Super Bowl week was fun.
Tweets of the Week
Cooper/White debate gets people worked up. It's possible to love both of them. I have White as the #2 player in the draft & Cooper as #3.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 24, 2015
The NFL Network draft analyst and former NFL scout about Amari Cooper and Kevin White, the top two receivers in the draft.
Following someone on Twitter and complaining about what they tweet about is like calling someone to tell them you don't want to talk to them
— Chris Rock (@ozchrisrock) March 26, 2015
That's a Chris Rock parody account. Good observation, though.
Extreme 19th hole at the Legends course in South Africa. Longest par 3 in the world. Don't ask what I made on it ! pic.twitter.com/NMOSbKBhK7
— Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) March 28, 2015
The Cards wideout is the greatest vacationer in NFL history.
Snow flurries. Uncle.
— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) March 28, 2015
The NFL Network reporter, tweeting what the Northeast was moaning about Saturday morning, the ninth day of spring and the 1,473rd straight morning of temperatures below freezing.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think I can now say with certainty that The Other Team in the chase for Sam Bradford—as many have inferred—was Cleveland. The Browns would have been willing to part with a first-round pick in either 2015 or 2016 (I do not know which year) for Bradford, but there were two problems: One, the Browns didn't have a quarterback to give in return, and Philadelphia was willing to fork over Nick Foles. Two, Bradford would not have been willing to sign a new contract this off-season if he were traded to Cleveland, and he is willing to consider an extension in Philadelphia. So the Philly deal was really the only one that made sense for the Rams and for Bradford, in the end.
2. I think the Vikings can say a hundred times they’re not trading Adrian Peterson, and I believe they believe they will not. But the Vikings also have to understand Peterson and agent Ben Dogra could be serious about making it very hot for them this summer if they don’t trade him on draft weekend. How could Peterson make it hot? By not reporting to camp. By being a huge distraction that would drive Mike Zimmer crazy. If I were Minnesota GM Rick Spielman, I’d trade Peterson for a second-round pick if I could get it. He’s 30. He is owed $45 million over the next three years. This year’s running back draft crop is a good one. I don’t see the downside.
3. I think the 2014 trades with 2015 draft implications that look the worst are, in order:
a. Buffalo sending a 2015 fourth-round pick to Philadelphia for running back Bryce Brown (2014: 36 carries, 126 yards), now buried behind LeSean McCoy on the Bills’ depth chart.
b. Seattle getting only a sixth-round pick, from the Jets, for Percy Harvin.
c. Tampa Bay sending the 101st pick in the 2015 draft (the first pick of Day 3, at the top of the fourth round) plus tight end Tim Wright to New England for guard Logan Mankins. Wright is a useable depth player. Mankins had a middling year—and he’s 33, on a rebuilding team.
4. I think the tit-for-tat tampering thing between the Jets and Patriots has gotten out of control. (No duh.) Woody Johnson, three months ago, tampered with Darrelle Revis of the Patriots by saying, “I’d love for Darrelle to come back.” Informed by someone smart that those were tampering words, Johnson called New England owner Bob Kraft to explain himself and, presumably, to apologize. The Patriots still filed tampering charges against the Jets. Revis signed a five-year contract with the Jets this month. Last week in Phoenix, Kraft said: “I hate to lose [Revis]. We wanted to keep him. We wanted him in our system … We understand his going back, and we're sorry he didn't stay with us." The Jets filed tampering charges against the Patriots. Johnson tampered; he said he wanted Revis to return to the Jets. Kraft did not tamper; he said he hated to lose Revis. I would ask this question: When Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta said it was “sickening” when he realized Haloti Ngata was going to be traded because the Ravens couldn’t sign him long-term, would that be considered tampering? No. Because it isn't.
5. I think it’s absurd the NFL has to spend three minutes, never mind legitimate time, on the football equivalent of a frivolous lawsuit that the Jets filed.
6. I think, after his ignominious performance in 2014, it hasn’t surprised me that the market for Michael Vick is somewhere between grim and nonexistent.
7. I think the more I think of New Orleans signing C.J. Spiller—27 years old, making $9.5 million over the next two seasons, 5.3 yards per rush combined in 2012 and ’13 before his lost season in Buffalo last fall—the more I think the Saints made a great deal. I love Spiller.
8. I think if the NFL doesn’t implement the goal-line and sideline replay cameras in time for this season, then I hope something else happens. (I was told the cost of installing 31 of the multicamera systems at the 31 NFL stadiums is one reason owners didn’t vote for such a system at each stadium at the league meetings.) And that is: I hope all 256 regular-season and 11 postseason games next year have a crucial play that can’t be clearly seen on replay because the owners were shortsighted enough to skimp on the quality of the project. I think it’s ridiculous that the technology is there to make a fairer game, and the league isn’t using it. That is, of course, if they don’t vote the system in at the league’s May meetings.
9. I think Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano coaching out the last season of his contract—regardless of whatever Pagano or any team official would say—means that something, either major or minor, is amiss. You do not let a coach with 36 wins in three years coach out his contract, particularly if you are intent on him staying and coaching your team beyond this season. Ian Rapoport reported a new deal won’t get done, and longtime Colts beat man Mike Chappelle reported Pagano turned down a one-year extension. Something just doesn’t feel right about it.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I agree with St. Francis (N.Y.) coach Joe Thurston, who said after losing the NCAA women’s tournament opener to UConn that the Huskies are comparable to UCLA under John Wooden. Margins of the three UConn games in this tourney: 56, 36 and 51 points. UConn-Dayton for the East Regional title tonight in Albany.
b. College Basketball Fever Dept.: New Jersey Institute of Technology travels to Flagstaff, Ariz., to play Northern Arizona for the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
c. When NJIT and Northern Arizona meet, I mean, you can throw the records out the window.
d. I also agree with Dan Shaughnessy: The more David Ortiz talks and writes about not being a PED user (which Ortiz did last week for The Players' Tribune), the more it’s going to be discussed in public, and the more people in and out of sports and the media will think Ortiz was a PED user.
e. Best piece on The Players' Tribune, of all of them that I’ve read, was that Nick Hardwick adjusting-to-retirement essay. What a fantastic job of explaining so much about retirement that those of us who never played anything professionally would be able to feel.
f. I like those pieces by the new Jeter site. But (he said, sticking his chest out with some pride) The Players’ Tribune didn’t invent the first-person athlete column. Nor did The MMQB. But our site did a score of them when Jeter was still a shortstop and not a publisher—by Richard Sherman, on multiple topics; by Russell Wilson, on race in the NFL; by journeyman defensive end Austen Lane, a gut-puncher of a piece on what it’s like be cut; by Lydon Murtha, a teammate of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, on life on the inside of the bullying in Miami. And others. Just to set the record straight.
g. I really like the Yanks’ top two, Tanaka and Pineda. But is C.C. Sabathia even going to be in the rotation by June?
h. Big, big blow if the Red Sox have lost catcher Christian Vasquez, who I keep reading is a Molina-type defender and arm. Not that Boston’s going to have enough pitching to win this year, but catchers can make pitchers better.
i. Do you understand the kind of homework I’m doing now, with my New Jersey rotisserie draft this week?
j. My three keepers: Victor Martinez (wing plus prayer), Corey Kluber, Stephen Strasburg.
k. By the way, game of the day, Thursday, April 9, at Washington: Matt Harvey for the Mets versus Strasburg of the Nats. Bet Amtrak will be full of Mets’ fans making the round trip from New York for the 1:05 p.m. start.
l. Is baseball serious? Opening night next Sunday at Wrigley … and game two, another night game two nights later in Chicago? Why torture fans—and, presumably, frozen-fingered pitchers? Luckily for MLB, the long-range forecast is for temperatures in the 40s both nights.
m. Felix Doubrant on the street. Crazy. Must be a nutty guy with all that talent.
n. Cool to see Aaron Rodgers supporting the Badgers. And he owes no one an interview on the floor while celebrating the Wisconsin win, by the way.
o. Stat of the Weekend: Kentucky didn’t miss a shot from the field in the last 12 minutes of its 68-66 win over Notre Dame.
p. Tom Brady cliff-diving one day, playing pickup basketball with Michael Jordan the next. How’s your off-season going?
q. This from my ex-HBO buddy Brian Hyland, live from a wedding Saturday night: “The wedding I'm at is in the heart of Philly. I mean, Eagle Nation. My pal Joe Rowan, a high school football coach down here, played at Fordham with the groom. Beautiful, knockaround guy. He just gave a toast to the wedding of his teammate, Mike Tranzilli and his beautiful new wife Colleen. It was moving and funny and just sweet. And as the audience dabbed at their eyes at the tears he provoked, Joe ended his speech saying, ‘And this wedding is a lock because the Eagles just signed DeMarco Murray! We're gonna win the Super Bowl, and that says it all.' And the guests went bonkers and did the E-A-G-L-E-S chant. Philly, baby. Philly."
r. Coffeenerdness: Why’d you take away the hazelnut macchiato, Starbucks? That was my occasional guilty pleasure. No more.
s. Beernerdness: Tried Four Peaks Brewing (Tempe, Ariz.) Short Hop IPA at a spring training game the other day. Lots of citrus, heavy hops. Liked it a lot.
t. Fired up to see the Barak Goodman/Ken Burns three-part doc, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies," on PBS this week.
u. I could listen to “The Moth” storytellers on NPR all day. There was a great one Saturday, about a Montana high school quarterback who has a sex-change operation and returns to her hometown two decades later. They’re all good.
v. Just when you think you’ve seen every possible horrendous thing done by human beings, a pilot crashes a jetliner into a mountain on purpose, and 150 die.
The Adieu Haiku
Yo! Trade Adrian.
Forty-five mill’s too much for
a back who’s thirty.
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