The Polamalu Problem

Monday April 13th, 2015

This is for all of you, in the wake of Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu retiring the other day after 12 seasons, wondering if he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, or whether it’ll be he or Ed Reed who gets into Canton first, or whether they might go in together:

 

Over the past 26 years, covering 147 enshrinees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of the 147 has been a safety. I’m talking a player who played safety his entire career, not one (such as Ronnie Lott or Rod Woodson, both of whom played significant portions of their careers at cornerback) who split time between corner and safety. The one: Minnesota’s Paul Krause, the league’s all-time interceptions leader. There are 295 Hall of Famers, so think of it: 147 is almost exactly half of that, and 26 years is almost half of the time the Hall’s been alive. One safety has been bronzed in that time.

 

Put another damning way: No safety who has played in an NFL game in the past 35 seasons is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

Much to discuss today, including: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The legacy of the great Polamalu, as seen through the eyes of the man who coached him every day for much of his career, and the quarterback who played him more times than any other passer. 
  • The NFL breaking the female officiating barrier after 95 years of only males in stripes. 
  • The position in line to rule the draft in 17 days. 
  • The very interesting team planning to work out Marcus Mariota in Eugene this week.
  • And what in tarnation is taking Ted Wells so long?

 

Three things really struck me about Polamalu’s retirement:

 

1. He’s a unique player in NFL history, a safety/linebacker/cover guy who blew up people, was as instinctive as they come and played with the kind of dignity so few men have consistently shown over long careers.

 

2. I feel we might be in the midst of a golden age for safeties, with the recently retired Brian Dawkins, Ed Reed and Polamalu leading the way, and so many top-notch ones in their prime now. Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle, Kam Chancellor, Devin McCourty to start with … then the group of new guys who spend part-time doubling as inside linebackers, the way Arizona did last year with much success. Is that a trend that will continue? We’ll see. But sure tacklers, regardless of size, are playing down in the box with frequency now, and the versatility of so many safeties says to me that more and more coordinators are trying to find their own Polamalus.

 

 

Your Calls for the Hall
 
Which pure safeties deserve to be enshrined in Canton? Dawkins? Atwater? Butler? Harrison? Lynch? Reed? Polamalu? Others?
 
Here’s your chance to make your case for your favorite candidate. Send in your nomination, with a brief (200 words, max) justification, to talkback@themmqb.com and it might appear in Peter King’s Wednesday mailbag.
 

3. Regarding the Hall conundrum: Dawkins will be eligible for election in 2017, Reed in 2019, Polamalu in 2020. John Lynch has been a consistent finalist for election recently, but he hasn’t been close yet. There are five modern-era finalists elected each year, max, and in the next three years, there will be heavy traffic at the doors of Canton. Brett Favre, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, LaDainian Tomlinson, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Tony Gonzalez and Brian Urlacher all will have their first years of eligibility in the next four years, so the battle for safeties will only get tougher.

 

 

The voters for the Hall of Fame—I am one of 46—stink at electing safeties. We do. Seven pure safeties have been elected in 53 years. It took the voters until Krause’s 14th year of eligibility to elect the man with the most interceptions in history. Ten NFL all-decade safeties have not been put in, including four of the five on the all-decade first or second teams from the 1980s. “We have completely disregarded the safety position,” said one of the veteran voters, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning NewsHe is fed up with the voting at safety and has a couple ideas how to fix it, which I’ll get to in a few moments.

 

I bring this up because so many of you, and so many around the league, nodded when Polamalu called it quits Thursday and said or thought, “Hall of Famer. Easy call.” He might be. But it won’t be an easy call if history is the barometer. I would judge the three excellent safeties in this order—Polamalu, Reed, Dawkins—and I think all have good Canton cases. As I say, I think Polamalu was a unique player—so smart, almost predatory at the line of scrimmage, good at matching wits with quarterbacks on pass routes and judging snap-count timing.

 

You can say he and Reed, and maybe Dawkins, will make it, but now that you know the history, you have to feel a little shaky. Top Dallas safety Cliff Harris was a Hall finalist one time. Kenny Easley and Dick Anderson were one-time Defensive Players of the Year; they never got to be finalists for the Hall. Jake Scott, LeRoy Butler, Darren Woodson, Rodney Harrison and Steve Atwater never have had their cases heard in the room either.

 

Did Polamalu do enough to pass those men in the pecking order? Probably, but we’ll know more when we see how the cases of Dawkins and Reed are treated. Gosselin’s idea about solving the Canton logjam is an interesting one: When the NFL has its 100th season in 2019, Gosselin suggests the Hall should have an amnesty year, in effect. Elect 10 players from the pool of Senior candidates, the old timers whose cases have been drydocked for years. And elect 10 players from the modern pool. The one-time 20-man class would certainly clear up a growing logjam. I’m not sure it’s the best idea, but I am in favor of getting a slew of Mick Tingelhoffs considered rather than have them needlessly wait for years, or decades, to hear their names called. Twenty sounds like too many to me, but the concept Gossellin suggests has merit.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Flacco on Polamalu.

 

Joe Flacco played Polamalu 14 times—11 in the regular season, three in the playoffs. From the first game-planning meeting in his rookie season, 2008, the mantra around the Ravens’ offensive meetings was always the same, according to Flacco: “Know where he is at all times—and not just in the passing game. Watch where he is before running plays, because he was a force against the run. Every time we played them, that’s the first thing we talked about, and we ended up talking about it all week.”

 

That postseason, Flacco and the Ravens went to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game, and that point got hammered home—brutally, as it turned out for Flacco—in a piece of education Flacco will never forget. With less than five minutes left and the Steelers leading 16-14 in as physical and punishing a game as I’ve covered, Baltimore had a third-and-13. Flacco knew this could be their last chance. The call was for a two-man route—one on a deep route across the middle to, hopefully, clear out Polamalu and one corner; and one on a 15-yard corner stop, as the Ravens called it, with Derrick Mason running 15 yards and juking the corner on a timing route, knowing the ball could be coming to a small window when he turned and looked for it.

 

“Troy’s an example of the right way to do things, on the field and off the field,” Flacco says. “Such a great competitor, on every play.”

 

One problem: The Steelers were playing Polamalu at linebacker on the play. He’d be in coverage on ace Baltimore tight end Todd Heap. Except Heap never left the line. He was there to block. So Polamalu was free to be instinctive. That’s a dangerous deal.

 

“I kept my eyes up the middle, like I was going to the other guy,” Flacco said from his home in New Jersey on Saturday. “Troy was just hanging out. I think he knew what I was thinking. He knew where we wanted to go with it—we wanted to get the first down to extend the drive. I made a bad assumption, that the window would be a little bigger than it was. It wasn’t, because Troy was there.” Lurking.

 

Flacco threw to Mason, and if Polamalu hadn’t been there, the video makes it look like the ball might have been good enough for a conversion. Except Polamalu leaped high and snagged the ball two feet over his head. He weaved through traffic for the insurance touchdown, and Heinz Field went nuts. That was it. Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 14.

 

 

Polamalu was a torment for quarterbacks whether dropping into coverage or vaulting over the line, as Flacco discovered in the AFC title game in January 2009. (John Biever/Sports Illustrated) Polamalu was a torment for quarterbacks whether dropping into coverage or vaulting over the line, as Flacco discovered in the AFC title game in January 2009. (John Biever/Sports Illustrated)

 

 

“I learned a lot about Troy on that play, honestly,” Flacco said. “In the run game, you’re always going to run away from Troy. But when we were throwing, I’d just always try to throw away from him. You can’t do it all the time, and you can’t let it ruin your game, but there were so many things he did that other safeties just couldn’t do. There were times in games—he was the only guy I faced who did this—where he’d turn his back to the play and just sprint to a spot on the field where his football instincts told him the ball was going. He’d turn around a couple seconds later when he got close to the spot. Of the guys I played against, Troy was unique. I was lucky, because I got to face Ed every day in practice, and he was very good at baiting you too. But Troy was at the line more.”

 

 

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Flacco said he’ll have great memories of playing against Polamalu. “Now [that he retired], I’ve got to take a step back and appreciate the games we played against him and the Steelers. I am a man of few words, and so is Troy, but I do know I’ll tell my children and grandchildren I was lucky enough to play in these games, and lucky enough to play against Troy so many times. Troy’s an example of the right way to do things, on the field and off the field. Such a great competitor on every play, and he treats everyone the right way. That’s the right way to handle yourself. The image he had, the example he set … he just did it right.”

 

 

“What were your conversations like?” I asked. “You get to know him very well?”

 

“No,” Flacco said. “I don’t remember him saying much. He let his play do the talking. But I made sure after the games we played to find him, shake his hand and look him in the eye and say, ‘Good game.’ I’ve never really talked to Troy beyond that.”

 

I closed by asking Flacco if he’d have some good memories of playing Polamalu, of the plays he made on Polamalu—and not just the nightmare in the title game.

 

Flacco laughed. “The only recollections I have of Troy are bad,” he said. “All bad. So no, I don’t have many good memories of making plays on him.”

 

It must be the cornball in me. I’ve seen so many of those Steelers-Ravens games, and seen the intensity and the on-field hatred, and it appeals to me that the triggerman of the Baltimore offense is so genuinely respectful of the best man on the other side of the field.  

 

* * *

 

 

 

LeBeau on Polamalu.

 

 

LeBeau and Polamalu (John Biever/SI) LeBeau and Polamalu (John Biever/SI)

 

 

Dick LeBeau has played and coached in the NFL for the past 56 years. He entered the NFL in 1959 as a defensive back for Detroit, playing opposite Hall of Fame cornerback Night Train Lane, and transitioned to coaching when his playing career was done. He was Polamalu’s defensive coordinator with the Steelers for 11 of his 12 seasons.

 

This, then, is the money quote from LeBeau when I reached him Sunday:

 

“Troy is a once-in-a-lifetime player. I have never seen an athlete in the secondary, at any level, do as many things at the absolute highest level as Troy did. He could play linebacker; he played linebacker more than people know. He could go deep with wide receivers in coverage. He could blitz. He was a great tackler. He was an excellent run player. All the raw material you’d want in a defensive back, he had the best.”

 

“Are you including all the DBs you’ve seen in your life, going back to your playing days?” I asked.

 

“I do mean to say that,’’ LeBeau said. “Yes I do. I mean to say he has every skill a defensive back would need to play at the highest level, all over the defensive backfield.”

 

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Thomas will become the NFL's first female official this fall. (Mark Cunningham/Getty Images) Sarah Thomas will become the NFL’s first female official, serving as a line judge on a yet to be determined crew. (Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)

 

 

The impact of Sarah Thomas.

 

It’s not like Sarah Thomas, hired by the NFL last week as a line judge for one of the league’s 17 officiating crews, is immune to some boos and some coach-screaming after a call she made that people didn’t like. But even the biggest crowd for a college game—she said last week she thinks it was probably 55,000 or so for Utah State-Brigham Young—won't compare to the intensity and the spotlight Thomas will face this season when she becomes the first full-time female official in the 96-year history of the NFL.

 

I can see it now: a dedicated camera on Thomas for her first game of the regular season, by whichever network has the game. It’s history. A good history—assuming Thomas can handle it. I’m told one of the things that drew the NFL to consider Thomas was her poise and her ability to take the heat on the field. That’s one thing the NFL officiating scouts look for in college officials aiming to make the jump to the big time. And Thomas showed that poise working for the past few seasons in Conference USA and three bowl games and scattered other college games.

 

 

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But this is not North Texas at Middle Tennessee she’ll be reffing. I want to see Thomas’ reaction the first time Bill Belichick or Bruce Arians or John Fox screams, “What the %&*# was THAT call?” I used Belichick’s name the other day in just such a scenario.

 

 

“I really have not thought of it,” Thomas said.

 

That’s by far the best answer she could have given. Think about it: If she says, Well, I have tremendous respect for Coach Belichick, and it would be tough, but I have worked long and hard to be sure I’m ready for this chance, then she’s messed up. Why? Because Bill Belichick, to her, now has to be the same as the coach at North Texas or Middle Tennessee. He’s a coach. Coaches scream sometimes. You explain, and if they don’t shut up, you turn away and the game goes on.

 

“The great thing is, the ball is going to be snapped soon afterward,” Thomas said. “I don't ignore the coach in that situation. But it may be I didn't see it the way he did.”

 

As for the pressure of being the first woman, she said, “I don't believe it makes the job more difficult. I don’t carry that pressure with me. The job I have is to be the best official for my crewmates, coaches and players in the NFL. I know scrutiny is going to come, but I just don't entertain the negative.”

 

For now, Thomas must get used to being a symbol as well as an official. Like it or not, she’s going to be a beacon for women and girls, and not just in women and girls interested in football or interested in following her to the NFL. School kids are going to write reports on her. In fact, they already are. And she is into it.

 

“What’s it like to know that young girls all over the country are going to know who you are—and you’ll be a symbol for another barrier that’s been broken?” I asked.

 

“When you said that,” Thomas said, “it sent chills down my spine. It's a good kind of chill. My business partner's daughter wrote a paper about me for school. It’s an honor.”

 

No word yet which referee and crew Thomas will be paired with—my money is on the terminally patient Peter Morelli’s crew—but in whatever crew, the ref won’t be the focus, at least in 2015. Sarah Thomas will be.

 

* * *

 

 

 

 

Marcus Mariota's destination, and where in the first round he'll be selected, is an unknown with a little more than two weeks until the draft. (Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB) Marcus Mariota's destination, and where in the first round he'll be selected, is an unknown with a little more than two weeks until the draft. (Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB)

 

 

The smaller headlines of the day.

 

Two teams will work out Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota this week in Eugene. St. Louis and San Diego travel to Oregon (on different days) to put Mariota to work on the field and in the classroom. I absolutely do not expect the Rams to trade up for Mariota, but in the unlikely event that Mariota falls to No. 10, I believe the Rams seriously would consider drafting him. The Chargers’ workout might be a story. It might not be. I still think it’s highly unlikely San Diego trades Philip Rivers to Tennessee. This could simply be a matter of coach Mike McCoy and GM Tom Telesco doing their due diligence in case Mariota has an Aaron Rodgers-type slide. But my eyebrows are sufficiently raised.

 

 

 

Too early for speculative stuff like this to be anything to take to Vegas. Usually at this time before the draft, you’ll start to hear some equivocation out of the team picking No. 1 because they’ll obviously want to maximize the benefit of having the top pick. I find it very interesting that we’re hearing none of that out of Tampa. Not to say that they absolutely are taking Jameis Winston No. 1 but you don’t hear much these days about the first pick being in play.… Jon Gruden favors Mariota over Winston … Melvin Gordon will not get past Baltimore at No. 26 … Randy Gregory’s positive pot test and weighing 235 at the combine scared off many teams near the top of the draft off—but some of those teams, after due diligence, are feeling more comfortable with Gregory early in the round. I get the feeling Gregory’s going to be this draft’s boom or bust guy … The Cardinals will think very seriously of running back at No. 24 … Still can’t figure out if some team will take the ultimate chance of this draft and put wideout Dorial Green-Beckham in the first round.

 

 

Wide receivers could rule the draft. Again. A year after eight wideouts were picked in the top 45 draft slots—and a year after rookie receivers combined to catch more passes than any other rookie class ever—I’m hearing more and more teams value wideouts better than any other position in this draft. Quick thoughts on the receivers: Mike Mayock is absolutely right about USC wideout Nelson Agholor; clearly thought to be a late-second-round prospect two months ago, Agholor (a punt-returner too) is moving up because teams think he can play inside or outside with equal effectiveness … More love for Amari Cooper than Kevin White—though it’s still possible White could get picked higher … Multiple teams have Louisville’s DeVante Parker a top-10 player on their board … Breshad Perriman of Central Florida has at least two teams in the teens looking seriously at him.

 

This comment will not help Jameis Winston’s image. Not that anything’s going to hurt where the Florida State quarterback will get drafted—he’s still the overwhelming favorite to go number one—but I would file away this line from attorney David Cornwell: “He’s ready to be an NFL player on the field. But he’s not ready to be an NFL player off the field.” Cornwell represented Jameis Winston like a pit bull against charges that he sexually assaulted a Florida State student. According to BuzzFeed’s Joel D. Anderson, covering a sports-law conference at Villanova on a panel hosted by The MMQB’s Andrew Brandt, Cornwell talked frankly about the off-field challenges facing Winston in his pro career. Nothing wrong with that—lots of young players need significant off-field support. But here’s the thing: If you’re drafting a quarterback number one overall, you want that player to make it or not based on his ability as a player, not on some off-field problems. Twelve quarterbacks have been picked first overall in the past 20 years: Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, David Carr, Michael Vick, Tim Couch, Peyton Manning. Russell was the only real star-crossed guy entering the draft; Al Davis was in love with his arm strength and overlooked his lack of maturity. I don’t think any of the 11 others had much that concerned teams off the field before being drafted—though there was some question about Newton playing at three schools in college. If I’m Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht (who may have done this already), I’d be cross-examining Cornwell this week.

 

What is going on with Ted Wells? This is day 80 of his investigation into the Patriots and the deflated-footballs allegations. The AFC title game was 12 weeks ago. I respect the work of Wells and his staff, but this is getting ridiculous. The marathon bombing trial took five weeks. The Patriots’ investigation is in its 12th.

 

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Ray Rice is not helping himself by being publicly frustrated. The problem with Ray Rice and his attempt to get back into the NFL—at least aside from the domestic violence, of course—can be seen in the latest story about him in New York magazine in which he is quoted in an apparently frustrated way as saying of his detractors, “Man, they just don’t know who I am.” All of us who cover pro football and who have crossed paths with Rice have seen the generous and magnanimous side of him, to be sure. But Rice has to realize there will be a large cadre of teams, and fan groups, that won’t give him that chance because he knocked his wife cold and it was caught on video. That’s not the fault of the media writing that stuff. It’s his fault for doing it. I believe he’ll get a training-camp shot with someone, but it’s no lock. And if I’m advising him, I’d get him to start believing (to the point that he’d say it openly) that if he doesn’t get another shot, he’s got no one to blame but himself.

 

 

Quotes of the Week

 

I

 

“It actually hit me today in church that, ‘Man, you know what? You’re done. You’re done. Your training is done. Your getting in your stance in football is done.’ It actually hit me in the middle of church. I was like, all right, man, it’s time to start living.”

 

—Troy Polamalu, who retired a Steeler last week after 12 seasons, to Jim Wexell of the Uniontown (Pa.) Herald-Standard.

 

II

 

“It’s about time.”

 

—Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, on the NFL, preparing for its 96th season, finally hiring its first full-time female official, line judge Sarah Thomas.

 

III

 

“She’s on the potion. She’s ready.”

 

—The words of convicted serial rapist Darren Sharper, according to New Orleans bar owner Tony Stafford, who saw what appeared a sedated woman (a “zombie,” Stafford said) about to be taken home from another New Orleans bar by Sharper several years ago, in an investigative story by Pro Publica and the New Orleans Advocate.

 

IV

 

“Money wasn't the first reason to make me want to come here. Even when I knew [about the contract offer], I was like, 'I'm not going there. I don't give a freak what they give me, I'm not going.' And then I realized it was the best for me. This is a team that wants me. Coach [Rex] Ryan is a winner and he wants to run the ball.

 

—Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy, recalling his stunning March trade from Philadelphia to the Bills to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

 

V

 

“I don’t project trades. But in talking to people, my sense is Mariota is likely to be taken [number two overall.]”

 

—ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, the well-coiffed one, on what he’s hearing about where Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will be chosen on April 30. 

 

Stat of the Week

 

The 20-year anniversary of the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) drafting Steve McNair is next week, April 22. Since McNair left the team, the Titans have been searching for that next McNair, the standard-bearer for the franchise. Four quarterbacks have been drafted by the team and started games for them: Vince Young, Rusty Smith, Jake Locker and Zach Mettenberger. The numbers:

 

• Combined record of the four quarterbacks: 40-39.

• Combined touchdown-to-interception ratio of the four quarterbacks: 81-to-84.

• Combined passer rating of the four as Titans: 76.6.

 

My point: Not saying the Titans will take one of the two quarterbacks with the second pick April 30. But if they do not, you know the reason is they do not trust the quarterback left to them after Tampa Bay picks a quarterback number one.

 

 

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

 

In the matter of great safeties not playing anymore:

 

Washington strong safety Sean Taylor played his last football game at 24. 

 

 

 

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

 

On Saturday morning north of San Francisco, I ran a 10K trail run, the Wild Boar 10K on Mount Tamalpais, in 75 minutes and 1 second. At one point maybe four miles into the run, a little wisp of girl, maybe 10 years old, passed me on a narrow trail on the edge of a steep hill.

 

Not my finest competitive sporting moment.

 

But it was my finest day ever running out in the world.

 

Imagine starting a run on a road in a lovely state park 40 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, cresting .85 miles into it with a clear view of the Pacific Ocean on a pristine morning, gawking at the Pacific for seven or eight minutes while the undulating pavement takes you up and down, then veering off to the left on a thin ribbon of a rocky trail on the side of Mount Tamalpais, at times so steep with such a sheer drop that you say to yourself, DO NOT LOOK DOWN! WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT LOOK DOWN! And after you do that, up and down and never flat, for 15 minutes, you duck into a forest so dusky that it feels like 9 p.m. and not 9 a.m., and the temperature drops 15 degrees in a minute, and you're not running on a rocky path anymore. Now it's on pine needles and cones on a path underneath and through 300-year-old trees, such a soft trail that it feels like you're running on a padded tartan track. Then, for the last mile, the grade is so steep that you have to walk most of it (my daughter Laura, a San Franciscan, didn't; she's incredibly fit and used to running on trails) and even thinking of making any good time seems just preposterous.

 

Yes. I think I'd like to do it again. Soon.

 

Tweets of the Week

 

I

 

 

II

 

 

What an impactful person Lauren Hill was in her 19 years.

 

III

 

 

The Green Bay quarterback, on one of the best corners he’s ever faced, new Carolina Panther Charles Tillman.

 

• ‘THE REALITY IS I AM A COMMODITY’: Charles Tillman unplugged in The MMQB.

 

IV

 

 

That’s some deferred contract Bonilla signed a few centuries ago.

 

V

 

 

 

 

NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are no stranger to the golf course during the offseason. (Getty Images/2) NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are no strangers to the golf course during the offseason. (Getty Images/2)

 

 

Ten Things I Think I Think

 

1. I think, with the Masters fresh on your minds, there’s this anecdote from Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, which he unearthed researching his book on the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry (“Brady Vs. Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry That Transformed the NFL,” by Crown Archetype, due out Sept. 22): Tom Brady and Tom Brady Sr. and Rory McIlroy and McIlroy’s father have a mutual friend. Through the mutual friend, they set up to play golf together at Augusta National Golf Club the second week in March. The Bradys and McIlroys, the mutual friend and his father and another friend and his father played their own father-son tournament on the Masters course. The night before they played, the Brady/McIlroy group walked into the restaurant at Augusta National to have dinner. Seated at another table were Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cooper Manning, Jacob Tamme and John Lynch. Brady and Manning, who have played many rounds of golf together, chatted for a few minutes before Brady rejoined his group for dinner. Brady did not know Manning was going to be there. Brady and Manning were on the course the next day, but didn’t play together. Brady’s group played three rounds in two days. Tom went off the first tee with Rory. Not a bad scene.

 

 

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2. I think you’ll really enjoy Jenny Vrentas’ story on The MMQB and in Sports Illustrated this week, on Rex Ryan’s early days in Buffalo. Here’s a stunner: Ryan softpedals nothing.

 

 

3. I think, if you missed it the other day, I wanted to link to a story I wrote on the NFL’s most anonymous important employee, Joel Bussert. When I asked Paul Tagliabue about Bussert's best trait, he said: “He listens.” Important facet of a personality for a guy who has to build new rules and make compromises when the rules are hard to fix.

 

4. I think there is no more trusted player inside the Cleveland Browns than Joe Thomas, and no one more team-oriented in all ways. And when he says (as he did to ESPN Cleveland last week) that Johnny Manziel is “going to have to prove to the team football is important,” it’s a damning indictment of the impression Manziel left on the locker room last season.

 

5. I think if the Chargers trade Philip Rivers (and I have no indication whatsoever they might, other than the ceaseless rumors suggesting they may), they are crazy.

 

6. I think the best piece I read about anything, anywhere, in the last week was this thorough investigation by Pro Publica and the New Orleans Advocate into serial rapist Darren Sharper—and why he wasn’t stopped earlier than he was. And this thought occurred to me: It’s a sham of a justice system that allows Darren Sharper to serve only nine years for nine rapes. A disgrace.

 

7. I think I love when guys say dumb things on social media and immediately claim their account was hacked. That’s what Darrelle Revis said Sunday after he or the hacker got into some ugly back-and-forths with fans unhappy with his decision to leave the Patriots for the Jets. Must be a lot of people out there who know Revis’ social media passwords. Or not.

 

THE MMQB PODCAST: Andy Benoit talks draft with Greg Cosell and Robert Klemko.

 

 

8. I think we're still a week to 10 days away from the time when you can trust anything you hear about trades or which way certain teams are leaning. Most real trade talks won't start until late next week, or early in draft week. Now, paving the way for later discussions? Sure. Such as asking the Titans, “What do you have in mind about what it would take for us to move up to your pick?” But real decisions are difficult now—because a team that wants Marcus Mariota, for instance, isn't completely sold right now that Mariota will certainly be there at No. 2.

 

 

Scenes from a Pro Day
 
 
Robert Klemko gets a peek behind the curtain of a pro day. What goes on? Lots of prying and lots of stopwatches. And, in the case of the University of Maryland, an unusual visit from Bill Belichick.
 
FULL STORY
 

9. I think the Pro Football Hall of Fame hosted a cool event over the weekend in Canton—a reunion for more than 100 retired NFL public relations officials. Good idea for the Hall to acknowledge the former PR guys as part of the history of the game.

 

 

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

 

a. Thanks for the invitation, Sports Business Journal, to be a part of Thursday’s future-of-the-media panel in Los Angeles, with ESPN heavyweight John Walsh, Jason Whitlock of the new site The Undefeated, Pam Oliver of FOX Sports, and SBJ’s John Ourand. Learned a lot. I’ll be interested to see how Whitlock does with his new site. I like the idea of a site dedicated to shine the light on racial issues, inside and outside of sports, because of how much societal issues affect the people we write about and you watch. That showed up big last fall with the Rams players’ personal statements of empathy for those affected by the strife in Ferguson.

 

b. For those hoping and praying for a new baseball stadium for the Oakland A’s, I will only say this: My time on a sunny afternoon at O.co Coliseum the other day could have been more comfortable in terms of new-stadium creature comforts, but it could not have been better as a day at a park with strident fans and perfect weather and a good baseball environment. Those A’s fans really care about their team—even guys they’ve just barely heard of.

 

c. Gordon Edes, you are great at your job.

 

d. Maybe I should get into “Game of Thrones.”

 

e. I am very into “Veep,” however. And I was lucky enough to be invited to see the first two episodes of the new season last week in Manhattan. (Hint: It’s going to be a very good season. And Gary Walsh, the Selina Meyer aide-de-camp, is truly one of the great doofus characters in recent TV history.

 

f. Cool to see a good person and fast worker, Mark Buehrle, win his 200th major league game.

 

g. I feel for Cleveland, losing Yan Gomes, maybe for a long time.

 

h. Man, what got into the Kansas City Royals’ Cheerios?

 

i. It’s hard to believe a modern athlete, such as Mets closer Jennry Mejia, would use a steroid (Stanazolol, the same one Ben Johnson used to prep for the Seoul Olympics nearly two decades ago) to get better, knowing baseball tests for it. It’s an intelligence test, to some degree, because Mejia knows he’ll be tested. And he obviously flunked the test.

 

j. Superb job, Barry Horn, on the serial-DWI criminal/famous Dallas-based writer Jim Dent in the Dallas Morning News.

 

k. Congrats, Providence College, on winning the Frozen Four.

 

 

Talk Back
Have a question or comment for Peter King? Email him at talkback@themmqb.com and it might be included in this week’s mailbag.
 

l. You’ve got to be pretty happy with that, Bedahd.

 

 

m. Coffeenerdness: Java Question of the Week, from the Peet’s barista in the JFK Airport Terminal 4 coffee shop, after I’d ordered a medium latte with an extra shot of espresso, paid, and was waiting near the espresso machine for my drink to come out. “You know this already comes with two shots, so you’re sure you want a third?” Yes. Quite sure.

 

n. Beernerdness: Hangar 24 Orange Wheat (Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, Redlands, Calif.) is stupidly expensive at Dodger Stadium (I had it there Wednesday night) but it is well worth it. I went to see the Dodgers on Wednesday night with the editor of this column, Long Beach-based Dom Bonvissuto, and he told me I had to try this Hangar 24 Orange Wheat. Great call. Has a bit of the Allagash White taste, which is a very good thing.

 

o. Apropos of nothing: I was waiting for a plane at LAX the other night, and heard “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. One of the worst songs ever created. Why did it become popular?

 

The Adieu Haiku

 

Troy Polamalu.

His name's not good for haiku.

I doubt he cares, though.

 

 


 

 

 

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