The Wrongs of the Odell Beckham Suspension; Panthers Could Sit Newton and Still Go 16-0, How the NFC East Was ... Uh, ‘Won’

Sunday December 27th, 2015

1a. I think Odell Beckham Jr. got what he deserved—a loss and a one-game suspension—after going positively turdular last Sunday.

And yet, it’s just another example of the NFL’s laughably inconsistent disciplinary processes. Just like the punishments handed down under the personal conduct policy, football operations seems to take “public outrage” as the key factor when deciding discipline.

If it was a player with a lower Q-rating—let’s say Rashad Jennings—rather than Beckham last week, there’s virtually no chance a suspension would have been handed down. Below are four examples I knew off the top of my head, all from this season, of players delivering undeniably dirty hits that carried no intent but to injure an opponent. All four players are less popular than Beckham. And all four of them have well-earned reputations as heels. None of them received a suspension.

This might have gotten more attention if Will Smith had recently starred in a movie about the NFL covering up the dangers of fractured skulls. Adam Jones was fined $35,000:

Amazingly, this was only one of the hits Vontaze Burfict was fined for that day (a total of $70,000). This is on an MVP-caliber QB coming off a recent foot injury, in a game with playoff implications:

Ever wonder what the Beckham cheap-shot on Josh Norman would have looked like if Beckham weighed 300 pounds? Here ya go. Wallace was fined $23,152:

You see Brandon Browner, already behind the play, stopping to launch himself backward, crown-of-the-helmet-first, into Spencer Long’s earhole:

However, he might have thought he was in Super Challenge Football on Atari and would simply run off the right side of the screen and reappear on the left side to make a touchdown-saving tackle. Amazingly, there was no fine for this play.

1b. Andy Benoit is a smart man.

I’d like to see that and (though I’d settle for or), say, four dead-ball personal fouls on the season, an automatic one-game suspension kicks in. Offsetting personal fouls—that’s a 15-yard penalty happening twice—carry no consequence for either player or team, and that’s just wacky.

1c. Apropos of nothing above, but as long as we’re talking rule changes: “five-yard penalty, automatic first down” is so dumb it seems cruel to make officials say it out loud. Make defensive holding and illegal contact 10 yards (just like offensive holding!) with no automatic first down. Too many ticky-tack holds on short routes in third-and-forever situations.

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2. I think I was all for Cam Newton playing out the regular season if the Panthers could get to 16-0… until that shot of him on the sideline at MetLife last week, with ice packs on both his knees (not to mention him limping off the field earlier in the game after his own lineman backed into him).

But consider this: Derek Anderson started two games for an injured Cam Newton last year, his only two starts for the Panthers. He led Carolina to wins in both of those games (with a 99.3 passer rating along the way). Both were over the Bucs. Carolina’s Week 17 opponent: the Bucs.

Granted, this year’s Tampa team is better, and the Panthers would presumably rest more than just Newton. But it’s clear: Derek Anderson can lead this team past that team.

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3. I think it’s time for the “Sunday Edition of About Last Night’s Thursday Night Football: Saturday Edition.”

Before we get into the many Keystone Cop portions of this game, I’ll say this: Kirk Cousins was sharp except for this one play at the end of the first half when… well, you know. Jordan Reed is a beast. Bill Callahan’s largely underachieving O-line even did some mauling in the second half. Preston Smith is really good. This is a team that can win a home playoff game against any opponent.

However, there's no denying that this was another ugly “early week” game (and another ugly NFC East game). I obviously haven’t watched Game Pass yet, but head-scratchers included:

a. Bashaud Breeland tracks a ball to the end zone like he just did the ol’ “Dizzy Bat” race at a minor league baseball game. Nelson Agholor wins the lack-of-motor-skills challenge by dropping the easiest touchdown he’ll ever get.

b. DeAngelo Hall apparently signals to Quinton Dunbar, the only other defensive back on the right side of the field, let’s not cover Zach Ertz at all, okay? Dunbar obliges, and the brilliant stratagem works! (Just kidding, but you can understand how these miscommunications happen so early in the season.) Sam Bradford manages to overthrow Ertz, who was so wide-open he could have chosen anything from the Ministry of Silly Walks skit and scored untouched.

c. At the end of the first half, Washington gets the ball back with 29 seconds left and no timeouts, at its own 29. On the first play of the drive, Philly sits back in Cover-2 and a corner (Eric Rowe?) jumps the route in the flat, choosing to give up 22 yards instead of six on the play.

d. With 17 second left (and, again, no timeouts), instead of trying a 41-yard field goal Washington throws over the middle, 18 yards downfield, and has to race to the line to get the ball spiked. My team of scienticians estimates a 28% chance that they won’t be able to get to the line and spike it in time, until…

e. Philly safety Walter Thurmond puts Washington at ease by slapping the ball out of Jordan Reed’s hands, an obvious delay of game penalty.

f. Apparently in celebration of the opponents’ stupidity, Kirk Cousins instinctively goes into victory formation and takes a knee, passing up a 23-yard attempt to bring the first half to a merciful end.

g. Despite halftime providing 12 full minutes to assess my life choices, I opt to neglect my family for another 90 or so minutes of the holiday season and settle in for the second half.

h. Bradford hits Riley Cooper on a deep crosser in-stride, which Cooper promptly drops on the way to the ground. Chip Kelly has no chance of winning a challenge but throws the red flag anyway, because timeouts in the second half when you’re playing from behind are for losers.

i. Bradford mishandles a shotgun snap and takes his frustration out on DeMarco Murray by feeding him a hospital ball in the flat.

j. After an eight-yard run up the gut, the Eagles run a play in which Bradford throws some kind of lateral shovel pass to Murray, who never comes close to catching it. The ball is kicked to DeAngelo Hall for a walk-in TD.

k. Murray heads back to the bench for good. He is costing the Eagles $7,405.21 per rushing yard this season. Last year in Dallas, he cost the Cowboys $865.38 per yard.

l. The Eagles send the punt team out, down 21, on fourth-and-two, then burn a timeout before sending the offense back in. Again, who needs timeouts when you’re trailing in the second half? 

m. Kenjon Barner drops a lightly thrown pass on a well-designed screen, the Eagles’ 78th drop of the night.

n. In the red zone, center Jason Kelce scoops up a Bradford fumble, heads around right end and breaks two tackles, a two-yard gain. Kelce is immediately elevated above Murray on the depth chart.

o. Barner drops another pass, making Murray look like Jerry Rice from a hands-perspective.

p. The No. 94 on Preston Smith’s shoulder is permanently tattooed in Bradford’s chest.

And that’s how the NFC East was “won.” Deal with it America, FedEx Field will host a playoff game, likely against Seattle, in two weeks. What could go wrong?

John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images

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4. I think this is what’s going to be fascinating in the 2016 draft: There are going to be two to five top-of-the-draft quarterbacks available (depending on the stay-or-go decisions and subsequent assessments of Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg and Carson Wentz). Yet, if the season ended after Week 15, this would be the draft order for the first 10 picks.

1. Titans: DO NOT NEED A QB
2. Browns: Need a QB
3. Ravens: DO NOT NEED A QB
4. Chargers: DO NOT NEED A QB
5. Cowboys: May need a QB of the future, but highly unlikely to take one (Romo’s contract, desire to win now)
6. 49ers: Need a QB
7. Dolphins: Might need a QB (if they opt for full rebuild)
8. Jaguars: DO NOT NEED A QB
9. Saints: Probably not interested in a QB of the future unless a guy they love falls into their laps (spent a third-rounder on Garrett Grayson last year)
10. Bears: Might need a QB

A year ago, you had two excellent quarterback prospects and two QB-needy teams drafting first and second, so it was easy math. This is shaping up to be a buyer’s market, and a wild first night in Chicago.

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5. I think I would recommend watching the Frontline documentary League of Denial before you see Concussion, but the overall message is the same: A generation ago the NFL was, at best, too incompetent/foolish to properly protect its players or, at worst, actively covered up the dangers connected to head trauma that go along with the sport. Certainly the source material Concussion works off of is damning.

Players’ “informed consent” is the issue here. That said, I have no problem with the ethics of professional football going forward for this reason: Knowing what we know now and understanding the risks (and if I had the God-given abilities), if I were offered a roster spot as a fifth receiver and special teamer for the league minimum, I’d take it.

(Youth football is another issue. If my kids are interested in football their first season will be junior year in high school. If they’re interested before that: flag football, soccer to develop footwork, wrestling to instill will power and understand leverage. I know those are the parenting tips you come here for.)

* * *

6. I think I think some things about college football…

a. If Alabama gets to the national title game, Derrick Henry is going to finish the year in the neighborhood of 400 touches (he’s at 349 at the moment). Since 2000, the six players to top 400 touches in a season, all in their last year before entering the NFL:

Player Touches in
final NCAA season
NFL seasons
(* – still active)
1,000-yard
NFL seasons
Kevin Smith,
UCF (2007)
474(!) 5 0
Javon Ringer,
Michigan State (2008)
418 4 0
Le’Veon Bell,
Michigan State (2012)
414 3* 1
Bobby Rainey,
Western Kentucky (2011)
405 3* 0
Ray Rice,
Rutgers (2007)
405 6 4
Brian Calhoun,
Wisconsin (2005)
401 2 0

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b. First, appreciate the shooter’s touch on this Bobby Puyol 52-yard field goal. But second, I know that sweet, sweet Bitcoin sponsorship didn’t come in this year, but can the St. Petersburg Bowl or Tropicana Field folks set aside a little cash to invest in goal posts, rather than (presumably) pillaging some Pop Warner field in the dead of night?

 

 

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7. I think, while you’re counting down the hours to kickoff, you should spend some time with The MMQB Read of the Week: After Football: Doug Betters.

Okay, so the Read of the Week is a video. But, believe me, you have 12 minutes to devote to this. Doug Betters was the 1983 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Football is part of the reason a skiing accident landed him in a wheelchair.

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Tom Brady hasn't had a lot of fun against the Jets in MetLife.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

8. Thirteen-plus things I think about Sunday’s 13 games:

a. Tom Brady looked downright human in each of his last two road games against the Jets (55.6% completions, 1 TD, 2 INT, 5.06 yards/attempt, 63.3 rating). And with Julian Edelman almost certainly out, and Danny Amendola and Brandon LaFell both game-time decisions, he’ll be throwing to Gronk, James White and a bunch of practice squad guys out of Next Man Up U.

b. There would be something fitting about Brandon Weeden—career 5-19 as a starter including 11 straight losses, already cut midseason by a team that is currently 4-10—clinching the AFC South title for the Texans today in Tennessee.

c. A rare feel-good story for the Browns, the breakout season of Armonty Bryant, gets tossed in the dumpster fire after his Christmas arrest. Bryant, who came into the NFL with a history of legal issues, was on pace for a big payday as a free agent after next season. Long-term, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bryant didn’t make it past the expected offseason house-cleaning. Short-term, the Chiefs’ road to the playoffs just got a bit easier.

d. The Colts visit Miami in what could be the saddest of all the Week 16 matchups. On Labor Day, these were two teams that were supposed to challenge the Patriots. (I know, I know, the Colts are still in it, but to paraphrase a friend: Saying you’re the best in the AFC South is like bragging about being the toughest muppet.)

e. I’d have to think the Lions have done enough since the bye week (4-2, would have been 5-1 if not for the Packers Hail Mary) to keep this thing together for one more year, hope the o-line matures and try to do a quick rebuild of the defensive line. But they have to finish with wins over a couple of bad teams, beginning with Sunday’s home finale against the 49ers.

f. It will be fascinating to see what this Bills defense will do the last two weeks, as the frustration players have with the new coaching staff, and vice versa, is palpable. They never seemed to quite recover from that three-game death march (at Jets, at Patriots, at Chiefs) that essentially dashed their playoff hopes, and last week they ran into a hot Washington offense. But Kellen Moore, sans Dez Bryant, in your own building can cure what ails you.

g. It’s Lovie Bowl II; the Bears haven’t had a winning season since Lovie’s last season in Chicago, 10-6 in 2012. The last two games will be important as far as determining the future of Jay Cutler, and he’ll likely have to get by without Alshon Jeffery on Sunday.

h. The Panthers have outscored the Falcons 72-3 over their last two matchups.

i. Steelers at Ravens is another one that looked like an awfully tasty Week 16 matchup in August. On Sunday, it marks little more than Ryan Mallett’s triumphant return to the NFL.

j. I don’t blame Drew Brees for wanting to play through a foot injury in a meaningless game in Jacksonville. He’s right when he says a young Saints team needs to learn how to win. And he has only so many games left in that arm. It might be a matter of years, but the end is in sight.

k. The Rams have scored 13.7 points per game on the road this year, lowest in the NFL. The Seahawks have allowed 16.6 points per game at home this year, lowest in the NFL. And, oh yes, the Rams have scored a total of 47 points over five games at CenturyLink in the Pete Carroll era.

l. If Rashad Johnson misses another week, the Cardinals will be without both halves of their all-world safety tandem (since Tyrann Mathieu is out for the year). Sure, the Packers are likely to be without left tackle David Bakhtiari, but that banged-up Arizona secondary opens up the possibility for the uneven Packers offense to match the high-powered Cards point for point.

m. The Giants’ playoff hopes ended with the Saturday night game. It was a mercy killing, as the skill position players they’ll trot out on Sunday night will be overwhelmed against a quality Vikings defense.

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9. I think, as we wrap the final Gameday 10 Things of the 2015 calendar year, it seems like an appropriate time to thank a few people:

First, my boss, Peter King, for not putting an immediate end to this nonsense. (I bill this column as “walking the fine line between original outside-the-box takes and the incoherent ramblings of a madman.”) I’d also like to thank my editor, me, and my producer… also me, because I’m the only one on The MMQB staff dumb enough to voluntarily turn a six-day work week into a seven-day work week.

I’d also like to thank my readers. So here goes: thanks to my lovely, intelligent and infinitely patient wife, my college roomie Milan (or “Milo,” as he likes to be called) and, of course, my dear friend and court-appointed parole officer, Rob (see you on Wednesday, buddy!). Okay, that’s all of you.

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10. I think, at 12:58 p.m. ET, you should turn your volume all the way up and press play…

 

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