The Carolina Panthers coach on what he would have done differently in Santa Clara. Plus, notes on Sean Payton’s potential contract extension and Bruce Arians holding court at the NFC coaches breakfast at the league meetings

By Peter King
March 23, 2016

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Heard this morning at the NFC coaches breakfast on the last day of the annual league meetings:

Ron Rivera would do a few different things at his next Super Bowl. A couple of weeks after the Super Bowl loss to Denver, Rivera had dinner with his captains to discuss the loss and the 2015 season. One major takeaway: He wouldn’t impose a curfew every day of Super Bowl week. Carolina had a midnight curfew beginning on arrival Sunday, a week before the game, then 11 p.m. on the night before the game. Problem was, the Panthers were staying in San Jose, about 48 miles from downtown San Francisco, where the action was during the week. With the unpredictability of Bay Area traffic, players would have had to leave San Francisco at 10:15 or so, even on their off night, to ensure they’d be back to their hotel on time. Rivera knows now that was a mistake. “The biggest fear they had was going all the way up there and not getting back on time,” he said. “We’d probably do that differently.” He’s right. Players shouldn’t have curfew on their first two nights at the biggest event and game of their lives.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

On the field, Rivera had regrets about the first four plays of the game, and the Jerricho Cotchery missed catch/questionable replay call that, had it been ruled differently, would have prevented the Von Miller strip sack/Denver touchdown from happening. “The first four plays of the game, I’ve watched them eight or nine times, and they really set the tone,” Rivera said. One other thing: Rivera said players on the losing team at the Super Bowl shouldn’t be required to speak to the press post-game (though he won’t get his way on that). I would disagree vehemently with that one, but I’m sure I couldn’t convince him otherwise. The Super Bowl is a football game—a big one, but a football game, with a winner and a loser, just like every other game a player plays, with potential euphoria and deep disappointment. Like life.

• A RULE HARBAUGH WANTS: The Ravens coach stumped for a rule change that would allow coaches to challenge plays that millions of fans are immediately second-guessing at home.

The Saints and Sean Payton are close to a five-year contract extension. Ed Werder reported this morning that it was five years at slightly more than $45 million, which is a heck of a show of faith on both sides—Payton for committing to the Saints for so long after 10 years (nine seasons, due to the Bountygate suspension) already in the gig, and for the Saints to commit to Payton for so long. It leads me to think Payton will want Drew Brees for as long as he can play as well as he’s been playing: 4,300 passing yards or more in 10 straight seasons. Interesting point, on another matter, by Payton about the difficulty of using some forms of analytics to judge and predict football performance: “The flaw and the challenge in analytics, [what] it doesn’t account for, what if your left tackle is getting his ass kicked by the defensive end.” True … but I do recall Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus predicting before the Super Bowl that biggest factor of Super Bowl 50 would be the Von Miller-Mike Remmers matchup. He certainly was correct, and that prediction was based on a long study of Remmers’ inability to fan out and disrupt speed rushers.

I could listen to Bruce Arians all day. Among his topics this morning:

· Officiating must change. He wants full-time officials—now. He said the officials “are not professionals” because they have other jobs that take precedent in their lives. He said full-time officials should be a must in a game this rich, a theme I’ve heard from him often. Arians will never back down on this one.

· He said he’s glad, in retrospect, to have been fired by the Steelers after the 2011 season. “I’m the most thankful guy in the world,” he said. “If I don’t get fired, all this would never happened.”

· On Carson Palmer, after the debacle of a playoff loss at Carolina: “I never worry about his confidence.” Palmer looked like a different quarterback in the postseason—a bad quarterback—but Arians said he thought Palmer would bounce back well. He said the early 10-point deficit at Carolina “felt like 30. There was a gasp on our sideline early.” It’ll be very interesting to see how Palmer bounces back from a bad January.

· The guard Arizona shipped to New England in the Chandler Jones deal, ex-first-rounder Jonathan Cooper, “is going to be a heck of a player.” He attributed Cooper’s struggles to three injuries and not having the practice time adjust from a college spread offense to the Cardinals’ pro-style scheme. We shall see.

· On sports science (doesn’t sound like a fan): “They’ll tell me a guy is at his limit. I don’t give a s---. We have another period. Get him in better shape.”

· Riffed on Bear Bryant (Arians coached on Bryant’s final staff at Alabama), Tim Couch (Arians coached the doomed QB in Cleveland), Chandler Jones (predicting Arizona will sign him long-term), and his hats. An entertaining session.

• BRUCE ARIANS Q&A: The Cardinals coach reflects on Peyton Manning’s game-changing impact, moving on from last season’s loss in the NFC Championship Game, and the driving force behind his foundation to help kids.

Now for your emails...

* * *

INTENTIONAL FOUL

I'm not a fan of the proposed ejection rule for several reasons. Primarily because it targets unsportsmanlike penalties when it's dirty and malicious acts, such as the Beckham hits on Josh Norman or Aqib Talib's facemask in the Super Bowl, that need to be eliminated from the game. I'd like to see the NFL institute a new class of penalties, the Intentional Foul, for instances where the player commits a deliberate attack on another player.

And if there is an ejection policy, then the play should be automatically reviewed. Similar to the college system. While infrequent, every week a handful of penalties are called on the wrong player (24 instead of 27). I know this mostly occurs with false starts or holding, but in a situation where a player is ejected and a team forced to play shorthanded, the NFL needs to ensure the correct penalty is called on the correct player.

— Chris, North Vancouver

Your scenario at the end is exactly what worries some coaches who are concerned about a possible error in identifying a player in a brawl. If, for instance, an official during a scrum identifies the wrong player because the scene is just too crazy, that could improperly influence the outcome of a game. Having said that, the ejection rule for two unsportsmanlike penalties is more of an insurance policy against exceptionally bad behavior. With the officials being reminded that flagrant fouls can certainly lead to ejections, I do believe that the kind of behavior that Beckham exhibited will likely be addressed that way. What I fear is more and more and more getting piled on the plates of the officials every year. It is already a very difficult game to manage, and this just adds one more thing.

RULE PROPOSAL DOESN’T MAKE SENSE

I understand the goal of the rule change to eject players for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game but I think the league is going about it the wrong way. You had a great example in your column that Beckham would not have been ejected under the proposal because his violations were unnecessary roughness. So basically we are going to be in a situation where a player like Burfict can repeatedly launch himself at people and keep racking up 15 yard penalties while another player could be called for taunting or excessive celebration and get shown the door. I just don't see how that is helping. Maybe there needs to be different levels of unsportsmanlike conduct.

—Jason

Agreed. That is a smart way to look at a difficult topic. I hope the competition committee members read this.

• RECEIVERS WEIGH IN ON THE CATCH RULE: What, exactly, is a catch these days? Even the men on the receiving end have trouble defining it.

ON THE CHANDLER JONES TRADE

I was shocked at the deal that went down but with your explanation, I can somewhat see Belichick’s reasoning. However, you often laud teams for getting compensatory picks for their free agents. Jones would definitely have brought in a pick if he left. So the late second-round pick this year, would have been a late third-round pick in two years, plus a full year of a pass rusher who will be playing for a new contract. Most have not described this draft as particularly superb either. With the Patriots so close to the Super Bowl this year (and losing to a team showing the importance of pass rushing), I would think Belichick would be a bit more focused on the coming year.

—Nate in Minnesota

You have an interesting point. But here is where I fault it. The Patriots have a low second-round pick in 2016 from the trade of Jones. If Jones had played with New England this year, he likely would have brought New England a third-or-fourth-round pick as compensation in 2018. So not only would the pick have been significantly lower, it would have been two years later. That is a significant difference. Plus, had New England held on to Jones this year, he would have brought nothing, as you say, when he left in free agency next year… And New England would not have gotten a former top prospect in Jonathan Cooper in return. (Of course, Cooper has been a bust in his short Arizona career, so there is no guarantee the Patriots will get anything out of him). This also does not take into account that the draft choice, Cooper and a replacement for Jones, Chris Long, all combined will cost more than $1 million less than Jones this year. So, it’s hard to fault New England for the deal that it made.

ON TRAY WALKER

I know some teams have had clauses in their contracts in the past that banned players from riding motorcycles. Were the Ravens one of those teams, and if not, do you think they'll consider adding such a clause to future contracts in the wake of Tray Walker's death?

— Jonathan M., Los Angeles

I understand that the Ravens have a clause that calls for players to avoid risky off-season pursuits, but not one that addresses dirt-bike riding specifically. I would imagine that they will try to address that in future contracts, which is what a smart team would do.

ON RICHARD SHERMAN’S COMMENT

I loved the way Richard Sherman categorized the commish as a “suit.” Never played the game, never experienced a game from their perspective. But as I was thinking about this, wouldn’t it also be accurate to call Sherman himself a “suit?” Or maybe a “uniform?” Has he ever experienced the environment that the commissioner has? Has he ever taken one of those hits? Thirty-two billionaire owners to manage, appease, negotiate, and ultimately “rule.” Would like to know your thoughts on this notion.

— Jared Matisak, OU grad 2003

I think it is always educational for a person to experience life on the other side. It would not surprise me at all if Richard Sherman were to ask Roger Goodell if he could job-shadow him for a day that Goodell, with certain exceptions, would allow him to do that. If I were Sherman, I’d love to do it.

• WHAT’S NEXT IN THE DEFLATEGATE CASE: When will the Second Circuit Court hand down a decision on Brady vs. NFL? And if they rule for the NFL, could the suspension disappear anyway?

THE MMQB IDENTITY

The MMQB (mmqb.si.com) is not a standalone site, any more than sports.yahoo.com isn't yahoo. If you want to be quoted as The MMQB, get your own domain.

—Benjamin

Everyone who commented on this note said essentially that you will never be known as the MMQB as long as your web URL is mmqb.si.com. I get that. It is a fair comment. But understand a couple of things. For the last three years, I have worked as the editor-in-chief of The MMQB. When I travel anywhere—to a game, or event—my press credential reads Peter King, The MMQB. When I call people, I identify myself as Peter King of The MMQB. On our website, there is a banner title to our site. It reads, The MMQB. I have not written for SI.com or Sports Illustrated in the past year, and only very occasionally in the two years prior. We have nine standalone employees of The MMQB who do not work for SI.com or Sports Illustrated. When we have a story on our website, it is headlined and cached in an archive of The MMQB. I was just a guest on Rich Eisen’s show; he introduced me as Peter King of The MMQB. Monday night at the NFL meetings, Miami coach Adam Gase told me he really loves The MMQB. I have had quite a few compliments since we began The MMQB—from owners and coaches and players that they enjoy the content at The MMQB. No one has said to me in a very long time, “How is everything going for you at Sports Illustrated?” Or, “How is life at SI.com?” No, they ask me about The MMQB. That is where I work. That is where nine people work exclusively. I certainly hope that straightens things out for you.

• ANDREW HAWKINS GOES BACK TO SCHOOL: The Browns wideout is cramming for a sports management degree at Columbia University this offseason.

INSTANT REPLAY

Technology has obviously changed the game and instant replay has improved the ability of officials to "get the call right." My question is, Can the NFL put a time limit on instant replay? It seems that too many calls take an interminable time to look at every single possible angle, and even then different angles produce different results. I would think that 45 seconds or a minute would be enough to review a challenge and make a decision (I would max out the time at 30 seconds, but that would never pass). At that point, move on and play the game. Obviously any evidence was not conclusive enough to bring the integrity of the game into disrepute.

—Dave Brown

The NFL does have a time limit for replay. Once the referee goes under the hood and puts the headphones on, he has 60 seconds to look at various replays on the monitor in front of him. After 60 seconds, the screen goes black. I think it just seems longer. Because the officials on the field take some time to determine whether a call can be reviewed legally and then if it can, the officials have to then notify each coach that a replay is going to be undertaken and what the replay is for. I do believe that Baltimore coach John Harbaugh’s point about allowing a third challenge per team was viable. Harbaugh believes that because there are 18 television timeouts in the course of a regular-season game, then as soon as the officials determine that a replay is going to begin, the game immediately is put into commercial. Makes sense to me.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.  

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