New Orleans Mourns: ‘No Will’

Monday April 11th, 2016

The Will Smith news is just so horrible. Dead, at 34, the victim of an apparent road rage incident in New Orleans late Saturday night. Shot in the back and right torso, according to New Orleans police. As Sunday wore, I kept thinking about a father of three, a leader in the locker room, a backbone player on the team that helped revive New Orleans, gone because of a minor car accident and a few words exchanged and some apparent stranger with a gun.

The words, via Twitter, of former teammate Jermon Bushrod say more than I can: “No one should have to go out like that. Senseless dumbass violence has to stop. You work hard and help the community and go out like this?”

Senseless.
Dumbass.
Violence.

“We’ll all gather back in New Orleans 10 years after winning the Super Bowl, 20 years, 50 years, to celebrate what a great thing it was for our team and for our city,” Drew Brees said Sunday night. “And we’ll be together, but something will be missing.

“No Will.”

* * *

Will Smith was a captain on the Saints team that defeated the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
Joe Rimkus Jr/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

Shot in the back.

That is the part that just is so maddening in a story that is beyond infuriating. Was Smith walking away? Did he shout a few epithets to the man who drove his car into Smith’s SUV, then turn back to his own car, only to get shot on his way back to his car? We don’t know yet. We just know that, for the 16th time in nine days, a shooting happened in this struggling great American city, and a man lay dead with multiple gunshot wounds.

“The problem,” said Brees, Smith’s teammate for seven seasons, “is New Orleans perennially is way up in these homicides statistically. We become desensitized to it. And so many people die, but we pay attention when it’s Will Smith; that forces so many people who wouldn’t normally deal with it to deal with the reality of a terrible thing, the gun violence in the city.

“People are going to make arguments now about gun control. And it just seems to me … This is about the way … the way human beings treat other human beings …”

His voice trailed off for a moment.

“Think about it. A guy [accused shooter Cardell Hayes] thought, whatever, that he was cut off. Just a simple thing, driving a car. And he reacts to someone he thinks did that. And lives are ruined. One guy is going to spend the rest of his life in jail. One guy is dead. One family loses its leader, its father, its husband, forever.”

“He brought his son into the locker room last season, and I was like, ‘Will’s back!’” Brees said. “I really felt there was more coming in the next phase of his life, with all the work he was doing in the community.”

Over the phone, Brees was getting emotional. Saints coach Sean Payton would always point to three people as the leaders of this team that helped revive a flooded and ruined city: Drew Brees, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma. Brees chose the Saints coming off the Katrina-ravaged 2005 season because he was wounded himself, signing with the Saints while recovering from a bad shoulder injury the previous year in San Diego. Vilma arrived in 2008 in free agency and was the nerve center of a burgeoning defense. But Smith was there before Payton arrived, and not many of the pre-2006 Saints bought into the new coach in 2006. Smith did.

“Tough, so tough,” Brees said. “ A Saint through and through. Sean cleaned house, and Will stayed. I always thought there was nothing more I’d ever want from a  teammate than what Will brought every day. He really was the cornerstone of our team. Will could always reference what it was like before we got there. His wisdom was so welcome. Not a rah-rah guy, but a guy you’d rely on every day. I would engage him, and he’d smile, and he would always be like, ‘We’re in this together.’”

Brees wonders what would have happened if Cardell Hayes, a New Orleans high school football star a lifetime ago, realized he was confronting a star of the Saints. “I wonder,” Brees said. “A lot’s been written about the bond between the team and the city, and what a special time it’s been over the past decade. If the guy knew this was a star of the Saints, who knows? Does he change his mind? Does he walk away? Does he put his gun down? Not to trivialize this—at all. But does he say, Hey, I grew up here. I love this city. Does he walk away? Maybe.

“But now, something’s been broken here.”

What’s been broken is the bond between Smith and his family, between Smith and his adopted city. Smith was born in Queens, raised in Utica, N.Y., and played collegiately at Ohio State. “That’s the worst thing,” Brees said. “I’ve seen him since he stopped playing [in 2013]. He brought his son into the locker room last season, and we hugged, and we talked, and I was like, ‘Will’s back!’ And I really felt there was more coming in the next phase of his life, with all the work he was doing in the community.”

That ended at 11:30 Saturday night in New Orleans, with gunshots to the back, according to New Orleans police.

* * *

Smith ranks fourth on the Saints' all-time sack list with 67.5 in his career.
Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images

Greg Bensel, 52, is the Saints’ PR man. He’s lived in New Orleans his entire life, went to Tulane and is owner Tom Benson’s trusted adviser. Some people love where they live. Bensel loves this city so much that if Benson fired him tomorrow, I’m convinced he’d take a job pumping gas if that’s what it would take for him to stay in New Orleans. And Sunday night, Bensel was ticked off.

“This is a tangible moment for this city, a moment when we realize something’s got to be done to change things,” Bensel said. “Twenty murders in 26 days! These aren’t statistics! These are human beings! I can tell you, this city’s on edge. This city’s had enough. People are sick to their stomachs.”

I hope he’s right. But it’s going to be tough. Forget the Second Amendment argument for a moment. New Orleans is a city still struggling post-Katrina, and to think the cops there can take guns out of the hands of citizens is a dream. “The problem is this violence is so entrenched,” said local crime analyst Jeff Asher. “Even if the public demands action, really, what can be done?”

A civilized society would figure out something. In Will Smith’s memory, New Orleans has to try.

* * *

Chasing the draft truth

With the first round of the draft two-and-a-half weeks away, and most teams still in their draft-grading bunkers, there’s not a lot of horse trading going on right now. So this is no time for the truth. This is the time, as Gil Brandt said Saturday, “for chasing ghosts.”

Brandt would know. This is the 56th draft for Brandt, either as a picker (for Dallas) or a league figure who’s the unofficial godfather of the draft process—going to workouts, being the point of contact between draftees and the league and talking to teams, agents and players. There’s not anyone who knows more about the picks and those making them than Brandt.

An example of ghost-chasing, from Brandt: “So Philadelphia’s working out all the quarterbacks, and visiting with all the quarterbacks. Is it true they want a quarterback? Could they pick a quarterback in the first round? Or is it a smokescreen and they’ve got it in their minds to pick someone else? Could they pick the running back [Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott] there?”

• INSIDE GRUDEN’S QUARTERBACKS CAMP: The MMQB goes behind the scenes as the ex-coach-turned-analyst puts Carson Wentz through the made-for-TV wringer both in the classroom and on the field

Over the weekend, I spoke with 10 team officials with power over their teams’ draft board and draft process. Three of them are in the middle of organizing their draft; they finished one side of the ball Friday and will finalize their boards on the other side of the ball beginning today. So it’s a myth that the hay’s in the barn for every team right now. One GM I talked to Saturday was going to spend Sunday in his bunker, studying tape of the top 10 quarterbacks. This is why we’re in ghost-chasing time. We all think we know what Philadelphia’s going to do with the eighth pick in the first round, and maybe even Eagles GM Howie Roseman has a good idea of what he’s going to do with the pick, but with 17 days before he has to exercise it, why wouldn’t he still be looking at players, discussing internally what to do and waiting on the medical re-check of some draftees Thursday and Friday in Indianapolis?

So I thought what I’d do this morning is give you what I picked up over the weekend from the 10 Men in the Draft Bunkers.

Three questions first:

Who do you think will be the first player picked in the draft?

Eight of the 10 evaluators said Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil. One split his vote between Tunsil and Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey. The other said Tennessee will trade, and a team will move up to pick North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz.

Who will be the first quarterback picked?

Seven votes for Wentz. Three votes for Cal quarterback Jared Goff.

What team is most likely to trade into the top five of the first round?

Rams: four votes. Eagles: three votes. Bucs: one vote. Niners: one vote. One vote went to no team. “Price is too high,” this person said. “I don’t see anyone trading into the top five.”

* * *

UCLA’s Myles Jack performed well at his mid-March pro day as he continues to recover from the knee surgery he underwent last September.
Damian Dovarganes/AP

Speculation and rumors, 17 days from D-Day

• Myles Jack is in play in the top 10, but his medical recheck is big. A knee injury shelved the UCLA linebacker for most of his 2015 season, but two teams in the top 10 (and maybe more) are anxiously awaiting the result from his Indianapolis re-check. He’s the kind of sideline-to-sideline playmaker who would interest Jacksonville at No. 5 if he checks out well.

• Regarding the Titans at 1. New GM Jon Robinson hosts Jalen Ramsey today in Nashville for a visit, and there’s definite interest there, with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau thought to like the versatility of Ramsey for Tennessee’s barren secondary. One personnel man said over the weekend that the Titans have a definite solid offer for the pick and, if it’s sweetened, could be persuaded to go down a few spots. Which team? Philly’s the common thought, because Roseman trades, and going from eight to one is onerous but possible in terms of price tag. “But no team’s going to do three ones, the way Washington did for RG3,” said one evaluator. “No player in this draft is worth that.”

• A RULING THAT CONFIRMS AND SOLIDIFIES GOODELL’S DISCIPLINE POWER: Andrew Brandt on a major win for the league over the player conduct policy

• Regarding the Browns at 2. Last week I heard Wentz strongly at this pick. This weekend one of my panelists said: “It’s definitely Goff. Believe it.” Next week, could it be Brian Sipe? But I will say this about the pick: Goff’s the name I hear coming out of that building right now. We’ll see.

• The strength of the draft. Middle-class draft. Read these quotes from four of my evaluators:

“Twenty-five to 55 is the same player, to me.”
“Eleven to 40 is the same guy.”
“To us, 18 to 48 you can get the same player.”
“Load me up with twos and threes in this draft. That’s where I’d want a lot of picks.”

And get this, from Gil Brandt: “It’s the kind of draft where the 50th player on some team’s board will be the 17th player on another team, and the 17th player on the first team could be the 50th on that other team.”

• Robert Nkemdiche’s the true wild card in this draft. One guy put it best about the Ole Miss defensive tackle with top-five talent and top-five off-field issues: “There’s not that much special talent in this draft. He’s special, potentially. Coaches with security will take a chance on a guy like this with such good tools.” I heard like things from a couple of others—namely, that Nkemdiche is a very likely first-round pick, though it may be late. Maybe a Pete Carroll (Seattle picks 26th) or Bruce Arians (Arizona picks 29th) will feel confident enough, with the kind of strong locker room each has, to put Nkemdiche in the mix. He’s articulate, he’s an artist, he plays the saxophone. He’s a tough riddle.

• The Eagles and a quarterback? Don’t dismiss it. Look at my first Factoid of the Week lower in the column, about the guaranteed money in the contracts of Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, and you’ll see why it’s not ridiculous for Philadelphia to be thinking quarterback high in this draft.

• On the quarterbacks. Even this far out, the lines are drawn here: Goff and Wentz in the top five, Paxton Lynch in the teens, Connor Cook around 30 and then it’s anyone’s guess. One evaluator: “I would love to take a shot at developing Christian Hackenberg.” Another: “Hackenberg’s fractured.”

• THE HACKENBERG RIDDLE: Jenny Vrentas looks into the question that has NFL teams confounded—Who is the real Christian Hackenberg?

• Other draft niblets, in three-dot fashion: Talked to two men who like Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley over Tunsil … “Best defensive tackle draft I’ve seen, easy,” said one veteran evaluator … I love the individuality of teams’ grades. I asked a few guys which first-round pick will shock the world on April 28. And one evaluator said he wasn’t positive this player would go in the first round, but said he definitely has first-round talent: Alabama back Kenyan Drake, who backed up Heisman winner Derrick Henry. Great straight-line speed … “The defensive tackle crop’s so good it’ll push some deserving players into the second round. The depth is so good that you’ll get some guys you can use right away in the third and fourth.” … I love this, too, reading various front offices from afar. One guy: “San Francisco will not trade up from seven. Trent Baalke loves his picks too much and has too many needs to give them away.” Another guy: “They want to trade Anthony Davis and Antoine Bethea.” … Interesting analysis out of one evaluator, who sees 90 early defensive starters in this draft, and 40 offensive starters. “Ninety’s a huge number,” he said … Much love for Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who has nerve damage in his knee from an injury in the Fiesta Bowl. No idea where he’ll be picked … Much love for Ezekiel Elliott too. But a running back, at four (Dallas)? Or anywhere that high? My evaluators think that’s too high, but beauty’s in the eye of the Joneses. We’ll see.

* * *

D'Brickashaw Ferguson started every game for the Jets over the past 10 seasons, a span of 167 games including the playoffs.
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

D’Brickashaw Ferguson: What happened?

The answer, apparently, is that Ferguson, the 10-year left tackle of the Jets, retired of his own free will after Jets GM Mike Maccagnan approached Ferguson 11 days ago and said he probably needed to take a pay cut to stay on the team. Ferguson likely could have made a good chunk of his $10.38-million compensation with the Jets in 2016, but his agent, Brad Blank, said it wasn’t about that. “This wasn’t a medical decision,” Blank said over the weekend. “I think from talking to him, this was more about, ‘If I can’t be great, I don’t want to do this.’”

In fact, Ferguson told Blank after the team approached him looking for cap relief: “Don’t ask for anything. Just let me think about this. I’m not even sure I want to do this anymore.”

Ferguson made about $70 million in his career, and he’s invested well, and this wasn’t about trying to get one or two more years of football income out of the Jets or some other team. This will make Jets fans like Ferguson even more than they have over the past decade: After years of being among the best left tackles in football, Ferguson slipped in the past two seasons; in 2015, he was the 25th-rated left tackle by Pro Football Focusand it’s clear he didn’t want to just hang on to make money.

So good for Ferguson. We always want players to play for the right reason, and to seek excellence at least as much as a paycheck. The loyal Ferguson did just that.

* * *

Quotes of the Week

I

“We used to have two-a-days in training camp and sometimes as ‘award-winners,’ you got to take a practice off. I think I used one of those.”

—Ten-year Jets offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who started 167 straight Jets games (160 regular season, seven playoff) in his 10 NFL seasons … and never was on the team’s injury report, and missed one snap in those 167 games. He made his remarks to Randy Lange of Jets.com.

II

“If I had to make my decision on it, he would already be with the Broncos.”

—Von Miller, on whether Denver should sign free-agent quarterback (and Miller’s former Texas A&M teammate) Johnny Manziel, via Pro Football Talk.

III

“When it comes to what the Hall of Fame is all about in terms of the criteria to get in, it should purely be based on stats.”

—Terrell Owens, to SiriusXM radio.

I wonder if Owens knows football was actually played before 1990, and eras in football history lead to different numbers in different times.

I’m guessing he doesn’t know that.

• THE NFL’S SAFETY SQUEEZE: Andy Benoit on why safety is becoming the most important—and least appreciated—position on defense, and what it means for the 2016 draft

IV

“After months of introspection, I am retiring from football. I suffered the 3rd and 4th concussions of my career this past season and I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health. This decision is the hardest I’ve made yet but after much research and contemplation I believe it’s what is best for me going forward.”

—Buffalo linebacker A.J. Tarpley, announcing his retirement last week at age 23.

V

“Thanks John Oliver! Everyone is welcome at Yankee Stadium!”

—Sign on scoreboard at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, showing costume-wearers (dressed as dragons) behind home plate courtesy of the HBO talk show host, who ripped Yankees COO Lonn Trost for implying that lower-income patrons are not welcome to sit in the most expensive non-suite seats in baseball, those behind home plate at Yankee Stadium. Oliver sold two tickets to each of the first three games of the season for 25 cents apiece, and lame-dressed people showed up for all three games.

* * *

Stats of the Week

I

The Jets asked D’Brickashaw Ferguson to take a pay cut 11 days ago, which is understandable. He’s not the player he was four years ago. But their new left tackle isn’t either. Showing up for work over the past three seasons (2013-15) by the Jets’ new and old left tackle:

Left Tackle Team Team Games Games Played Percent
D’Brickashaw Ferguson Jets 48 48 100%
Ryan Clady Broncos 55 19 34.5%
 

II

Jason Garrett has coached the Cowboys for five full seasons, 2011-15. (He took over midway through the 2010 season when Wade Phillips was fired.)

In Garrett’s first three full seasons, Dallas was a combined 24-24.

In his last two seasons, Dallas was a combined 16-16.

In playoff games coached by Garrett, Dallas is 1-1.

In his five full seasons, Garrett, in all games, is 41-41.

That’s what you call Even Steven.

* * *

Despite a revamped contract this offseason, Sam Bradford has a tenuous hold on the Eagles' starting quarterback job.
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me

I

Why might Philadelphia not be bluffing about picking a quarterback in the first round? Check out the guaranteed money for Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, the two quarterbacks under contract for significant dollars.

We would all agree that there’s only a minuscule chance Bradford or Daniel will be cut this year before opening day. So the guaranteed-money figure in 2016 is fairly meaningless, seeing that they’ll earn it all anyway.

• Bradford is guaranteed $22 million total in a two-year deal; $18 million is guaranteed in year one.

• Daniel is guaranteed $12 million total in a three-year deal; $7 million is guaranteed in year one.

So let’s say Philadelphia drafts a quarterback this year and it’s a learning season for whoever that is. And let’s say that quarterback goes to training camp in 2017 fighting to win the starting job against either Bradford or Daniel, with one of them being cut. The Eagles will have lost $5 million in guarantees in 2017 if they cut Daniel before the 2017 season, and $4 million if they cut Bradford. My point: It’s not a killer loss of dough if they have to part ways with either one of the veterans before 2017. And so I wouldn’t put it past the Eagles, if they love one of these quarterbacks, to pick him in the first round.

II

Average margin of victory in the four UConn women’s national basketball championship games in the Breanna Stewart Era: 23.8 points.

III

Bruce Springsteen, age 66, played a 33-song concert in Oklahoma City eight days ago, a 33-song concert in Dallas two days later, and a 34-song concert in Kansas City two days after that. At age 66.

* * *

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

I went to Cleveland last week to see the opening game of the Red Sox season with my brother-in-law. It was scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m. Around 1 p.m. that afternoon, we were sitting in a pub downtown having lunch when word hit that the game was being postponed until Tuesday.

At the next table, a man wearing a Cleveland hoodie, exclaimed, “You’ve got to be s------- me! Why’d they call the game?!”

It had just finished sleeting/snowing sideways in downtown Cleveland, site of Progressive Field. I looked at my weather app, displaying the Cleveland conditions and forecast. It was 31 degrees. The app said, “FEELS LIKE 18.” At 4 p.m., it was supposed to be very windy and 30.

I like baseball as much as Cleveland hoodie guy I’m sure, but watching a three-hour game in the teens? No thanks.

* * *

Tweets of the Week

I

II

The longtime NFL executive turned ESPN analyst tweeted this after Ryan Clady, he of the consistent injuries, signed a two-year deal worth a max of $20.5 million with the Jets, who traded a fifth-round pick to get a player Denver might have cut had no one dealt for him.

III

IV

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts took rookie pitcher Ross Stripling out of a no-hit game because he’d thrown 100 pitches already on Friday night.

V

* * *

Roger Goodell and the league scored a big win in the courts in their long-lasting battle with the NFLPA over disciplinary control.
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think the league notched another win over the NFLPA on Sunday, when an arbitrator ruled against the union in a grievance it filed against the league in late 2014 regarding the personal conduct policy. The NFLPA had argued that the league was violating the collective bargaining agreement by putting players on paid leave via the commissioner’s exempt list while awaiting discipline under the personal conduct policy. This was the course of action the NFL took on Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy, placing both players on paid leave while the league investigated their incidents. With his decision, the arbitrator, Jonathan Marks, ultimately underlined commissioner Roger Goodell’s power to act on disciplinary matters, something the union has been fighting, and will continue to fight. For a league that’s been battered in court recently, this was a welcome decision for the commissioner and the owners.

• CONFIRMING GOODELL’S POWER: Andrew Brandt on the latest court ruling in the battle between the league and the union over the player conduct policy

2. I think I’m bullish on the 2016 Pro Football Focus Draft Guide. It’s well worth your time. I learned this from among the 264 pages of the first draft effort by PFF:

a. The lowest-rated of the top 22 quarterbacks in accuracy percentage: Michigan State’s Connor Cook (21) and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg (22). Cook’s “inconsistency on the short stuff is maddening,” PFF says.

b. Of the same 22 quarterbacks, Hackenberg ranked worst in completion percentage under pressure (47.2 percent).

c. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was the highest-rated blocker of any back in this draft, and he gained 1,050 yards after contact.

d. Laquon Treadwell had nine drops in 91 catchable balls, but two other potential first-round receivers were worse: Corey Coleman of Baylor (10 drops in 84 catchable balls) and Will Fuller of Notre Dame (10 in 72). For Fuller, one drop per seven catchable throws—that’s just awful.

e. A candidate for the first overall pick, tackle Laremy Tunsil, allowed zero sacks and just five pressures on the 224 Ole Miss pass-drops that he played left tackle for in 2015.

f. PFF hasn’t fallen in love with Robert Nkemdiche, even throwing out his off-field problems. The site kills Nkemdiche for his lax run defense.

3. I think I have no clue if Ezekiel Elliott is going be picked fourth or 24th.

4. I think you have to understand where the game is going right now to have a feeling about the future of Elliott and the other running backs in this draft. Too many teams believe they can get a back in a late round or as an undrafted free agent.

5. I think the Chargers should take the best available offensive tackle—Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley, whomever is left when the third pick of the first round comes up.

• THE MMQB MAILBAG: The NFL is partnering with Twitter to broadcast its new Thursday night package

6. I think it was interesting to read—from Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston—that the Patriots have had four different coaches on the Naval Academy campus to either work out, watch a workout or talk to multiposition player Keenan Reynolds. On Thursday, Reiss reports, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels worked out Reynolds, and coach Bill Belichick was on hand to watch in Annapolis. If the Pats want Reynolds, they could have an interesting dilemma. Currently, they pick at 96—probably too early for an experimental player like the Navy quarterback—and then not again until pick number 196, deep into the sixth round. No idea if some team will pounce on Reynolds before pick 196, and clearly New England can trade up if it feels the need. But that’s an interesting name to watch for the Patriots—and an interesting player, obviously, after a dynamic college career.

7. I think the most interesting note about the NFL preseason schedule—and that is a stretch, calling anything preseason-related “interesting”—is that the Giants’ entire exhibition slate consists of games against the AFC East.

8. I think the note of the week has to be the gossip about Von Miller having “a flatulence problem” on Dancing With the Stars. The New York Daily News says Miller “just lets it rip, much to the disgust of his dance partner, Whitney Carson. The solution? He pays her $100 a fart, which she’s donating to the Skin Cancer Foundation.” What a country!

9. I think if there’s been anything more maddening to read in my lifetime than the pretentious piece of crap Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie let loose on the world last week, I can’t think of it. And I include a couple of things about it here because it can apply to any sport. Hinkie’s 76ers have been godawful—the worst team in basketball, by far—over his three years as GM, winning 47 games under his direction. (That’s in three seasons; seven NBA teams have won more than 47 games in this year alone.) Hinkie, in a 7,000-plus-word letter, told the bosses he was basically falling on his sword and had done a noble job for them, instead of simply saying, “I drafted some bad players, or some players who didn’t work out.” I am not a basketball guy—at all—but I do recognize a person blaming everyone but himself for a crappy basketball team. In the letter, Hinkie quotes or attributes basketball lessons to so many people 99 percent of Americans have never heard of (Arul Gawande, Seth Klarman, Charlie Munger, Steven Johnson, Howard Marsk, Phil Tetlock, Amos Tversky) until you want to scream, “GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE, WHOEVER YOU ARE!” Hinkie wrote this off-putting example of off-blaming: “We often chose not to defend ourselves against much of the criticism, largely in an effort to stay true to the ideal of having the longest view in the room.”

And this: “Maybe someday the information teams have at their disposal won’t require scouring the globe watching talented players and teams. That day has not arrived, and my Marriott Rewards points prove it from all the Courtyards I sleep in from November to March. There is so much about projecting players that we still capture best by seeing it in person and sharing (and debating) those observations with our colleagues. What kind of teammate is he? How does he play under pressure? How broken is his shot? Can he fight over a screen? Does he respond to coaching? How hard will he work to improve? And maybe the key one: will he sacrifice—his minutes, his touches, his shots, his energy, his body—for the ultimate team game that rewards sacrifice? That information, as imperfect and subjective as it may be, comes to light most readily in gyms and by watching an absolute torrent of video.” And … so you have watched an absolute torrent of video and assembled teams that, in your third season, started the year 1-30, and you want us all to thank you for your fine efforts on the Philadelphia market’s behalf. I see.

• INSIDE THE FILM ROOM: Andy Benoit talks with Alabama’s Jarran Reed about his game

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

a. Greatest TV of the weekend: the shots at the Masters—long and full of emotion—of Tom Watson’s last hole on Friday. At 66, in his 45th year as a professional golfer, Watson bowed out of his last Masters by shooting a 78, but that didn’t matter to me, nor to the camera folks who captured Watson on a long walk up the 18th fairway. You saw Watson get emotional, you saw his wife wipe away tears, and the cameras lingered. I don’t know how long the video of Watson walking up the fairway was—15 seconds, 20 seconds?—but in an age when TV shots change so quickly the mere lingering of the camera on Watson added to the emotion of the moment. And then Watson almost made a long, twisting putt. I really enjoyed the moment.

b. When I was a kid, quite a few good golfers were fat. Seems like none are any more.

c. Story of the Week: This masterpiece by Ben Shpigel of the New York Times on how a 44-year-old legend, Jaromir Jagr, stays great. I can’t imagine a player in any sport who works harder than this to remain relevant and important.

d. I liked Bruce Springsteen canceling his North Carolina concert Sunday, in protest of the recent anti-gay and anti-transgender laws passed in that state. If you feel strongly about something, and have the power to do something about it, and you can afford to do it, you should do it.

e. I can’t tell you I expected this when I drafted Trevor Story in the 20th round of my rotisserie draft two weeks ago.

f. Leave it to me: I didn’t have Story active last week.

g. Not sure I’d say this if I were a Dodgers fan, but as one who had no interest in the outcome, I thought Dave Roberts did the right thing in pulling Ross Stripling from his first major-league game when Stripling had a no-hitter with one out in the eighth inning. Stripling had thrown 100 pitches and admitted after the game he was tiring, and he had Tommy John surgery in 2014. Regardless of the fact that the Dodgers lost Stripling’s 2-0 lead and ended up losing the game, Roberts made the right call, looking out for the long haul on a young pitcher.

h. Coffeenerdness: Shoutout to the employees at the 50th-and-Second Starbucks in New York. Friendly, fast, consistently efficient. Believe me, you can’t say that about every store.

i. Beernerdness: Really enjoyed Opening Day in Cleveland the other day, particularly the Bell’s Oberon (Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.) on tap out in right field. Any place with Bell’s Oberon on draft knows its beer.

j. I so admire the Golden State Warriors. They want to play for history. What a great thing.

k. Wonder if the ACC noticed the UConn women winning their fourth straight national championship the other day, and the UConn men making the tournament and winning 25 games?

l. UConn football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball in 2015-16: 69-18.

m. Boston College football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball in 2015-16: 25-50.

n. I know saying a team that didn’t make the playoffs had a good year is stupid, but the Devils—that’s my NHL team—outperformed what anyone thought by winning 38 games. And they’ve got extra draft picks in June, which is how that franchise has to compete, and Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri had more goals (30) than Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Nicklas Backstrom and Milan Lucic.

o. I’ll be at Foley’s, a bar in New York City (18 West 33rd Street) with host Gary Myers of the New York Daily News and Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, talking football from 7-9 p.m. on April 20. No admission charge. Just football talk. And if you’re good, I’ll let you buy me a beer.

p. And Plymouth State University in New Hampshire has graciously (foolishly?) invited me to give its commencement address on May 14. I have graciously (foolishly?) accepted. So that should be fun. Thanks so much to the Granite Staters for the invitation.

q. At a time of crushing disappointment, I liked how Jordan Spieth handled himself after blowing the Masters. Crushing disappointment is human. That’s how Spieth looked and acted—like a crushed guy handling a horrible situation with some class.

* * *

The Adieu Haiku

Hard to say much on
D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
Multi-syllabic.

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

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