Plus, why Odell Beckham sort of has a point, the Chargers release an ‘independent’ stadium study, a top prospect finds more trouble and more
1. Back in January, the New York Times reported that the Giants moved on Ben McAdoo in part to keep him from taking a second interview with the Eagles. What a strange alternate timeline that must be.
We’re four games into McAdoo’s reign with Big Blue and three into Doug Pederson’s in Philly, so there are no definitive proclamations to be made. But if the Eagles indeed had McAdoo atop their wish list (the team has denied this, though they’d have to deny it at this point since you can’t admit your current head coach wasn’t your first choice), they might have avoided disaster thanks to their NFC East rivals. Because right now, Pederson is the front-runner for Coach of the Year. He has found precisely the right touch with Carson Wentz. He’s put a lot of responsibility on his rookie QB’s shoulders (as my colleague Andy Benoit points out, you don’t start Monday Night Football with five consecutive empty sets if you don’t trust your quarterback), but Pederson has also done just enough hand-holding with Wentz, in the form of screen passes and, well, really well-designed route combinations.
Meanwhile, in East Rutherford, there’s at least a sense that this thing is going to come unglued. After narrowly defeating a truly bad Saints team at home (thanks in large part to a blocked field goal return TD), the Giants have turned in two performances that were so mistake-filled and uneven that when I tried to rewatch them on Game Pass my laptop burst into flames (true story).
I wrote about this last season, and the Giants’ biggest problem from an X’s and O’s standpoint continues to be their stubbornness in getting creative with Odell Beckham Jr. McAdoo and/or Eli Manning seem to refuse to recognize that there is a massive talent gap between Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of Manning’s weapons. Early last year, when they were giving games away, it was the insistence that “Well, Preston Parker and Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell and Will Tye are NFL players too, and we’re fine just going to them if they’re in single coverage.” Of course, they weren’t fine going to them. They lost games going to them.
The past two weeks it’s been more of that. They let Washington take Beckham out of the game for long stretches by simply sticking him on the outside of a formation, then letting Josh Norman and a safety cover him. In the second half of the Monday night embarrassment in Minnesota, they regularly had Beckham lined up as the single receiver with Tye on the same side of the formation. No motion, no creativity whatsoever. That’s not much of a challenge for a defense considering most teams are covering Tye with a linebacker and not thinking twice about it. The safety help goes to Beckham. The rest of the defensive backfield is devoted to Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz on the other side of the formation. This isn’t a “pick your poison” proposition for opponents. It’s more like “pick this poison, or have this delicious, refreshing RC Cola instead.” Teams are daring the Giants to drive down the field throwing it to Tye and Bobby Rainey and a running game that doesn’t work if there are more than five men in the box, and the Giants for some reason are all too happy to take them up on the offer.
Aside from X’s and O’s, here’s what has me wondering if the Giants (who really didn’t have much good reason to let Tom Coughlin go) just rebooted their fans’ least favorite film from the early 90s: Ray Handley’s Bogus Journey.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a, shall we say, “less accomplished” coach tried to pull a Belichick with the media? Well, you got your answer on Thursday when McAdoo joined WFAN’s Mike Francesa, went “we’re on to Green Bay,” and the next six minutes or so were the talk radio equivalent of a Tyson fight in the 80s.
Perhaps McAdoo still has the locker room, but public perception matters when you’re an NFL head coach. Right now, the public perception of McAdoo is that he has lost control of his best player (more on that below). Saying “I have [Beckham’s] back” repeatedly is a harmless platitude at best (of course you support your 23-year-old franchise player), and at worst it’s exactly the opposite of what anyone wants to hear. Do you recognize that his behavior on the field and on the sideline is problematic? Because even if you think it’s overblown (and I do), Beckham’s sideline antics in Week 3 were worrisome, and he could have been ejected on Monday night.
The perception is that McAdoo is an offensive coach with a Hall of Fame quarterback and one of the top five weapons in football, yet he’s overseeing an offense (one that has faced three subpar defenses in its four games) that has seven offensive touchdowns and nine turnovers so far. The perception is that he took over for a popular head coach and was lavished with gifts Coughlin never had (Olivier Vernon! Snacks Harrison! Janoris Jenkins!), and overall he’s poised to do less with more than Coughlin ever had.
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2. So about Odell. One thing we’ve seemingly lost the ability to do as human beings (or, at least those of us on Twitter or in comments sections) is recognize that there are shades of gray. Beckham’s behavior on the sideline is borderline unacceptable, of course. And like he did last December against the Panthers, he nearly got himself thrown out of a game Monday night (lowering his shoulder and whaling Xavier Rhodes when the two were standing four yards out of bounds could have drawn a flag, or it could have led to another scrape that drew a flag).
But let’s be honest: Beckham has more reason to be frustrated and feel singled out than anyone in football. Because he is being singled out.
The problems on Monday night started when Rhodes hit Beckham when Beckham was a full yard out of bounds. This was a blatant penalty that went uncalled.
Beckham took exception, which is natural, and jawed with Rhodes on the way back to the huddle. Anyone saying Beckham bumped an official on the way back to the huddle is just being ridiculous; line judge Tom Symonette stepped between Beckham and Rhodes in what was a good piece of officiating. That was followed by what seems to be a bad piece of officiating: Back judge Shawn Hochuli threw a flag on Beckham for taunting. I tried to find a shot in which I could show how far back from the play Hochuli was, but no camera was able to capture Beckham and Hochuli in the same frame. My best hope was a Google Earth satellite image taken at that precise moment, but no luck there either. Hochuli and Symonette, one of the officials who missed the late hit but didn’t compound the mistake by flagging Beckham, were both in the conference that resulted in the taunting penalty, so maybe there was something to it. But if we’re being honest: An official standing 40 yards away would never even consider throwing a taunting flag on any other player in the NFL.
So yes, Beckham is indeed being singled out by officials. And he’s being singled out by opponents who throw borderline cheap shots and taunt him to take advantage of the fact that (a) He’s being singled out by officials and any retaliation will result in a flag, and (b) He’s so very easy to push over the edge.
Playing wide receiver is frustrating by nature. You can do your job perfectly and still not get the ball or help your team. It’s why a lot of them complain; I have jokingly asked many receivers if they’ve ever not been open on a play, and I’ve yet to find one who has admitted to it. A player of Beckham’s caliber has to be especially frustrated being part of what is, so far, a bad offense that won’t go out of its way to get him the ball. So layer that frustration with unfair treatment from game officials. And all of this on a guy who is already overly competitive (which is part of what makes him great). It’s no wonder he’s a powder keg.
Beckham initially brought this on himself with his behavior in the Carolina game, but at this point he’s also being wronged. He has to show an enormous amount of self-restraint for the next season or two. It’s the only way to get that target off his back.
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3a. So about NFL officiating, which has not only reached a new low but seemed to aggressively seek out that new low with the emphasis on taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct (enforced with all the Keystone Cops sensibility we’ve come to expect).
In light of Antonio Brown’s penalties and fines for “sexually suggestive” end zone dances, I’d like to point out that I would actually love for the NFL to present a G-rated product. Sorry to be the guy who writes about his kids, but I have two of them and they are often in the house while football is on TV. I have to worry any time a game comes back from commercial break in case they show the cheerleaders, at which point I have to explain to my 4-year-old daughter that those women are… just wearing bathing suits… because it’s so hot out… and their job is to let the crowd know when it’s time to cheer in case someone forgot to watch the game… and they’re hired based on how loud their voice can get when they cheer.
(I also have to worry any time a CBS game goes to break, because there’s going to be a commercial for the upcoming episode of Criminal Minds, a show in which every episode plot revolves around a serial killer whose calling card is to spell out a bible verse in pee on the wall or something like that. I used to frantically scramble for the remote to turn off the TV and risk missing the first play back from commercial. My solution this season is, when there’s a gratuitous cheerleader shot or advertisement for an off-brand Se7en, to jump up and yell at my kids, “Hey, check out this dance!” But I have very delicate ankles. They’re just not able to handle the wear and tear for 17 weeks.)
So, NFL, every time my children are unexpectedly subjected to “sexually subjective” material presented by one of your teams on a Sunday afternoon, I will be fining you. For repeat violations, the fines will escalate. You will be notified by mail.
3b. I do get a kick out of the flags for Josh Norman’s “bow and arrow” celebration, the reasoning being because it’s the same as simulating shooting guns. Because we’ve got a real problem with bow-and-arrow violence in this country.
But couldn’t Norman just argue that it’s not a bow-and-arrow celebration, but, like, he had an itchy back and then he’s also just simulating a resistance band workout? Or he’s supporting the local economy in nearby Ocean City by hand-pulling taffy? I mean, any celebration can be construed as violent. Is Cam Newton performing a Superman celebration, or is he imagining bear hugging an opponent from behind and then ripping that other man’s chest open? Is Rob Gronkowski violently spiking a football, or is he imagining it is a severed human head? Think about it… (And by that I mean, “think about it NFL,” it’s more opportunities to throw flags and hand out fines.)
3c. One of my favorite new traditions in the NFL is throwing a flag on Jason Witten for holding, then picking that flag back up. As I mentioned on last week’s 10 Things Podcast, Jason Witten is so respected that he gets to call his own fouls, pick-up basketball style.
So my one wish is that, at some point this season, Witten violates one of the league’s new anti-taunting mandates. The nearest official’s head might literally explode.
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4a. Did you hear? Tom Brady returns from his unexplained absence this week. I haven’t seen any reporting on why he didn’t play Weeks 1 through 4. He probably just needed some time to find himself.
I kid. I know Brady was suspended for four games because there’s a chance he was generally aware that someone considered thinking about letting a slight bit of air out of a football. So now the narrative that has taken hold is that, on Sunday, this will be an angry Tom Brady. Mad! HE’S SO VERY MAD this Tom Brady! As The Incredible Hulk might say…
Crap! Wrong clip. Here’s what I was going for…
So yes, angry, angry Tom Brady. And you know what that means… He’s going to play really well. Exactly like he played in 90% of his games over the past 15 seasons.
What exactly do we expect here? Is he going to play ironman football and give a Kuechly-like performance at middle linebacker as well? Is he going to throw a touchdown pass and then feast on the blood of an opposing defensive back? He’s going to make very good decisions, the proper pre-snap adjustments and post-snap reads, move defenders around with his eyes (not literally) and throw precise passes. Maybe I’m missing something here (I often am), but Angry Tom Brady is, y’know, just Tom Brady, right?
4b. Deflategate is over. The Patriots are 3-1, Brady is back, and it’s all part of the rich history of professional football. A very, very dumb part of that history.
However, I know there’s still a lot of pent-up anger out there in the six New England states. So here’s the deal, Patriots fans: Going forward, we’re going to deal with Deflategate Purge-style. Like the alternate, dystopian present depicted in the film series, we are going to allow one day a year—and only one day a year—for everyone to email us and tweet at us and post on our Facebook page about Ideal Gas Law and your neighbor’s kid’s science fair project and MIT’s John Leonard. And also, murder will be legal.
So every June 27th. That’s Deflategate Purge Day. Deflurge Day. Purgeflategate Day. Alright, I’ll stop.
4c. Nope, sorry, our in-house legal team says I don’t have the authority to legalize murder, even for just a 24-hour period. So just send the Deflategate stuff.
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5. An independent study funded by the San Diego Chargers shows that the team’s proposed “Convadium” will generate more than $2 billion and create up to 15,000 jobs for San Diego.
In unrelated news, an independent study funded by me reveals that I am the funniest and handsomest sports writer in America.
When you attach the word “independent” to one of these studies when it is clearly—by the very definition of the word—not independent, it’s such a bright and garish warning sign. It’s fine for the Chargers to do their own studies and share the results. But don’t call it independent. Because it isn’t. Perhaps Measure C will be the first taxpayer-funded stadium deal to end up being a positive for the home city. But if history is any indication…
The people of San Diego might simply want a shiny new football stadium and want to ensure the Chargers will be part of their community for the foreseeable future. It’s fine to want those things. But you can’t, based on virtually every publicly financed stadium deal ever, expect anything else along with it. And if Measure C is voted down and the Chargers and the NFL really want to stay in San Diego, they can pony up. And if they really don’t want to, they can go to L.A. and be the Rams Junior.
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6a. One quick on-the-field note on the Chargers: Anyone who wants Mike McCoy out is a crazy person or an AFC West rival. The Chargers play hard and they have a well-designed offense. They just don’t have very much talent, in part because of subpar drafts, but mostly because of an absurd run of injuries. Blown leads are frustrating. But if McCoy is let go, chances are that the Chargers won’t have many leads to protect next season.
6b. One other quick NFL note: I was stunned by Carolina’s decision to release Bene’ Benwikere. He’s not an outside corner, but he’s solid enough inside as a No. 3 or 4 guy. And even with the slow start coming off a leg injury this summer, he was probably the second-best corner on Carolina’s roster.
I will not make a habit out of second guessing Dave Gettleman, but if you’re going to cut every defensive back on your roster who can’t cover Julio Jones…
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7. Sheesh, Chad Kelly. ICYMI: On Friday, the Ole Miss QB, nephew of Jim Kelly and potential 2017 first-round pick ran onto the field during a scuffle at his brother’s high school game and was eventually shown being (lightly) restrained as he was pushed back to the sideline.
It’s more of a red flag because of Kelly’s troubled past, which included being dismissed from Clemson in April 2014 for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Obviously, this provides even more reason for teams to scrutinize Kelly’s past during the eternal pre-draft process.
Though I wonder if Kelly will benefit from increased tolerance in light of Dak Prescott’s performance after his stumble last draft season.
The specific circumstances are obviously different, and Prescott, unlike Kelly, entered the draft process with a pristine reputation. But Prescott went from a darkhorse Round 1 candidate to the end of Round 4 after being arrested for DUI in March. (Two months after the draft, he was found not guilty on all charges due to invalid breathalyzer results.) Because of the CEO role a quarterback has, teams surely passed on Prescott. After a month of solid work as the Cowboys’ starter, I’m sure there are a handful of teams who wish they had spent a second- or third-rounder on the QB.
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8. I always found a specific role of an NFL water boy (attendant?) absurd: Why do players need someone to squirt the water into their mouths? Doesn’t every able-bodied human on the planet find drinking a beverage themselves to be easier than having someone feed it to them mama bird-style?
But, after watching Joel Embiid on the sideline of his NBA preseason debut, maybe I have to rethink that:
Water Bottle 1— CSN Philly (@CSNPhilly) October 7, 2016
Embiid 0 https://t.co/IffEPzfc5A
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9. This edition of The MMQB Read of the Week: The perennially underrated Andrew Brandt on the real reasons behind the NFL’s ratings dip (and why ultimately, it really doesn’t matter).
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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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