‘Ready to Be a 49er?’ Inside San Francisco’s Draft Room
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — “Let’s duck in here a minute and talk,” rookie San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch said to coach Kyle Shanahan and chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe in the team’s John McVay Draft Room here, motioning to his office across the hall 23 minutes before the start of the 2017 NFL draft.
Three men, one plan. As they walked into the room and Lynch shut his door, this is what they knew: Cleveland, picking first, was not trading, and was likely but not certain to take pass-rusher Myles Garrett over quarterback Mitchell Trubisky … San Francisco, picking second, had three men clearly atop its board: Garrett one, Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas two and, in a surprise, Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster three … Chicago, picking third, badly wanted someone. The Bears and Niners had an understanding that if Chicago’s man was still on the board after Cleveland picked (Chicago GM Ryan Pace wouldn’t tell Lynch who Player X was; the Niners figured it was Thomas), the Bears would give at least two third-round picks to move from three to two.
No nerves, but no pleasantries either. Marathe, who talks very fast and with great confidence, called another team with interest in the second slot and said, “We got some good action on the pick.” Marathe talked to the club official (he would not disclose the official, or the team) for maybe a minute, just to crystallize that if Garrett was there at two, the Niners would either pick or take a ransom for the pick.
“See if we can get one last thing with Chicago,” Lynch said to Marathe.
Marathe called the Bears. “To try to solidify this now,” Marathe said to Pace, “we’re gonna need a little bit more to finish. It wouldn’t have to be much. Like, your four. So let’s say your third, 67 overall, this year, your three next year, and your four this year, 111 overall … I’m not gonna string you along … No … I will do it quickly. Let me get with John and Kyle and I’ll call you right back.”
The Bears agreed. They’d give two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder to move up one spot.
“Man, who do they want?” Lynch said. “Gotta be Solomon, right?”
“Call me crazy,” Marathe said. “But I think it’s Trubisky.”
“Then why’d they go get [free-agent quarterback Mike] Glennon?” Lynch said.
They debated, and made sure that if they couldn’t find a trading partner to move down from three, they were comfortable taking Foster—with a questionable shoulder and a positive combine test for a diluted drug sample—with the third overall pick, if the Bears took Solomon. But they wanted to try to move down as far as No. 8 because they felt Foster had no chance of being selected before Cincinnati at No. 9.
Four minutes passed. “Don’t lose Chicago, Paraag,” Lynch said.
Marathe got the Bears on the phone. “Cleveland needs not to do something crazy,” Marathe said to Pace. “Other than that we’re good to go if you are—67, 111 and next year’s three, 2018. Shoot, is next year 2018? Time flies. We’re close to a handshake, right?”
“Hey,” Marathe said, “can you tell me who you’re taking? I’m so curious.”
Off the phone, Marathe said to Lynch and Shanahan: “He [Pace] said, ‘I think you guys are going to be comfortable with what we do.’ So I don’t know what that is.”
Eight minutes until the draft went live in Philadelphia. The Niners were fairly sure Garrett would go number one. Now they’d made a verbal deal with Pace for the number two pick. They felt good. They felt mystified. They weren’t sure who the second pick would be. They weren’t sure if they’d be able to deal the third pick down for more picks to replenish one of the least talented rosters in the NFL. After four months of studying a vital draft, the GM and coach who’d been paid millions with twin (and unheard of) six-year contracts truly didn’t know if they’d have Thomas, or Foster, or a bevy of draft picks and neither, or a bevy of draft picks and one or both, by the end of the evening.
“Got a Keurig in here, John?” Shanahan said. “I need some coffee.”
* * *
In the 24/7/365 media crushing of the NFL, somehow the significance of this San Francisco draft was, if anything, being underplayed last week. Think of the historic similarities to the only great era in Niners history.
In the spring of 1979, the 49ers were coming off a 2-14 season, with a new coach/GM, without a quarterback of the future, and with a 30-something owner. Entering the draft last week, the 49ers were coming off a 2-14 season, with a new coach and GM, without a quarterback of the future, and with a 30-something owner.
When I pitched the inside story about the new 49ers regime’s first draft to Lynch at the NFL owners meetings in March, I explained the similarities between Bill Walsh’s start 38 years ago and the new start now. “You just gave me goose bumps,” Lynch said. And so this story was born.
There was one major difference. In 1979, the Niners were a year removed from making one of the worst trades in NFL history: acquiring a broken-down O.J. Simpson from Buffalo for five draft choices, including the first overall pick in the 1979 draft. Simpson had 108 rushing yards in his first Niners home game, and never had another impactful game in his last 21 for San Francisco. But that trade actually was to the Niners’ advantage, as it turned out. When Eddie DeBartolo cleaned house after the ’78 season, he hired Bill Walsh as coach and architect—and the lack of a number one pick forced Walsh to dig deep to find his quarterback. He got Joe Montana at the end of the third round. In the next two decades, the 49ers won five Super Bowls. It left much for the new Niners to live up to.
That’s part of the reason why Lynch woke up at 3:30 a.m. on draft morning. His mentor and friend John Elway had told Lynch to pace himself—that nothing of importance happens on draft morning or afternoon. Lynch told his scouts to come in at 1 p.m. PT, with the draft scheduled to begin at 5:10 p.m. But Lynch was a kid on Christmas dying to open the new Xbox under the tree. He got up and watched tape of some second-round prospects in his hotel room two miles from his office next to Levi’s Stadium. He did a workout, then jogged to his office. While he ran, he sought a break.
Before Lynch went to bed the previous night, Elway called to alert him that he’d heard reliably that the Browns really might take Trubisky, not Garrett. Someone else told Lynch on Wednesday night that Cleveland coaches would be stunned if the pick was anyone but Garrett. Whom to believe?
But Thursday morning, Lynch got another call. And now he thought strongly that the Cleveland the pick would be Garrett. And so he ran the flat San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail on a warm morning, passing Silicon Valley joggers and bicyclists in anonymity. “To be honest,” he said, taking a slow pace, “we’ve been anticipating they’d take Myles the entire time. It wasn’t until the last couple days, really yesterday, that I got a heads up they really may be going Trubisky. Then it kept mounting. I think in retrospect they tried with Myles for a while to get someone to move up to their pick, and it didn’t work. So they said, 24 to 48 hours out, let’s put out the word on Trubisky. Probably not a bad play on their part.”
This was a morning to strategize about the 34th pick in the draft—San Francisco’s second-round choice. In Shanahan’s first-floor office, with the practice fields outside his window (at one point, in an early phase of the off-season strength and conditioning program, a group of players including quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley stretched out on the field), he and Lynch studied candidates; Marathe and vice president of player personnel Adam Peters filtered in and out, in between projects and calls. (One of Peters’ projects, a late-rising prospect, would get intense by Saturday’s third day of the draft.)
Wisconsin pass-rusher T.J. Watt was of particular interest, though there was a good chance he’d be gone by the end of round one.
Lynch said: ”Let's throw up T.J. real quick and start watching him. Let's see how passionate we get. I know what I think. Contagious competitiveness. Football passion.”
They watched Watt slice and dice through offensive lines. Lynch loved him. It was clear he could be a candidate through a trade late in round one, or at 34.
But the talk kept coming back to Foster, if indeed he would be the pick at number three. Marathe was talking theoretically to his agent about some contract concessions to address Foster’s off-field concerns, and the agent was amenable. The 49ers were going to be comfortable picking Foster third overall if they couldn’t move, even though they knew they’d be subject to criticism for taking him too early if it happened.
At one point discussion turned to the rest of the first round. Peters heard reliably that Kansas City, picking 27th, was moving way up to Tennessee at five. Presumably for a quarterback. “I hear it’s for a one, two, four and next year’s one,” Shanahan said. “They offered that to Tennessee.”
Said Shanahan: “The only other guy that I can think of that they would really need would be Leonard Fournette. Would that be possibly worth that?”
“Don’t think so,” Lynch said. “That doesn't fit Andy [Reid]'s style, I don't think, a big back.”
The video of Watt, up on the big screen in Shanahan’s office, was paused now. “Look, if we can get one good player today, whoever it is and wherever it is in the first round, we've gained a third-round pick, worst-case scenario, and a third for next year, worst-case scenario. And now we are sitting in there later tonight, and I think we have a bunch of offers for that 34th pick and hopefully one of those offers is a later second-round pick, another third-round pick or whatever the hell it is … and now we've got enough that we can move back up in the second if there is a guy we absolutely want. There's plenty of guys in the third and fourth. I want to have four guys that can really help us early.”
Marathe asked: “What if Foster falls, free falls, and he's sitting there at 25?”
“To me, that's easy,” said Shanahan. “Get him.”
“He's not getting past Cincy [with the ninth pick in the first round], though,” Lynch said.
“I think he is getting past Cincy,” Shanahan said. “I don't think he's getting past [Ravens GM] Ozzie [Newsome at 16].”
Really interesting part of the pre-draft hours that would surprise most people: These guys have the second pick in the draft. They’re in the belly of the beast. And they truly don’t know what’s going to happen.
* * *
At 4:57 p.m. Pacific Time, Lynch and his coach walked back into the draft room. There were 31 people in the place. Across the main side of the table: Marathe, CEO Jed York, Shanahan, Lynch, Peters, senior personnel executive and former Lions GM Martin Mayhew (Lynch’s sounding board) and co-chair John York. Scouts and medical personnel ringed the table; Jed York’s son Jaxon, 4, came in and out. In the back were a collection of minority owners and a few fans who paid handsomely to the team’s foundation ($30,000 in one case) to silently observe the proceedings. “A couple ground rules,” said Lynch. “My first time doing it. But let’s have a business atmosphere in here. If you have a phone in here, and you’re on it, it’s got to be for work purpose. This is a serious day for our organization … We’re gonna get after this thing. But let’s have some fun.”
The draft began. Garrett to the Browns. The trade with the Bears went through. No drama in the draft room. The TV seemed happier. “The 49ers picked up all that draft capital—phenomenal!” Mike Mayock said on NFL Network. Then the waiting, and Marathe made a round of phone calls between four and 14. Six teams said no. No trade-down.
5:21 PT. Lynch: “TRUBISKY!”
Marathe: “I TOLD YOU!”
That was a shock. Now the room went from possibly/probably reaching for Foster to picking Thomas. At 5:29, after waiting for an offer that never came, Lynch picked up the landline on the table in front of him and dialed Thomas’s cell. Bizarrely, as Jenny Vrentas of the The MMQB reported, Lynch and Thomas had taken a management class together when Lynch returned to Stanford to get his degree in 2014. Thomas was a freshman. So Lynch said when the phone was answered, “Solomon! It’s me! … John Lynch! You want to be a 49er?”
Shanahan got on the phone next. “I told you it’d all work out,” Shanahan said.
Then York. “Congratulations, man … Call me Jed!”
Then a text from Elway to Lynch: “Nice going!”
Lynch, to me: “Had Solomon been gone, we’d have gone Reuben. And been happy.”
6:18 PT. Lynch: “Kansas City took Pat Mahomes!”
6:28 PT. Lynch: “Man, I’d love to go up and get that corner, [Marshon] Lattimore.”
Now the draft was at 12 overall. And Marathe or Mayhew or Peters or Lynch called or took calls from every team between 12 and 26. Foster, Foster, Foster. Nothing worked. For instance, Marathe on with Tampa Bay, preparing to pick 19th, at 7:14 PT:
“Hey it’s Paraag. You are? … Anything? … Okay.”
Marathe off phone. “Standing pat.”
Foster still there. Miami, 22, standing pat. Giants, 23, keeping. Raiders, 24, staying.
Seattle GM John Schneider (26) called.
Marathe: “John, we got a nice juicy fourth pick in the fourth round, 111 overall, for you to move … Yeah, I know, but we like 67 [the third-round pick] too.”
Schneider would think about it.
“He’s got to pee,” Marathe said. “He’ll call back.”
Fifteen minutes passed. Marathe called Schneider back. “Still in?”
Lynch: “Ask him how the pee was.”
Shanahan: “Long one.”
No deal. A few more calls. Some confusion with Schneider about the trade chart. Schneider traded down from 26 to 29, and then from 29 to 31.
Roger Goodell on the TV: “With the 30th pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select … T.J. Watt, linebacker, Wisconsin.”
Foster is still there.
8:23 PT. Marathe called Schneider. “DUDE!” Marathe said, then looked pained. “HE PUT ME ON HOLD!” … Schneider came back on the line. Marathe said, “You’re on the clock, you know … CALL ME BACK.”
The room could feel it. A gift from the gods. Whether they’re worried about his shoulder or his smoking or his lifestyle, Reuben Foster, the third player on the board, the player Shanahan called “my favorite player in this draft,” sits there.
8:24 PT. No call back. “I don’t think it’s happening,” Marathe announced.
8:25 PT. Lynch called Schneider, who said he’s thinking about it.
No reason not to do it, according to the draft trade chart most teams use. Each pick in the draft is assigned a value. You total the picks on either side of the trade, and if they’re close to equal, the deal is usually agreed on both sides to be fair. This had to work. The 31st pick has a value of 600 points. San Francisco’s two picks—34 and 111—totaled 632.
A minute or so later, with 80 seconds left in the 10-minute period to take a first-round pick, Schneider told Marathe, “Okay, we’ll do it. We got a deal.”
Marathe pumped his fist gently. “He’s in!” Marathe said to the room. But it wasn’t over. Now each team had to verbally tell the league the terms of the trade, and the league then had to put San Francisco on the clock before the Niners could turn in this card:
The room was buzzing, and excited. Getting louder. “GOT HIM!” someone yelled.
“Not yet!” Marathe said pointedly. “Don’t celebrate yet. Let’s wait ’til we get confirmation from the NFL!”
Lynch picked up the phone, and one of all-time weirdest conversations in draft history happened next.
“REUBEN!” Lynch said into the phone. “John Lynch with the 49ers! Ready to be a 49er?”
8:28 PT. I looked up. Nineteen seconds left on the clock in this period. If the clock went to :00, the next team would be able to pick a player. The next team was New Orleans. New Orleans loved Foster. New Orleans was the team that worried the Niners most. “We got it!” Marathe said. “Turn in the card!”
The room erupted.
“HOW ’BOUT THAT S---!” someone screamed. Fans hugged in the back of the room. Eighty-three bro hugs in the front of the room. Shrieks.
Lynch on the phone, trying to be heard by Foster.
Foster was following the draft on TV. And five minutes earlier, he’d gotten a call from Saints coach Sean Payton. “It got down to the point where he was like, ‘I'm going to pick you,’” Foster told me. “But he said, ‘I got a question. What’s your girlfriend’s first name?’ I said, ‘Alissa.’ He said, ‘Is she next to you? Give her the phone.’
“I was like, okay, I gave her the phone. You know, you don't want to argue with no head coach. You respect them! So I gave her the phone and I was just nervous and scared just thinking about what they were talking about. But all he was saying was, Is she gonna be that guidance and that person and make sure I don't get in no trouble. This I heard after the fact.
“So my girlfriend holds the phone out to me. Call waiting. I look at the screen. San Jose California. 408 number.
“It was San Fran. It was the GM, and I was like, ‘Hey coach.’ And he was like, ‘Hey Reuben, we're going to pick you. And I’m watching on TV, and it hasn’t changed over yet, and I was like, ‘It's too late man, you're the 34th pick, New Orleans is right around the corner and they are about to come get me.’”
Lynch finally got through to him, and explained it exactly, and the excitement in the room didn’t die down for the two minutes it took for Foster to understand he was a 49er.
Linebackers coach Johnny Holland, the former Packer, couldn’t believe what happened. “I thought he’d be a top five pick. He’s one of the best three, four linebackers to come out of college football in the last 10 years.”
“It’s the pick we had no business getting!” Jed York said, 20 minutes later.
On TV, Mayock said: “This kid’s got tape like Kuechly.” On TV, someone else worried about how long Foster’s surgically repaired shoulder would hold out. Earlier, the Niners said their doctors passed Foster and thought his shoulder was okay.
Lynch hollered to his chief medical officer, Jeff Ferguson: “You guys worried about his shoulder?”
“What shoulder!” Ferguson yelled back.
Having a cocktail 90 minutes later, Marathe still looked shaken. And thrilled.
“That’s the most electric day I’ve had in 17 years working for this organization,” Marathe said. “It’s definitely my most exciting day here.”
One round in a seven-round draft was over.
Would anyone here have the energy for the remaining six?
* * *
Friday. Rounds two and three. Niners with the 66th and 67th overall picks, both early in the third round. Shanahan liked a bunch of players, including corner Ahkello Witherspoon from Colorado and Ohio defensive end Tarell Basham. But there was no second-round pick, and lots of action on the two third-round picks. The Saints badly wanted Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara, and Lynch wondered if the Saints would part with next year’s second-round pick and a low pick this year for number 67. Lynch called the Saints, got a six this year and two next year, and in his chair, Shanahan wasn’t pleased about missing out on a good player this year. But he understood. “We’re not one or two players away,” Shanahan said. “This is about building a program.” They chose Witherspoon, a versatile but not particularly physical corner whose best asset might be his height: 6'2¾". Three picks, three defensive players.
The room was calm. After the pick, the football staff went down to the cafeteria to eat dinner. Marathe still seemed ebullient from the night before. He joked about doing deals with Eagles executive VP Howie Roseman, who is notoriously tough in his trade requests in the GM community. Marathe caught immense crap from the public and the media in recent years as part of the York team, even though he had precious little to do except negotiate contracts with coaches Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. Now, in a day and a half of this draft, the tide has turned. He’s a peer of Lynch. “I love him,” Lynch said. “He’s quick, and he’s smart.” Figures. Marathe was a salutatorian when he graduated from Cal-Berkeley. “I grew up loving sports,” said Marathe. “That’s why a day like yesterday was so thrilling to me. You’re a part of a team, and you feel like you contributed to the team. I love that.”
Back into the draft room, the team re-examined the wide HD draft board that covered the front wall. Basham went to the Colts at 80. There wasn’t a player they had to have, but they’d picked up an extra seventh-round pick in an earlier deal, and someone suggested moving from early in the fourth round to late in the third, five spots up, to snare the only quarterback Shanahan wanted in this draft: Iowa’s C.J. Beathard. “We’d all sleep a little better if we got him instead of waiting ’til tomorrow,” York said.
So they dealt for the 104th pick to choose Beathard, the grandson of former Super Bowl GM Bobby Beathard. “He processes the game so well,” Shanahan said. “Tough as s---. Got a chance. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins.”
Of course, there is an almost mythological quality to this trade. Think of it. In 1979, Bill Walsh, with only veteran journeyman Steve DeBerg to give him a chance to win that season, waited until the end of round three to take a lightly regarded Midwestern quarterback, Joe Montana. In 2017, John Lynch, with only veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer to give him a chance to win this season, waited until the end of round three to take a lightly regarded Midwestern quarterback, C.J. Beathard.
“Oh my God,” Beathard said upon learning his link to Montana. “That is crazy. Wow. Joe Montana. Wow.”
Indeed. So now, with the evening over, there was a solitary figure staring at the draft board. It was a little like the stare of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Shanahan was trying to figure out, with both high fourth-round picks now traded, what he could do to get the one player he wanted above all others, now that the Niners would not be scheduled to choose until the 36th pick of round four on Saturday morning.
“Joe Williams,” said Shanahan, in his laconic, unemotional voice. “Running back, Utah.”
I looked at San Francisco’s running back stack. I looked a second time.
No Joe Williams. He was off the 49ers’ draft board. Yet, for the head coach, if there was one must-get player on the last day of the draft, it was the troubled Williams.
“He had some issues in college,” Shanahan said. “Quit on his team.”
Now Saturday was going to be interesting, if only to find out the fate of Williams.
Shanahan: “I’m telling you right now: If we don’t get him, I’ll be sick. I will be contemplating Joe Williams all night.”
* * *
Can you ever say, unless you’re a scout or a GM or a coach or Mayock or Kiper, that the third day of the draft is really interesting?
“I had a really hard time sleeping the night before,” said Lynch, “and let me tell you, I was exhausted.”
Lynch made a point of telling everyone at the draft, and the scouts and coaches, of his vision statement for the organization. Not only would players have to fit athletically and in the scheme, but they’d need six more traits, spelled out on the laminated sheet around the facility on draft weekend:
• Football passion—do they love it?
• Contagious competitiveness
• Dependability—“protect the team”
• Mental toughness
• Football IQ
• Accountability to other players and themselves
“Joe Williams was a tough one for me,” Lynch said. “He was off my board. So when I got in the building Saturday morning, I had to call him.”
The Williams thumbnail: Kicked off UConn’s team in 2013 for stealing a teammate’s credit card and using it … enrolled in a tiny Brooklyn college trying to get his football career back … enrolled at Utah in 2015 … Quit Utah’s team in September 2016, telling head coach Kyle Whittingham he couldn’t deal with the mental pressure he was going through … Returned to the team at the coaches’ request a month later when three backs got injured … After a month away from any physical activity, he ran for 179 yards against Oregon State, and then, in his second game, he set the Rose Bowl stadium record for a college running back, rushing for 332 yards and four touchdowns in a Utah win over UCLA.
“It was dead,” Lynch said. “No chance. I wasn’t interested. But I knew how Kyle [Shanahan] felt, so I figured I should at least talk to [Williams]. When I got in, I called him. When I got him on the phone, I said to him, ‘Joe, to be honest, I was done with you.’”
And they talked. Lynch was stunned by Williams’ forthright admissions. Lynch found out what he believed to be the root of the problems: In 2007, when Williams was 13, his sister died of a heart ailment, and Joe Williams felt the burden was with him, because on the night she died, he was with her and fell asleep when she fell gravely ill. He was destroyed, distraught, and ignored his pain, and as he discovered later, the bottling up of his pain caused extreme distress. He was diagnosed with manic depression. He told Whittingham he would do himself more harm than good by staying on the team, and Whittingham understood. The team understood. After a long time on the phone, Lynch had a radical change of mind.
“Screw it,” he said to himself Saturday morning. “I’m going to try to jump up and get this guy.”
Early in the fourth round, Lynch, responding to the agita of his head coach, traded up 22 spots to pick a player not on his draft board.
In a remarkable interview after the pick, Williams was emotional nearly to the point of tears. “I really wanted to play in the NFL someday,” Williams said, “but I understood the dream was over. I had to get my life in order. My mental health was far more important. I was going to do more damage by playing than walking away. I saw a psychiatrist who helped me get my life, not my football, on track. I didn’t do anything in that month away—no conditioning, no weights, nothing. Then they called me to come back, and I felt like I was ready.”
But how does one walk back onto the field, after doing nothing for a month, and, in successive games, gain 179, 332, 172, 181, 149, 97 and 222 yards in his last seven games?
“Sheer willpower,” Williams said. “I was running the ball for my sister, I was catching the ball for my sister.”
The laminated 49er ethos sheet didn’t account for Joe Williams. Lynch won’t know for years, most likely, if he made the right call on Williams or any of these players.
“What do you think Bill Walsh would say about your draft?” I wondered.
“I think he’d be incredibly proud,” Lynch said. “But the one thing I’ve learned through this process is there’s no perfect player.”
* * *
The one thing I learned through this process, through my 11th time inside a team’s draft room: There isn’t one way to do this. A year ago, after watching the Cowboys’ draft, I remember a morose Jerry Jones being angry at himself for not being to pull off a trade so Dallas could pick quarterback Paxton Lynch. And then Dallas was foiled at a shot to get its next-best choice for a rookie quarterback—Connor Cook. The Cowboys settled for Dak Prescott.
Draft grades are crazy. Judge Tom Brady at 199. Judge Ryan Leaf at two. In this draft, one team, the Bears, likely stood between John Lynch picking Reuben Foster at three, or picking him at 31. Maybe Reuben Foster will be Ray Lewis. But based on first-round history, there’s a 50 percent chance he’ll be a bust.
On Thursday night, the Niners’ brass had a few post-draft cocktails and dinner, and Shanahan just shook his head at the happenstance of it all. “For us, tonight, it all worked out perfect,” he said. “But this is such an inexact science. How do we know how it’ll turn out? No one knows. Part of it’s luck. It’s a crazy profession. It just takes one team to throw everything off. Reuben Foster’s one of the top five players in the draft. But that’s how we saw it. If other people saw it that way, he wouldn’t have been there at 31.”
The moral of this year’s draft-embedding? If Lynch drew a hard line about his 49er ethos, maybe Foster and Williams aren’t Niners today. If Jed York hired a hard-liner instead of a GM willing to open his mind about guys like Foster and Williams, the story’s different. And certainly not as good, or compelling. It’s doubtful the first draft of John Lynch will be as historic as Bill Walsh’s first one. But there is no way Walsh’s was this dramatic.
* * *
The Bears Did Nothing Wrong
When new Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was introduced to the crowd at the Celtics-Bulls game Friday night in Chicago, fans booed. It was probably due to the impression from fans that the Bears overpaid to move up from the third pick in the draft to the second to get Trubisky in a trade with San Francisco. I disagree with the anger over the deal.
The last time a team traded up from three to two in the first round to get a quarterback happened in 1998, when San Diego moved up one spot and ended up drafting Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf. Let’s compare the compensation paid for two quarterbacks picked in the same spot 19 years apart.
• What the Bears paid to move from three to two for Trubisky: third- and fourth-round picks this year, and a 2018 fourth-round pick.
• What the Chargers paid to move from three to two for Leaf: a second-round pick in 1998, a first-round pick in 1999, returner/receiver Eric Metcalf and linebacker Patrick Sapp.
NFL teams use a device during the draft (referenced above in my lead on the Niners) called the draft-trade value chart, which assigns points to every pick in the draft. So when teams start to talk trade, they can use some sort of universal trade language to calculate the fairness of the compensation. Let’s calculate how much San Diego GM Bobby Beathard paid to move up to get Leaf, and how much Bears GM Ryan Pace paid to move up for Trubisky, using an estimate of the 16th pick in the fourth round to calculate the value of the 2018 pick for this year’s calculus.
• Points Beathard paid to get in position to draft Leaf: 1,980.
• Points Pace paid to get in position to draft Trubisky: 580.
I know how this looked Thursday night: The Bears waaaay overpaid for Trubisky, when they could have just sat at three and drafted him. That’s possible, and in fact it’s more likely than not. But as someone who was with San Francisco GM John Lynch for much of the day, and in a planning meeting with cap guy Paraag Marathe and coach Kyle Shanahan 25 minutes before the draft began, and in the 49ers’ draft room that evening, I can tell you that is a false assumption. Ask me my gut feeling, and it is that yes, the Bears would have gotten Trubisky at three without moving. But it was not at all certain. What if the scenario happened that, as of Thursday, was legitimately possible—what if the Browns packed up enough picks to make the Niners move from two to 12? The 49ers had been in touch with Cleveland before the draft, and were anticipating they could get a call from the Browns when they were on the clock at two with Trubisky available. There was also a mystery team that I could not identify that wanted to move to two and wouldn’t say which player the team was targeting.
Understand this also: The Niners were not stuck on drafting Solomon Thomas had they stayed at two. It certainly was most likely, but they would have been fine with moving back for a ransom, or moving back as far as eight and taking Reuben Foster for less of a ransom.
So let’s say you’re Pace, and you’ve determined that you really want Trubisky. You call the 49ers and trying to work out fair compensation if the Browns do not pick him at one. You think Trubisky’s going to be the long-term Bears quarterback, starting in 2018 or later. By late Thursday afternoon, you think there’s probably an 80 percent chance you’re going to get Trubisky at three. Are you willing to take the chance of staying put? Or, for the cost of the 67th and 111th picks this year and a third-rounder next year, are you willing to guarantee you’ll get Trubisky if Cleveland passes on him?
The market for quarterbacks is always weird. In 2004 the Giants had the fourth overall pick and dealt it to San Diego for the first overall pick, so New York could snare Eli Manning. The Giants gave up future first-, third- and fifth-round picks to make the swap. That’s a lot. But is it really? Manning has helped deliver two Super Bowl titles to the Giants in 13 seasons, and he’s been an ironman. This year’s market was filled with flawed passers who were lusted after nonetheless. Really, the NFL has two drafts—a regular draft, and a draft for quarterbacks. Three teams moved up a total of 31 draft slots this year to get quarterbacks in the first round. The Bears, Chiefs and Texans paid a total of two 2018 first-round picks and a third- in ’18, plus two thirds and a fourth this year to move up for Trubisky, Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, respectively.
For quarterbacks, NFL history says you pay Four Seasons prices. That’s why I can’t fault Pace for what he did. He wasn’t willing to risk losing the guy he loved.
* * *
Quotes of the Week
“If I were in journalism school right now, I’d be seriously shaken by this. I would ask any kid majoring in journalism now: What’s your minor?”
—Ed Werder, the outstanding NFL reporter, to me, in the wake of getting laid off by ESPN while on assignment (an assignment he did not complete) in New Orleans covering the draft. He was one of an estimated 100 ESPN employees who got the ax not because of performance but because of economics, a seismic shift in the sports journalism community from the most solid rock of sports media. That quote will be part of my piece on the painful week of Werder, which you’ll read Tuesday at The MMQB.
“Ain’t nothing gonna top Marshawn Lynch coming back home! Beast Mode’s in Oaktown!”
—Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie, to me, when, after discussing the controversial first-round pick of Gareon Conley by the Raiders, I asked about the trade for the formerly retired running back and Oakland native, Marshawn Lynch.
“We want him to play football. We don’t want him to do our taxes.”
—Giants GM Jerry Reese, asked about second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson from Alabama. Tomlinson is seeking a degree in financial planning.
“How ’bout them Cowboys?! I want to thank the Eagle fans for allowing me to have a career in the NFL. Thank you. I am honored as an undrafted free agent to be selected to make the Cowboys' second-round draft pick, and on behalf of the five-time world champion Dallas Cowboys, Hall of Fame owner Jerry Jones! … Gene Jones and the Jones family, coach Jason Garrett and ALL THE COWBOYS PLAYERS WHO PLAYED BEFORE ME! … And played with me and played after me! … With the 60th pick in the second round the Dallas Cowboys select defensive back from Colorado Chidobe Awuzie!!!”
—Former Dallas wide receiver Drew Pearson, who drove the crowd crazy in Philadelphia with a massive trolling of the Eagles while introducing the second-round pick for Dallas.
“Let’s talk about what we smell at the quarterback position.”
—James Palmer, NFL Network reporter, in a network draft preview Thursday.
“What a scene. That was really awesome.”
—Rich Eisen of NFL Network, Friday, on the truly amazing scene that was the NFL draft in Philadelphia, with the brunt of the estimated 100,000 doing the “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!!” chant.
“You’re talking about a guy that broke [Pro Football Hall of Fame RB] Marshall Faulk's record. Lightning feet. Great feet and great hands. And don't let the size fool you: This guy, he's a little dog that thinks he's a big dog, and he plays that way.”
—Philadelphia VP of player personnel Joe Douglas, on 5'9", 180-pound running back Donnel Pumphrey of San Diego, drafted 132nd overall by the Eagles.
* * *
The Award Section
OFFENSIVE PICKS OF THE WEEK
Forrest Lamp (second round, 38th overall) and Dan Feeney (third round, 71st overall), guards, L.A. Chargers. GM Tom Telesco knew he had a major weakness in his offensive line, and I’ll be surprised if both of these men are not starting by midseason.
DEFENSIVE PICKS OF THE WEEK
Jamal Adams (first round, sixth overall) and Marcus Maye (second round, 39th overall), safeties, New York Jets. When head coach Todd Bowles was Arizona’s defensive coordinator in 2014, his linebacker corps got decimated by injuries and suspensions, and he experimented with putting a couple of his physical safeties in the box at linebacker. It worked well—very well, in fact, and Bowles kept doing the versatile game-planning even when he had a full complement of linebackers. Adams weighs about 214, Maye about 212, and you can be sure Bowles will help his linebackers with the use of these guys on certain downs. They’re both very good tacklers. The hybrid way is how the Jets will play in 2017.
SPECIAL TEAMS PICK OF THE WEEK
Ryan Switzer (fourth round, 133rd overall), wide receiver/returner/special-teamer, Dallas. Seven career punt returns for touchdown at North Carolina, and a ruthless and instinctive competitor. Watch some Steve Tasker tape, Ryan. That’s your best NFL model.
GM OF THE WEEK
John Lynch, San Francisco. Running his first draft room, piloting a front office for the first time, Lynch did more than he hoped he’d be able to do—and that would have been the case considering the first round only. He got the second guy on his board (Solomon Thomas) with the third overall pick, engineering a good trade for the Niners in the process, and drafted the third guy on his board (Reuben Foster) with the 31st pick, nudging out the Saints at 32 in the process.
TRADE OF THE DRAFT
Brandin Cooks from New Orleans to New England for the 32nd overall pick. Cooks is 23, has averaged 72 catches a year in his first three NFL seasons, plays tougher than he looks, and will play for the next two years for a total of $10 million. What’s not to like? And if you’re the Saints, you feel you’ve gotten in Ryan Ramczyk a guy who’s likely going to be a starting tackle for you soon—maybe this year—and it’s unlikely they’d have signed Cooks long-term after 2018. So from each team’s perspective, it’s a good deal.
LESSON OF THE DRAFT
Sitting with Kyle Shanahan a few times over the weekend, I learned a few things. Mostly this: The world’s not the same as it used to be, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
We talked about the Niners’ late-first-round pick Reuben Foster late Thursday night. Foster was a pretty big red-flag guy entering the draft, with the confrontation at the combine that got him sent home, the shoulder that might require more surgery, the diluted positive drug test, the weird Alabama-then-Auburn-then-back-to-Alabama recruiting process in high school that resulted in him getting death threats.
Shanahan’s take, not in his words but paraphrased: Here’s a guy who was shot by his father when he was 16 months old, who didn’t have a home in high school, who just found places to stay at night, who had death threats against him after his college process, and now, he’s got his life together enough to be great at football, he’s a great teammate, he lights up the room when he walks in …
Now Shanahan’s words: “I’d say it’s a pretty great accomplishment with what he’s been through to have gotten to this point. You and I didn’t grow up like he did—not even close. I love the guy. He’s going to be a really good player for us and a good teammate for our team.”
* * *
Stat of the Week
“In the Super Bowl,” Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula wondered the other night, “how many passes do you think Tom Brady threw to his backs? Mostly completed, right?”
Nineteen passes attempted to James White and Dion Lewis. Fifteen completed.
“So maybe sometimes it turns into just a four-yard gain. But I’ll take a four-yard gain,” Shula said.
In the draft, the Panthers did a couple of things to help Cam Newton, who completed just 44 passes to his backs last year while crashing to a 52.9 percent accuracy rate, a stunning 7 points lower than 2015. Carolina drafted Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel, a couple of versatile backs/slots/receivers with 206 career receptions and 804 career rushes in college. McCaffrey will play running back, slot receiver and wideout (less) and help in the return game. Samuel could become the next Percy Harvin, with jet sweeps and pitches and some field-stretching on the outside. They are potentially going to overhaul how Shula calls his offense, and give Newton some easy completions. “They’re glorified runs sometimes, but they work and it doesn’t matter what you call them,” Shula said.
The combined stat line for McCaffrey and Samuel from a total of six college seasons:
Total touches: 1,010
Yards per touch: 7.59
I spoke with Shula after the McCaffrey choice Thursday night and before Samuel was picked in round two. The Samuel pick was an exclamation point on my theory to Shula. Two picks in the top 40, to resuscitate Cam Newton. That’s how I see it. Not 19 targets to his backs per game, certainly, but five or six easy completions in an offense that has been predominantly deep strike.
“I think Christian’s going to help Cam,” Shula said. “In fact, I know he’s going to help Cam. Giving him those guaranteed completions—well, high-percentage completions—you hit it right on the head. With what we’ll be asking Cam, he can get the ball out quicker now.”
It’ll be interesting, too, to see how the Panthers’ return game (2016: 7.0 yards per punt returns, 22.4 yards per kick returns, both mediocre) is impacted. The early guess is McCaffrey could handle punts and Samuel kickoffs.
“We’ll have to see about Christian’s touches,” Shula said. “But if he gets 20 per game, and it’s just too early to know, whatever, however you do it could be different each week.”
Shula made an interesting point about McCaffrey: He values him as an inside runner, which isn’t something you heard a lot about in the run-up to the draft. “The one thing with his size that I think people underestimated with him was his ability to break tackles, especially break tackles with his legs,” Shula said. “He’s definitely underrated as an inside runner, and some of those runs we saw at Stanford are part of core run-game calls. You see him lined up all over the place, but he’s not just a guy you try to put in different spots to confuse the defense.”
It’s hard not to like what the Panthers did for their offense, and to make their quarterback more efficient, in this draft.
* * *
Factoids That May Interest Only Me
Interesting Draft Factoid About Georgia Universities Dept.:
Drafted players from some places in the Peach State that may surprise you:
University of West Georgia: 2
University of Georgia: 1
Georgia Tech: 1
When former Pitt running back James Conner reports to his new team, the Steelers, he’ll have a short trip. It is 15 steps from the front door of the Pitt football facility to the front door of the Steelers facility. They are connected on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
There were trades involving 11 slots in a 13-pick span in the low-first, high-second round area, and I’m convinced that has to be a record. Some of that was due to the fact that teams can now trade compensatory picks; 20 of those picks were involved in trades. But I think overall the record number of trades (38) happened because teams have a cadre of young draft/cap managers (I saw it in Paraag Marathe in San Francisco) who flip picks so fast and figure the real value of picks quickly and efficiently—and most teams have trade managers who are similarly versed in the well-worn NFL draft-trade value chart.
In April, Eric Thames of the Brewers had more home runs against the Reds (eight) than Giancarlo Stanton or Nelson Cruz or Anthony Rizzo or Yoenis Cespedes had home runs.
* * *
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
News of the Marshawn Lynch trade from Seattle to Oakland broke around 4 a.m. Pacific Time. As I drove away from the San Jose airport Wednesday afternoon at 1:54 p.m. PT, I had to pull over to the side of US 101 North to take a picture when I saw this billboard.
What a world. Less than 10 hours after the deal gets done and is out in the public eye, the locals see a welcome-home billboard.
* * *
Tweets of the Week
What is the purpose of grading a draft class hours after that draft is over???— Justin Tuck (@JustinTuck) April 30, 2017
Clicks, my man. Clicks.
How in demand has NFL draft become? 16 cities have sent representatives to site survey Philly with hope that they can host future drafts.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 27, 2017
First 3 rounds are for the decision makers. Rounds 4 thru 7 is all about the scouts!— Greg Gabriel (@greggabe) April 29, 2017
Lol maan i came here to walk my mom an dad down the red carpet, hear my name called and get my hat. They aint gettin rid of me that easy https://t.co/gCGr1zsWpL— Kevin King (@King_kevvoo) April 28, 2017
The Washington cornerback stayed in Philadelphia after going undrafted Thursday night. King got his draft thrill early Friday, being picked first in the second round by Green Bay.
If I have to hear Fly Eagles Fly again, I'm gonna vomit!— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) April 29, 2017
The Eagles’ theme song got quite a major three-day run at the draft.
I hope @88DrewPearson gets some endorsement $$ for yesterday's performance. Will help make up for $150 bonus I gave him as an UDFA in 1973.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 29, 2017
* * *
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week: Mike Mayock on all things draft.
• Mayock, a college safety at Boston College, on his draft day—April 29, 1981, when he was chosen in the 10th round, by the Steelers, 265th overall, just 257 picks after a slightly more famous defensive back in the draft, Ronnie Lott: "I was the captain of the Boston College baseball team, and we had games on both days. And back in those days the draft was Tuesday and Wednesday, carried by ESPN, and it was six rounds each day. We played a home game on Tuesday, and I was hoping to go on Tuesday. I remember being out there, I played first base and centerfield, and I think I was first base that day. I want to say we were playing UConn but I'm not sure. This was way before cell phones, and my roommates were waiting in the room to see if I got picked. And if I got picked, they were going to sprint down to the field screaming and yelling. And I kept looking toward the hillside apartments, hoping to see my roommates. And no roommates! So I got several phone calls that night saying, ‘Hey we might pick you tomorrow morning, be ready.’ And so I had an away game Wednesday at Harvard, and we had to leave on the bus at a certain time, and I called the coach and asked him if I could drive myself to the game as long as I got there by a certain time, just so I could hang in there in case I got the phone call. So I am sitting there in my baseball uniform waiting until the last minute to drive this borrowed car I have to Harvard. I'm waiting and I'm waiting and they are in the 10th round and I'm just so upset. I can't even tell you how upset I was. I thought I was going to get drafted higher, and I hadn’t been drafted at all. They're in the 10th round and I have to leave for Harvard. I'm already pushing it to get there, and I'm at the elevator in the fifth floor of our building, and I hear this, ‘Mike, Mike, Mike, you got picked by the Steelers, oh my God!’ And I'm like, ‘That ain't funny. You guys aren't right. That's BS!’ I'm screaming at my roommates because I think they are messing with me, and they weren't. So I go back in and sure enough it is the Pittsburgh Steelers on the phone.
“My roommates doused me in champagne in my baseball uniform, and I got in the car and drove to Harvard and went four for five. I was in a different world. I think I stole a couple bases, hit a home run, I drag-bunted. I was just beside myself that day.”
* * *
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick notes of analysis from draft weekend:
a. The Raiders better be right on Gareon Conley.
b. I dare say Chad Kelly is probably the most talented Mr. Irrelevant of all time.
c. Football is a funny game: A long-snapper, Colin Holba, was drafted in the sixth round by Pittsburgh, ahead of quarterbacks Brad Kaaya and Chad Kelly—ahead of 40 other players, actually.
d. In the second half of the first round, the pass-rusher’s name I heard the most while researching my mock draft was Charles Harris. Miami made a good call at 22, and the Dolphins are fortunate to get him there.
e. Thought the Bengals did really well, but I will echo what one coach told me about Joe Mixon: You better have a plan for him in place the minute he walks into the building—and it better be a plan not just for one year but for each year he plays for you.
f. Great Mixonian idea from a veteran scout: “I’d hire Ray Rice as a consultant if I were the Bengals and let him mentor Mixon.”
g. The Panthers are going to be great fun to watch.
h. Favorite draft celebrity picker: The team of two (of eight) Philip Rivers children, announcing safety Rayshawn Jenkins in the fourth round in Carson, Calif., the new temp home of the Chargers.
i. Favorite scene: The Cardinals’ pick from the Grand Canyon, a really touching moment, with running back David Johnson with the wife and son of slain Arizona police officer and Cardinals fan David Glasser.
j. Did okay, not great, on the mock draft: six direct hits (Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Pat Mahomes, Deshaun Watson) and 29 of my 32 first-round players were drafted somewhere in the first round (missed on Adoree Jackson, Evan Engram, Taco Charlton).
2. I think it’s easy to take potshots at owners for making changes, and now Terry and Kim Pegula, who bought the Bills 30 months ago, will be hiring the second GM of their tenure to go along with three head coaches in that short time. The fired Doug Whaley, history will show, likely overspent trading up for first-round wideout Sammy Watkins in 2014, and picked wrong with quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first round in 2013. So no one’s saying Whaley got jobbed. But I’ll keep coming back to the point I make about franchises that make changes regularly: Show me one with nine coaches in 17 years, a succession of would-be franchise architects, and no steady, winning quarterback, and I’ll show you a team that never wins. So I understand dumping Whaley. But nothing is going to change in Buffalo without two things: continuity, and a quarterback the franchise commits to.
3. I think I must ask (and I am not the first): Is it really necessary for Roger Goodell to announce all the picks on day one, and a host of them on day two, while boos rain down on him like a summer storm in a rainforest? I bring you two sub-quotes of the week, from day two, when you think the crowd might have gotten the booing out of its system after doing it 32 times on Thursday. The first, when Goodell went onstage with Ron Jaworski to kick off day two, and he could barely be heard over the booing in Philadelphia: “JUST ONE SECOND! And you can resume your booing.” And then this, every time he returned Friday: “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Wouldn’t it be better, say, if he kicked off the draft with either military folks with him (perhaps just after the national anthem) or with some legendary players on stage from the city hosting the draft? And then, in each city, a local legend (Ron Jaworski in Philadelphia, for example) announces the first-round picks, with Goodell off to the side, welcoming and bro-hugging the players but not getting showered with disdain … and then the league continues the tradition of various announcers for the rest of the draft. It’s getting distracting, trying to hear Goodell over the rancor. It’s almost to the point that the booers seem to be trying to out-do themselves. It can’t be good for the league, or the 32 owners, to see that, year after year.
4. I think the league, despite its protestations to the contrary, has to get serious about allowing the use of marijuana for pain management. Because it’s going to be used anyway.
5. I think the most stunning non-draft news of the week, to me, was the Vikings prepping to say goodbye to Teddy Bridgewater after the 2017 season, reportedly leaning toward not exercising his fifth-year option. Just think where we were nine months ago. Bridgewater was the centerpiece of the franchise, the 10-year cornerstone. Then, just before the season started, he took one awkward step on the practice field and blew out his knee and did significant damage, and there reportedly hasn’t been enough recuperation, and here we are. Amazing and sad at the same time.
6. I think you’ll enjoy this Instagram series by our Kalyn Kahler, from three days in Philadelphia: Humans of the NFL Draft. Kahler found players, cops, fans and people who made the scene so interesting. My favorite was Adoree’ Jackson, the 18th overall pick by the Titans. “For my relaxing time I watch the Food Network. I’m into the competition shows so I like ‘Cutthroat Kitchen,’ ‘Chopped,’ ‘Iron Chef,’ ‘The Gauntlet.’ I watch ‘Beat Bobby Flay’ a lot. I try to cook myself, but I just don’t like washing dishes. I like making fried rice, with everything. I make combination fried rice because you can put it away and heat it up and it never gets old. I just like those competitive shows because they are making something out of nothing. They give you three ingredients and they say make this. To see people transform it, you got people from different areas and fields and it’s amazing. People always outdo themselves and what they think they can do, just being adaptable. I couldn’t do it in 30 minutes. I would need the ‘Cupcake Wars’ time, like two hours. I know a little bit, but I don’t know the right terminology, the right spices, or to put in a reduction.”
7. I think a really smart story in the run-up to the draft was this one by Conor Orr of NFL Media, about the cloak-and-dagger business of finding out real information when scouts are on college campuses. Orr got scouts past and present to reveal some secrets about how they get information. And this about why college programs are so cryptic with the NFL. “Recruiting,” former Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel told Orr. “In today's world, they gotta try and protect their players. If word gets out that they're saying negative things about their players—and trust me, a lot of them do—they have to be discreet about it. And that goes back to relationships. You have to have the right relationships.” Worth your time.
8. I think Philadelphia performed like it should host the 2018 draft too. The NFL has an option for second year in Philly, and will strongly consider it after the city’s outstanding performance. But I also think Dallas is still the favorite to host in 2018. Sentimentally, I’d love to see Canton get the 2020 draft, on the 100th anniversary of the birth year of the league. The Pro Football Hall of Fame city is in the running, but I don’t sense it’s in the driver’s seat.
9. I think this is my American Landscape observation about the changing face of the NFL through one prism of the draft: comparing names of players 50 years ago to today. See how the country, and the league, has changed, and see how parents have expanded the horizon in names. These are the first names of players drafted in the second round in 1967 versus the names of players drafted in the second round of 2017:
1967: Bo, Bob, Jim, Bob, Leo, Tom, Willie, Lem, Don, Bob, Rich, Spain, Tom, Ron, Dave, Jim, Bob, John, Rick, Larry, Jim, Bob, Roy, Willie, Jim, John, Dave.
2017: Kevin, Cam, Malik, Budda, Zay, Forrest, Marcus, Curtis, Dalvin, Marcus, Sidney, Gerald, Adam, Quincy, Tyus, Joe, Ryan, Justin, Demarcus, DeShone, Teez, Raekwon, Dalvin, Obi, Zach, Ethan, Tanoh, Chidobe, Josh, Juju, Dion, Taylor.
In 1967, number of Bob/Jim/Tom/Johns: 13 (48.1 percent of the round).
In 2017, number of Bob/Jim/Tom/Johns: 0 (0.0 percent of the round).
There were five Zay/Dalvin/Teez/Tanohs in 2017, zero in 1967.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Column of the Week, by Paola Boivin, who is leaving the Arizona Republic to teach full-time at Arizona State.
b. Journalism is a noble profession, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. No matter how big a job that certain someone has on this planet.
c. I’m so glad that when the name “LaVar Ball” surfaces in some story or in some headline, I immediately move to the next story. It’s a point of pride, really.
d. Judging from the headlines, though, LaVar Ball does seem to be on a cold streak.
e. I was a paying a little bit of attention to the NBA when the Celts went down 2-0 at home to the Bulls, and not much after that because of the nuttiness of the draft for a week or so. And I look up Sunday and there they are, beating Washington in the first game of the next series. Boston picked a nice time to go on a five-game winning streak.
f. Of course, the 11th-place Montclair Pedroias did not draft Anthony (10 RBI) Rendon in their fantasy draft in March. Or, for that matter, any other players worth a crap.
g. Coffeenerdness: illy espesso, at the Detroit Metro Airport, is a must-stop when I’m going through. It’s a simpler menu with excellent espresso.
h. Beernerdness: It is a national sensation, Allagash White (Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine). How do I know? After the first day of the draft, in a restaurant/club area of Levi’s Stadium, I was shocked to see it on the menu, and of course I took advantage of this little lost beer 3,000 miles from home.
* * *
The Adieu Haiku
Be careful, John Lynch.
It’s only downhill from here.
• Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.