Buffalo hasn’t fielded a playoff team in 17 years, and its new brain trust of Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane has a plan to get back. Plus the perfect fit for Kaepernick, Blandino Pt. 2 and more

By Peter King
May 15, 2017

Since the 2000 season, which started the Buffalo Bills’ current 17-season playoff drought, eight coaches and six general managers have failed to make the franchise great again. Sean McDermott will be the ninth coach to try. Brandon Beane will be the seventh GM/personnel czar to try. On Friday, via conference call from Buffalo, the new brain trust of the Bills—so ordained by owners Terry and Kim Pegula this offseason—addressed the drought, their relationship, the Patriots, their growth in Carolina and how their similar backgrounds led them to this day.

We’ll share that conversation in a moment, and later in the column we’ll tackle the huge challenge ahead for the NFL’s new officiating leader, remember a two-way pro football legend and reveal the perfect team fit for Colin Kaepernick. But first, the Bills...

MMQB: How did you two meet?

McDermott: We met one of my first days down in Carolina in 2011, and then I started to better understand his background in the league, similar to mine—starting off at one of the lower levels of the organization. I started off as an intern in several departments and worked my way up. It wasn’t always fun or glamorous, but I developed a solid background.

Beane: I had mad respect for him from afar when he was coaching in Philadelphia, and so, you always have your pictures of who these people are, and when Sean came into the building, he was so humble and hardworking. I researched him and just it’s amazing how mirrored our backgrounds were to get to the positions that we are in today. We had great conversations. I would go back into his office and he had the depth chart of the defense up. We would talk about the strengths of the defense, the weaknesses. Sometimes he’d tell me stuff that I didn’t know. Hey, this player, he’s a pain in the butt in the meeting room.

New Bills coach Sean McDermott (right) used this book to help recruit Brandon Beane to become the team’s general manager.
Getty Images (2) || Multnomah

McDermott: I just was reminded of something. I knew after our first interview here it was going to take some effort to convince him to leave Carolina—he’s lived there his whole life, and his wife’s from there. I took a picture of a book that I am currently reading. It’s called “Chase the Lion,” and the subtitle is, “If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small.” And I took a picture of it and I sent it to Brandon, and that was kind of my recruiting approach to convince him that this is a chance for him and his career and what he and his family have sacrificed over the years.

Beane: When I got it, I was lying in bed, watching TV with my wife. I was like, This is so Sean.

McDermott: It was a recruiting ploy.

Beane: When I saw that picture, I laughed, but there is a lot of truth behind that. It did help. There were a lot of reasons to go back for that second interview,Sean and I am so glad I did. I’m excited to get going with you [talking to McDermott].

McDermott: It’s a little bit surreal. I’m sitting here across from Brandon, and honestly, when I left Carolina, I thought, This might be the last time we ever work together.

• 24 HOURS ... WITH JOHN LYNCH: Peter King goes behind the scenes with the Niners rookie general manager on draft day

MMQB: Describe a time you worked together, the way you’ll have to here, to change the Carolina defensive roster.

McDermott: Whether it was a corner or a safety or whatever position, as a defensive coordinator, I tried to look at the defense like I was the head coach of the defense, and thankfully [coach] Ron Rivera gave me that space to do that. As coaches sometimes, we forget that we have to deal with the money part of decisions at times. So Brandon had a good way of saying, Look, there are some other things at play once in a while that we just need to keep in mind.

Beane: Sometimes we might talk down in the weight room, or on a jog. It would be an education for us both. Sometimes I would try to ease his mind, like, We realize we are weak at corner, and we have something in play, I can't give you a firm answer on what it is going to be, but we agree with you and are working to get it better.

MMQB: Is Buffalo’s quarterback of the future on the roster now?

McDermott: He is, in Tyrod Taylor. And then when you look at the competition we have behind him. We’ve drafted Nathan Peterman, we’ve added T.J. Yates, and then Cardale Jones in the draft a year ago. I’m not sure there is a team out there that has the depth that we do at the quarterback position. So we feel good about that. We’re anxious to see how Tyrod develops in his third year as a starter in a new system, a system that he has some familiarity with in terms of [new Buffalo offensive coordinator] Rick Dennison’s system in Baltimore a few years back with Gary Kubiak.

Beane: We have open competition everywhere. Obviously it is a quarterback league, but with Tyrod … He has some tools, his speed, he is tough to game-plan for. He has some strengths and he is still a young starter in this league. It is going to be a competition for every position, to let them fight it out and earn the right to start on this team.

McDermott: I think that’s the key. Going back to your question, Can we guarantee he is on our roster right now? That remains to be seen and that is true at a lot of positions on our roster.

Tyrod Taylor is 15-14 over the past two seasons as the Bills starting quarterback.
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

MMQB: Why should a beleaguered Bills fan believe in you both?

McDermott: We have to earn everything we are about to do here. That is no different than what Brandon and I have done over the course of our careers. That same approach is what we are going to ask of this football team and these players and the staff, to earn every minute of success that we are fortunate enough to get. There are a lot of good teams out there and a lot of good coaches, New England being one of them, with Bill Belichick. We have nothing but respect for them and how they do things.

Beane: We have to keep the same mindset we’ve had our whole career. Keep our head down, work on ourselves, learn our strengths, learn our weaknesses, and then obviously know our division. And then one of the first things you want to do for success is win your division. We feel bad for the city of Buffalo. These fans have had to endure a 17-year deal, but we’re focused on being part of the solution with the whole organization to get it right.

MMQB: You know the NFL—this might be your only shot at being a head coach, Sean, and the same for you as GM, Brandon. It’s sort of serendipitous, the coach-GM pairings in this league sometimes. How do you feel about being tied at the hip?

Beane: That was part of the attraction of the job. There were a lot of attractions, but I don’t have to get to know the guy I am going to be working side by side with personally, away from the office. I already know that. I have that box checked. I know that this guy is going to have my back, and he knows I am going to have his back. And that’s a huge thing in this business. We know how important it is to trust each other. It’s so funny when people ask, Who’s got control? Who has the 53-man roster? Honestly, we don’t care about it. We are going to make decisions together and we are going to talk about everything that affects the roster, the staff, and that is what’s exciting. You don’t get that everywhere. You read about dysfunction in various organizations, and that is part of the reason I am here. I did not want to leave Carolina for something I was unsure of. This seemed like as sure a thing as there can be in the NFL, to partner up with Sean.

McDermott: Sometimes you get a chance and you have to take it. I wanted him to know that there is a soft landing on this side because of his familiarity with me. If we are tied at the hip, there is no one I would rather be tied at the hip with than Brandon.

At the end of our conversation, Beane wanted to be sure he credited the man he felt did the most for him to get to this point—former Carolina GM Marty Hurney. It’s a story lots of new college graduates this spring should hear.

Beane: I did a training camp internship [in media relations] in 1998 with the Panthers. It was a four-week deal. Towards the end of my internship I had spoken to people in football and said, My passion would be on the football side, football ops and scouting, and if anything comes open, let me know. I got a call from [media relations official] Bruce Speight saying they have an opening for the season, a football ops intern. I said, ‘I’m in.’ He said he didn’t know what it pays. And I said, ‘I don’t care.’ So I worked that year as a minimum-wage intern. My wife was teaching for about $22,000 a year. I think she looked at me sideways that I was going to go do this for intern pay, but it was for the love of the game. Marty was there that year, and he hired me full time in ’99. I was a sponge to him and I never wanted to let him down, and the more I was around him, I just grew. Every year he gave me more rope, and more things to do. He taught me the cap. We did CBA stuff. He let me do behind-the-scenes scouting, watching tape, whether it was college or pro or free agents and just be another sounding board with him along the way. I wouldn’t be here without him.

• IT CAN’T JUST BE ABOUT LUCK: How new Colts GM Chris Ballard is approaching roster building. Plus, notes on Carolina’s new-look offense

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The New Blandino

Alberto Riveron is a career ref who’s worked NFL sidelines, which will give him a different perspective from the man he replaces as NFL vice president of officiating.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The NFL on Wednesday named Alberto Riveron, Dean Blandino’s former top lieutenant, to succeed Blandino as senior vice president of officiating, and it buttressed the officiating department with two stalwarts to work with Riveron inside the league’s command center as it transitions to deciding replay reviews in the league office: longtime head linesman Wayne Mackie and replay-booth veteran Russell Yurk. Riveron, aided by Mackie and Yurk during games, will oversee the replay process and make the final calls with input from the ref and replay official at the game sites.

Riveron has worked the replay center with Blandino for all three years that the league has had New York consult with refs and replay officials during games. But he hasn’t been in the big chair. He hasn’t gotten the avalanche of criticism when a play is missed on the field, or a replay decision gets criticized by the public and the media.

When Riveron, born in Cuba, became the league’s first-ever Hispanic referee in 2008, there was attention paid to him. But there was not a white-hot spotlight. There will be one now. I maintain that from Labor Day through the first week of February, the officiating czar becomes the league’s second-most-important employee, behind Roger Goodell. He’s certainly the most visible employee other than Goodell. Blandino was on TV explaining calls, on Twitter explaining calls, on the phone to teams and coaches explaining calls. He never satisfied everyone, but he did lend a sense of authority to the proceedings.

“Are you ready for the intense scrutiny, and the media part of the job?” I asked Riveron on Friday.

“I look forward to it,” Riveron said from his office on Park Avenue. “I embrace it. The way I see it, as long as the message stays consistent, we’ll be doing our jobs. There are going to be times when I have to come out and say, ‘We could have done better.’ Hopefully they’re few and far between … But I have seen the heat. I have felt the heat many times on the field. I am ready for it.”

Owners and the football establishment were comfortable with Blandino—as they were with former officiating head Mike Pereira—because they had confidence that both men could stand up when the sky was falling about some call and take whatever guff was coming. They’d explain the call calmly and clearly and let the outside mayhem happen. The man between them, Carl Johnson, wasn’t as smooth. So the pressure will be on Riveron not only to make the right calls but to make them sound good too.

But if the league wasn’t confident Riveron could handle the media side of it, he wouldn’t have gotten this gig. We’ll see how he handles it.

Riveron doesn’t believe the process is going to change much, which leads him to think the shift away from Blandino isn’t a revolution. “The process the last three years has been the same: Dean and I put on a headset, have a conversation with a ref and the replay official, and come to an agreement. The only thing that has changed in the process is the final decision will be made in New York City and not on the field. The rules have not changed. The equipment—we’ll still have the quote-unquote hood … only instead of the referees going to the sideline under the hood, they’ll have a tablet handed to them on the sideline. They will still have the ability to look at a play. I always want that ref … I want him to be able to explain why we got to where we did. When he gets to the sidelines and explains to the coach, I want him to understand exactly why the call is being made, so he can explain it.”

He kept coming back to that in our conversation. “The process has not changed,” he repeated. “Dean and I had the same say-so when we had the headsets on. Now we have two additional officials in the room [Mackie and Yurk], and they’ll be on the same page as I am.”

Riveron is a career official. Blandino was the outlier—a head of officiating who’d never been an official. “I bring almost 40 years of officiating experience to the job,” Riveron said. “I think that’s extremely important.”

But Blandino never had that. And Riveron sounded like he still marveled at Blandino’s ability to do the job without ever being on the field.

“Dean is just that crazy guy,” said Riveron. “I honestly don’t know how he did it. No other human being who hasn’t been in stripes [in an official’s uniform] has ever been able to do what he did.”

Strange as it is, Blandino’s going to be the standard for Riveron to measure up.

• LAST CHANCE FOR A BIG RUN: Andy Benoit on why New Orleans is the perfect spot for Adrian Peterson’s next—and final?—chapter

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RIP Yale Lary

Former Lions punter-defensive back Yale Lary was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, 15 years after his playing career ended.
AP File

Hall of Fame safety Yale Lary died Friday at 86 in his home state of Texas. Though he’d retired by the time I was getting into football, I thought that was one of the coolest names. Yale Lary. Turns out he was the fifth defensive back ever elected to the Hall of Fame (in 1979), and one of the most versatile players ever to play (nine times in the Pro Bowl as a safety and punter); he led the NFL in punting in 1959, 1961 and 1963. And, like Ted Williams, he had his career interrupted to serve two prime years, at age 23 and 24, in the Army during the Korean War.

Ageless Tennessee defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau started his NFL cornerback career with the Lions in 1959, playing next to Lary right away—“He was right safety, I was right corner,” LeBeau recalls—and I asked him Saturday: Why was Yale Lary significant?

“Excellent player, smart player, never out of position, great teammate, great diagnostician of the game, incredibly welcoming to a new player like me, took a hiatus to serve his country in the prime of his career … and probably the best punter I have ever seen, and I’ve seen them all. That’s such a credit to him. In those days, the rosters were 31, 33 players, and you really couldn’t be a specialist; you had to be versatile. He was such a cool guy. In those days, we were in the Western Conference, and we’d go on the road and play Los Angeles and San Francisco back-to-back every year. We’d stay in Palo Alto and practice during the week. So one day after practice, we walk out of the locker room, and there’s some young kids riding around campus there on quarterhorses. Riding bareback. Yale asks one of the young gals, ‘Pardon me, ma’am. But do you mind if I take your horse for a ride?’ He gets on that horse, bareback, and right away, Yale was flying! Looked like he and the horse had been together forever! He comes back after a while, gets off the horse so easy, and says, ‘Thank you, ma’am.’

“I was a big sports fan growing up in Ohio, and by the time I got to Detroit, they’d already won three titles in the ’50s, and I was in awe walking in there. But from the first day, he’d give me pointers—we played right next to each other. And there were so many little things he taught me. In those days the grass fields would be mostly dirt or mud late in the year because there wasn’t any growing season then. So on a wet field, you’d always get your cleats clogged up with mud. Once, we were playing at Tiger Stadium—I think against the Bears—and during a timeout, Yale put his arm on my shoulder to steady himself and reached into the area around his belt, and he pulled out a tongue depressor and cleaned his cleats. Got all the mud out. I looked at him. It was pretty smart. He looked at me, smiled, and crossed his fingers, like, Experience. So for the rest of my career, on a muddy day, I always put a tongue depressor in my pants.

“Yale meant a lot to me. He meant a lot to that team.”

• PETER KING'S MAILBAG: Why the NFL’s brutal past could cost the league its future

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Quotes of the Week

The Falcons rookies hit the field with head coach Dan Quinn last week in Flowery Branch, Ga.
David Goldman/AP

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“Eat a crap sandwich with a smile.”

—Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, on one of his credos for the 2017 Falcons.

Per Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Quinn wore wristbands saying “Embrace The Suck” to work last week, to remind him, his staff and his player about the grind of the long preseason and season.

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San Francisco GM John Lynch, during the draft: “Don’t go far.”

San Francisco chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe: “Restroom.”

Lynch: “Hold it.”

—From the tension-filled first round of the NFL draft, in my story “24 Hours … With John Lynch.”

The third in The MMQB’s “24 Hours” series takes you into the life of 49ers GM Lynch on the first day he ever ran an draft.

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“Having been cut five times in the NFL from teams, I think what goes into it is a great amount of respect I have for all the players that are on the field. When I’ve been the head coach, I’ve said every year … I understand the politics and the financial stuff that goes into it, but as a coach you stand up in front of a team and you tell them, just like I told these guys, I really don’t care how you got here. I really don’t. I don’t care if you’ve been drafted, I don’t care if you’re a tryout person or if you’re a signed free agent. Everyone in this room has an opportunity to make a first impression, to go out there and do something to maybe create another opportunity.”

—Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone, after his first practice day with his team Saturday.

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“I’m just happy to be here … I’ll hit the ground running and do whatever I can to help the team … You’ve got to prove yourself every year. Every year, it starts over. You have to go in and try to prove yourself every day and every year … We just want to be the best team that we can be … I’m happy to be over here, learning from the coaches.”

—New Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, in a “news” conference in Foxboro last week.

Yep. He’s going to fit in just fine in Foxboro.

• GROWING OLD AFTER FOOTBALL: The cost of perfection was different for members of the Miami Dolphins’ 1972 undefeated team 

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Stat of the Week

The Titans drafted Jake Locker eighth overall in 2011 and he was out of the league after the 2014 season.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Quarterbacks went 2-10-12 (Mitchell Trubisky, Pat Mahomes, Deshaun Watson) in the 2017 draft. In the 2011 draft, quarterbacks went 8-10-12 (Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder).

If history repeats, the Bears and Chiefs and Texans will be sorry.

• Career record of Locker, Gabbert, Ponder: 32-66-1 (.328)
• Winning seasons posted by Locker, Gabbert, Ponder, combined: 1. (Minimum of eight starts)
• Playoff wins by Locker, Gabbert, Ponder, combined: 0.
• Combined career passer rating of Locker, Gabbert, Ponder: 74.8.

That combined 74.8 passer rating of Locker, Gabbert and Ponder, if compiled by one quarterback in a season, would have placed 32nd among NFL quarterbacks in 2013, 32nd in 2014, 33rd in 2015 and 29th in 2016.

• THE COMPLICATED DECLINE OF NICK BUONICONTI: As the ex-Dolphin’s mind and body succumb to the ravages of football, he and his loved ones are left angry, confused and grasping to understand

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Factoid That May Interest Only Me

Former NFL defensive lineman Stephen White, who went on an outstanding riff about Colin Kaepernick the other day (White thinks it ridiculous that Kaepernick has not been signed), is one of the most interesting and opinionated people on Twitter. He is @sgw94. (I’d have said “one of the most interesting and opinionated former football players,” but his Twitter feed goes beyond football to things like school lunches and all things Trump.)

White has averaged 3,116 tweets/retweets per month since joining Twitter in 2009.

Or about 102.2 tweets/retweets per day.

That is one prolific tweeter.

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Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note

The Packers are never far from the minds of Wisconsin sports fans, even at a Milwaukee Brewers game in May.
Peter King/The MMQB

Six notes from a quick little 29-hour getaway to Milwaukee to see two Red Sox-Brewers games last week with my friend Jack Bowers:

The Iron Horse Hotel, a nine-year-old former mattress factory in Milwaukee, is as charming an off-the-beaten-path hotel I’ve enjoyed in years. Charming little invention in a former industrial area of the city about three miles east of Miller Park.

• Thursday, 10:36 a.m., parking lot, Miller Park (before a 12:10 p.m. game): Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are tailgating. Beer mostly, but you’ve got your pick of the bourbon or vodka at one huge spread. Check out this cornhole game (photo above) between serious players.

• You’re going to want to visit the LOCAL BREWS area of the Miller Park, new this year on the mezzanine level. With two dozen Wisconsin craft beers and servers who know their beer and can give very smart advice, it’s a must-visit there. Plan on spending 40 minutes there, drinking one, sampling two, and taking a fourth away to your seat. You’ll be glad you did. My favorite: The Door County Cherry Wheat (Hinterland Brewing, Green Bay), fairly light and with a faint tart cherry taste.

• The baseball-times-they-have-a-changed. The Brewers’ starting nine Thursday afternoon hailed from (in batting order): the Dominican Republic, Florida, Venezuela, Ohio, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Venezuela, Venezuela and Oregon. (Jonathan Villar, Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, Travis Shaw, Domingo Santana, Jesus Aguilar, Manny Pina, Orlando Arcia, Jimmy Nelson.)

• Love little local baseball traditions, such as this one: At the end of the seventh inning stretch, after “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” the crowd is serenaded with “Beer Barrel Polka,” and two locals dance atop either dugout.

• Baseball is better in the sunshine, as we all know. Baseball in Milwaukee is four times better in the sunshine, with the roof open, as it was with a nip in the air but also with sunshine Thursday afternoon.

• HOW JIM KIICK FELL THROUGH THE CRACKS: Confusion and frustration as his family watches him fade and tries to find the right care

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Tweets of the Week

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Ten Things I Think I Think

The best fit for free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick? It might be his former division rivals, the Seahawks.
Otto Gruele Jr./Getty Images

1. I think these are my reasons why Colin Kaepernick should sign with Seattle:

a. The backups to Russell Wilson are Trevone Boykin (who has been arrested twice this offseason), Jake Heaps, Skyler Howard and Michael Birdsong.

b. If you’ve watched the Seattle offensive line, you know that backup quarterback is one of the 12 most important spots on the 2017 Seahawks. Wilson was a punching bag last year.

c. Coach Pete Carroll leads the sports universe in free spirits/distractions on the roster.

d. GM John Schneider is open-minded enough to bring in the best players he can find and figure if they fit. Kaepernick is a perfect test case for this approach.

e. Owner Paul Allen—unlike most arch-conservative NFL owners—is not going to forbid Schneider from signing a player who knelt for the national anthem last year, enraging some in football and some fans. He is more likely to ask this question: “Is having this guy on our bench worth the potential fan anger he might engender?”

f. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has taken an unconventional quarterback and reveled in coaching Russell Wilson. I don’t know if Kaepernick will be a good fit with Bevell. But it’s worth a look. Bevell and the coaches may determine that Kaepernick isn’t a good fit, either because he’d chafe at being a clear and decisive backup to Wilson or because they decide for whatever reason that he is not a fit. (With Seattle’s backup situation the way it is the latter would be hard to believe.). But it’s pretty hard to discover that without investigating, and without bringing in Kaepernick, or at least spending time talking to him.

g. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You employ Kaepernick for 16 weeks (the time between today and final cuts) and you get a free look at a quarterback whose tools are unique, has 75 NFL starts, and is only 29.

h. Did I mention Boykin, Heaps, Howard and Birdsong?

i. There is not a quarterback on the Seattle roster other than Wilson who has started an NFL game. Total completions by all other QBs on the roster: 13.

j. The city’s not going to rebel. I know Seattle enough to know that.

k. I will give you a few more reasons Tuesday, in a column here at The MMQB. But I spent time speaking with the New York City man who has spent the past five months getting Kaepernick’s body and mind prepared for his next NFL shot. If you read that column and don’t think that Kaepernick is worth at least a phone call or a visit to judge his fitness and readiness and eagerness to play, then we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. And I will have to question your openmindedness.

2. I think, regarding Kaepernick, there’s a time when you have to think for yourself, rather than engage in group-think. And for Seattle and Buffalo and Dallas and Indianapolis and the Chargers and the Rams, now’s that time.

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3. I think Jacksonville’s intent is to start Cam Robinson at left tackle, and good for them. Robinson’s started 43 games at the highest level of college football, at Alabama, and at 6'6" and 326, he’s got the size and savvy to get a legitimate chance to start opening day. Let him have the shot.

4. I think Tom Brady’s becoming quite a Dangerfield as he ages.

5. I think I love the Sidney Jones pick by the Eagles. Jones is the physical cover corner from Washington drafted by the Eagles with the 43rd overall pick (and the Eagle fans at the draft impressed me with their wild cheering for the pick) … despite tearing his Achilles at his pro day March 11. Such an injury is probably a six-month rehab and recovery, at least, meaning Jones might be able to play early in the season. The Eagles aren’t putting any pressure on Jones. But my view is even if he couldn’t play at all (or well) this year, this is a good value pick for the long term. Jones is only 20, and he would likely have gone between 10 and 17 in the first round had he not been hurt.

• SIDNEY JONES’S WAITING GAME: Greg Bishop on the Washington cornerback’s too-long draft experience

6. I think one of the most interesting storylines of the summer camp season is going to be at Bears camp—and not necessarily how quickly Mitchell Trubisky can start a game. (I expect Mike Glennon to get a fair shot at keeping the quarterback job for the year.) But it’s the Division II tight end, Adam Shaheen. He’s 6'6" and 277 pounds, and the book on him coming out of Ashland (Ohio) College was that he’s nimble. 

• TRUBISKY HAD NO IDEA THE BEARS WERE DRAFTING HIM: How Chicago relied on stealth to get its quarterback of the future

7. I think the vacated conviction of Aaron Hernandez is a gross miscarriage of justice. I don’t care if it follows existing Massachusetts law. The law is idiotic and should be changed. Yesterday.

8. I think the Daryl Washington cutting by the Cardinals can’t come as much of a surprise. As Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic aptly notes: “In seven seasons on the Cardinals roster, Washington played for 59 games. He was suspended for 52.” Especially after being rewarded with a huge contract and then being suspended for three-and-a-quarter years for substance abuse and domestic violence offenses, it would have been a surprise if Arizona kept a linebacker who at one time was on the verge of being a perennial Pro Bowler.

9. I think those who worked with her and those who competed against her all shared the same sorrow last week when longtime Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports editor Celeste Williams died of cancer at 65. There are pioneers whose careers in this business should be studied, and Williams’ career is certainly one of those.

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

a. Story of the Week, from Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post, on covering the James Comey firing by following the press secretary, apparently a reluctant press secretary, through bushes and a large hedge on the White House lawn.

b. So you wanted to be a political reporter.

c. The column from the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger is the best tribute to a mother I’ve read in a long time. Maybe ever. Wonderful job, Sam.

d. Column of the Week, from Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe. Cullen, who always writes the right thing, touches on injustice and happenstance and tragedy so fluidly and floridly.

e. Eight starts for Chris Sale this season for Boston. Strikeouts per game: 7, 10, 12, 13, 10, 11, 10, 12.

f. Happy graduation from Murray State to former NFL defensive end and one of the first player-columnists for The MMQB, Austen Lane.

g. Per longtime Chicago media columnist Robert Feder, I guess Steve Harvey is really a piece of work.

h. What an idea this is! I am going to copy and paste it, and it becomes my immediate ethos as a boss.

i. From now on, Kalyn Kahler and Mark Mravic and Matt Gagne and Gary Gramling, you are on notice!

j. Per Feder, the Harvey memo to his staff, in part: “Do not approach me while I’m in the makeup chair unless I ask to speak with you directly. Either knock or use the doorbell. I am seeking more free time for me throughout the day. Do not wait in any hallway to speak to me. I hate being ambushed. Please make an appointment. I promise you I will not entertain you in the hallway, and do not attempt to walk with me.”

k. I feel so liberated already.

l. Coffeenerdness: Colectivo Coffee, in Milwaukee, is excellent drip coffee, and some of the best hotel java I have had. Good and bold.

m. Beernerdness: Lakefront White (Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee) is the kind of easy-drinking and tasty Allagash-a-like (did you think I was going to pass on a good witbier in one of the great beer cities in the worlds?) that I really appreciated at the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee. Really nice beer.

n. Why does ABC World News Tonight (on Saturday) have stories from Chicago, Venezuela and Houston, and then show reporters out in the rain on the streets of New York City throwing the stories back to the desk? Weird. Trying too hard to appear “on the scene” hundreds of miles away from the scene.

o. It’s a treat to watch Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson play hockey.

p. Heck of a shot, John Wall.

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The Adieu Haiku

Kaepernick ignored.
Blaine Gabbert’s a Cardinal.
Don’t like it. One bit.

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