The Chiefs’ QB has been in this situation before. Plus, Belichick dishes on strategy, why the Rams shouldn’t expect much out of Tavon Austin: Deep Threat, and Devonta Freeman with an early entry for ‘Quote of the Offseason’
1. I think if there’s one starting quarterback in the NFL who can handle his team drafting his likely replacement in the first round, it’s Alex Smith. Here’s Smith on the Chiefs selecting Patrick Mahomes: “If you’re not good enough and didn’t get it done, you’re not going to be around long. That’s just our culture. I know it. That’s the nature of the position.” You’ll remember that Smith went through this song and dance in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick and ultimately found a better opportunity in Kansas City. Bottom line: He has to demonstrate an ability to go shot-for-shot with Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Derek Carr in his own conference, or step aside in favor of Mahomes’ upside.
2. I think Gisele Bündchen’s admission that husband Tom Brady had a concussion in 2016 (an injury that was never disclosed by the team) confirms what we all assume about the NFL’s recent efforts to independently and accurately diagnose and treat concussions: No apparatus will ever be 100% effective in discouraging teams and players from subverting player health in the name of competition, especially when it comes to quarterbacks.
3. I think there’s a certain irony in the revelation that heavy rainfalls in Southern California—desperately needed in the drought-plagued region—will delay until 2020 the opening of a new stadium for the Rams and Chargers, whose necessity to the region is a matter of some debate.
4. Bill Belichick rarely dishes on strategy, so when he does you must pay attention. I think his insights on staff structure and size will be a large, if largely unknown, facet of his legacy. “My philosophy, really, is that less is more, so I’d rather have fewer people doing more work than more people doing a little more work,” Belichick told Lacrosse legend Paul Rabil on the latter’s podcast. “As long as everybody is busy, as long as everybody feels productive, they feel good about what they’re doing and they feel like they’re contributing; I think when people have lag time and kind of not enough to do, that leads to getting distracted and complaining or being less productive. So even though you have more people, sometimes less work gets done.”
5. I think there are three players coming off of down years that I would re-sign immediately to long-term contracts before their deals expire after 2017. Wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins (Houston) and Allen Robinson (Jaguars) and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (Detroit) are stellar talents coming off less-than-stellar seasons. Unless these players’ camps are asking for record-breaking money at their respective positions, get them under contract ASAP.
6. I think Sean McVay is going to find out that Tavon Austin is best suited for the gadget receiver role he played under the old Rams regime, not the field-stretching, downfield role McVay envisions for the fifth-year receiver. As Numberfire.com notes, just 15 of Austin’s 181 career receptions have traveled more than 15 yards in the air. Even so, Austin struggled with drops in 2016 and too often catches passes in his chest rather than with his hands. Just a hunch: I don’t think L.A.’s deep threat of the McVay Era is on the roster yet.
7. I think when the 2017 season is over, we’ll look back on the draft and wonder how the heck O.J. Howard dropped to 19th overall. The Alabama tight end steps into a tremendous situation in Tampa, with a quarterback in Jameis Winston who excels throwing over the middle of the field (Winston connected with Cameron Brate for eight touchdowns last season). Bucs coach Dirk Koetter once envisioned a versatile Gronkowski-type of role when he inherited Austin Seferian-Jenkins in 2015, but he disappointed that year and the team cut him loose after a DUI last September. Howard is Koetter's hand-picked second try.
8. I think the players in the NFL who keep their informed cultural opinions and observations to themselves, sharing valuable insights off the record while toting the company line on the record, should take a look at this Q&A with Baltimore Orioles star Adam Jones, one of a few dozen black men in Major League Baseball. We need more empowering voices like that in sports.
9. I think I’ve found an early frontrunner for favorite quote of the offseason. Here’s Falcons running back Devonta Freeman on his plans to run nastier in 2017: “I just want to be real disrespectful this year when it comes to football.”
10. I hope readers will enjoy my census of an NFL locker room, taken late last season, to be published next month. As you watch political drama unfold in Washington this summer, chew on this: 77% percent of the 51 players surveyed did not vote in November, about 35 percentage points worse than eligible voters in the general population.
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