The latest from the Browns’ unusual offseason, FOX hits a home run with Blandino, Michael Bennett and Kirk Cousins show how you handle a (non) controversy, and a battle of the kicker battles
1. Remember when the Browns executed that NBA-style trade for Brock Osweiler, essentially a salary dump with the Texans, resulting in Cleveland picking up a draft pick? Well, after the reports from OTAs and minicamp, I think Osweiler has to be the leader in the clubhouse to be under center when they host the Steelers on Sept. 10. Osweiler has earned praise from his head coach and position coach (though it could be fluff to generate trade interest) and clearly has more experience and a bigger arm than the rest of the competition: Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and rookie DeShone Kizer. What team would trade for that $16 million contract? Why would the Browns cut him and take on $15 million in dead cap money? I agree with Robert Klemko that Osweiler should have stayed in Denver, but I also believe that he’s about to be a starter on his third team in three seasons.
2. I think Dean Blandino is going to be great for football viewers this season and beyond; it’s a home-run hire for FOX. Last week he gave us a taste of some of the behind-the-scenes work in the NFL, regarding the celebration rules and overtime, when he spoke with Colin Cowherd. The former officiating czar said he proposed doing away with overtime in the regular season and that the changes to the league’s stuffy celebration rules were about “trying to reach the millennial and this new age of fans.” Mike Pereira hasn’t been in the league office in nearly a decade and still drops new nuggets on TV, so just imagine what Blandino will have for us in the coming years.
3. I think New York Jets coach Todd Bowles better not be on the hot seat in 2017. The Jets have gutted their roster and are in a full rebuild. I’m reminded of the great Fran Fraschilla line from the 2014 NBA draft, when the Toronto Raptors selected Bruno Caboclo: “He’s two years away from being two years away.”
That’s what the Jets look like right now after dispatching veterans Eric Decker and David Harris and going into training camp with Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, who apparently really wants media members to be his receivers. If the Jets win four games this year, Bowles should be named Coach of the Year.
4. Skipping voluntary OTAs and golfing with President Trump are two actions that are seen as unpopular by a large portion of the public. Odell Beckham Jr. did the former and dealt with it in an odd way. Rory McIlroy did the latter and seemed to regret it later on.
That’s why I think pro athletes need to take their cues from Michael Bennett and Kirk Cousins, respectively, on how to handle such events. Bennett explained that he skipped OTAs to work on having a post-football identity.
Cousins let it be known that if any former presidents, Republican or Democrat, want to play a round they should give him a call.
5. The one non-quarterback position battle everyone will be watching this summer is Tampa Bay’s kicking situation. Heck, I even wrote about it before HBO could bring their cameras to the team facility. But I think an even better kicking competition this summer will be happening in Cincinnati, with a trio of kickers vying for one spot on the Bengals’ roster. The battle between veteran Randy Bullock, fifth-round rookie Jake Elliott and former Louisville kicker (and relative unknown) Jonathan Brown might not be settled until late August. The team site reported the three have kicked about 80 times in OTAs and minicamp and are all within a few percentage points of one another. The Bucs’ battle might have the glitz and glam, but Cincinnati has the substance.
6. I think we’ve seen the last of Vince Young as a professional football player. It’s a shame, because the former University of Texas great has been through a lot in his pro career and was willing to give Canada a shot when so many proud signal-callers refused. He tore his hamstring during a recent training camp practice and the Saskatchewan Roughriders released him Saturday. That’s a difficult blow to take when you’ve invested so much in a humbling comeback. Here’s hoping Young can find peace in a post-football life.
7a. I think Roger Goodell was being deliberately obtuse when he spoke about Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment last week. On Thursday in L.A., Goodell disputed whether Kaepernick is without a job due to his national anthem protest: “All teams want to get better” and “that if a football team feels that Colin Kaepernick, or any other player, is going to improve that team, they’re going to [sign him].”
To believe that, you must believe that Kaepernick is not only outside of the top-32 quarterbacks in the league, and not only outside of the top-64 quarterbacks in the league, but you must feel that Kaepernick isn’t one of the top 100 quarterbacks in the league to be without a job at a time when NFL rosters could not possibly be any larger.
7b. I very much enjoyed this piece from Dave Zirin of The Nation over the weekend. In calling out Goodell, Zirin used the words of the commissioner’s late father to show why someone like Kaepernick deserves to be heard in America.
8. I think it’s great that the Falcons held a retirement ceremony for Michael Vick last week, but I agree with Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz on why the Falcons shouldn’t have combined ceremonies for Vick and Roddy White. White is, as of now, the Falcons’ greatest receiver, and that alone should merit having a day to himself. Instead he served as a human shield for Vick just like he did when Vick was honored at halftime of the regular-season finale. (White rode on the back of the car with Vick in a team effort to ensure boos wouldn’t rain down. The ovation turned out to be overwhelming.) The counter-argument to this is, by combining the ceremony with one of the league’s most electrifying and polarizing players ever, the Falcons got more attention for White and his accomplishments that largely flew under the national radar for most of his 11-year career.
9a. LaVar Ball is clearly obnoxious, and I don’t even like leading a note here with him. But I think I enjoyed David Kahn’s piece for The Crossover about how Ball blocking out all teams but the Lakers is a move straight out of the Curry playbook from 2009. Kahn and the Timberwolves have taken enough grief over the years for picking both Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn over Stephen Curry, but he writes that the team couldn’t have risked two picks—Rubio and Curry—not playing for the Timberwolves and furthering the narrative that no one wanted to play in Minnesota. And consider how Curry, one of the league’s faces, would be received today if he publicly pouted about Minnesota and refused to play there as a rookie.
9b. I think I feel for the Indiana Pacers after reading Adrian Wojnarowski’s report this weekend that Paul George has conveyed to them that he wants to play in Los Angeles in 2018. Sure, the Pacers can try a trade with a team other than the Lakers, with George as a one-year rental next season, but the Pacers don’t have a great deal of leverage in those negotiations. Furthermore, the Lakers have little incentive to trade away anything to Indiana this offseason if they’re going to get their guy in 13 months. The Pacers were smart enough to take George at 10th overall in 2010—three other small forwards were drafted ahead of him—were patient enough to see him through his broken-leg recovery (suffered in a game that he wasn’t playing for the Pacers) and will probably, ultimately, see him walk in free agency without getting anything in return. That’s no knock against George, but that’s a tough situation for the Pacers.
10. Nine childhood friends from little ol’ Shelby, N.C., got together for a second annual golf trip this past week. I think Savannah, Ga., is a great place to get together with old friends, reminisce, and play 63 holes of golf over a weekend. And because none of the other eight has the ability to write a 10 Things column for The MMQB, I’m going to lay down the public gauntlet and put in my vote for Jacksonville, Fla., for our third annual trip this time next year.
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