CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- It's fall here at the bottom of Africa, which gives the region a bit more of a football feel. And futbol too, of course. But before I get to the business of covering the World Cup later this week -- hopefully I'll find some good coffee by then -- I have a few NFL thoughts, plus a couple of book ideas for your Father's Day gift-giving.
I was in Denver recently to write a Broncos story for SI, and saw the brothers in action tutoring their quarterback group -- which lost one of its members Friday with the waiving of last year's rookie prospect
Ben McDaniels, like his brother a high school starting quarterback and a college backup, hadn't coached above college grad-assistant level before being hired as an offensive assistant by the Broncos last year. He coaches quietly, but the players seem to respect him. "Coach Ben's a great coach,'' said Tebow. "Very passionate. You can tell he loves coaching and he knows precisely what he wants to get across. I believe in him.''
Josh McDaniels bristled when I asked about nepotism. "Last year, I asked Ben to come in for an interview for the offensive assistant job,'' he said. "Five guys interviewed, and I told him he'd have an equal chance to get the job. He came in and clearly was the best candidate for the job. Period. Going back to high school, people would talk about nepotism [about the brothers starting at quarterback under their father]. Well, we lost nine games in six years with us quarterbacking. Nepotism is for other people to talk about, but we learned a long time ago that's no part of our vocabulary. If you can do the job, you can do the job. Ben is damn good at what he does.''
I have a feeling Tebow will get a real chance to win the job this year, and whether he wins or loses, he will have some red-zone and short-yardage chances. Early and often.
"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.''
I've seen NFL coaches using Wooden over the years --
"It too shall pass.''
I just finished rewriting a few sections of my
Gonzalez is 34. In his first 13 NFL seasons he missed two games due to injury. He has more catches (999) than any other tight end in history. By far. But what interests me is this: In his first 10 seasons in football, he averaged 72.1 catches a year. In his past three, his average is 92.7.
In his 30s, Gonzalez is 20 catches a year better than he was in his 20s. And he has missed zero games in his past three years. With Gonzalez, it's not an exaggeration to say he's not getting older, he's getting better.
Flew from the top of the world (Amsterdam) to the bottom (Cape Town) Saturday, and it's amazing how much you can do when you're not in the mood to watch TV for 11 hours and 13 minutes. Well, I did watch an episode of
Also had the opportunity to see the
Cape Town is fantastically beautiful, though the winter can undo your plans. (It is the late fall here, sort of Seattle-ish. Gray, dreary, overcast, though not terribly cold). We tried to sail to Robben Island Sunday to see where
I have to credit
Turns out Hayes went 87th overall in the '64 draft, Parcells 88th.
And those are the kind of nuggets you get when mining the mind of Gil Brandt.
"Isn't it funny how growing up I couldn't stand the look or smell of vomit... now that I have kids I step in, catch, clean up without blinking''
More abbreviated than usual this year, but I have five books to tout, all of which will take you away from the TV and the Internet for a few hours and back to where we all spend too little time -- with our noses in books.
I got this book after speaking at USC earlier this year. I'd known about Wooden's legendary Pyramid of Success, but the one thing that impressed me was Wooden telling the story of his upbringing in a small town in Indiana, and how it affected everything he did for 99 years. "The training I got from my father and mother ... has stayed with my all my life,'' he wrote. I'm reminded of a lot of the great coaches, and how their formative years, and the influence of their parents determined so much of who they became. Reading about Wooden reminded me of the
Chabon writes about his childhood and his family in a series of essays, and then talks about being a dad. A particularly funny passage is about his kids asking him if he smoked marijuana as a kid, and him describing it as being akin to watching a bad Elvis movie. "Wait -- you mean you actually smoked marijuana?'' one of his kids asks, and then questions how often he did it. Instead of saying a million times (what he was thinking) he says, "a number of times, but I don't do it anymore.'' Quite a few laugh-out-loud, growing-up-in-the-'70s moments from an excellent writer.
Hayhurst, a minor-league pitcher, does the best job I've ever seen of capturing the minor-league life. Though I wish there'd been more baseball in there -- Hayhurst pulls the curtain back on the off-the-field life, and it's riveting -- there's a rawness to this book that I've never read about baseball before. He writes so vividly and hurtfully about his family in Canton, Ohio, with an incredibly depressing home life, and why he was so desperate to escape it. Strongly, strongly recommended.
I've read a lot of the great page-turning writers over the years --
The second might be better than the first. It's just as disturbing, with the heroine from the first book,
1. I think it's not surprising to hear the Patriots and
Let me give you a little history lesson here. Bill Belichick was on the Giants' coaching staff in the mid-'80s when Bill Parcells started making the off-season program sort of a voluntary, mandatory thing. Parcells would tell the players, You don't have to come to the program. But this is where the job is, and if other guys come to the program and outwork you in the offseason, the job might not be there for you when you get to training camp.
Belichick established the same sort of offseason regimen on his coaching stops, including in New England a few years, Brady took pride in being the attendance king his first few years in the league, earning a preferred parking spot and the respect of everyone in the New England locker room. Now Brady's living a bi-coastal life, spending more time than ever in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons -- one of which he shares custody. No matter what he says publicly, Belichick isn't going to like his most important player missing half the offseason program or more. So I wouldn't be surprised if the reality of a family situation impinging on Brady's professional life could end up being a bit of a wedge between player and team.
2. I think, and I'm not the only one who does, that the Patriots wanted to draft Tim Tebow late in the first round or early in the second. I'll always wonder what that would have done to Brady's long-term future in New England. Let me be clear about this -- as long as Brady performs at the highest level, the Patriots will stay with him. As long as he produces, the Patriots are not going to get rid of him. Even if they had picked Tebow, the Patriots wouldn't have -- in my opinion -- pulled a
3. I think three years ago the Colts might have made long-term plans to keep
4. I think
5. I think
6. I think, judging by what we've read out of Green Bay on the
7. I think the reason the Rams haven't jumped to sign safety
8. I think if you believe this hasn't been a turnover-filled offseason, you're right. Only 95 starters have left their teams through retirement, free-agency, trades or waivers, according to
9. I think baseball would be smart to do what football does in instant replay, with a twist: give each team one challenge per game -- on out/safe calls on the bases, on fair/foul calls, and homers/non-homers. That wouldn't slow a game down too much, and it would give each manager the chance to potentially change one huge call from time to time -- and it would have given
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Army First Sgt.
McGuire writes: "Wow! The World Cup for three weeks. South Africa! What a gig. Preparing for another five weeks in the field, final training for our deployment. We are training our tails off now. Afghanistan is a tougher place altogether than Iraq. I must admit, I am nervous again. That is good though. Keeps me vigilant. I like the recent story about athletes who serve the country and die in combat. I agree with you. [I'd written I didn't think athletes who interrupted their careers should be elected to the Hall of Fame in their sport for military reasons and reasons of great sacrifice, and that Halls of Fame should be for what players did on the field solely.]
"That number, $204,000, doesn't even sound correct as far as the money raised for the troops," he added. "That is massive. Thank you, and thank everyone who contributed. Unbelievable. B Company leaves most quickly. I have already said my goodbyes to buddies in that company. We are right behind them. Glad you and [wife]
b. Tremendously sad story out of Dallas. I'm good friends with ESPN's
c. What did we ever do without recycling? Found myself thinking that the other day when I brought three things to the curb: a white kitchen garbage bag with four days of house trash, a much larger clear plastic bag with a weekend of paper goods recycling and newspapers, and a bin of commingled plastic, glass and aluminum cans. Our trash was one part garbage, three parts recycling, I'd estimate. Twenty years ago, it was four bags of trash.
d. I was fortunate enough the other day to have lunch with Red Sox outfielder
f. MMQB schedule reminder, for those who may have missed it last week:
I don't want to give too much away regarding the guest columnists, but I think you'll enjoy all of them. One of my editors,
g. And by the way, for those who sent e-mail and Tweets condemning me for condemning BP and saying I won't be buying their gas again -- many of you think the mega-spill is not the fault of the guy who pumps the gas or the local manager who runs the BP gas station, and of course it isn't. But you have to protest in some way when you see horrible injustice, and this will be my little way.