INDIANAPOLIS -- I met with both star quarterbacks at the combine Saturday night and came away impressed, as anyone would be. Anyone. It's impossible to not like Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Luck is humble; you can tell he's uneasy saying nice things about himself, or things designed to paint him as the Next Big Thing in the NFL. Griffin's humble too, but charismatically so; he has no problem telling you anything you want to know about him.
Two moments I liked.
And so Luck could tell what road I was going down: Smart kid, apple-polisher, would always have the architecture degree to fall back on if the football thing fell through. And almost like he could read my intentions, he swatted them away. Not in a derisive way, but just to make sure I understood him. "Yes, school's important,'' he said. "But football's always been more important. The more I play, the more I love it. I've gotten to the point where, the more you learn about the game, the less you know. I love it. I want to learn more about it all the time. So, yes, academics were important in our household. Both of my parents were lawyers. They went to school forever. Stanford, Silicon Valley, the opportunities they presented were a big plus. But on top of that, coach [Jim] Harbaugh was so infectious. The staff was so good. If I didn't think we could win there, I wouldn't have gone.''
Now for some news and notes I picked up in three days at the combine:
The Rams will drive a hard bargain. Cleveland (fourth overall pick), Washington (sixth) and Miami (eighth) will be in the derby to move up; Seattle (12) and a couple of mystery teams could be too. Add the fact that the money involved (four years, about $22 million) is likely to be less than the money paid to the top (current) free agent Matt Flynn, and the market for Griffin will be hopping.
"The whole paradigm has changed in several ways,'' said Rams COO Kevin Demoff Saturday night. "Griffin could be cheaper than Flynn. The fact that you can get a potential franchise quarterback for what the top picks are paid now makes it easier to justify trading a lot for it.''
So the Rams hope.
Demoff thinks there will be three distinct windows to get a deal done. The first, and I think most unlikely, is before the free agency period opens March 13; before Griffin gets hotter at his March 21 Pro Day, a team may choose to try to blow the Rams out of the water with an offer. The second would be after the Pro Day, when all the teams' decision-makers are in one spot, Palm Beach, Fla., at the March 24-28 league meetings. The third: in the days or hours before the April 26 first round.
"You can't tell what the musical chairs will do,'' said Demoff. "Maybe someone will get left out and need Griffin. You don't know.''
The Rams have to hope that two top-10 teams in the first round want to compete for the pick. Without that, they won't be able to maximize value. The Rams will trade the pick, for sure. But the size of the ransom will depend on the seriousness of the competition.
"We need to always ask the question, 'What does it mean?' '' said Mark Quenzel, NFL Network's senior vice president of programming and production. "We're trying to constantly figure out the significance of what we're watching, and what makes it so tough is none of the important people, none of the 32 teams, wants to talk about it. They're all holding their cards close to the vest.''
The visuals are often good and the commentary interesting, as on Sunday when Rich Eisen pointed out that Andrew Luck was standing on the sideline he'd likely be standing on for years with the Colts once Indy drafts him; or when Michael Irvin talked about the way he judges receivers; or when Mike Mayock pointed out, when discussing 28-year-old Brandon Weeden, that it wasn't till Kurt Warner was 27 that he got out of the grocery store to have a real chance at playing in the NFL. That's all good stuff. The combine telecast is best when smart people like Mayock and Mike Lombardi and Charlie Casserly talk over the combine like it's wallpaper. It's there, and it's pleasant to look at, but if you don't have content piece after content piece, you're going to be changing the channel to "F Troop" after the quarterbacks throw.
Tomorrow: The NFL alum who won an Oscar, and the surprise agent for Andrew Luck.
"I hope somebody falls in love with me besides my fiancée.''
"To see Kendall Wright run 4.6, I was stunned.''
"We lost two coaches from our offensive staff and the prospect of going forward, the responsibility that I have, while I am very interested in his career, I think he will be an outstanding coach for the New York Giants going forward, but we have to put our hands around our situation first.''
This generated intense interest from several coaches at the combine -- one head coach, four or five assistants -- whom I spoke with. Gilbride is the son of the Giants' well-respected offensive coordinator, and when Coughlin denied him permission (which was in his rights), it rubbed coaches the wrong way.
An offensive assistant/quality control type of coach, which Gilbride Jr. is, is a step below quarterback coach -- a major step below. "Not just a step below in terms of what your duties are,'' said one assistant on Sunday. "But the money is huge. Quality control guys make maybe $50,000. Maybe. Quarterback coaches who've done it for a while might make $400,000. A young guy like that, maybe $250,000.''
Why would the Giants prevent Gilbride Jr. from moving? Timing is the likely reason. Most staffs are set in stone by now. The fact that Greg Schiano got his head coaching job late in Tampa Bay and the fact that he doesn't know a lot of the pro coaching staffs means he was going to try to hire coaches from teams that would, in turn, have to potentially raid another staff to fill a vacancy. So Coughlin is simply trying to look out for the best interests of the Giants.
But the complicating factor is that Gilbride Sr. has been with Coughlin on the Giants staff since 2004. He's helped the Giants win two Super Bowls, and his son is a bright prospect in the coaching ranks, from what I hear. No one's heard from the Giants' offensive coordinator on this issue, and if Coughlin gives Gilbride Jr. the vacant Giants quarterback-coaching job, which he may do, all will be well. If he doesn't, I would expect it could -- could, I stress; not will necessarily -- create some tension on the staff.
Stats Inc. came up with a stat that I think shows what an impressive downfield thrower Robert Griffin III was last year: air yards. That's the amount of passing yards a quarterback gets, obviously, through the air, before a receiver catches and runs with the ball. Comparing the percentage of air yards Griffin had last year to two other downfield throwers, Andrew Luck of Stanford and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State.
Don Banks made this wish-I'd-thought-of-this point Sunday afternoon in the press room at the combine: Jim Harbaugh was replaced as Indianapolis' quarterback by Peyton Manning in 1998. Jim Harbaugh coached Andrew Luck to replace Peyton Manning as Indianapolis' quarterback in 2012.
Strangest thing in the Delta terminal after I flew into LaGuardia late Sunday night. A woman stood outside the door leading from the terminal to baggage claim, where gypsy cabbies and limo drivers with signs always wait. I heard these three sentences: "No, I need you to come inside the terminal. I am not going down there with those guys all waiting. You've got to come in and help me.''
Ma'am, it's New York. It's a big airport. Those men don't bite. You put your head down, ignore them and walk outside. You'll be fine.
"It's official -- RGIII is faster than my first car.''
"Penelope Cruz just made every other person on the red carpet look like they're wearing a burlap bag.''
"Can't wait to not watch
"MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated"
"When its guilty until proven innocent, all u need are the facts. #howsthecrowmlb #exonerated"
Switching it up today, post-combine. Handing off five of the Scouting Combine thoughts to Mike Mayock, who spoke with me off the NFL Network set Sunday afternoon:
"Why don't you come out here, in front of 32 teams, in front of all the decision-makers, in an apples-to-apples comparison, when you're going to blow people away anyway. Why wouldn't you do that? At the end of the day, you ought to tell your agent, 'No, I'm going to compete,' and go out there and throw the ball. Like Calvin Johnson said a few years ago when he threw on sneakers here and went out and competed.''
a. If you haven't
c. I pity Justin Morneau, still feeling the effects of post-concussion syndrome.
d. Wondering what it must have been like for longtime Giants VP and scout Chris Mara to sit at the Oscars last night and listen to Colin Firth say of his daughter Rooney that her role in
e. Congrats to the Vancouver Canucks. In the span of 24 hours, they went to Detroit and broke the Wings' 23-game home winning streak and then won in New Jersey against one of the hottest teams in the league.
f. Finally saw
g. Lord, who is doing the Red Sox PR? More shooting the messenger after an offseason of ignoring the drinking-in-the-clubhouse-during-games stories from last season. The team never addressed it, except to say it wants it buried and wants everyone to look ahead, not behind. "It's a new chapter, beginning today," Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said at spring training the other day. "Our idea is, let's write this new chapter. Enough has been said about the last chapter.''
But not by you. Not saying, "It'll never happen again, and it's a disgrace it ever happened in the first place.'' Whoever in the organization had the grand plan of eliminating the issue by ignoring it and sneering at the media when it was brought up has no idea that such an irresponsible issue doesn't go away in the eyes of many followers -- like me -- if you bash people over the head for bringing it up.
h. Coffeenerdness: Ordered my latte at the JW Marriott Starbucks in Indianapolis Sunday morning. Turned around to see 49ers quarterback coach Geep Chryst. "Ordering behind you at Starbucks,'' Chryst said, "is like going after Michael Jordan in a dunk contest.'' Why, thank you.
i. Beernerdness: Thanks to the folks at Sun King Brewery in downtown Indianapolis for the tour and the hospitality at Friday night's Tweetup. Not to mention the Sunlight Cream Ale and pizza one of the owners, Steve Koers, provided a few of us writers as we talked football with the locals. Good time was had by all.