- Ryan Fitzpatrick is sparring with Todd Bowles. Bruce Arians is throwing his kicker under the bus. We're nearly halfway through the season, and no one in the league seems to be happy about anything.
There’s an idea among health care professionals that has taken on a mythical nature in recent decades: When there’s a full moon, you want to stay far away from the emergency room. People tend to act crazier on those nights and hospital visits allegedly spike.
Lunar effects are believed to exist in other contexts as well. Either through science or old wives tales, a full moon can impact birth rates, blood loss and crime. I want to posit a new context, though. I firmly believe that, through the first seven weeks of the season, the NFL has been operating under a full moon.
As we near the halfway mark of the regular season, it seems that no one is happy for any reason and everyone is mad for every reason. And this past weekend, the NFL saw its biggest spike in players and coaches who were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore.
How did everyone—all at once—get so mad, so quickly?
The last eight days began with fans being up in arms about a missed pass interference call in Seattle and ended with a revenge match in Denver. Three head coaches—including two loveable ones in Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles—took shots at players under them to help provide a fairly boring season with some juicy headlines. The league’s insistence on ridding the sport of excessive celebrations continued with more fines and more flags. Hell, the NFLPA wouldn’t even grant an interview to 60 Minutes on its financial advisor allegedly bilking tens of millions from players.
And, on a much more important and serious note, several players took strong stands against Giants kicker Josh Brown and domestic violence as as they watch the league once again bungle such an important case.
Brown, in his own words, admitted in court documents to emotionally and physically abusing his then-wife, Molly. The NFL (and the Giants by extension), apparently “unaware” of the extent of the abuse, handed down a one-game suspension that clearly should have been at least six.
The proud franchise is too embarrassed to be mad. Offensive lineman Justin Pugh had to walk back his support of Brown when it was revealed on Twitter late last week that he appeared more upset at Colin Kaepernick symbolically kneeling than he was at sharing a locker room and workspace with a domestic abuser. Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. was having none of it, of course. Smith’s mother was a victim of domestic violence, and he posted a tweet late last week that promised to put Brown in the hospital if he were his teammate. After cooling off a bit, Smith posted longer thoughts on his Instagram.
“We have valued the amount of air in a ball but yet devalued when a person or persons have been harmed and fail to put forth necessary actions or energy and time” in dealing with them, he wrote.
Speaking of Tom Brady, even he weighed in on the topic, despite his long history of neutrality as one of the sport’s superstars.
“Domestic violence is a horrible issue,” said Brady on his weekly radio show, finally relenting to say something everyone agrees with. “It’s a tragedy when it happens. Any type of abuse or bullying of people who can’t defend themselves or fight for themselves, I have no respect for that. Like I said, the NFL claims to take tough stances, and this is their situation. This is their situation to deal with. I’ll let them deal with it.”
On a much lighter and less important note, elsewhere around the league, some coaches have reached the point where they’re OK with publicly calling out their players. Mike Zimmer called his Vikings’ offensive line “soft” after they failed to adequately protect Sam Bradford in Minnesosta’s first loss of the season. It continued into the evening when Arians didn’t hide his frustration with kicker Chandler Catanzaro’s missed field goal in overtime.
Arians saying “this ain’t high school, baby, you get paid to make it” about Catanzaro is just a little different than Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s reaction to his kicker, Stephen Hauschka’s, own missed chip-shot in overtime—Carroll’s response was “I love him and he’s our guy.”
But even Zimmer and Arians couldn’t top the back-and-forth between New York Jets’ Todd Bowles and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Their bout has spanned two press conferences in two days with the potential for more.
First it was Fitzpatrick who, after coming into the game against the Ravens in place of the injured starter Geno Smith, and proceeding to earn a win, bizarrely called out the people who sign his checks and keep him employed. A rather terrible starting quarterback this season, Fitzpatrick inked a $12 million deal with the Jets in late July to be their starter before playing so badly he’d force any reasonable coach to bench him.
“The biggest thing in this game in order to last, is to have belief in yourself. Because when the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick keeping it real here can’t go wrong for him. Smith is out for the season with a torn ACL and he’s an untradeable $12 million quarterback with a league-high 11 picks. Since they’re stuck with each other for nine more games, Bowles shot back.
“If pissed off is going to stop the turnovers, I’m more than happy to have him play pissed off,” Bowles said.
There’s no telling which coach and underachieving player will get in a verbal spat next, but one thing is for sure: the NFL as a whole, much like Ryan Fitzpatrick, is very pissed off right now.