- Bill Belichick ties Tom Landry in coaching wins in the 41-16 dismantling of Denver, and a look at how five teams stack up behind the 8-1 Eagles at the top of the NFL
- Other sections include: A Q&A on Jerry Jones vs. Roger Goodell; Case Keenum’s Career Day for Vikings; Week 10 awards, quotes, stats, tweets and much more
At one point Sunday night during New England’s 41-16 dismantling of Denver, NBC flashed a graphic showing that Bill Belichick was about to tie Tom Landry for third place on the all-time coaching wins list. The cameras focused on Belichick on the sideline. As usual, he looked like a member of the grounds crew. A fairly unkempt one, with a gray Patriots hoodie, the hood askew over Belichick’s head and his headset, making the image even weirder.
I thought of Tom Landry on the sideline. Hart, Schaffner & Marx suit, white shirt with every button buttoned, conservative necktie, stylish fedora and spit-shined wing tips. He looked like a “Mad Men” senior exec.
Appearances aside, you know what Landry and Belichick had in common, don’t you? Both were extremely serious Giants defensive coordinators for six seasons, a generation apart: Landry from 1954 to ’59, Belichick from 1985 to ’90.
Fitting they are linked now on the all-time wins list, though not for long. Belichick has miles to go before he sleeps, and he may just catch George Halas (number two, 54 wins away), though likely not Don Shula (number one, 77 wins away). Belichick versus Landry, whose career record is different because, in part, he coached for 18 of his 29 seasons with a 14-game schedule, while Belichick has always coached 16 regular-season games:
The other thing I noticed Sunday night: These two coaches did it their way. Different ways. The Patriots demolished Denver with the same triggerman as always, Tom Brady, but so many fledgling pieces—first-year back Rex Burkhead scored a touchdown and blocked a punt, off-and-on factor Dion Lewis scored two touchdowns, vet tight end Martellus Bennett (who just arrived on campus Friday) caught three passes, and the Patriots made four game-changing plays on special teams. Dallas had a more solid base of players led by Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, Roger Staubach (after Landry finally settled on his QB, following a few years of a Staubach-Craig Morton competition) and, later, Randy White. When New England got transient, the Patriots still won. When Dallas got transient, Landry began to struggle. Different styles, winning in different ways. Belichick almost seems to relish the roster churn, and with five Super Bowl victories, he’s had different stalwarts on each team. Only Brady stays the same.
Bennett, with a bum shoulder, got to New England late Thursday night, signed, and reported for duty Friday morning. You wouldn’t think of Belichick as a charmer, and he’s not. But players play for him, or they’re not going to play for him. “Bill was like, ‘Can you practice?’” Bennett said. “I said I just want to go to sleep right now.’ He said, ‘Oh, it’s Friday. Just go out there and get some snaps.’ I think he knows how to talk to me. So I’m like, ‘All right, I’ll go out there.’”
One other thing Landry and Belichick share: They’re taciturn, but it never looks like the game is eating them alive. Thus Landry can stay in one spot for 29 years. Who knows how long Belichick stays in New England, but he won’t leave because the game keeps him up at night. “He’s the same on a Sunday in May as he is on a game day in the fall,” said former quarterback and low-level Patriots assistant Chris Simms. Stress? Not them.
I like the fact that, for a week, Landry and Belichick, who share a lot in NFL history, will share number three on the all-time NFL coaching list. It’s cool.
We’ll get into some quick stories this week, and we’ll answer some of the vexing questions about the future of Roger Goodell. First, let’s look at what greets the winners and the losers this time of year. It gets a tad euphoric, and a tad desperate.
The winners—After previously 0-9 San Francisco won its first game of the year, 31-21 over the Giants, here’s what we saw in the Niners locker room:
The losers—New York Post back page, demanding the firing of Ben McAdoo: IT CAN’T WAIT. Daily News:
Our @nydnsports back page: Giants hit ROCK BOTTOM with loss to awful 49ers, so it's time for Big Blue to fire Ben McAdoo, writes @PLeonardNYDN -- https://t.co/nUgdHiWXom; Jets' slim playoff hopes dashed with listless loss to Bucs @MMehtaNYDN -- https://t.co/R0kiL5D0IH pic.twitter.com/PiThXeuLaY— Tom Biersdorfer (@TomBiersdorfer) November 13, 2017
That’s what I like. Perspective.
Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling wrap up the Sunday action each Monday morning on “The MMQB: 10 Things Podcast.” Subscribe on iTunes.
There’s quite a nice pack chasing the Eagles
Eagles, 8-1. Let’s give them the top seed and top billing this morning. It’s only fair, and with a three-game lead in the NFC East now, it’s entirely likely they’ll win one of the top two seeds and get a bye out of the wild-card round.
After that? Clueless. My attempt at rating teams two through six in the league, the 7-2 teams one beat behind the Eagles.
2. New England (7-2). As usual, the Patriots didn’t get too out of whack when they lost two games in the first month of the season. They’re not blowing teams away now (at least not until Sunday night in Denver), but after the early defensive debacle they’ve held five straight foes under 18 points.
3. Los Angeles Rams (7-2). This should not be the determining factor in ranking the Rams behind the Patriots, but in this case, it’s the tiebreaker with the Patriots for number two: The vast majority of truly significant actors in the Rams’ rise have never played in a playoff games, never mind won a Super Bowl. But I’ll take any team that’s won by 33, 34 and 26 the last three weeks.
4. New Orleans (7-2). The Saints won a game 47-10 on Sunday (at Buffalo), and Drew Brees did not contribute a touchdown pass. Historic occasion. Rookie defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams are so good so early that each could make the Pro Bowl this year—if voters voted on merit. This is the team Sean Payton dreamed of coaching, a balanced team that plays defense, and he could hang around a couple of years to see it through.
5. Pittsburgh (7-2). After a wholly unimpressive win in Indianapolis, even the staunchest Steeler fans will say they’re worried. Pittsburgh has averaged 19.6 points in its last five games, which is not good enough. Watching the Colts bottle up Le’Veon Bell had to be disconcerting too, because it’s not a great run D in Indy. But the Steelers will be able to win playoff games because of Ben Roethlisberger’s weaponry and a defense that keeps getting better under coordinator Keith Butler.
6. Minnesota (7-2). Case Keenum, with the hot breath of franchise favorite Teddy Bridgewater on the back of his neck, threw for four touchdowns for the first time in his life. Who’d have figured, in a game at a playoff contender, that Keenum would lead the Vikings to 35 points in the first 35 minutes? Vikes 38, Washington 30. Now Mike Zimmer has to carefully manage the return to play of Bridgewater, who is one of the biggest local heroes in recent Minnesota sports history. That’s going to be tricky, because you don’t know, whether a rusty quarterback will be better than an average one playing hot.
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I had a longtime football executive tell me something last week about this strange season that hit home with me. He said there’s so much newsy stuff happening around the league right now—the player protests during the anthem, the fight for the commissioner’s office, squabbling over what Roger Goodell’s salary should be, why TV ratings are tanking—that when Sunday afternoons come and the games come on, you say, Oh yeah … football!
My little role in this happened Sunday morning, when we published my story at The MMQB about Dallas owner Jerry Jones’s desire to overthrow the Goodell contract extension and perhaps Goodell himself. In the wake of that story, here are some pressing questions and answers about where the NFL stands on the state of Goodell, and my answers will be compiled from recent interviews and best guesses concerning an ever-evolving story:
Why is Jerry Jones trying to sabotage the Goodell contract extension?
I believe it’s because he thinks Goodell hasn’t performed like a great commissioner should. I believe it’s also because he thinks the fix is in on the proposed contract to the commissioner … that even though the contract offer to Goodell is 88 percent incentives, Goodell will still end up with compensation of at least $25 million a year even if the league has an awful year. And I believe Jones’s feeling is, if the fix isn’t in, let the owners see exactly how the annual compensation package will be structured, down to the precise formulas that will determine exactly what Goodell makes.
Does Jones want to be commissioner? Is that what this is about?
I’ve heard this question from several people this week, and my answer: It would stun me. Jones does not want to be commissioner. He already has his dream job, and he’s had it for 28 years. He wants to make the Cowboys great, and he wants to keep the Cowboys as the most valuable sports franchise in the United States. I just would be stunned if Jones would want to spend 15 minutes trying to make the Bengals a more valuable franchise.
So if not Jones as commissioner, who?
I don’t know. I believe he has one in mind, but I do not know who it is. I’ve heard Bill Polian’s name thrown around, and I know Polian is a Jones favorite because he’s tough, but I have no idea if he’s a legit name in Jones’s mind.
What’s the most likely outcome of the Goodell contract talks?
After the smoke clears, and after Jones tries his best to find partners to scuttle the deal, I believe the commissioner will re-sign through 2024. It’s interesting. Someone who is well plugged-in and who spoke to Jones in the past week told me Sunday that Jones believes he has more support from ownership than he had when he successfully prevented owners from giving money back to networks when they were in financial straits 24 years ago. He might have more support, but I don’t know who these owners are (outside of Dan Snyder and possibly Jim Irsay and Stan Kroenke). I don’t put anything past Jones, but I can’t see how he musters enough ownership support to kill this Goodell deal … unless, and I use this asterisk advisedly … there are further developments such as the ESPN report Sunday that said Goodell’s final negotiation request was an annual compensation package of $49.5 million plus use of a private plane for life. League spokesman Joe Lockhart quickly denied that report, but Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen are eminently reliable reporters, and there’s no question they’re trusted by league owners and officials. So if a couple of reports like that get legs in the coming days, I could see some owners say, I’m not feeling very good about Goodell right now. which could give the Jones side some momentum.
Is the Compensation Committee unanimous in its support of the Goodell contract?
Good question. Jones believes if it isn’t, chairman Arthur Blank has misled the ownership, and the deal should be reopened. The key member of the committee is Houston owner Bob McNair, who was outspoken in his criticism of the league office recently. Most people around the league think McNair’s criticism stems from Goodell’s refusal to back McNair’s explanation of “inmates running the prison,” when McNair claims he was referring to league office employees, not players in the league. Goodell reportedly would not speak out in support of McNair. But this weekend, I heard McNair supports Goodell and will vote to approve a new contract for him.
With Goodell’s contract valid though the end of the 2018 league year, what’s the hurry to re-up?
Owners think it would send a message to the advertising world and all communities that the owners are solidly behind Goodell. But with the continued turbulence the league is facing, you can’t help but wonder—and Jones clearly does—what the hurry is. What if the league gets this deal done next week, and then finds it has Goodell in office for the next six-plus years, and more crises roil the league? It’s not dumb to hold off doing this deal until mid-2018. It’s pragmatic.
Could Goodell sign some form of a deal today?
I am told no—contrary to several reports, there is not a contract on his desk that he can sign right now.
As I wrote Sunday: Normally I’d say this is over. It’s a done deal; Jones can’t win. I still think it’s unlikely Jones has success, but this is not a normal owner.
Jones has taken the unpopular side on several occasions in his ownership career. A quarter-century ago he fought the NFL’s TV Committee as it proposed to give money back to the money-losing networks. Jones won, and the lucrative marriage between Fox and the NFL was born. In 1995, the NFL attempted to enforce its exclusive rights under the NFL Trust to prevent the Cowboys from pouring Pepsi in Texas Stadium instead of the league’s cola partner, Coca-Cola, among other sponsorship deals. Jones countersued, and he ended up settling with the NFL to maintain his deals with Pepsi and other non-NFL partners.
Do not underestimate Jones. He has won when it has appeared darkest before. Jones could find some kindred ownership souls in the coming days and weeks. But there is one difference between this fight and Jones’s previous ones: Despite how tarnished Goodell is, Jones doesn’t have many partners—at least now—in trying to overthrow the current way of doing business.
The story was ready, and it was going to be perfect. Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater dressed for his first football game in 22 months Sunday, and even though the Vikings would start the purported placeholder of the quarterback job, Case Keenum, at Washington, wouldn’t it be dramatic if Bridgewater relieved Keenum at some point and got the save for the NFC North leaders.
It would have been spectacular, but it would not be realized. Keenum saw to that. Driving the Vikings to five touchdowns in the game’s first 33 minutes, and throwing for four touchdown for his first time as a pro, Keenum was the star in Minnesota’s bombs-away 38-30 win at Washington.
“Teddy saw me before the game, and he was smiling,” the 29-year-old Keenum told me from the Vikings’ bus after the game. “He was happy to be back, and I was thrilled to have him back. He said to me, ‘Smile! Have fun.’ He’s just the best teammate. It’s like I was telling someone before the game today: Teddy brings up the cool factor of our quarterback group exponentially.”
The Vikings have been careful to not make any long-term announcements at the quarterback position, though Bridgewater is very likely their long-term QB of the future. It would be surprising but not stunning if the Vikings made a change under center this week with the defensively aggressive Rams coming to town, but it's certainly not impossible to imagine.
Keenum was not just a facilitator Sunday—not just a quarterback along for the ride with an excellent one-two receiver punch in Stefon Diggs and emerging star Adam Thielen. Keenum lasered a 51-yard throw down the right sideline for Diggs, a perfectly placed deep ball. He showed excellent touch on a lofted pop throw to Thielen down the left sideline. Under pressure and about to get creamed by Washington rushers Will Compton and Terrell McClain, Keenum fired a perfect pass up the left seam to Thielen. And later Keenum rolled out and waited, waited, waited for Thielen to get free in the end zone and threw a perfect strike, with Josh Norman draped on Thielen, for a touchdown.
Keenum finished 21 of 29 for 304 yards and four touchdowns, with two picks. He was not perfect. But this very likely was the best game of his 34-game NFL life, a career that has seen him serve as the backup and start for the Texans, Rams and Vikings in six seasons. It’s been a long, winding and oft-frustrating road for the Texan. He’s from Abilene and went to the University of Houston, and his voice still is Texas all the way.
“What a blast,” Keenum said. “So rewarding. I’ll never forget, early in my career, we were struggling in Houston [with the Texans], and after one game, [MLB pitcher] John Lackey, he’s from the same hometown as me, and we know each other some … really good dude. He’s been through everything in baseball—played in some of the biggest games at the highest level, and I respect him a lot. He sent me a text. I can give you the edited version. He said, ‘Remember this day, because days like this are what makes winning so good.’
“Man, he’s right. Days like today are why you put your hat in the ring. Let’s be honest: If they played this game on paper, I wouldn’t be in this league. But it’s a game for competitors, and I’m a competitor.”
So, I asked Keenum, what was it like for you all week knowing that everyone in Minnesota, and many other places, want to see the Bridgewater return happen theatrically … and very soon.
“I have been preparing for this situation the whole year,” Keenum said. “I didn’t do an interview last year in L.A. without being asked about [rookie first-round pick] Jared Goff. So I get it. I am a huge Teddy fan. First, he’s just a beautiful thrower. I’ve got tremendous respect for him. He’s an instrumental part of our quarterback room, and all he’s been is helpful. A great teammate. I have had a serious knee injury. I know what he’s going through. But mostly, I’m able to compartmentalize it. I just figure, hey, it’s like I’ve got a buddy who owns a Ferrari, and he’s out of town, and he’s letting me drive it. So as long as they leave me the keys, I’m gonna keep driving this car.”
No one has said anything to Keenum about the future, except, “Get ready to go this week.” He doesn’t ask. “No one can predict the future,” he said, “and I’m not going to try.”
Rams at Vikings this week. Goff at Keenum ... or Bridgewater. If Keenum plays, it will be an emotional day for him. “Someone’s gonna have to slap me before the game—hard,” Keenum said, and you could almost hear his wide smile through the phone from Maryland. “This game means something to me.”
They all do.
Football in America: Episode 7—Philadelphia.
Our series, in partnership with State Farm, examining all levels of football—youth, high school, college and pro—has taken us to:
It continues in greater Philadelphia. Jenny Vrentas, Kalyn Kahler and videographer Jim Butts show us a high school turnaround, what Ivy League football is really like (at Penn), and the rise of the Eagles.
Vrentas writes this week about a Lincoln Financial Field tailgater, Ed Callahan, a retired Navy lieutenant, who has become the official host for fans from far, far away. A true glimpse into the City of Brotherly Love:
“Ed Callahan has had Eagles season tickets for 22 years. He’s been tailgating out of an RV across from the Linc for 12 of those years. And for the past two he’s been hosting special guests from the state of North Dakota. Callahan’s RV, The Eagle Mobile, has become the unofficial gathering place for North Dakotans since Carson Wentz, the pride of Bismarck, was drafted by Philadelphia in 2016 and named the team’s Week 1 starter as a rookie. Callahan’s parking spot is in the Wells Fargo Center lot across from Lincoln Financial Field. Last season the Wentz family and the mayor of Bismarck, Mike Seminary, were tailgating one lot over and stopped by on their way into the stadium … He and his wife, Deb, traveled to Philadelphia for the 49ers game last month, which coincided with Deb’s birthday. Callahan and his tailgate crew had an Eagles-themed birthday cake waiting for her.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Mark Ingram, running back, New Orleans. Not just for his production (21 carries, 131 yards, three touchdowns), but for how hard he runs consistently, and for going into Buffalo and absolutely dominating the Bills on the ground the way the Saints used to dominate teams through the air. New Orleans: 48 carries, 298 yards (!), six touchdown runs (!!).
Case Keenum, quarterback, Minnesota. As noted above, Keenum’s first NFL day with four touchdown passes was the highlight of his NFL life. Minnesota’s 38-30 win over Washington kept the Vikings two games clear of the Lions and Packers in the NFC North.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Adrian Clayborn, defensive end, Atlanta. With four major injuries requiring surgery in the previous five seasons, Clayborn seemed destined to be that guy who never would fulfill his NFL promise. The Bucs cut him loose after the 2014 season, and he landed in Atlanta. “God had a reason,” Clayborn said from Atlanta on Sunday night, after his six-sack dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys. “And I don’t really ask why. I just know today’s a good day, and I’m happy.” Clayborn took advantage of Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith being sidelined with an injury to abuse backup Chaz Green. Ugly for the Cowboys, beautiful for the Falcons.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Jesse James, tight end, Pittsburgh. He made the hustle play of the year to save two points in Indianapolis. With the Steelers down 17-9 and lined up for a PAT in the third quarter, the attempt was blocked by Margus Hunt and recovered by Matthias Farley, who took off down the left sideline on his way to what appeared to be a two-point conversion for the Colts. (The defensive team can return a failed conversion after touchdown and be awarded two points.) James began sprinting at the Colts’ 19, and he ran down the faster Farley 78 yards later, the Colts just three yards away from making this a 19-9 game. How huge was that play when the Steelers scored in the fourth quarter, then made the two-point conversion to tie the game at 17? Pretty big.
Tyler Shatley, long-snapper, Jacksonville. Never long-snapped in a game in high school. Never long-snapped in a game in college. Never long-snapped in an NFL game. But with Matt Overton out with a shoulder injury, Shatley entered and snapped for Josh Lambo’s game-tying field goal with three seconds left in the fourth quarter. Then he snapped for Lambo’s game-winning field goal in overtime. Now that’s a fairly clutch performance.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Sean Payton, head coach, New Orleans. After the Saints went 7-9 in each of the past three seasons, Payton made a conscious decision to change his explosive offense. No longer would the team be dependent on Drew Brees to keep the Saints in every game; now Payton and GM Mickey Loomis would put more pressure on the running game and the offensive line, with a maturing defense, to carry the load. Well, with a defense keeping the Saints in every game, and Brees not the offensive crutch anymore, the Saints have won seven in a row. A bold preseason move by Payton continued to pay dividends Sunday in Buffalo.
GOATS OF THE WEEK
Chaz Green, left tackle, Dallas. Allowed five of the six Adrian Clayborn sacks against the Falcons, playing in relief of Tyron Smith. A left tackle cannot play an uglier game. You just have to hope, for this young guy’s sake, that it doesn’t stick with him and mar his career.
Jack Doyle, tight end, Indianapolis. With the Colts up 17-9 with 13 minutes left against Pittsburgh, Jacoby Brissett threw an eminently catchable pass to Doyle right near the line of scrimmage. It went through Doyle’s hands and into the arms of Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was tackled at the Indy 10-yard line. From there, the Steelers scored on a touchdown pass, and a Martavis Bryant two-point conversion gave them the tie, and they won on a field goal as time expired. Sort of a vital mistake by Doyle.
John Fox, coach, Chicago. Bears back Benny Cunningham was ruled down at the half-yard line in the first half against Green Bay after a 23-yard gain. Fox challenged the ruling on the field, claiming it should been a touchdown. Instead of having first-and-goal at the half-yard line, the Bears actually had a turnover. That’s because while Cunningham dove for the end zone, the ball was coming loose as he stretched for the pylon … and the ball was ruled a touchback for Green Bay. The Bears trailed by seven at the time and never tied or led thereafter. Tough decision for Fox to make, but it turns out actually throwing the challenge flag on the play likely cost the Bears a halftime lead—and quite possibly a win in this incredibly close series. Green Bay leads all-time, 95 wins to 93, with six ties. Bizarre to think of it … but without this challenge by Fox, it might have been 94-94 this morning.
Quotes of the Week
“Man, I was trying to keep it together. But it's just, opportunities like these don’t come around twice. When you get that second opportunity, you cherish it. And you hold it. You never want to let it go. Today it got the best of me.”
—Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, per ESPN Dianna Russini, after cameras caught Bridgewater tearing up on the bench Sunday in Washington before the first game he dressed for in 22 months.
“Those trying to peddle that nonsense are profoundly misinformed or deliberately trying to mislead.”
—NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart, after ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that in his most recent proposal to the NFL’s Compensation Committee, Roger Goodell asked for a contract with about $49.5 million in compensation and a lifetime use of a private jet.
“I personally wish that he would take that charge and lead. Be a leader and try and unify us as a country. Step out of your comfort zone, swallow your pride, and, with humility, try to lead us back to together.”
—Former Army Ranger and Colin Kaepernick adviser Nate Boyer, on what he thinks Kaepernick should do now, to Tim Rohan of The MMQB.
“With Alex, there are going to be a lot of people out there who think he is a quack. But the proof is in the pudding. Brady looks like he’s 27 years old, and the man is 40.”
—New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, on Tom Brady’s mystery man of a trainer, Alex Guerrero, on “The MMQB Podcast with Peter King” this week. Edelman was discussing his new book, “Relentless: A Memoir,” with Tom Curran.
“His pocket presence, that’s the most impressive thing. … This is the maturation of Tyrod Taylor that really makes him exciting. … Watch how he has matured as a quarterback. He’ll slide, he’ll buy himself some time. His eyes are always up.”
—Chip Kelly, in a pro-Tyrod Taylor piece for ESPN’s pre-game show Sunday. Very well explained, very good TV by Kelly.
Stat of the Week
New England since the beginning of 2016 in regular-season games:
This is why the Patriots likely have little concern over the next five games: vs. Oakland in Mexico City, Miami at home, at Buffalo, at Miami, at Pittsburgh.
Factoids That May Interest Only Me
Regarding the Pittsburgh-Indianapolis game Sunday: After 10 minutes in his Week 10 game, Ben Roethlisberger, for the season, had 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and had taken 10 sacks.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
In the past couple of years, my job at NBC has morphed into doing longer, reported stories for “Football Night in America.” I had an idea for one this year: follow globetrotting Larry Fitzgerald to his 97th country visited. He’d been to 96 through the end of 2016, and I figured he’d be going somewhere in 2017. When I asked, he said he was trying to get a tee time at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, and if he could get one, he’d be headed there. He did get a tee time and set the trip for July with two good friends, including the man who introduced him to golf four years ago, former Cardinals wideout Andre Roberts (now a Falcon). NBC dispatched me to Scotland, with a British TV crew familiar with the Old Course, to trail Fitzgerald’s group on its 18 holes. Boy, it was fun. Here’s how it looked on TV Thursday night.
I walked the Old Course with Fitzgerald and just talked most of the way. “I bet the maintenance bill here is a fraction of what it would cost back home,” he said, walking on the front nine. “I’ve seen some pictures where the goats come out and eat this grass [on the fairway]. Old school.”
On travel: “When I was younger, my parents, we used to travel a lot, not internationally, but to the Bahamas for the cruise or national park, Disneyland, Disney World, Staten Island, Statue of Liberty … My parents always thought, travel would give you exposure and opportunity to learn about history. That’s how my love for history developed, and kind of my passion for travel developed and we didn’t have the means to do a lot of international things, but the trips we did take were so much fun. I loved being with the family and being able to see new things, and try new foods, and all those things were really exciting to me. When I got to the NFL, my first trip I took, I went to Australia, and that was before I had any children, so I went for 40 days. The next year I went to China, Japan, Korea, went all through China down to Cambodia … to Thailand. I biked, so it was a few days on a bike, but I got a chance to see all the country and that was one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been.”
Fitzgerald says he thinks he has 20 or so more countries in him. He wants to see Scandinavia and Greece soon. He has eaten snake and monkey. One of his highlights: seeing the lake in Vietnam where John McCain—his friend and Arizona senator—went down, leading McCain to become a POW. Fitzgerald jumped into the frigid water off Antarctica. He has been to 48 of our 50 states, and he plans to get to Alaska and Maine one day.
“I like the off-the-beaten path, local vibe when I travel,” he said.
He shot a 78 on the Old Course … after being 1-under, incredibly, after 11 holes. Then he and his crew drove to a nearby course, with the wind blowing hard off the North Sea, and played another 18 holes before heading back to London that night, and then back to Phoenix a few days later, and then to training camp.
New section of the column this fall, as part of The MMQB’s partnership with State Farm. Each week, I’ll ask an NFL person about his most valuable possession.
Greg Olsen, tight end, Carolina. “It’s the ball, glove and my shoes from my first touchdown in the NFL. I have them in my house in Charlotte. It came in Week 5, I think, [correct] on a Monday night against Green Bay. My first game in Lambeau Field, Brian Urlacher on my side, Brett Favre on the other side, tight game. I ran a wheel route into the end zone, and in today’s rules it would not have counted as a touchdown. I was in the air and got pushed out, and in those days it counted as a touchdown even though I landed out of bounds on the force-out. That’s a game I’ll always remember. I think it was Brian Griese who threw the ball. That stuff will always be prized possessions of mine.”
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week’s conversations: Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and New England receiver Julian Edelman, on the release of his book: “Relentless: A Memoir,” with Tom Curran.
• Edelman on making that incredible catch a millimeter above the ground in the Super Bowl, with two Falcons battering him: “A lot of it has to do with feeling like a cornered animal. If you don’t at least catch this ball [above] the ground, your season is over. That sense of relentlessness … Was it luck? Was it skill? I can’t tell you that.”
• Edelman on the tough love he got growing up from his father in California: “When you're young and you're a kid, you may not think it is pretty good for you. You may snivel, you may pout. My dad was the type of guy who would challenge me. He would challenge me to the point where he got under my skin, and he was trying to do that on purpose because he would always say, ‘You have to be mentally tough if you want to make it.’ Me being a stubborn kid and getting that stubbornness from my mother, I wanted to prove him wrong when he challenged me, and it pissed me off. In baseball for example, he'd be throwing inside at me, and I'd be dipping my shoulder and he would throw it closer to me and I would start spitting towards the mound. I’d say, ‘Throw it harder!’ And I was swinging harder and it got to the point where one day I charged the mound on him and he had to put me in my place. But that's how it was with the Edelman household, and I wouldn't be where I am at today without that.”
Tweets of the Week
Tyron Smith needs a pay raise— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 13, 2017
#NFL #concussion protocol is a fraud. QB Jacoby Brissett goes back in after showing the clearest concussions signs of the season. Helmet-to-helmet hit, holds head, then goes limp, then needs help up. You don't need a protocol to hold this player out for the game. Check the tape: pic.twitter.com/db8sDwVmVl— Chris Nowinski, Ph.D. (@ChrisNowinski1) November 12, 2017
1. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 10:
a. Catch of the year? Maurice Harris’ incredible one-elbow grab diving to the ground, holding on as he crashed to the ground, just past the right pylon, from Kirk Cousins … I have not seen a catch as good this year. Congrats to the former undrafted free agent from Cal.
b. Matthew Stafford’s touch, particularly on his deep throws, is so beautiful to see right now.
c. Interesting thing about the John Lynch-Kyle Shanahan marriage: Through the 0-9 start, I never heard one thing, not even a whisper, that one was remotely unhappy with the other. This is a solid group of coaches and front-office people (personnel veep Adam Peters is really good). The win over the Giants will be the first of many.
d. Eagles had the best bye week of any team this year. Every NFC East team lost, and now the Eagles, by virtue of sitting on their couches all day Sunday, gained a game over occasionally dangerous Dallas and Washington.
e. There are not many more physically punishing rivalry games in the NFL than Seattle-Arizona.
f. What a well-deserved honor, London Fletcher getting his jersey retired by John Carroll University. Such a good player and man.
g. Case Keenum is making it very hard for the Vikings to play Teddy Bridgewater. I know Keenum’s limitations, but watch him play in Washington, particularly early. The guy’s good. One of the throws of the day was his soft pop fly to Adam Thielen, good for 38 yards down the left sideline, in the only spot that would have been complete. Lovely. Keenum needs to work on his fade throws, though.
h. Adam Thielen on Washington linebacker Zach Brown. Gain of 37. Unfair fight right there.
i. Stefon Diggs scored his second touchdown Sunday, then leaped up and hugged the goal-post stanchion. Can’t use the goal post as a prop. Good Lord: Why?
j. You’re a good man, Drew Bledsoe. The former Patriots QB was back in Boston over the weekend to play a Veterans Day football game against a group of Wounded Warriors.
k. The speed of that Steeler front is so hard to contend.
l. Attaway Jay Glazer and Nate Boyer. This project of theirs to help returning vets is great, and not just on Veterans Day weekend.
m. Hey, Marqise Lee: What a dumb taunting foul you caused late in Jacksonville. That might have cost your team a win.
n. Hey Tre Boston: What a dumb decision, to not run back an interception in the fourth quarter for the Chargers.
o. Mike Pereira’s right: Atlanta safety Brian Pool got away with a hit on defenseless Dez Bryant early against Dallas—a foul that the officials just have to be able to see.
p. Wow, Xavier Woods. The rookie Dallas defensive back with the superb diving interception, leading to the first points of the game in Atlanta.
2. I think Vontaze Burfict has lost the benefit of the doubt with me, after yet another incident in yet another game. In the span of three plays, he got called for unnecessary roughness on a hit on Demarco Murray, then bumped an official to earn a disqualification from the game, and then, on the way off the field, he got into an argument with some emboldened female fans in the front row in Nashville. On top of being a hothead, Burfict’s got rabbit ears. Great.
3. I think this is why you simply should never, ever, ever bet on football: The Saints lost their first two games, both by double digits. They have won their last seven by 18.4 points. This team is precisely like the Rams—no fluke.
4. I think I ask this about the Los Angeles Chargers: Can any team lose games in a more agonizing fashion? Five of the six losses have been one-possession jobs, including losses by 3, 2, 2, and 3. The Chargers do some dumb things, but not enough dumb things to be as star-crossed as they are.
5. I think I bet Broncos VP John Elway goes quarterback-shopping again. It’s not just that the woeful Brock Osweiler is the quarterback for one of America’s great sports franchises. It’s the utter hopelessness of their quest over the past three weeks. The Broncos have a five-game losing streak, but, really, it’s the last 15 days that are particularly embarrassing. They’ve lost three games by 63 points. They’ve given up 40.3 points per game, which is the real stunner. On offense, Elway has to be mulling what to do to solidify his quarterback position for 2018. He won’t go into another season wishing and hoping at quarterback. Whoever’s the GM of the Giants will get a call about Eli Manning—and should listen.
6. I think it’s cool to note that, between games in mile-high Denver on Sunday night and 1.4-mile-high Mexico City versus the Raiders next Sunday, the New England Patriots will work out this week in a city about halfway between the two in altitude: Colorado Springs, elevation: 6,035 feet. (Hat tip to Mike Reiss of ESPN for this note.)
7. I think I have three thoughts about the Jim Irsay-Andrew Luck situation:
a. Irsay’s assertion that Luck is somehow overly protective of his shoulder and not wanting to play unless he feels totally perfect, I think, is foolish. Luck played 21 games after initially injuring his throwing shoulder in September 2015.
b. I bet Colts GM Chris Ballard has moved aggressively to tamp any hard feelings that Luck might have toward his owner. In fact, I would be shocked if Ballard hasn’t done something to ameliorate the situation.
c. I do not think there’s much of a chance Luck gets dealt in the offseason, no matter how well Jacoby Brissett plays. And I love Brissett.
8. I think the Seahawks shouldn’t be alone in getting the once-over from the league office about Russell Wilson’s 3.5-second mid-game sideline exam for head trauma Thursday night. As much or more, I blame the neutral Unaffiliated Neurological Consultant on the Seattle sideline. To refresh: On every sideline during NFL games is a local head-trauma specialist. He or she has the authority to mandate an exam of the player, or take the player to the locker room for a more thorough exam. When a player is sent to the sideline to be checked out, that neurological consultant and a team doctor must examine the player before he returns. Wilson was sent to the sidelines by referee Walt Anderson on the field, and darted around for a few seconds, never getting examined for longer than a couple of moments, and then running back on the field after missing one snap. At the end of that series, Wilson was examined. But that’s not the proper protocol—he should have been examined more thoroughly when he first game out. That’s one of the reasons why the NFL put those medical professionals on the sidelines in the first place—to take over a situation like that and not have a coach or the quarterback himself deciding what to do.
9. I think I’m really looking forward to Greg Olsen as the third man in the FOX booth next Sunday, Rams at Vikes. I think Olsen’s one of those players who has a future in this business, and I think it’ll be really interesting to hear him dish on Sean McVay’s offense. Good idea by FOX.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Story of the Week: Politico.com writer Michael Kruse went to Johnstown, Pa., a rock-solid Trump town a year ago during the election, a place Trump went and made a slew of promises, and this month found still a rock-solid Trump town. It’s an excellent, thorough story. And a disturbing one.
b. I am advising this very strongly: Read that story all the way through. Read it to the last three sentences. Important.
c. Radio Story of the Week: by Christopher Joyce of NPR, about how massive development contributed mightily to the flooding in Houston. It’s just a 5-minute, 20-second listen, and quite educational.
d. Column of the Week: Olympic swimmer Diana Nyad’s piece in the New York Times, about being sexually abused by a trusted coach at age 14, and again thereafter, and how at age 68 it still haunts her, and why women need to come forward to tell the stories of what happened to them.
e. Nyad: “My particular case mirrors countless others. I was 14. A naïve 14, in 1964. I don’t think I could have given you a definition of intercourse.”
f. Sports Story of the Week: Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated on the physically and mentally improved Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers. As you know, I’m not much of a hoops devotee, but wow, the detail and the great writing in this piece is something we in the business should all strive. I have so much admiration for Jenkins the writer and Jenkins the reporter.
g. Holy cow: I got to see 10 of 12 shifts of Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers the other night in the Oilers-Devils game. What a talent. So big and so fast and so smooth. What a bummer the Oilers don’t make it back to greater New York over the next few months. That would be appointment attending for me.
h. Coffeenerdness: So many good coffee shops in New York. I found another one the other day—Bluestone Lane at Astor Place. Wasn’t jonesing for anything in particular when I walked in and asked for the flat white. Superb. A little loud in there, but a good environment to sip and talk and people-watch.
i. Beernerdness: This is the second time I’ve had Revolver Brewing (Granbury, Texas) Blood and Honey American Pale Wheat Ale, and I’ll be back for more. I found myself at DFW Airport on Saturday night, and luckily one of the bars had this marvelous concoction, with a slight tinge of honey and spice. A great and still fairly light autumn brew.
j. Concerts are for listening, Josh Beckett, not stage-diving.
Who I Like Tonight
Carolina 20, Miami 12. Fairly amazing that Carolina has started 6-3, and almost more amazing that the Panthers have won two of their last three. This three-game stretch has seen Cam Newton throw one touchdown pass in 12 quarters, the Panthers score 40 points, and the speedy duo of Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, drafted 1-2 last spring to re-make the Panthers, combine for 171 total yards and zero touchdowns. Thank God for a pass rush, and for a run defense, and for how well defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has spotted 37-year-old Julius Peppers (who entered the weekend eighth in the NFL with 7.5 sacks) in the pass-rush. If the Carolina offense can be even a B-minus group, this is a dangerous team.
The Adieu Haiku
Jerry v Roger.
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. But
no one’s talking ’ball.
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