So, your team needs a quarterback. You’ve been spending your time scouring YouTube for highlights of Kyler Murray from Oklahoma and Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State and Drew Lock from Missouri. You’re thinking, This is the year! It has to be. It’s time, and man, these guys look better by the day.
If this sounds like you, step away from the keyboard. What I’m about to say is for your own good.
It might make sense for your team to wait to draft a quarterback. And I don’t mean wait until the second or third round of this year’s draft. By wait, I mean your team might want to wait until late April. Of 2020.
“It should definitely be a contemplation and a point of discussion,” former Browns exec Sashi Brown says Friday afternoon over the phone. “Now, if you find a quarterback who’s smart and durable and athletic and poised and can make all the throws, if you’re at the point where you meet all the criteria, you should probably just take him. … [Like in 2012] if Andrew Luck’s there, and you don’t take him, that’s on you.
“But those are rare.”
We’re in the thick of NFL draft season, and that means we’re in the thick of quarterback consternation season. The Dolphins and Redskins need long-term answers at the position, as do the Giants. Where you think the Cardinals stand depends, in part, on what you think of Josh Rosen, but they’re obviously in play. The Raiders are kicking the tires on all the top guys, Derek Carr on the roster or no Derek Carr on the roster.
Murray, Haskins, Lock and the rest of the draft’s quarterbacks aren’t the only options in front of these teams. There’s one more that is, without question, being discussed in at least a couple of those war rooms.
That option: betting on the quarterbacks in 2020.
At this time next year, Oregon’s Justin Herbert will be finished as a collegian, and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm will be draft-eligible for the first time. There’s also the chance someone bursts on the scene, like Haskins and Murray did this year. Add that to the reality that the 2019 quarterback class is widely seen as at least a tick behind the ’18 class, and you have a real argument here.
What’s more, it’s a pretty decent bet one or more of the aforementioned teams has that argument, and walks away from this quarterback class altogether. It wouldn’t be the first time.
We’re heavy on draft information in MMQB this week. But we’re also going to hit some other things, like …
• Demarcus Lawrence’s big deal in Dallas, and how it got done.
• Josh Rosen’s decision to show up in Arizona on Monday.
• The challenge ahead of Matt LaFleur in coaching Aaron Rodgers as the Packers offseason program kicks off.
• The feud between Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster is heating up again.
• Why the Colts spent on Devin Funchess and Justin Houston in NFL free agency despite all that money at their disposal.
• The ugliness of the AAF circling the drain.
But we’re starting with an intriguing topic—the idea that maybe, just maybe, all these teams looking at quarterbacks should be looking a little further into the future. Meaning beyond this year.
Last May, in a story outlining the Jets’ journey to drafting Sam Darnold, we explained how in early 2017, New York studied both that year’s and the next year’s classes of QBs, and determined the smart move was to wait. While Brown wouldn’t say so, I’d heard then, and have written since, that at the time the Browns were also assessing more than just who was available at quarterback in that single year.
Time will tell whether it was the right call. The Jets and Browns both passed on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, but Cleveland got Baker Mayfield, and the Jets landed Darnold, and both, at this early stage, seem like good fits for where they are. So it’s hard to say whether either team will regret the decision.
But if you move aside the simplest part of this—which quarterback is better—there are positives to waiting from a team-building standpoint.
First, if a rebuilding team waits, it figures to be better in Year 2 or Year 3 of the process (that, of course, is no guarantee) and have stronger infrastructure around the quarterback to support his growth. “Is your roster ready to take on a young quarterback?” Brown asked. “The pressure to play him is going to be immediate.”
Second, a team drafting high and taking a long-term approach can start flipping picks. Cleveland wound up with five drafts worth of picks in a three-year span by, in consecutive years, dealing with teams selling out to get a quarterback. And that’ll only do more to steel the foundation around the young QB.
Third, having a cheap young quarterback creates a window in which a team has a huge advantage in its ability to spend—that window usually lasts about three years, after the quarterback’s rookie year and before he gets paid in his first contract extension or free agency. The Rams and Eagles have taken advantage of it. The Browns and Jets are doing so now. And if you can delay that window a little, you might have a more championship-ready team with which to exploit it.
The 2012 Seahawks are a great example. Russell Wilson landed in Seattle in Year 3 of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era, and the team he inherited was loaded. After Wilson’s rookie year, the Seahawks took advantage of his favorable rookie deal and signed Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett—and won the Super Bowl. Had Seattle gone looking for a quarterback in the 2010 draft (the year of Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy), things would have worked out completely differently. Instead, the Seahawks drafted building blocks such as Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate and Kam Chancellor in ’10.
“You can take the evaluation and say, ‘OK, we have three or four QBs this year, depending on who you like, and there’s a number next year,” an AFC exec says. “And you study those guys at the same time and grade them all together, and line them up on a board, looking at the two classes. And waiting gives you the opportunity to straighten out the cap this year, clean that up, acquire some draft assets, maybe let the coach establish his program, build a foundation. And then you acquire the QB.”
And then there’s the other element.
“I’d wait,” another top AFC personnel exec says. “This year’s names are hot now. The average swinging ---- doesn’t know who Fromm is. And may not know who Herbert is. But after this draft is over, they will.”
Translation: Next year’s group could be really good.
A lot can change in a year. Consider: Two years ago, even after three years as a starter at two programs, Mayfield had yet to emerge as a top NFL prospect. Last year Haskins and Murray were fighting for starting jobs.
But early indications are that Tagovailoa, Herbert and Fromm have a shot at making some team look really smart next April. So we enlisted ESPN’s Todd McShay and Elite 11 head coach/former NFL QB Trent Dilfer (who’s coached a lot of these kids since they were 16, via Elite 11) to give us a snapshot of these guys.
It started with both giving Herbert high marks for the decision he made to return to Eugene for his senior year.
“I’ve studied Herbert, and I thought he made a good decision,” McShay says. “He’s got immense talent, but he just wasn’t consistent enough. He’s big, freakishly athletic and fast for his size. He’s got a big arm. He makes big throws. But he needs more development in his decision-making and accuracy. My guess is he’d be in the Drew Lock area [this year]. I think teams would have concerns.”
“I love his tape,” Dilfer said. “What Herbert has, he’s one of the few of these last four or five years who has the stature—it’s not just height, it’s height and joint structure, the weight, it’s all of it—who also has the twitch of the six-foot guy, to get it out quick. Herbert does it like Baker, Tua, Darnold. His eyes see it and, boom, it happens. And Herbert staying was brilliant. The knock was he hadn’t played enough.”
Fromm, in a certain way, is the opposite—he’s a more polished prospect, though younger, with questions centered on how much room he has to grow.
“Jake works as hard as anyone you’ll see—he’ll be easy to integrate into your locker room,” Dilfer says. “He can lead whatever type of person you have in your locker room. He can learn football at a high level, be a student of the game, play well in the biggest moments. Nothing bothers him. He just lacks some physicality, lacks that horsepower in his body. That’s gonna be the knock.”
“I haven’t studied him as closely, but I love the competitor,” McShay says. “At the Rose Bowl two years ago, we saw him compete. And he’s getting better, from what I’ve observed watching all these other players play Georgia. Even not studying him specifically, you can see the ball’s out on time, he gets the game. The problem is that nothing jumps out physically about him.”
And that brings us to Tagovailoa, whose ascension in the eyes of NFL people may reflect the league’s change as much as anything. He stands 5' 11", and no one seems to care.
“I think Tua is one of the most naturally gifted passers I’ve ever seen, from a touch, timing, trajectory standpoint,” McShay says. “He’s got good mobility. He’s not a freak athlete. The thing that concerns me is him holding up physically, the durability. You saw that last year. But that dude is special from a passing standpoint, accuracy, timing, seeing the whole field.”
“Tua’s the finest prospect I’ve ever evaluated,” Dilfer says. “He learns better, throws better than anybody, moves better than anybody. He’s tough. He can change the next rep, you give a tiny thing here, and the next rep he can change. It’s just too bad he played poorly the last time we saw him. He’d tell you that too. He’s special. But he’s 5' 11", and we’re having the same conversation around Kyler, around Baker.
“Can a guy that size make it? I’ve said yes.”
Now, if a team really wants to spin it forward, then it should look two years ahead—when Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is draft-eligible.
“If I’m gonna commit to this, which I think is insane, it’s for 2021,” McShay says. “That guy is the guy.”
But there’s so much between then and now that can change—plus the team has to really commit to lose—which makes waiting difficult. Most of the GMs and execs I spoke with agree with McShay, saying that it’s tough to preemptively jump the line for a future year’s quarterbacks.
“Should you look at them? Yes,” one AFC GM says. “But you need a lot of one-on-one stuff. You can’t get your hands on Herbert or Tua now. So in theory, it sounds like a great plan. I don’t know how practical it is. You’d have to have an owner totally OK with getting bashed for a couple years. You’re basically saying you’re trying to lose. And it’s hard to win with a rookie QB, so it’s two years, and no guarantees in year three.”
So that brings us back to where many of these teams are right now—struggling through the complexities of finding a quarterback. And there’s no infallible blueprint to make it happen.
In a few weeks, Haskins will hold up one team’s jersey at a press conference, and Daniel Jones will hold up another team’s jersey. Lock will be introduced somewhere as well. And then another team (Miami maybe?) will pass instead, and gear up to watch a lot of Alabama and Oregon football in the fall.
None of us can tell now which team will be right.
“Trevor checks every box, Tua checks every box, Jake checks most,” Dilfer says. “Kyler, I thought he’d go to baseball, but he checks all the boxes. I thought Dwayne should’ve waited, but he’s the most like Tom Brady of anyone we’ve had. He sees it like Tom, he works at it, he plays that way. He plays on time, with his intellectual process. I don’t want to compare anyone to Brady, but he’s Tom Brady-ish.”
And at that point, Dilfer stops and breaks out his favorite analogy—saying these quarterbacks are like ice cream, meaning he thinks they’re all good, but each is going to appeal to different teams for different reasons.
Which is also to say, if you’re not wild about this year’s flavors, there’ll be new ones for you next year.
17 DAYS AND COUNTING...
The draft is 17 days away. Here’s one thing on each of the first half-dozen teams picking …
1. Arizona: Not many people think they’re going to pass on Kyler Murray. I don’t either.
2. San Francisco: This one, as of now, seems almost as simple. If Murray goes to the Cardinals, the assumption is that Nick Bosa will be a Niner.
3. Jets: New York has only six picks and badly wants to deal out of the three spot to try to recoup the 2 they’re missing as a result of the Sam Darnold trade. So they need the quarterback market to heat up.
4. Oakland: Maybe they take a quarterback. If they don’t, the chalk says Alabama’s Quinnen Williams would be the fit here. But I wouldn’t rule out LSU LB Devin White, who’s quietly put himself in the top five conversation.
5. Tampa Bay: Word is the Bucs love White, and they have a clear need with the loss of Kwon Alexander. Williams slipping here could make for an interesting decision, since that could free the Bucs to cut Gerald McCoy.
6. Giants: Among league people, you hear as much about their desire for a piece for their defensive front as you do about the quarterback need. So maybe this is Kentucky’s Josh Allen, instead of Haskins or Jones or Lock.
LAWRENCE NEVER WANTED TO LEAVE DALLAS
During a breakthrough conference call on Thursday between Cowboys COO Stephen Jones, DE Demarcus Lawrence, agent David Canter, and Canter’s VP of analytics, Brian McIntyre, the agent texted his client at a particularly tense moment with directions on what to say.
So trade me then.
When those words never came out of Lawrence’s mouth, the situation crystallized to Canter. The 27-year-old pass-rusher has put down roots near the team facility in Frisco, Texas. He’s close with coordinator Rod Marinelli. He’s a leader in a locker room with a burgeoning young defense. In short, Lawrence didn’t really want to go anywhere, and his refusal to say those four words was proof.
“I knew then that fighting over a half-million dollars would do a disservice to my client,” Canter says. “I know that’s who my responsibility is to.”
It wasn’t a straight line from that point to a deal getting done. In fact, at 3:45 p.m. ET on Friday, it actually looked like the negotiation had taken a step backwards. But buoyed by Lawrence’s desire to sign, the sides eventually got there, striking a five-year, $105 million accord early Friday evening. Canter took me through the process, and here are the most interesting things he said.
• The Cowboys’ desire for Lawrence to have shoulder surgery created a key leverage point. He played all of 2018 and part of ’17 with a torn labrum, and he wasn’t going to have surgery without getting a long-term deal first. So with months of rehab to follow that, if Dallas wanted him to get the repair and play the whole 2019 season, this had to happen soon. Most deals for tagged players happen in July, near the deadline, but this circumstance pushed the timetable way up. Dallas’s team doctor, Daniel Cooper, will perform the surgery on Wednesday.
• If Lawrence didn’t get a deal by the July 15 deadline, his plan was to report the Saturday before Week 1. He wasn’t sitting out the season. “We were never going to turn down $20.5 million for one,” Canter said. “This was not going to be the Le’Veon Bell situation.” On the flip side, for the team, if Lawrence did show up just before the opener, the concern would be whether or not they’d get the best version of Lawrence, who’d have to work his way back into football shape on the fly.
• All that said, there was also urgency for the player to do a deal. He’s had two major back surgeries, foot surgery, thumb surgery and is about to have his shoulder done. He’d go into free agency at age 28 next year. There was no guarantee the money would be the same then as it is now.
• Coming out of the combine and right up until the start of free agency, nothing was close. Then Trey Flowers signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Lions, which started to frame where things were going, since there was agreement that Lawrence was a better player. Canter sent a proposal at $132 million over six years. The Cowboys weren’t happy about that, because it was more than he’d asked for previously.
• When things looked bleakest, Canter was working with two AFC teams on potentially trading for Lawrence. He says he believes one of the two was ready to pull the trigger. One important piece of movement that prevented it from ever coming to that: the Cowboys’ willingness to go to a five-year structure.
• There was an agreement that Lawrence and Stephen Jones had to talk after the owners meetings. Dallas general counsel Jason Cohen wound up being key in making sure that discussion eventually happened, after some scheduling issues got in the way, as Lawrence made a trip to his alma mater in Boise for its pro day.
• After the conference call, the two sides exchanged proposals twice, so four were made in total, on Thursday night. Lawrence and Canter set a goal to get $50 million over the first two years, and $66 million over three. They wound up getting close—Lawrence ended up with $48 million over two, and $65 million over three.
And ultimately, the decision came down to what the player really wanted beyond money, which was to stay put. Earlier in the process Canter sent Lawrence a chart to show how Dallas’s offers stacked up financially against Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald, Flowers and Von Miller.
In the end, among those five, he was third in average per year, third in full guarantee, first in guaranteed APY, first in percentage of the deal fully guaranteed, first in Year 1 cash (factoring in deferments, etc.) and third in three-year cashflow. Best of all, he got all of it right at home. And now the Cowboys can turn around and work on deals for Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones.
Everyone, it seems, won here. Dallas did a fair deal. Lawrence got a fair deal.
“I’m really happy for everyone involved,” Canter said.
1. The Cardinals’ offseason program kicks off on Monday, and I’m told that Josh Rosen does indeed plan to be in attendance. Additionally, I can tell you he’s received no indication one way or the other on whether or not he’ll still be on the team in a month or so. At this point all we can say is that how he’s handled these rumors runs counter to some of the knocks on him that emerged last year. If he were selfish or not a team-first player, he probably would not show up until Arizona declares what’s happening with the first pick—whether that comes on draft day or earlier. And you could argue that maybe he shouldn’t show anyway—Browns RB Duke Johnson didn’t show to his team’s offseason program last week because his name has been floated in trade talks. The fact that Rosen will be there shows a level of professionalism.
So if Cardinals GM Steve Keim and company decide Kyler Murray is the guy, what kind of time constraints are they working with? If they’re going to deal Rosen in 2019, it makes sense to do it before the draft. When Haskins, Lock, Jones and the draft’s other QBs get picked, that will shorten the pool of suitors that could drive Rosen’s value up. And as for the teams that have shown even the slightest interest in Rosen, I’ve been told the Dolphins, Redskins, Giants and Chargers have checked in.
2. Speaking of the first pick, the Cardinals have, at the very least, gone through the motions with the consensus No. 1 prospect in the draft—Ohio State DE Nick Bosa. I had one GM theorize to me recently that they may be trying to push the 49ers to deal up one spot (as the Niners did with the Bears two years ago) to get him.
Bosa, by the way, is expected right now to take trips to a total of five teams facilities for “30” visits (teams are allotted 30 prospect visits before the draft, where they bring the prospect into the facility). He met with the Giants last week, in addition to going to Arizona. And I’m told he’ll have dinner with the Niners in California on Wednesday night and meet with them Thursday, have dinner with the Raiders Thursday night and be at their facility on Friday, and dine with the Bucs brass on Sunday night, and meet with them next Monday.
3. Bleacher Report’s Ty Dunne did a very thorough job breaking down the Packers’ issues and the rift between Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers that blew wide open last fall (our own Kalyn Kahler did really good work writing about Green Bay during the season as well). And in there, we clearly see the challenge facing new coach Matt LaFleur.
A head coach doesn’t automatically win Rodgers’ favor. I was told last year that things got so strained between coach and quarterback that it almost became sport to see who had the better call. As a 14-year veteran, Rodgers had the green light to change plays at the line, and was exercising his option to do it constantly with McCarthy, which came off to others, implicitly, as acting as if he knew better. That kept McCarthy from getting into a rhythm as a play-caller at times, and led to some games getting away from the Packers offense.
It only got worse when longtime assistants Tom Clements and Alex Van Pelt, well known to be buffers between the two, were ousted in consecutive offseasons. What could complicate things further is that LaFleur comes from a coaching tree where offensive coaches generally wield a lot of control and work to make things simpler on their quarterbacks (one example: some control over checks goes to the center, to allow the QB to play faster). As a result, I’d think the first job for both LaFleur and Rodgers would be finding a middle ground.
4. The back-and-forth on Twitter between Antonio Brown, the Raiders’ newest WR, and his old Pittsburgh teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster underscores how things came apart at the end of last season. Brown retweeted a fan, who hit him with a graphic showing Smith-Schuster as team MVP, and pointed out Smith-Schuster’s fumble against the Saints in Week 16. That fumble, of course, came days before Smith-Schuster was voted Steelers MVP, which was the final straw for Brown, who then went AWOL on the team.
Whether you buy it as legitimate or not, Brown felt underappreciated at the end in Pittsburgh, and he believed others weren’t investing in last season as much as he was—and that’s why he lost it over something that to most of us would seem pretty arbitrary. That makes the next step for Brown interesting; I’m not sure Jon Gruden spends much time worrying about who feels appreciated and who doesn’t.
5. I think too often the public views individual team moves in a vacuum, but the Colts are a good example of a team looking at their moves three-dimensionally. Indianapolis, flush with cap space, didn’t make a top-of-the-market splash in free agency, but it did have a pair of fairly big-money signings on shorter-term deals: Devin Funchess for a one-year, $10 million (plus incentives) contract, and Justin Houston for two at $12 million a year. Obviously, GM Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich like the players, but beyond just that, I’m told those moves reflected the Colts’ feelings on the draft, where Indianapolis sits with the No. 26, 34 and 59 picks in the first two rounds. Specifically, there is a belief that there won’t be a great edge-rusher or starting-level receiver (or one at that level for 2019, at least) available where they’re picking. So it behooved them to take care of those needs before the draft, which they did, without giving up any long-term financial flexibility.
6. The spending on offensive linemen in free agency the last two offseasons is Exhibit A on how scarcity can drive the market in the NFL—and that will spill over to the draft in a few weeks. There just aren’t enough properly developed big men out there coming into the league.
After calling around, my sense is that three tackles have established themselves as the best in the class: Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, Alabama’s Jonah Williams and Washington State’s Andre Dillard. Those three should come off the board one after another somewhere in the top half of the first round, maybe starting with Jacksonville at No. 7.
Is there a Jonathan Ogden in there? Nope. Taylor played right tackle in college, and some have projected him to left tackle in the NFL. But that is, as spelled out, a projection. Some line coaches think Williams isn’t long enough to play tackle in the pros, and will land at guard. And Dillard, a gifted athlete, has good, but not great tape. And yet, there’s a belief out there that they’ll all be gone by the No. 15 or 16 pick, simply because it’s really, really hard to find good tackles. This situation could also push some of the (very solid) guards and centers that many assumed would be Friday picks into the bottom of the first round.
7. It’s not unusual that you’d have more teams looking to move down than up in April, but it certainly seems like that’s even more the case this year than it has been before. The reason? There’s not much difference, as most teams see it, between the No. 10 and No. 15 picks. I had one team tell me over the weekend that the second round, based on grades, and depending on where the quarterbacks go, starts for them around the No. 12 or 13 pick.
The upshot? There’s rich depth well into Friday, so it’s good to have volume in this draft. The Panthers, Texans, Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs, Steelers and Redskins each have three picks on Friday. The Patriots have five. In an effort to build capital in that area, I’m told that two teams will be aggressively looking to deal down in the first round: the Lions and Seahawks.
8. If you’re into tracking who’s at pro days, the presence of a couple teams at certain pro days has been noted by rivals. One was Buffalo’s presence, with both its GM and head coach, at Houston’s pro day. It’s no secret how Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott value defensive linemen, and so there’s been dot-connecting behind the scenes linking those guys to Ed Oliver. And then there’s the resources the Bengals put forth in being at a number of the quarterbacks’ pro days.
9. While we’re there, the Redskins have done a ton of work on the quarterback prospects, and some have linked them to Haskins. He went to high school in the Washington, D.C., area, which will allow the team to bring him in this week and not have it count against their 30 prospect visits. And because of all this, teams looking to trade out of the top 10 are viewing Washington as a potential trade partner. That’s provided they aren’t the team that deals for Rosen, of course.
10. It’s strange that the first round’s two biggest wild cards would come not only from the same school, but from the same position group at that school, but I believe that’s where we are with Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. Both are roundly considered top-10 talents. Both carry different kinds of baggage. With Simmons, it’s the video of him striking a woman during his senior year in high school, and a torn ACL suffered in January. With Sweat, it’s having been kicked out of Michigan State, and a heart condition that came to light at the combine. Taking either will require a pretty fair amount of digging for teams. And both guys have great upside. It’ll be interesting to see where things fall with these two. A little under three weeks out, I know I’m having a hard time placing how high they’ll go.
… OF THE WEEK
“Right now, we’re just a group of players. Our roster looks great, but whoop-dee hell. We’ve got work to do.” — Browns coach Freddie Kitchens.
That’s a print-it-on-tshirts quote from Freddie. Love it. And point taken.
I remember when the Patriots quarterback held a ceremony announcing that he had picked Instagram as his social media account of choice. Maybe this is a better way for him to get his plans for OTAs out there?
I’m going to assume Murray, Haskins, Lock and Jones. And by the way, Jones keeps getting linked to the Giants in scouting circles. Maybe it’s dot-connecting (because David Cutcliffe, the Mannings’ guy, is his coach), maybe it’s more than that. Twenty-five is also an interesting cut-off there. Picks 21-25: Seattle, Baltimore, Houston, Oakland, Philadelphia.
And Steve Spurrier finally proved he could dominate pro football.
Ryan Shazier’s spinal stabilization surgery was 16 months ago yesterday, so to see this (a three-foot box jump) is pretty crazy.
Like McShay said, Trevor Lawrence is coming. I’m trying to remain skeptical, because I remember how people talked about guys like Rosen and Christian Hackenberg as true freshman, but it’s pretty hard to do so with Lawrence.
A new SEC legend was born on Saturday night.
I had no idea what Old Town Road was eight days ago. Now I can’t get it out of my head.
Good move by the Browns giving Odell Beckham Jr. company up there at the podium during his introductory press conference on Monday. It seemed like it took the pressure off of Beckham a little, and reinforced Kitchens’ focus on the team first. But was I the only one who felt like Myles Garrett was sort of tossed in there for no apparent reason? I love his game, and think he’s got a shot to be a superstar, but he stood out in this situation. (Somehow, the guy still looks like a cartoon superhero next to other professional athletes.)
Rosen should wear that exact outfit to work on Monday.
Just because I couldn’t unsee that.
To these kids. Fantastic. Just do yourself a favor and watch this …
SIX FROM THE SIDELINES
1. Apropos of nothing: If Murray lands in Arizona, it’ll be the third straight year a former Texas high school football player goes first overall in the NFL draft. That’s bonkers.
2. The way Texas Tech’s basketball team plays defense is mesmerizing, and a huge credit to Chris Beard and his staff. The way his guys just pick-pocketed Michigan State over and over again, like the Spartans were a high school team, was crazy.
3. I don’t care what Virginia’s Kyle Guy said about being “terrified” after the Hoos beat Auburn on Saturday night. Go back and watch him hit those three free throws again. He looked cocky as hell. All three went down like nothing from delivery to finish.
4. Pretty cool that the Phoenix Suns had area icon/Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald sitting in on interviews as they looked for a new basketball czar (per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski).
5. I think Nick Saban’s probably going to get crushed for saying that players “lose” by entering the NFL draft early, because it comes off as self-serving. There are a lot of players who shouldn’t declare for the draft that do, and there are plenty of players who benefit from staying in college. Take, for example, Kentucky’s Josh Allen—the linebacker would have been a Day 2 pick last year, and he’s a lock to go in the top 10 now. These are personal decisions, and I think anyone expected to land in the first three rounds should think hard about it. And yes, staying in school carries risk. There’s upside in some cases, too.
6. ICYMI, and while we’re there, here’s Saban on something Bill Belichick taught him.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The Alliance of American Football, showed us that it’s awfully difficult to make a second pro football league work in this country, no matter what the concept behind it is. And among the people I spoke with last week, no one was surprised when the league suspended its football operations this past week.
Those involved in the AAF say there were bad signs from the start. Once Tom Dundon, owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, bought a majority stake in February, spending was cut way back—and from there, those on the inside saw that it was a matter of time. Among the red flags …
1. Many coaches weren’t supplied with team computers—a basic necessity for those in the industry to watch film and construct playbooks, among other things. Coaches were using their personal laptops.
2. Travel restrictions mounted as the season went on, with team presidents, marketing execs, content producers and social media people no longer going on trips at the end.
3. Increasingly, there was more oversight on spending, with even small expenditures going through department heads and managers.
4. By the end, there were no team meals on the road. Players and coaches were given a $30 per diem instead.
5. Only players and coaches were allowed to eat on the team plane. Doctors, trainers and equipment staff were on their own.
It’s an unfortunate conclusion because in a certain way, the vision of Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian was playing out. The AAF was developing players, as the dozen or so signings of the last few days would indicate.
Going forward, what does this mean for the XFL, the Pacific Pro League and other entries? Nothing has really changed. Making any sports league that’s not at the highest level work in this country is always going to be a challenge. Without the financial backing of that sport’s major league, it’s even tougher. And in a sport like football, given the overhead to make a league go, it’s borderline impossible.
Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.