When the rest of the NFL world thought the walls were caving in around Jets coach Adam Gase, he only saw exactly what he wanted to see.
At 10 a.m. last Thursday, Gase got in front of the cameras for the first time since the team fired Mike Maccagnan as GM on May 15. An hour later, he was on the practice field with his team for their third on-field session—out of pads and, as a result, not too tuned up—under the new staff. And the first-year boss couldn’t have walked out of the team’s indoor facility happier.
“The day before a four-day weekend, I just felt like the way the guys went, I was very, very impressed and happy with how hard those guys were practicing, how much effort they were giving, as far as guys running routes, defensive players running after the ball, just playing every play,” Gase said. “There was excitement. Guys were genuinely excited to be out there. When you’re a coach, and effort isn’t something you’re worried about, that’s great.
“Then you can work on the details. That’s how guys get better. You have guys that love practicing every day, that environment, that’s who some of these guys are. They just love it. Jamal Adams loves walking on that field every day. C.J. [Mosley]. Sam [Darnold]. Quincy [Enunwa]. Those guys love being out there. It’s awesome.”
For the time being, the Jets are Gase’s show—and it will remain that way in Florham Park, N.J. at least until a new GM is hired.
And while most of us on the outside saw the drama of the last two weeks as a symptom of what’s plagued the franchise for decades, Gase was working on something that he sees, at this point, as barely five months old. His focus is on his program, which is a little more than halfway from the time of his hire to opening day.
Does it matter that the backdrop is New York and all that comes with it? Gase swears it does not.
“The weather’s different,” he said. “It’s colder than Miami. That’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed. Outside of that, it’s the same.”
So he’s cool with how Thursday went. Because what he was really worried about went just fine.
Happy Memorial Day to everyone, and especially to the service members that protect all of us every day. We’ve got something for all those people a little lower down in the column. And we’ve got a bunch of football to serve up this morning too, including …
• How the combine is going to change next year, and why moving the drills to primetime won’t be as easy as it may seem.
• Jerry Jones on the Cowboys’ contractual challenges.
• The biggest contract the new Dolphins regime has negotiated, and what it means going forward for the organization.
• The Patriots’ deal with Edelman, and something to like about the young receiver they’ll have coming up behind him.
We’re starting, though, elsewhere in the AFC East.
When Gase and I talked Saturday morning, he didn’t have much interest in going backwards and discussing what went down with Maccagnan. As he sees it, it is what it is, and nothing’s going to change it. Instead we dissected where the Jets are now, and where they’re headed. And while he’s got a lot on his plate as the interim GM and head coach, there’s no question what the biggest piece of business in front of the team is.
The Jets’ plan is to interview a half-dozen or so candidates in an initial round to find Maccagnan’s replacement. Requests are out for Philadelphia’s Joe Douglas, Chicago’s Champ Kelly, Minnesota’s George Paton and Seattle’s Scott Fitterer. The hope is interviews will start this week, with acting owner Christopher Johnson, Gase and SVP Hymie Elhai (a Johnson family confidant) as the lead players.
“Christopher’s making the decision,” Gase said. “There are a couple of us that are trying to help put the right type of guys in front of him. And the biggest thing, you’re looking for a guy that has leadership qualities. … [But] that has to be both of us [as GM and coach]. We both have to do it. We got to work together to accomplish that. It’s been a while—eight years since they made the playoffs. It’s been a while.
“There are a lot of people here that haven’t experienced that yet.”
Gase actually did in his first year in Miami. And interestingly enough, when I asked him if there was a partnership he’d seen over his 20 years of coaching that would be a model for what he wants in New York, that’s exactly where he went.
“I know what it looks like, because the last three years, I had it,” he said. “Me and [Dolphins GM Chris Grier], we had a great relationship. What everybody says that was, and what it was, nobody knows. … He was a great communicator. He does a great job of managing his department, did an unbelievable job personally, for me at the time, over the last three years, of sending me in the direction of guys to evaluate, whether it be in free agency or in the college draft.
“I didn’t waste time in those areas, because [Grier] was dead on. He knew exactly the type of players I like, character I like. He could tell you, ‘You’re gonna like this guy’ or ‘This guy needs to be a guy we target.’ And he understood our offense, defense and special teams. … He gets it and he knows how to take that conversation, point out guys and be like, ‘This is what we’re looking for.’”
In a nutshell, Gase and Grier were aligned philosophically, which allowed Gase to focus on coaching the team. So the hunt is on for not only that kind of guy, but that kind of relationship. And while I think Douglas remains the favorite, it’s worth noting that, per sources, requests haven’t yet gone in for San Francisco’s Adam Peters or Detroit’s Lance Newmark, both of whom are close to Gase.
You may be surprised that Gase looks back and sees a lot of good in what he had in Miami. And if you are, you may be surprised with a few other things he said during our talk, too. Here are some highlights of our conversation…
Gase loves Mosley. I reported in that Game Plan column that Mosley was Gase’s No. 1 free agent, and nothing I heard from Gase on Saturday (even though he didn’t confirm that Mosley was No. 1 explicitly) would make me think otherwise. At its core, Mosley’s signing wasn’t unlike the Dolphins’ effort in 2018 to fix their locker room with strong vets like Frank Gore and Danny Amendola.
“It’s the same philosophy,” Gase said. “If you look at what happened last year, we ended up having 13 guys on IR, we never put Xavien [Howard] on IR, but he missed the whole end of the season after the New England game. We were missing really good players, we were 7-9, and we were 7-6 going into that Minnesota game. If somehow we win that game, all of the sudden, we’re right there in playoff hunt.
“And the only reason we were even in that position with all those injuries is the locker room was good. Those guys were battling together.”
Gase had enough friends who he’d listen to talk about Mosley over the years—not the least of which was Nick Saban, his mentor and Mosley’s college coach—to have a good feel for the four-time Pro Bowler. Was the price tag high? Sure. But Gase felt like he knew what he was getting, which was vital
“His reputation is no secret around the NFL,” he said. “People know. Eric Weddle actually texted me when we were in free agency and laid it out—‘Do whatever you gotta do to get this guy, this guy is a stud.’ [Weddle] had just signed with L.A., and it was great to get confirmation on the things we’d already heard.”
He’s also impressed with Jamal Adams. Here’s one thing that did go wrong during OTAs last week.
“It’s frustrating a little bit, because a lot of these guys have played against this offense,” Gase said. “So the first practice, we go out there and Jamal’s calling out everything. He knows run or pass, he’s able to at least say, ‘Hey, I think this is coming.’ And sometimes, he was right, and I’m going, ‘Really? First day, you’re gonna do that?’ He’s like, ‘I’ve played you four times, we’ve played two years, I have an idea of what this stuff is.’
“Which, it was really cool to see how competitive he was, and how much every practice means to that guy. Just watching guys like Leonard Williams and CJ, all these guys I personally had to be on the other sideline from.”
To translate that: You can put Adams is in the Mosley category for Gase.
Darnold’s work ethic has jumped out. To get the offense down, the second-year quarterback has devoured tape of Gase’s offense from the last six years—Denver to Chicago to Miami. And that got his coach’s attention.
“When you watch him just throw, anyone can watch him throw and go, ‘that guy can throw the football,’” Gase said. “I think the side that I didn’t know as much, and I’ve seen it since I’ve been here, is how competitive he is as far as learning football. He wants to be as good as he can be. He wants to be a great player. And you can tell by his work ethic, that’s what he wants to do. He’s not just talking the talk.”
As you might imagine, a lot of that study, with all due respect to Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler, has led to Darnold to one place. “He asks a lot of questions about Peyton [Manning], obviously,” Gase says. And it’s everything from how Manning handles himself/the offense at the line to what Manning would ask in meetings, all the way down to how Manning would take notes.
“He watches a lot of the old stuff—he’s watched a lot of Peyton’s stuff,” Gase said. “He’s watched almost all of our cut-ups. The good thing is we’ve got a pretty healthy library of examples … He’s watched so much of it he can bring up certain plays from different seasons to where he’ll ask a question—hey, what made him do this? Or why did he think this way? He’s really gone through a lot of this stuff already.”
Gase hasn’t talked to Manning since January, so no Manning/Darnold summit has been arranged. But, he says, “If it ends up happening, that’s great. Hopefully I can eventually. I just try not to bug Peyton too much. I feel like I’ve asked enough of him already throughout my career.”
Le’Veon Bell’s place. Regardless of how Bell landed on the roster, he’s a Jet now. And so Gase has big plans for him.
“I think he’s very motivated to do well and help this team win,” Gase said. “And I think the more people keep talking, the more he keeps putting his head down and working. For me, I’ve combed through a lot of the things he’s done in Pittsburgh to make sure I really understands what he loves doing, and make sure we do a good job of building this offense, because it’s very fluid and flexible, it’s chameleon-like.”
The implication there, of course, is that he would adjust his scheme and center it around Bell, which makes sense since Gase went on to say, “You have a guy that’s an elite player and can do a lot of things.” And a guy who, if things go right, could wind up being a young quarterback’s best friend.
“He’s going to make things happen,” Gase said. “I think any time you got a guy that can do that, and has done that in the past, and done it at a historic rate, it’s going to be very valuable for our quarterback.”
Just so it’s clear, Gase isn’t oblivious to what’s gone down outside the building, He knew he’d have to address the noise with his players, and he has with select leaders—“The longer I’m around these guys, the more I realize they don’t pay attention to it, especially the guys that have been here.”
And for his part, he says he isn’t it either, which is good, because the back pages in New York can be tough on a coach. They sure have been on Gase.
“I don’t read anything and I don’t watch TV, I don’t read the internet, I don’t have social media,” Gase says. “So everything’s all good in my world. It’s everybody else that seems like they have a problem [with how perception’s gone]. In my eyes, that’s just what it is. I don’t know what everybody’s saying. I don’t care. It’s irrelevant to my life.”
For now, what is relevant to him is what was on that practice field, and not in the press conference, on Thursday. Soon enough, there’ll be a scoreboard there too.
Then, we’ll all get to see how Gase’s Jets are really doing.
COMBINE CHANGES (BUT NOT THE CHANGE YOU’RE EXPECTING)
This week’s announcement that the combine will be moving on-field drills into primetime might have seemed to come out of nowhere. But the truth is the league and National Football Scouting, which runs the event, have been working on this since October. To go back even further, last year’s Saturday broadcast, which went over the air on ABC and shuffled timing some, was actually a Beta test for it.
So this wasn’t some ham-handed decision. Is it ideal? It probably isn’t for the football people. But a lot of time went into making sure it was done right.
“It certainly involved some learning,” said Jeff Foster, president of NFS. “We hadn’t rebuilt [the schedule] in 10 years. So it was a learning opportunity for all of us. But yeah, what we ended up doing is compromising on the broad piece.”
Maybe I’m the only person who found this whole thing interesting. If you don’t, feel free to scroll past this. If you do, here are a couple of notes I gleaned from Foster…
NFS and the NFL spent about 200 hours building a new schedule based around what the networks told them was ideal. The biggest challenge? Working around the medical exams, which are very tightly wound (last year, about 450 MRI, 1200 x-rays and 75 CTs were done, per Forster) and, thus, very hard to move. On top of that, players must first undergo medicals, because they have to be cleared to work out and processing all of those physicals takes time. “The medical exams can’t change,” Foster said. “You can shift them a day, but the timing couldn’t change.”
• For the same reason the medicals had to be first (to give time to process the physicals), the workouts had to be last on the schedule.
• The player interviews occupied the evening hours at the combine, so those would have to move. Those are also the second most important piece to teams, right behind medical. So having them conflict with anything else was going to be a non-starter. The plan, for now, is to move those into the morning and early afternoon.
• Foster prioritized three groups, in talking through this. First and foremost, he wanted the player experience to be positive. Second, he wanted to make sure club personnel could participate in every aspect (and not miss things because of scheduling conflicts). Third, he wanted to take care of the city partners, from IU Health (which runs the physicals) to the hotels to the caterers that feed everyone.
• The NFL formed a GM committee to help represent the teams’ needs—Indianapolis’ Chris Ballard, Chargers’ Tom Telesco, Atlanta’s Thomas Dimitroff, Pittsburgh’s Kevin Colbert and Minnesota’s Rick Spielman.
• Foster met with the league (represented by Dawn Aponte, Troy Vincent and Dave Gardi) and networks six weeks ago to work on the schedule, which was then shared with the GM committee. They have a template now that’ll go through four rounds of testing. The hope is to have the new schedule set by early July.
The elephant in the room is that this could be the precursor for the combine leaving Indianapolis and either finding a new permanent home or becoming a traveling show like the draft. Foster, to be clear, conceded that he is he concerned about that.
“Yes, because it’s been discussed,” he said. “But it’s been discussed before this, too. The integrity of this as a football event, does it hold true if you’re making it mobile? You could do the interviews and the workouts other places, but I see the value of having a medical partner like IU, with its 30-plus years of experience managing the massive logistics of 450 MRIs, 1200 x-rays, 75 CTs. … To be able to do that mass of evaluations in a four-day period requires a very strategic partner. IU has proven it.”
It should be noted, too, that Indianapolis is fighting its own fight here. The Pan-Am Plaza Project, which will expand the city’s convention space, add hotels to the area over the next four years and, Foster sees it, “be critical to the growth of the combine” is one carrot the city is dangling for the NFL.
Will it be enough to stem the tide, with Dallas and Los Angeles already having put in the ask to host future combines? We should know late next year. The combine will be in Indy this year and next, with options for 2022, ’23, ’24 and ’25. Those have to be exercised about 18 months out, which means the first one will come due in the fall of 2020.
CONTRACTS LOOMING FOR THE COWBOYS
Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Zeke Elliott, Byron Jones, La’el Collins and Jaylon Smith are inching closer to the final season of their rookie deals. Dallas does have an option on Elliott for 2020 and Smith will be a restricted free agent if he makes it to next March unsigned, but the overall picture here remains clouded.
Which deal breaks the ice? Is it healthy to have this many guys in that spot?
I asked Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as he was leaving the spring meeting last week about how he planned to get all these loose ends tied about. And he hardly seemed panicked.
“We’ve always had 60 of these things that have had to be executed,” Jones said. “It’s just a part of it. … It’s not any challenge at all. As a matter of fact, you’ve probably got a better reference point to look at where you are. But at any one time, we’ve always got these contracts we’re negotiating. That’s not to diminish each individual’s situation, the player, the position. It’s not to diminish anything.
“The point is, you could say, ‘well, it’s going great’, and then you get a call and it isn’t. But in my mind, we don’t have in any way inordinate or concerning issues with our whole contract position.”
I’d actually agree with him there. But if they get out of training camp and are still in this spot, we’re talking about something different that could wind up being a factor in how the 2019 team plays.
So what’s the most likely scenario? When I asked Jones if it made sense to do Prescott’s contract first, he quickly answered, “Nope. All these guys, they’re all important.”
But the Cowboys’ actions, and simple logic, tell you the quarterback deal probably should be the initial domino to fall. Dallas’ talks with Prescott are more advanced than discussions with the other players. And if Prescott’s deal gets done—which will have an APY at somewhere between 15% and 20% of the salary cap —then it would, on paper, give the Cowboys a solid piece of certainty to work around.
From there, Cooper and Elliott (assuming there’s nothing more to the altercation he had gotten into in Vegas) probably come next, based on their value to the team and the team’s investment in them. And after that, decisions will have to be made on how far the Cowboys are willing to go on the other three.
The upshot of all this? The Cowboys are in this spot because they have plenty of really good players on the team, which is a credit to Jerry and Stephen Jones, and also scouting chief Will McClay.
1. Monday is Memorial Day, so I reached out to someone with some authority on the subject. Most of you know Nate Boyer’s story—he rose through the ranks of the Army, eventually becoming a Green Beret (the elite of the elite soldiers) and serving multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, without having ever played a down of organized football, he walked on at Texas and became the team’s long-snapper, even getting a brief shot with the Seahawks after he graduated. He’s working now with FOX’s Jay Glazer to lead MVP—whichs brings together veterans and players transitioning out of the military and football, respectively. Here’s what he had to say, when we talked Sunday.
“Memorial Day can be a really hard day for a lot of people, a lot of veterans, a lot of family members. But at the same time, I think it’s important for veterans to shift the focus to being a day of celebrating guys. For any of us that served that lost buddies, we know that all those guys wouldn’t want us feeling guilty or bad today. Survivor’s Guilt is a big deal, and that’s probably the last thing they’d really want us to feel. So to think about them, and think about what they’d really want us to do today, I’d imagine most of them would want us to enjoy the day and celebrate them. Honor them, remember them, but have a good time with those of us that are still here. I think that’s the best way to honor them, with the way we live our lives as veterans. And for a lot of the civilian community that doesn’t have a direct connection to that, it’s never offensive to thank somebody for their service, but it is important to understand the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. This is a day that we’re honoring those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. So you don’t really need to thank us. Maybe spend time with us, think of us, let us know that you support us, but also it’s good to let us know that today might be a tough day for us. This is the day that we set aside to remember our brothers and sisters in arms that didn’t make it back, they laid it all down for us so that we can live freely and enjoy days like today, enjoy the freedoms that we have here in this country.” Boyer says that on Memorial Day the memories of men and women he knew crop up, but he does his best to think of everyone past and present that served, and the bond they all share. So Happy Memorial Day to everyone that’s part of that. I hope you all know how appreciative the rest of us are.
2. I have no recollection of Bart Starr, other than what my dad would tell me growing up about Vince Lombardi’s quarterback and what I saw in the old footage from momentous points in NFL history, like the Ice Bowl. But what I do know is that everyone spoke very highly of him, and I won’t forget the reverence in which Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers held their predecessor. I reached out another Packer Hall of Famer of that Era to talk about Starr on Sunday following his death. Jerry Kramer told me that he was stunned when he heard the news, through a family member, as he had his morning coffee. He’d actually just been in touch with Bart’s son, Bart Jr., about the ex-quarterback making a statement on behalf of older players in an effort to improve their retirement benefits. Bart Jr. told Kramer his dad was doing good, throwing a football, and bouncing a tennis ball to work on his coordination, so he was stunned to hear of his friend’s death. Then, Kramer told a story from a time when Starr was still shuttling in and out of the lineup, and Green Bay (and its players) were unsure whether he was the guy to lead them.
“He was so polite, so quiet, that some folks wondered if he had the strength and ability to lead and be in that position,” Kramer said. “He was a very quiet guy. So we’re playing the Bears, and Bart was in this game. We had Babe Parilli, and Joe Francis, a couple quarterbacks who were also playing. But Bart’s in this game and he threw a long pass down the sideline. And my defensive tackle’s watching the ball, I’m watching the ball, Bart’s watching the ball. Everyone except Bill George—he’s not watching the ball, he’s coming. And he has a five-yard run, and Bart is just standing there, watching the ball, totally unprotected. Well, Bill hits him with a forearm in the jaw, stands over him and says, ‘That oughta take care of you, Starr, you puss.’ Bart got up and said, ‘bleep you, Bill George, we’re coming after you.” As Kramer remembers it, Starr’s lip was split all the way up to his nose. Kramer tried to tell him to go back to the bench. Starr responded, “Shut up and get in the huddle.” The Packers went down the field and scored. Starr came off the field, got stitched up, went back in for the next series with a fat lip and matching lisp. Green Bay scored again, and beat the Bears. “From that moment on, we decided Bart had some steel in his back,” Kramer said. “We didn’t have to worry about his ability anymore, or anything else. That’s when I decided Bart was my guy.”
Starr won five championships for Lombardi’s Packers, including the first two Super Bowls, served nine years as the team’s head coach and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. And given all that, I asked Kramer how Starr would want to be remembered. “I think he’d just want to be remembered as a guy who took care of his position, did a good job and had a positive impact on the team,” he said. “He was just a sensational human being, a great competitor, and did damn near everything right.” All the best to the Starr family.
3. I always think it’s interesting to look at the first move of a new coach or a new GM, and so I was paying attention when Grier helped broker a five-year, $76.5 million extension with Dolphins CB Xavien Howard. Sometimes, these deals are signs of a new boss trying to make a statement on a player—something you saw in Washington when then-Redskins GM Scot McCloughan paid Ryan Kerrigan before Trent Williams in 2015. Along those lines, I figured maybe that’s why Howard got the nod ahead of left tackle Laremy Tunsil to be the first one done. But after digging into it a little bit, it doesn’t look like that was the case. Howard being a part of Miami’s offseason program, new coach Brian Flores’ first, certainly was a piece of getting a deal done here—it helped to know what he’d look like with the new staff and system before making the investment. But as I understand it, this was really just Miami wanting to lock Howard up, and Howard proving himself a fit for Flores, and the sides coming together to get it done.
4. Patriot first-round pick N’Keal Harry said on Thursday that he hadn’t had the chance yet to interact with Tom Brady, outside of just some social media back-and-forth. By Saturday, both Harry and Brady were posting pictures of a workout at Brady’s house in suburban Boston—good, quick work by Brady to bring in a young teammate who wants to learn. And good on Harry to double up on the work he’s already doing in the team’s offseason program. So why wouldn’t Brady just pop in for a day here or a day there? The way Bill Belichick has it, the program is, as rules dictate, voluntary, but the Patriots have always preferred that their players are either full-time participants (and that doesn’t mean they have to make every workout, just that they’re there regularly) or not there at all. I’ve heard in the past that it’s done that way to keep the offseason work efficient.
5. While we’re on the Patriots, I found the fine details of Julian Edelman’s new contract interesting, in that they were structured similarly to what was in the one-year deal new/old linebacker Jamie Collins signed. Collins’ deal has $2 million in incentives tied to six playing-time triggers (at 50, 60, 70, 91 and 95 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps). Likewise, Edelman’s three-year deal has $1 million tied up in 2019 incentives, set at 80 and 90 catches; $2.5 million in 2020 incentives, with triggers at 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 catches; and $3 million in 2021 incentives, with triggers at six catch statistics (50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100). You can say this: No matter who you are, they make you work for your money in New England. And Brady, who had similar incentives worked into his 2018 deal (and didn’t hit a bunch of them), is another example of that.
6. We mentioned in the May 6 MAQB not to underrate the impact of Brad Childress returning to the Bears staff. I’d reiterate that now how important Childress was for Matt Nagy, in helping to install the offense and develop new concepts, before taking off for the AAF in August. The plan in Chicago, I’m told, is for the former Vikings coach to do a lot of work on opponent film breakdown, in addition to self-scouting the Bears offense. He’ll also be there, as he was last year, to generate new ideas, so he, Nagy and OC Mark Helfrich could well be jumping back on the whiteboard soon (if they’re not there already).
7. The Bucs had less than $2 million in cap space before cutting Gerald McCoy, which should explain why moving on from McCoy and instead signing Ndamukong Suh was worth it to them. McCoy cost the team $13 million for 2019, and they’ll get Suh at $9.25 million—and that $3.75 million in cap savings will help them get Devin White and their rookie class under contract. Suh, by the way, can still get to $10 million via incentives. If he does, it’ll be the ninth straight season he’s taken home eight figures in cash—and I’m told that if his playtime is what it was last year in Los Angeles, and the Bucs improve in any of a number of defensive categories, then he’ll make that $750,000. Which would add up to a pretty good financial accomplishment for a football player who doesn’t play quarterback.
8. So can those two still play? With Suh, the question is one of consistency. The Rams got a great player in the Super Bowl. If he’s that guy more often in 2019, then the Bucs will be pretty happy where they spent their money. As for McCoy, he’s always been a bit of a free-lancer, which is OK if you’re one of the top defensive linemen in football. It’s less OK if you’re a level down from that, which is where the Bucs saw him, and which is a little more of a problem in Todd Bowles’ assignment-emphasized defense. “He’s an explosive upfield penetrator that’s at his best when allowed to attack,” said one NFC pro scouting director. “He struggles when he has to play square to the line of scrimmage, which leads to him losing his gap more than you would like.”
In that regard, the Browns (with attack-oriented DC Steve Wilks), who he visited last week, would be a better fit than Tampa would’ve been this year. McCoy heads for Baltimore on a visit tomorrow. After that, he’ll decide on whether to sign with one of those two, or consider two other teams that have shown interest.
9. Pacman Jones retired this week. I covered him in Dallas in 2008, and I just remember how capable he was of convincing everyone that he’d changed – which, at that point. he hadn’t. Between Tennessee and Dallas, eight years in Cincinnati, and last year’s swan song in Denver, Jones flashed plenty of ability, and a lot of people wound up liking him, but he never completely got past his off-field problems. It’ll be interesting to see where he is in five or 10 years.1
10. This 40-yard dash tournament doesn’t sound like the best idea in the world, but I’ll absolutely be watching if they put it on TV. I’m fascinated to see how Ted Ginn’s speed holds up against the younger guys at 34 years old. In high school, Ginn was considered an Olympic prospect as a sprinter, and the track coaches at Ohio State believed he’d have had a real shot at the 2008 Games had he trained to qualify (He was drafted into the NFL in 2007).
… OF THE WEEK
“We’ve added a lot. We never stop adding plays here. That’s the best thing about this team, this offense: We’re never satisfied with where we’re at. We’re always trying to get better, finding ways to get better as a team, as an offense … There’s still a ton that I need to improve on. There really is. I made a lot of plays happen kind of off-script, but there were times I should have just made the easy completion for the first down. So I have to keep finding that line of when I want to make the big play happen and when I should take the easy completion.”
Chiefs QB/NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.
This is great for a couple reasons. One, you see what makes Andy Reid who he is—and this is where I think the NFL of the last few years has become so fascinating. Coaches are willing to take ideas from their NFL peers, from the college level, from high schools, wherever, and Reid has been at the forefront of that. And two, what Mahomes said about his own improvement has to be music to the Chiefs’ ears. Plenty of players, and even people in other fields, would find affirmation in a year like Mahomes’s 2018, and probably be reluctant to change anything. It’s pretty cool that this 23-year-old doesn’t see it like that.
So this wasn’t a tweet from new Bucs DT Ndamukong Suh, but it did give him a pretty good alibi for not being on site to sign his new one-year deal in Tampa. And miss some OTAs.
While we’re there, congrats to Houston Dash star Kealia Ohai and her new fiancé J.J. Watt. Before the start of the 2018 season, our Jenny Vrentas wrote about their parallel recoveries from major leg injuries.
Well said, by my buddy Andy Gresh over at WPRO in Providence. And nothing’s ever been more true. (Consider that a PSA on Memorial Day).
Putting Sunday’s Game of Thrones viewership of 17.8 million viewers in perspective. Sunday Night Football in 2018 averaged 19.6 million viewers per game. Only three SNF games last year averaged fewer viewers.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 1, 2019
Alright, so this isn’t really fair—it’s over-the-air television versus a premium cable network. Still, it kinda puts into perspective the ratings “crisis” of a couple years ago.
The joke’s probably gotten a little old, and Daniel Jones really did nothing to deserve all the heat. But still …
I definitely could beat Aaron Rodgers, and I believe this former Niner could beat his old quarterback too. That said …
Beating Tom Brady would be a little bit harder. But I definitely know someone (s/o to Greg Smigiel) who could.
S/O TO …
The NFL and NFLPA for prioritizing mental health and pain management this week, going so far as to require teams to hire specialists in each area between now and the start of the season, if a team doesn’t have one already. And here’s hoping this leads to breaking down the league’s marijuana policy—which currently crowns a grand total of zero winners. I don’t get the sense the public cares much if players smoke. It’s bad for teams and players for guys to get busted. And the league gets what benefit from it? I’ve felt for a while that the league ought to just quietly stop testing for pot. Even if it’s not scientific, if guys could smoke, and that would prevent them from taking opioids during the season, isn’t that a win? Again, it makes too much sense to do away with the policy.
SIX FROM THE SIDELINES
1. I definitely have a new appreciation for Steph Curry now. The guy went from back-to-back MVPs, to playing a sidekick role to Kevin Durant, back to an MVP level when Durant went down in these playoffs seamlessly. That’s pretty incredible, as is the Warriors 31-1 record without Durant.
2. Ditto for Kawhi Leonard. He’s better than just a great player—he’s a great player who elevates everyone around him. And whether he stays or not, between his Game 7 buzzer-beater and that dunk over Giannis on Saturday night, Leonard’s given Toronto a lot. The Finals should be fun.
3. Is there a precedent in any of the four sports for teams playing for a championship, with best player on each roster bolting right after? It could happen this year with Durant and Leonard, which is kind of mind-blowing.
4. I believe in second chances but it’s hard to fathom a high school would even think of bringing Art Briles aboard, given what happened at Baylor. And pretty tough to explain to parents who have daughters in that school, too.
5. I don’t know much about the Blues, but I’d bet many people—or at least people who pay attention to hockey—are rooting against the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. Probably because, if you can vote, you’re old enough to have seen this parade plenty of times already.
6. I promise I’ll try to remember to watch the Champions League final on Saturday. I’ll also try to remember to update you guys on whether I remembered in next week’s column.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
This week’s column closes the book on my first full year in this space. That’s 50 columns down (with two weeks off last July while I was on Nantucket), and plenty of respect gained for my predecessor having done this for the last two decades.
Also, big thanks to my editors— especially Mark Mravic and Bette Marston, who’ve been invested in making it happen—who put up with my erratic filing schedule (a few in the fall came after sunrise) and my typos.
Over the next couple months, before training camp, I’ll mess with different ideas for formatting and how we present it and all that. And I’m open to any suggestions you guys have to make the column better (firstname.lastname@example.org).
But I’ll promise to all you that the foundation’s going to be the same—getting you the best information and insight into the NFL we can every week. Hopefully, through the first year, we’ve been able to accomplish that much.
Question or comment? Email us at email@example.com.