Saturday, July 30, 2011

8 comments Woody Paige Still Hates Kyle Orton But Has No New Reasons For Feeling This Way

I probably use the "Kyle Orton" tag too much. If someone didn't know me or didn't listen to anything else I said or wrote, they could safely assume I think Aaron Rodgers and Kyle Orton are the two best quarterbacks in the NFL. This is probably because there's a lot of Kyle Orton references on this blog. Still, I don't apologize for it. I usually have a pretty good reason for posting something about Orton and it is generally because Woody Paige hates on Orton in order to show Tim Tebow should be the starter for the Broncos. Look at the archive I just linked five or six of them from stuff Woody Paige wrote about Orton. I have no issue with Tebow starting for the Broncos if he is ready. He wasn't ready last year, no matter what Woody wants you to think.

Now that John Fox is the head coach, I still doubt Tebow will get a shot at being the starter unless Orton gets traded or Tebow thoroughly outplays Orton if there was a training camp. Fox hates young quarterbacks. He doesn't trust them and tends to bury them as far down the depth chart as possible. Last year, he had Jimmy Clausen as the third string quarterback all training camp and the only reason Clausen was elevated to second string is because Hunter Cantwell, the second string starter, was cut. So while Clausen was historically terrible last year, he was the third string quarterback behind a guy who got cut nearly until the season began. One would think at the point Fox realized he would cut Cantwell or that Cantwell may not make the team he would elevate Clausen to second string to get him more snaps with the starters...but he didn't. There's the long background, along with Fox sticking with Jake Delhomme until Delhomme was essentially just handing the other team the ball, on why I think Orton will still have the starting job unless he gets traded, Broncos management forces Fox to make Tebow the starter or Tebow thoroughly outplays Orton in (if there is one) training camp.

Regardless of who the starter is, Woody Paige has a weird way of measuring Kyle Orton's performance last year. By "weird" I mean, completely ineffective, misleading and biased.

Here's the question that started the madness:

Why is everybody so hard on Kyle Orton? Last year, before he had a couple of bad games and got injured, he was right at the top of the league with Phillip Rivers in passing yards, and was on pace to break 5,000 yards for the year. I think if he had a good defense to play with, his stats would translate into more wins. Do you agree?

--Travis, Columbia, S.C.

No Travis, Woody doesn't agree at all. Kyle Orton, who is a completely average quarterback for the record, is a really shitty defender. It is Orton's responsibility to pump up the defense and empower them with motivational words like Tebow does. So really, it is Orton's fault the Broncos defense stunk this year and his personal performance is misleading. It may look like he threw for a ton of yardage this year, but really he selfishly threw for all those yards because he wasn't playing good enough defense.

At this point, at least for me, it isn't a matter of Tebow v. Orton. It is a matter of Woody Paige continuously misjudging Kyle Orton's 2010 performance as reasoning for why Orton is not a "winner" or why he is so incredibly mediocre the only real solution is his immediate execution. So even though Tebow may end up being the starter, that's not what this is about (though see the reference to Jake Delhomme to Denver in that article? That's my Foxy right there). It is about Woody being unfair to the 2010 version of Kyle Orton.

Travis, Orton had a couple of bad games last year? What planet were you living on?

I live on Planet Earth, where Orton's worst two games of the season were the last two games he played. He wasn't great in two games before that, which pretty much shows proof of just how average he truly is.

The Broncos were 3-10 with Orton starting at quarterback. That's the truth.

I've said this before and I will say it again. Judging a quarterback by his record is just misleading since it takes the special teams and defensive factors out of the equation. Was Phillip Rivers average last year since his team went 8-8?

Here's some more "truth" for Woody. It's how many points the defense gave up in the 13 games that Orton started in 2010. That would be 376 points. That comes to 28.9 points per game the defense gave up with Orton starting. Clearly, he isn't either (a) a great defender or (b) a great motivator for the defense like Tebow or (c) it wasn't completely his fault the Broncos were a bad team.

McDaniels, right or wrong, said a quarterback should be judged on record, third downs and red zone.

So we are using a quote from the now-fired head coach as proof on what standards a quarterback should be judged? McDaniels may have sucked as a coach, but his sayings are freaking gold to Woody. Are there any other failed NFL head coaches Woody cares to quote in order to try and prove his point?

(By the way, McDaniels never liked Orton as his quarterback, no matter what you may hear or read. The Bears never liked Orton as their quarterback, no matter what you may hear or read.)

By the way, McDaniels got fired. So what he liked as a quarterback can be judged based on the fact he was fired from his position as head coach. He also traded for Kyle Orton AND Brady Quinn. Food for thought. The Bears did like Rex Grossman as their quarterback. How did he do for them? Woody fails to mention this little tidbit when trying to prove how the "smart" analysis of these two teams in not liking Orton was correct. I'm not sure if Woody should use McDaniels and the Bears opinion of Orton as proof they were right to not like him.

How many playoff games has Orton played in? None, last time I checked.

Tim Tebow has played in zero playoff games too! Clearly, this makes him a huge bum.

When he started as a rookie, the Bears pulled him right before they got to the playoffs.

What a great decision that was. How did that work out for them? Fantastic!

When the Bears pulled Orton for Grossman, Rex Grossman went 17-41 with a touchdown and an interception and a 54.5 rating. There's no guarantee Orton would have done any better of course, but it isn't like the alternative to Orton lit it up in the playoff game where Orton was pulled.

I dislike how Woody Paige ignores Orton went 10-5 as a starter in 2005 (He's a winner!) before the Bears pulled him before a playoff game in favor of Rex Grossman. So in summary, Woody uses a decision to pull Orton in 2005, that can easily be second-guessed, as further proof Orton was a bad quarterback in 2010. So far, the proof he have that Orton was bad in 2010 is the criteria a now-fired head coach uses and the fact the Bears pulled him from a playoff game in favor of a quarterback who gave a shit performance. Not very persuasive, especially considering under the "Woody-McDaniels criteria" of basing a quarterback on his team's win percentage Orton was a great quarterback in 2005, which makes his being pulled in the playoff game look inexplicable.

Of course in 2011 if Tebow goes 4-12 then his record won't show how much he really brought to the Broncos team because Tebow has intangibles.

Then, after his final year in Chicago, they wanted to get rid of him, and gave up everything but the Lake to the Broncos for Cutler.

Jay Cutler is a superior quarterback to Kyle Orton. The Bears wanted to upgrade and didn't think Orton was the guy. This still has very little with Orton's 2010 performance and how he was at fault for the Broncos winning only 3 games last year with him as the starter.

In fact, during his career Orton has had a winning record every single year he has been the starter...except for last year. So using the Woody-McDaniels criteria isn't he a winner?

Orton was at the top of the league, in passing yardage, and early was on pace to set some records, but how did that translate to victories?

Not very well. Probably because the Broncos defense stunk. There are three parts of a football team. Offensive, defense and special teams. If one part of the team stinks, it affects the entire team.

If he had played the last three games, the Broncos might have won one, Houston, but probably not.

There's no reasonable basis to say the Broncos would "probably not" have won the game against Houston. It's pure speculation.

Sure, give him a better defense, and he might win more games,

"Sure, if the Houston Astros had a better team they would win more games, but this doesn't mean Hunter Pence isn't a terrible baseball player because the Astros don't have many wins."

"Sure, if the Pirates had better players they may have made the playoffs since 1992, but this doesn't mean management hasn't done everything in its power to put a winner on the field."

So basically Woody admits his criticism of Orton is unfair when taken just on games won. So he has no valid point on this. Good to see him admit it.

but you've got to execute on third downs and the 20-yard line, so it doesn't really matter if your have the '86 Bears defense if you can't.

I am sure a lack of a running game (26th in the NFL) wouldn't have anything to do with this poor execution in the red zone? A team with little running back game that needs to throw the ball well to win can win games if the quarterback throwing the ball is of a Pro Bowl caliber. Kyle Orton isn't of Pro Bowl caliber. So giving Orton a running game would have been a great addition.

So I don't agree much, but I've made it clear: Orton is a very average quarterback. I repeat -- He's considered about the 18th-20th best starter in the league.

We can agree. Good.

After my meeting with Fox in his office, I came away, honestly, not knowing if Orton or Tebow will be the starter.

What did your Tebowner tell you? Only good things I'm sure.

Here's exactly what I think, based on my questions to him and my recent conversation with Elway, and everything I know:

Remember this is partly based on everything Woody knows. So it will be very short.

If the lockout isn't settled before the regular season starts, Orton will be the starter. Fox told me he must be a quarterback who can get away quick from under center.

(Trying not to bash John Fox's ability to analyze a quarterback) Yeah, when talking about the quarterback position, the first thing I would look for is a guy who can get away from the center quickly as well. I would prefer a quarterback who knows what the hell he is doing, gives a team the best chance to win and doesn't throw the ball to the other team.

Fox wants somebody who knows the system. Orton knows the system inside and out. Orton is a very good practice player, and he looked good in exhibitions last year. The Broncos threw about 60 percent of the time last year. Fox will throw about 45 percent of the time, so Orton can hand the ball off.

So it sure sounds like Fox knows who the starter will be, no? Tebow does need to start at a certain point of course.

In my experience, that's primarily what John Fox requires of a quarterback...the ability to hand the ball off. In that respect, both Tebow and Orton are qualified.

A lot of the players like and respect Orton. He can't get any worse than he was last year. So there's the Orton argument.

"He can't get any worse than he was last year?"

What an idiotic statement. Last year was, if you want to go with those stupid statistics, was the best year or second-best year Kyle Orton has ever had as an NFL starter. Of course his team only went 3-10 last year and he wasn't a winner unlike his 2005 year when he was a winner at 10-5. Let's compare his statistics to see how bad Orton was last year when his team went 3-10 with him as the starter and how great he was in 2005 when the Bears went 10-5 with him as the starter. We'll see if you as the reader can figure out why Orton was a winner in 2005 and a terrible loser in 2010.

2005: 51.6% completion percentage, 1869 yards, 9 TDs, 13 INTs, 59.7 rating. He was a winner then!

Now, let's see how terrible Orton was in 2010:

2010: 58.8% completion percentage, 3653 yards, 20 TDs, 9 INTs, 87.5 rating. What a bum!

Clearly, everyone can see how terrible Orton was last year compared to 2005. It is almost like there is another variable or two that would explain why when Orton was bad in 2005, his team won, and when he was good in 2010, his team lost. If there has ever been a reason to not judge a quarterback based simply on his team's record this is it. If anything, the Bears went 10-5 in 2005 despite Orton's performance at quarterback, yet in Woody's mind Orton had a great year because his team went 10-5. The Broncos went 3-10 last year despite Orton's pretty decent performance at quarterback. Of course, Woody thinks it can't get worse than what Orton did. I can't wait to compare Tebow's 2011 year, which will undoubtedly involve Woody Paige jumping giddily in the air at his performance compared with Orton's bad 2010 performance.

I have it marked down on my calendar to do a comparison in January 2012, along with Woody's reaction. I'm guessing Tebow will put up some similar, maybe slightly better numbers in a best-case scenario than Orton if he starts all year. This would be seen as a great year in the mind of Woody Paige.

Because Orton will not accept being the backup here — just won't happen — he would be traded.

Orton is definitely not a team player. Woody wants us to believe this. Also, we are taking the word of Woody Paige this is true when Paige has spent the past many, many paragraphs misjudging and misconstruing Orton's 2010 performance. He calls Orton's 2010 performance, which was one of the best of his career, saying it "can't get any worse than he was last year." We are supposed to believe him when he says Orton won't be a backup and indicates he isn't a team player (which is what he is trying to indicate in my opinion). Considering Woody spent part of last summer trying to convince us Orton wasn't a good teammate during the summer, then in October Woody retracted that and said Orton had been throwing with his receivers and practicing since the 2009 season ended. So God only knows what Woody's story about Orton in the locker room in 2010 will be in a couple of months.

Tebow, on the other hand, would accept being the backup for another year. He has no choice.

Tebow is a team player...because he has to be.

But Orton, as a backup, would be a negative force around the team.

I have no affiliation with the Broncos and I don't think necessarily Orton should be the starter this upcoming year (I said last year Tebow isn't ready to start for another year or I can see him being ready this year), but doesn't it sound a bit like Woody has a problem or vendetta against Orton? He isn't fair in judging his performance and blames him for the team's record, which Woody ADMITS probably isn't fair. Isn't this what a sportswriter with an agenda sounds like?

People in Denver want a fresh start, with a coach, the team and the quarterback. And, as has been pointed out by me and everybody else, the Broncos need to find out if Tebow can play. What's the difference between 4-12 and 8-8 if Orton is starting? Nothing.

Four wins is the difference.

Same old, same old. But with Tebow, at 8-8 and the Broncos moving up, there would be hope for the people.

Orton is only going to be 29 years old this upcoming year. It isn't like he is ancient, so 8-8 under him would mean real progress on defense and in the running game...assuming Orton can keep up his offensive performance. So going 8-8 is progress and there would be hope no matter the quarterback. Of course Woody, as well as some Broncos fans, would rather see Tebow go 8-8 since that would indicate their franchise quarterback is growing into that role.

But, again, Fox isn't telling, and I think it's because he doesn't know for sure. I kept pestering him, saying, "but inside your mind, don't you really, really, kind of know who?"

How is Fox supposed to judge these players when he hasn't seen them on the field? Give Fox a break. Once Fox has a chance to see which quarterback hands the ball off better and gets from under center faster, which appear to be his main two criteria, then he can make a starting quarterback decision.

He said: "Deep down, I have an idea."

You figure that one out. I couldn't.

I hate to break it to Woody, but that means it is Orton. Fox has more film on Orton from last year and the years before that to judge him upon. Fox is a naturally conservative coach and the conservative move is to put Orton in there. Still, I can't wait to see Woody spin it if Tebow gets the job and puts up a 6-10 season with worse numbers than Orton had in 2010. I am sure that would make Tebow a winner because he won two more games than Orton.

There's a reason the Broncos hired a defensive head coach who loves to run the ball. It's because the defense and running game were the problem last year. Relying on Orton to win games with his arm is a fool's game plan, there's no doubt about that, but he wasn't to blame for last year's Broncos record and he didn't have a terrible year like Woody wants us to believe.

By the way, Woody is obsessed with this quarterback competition or else he has nothing else to write about. He wrote an incredibly similar story to his response to this reader question on July 21.

Friday, July 29, 2011

0 comments Random Joe Johnson Thoughts

I'm not going to lie. I thought it was Joe Johnson's birthday - that's why I wrote this. It turns out that Basketball Reference was off by a month. Anyway...

Paul Rudd’s a funny guy – at least that’s the story his movie track record tells. 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Role Models, I Love You, Man. But what can we draw from all these movies? He’s never the star. He’s second fiddle. Sometimes even third, fourth or fifth. In the two movies he plays a leading role (I love You, Man and Role Models) he’s the soundboard. Jason Segel and Seann William Scott pull off their characters because Rudd steps away from the spotlight. He’s not the one making outrageous statements or committing acts of questionable social morality. He’s solid, consistent and relatable. (The names of coffee sizes at Starbucks bothers me too.) And there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s a great actor and he deserves to be applauded. But we can’t fault him for succumbing to his primitive appetite. Everyone wants to lead and make the big bucks; it’s why you venture to Hollywood in the first place. Yet he has chosen 1-B roles in A+ scripts, ultimately yielding to some other mighty comedic force. He may be the official lead, but he’s not drawing you to the theater or propelling your movie to the quotable stratosphere of Wedding Crashers or Old School. And because he’s satisfied, so are we. The stars can shine the quality movies keep coming.

Is Joe Johnson worth the five years and $107 million left on his contract? No chance. But he saw an opportunity and went for it. Because he had two choices, really. Write his own legacy or become a neglected part of someone else’s. So he chose the former, understandably so. Paul Rudd has the luxury of restrained ambition – he wants widespread acclaim, but he’s just fine with settling outside the realm of untouchable majesty. I’d imagine that Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks, to name a few, have a seat at that table. But this is where the analogy falls apart. We don’t tolerate satisfaction NBA circles. We vilify it. We berate it. We make it so intolerable that athletes are almost forced to go it on their own. That’s why Johnson continues to walk an isolated path. Either he craved the validation Dirk is now showered with or he feared the scorn or joining someone else’s crew.

The NBA has evolved to form two uniformly accepted characters. The star and the role player. Either you write the script, direct and act, or you get coffee for the assistant production manager. Because everyone needs their coffee. Sure, the glory is not to be had for the coffee artisan. But he’s filling a role, and there’s always some glimmer of pride in that. But then there’s Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Joe Johnson, among others. The floaters, as I like to call them. Or lost puppies. Take your pick. They just want a home – acceptance really. Or even a hug. Someone to validate and love them. That’s not much to ask, I think. There’s just no room for them on the bookshelf. So they build a new one that feels prettier, shinier and newer. Modernity trampling ancient wisdom. Then the Mavs go ahead and win the title, upholding embattled truth and conventional wisdom. Proving that maybe one day J.J. can pull the Hawks out of basketball limbo and make them more then an annoying blip on the radar.

I’ve always admired Joe Johnson. He’s in a calamitous position, without a doubt. Leading a team perennially chained to the 3rd-6th seed, making too much money and generally cast off with a brush of the hand and an upturning of the nose. Overshadowed by better players doing more with less. But he’s also one of only a few NBA players that compels me to use words like “peaceful” and “beautiful.” NBA games are fast and hectic. Before you know it, someone’s dropped 25 points. With guys like Manu Ginobili dipping, ducking, diving and dodging their way to the basket, I’m usually slightly winded after the ball falls through the hoop. When Dwight Howard throws down a ferocious slam, it makes me want to run over to my Koosh Hoop and break the plastic rim with a windmill of my own. Joe Johnson eases my pain, melts away my worries and soothes my aching joints. For all the animosity thrown his way, take a moment and watch his highlights There’s just something about him. It’s picturesque – the way you teach your kids to glide with grace, rise up and fire, leaving a followed-through hand as the only evidence of basketball perfection.

It seems to me that some players simply don’t deserve a swish. Sometimes there’s too much imperfection – awkward ball rotation, elbows haphazardly flying every which way and a meek follow-through (Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy come to mind). It’s disloyal to the game, the way it’s meant to look and be played. Joe’s a lucky one. His game isn’t disingenuous. Instead it’s synonymous with basketball truth and beauty. It’s practice technique transported to live game action. Players like him remind me why I love the game, why I love writing about it. It may be devoid of academic prestige and it may not touch upon universal truth, but all truth is relative; anything that touches me in any way, that’s real and true. Joe Johnson just does it for me.

Basketball, to me, is an art form. As far as my jaw drops when player x barrels down the lane for a breathtaking slam, one fact continuously haunts my basketball nightmares: three of the NBA’s best players can’t shoot the ball. I’m looking right at you, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. That, to me, is the purest signal of the changing of the guard that has befallen the NBA. Your power, quickness and basketball IQs are phenomenal, without question. But it’s your unmatched athleticism, and not overwhelming skill, that gets the ball in the hoop. This is why Johnson needs some love. He’s a supremely skilled guard trapped in the wrong era. But that’s why I’m here: to give credit where credit’s due and promote what should be a beloved basketball star.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

4 comments Basketball Pickup Diaries (Part 2)

As you may remember from last time, we left the court pretty self-satisfied – a 3-2 record with our last loss due to a we’re-in-better-shape-than-you thrashing. Armed with fresh legs and growing chemistry, we strutted into the gym ready to take it to the competition. Well all that came to a screeching halt when we had to watch the grandpa crew run the court at two miles per hour. Part of me couldn’t ignore my blood boiling – at this rate, we weren’t going to get on the court for another hour. They walked the ball up the floor (I’m not one to say that street ball needs a shot clock, but this was bordering on ridiculous. I’m talking Brook Lopez ambling up the court slow.), fouled incessantly and argued every call. But they won twice, and my other half clung to a sliver of respect for their performance. Even writing that sentence felt wrong – but their victories happened, and I still have no idea how. Kind of like the Mavs stealing the title from the Heat. It happened, but I’m struggling for the words to decipher the phenomenon.

So we stood on the sidelines, warming up on a side court and waiting our turn. But know that I’m using the term “warming up” lightly. Because, let’s be honest: No one warms up. After pretending to touch our toes and stretch our triceps, we grab a ball and start. At least that’s what I do. (I can’t remember the last time I actually stretched a muscle.) Most people put up some jumpers, dribble the ball around – nothing spectacular or noteworthy. Just something to get a feel. So here I was, in the middle of that monotonous routine, when another classic pickup figure graced us with his presence; the warm-up champ. I’m talking about the guy who abuses the defense with staggering crossovers, one-footed fadeaways and psychedelic dribbling. Okay fine, there’s no defender. But if there were, he’d have no chance.

I’d venture to say that Andrea Bargnani will average 10 boards per contest before the warm-up champ even attempts to use his warm-up skills on the court. The one I encountered had a specific knack for the annoying. After cruising through his array of absurdly difficult shots, he took his ball and walked right up to the bucket. And thus the lay-up bonanza ensued. Refusing to move to an empty hoop, his two-foot lay-ups deflected other shots left and right. If you want to take shots near the rim, knock yourself out. Just not on a hoop where five other people are shooting.

After thirty minutes, it was time. And to our surprise, the crew of tribal elders still stood strong. Well, they stood. Despite my desire to send them packing, I did preserve an ounce of pity for their one good player. It was clear that he just got stuck on the wrong team. As much as I detest players ganging up in pickup to form an unbeatable team, this was just an unfortunate consequence of the “who’s got next” line.

The game got off to a rocky start as their resident fat guy, straight out of Along Came Polly, (If you know what I’m talking about, it was that guy to a tee. If you don’t, just trust me. I wouldn’t be making a reference to Along Came Polly unless it was absolutely necessary.) kept backing down Mike (one of our crew) and shielding him with his enormous width. Not to mention that the dude was tall, nasty sweaty and fairly hairy – a terrible combination. Mike’s no pushover, but he was giving up four inches and 100 pounds. So despite our ease scoring at the other end, we found ourselves in the midst of a 4-4 tie thanks to Eddy Curry’s bastard brother. Fortunately their wheels fell off once we began to push the ball and use our superior athleticism (meaning we could run more than two steps without sucking down air like it was running out). 7 points later, we cruised to an 11-4 win.

Game number two came against a mixed squad that included two of the fairer sex. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think we’d win easily (which we did). But it wasn’t because of the girls. One could stroke it from deep and the other was lightning quick with good handles and vision. Although the latter was lacking height, so I did feel a twinge of sympathy when I threw a lob to Scott, who's 6-2, on a two-on-one fastbreak.

Game three brought a crew ready to ball and challenge us for real. Their equal skill and imposing physicality proved problematic on the defensive end. Even worse, however, was another staple of the pickup game: the referee. You’ve seen him a million times. He’s the one that slows down games and reminds you why you hesitate to even play pickup in the first place. There’s no doubt this guy had talent. But every time he went to the basket, he initiated contact and called a foul, putting us in an impossible situation: street ball rules dictate that you respect the call – but what do you do when someone abuses the “call your own fouls” privilege? If you want contact, don’t go all Tim Duncan incredulous on everyone when the defender bangs right back. But that wasn’t even the worst part. On the other end of the floor, we couldn’t take it to the rack. And no, it wasn’t because of their stifling defense. Every time we even sniffed the paint, they’d hack, grab and shove with reckless abandon. Literally intentionally fouling, I kid you not. My man, who rocked Lil Wayne’s hair with an NFL fullback’s body, would yank my arm every time I blew by him. (The drawback of looking like an NFL fullback is that you defend like one as well – physically capable but altogether incapable of side-to-side movement.) He even called a carry on Mike AFTER he drove to the basket and scored. But we’re men of the high road, so we respected all the calls. Karma was on our side and we weren’t going to mess with it. With the score tied 8-8, we weren’t losing to these chumps. This game was personal. They encroached on the unwritten rules of pickup with no mercy. It was our duty to realign the stars and bring justice to the hardwood. And we did with three straight points and an 11-8 victory. Watching them drag their bodies off the court was the most satisfying moment of the entire day.

At this point the wait for next had ballooned to four or five teams, so a loss would equal our exit from the gym. Of course a guy who clearly played for the NYU basketball team (he was fully geared up) brought himself and his crew of similarly athletic guys onto the court next. It was clear that he was the best on the court and had no business play pickup with us scrubs. Maybe he wasn’t that good, or maybe his mom never loved him enough and he yearned for that ever-elusive self-confidence – I don’t know. Either way, he clearly didn’t get the memo that pickup is for people who suck/think they’re good but suck/mediocre to good players. He clearly fit none of these categories.

After a few minutes of up and down action, it was obvious that he had game. But we weren’t willing to fold. The whole game we trailed by two, struggling to find any sort of offensive consistency but somehow managing to drop buckets. Trailing 7-5, Mike decided enough was enough. Using an array of floaters, pull-ups and other can’t-get-near-the-bucket-moves, he engineered a 6-3 run and an 11-10 lead for Team Dime. After a stop and a mini fast break, the ball was hurled up court to me. Standing alone on the three-point line, the opportunity to end the game was right there. But I had too much time. I started to rotate the ball, and worst of all, think. And you only have one thought in that situation: “If I miss, there’s no way we’re winning this.” When the ball left my hand, I knew it immediately. Long. The ball clanked off the back iron and caromed right into an opponents hands, turning into a lay-up at the other end. Two points later, I left the court enveloped by guilt as we lost 13-11.

As badly as I wanted to get back on the court and show the NYU guy that fancy gear and color coordinated clothing are not always equivalent to basketball skill, I wasn’t going to wait an hour.

And thus ends part two of our pickup journey. For those scoring at home, that gives us a 6-3 summer record. Not too shabby, I think.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

8 comments MMQB Review: End of the Lockout Edition

Today we get a two-for-one deal with MMQB. Not only is Peter King back from his vacation (and you wouldn't BELIEVE how annoying it was for him), but the NFL lockout is over. We are all so proud of the players and owners for not ruining a billion dollar enterprise. Congratulations to all involved with getting the lockout done, you managed to not murder your cash cow! What an accomplishment.

Today, Peter gives us information on the new CBA agreement, tells us about his vacation and informs the media that we in the public don't like Brett Favre...while giving us an update on Brett Favre. You know I am not kidding about this.

And I thought after my annual four-week travelogue I could just ease back into the 15th season of Monday Morning Quarterback.

Because immediately after a month-long vacation you do need some time to rest a little bit. What else did he expect? It is hell for nearly everyone anytime you go on vacation and then have to go back to work. You know, 40,000 people want to be called or emailed back right now.

Nope. Gotta hit the ground running. No time to waste. A deal is certain to be announced after both sides agreed to terms to end the lockout early Monday pending the players' vote.

Now Peter will go through each part of the agreement, which is actually pretty helpful. Especially for someone like me who hasn't cared to really pay attention to each side's whining and posturing through this process.

I'm told chances are very good that the deal will include an opt-out for both sides, not just the players.

You may not believe this, but Peter was wrong about this. It's only like the 9,000th time in the past five years. Reportedly, and thank God for this, there is no opt-out. If there were, the CBA would be like the Presidential Election where we have to hear about it two-and-half years before it actually happens. As Gregg Easterbrook would say, it would be CBA Opt-Out Creep!

But I must stress that this was the latest version of the opt-out being discussed as the clock neared midnight, and it won't necessarily be the one that is announced today when the deal gets done.

I need this job. I need to go to work and say, "Here's my answer right now. Though it will probably change and though you pay me to know whether this will change or not so I can pass this knowledge on, I just can't tell you right now because things are moving SO DAMN FAST! Can I get a raise?"

Frankly, I believe most NFL general managers and coaches would prefer a Tuesday start because they don't want the beginning of free agency going on at the same time as the start of training camp this weekend.

Free agency is going to be a clusterfuck this year. It's going to be crazy if it plays out like I think it may over a 4-5 day span. I would guess some players are going to either (a) sign shorter term deals {2-3 years for the younger free agents} (b) make bad free agency decisions or (c) sign with their original team. I could be wrong.

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported Sunday that the league could unilaterally cut the preseason schedule from four games to two in '13 or any subsequent year of the agreement. The players would have the option to either play 16 regular-season games and two preseason games, or increase the regular season to 18 games per team. The upshot: Players would lose money if they stayed at 16 plus two.

Those crazy owners! Putting the 18 game schedule back on the board.

So, the owners have put a proposal out there for an 18 game season if they unilaterally cut out preseason games, but would there be zero preseason games or would there be 2 preseason games? Either way, I don't see this 18 game schedule happening because I don't see the players wanting to choose to play 18 games when they could play 16 games and have two preseason games.

Florio wrote that it's a staredown between the owners and players, and I agree. Preseason games are easy money for the NFL, and the owners wouldn't risk the players saying, "Oh, we'll let those two exhibition games go and reduce our take.''

I think I'm confused. So the players would make less for a 16 game season once the owners unilaterally cut the preseason schedule and the players choose not to play 18 games? If a guy makes $4 million per year, that is based on a 16 game schedule, so he could make MORE than that if two extra games are added? But he would make that exact original amount if no games are added and two preseason games are played? I will eventually need further clarification of this at some point.

Barring an opt-out ("It's just an insurance policy,'' Houston co-player-rep Eric Winston told me), this deal runs through the 2021 NFL Draft. Brett Favre will be completing his 30th season then. He'll be only 52.

Brett Favre jokes aren't even funny at this point. I learned that in the podcast from yesterday. No one likes talking about Favre, even in a joking manner.

Men who play in a game in any season of this deal will be eligible to stay in the NFL medical plan for life. Currently, retired players have five years of post-career health care. Just saw Eddie George, looking like an Adonis, at the Super Bowl last February, and he said his medical benefits just ran out a couple of months earlier. "Now's not the time I need 'em,'' he told me.

I'm going to be the non-caring jackass about this issue for Eddie George. He earned millions in his career in the NFL, so I fail to feel bad for him when it comes to medical benefits. It is the guys who played in the NFL before it became such a gold mine I feel badly for.

This went over everyone's heads all weekend. Let's say a player signs a three-year, $6-million contract with a $2-million bonus and salaries of $1.1 million, $1.3 million and $1.6 million. And say he gets a career-ending injury in game five of the first season. He keeps his bonus. He keeps his first-year salary. That's normal. Now he'd get to keep $1 million of his year-two salary and $500,000 of year three. In the old days, he'd have been able to keep the bonus and year-one salary, a total of $3.1 million. Now he'd be able to pocket $4.6 million because of the maximum of $1.5 million in injury-protection money.

This is probably a good thing.

Teams can have 14 per regular season, including only three in the last six weeks of the season. Grumbling leaguewide has begun over the sissification of the NFL; coaches won't be able to toughen up soft teams anymore.

"Not sure this is a very big deal,'' Winston of the Texans said. "We had the leading rusher in the league last year [Arian Foster] and I bet we only had 17 padded practices all season.'

Oh yes, and I remember the deep playoff run the Texans went on last year as well. Great point Eric Winston. You had 17 practices and the leading rusher in the NFL, so clearly it all worked out well with limited practices for you. Let's ignore the fact the Texans weren't breaking in a new coaching staff, new quarterback or anything like that at the beginning of the season, nor did they lose their starting quarterback when the season began. So the padded practices during the year may not as been as necessary for them. I don't really know if these practices are important or not, but simply because the Texans had the leading rusher and only (supposedly) had 17 padded practices doesn't mean they aren't necessary for other teams.

Most in the football establishment, like this well-respected GM, don't like the changes that have players on the field less. "We complain about tackling all the time,'' he said. "How are we gonna teach tackling without practicing tackling enough? I will not be surprised if you see the smashmouth game disappear.''

I hate to point it out to this well-respected GM (Bill Polian, is that you?), but the smashmouth game of football has disappeared already. This should be abundantly clear to anyone who has watched the NFL over the last 3-4 years. I doubt the 14 padded practices are going to get rid of smashmouth football any faster than the natural evolution of the NFL towards a passing-oriented league seems to be doing.

I heard it all this weekend -- that the game will turn into the college spread offense, that lack of fundamental work will make the game sloppy, that new coaches who used tough training camps to toughen their teams won't be able to do that anymore. Maybe. But the smartest football coaches in the world -- all of whom will be playing by the same set of restrictive rules -- will learn to adapt.

Apparently Peter agrees with me on this.

But at the end of the day, the players demanded the opt-out because too many of them have zero trust for the owners. I mean, zero. It's been interesting to talk to a few of them over the weekend, off the record, in what should be a very happy time for them and realize how little they trust the men who employ them. Sad, really.

How many people really trust their bosses or their organization? Peter probably trusts Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports because he is entrenched both places, most likely is on great teams with his boss and it isn’t as easy to replace him because there isn’t a constant stream of sportswriters out of college who are as qualified as he is (ok…maybe there are, but they won’t get hired to replace him). What world does Peter live in where he thinks it is more sad, and less just normal, for an employee to not trust those who employ him? Sometime I think Peter lives in a different economy and a different United States as everyone else. How many employed people really can say they completely trust their bosses?

My buddy Phil Parisi of the USO (we went on the USO's Afghanistan tour in 2008) volunteered to have one of the huge USO vans used for domestic entertainment of troops and their families made available for me to take my tour of camps this year (pictured at right).

Sounds like Peter’s whining from last year about how he wanted his own bus paid off. He now has a USO bus to travel around the country…you know, because traveling by car and staying in hotels is for paupers, not Peter King. He needs a bus to travel.

Then Peter talks about the NFL Networks Top 100 NFL players list, which I ignored (I am getting concerned over how much NFL-related stuff I ignore) because I don’t care what the players think. I don’t trust them to get a list of the Top 100 players in the NFL together accurately in other words.

Of course, I'm not sure I should trust Peter King to do this either. He did put Ben Roethlisberger as a top-10 player in the NFL. I'm not sure he is a top-10 NFL player simply because quarterbacks are in high demand and he would be taken early in an NFL re-draft (where all the players are put into a pool and drafted). Roethlisberger is a great quarterback, but I'm not sure he is a top-10 NFL player.

Yes, Tramon Williams is 16 on my list. He's young, big and clutch, and the only two corners better right now are Darrelle Revis and Nnamdi Asomugha. That Williams didn't make the player list is, well, a horrible omission.

Tramon Williams is clutch. Not sure I’ve ever heard a cornerback be referred to as clutch.

Free agency will be interesting. How long has it been since a top-10 player in the game, which Asomugha is, has been unrestricted?

I believe Julius Peppers was a free agent last year. Also, it is completely arguable whether Asomugha is a top-10 player in the NFL. The players have him at #18. So Peter is basing this statement on his own subjective opinion that Asomugha is a top-10 player in the NFL. I find it delightful that Peter ranks a player, using his own opinion of that player’s ranking and nothing more, and then makes this statement. It's like he has set his own criteria and then is amazed at what result his criteria yields.

I guess what I’m saying is Julius Peppers could have been considered a top-10 player last year and he was an unrestricted free agent. Drew Brees is now #4 on Peter’s list and he was an unrestricted free agent when he signed with the Dolphins. Mike Vick is #19 on Peter’s list and no team wanted him as unrestricted free agent. Is that extraordinary? Does it prove something? Perhaps I’m being too critical.

Maybe Julius Peppers two years ago, but it certainly doesn't happen often.

Except for last year in free agency when it may have happened.

One of the great things about vacation is it lets you catch up with reading. This gem came from Andrew Goldman's interview with Judge Judy in the June 26 New York Times Sunday magazine: Judge Judy works five days per month ... and makes $45 million a year.

Judge Judy Factoid II: Her 24,000-square-foot home in Connecticut contains a snoring room -- an extra room for guests who snore.

I think we can all agree this is ridiculous. I bet Judge Judy doesn’t have her own USO bus though! Point for Peter King.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Well, I have many.

This should not come as a shock to anyone who reads Peter King’s MMQB regularly. He is more than willing to complain about his vacation and those ignorant, pathetic lower class, moronic pests known as “the general public” that Peter has to endure while making his way in the world.

The personal space thing is just weird. In Venice, we stood in line for a water ferry to take us from the train station to San Marco Square. The line moved slowly, and the 30ish woman behind me kept leaning on me, as if it would make the line go faster. After the third forearm/breast push into my back, I turned and held my palm out, moving it up and down, as if to say, "Relax.''

Little did this woman know with whom she was messing. Peter suffers fools ever-so-lightly. When you get up on Peter when he is traveling, he goes all Charles Bronson in “Death Wish”…or at least he wants to.

It was no use, at the first sign of space to my left, she and her friend squeezed to our left and got on the ferry a few people in front of us. I should say that we all got on the same ferry, which arrived at the same time, and we all got off within seconds of each other.

Foreigners are morons!

Lines, too, were just foreign. It's every man, woman and idiot for him/herself. In line at a Trieste bank to change some dollars into euros, I noticed a teller signaling he was ready to take me. An older lady came from the back of the line, saying something that sounded like "Scoozy, scoozy,'' and cut in front of me, and the teller took her.

You know that slow guy in line? The one who doesn’t seem to be paying a damn bit of attention to what is going on in front of him? The one who reacts about 30 seconds too late when he is acknowledged to receiver customer service and clearly has no idea what he is doing? That must be Peter King. I’m guessing the teller had been signaling for a few seconds and Peter was too busy working his Blackberry or staring at the other people in line as he is prone to do in public (seriously, whenever Peter tells a story about a “crazy” or “bizarre” person on a train, he is always staring at them. If he didn’t pay attention to them, he probably would have nothing to complain about), so the lady just cut in front of him. That’s my hypothesis.

In a queue for coffee at the Vienna airport, a man behind me, in German (the national language of Austria), shouted his order over the meeker me, and when I said something like, "Hey, my turn,'' the bilingual barista said, "I make his first.''

See? I think he is just really slow to react. I've been to Europe and no one busted in front of me in line.

Italy's such a terrific place, with great people. Austria is an orderly country, from what I can tell, and everyone there was good to us.

They were great except for their blatant disregard of lines. Other than that Austria was very orderly…which is a very weird way to describe a country. For the record, I have been to Austria and experienced no line-breaking. Though I did experience water without ice and bread that was rock hard.

Why the terminal rudeness while co-waiting? I'd love to hear some plausible explanation from some of you who have lived, or who live, in Europe.

Yes, those people from Europe who read Peter’s column, write in and explain these actions to the great Peter King. Peter asks, no demands, an explanation for why he was treated so poorly by your countrymen and the entire continent of Europe...which Peter appears to believe only consists of Italy and Austria.

I like how Peter visited Vienna and Venice, but it is all of Europe where he believes this line-cutting is a problem. Nothing like taking incidents that occurred in two countries and just assume the rest of Europe has the same problems.

"I would be honored to have Brett Farve as a backup. That will be amazing Learning how to toy with defenses the way he did.''

-- @mikevick, the Eagles quarterback, tweeting Sunday about the rumor of the oft-retired Hattiesburgian coming back to the NFL. As a backup.

This is the second time, so far, in this column that Peter King has brought up Brett Favre. This will be relevant very soon.

3.Vienna. So many parks, so little time. Parks and beer. That is one underrated city.

Vienna is an incredibly underrated city. Why doesn’t Vienna get more attention? Perhaps a musician should write a song called Vienna about the city. I can’t believe Monocle magazine only rated it the 8th most livable city. If a city could be underrated, then I think Vienna would be that underrated city.

You know what is an underrated state? Hawaii. More people should know about that place! Peter discovered it just a few years ago!

Our last night there, we went to see an orchestra dressed in period costume and playing Mozart's greatest hits. Amazing how many of those pieces are recognizable.

It’s crazy how many of those pieces were recognizable! Not as recognizable as U2’s hits are though! You still have a long way to go, Mozart, in order to catch up with Bono and his band in terms of being a hitmaker.

Dear Vienna and Europe,

I am sorry. Peter King is back in the United States now. Fear not, your national crisis is over. Again, I am sorry.



I've blown smoke at Osteria Giotto on Midland Avenue in Montclair a few times, like the time I took Brandon Jacobs of the Giants there two nights before the Giants and Pack played in the NFC Championship Game –

Notice how Peter wasn’t working on a story about Brandon Jacobs, he just took him out to eat and it certainly seems like he paid for the dinner. To those people who accuse Peter of wanting to be friends with the subjects he covers…well, you may be right. I know he has to work sources and contacts with each team, but maybe I need to be informed on “the line” between socializing with a player you are covering and getting information on the team from that player you can report on. I think "the line" is where Peter actually gets useful information from these players.

What’s so funny is that I can’t think of one time in the 3 years I have been covering MMQB here where Peter King had a bit of information about a team that was broken as news by him. I respect him as a sportswriter, but he cultivates this contacts and I can't think of an NFL-related story he has broken. What’s interesting is Peter has actually indicated he knew about some news and didn’t report on it (I can't remember what this involved, but I know there was a situation and Peter later admitted he knew more about that situation but didn't reveal his knowledge). Isn’t he supposed to be an NFL insider? If not, what is Peter’s role? Decipher news other NFL reporters break and tell us about his vacations? Maybe I am just being jaded and don’t understand the value of eating dinner with Brandon Jacobs.

Got the ESPN book read. (Sheesh. The anger against SI from Steve Bornstein. Relax. The world's big enough for all of us, Steve.) Lots of knowledge in the book, but I can't help but think some of the real cornerstone players who've been there for the last two decades or so -- Chris Mortensen, Sal Paolantonio -- really got short-shrifted in the story of why ESPN has become so omnipresent. It's guys like Mort who made ESPN appointment television for people who love sports and need the knowledge.

Exactly. If it weren’t for Chris Mortensen, I wouldn’t know what to believe is true. When Mort reports that Player X is going to sign with Team X, then I know it isn’t going to happen. He has always helped me narrow down what NFL information is true and what isn’t by reporting on what won’t happen.

I tweeted my ranking of the ballparks last week, now that I've been in every one except the Rogers Centre (nee SkyDome). And, lockout be damned, my feed got overwhelmed with people telling me -- surprise! -- I had no idea what I was talking about. Folks, it's just personal preference. Here goes again, with a quick comment on each:

I always enjoy when Peter gets sarcastic about people disagreeing vehemently with his opinion. He throws out his personal list of favorite ballparks and then gets all offended when people disagree with him. It is just personal preference, but when a public writer throws out his public opinion on a subject he gets feedback. If you don’t want feedback on your rankings (a) don’t make rankings or (b) don’t write a national column many people read and include your ballpark rankings in this column. Don’t get all offended and say “it is just personal preference” like you are shocked people disagree with you.

1. Fenway Park (Red Sox) -- Too cramped, but it's my ballpark-away-from-home.

No shock here. What is shocking is Peter King has a ballpark in his house? Doesn’t he live in Boston? So Fenway is his home ballpark? No?

8. Dodger Stadium (Dodgers) -- Park's fine. Feel of a Perry Mason episode. Real L.A.

We are taking ballpark information from someone who says Dodgers stadium feels like a Perry Mason episode. I don't even know what that means. How interesting the Bryan Stow incident happened at Dodger Stadium and time was spent searching for the assailants. Maybe that's why the ballpark feels like a Perry Mason episode. I am sure that’s not what Peter meant of course.

21. Nationals Park (Nationals) -- A little cold, but a good effort. Gotta win a little.

Oh, so winning means the ballpark is better? Not sure I get that correlation, especially since Safeco Field was 6th on Peter’s list. I guess the beer in Safeco makes for a good environment even without the winning.

23. Citi Field (Mets) -- Weird place. Home of the Dodgers or the Mets?

The Mets. Why would Citi Field be the home of the Dodgers?

We all know Peter is a Red Sox fan. I find it interesting he ranked the other ballparks of the other teams in the AL East at 12th, 26th, 28th, and didn't rank one because he hasn't been there (Rogers Centre). This may be completely inconsequential of course, but I think it is interesting as to how “the feel” of a ballpark is affected by how you feel about that team.

1. I think I've never looked forward to a training-camp odyssey as much as this year. Think of how many teams have compelling stories -- and on top of it all, one of those camps is going to have Nnamdi Asomugha walk into it.

I really like Nnamdi Asomugha, but what is Peter’s fascination with him? He is going to be highly wanted, but Peter is just absolutely fascinated that a player of Asomugha’s caliber is going to be a free agent in this offseason.

2. I think Asomugha wants to play for the Jets. Great idea, but would any team in football pay its starting corners one-quarter of the entire salary cap? That's about what it would take to pair Nnamdi with Darrelle Revis.

Welcome to the Monday Morning Asomugha with Peter King.

3. I think I doubt Brett Favre would come back to play another year of football, though if he's going to back up anyone anywhere, it would be Mike Vick in Philadelphia.

Here we go. Peter King is now discussing Brett Favre. Wait for him to now scold a television network for showing video of Favre.

Media maestro Howard Eskin reported the possibility of this Saturday night; Jay Glazer solidly knocked it down Sunday. And so it goes. I'm not buying it. But Favre loves Andy Reid, his Green Bay quarterback coach in 1997 and '98. He loves Doug Pederson (who was in Favre's foursome in California when Favre got the news of his father's death the day before that game in Oakland in 2003),

Peter probably can’t remember his wedding anniversary date, but he remembers who was in Favre’s foursome when he got news of his father’s death. Maybe Peter is a little too close to Favre? Maybe by “a little” it means “a hell of a lot” in this case.

Why not hold a clipboard for $4 million for five months? I believe it will not happen. But we shall see.

Because if Brett Favre comes back, I will go insane. That’s why it can't happen.

4. I think, by the way, I almost gagged when NFL Network -- which I believe did an outstanding job Thursday night into Friday covering the owners and players in "Let's Make a Deal'' -- ran an inspirational reel of Favre highlights Sunday night.

I'm not a TV programmer, but a note to NFLNet: Fans hate Brett Favre right now.

Yet Peter doesn’t stop talking about Favre in print. I’m not a sportswriter, but the same shit that goes for everyone being tired of Favre on television goes for Favre in print. I can't believe the audacity of Peter King to have mentioned and discussed Brett Favre DIRECTLY ABOVE the section of MMQB where he gives television programmers advice that people are tired of Favre so they should quit mentioning and showing his image.

THEN HOW ABOUT YOU QUIT WRITING ABOUT HIM? How does this advice not go for Favre information in print? It doesn’t. Peter gives sage advice that NFL fans hate Favre, yet he doesn’t follow his own damn advice.

Fans don't want to see the same highlights you ran 63 times when he retired two years ago and then 63 times again last winter. It makes them throw bricks through TVs, which is not good for ratings.

(shaking head sadly)

Fans don’t want to read about Favre either. It makes me want to throw a brick through my computer. How does Peter not get this?

Sometimes I honestly think TV does more damage to Favre than Favre does to Favre.

Oh no. Favre with his insatiable need for attention does more damage to himself. He craves the attention and that’s why he is given the attention. If he would just retire/unretired quietly and not draw it out into a long, drawn-out “will he/won’t he” issue then he wouldn’t get the attention. But Brett Favre loves the attention. He desires it and that’s why he gets it. Over the last four years, he could have made the focus on him go away and he not only chose not to, but he chose to draw-out his decision to retire or not retire in order to get more media attention. He does more damage to himself, but he does have a lot of help.

6. I think the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be very, very busy in free agency.

I think every team is going to be very, very busy in free agency.

7. I think this is the first time ever a free-agency period has 10 solid starters at an important position like cornerback. I don't recall ever seeing one spot so full of restricted and unrestricted guys who can help a good team. From Nnamdi Asomugha all the way down to Kelly Jennings, it's a heck of a solid group.

Stop talking about Nnamdi Asomugha! He’s an unrestricted free agent. Whoop-de-fucking-doo!

8. I think if Asomugha had his way, he'd sign with the Jets. The coach, the team, the city, the causes ... it all appeals to him.

I wish I was making this up. That is four of Peter’s “I Think” statements dedicated to Nnamdi Asomugha. He is a great cornerback, but there are other potential free agents that can be discussed in this space.

As Rich Cimini astutely pointed out the other day on his Jets blog, they could restructure Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis (due to count a total of $27.8 million against the cap this year), and they could take linebacker David Harris' franchise number of $10.4 million this year and lower it by converting it into the first year of a long-term contract. Remember, Santonio Holmes is a priority to sign, so assume that would take about $7 million this year. The Jets would probably have to cut two or three vets and not re-sign Antonio Cromartie to have any chance of getting into Asomugha's financial league -- even if it means Asomugha would take significantly less to go to New Jersey than, say, to Dallas or Houston.

Well, I will be on pins and needles to see what happens, since the fate of the free world will be determined by how the Jets spend their cap space.

g. Really, Larry David: You're playing a nun in the Three Stooges movie? Sister Mary-Mengele?

I think Nnamdi Asomugha would be better in that part. Let’s talk about his free agency again!

k. We overstate the value and goodness of a lot of people -- famous and otherwise -- but it would be hard to overstate the generosity and humanity of Myra Kraft.

Nnamdi Asomugha. He’s a great guy too. He is a philanthropist, a great cornerback, and has a wonderful foundation. Nnamdi Asomugha. Great guy. Potential free agent.

m. Beernerdness: Lots of bitter beer in Vienna. We found one I really liked at a sidewalk caf on a hot afternoon that reminded me of the white beers I've been trending toward lately, and it was a German brew: Schneider weisse hefe-weizenbier. A hefeweizen, of course. Citrusy. The server looked at me oddly when I asked for a lemon.

Yes Peter, there’s a reason I don’t drink Blue Moon with an orange in public. Also, if the drink was citrusy then the server may have wondered why you needed more citrus with it. Of course as we all know, when Peter stares at people in public it is because they are acting strangely, but when people stare at Peter it is because they are just weird people.

n. Very good to be back. Looking forward to one of the strangest years since I started covering pro football in 1984.

In the podcast, I said I was a “6” on a scale of 1-10 for football. There’s just so many things up in the air right now before I know what my favorite team will look like in terms of free agent signings, signing their own players, and all of that, it is hard to get excited. I do know I will probably go to an “8” once training camp starts.

Football is back! Of course, that means Gregg Easterbrook is as well.