Before I get to one of the most amazing subjects of any Monday Morning Quarterback column in the 18 years I’ve been writing it—so please do not stray—a paean to baseball’s Opening Day, sort of, from one of its brightest stars.
Peter had never heard of this "Mike Trout" player until last year, but then he came in and played really well against the Red Sox. Now he knows him. What a player this Mike Trout guy is!
Late in spring training, on the Angels’ practice field, Mike Trout, American League MVP and Philadelphia Eagles season-ticket-holder, is telling this wacky story from last September. I’d seen video of a game on the Angels’ TV network from last fall. On the replay, the screen is split. On one side, Trout, in center field for the Angels on a Sunday afternoon, is peering into the Angels’ broadcast booth, 300 feet away. On the other half of the screen, where Trout is looking, is Angels color man Mark Gubicza. They both love the Eagles. Gubicza starts to flap his arms, in the “Fly Eagles Fly” gesture the Philly fans use. Excited, Trout starts to flap his wings too.
I'm glad this story preempted Peter's story about a Green Beret trying to make it into the NFL as a long-snapper, because this story could not wait and had to be told immediately. This is a developing story that won't stop breaking.
“I was fired up about the game, and I told Guby during batting practice, ‘Hey, I’m gonna look up every inning. Let me know—if we’re doing good, give me the ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ signal. If we’re not, give me this.'” Trout made the throat-slash gesture.
Oh, the throat-slash gesture.
Get ready for a stupid question from Peter.
“He’s, like, 300 feet away,” I say. “How can you see him? What’s your eyesight?”
Peter King just asked an MLB outfielder how he saw a person flapping his arms in a broadcast booth 300 feet away. MLB outfielders routinely play 280-300 feet away from home plate where they follow a tiny white ball hit off a bat thrown by a pitcher (the ball, not the bat...unless Roger Clemens is on the mound) that is traveling between 75-100 mph when it is hit by the batter. Mike Trout plays outfield, where he is able to track down and catch this little ball in a glove, but Peter is shocked AND AMAZED that Mike Trout can see a man flapping his arms from that distance. Following a little white ball from 300-400 feet? No problem? Seeing a man flapping his arms from 300 feet? HOW DID YOU DO THAT!?
Typical Peter King. He's amazed by the little things in life. Mike Trout tracks a baseball down for a living. A dude flapping his arms when Trout is looking for him shouldn't be hard to see.
Now for the big question: What about all these offseason moves by madman Chip Kelly?
Yes, I definitely need football analysis from Mike Trout. Peter is holding off telling what he states is one of his favorite stories in MMQB history to tell a story about Mike Trout watching another person flapping his arms and getting Trout's opinion on the Eagles' offseason moves. Priorities.
“I’ve been shocked, for sure,” Trout says. “But, you know, Chip Kelly’s got something up his sleeve. If he thinks Sam Bradford’s the guy, you know, you gotta trust it. He has one thing in mind, and that’s winning a Super Bowl. Whatever it takes. Whatever he thinks is right, that’s what he’s gonna do.
Insightful. Glad Peter asked. Now let's hear more about how Trout found a way to see Mark Gubicza flap his arms in a broadcasting booth. What magic he performs!
The phone rang in Nate Boyer’s shoebox of a studio apartment in L.A. on Sept. 11, 2001, waking up the 20-year-old man without a life compass. Boyer looked at his clock … 6 a.m.
“Nate,” his mother said, “turn on the TV.”
“What channel?” Boyer said.
“Doesn’t matter,” his mother said.
Boyer had a 19-inch TV with a rabbit-ears antenna, and he turned it on. The World Trade Center was on fire. In an hour, one of the twin towers collapsed; a half-hour after that, the second one fell.
Peter King wasn't in New York City that day, but just how he managed to empathize with Ivan Maisel because he lost his daughter for five minutes in a grocery store, Peter knows how New Yorkers felt that day. One time the fire got out of control in his fire pit at home and melted his cell phone. It ruined a lawn chair too. It was basically his version of 9-11.
This is the day Boyer’s life changed—as so many lives did in so many different ways. It’s crazy to say that it’s the seminal event in a life that led Boyer to a refugee camp in Darfur three years later, then to enlist in the Army, then to multiple tours of duty as a Green Beret, then to enroll as a 29-year-old freshman at the University of Texas, then to a walk-on tryout for the Longhorns football team,
That isn’t even the craziest thing about the Nate Boyer story. This is: When he walked on at Texas, he had never played a snap of football in the first 29 years of his life. Mack Brown, the coach at the time, didn’t know until the end of Boyer’s second year at Texas that he’d never played football.
I can't figure out for the life of me why Mack Brown got fired.
"Wait, our quarterback doesn't have a scholarship to play football for us? Why is he walking on four legs? Our quarterback is a dog? How come no one told me about this?" (Mack Brown fires his defensive coordinator out of habit)
Boyer made it happen. The man who never played the game mostly taught himself how to long-snap on his final special-forces tour, coming back to fall practice at Texas determined to win the job. He practiced and drilled himself into playing 38 Big 12 Conference games, which is why there’s a glimmer of hope that this incredible football life has a chance to continue this summer at an NFL training camp near you.
Wait, there is an NFL training camp near me? The closest one I know of is three hours away.
“I need teams to look past the fact I’m 34 years old, obviously,” Boyer said from Los Angeles on Friday. “I’m not your average 34-year-old.”
Plus, he's a long-snapper. Age isn't always a huge issue for long-snappers. It's not like Boyer is a quarterback like Brandon Weeden or Chris Weinke.
This is what Boyer is up against, as he attempts to become one of 1,696 active players in the most exclusive sports league in America:
The NBA would like for you to redo your math on that one, Peter. 53 players and 32 teams comes to 1696 players and the NBA has 15 players on a team and 30 teams. That's 450 players. So by "most exclusive" I think Peter means "Don't check my math to determine if this is factually correct."
Oh, and NHL teams have 23 players on the roster and there are 30 teams. That comes to 690 players. Maybe Peter means something else by "most exclusive."
His age. Ever hear of a 34-year-old NFL rookie? NFL teams frown on 25-year-old rookies. Add nine years, and most are going to say, “Incredible story. Good luck, Nate.”
He's a long-snapper. Again, I'm not sure age is as large of an issue for long-snappers.
His size. Boyer is 5-11 and 220 pounds. The average size of the current 32 long-snappers: 6-2 ½, 246. One snapper is shorter than 6-0 (Houston’s Jonathan Weeks, at 5-10). Two snappers are lighter than 230 (Falcon Josh Harris, at 224; Denver’s Aaron Brewer, at 225).
And this could be an issue. The NFL frowns on college players who are small for their position as much as they frown on college players who are older for a rookie.
Boyer only needs one team to say yes. No team will use a pick on the now draft-eligible Boyer, but NFL teams will bring 90 players to camp in late July. Every team signs 20 to 25 undrafted college free agents for training camp. Theoretically, then, Boyer is competing to be one of 650 or so undrafted players invited to one of the 32 NFL camps.
“You may not look at me and think, ‘This guy is capable of anything,’ but nothing is going to stop me,” Boyer said. “I might die trying, but I will work till the last beat of my heart to accomplish the mission—
Oh man, if Nate Boyer died trying to make an NFL team then Roger Goodell would REALLY have to plug his ears and cover his eyes in an effort to pretend he didn't know nothing and try to rehab the NFL's image.
Boyer had no college degree, no discernible skill, and so no relief or medical agency would retain him to work in the relief camps for Darfur refugees. So he flew to Chad. When he landed, he lied about being an American doctor and about being robbed in Paris on his way to the refugee camp, and he talked himself onto a United Nations plane heading to Abéché, home to the largest refugee camp.
Ah, it's just a couple of lies all for the sake of America. The NFL would never hold the fact a college prospect lied in his past against him would they?
When he came back from Chad (his 60-day visa could not be extended), he decided to try to earn a spot in the U.S. Army Special Forces. At Fort Benning, Ga., 145 candidates started Special Forces training. Eleven, including Boyer, made it through. “I was all in,” he said. “In my free time, I did a mile of lunges without stopping.”
"Yeah," Peter says, "but can you see a guy flapping his arms from 300 feet away?"
Twice in Afghanistan, Boyer felt he came close to death—including just before he returned from his last deployment in 2014. Understand that this final tour was the Special Forces’ version of a summer job. Before his last season at Texas, he deployed to Tajab, near the Afghan-Pakistan border, searching for Taliban. One day, in a firefight with some Taliban forces, the captain of the Afghan forces, fighting next to Boyer, was shot in the throat and died. That battle is when the bullet came three inches from Boyer’s face. He actually had the presence of mind to tell me it was better him in such danger than a peer with a family. “I’m not married, and I don’t have any children,” he said. “Better to have me there.”
“How many people did you kill?” I asked.
Great question, Peter. This questions shows a vast knowledge of Green Berets (and other members of the military), as a group of people who always love to be asked about all the people they have killed like they are an 8 year old playing "Super Contra" for the first time. Who the hell asks this type of question, other than a child?
RT @Deej1121: Asking a vet how many people he's killed is bad form … I didn’t know. If it is, my apologies.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) April 6, 2015
Peter claims he didn't know it was bad form. I don't know what planet Peter lives on sometimes. I have not a clue how Peter has survived this long in life with some of the weirdly insensitive and tone-deaf things he Tweets.
“I am not going to answer that,” Boyer said, after a pause. “I honestly don’t know. I can tell you I am no Chris Kyle. But you don’t really know because—well, you are in these battles, and you come back, and, last year, we had one firefight with 30 enemy KIA [killed in action], and you never know for sure who got who.”
Seriously though, Peter, great question. I'm sure there is nothing Nate Boyer would like recalling more than those times he ended another person's life. It probably doesn't affect him psychologically or emotionally, so it's not an insensitive question to ask at all.
Recently, Eagles coach Chip Kelly and his sports science coordinator—former U.S. Naval Special Warfare personal coach Shaun Huls—visited Glazer’s gym. Boyer met Kelly. “How much do you weigh?” Kelly asked. That’s what every coach will want to know, at least those who are thinking of giving the longest of shots a chance.
“Two-twenty,” Boyer told him.
Then Chip Kelly tried to trade Boyer to the Packers for a 6th round pick, simply out of habit.
One more thing: Boyer has another mission.
“The veteran suicide rate is 22 a day,” he said. “Twenty-two a day! Unacceptable. Totally unacceptable. People out there are trying to fix that, and I am one of those people. I want to prove to those leaving the military that if you believe in yourself and work and sacrifice, the same way you did in the military, you can achieve what you want in society. I want to make a difference for veterans, and what they can do in the world.”
That starts with a job offer in May, after the NFL draft.
To be fair to Nate Boyer, though it wouldn't fit Peter's want for making dramatic statements, he could very well achieve this without playing in the NFL. It's not like making the Texas football team and then being invited to an NFL team's training camp wouldn't prove that veterans can make a difference in the world once they come back from their tour of duty. I know, this isn't dramatic enough for Peter, so he'll act like the only way Boyer can make a difference for veterans is if he plays in the NFL.
The NFL’s first full-time female official will arrive in the 96th season of the league, now that Sarah Thomas has been hired. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported Thomas’ hire Friday, and though the league wouldn’t confirm it, the story’s a lock. Thomas will be a full-time line judge starting this summer.
Chris Paul wants to know how she'll run down the field with all of her lady parts and keep up with the middle-aged male officials?
Thomas, married with three children, became a finalist for an NFL job in 2013, was a finalist again last year, and this year, with eight new officials being hired, was finally one of the new officials elevated.
Peter should ask Sarah Thomas how she plans on balancing her work life with the time she wants to dedicate to her children and whether she is trying to "have it all." He's asking veterans how many people they killed, so he may as well go full heel in his line of questioning.
The line judge is on the line of scrimmage near the sideline, opposite the head linesman. The line judge is the backup timekeeper, works with the linesman on offside and encroachment calls, and, once the ball is snapped, follows the closest slot back or flanker to that side downfield seven yards.
Well, that's just great. Women can never be on time for anything, but the NFL is going to hire a woman to be the backup timekeeper? This will never work. Besides, how is Sarah Thomas going to follow a flanker while wearing heels? WHAT A TERRIBLE IDEA TO HIRE A WOMAN FOR A MAN'S JOB! How many people has she killed?
When she has worked, she stuffs her blonde ponytail under her hat and looks like any other official.
Thanks for pointing out what Sarah Thomas does with her hair during the game. If you had not brought it up, I would have been concerned Thomas would have been too focused on making sure her ponytail is straight as opposed to officiating the NFL game. I'm really glad Peter pointed out what Thomas does with her hair. I was deeply concerned she would try to bring a full-length mirror on the field in the middle of the game to make sure her hair looks good, just like any woman would do.
When she worked a Cleveland Browns practice in 2012, several players said they didn’t notice anything different about the line judge until it was pointed out that the line judge was a woman. If that happens on the field this year, Thomas—and the NFL—will be very happy.
She better keep that blonde ponytail tucked up under her hat or else the players may get distracted by her feminine wiles.
PFF has some good information on the draftable players. Such as:
Overrated? A sure-fire top-five pick, USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams, was underproductive in obvious passing situations. On third-and-long he produced only eight pressures (two hits, six hurries) on 94 pass rushes. That earned a Pass-Rush Productivity number of 6.4, well below the class average for interior defensive linemen of 7.6.
I don't know if this means Leonard is overrated or that teams doubled him in obvious passing situations. That's a possibility too.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has a good deep arm. Petty completed 34 of 95 passes on balls thrown at least 20 yards downfield. They went for 1,472 yards, 20 touchdowns and one interception. The 20 touchdowns led all FBS quarterbacks on such deep throws, while the yardage total was second-highest.
Uh-oh, Bryce Petty is the new Tom Savage. Next thing we know, Peter King will be writing a MMQB about how Petty is the hot new quarterback in the draft because he has so many individual workouts lined up and because Petty's agent will do a great job of pretending his client is going to be drafted 1-2 rounds before any logical GM would draft him.
This is anecdotal evidence, but I wonder how many of these deep balls were thrown to receivers who were wide open as compared to thrown to receivers who were being covered and there was a tight window to throw into? I only ask because I feel like every time I saw a highlight of Baylor scoring a touchdown the ball was being thrown to a wide open receiver due to the Baylor offensive scheme being so good. Again, it's anecdotal evidence.
“We found out there was a bar called the Cricket Inn, or the Cricket, which was a popular bar there at Oklahoma State. Our [scout] would sit there for a week. He sat there for one week, went in every day at 3 o’clock and stayed till 11 o’clock at night. That was his job. And we checked: How many times did Justin Blackmon come in? And he came in too many times. And we took him off our board.”
—Former Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik, on why the Bucs took Justin Blackmon off their draft board in 2012.
Too bad the Jaguars didn’t have a spy in the Cricket in 2012.
While this sounds slightly creepy and a little bit smart, the Buccaneers did draft Mark Barron with the 7th pick in the draft. So before marveling at how much research the Buccaneers did, I don't want to forget they took Blackmon off the draft board and then screwed up their first round pick anyway.
“It’s just like the Michael Sam situation. If he wasn’t gay, he would have gone undrafted. Instead, the league drafts him because I think they are trying to monopolize every aspect of the world. The same thing with a female ref. For the league, it’s great publicity. The NFL is all about monopolizing every opportunity.”
—Jacksonville defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, to TMZ, about the NFL’s hiring of Sarah Thomas as the first full-time female game official.
It certainly sounds like the NFL is ready for a woman ref. Though I'm not sure how the NFL really got great publicity from Michael Sam getting drafted, other than it got the NFL in the news on the third day of the draft when the NFL would probably be in the news anyway.
Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady and Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt finished the 2014 season at the top of their respective games, Brady leading two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to win the Super Bowl over Seattle and Watt compiling one of the best defensive seasons a player has ever had.
Combined, their 2015 salary-cap number is $27.97 million. Brady’s is $14 million, Watt’s $13.97 million.
How the two NFL stars’ 2015 compensation compares to some dynamic baseball duos:
|Matt Harrison/Jhonny Peralta||$28.20 million|
|Miguel Montero/Curtis Granderson||$28.00 million|
|Tom Brady/J.J. Watt||$27.97 million|
|Trevor Cahill/John Danks||$27.95 million|
|Jayson Werth/Eric O’Flaherty||$27.85 million|
A few things here:
1. One sport has a salary cap and the other sport does not have a salary cap. While this may be a part of Peter's point, it's fairly obvious that a sport with a salary cap is going to have lower contract numbers for the players than a sport without a salary cap would have. It's so obvious that it doesn't really merit a comparison like this. Maybe it's more interesting than I give it credit for.
2. Peter has chosen players from baseball who are generally overpaid. How about he chooses a few baseball players that don't fit the narrative he wants to push? Baseball and football have differently salary structures. For the first 6 seasons of a baseball player's career he could end up playing for a fraction of his real worth. So Peter is choosing only the expensive underachieving/overpaid baseball players that fit his narrative. Still, baseball players make more than football players. That's not news.
3. How about Peter compares the salaries of some overpaid NFL players to MLB players that don't make quite what they are worth? How about Peter's boy Josh McCown who has a cap hit of $8.65 million from the Buccaneers and Browns. Matt Schaub has a cap hit of $2 million. That's $10.65 million for two backup quarterbacks and Mike Trout and Garrett Richards are only making $9.283 million this year!
How about Michael Johnson, who is making $9.6 million this year for the Buccaneers and Bengals? Anthony Collins is making $3 million this year. Neither of them are even on the Buccaneers team anymore. Meanwhile, the Rays are paying Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb $15 million this year.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Readers of this column know how much I love Amtrak and train travel in general. But there are some times, way too often, that stupid little things go bad on a trip, and for those who don’t love train travel the way I do, I wonder if little events like this make people say, “I’m better off driving.”
By writing "how much I love Amtrak and train travel in general" Peter means "how much I love train travel when everything goes perfectly but then I bitch about any inconvenience in train travel in the most public way possible once something goes wrong."
Thursday evening, Amtrak regional train heading north to Penn Station in New York … Train pulls out of Newark for the nine-minute ride to New York City. It took 47 minutes. It inched, stopped, inched, rode for a minute, inched, stopped, stayed stopped, inched, etc. No explanation. I’ll get on the train again, many times. A bunch of the grumblers, well, I’m not sure. Things like that happen far too often on those regional trains.
It sounds like the police should have gotten involved. This is a crime of historic proportions. I'm just glad Peter King is here to tell his audience that, in fact, public transportation is not always reliable.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the most stunning piece of news from the last few days, other than Sarah Thomas’s hiring, was Chris Mortensen’s report that the Browns had basically moved on from Johnny Manziel. The way he described it on ESPN was that, when the offensive staff was putting together the offseason program, “Manziel’s name barely even came up in conversation.” I can tell you this: Mortensen is 100 percent accurate here. In fact, when the quarterbacks have been discussed this offseason in-house, Josh McCown is the dominant talking point, and then Thad Lewis, signed last month as a free agent. Then comes Manziel and Connor Shaw.
After one season they give up on him I see. Why not?
2. I think the moral of this story is this: Manziel has done too much damage to his reputation with owner Jimmy Haslam, GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine to be taken seriously in Cleveland when he returns to the team, which is likely to be in the next week or so.
Which, by the way, Manziel's reputation won't mean shit if he comes back to Browns' camp and starts playing really well. That is the key to Browns management not giving a crap about a reputation, just start to play well. Winning cures all.
3. I think I am dubious that Manziel going to rehab was his idea.
I think I'm wondering why Peter King uses three separate numbers to discuss the exact same topic (Johnny Manziel) when these three points could all be discussed under #1. Peter does this all the time and it annoys the nitpicker in me.
All three points are about Johnny Manziel, his reputation and his future in Cleveland. Yet, for some reason, Peter believes they require three separate points rather than have these points all come under point #1.
7. I think I’ll believe the new and improved Josh Freeman—who signed with the Dolphins after being out of football last year—when I see it.
Peter can't resist getting a shot at Josh Freeman in when he sees that Freeman might get a chance to play in the NFL. I will never understand what Peter King has against Josh Freeman. All I can guess is that Freeman helped get Peter King's friend Greg Schiano fired in Tampa Bay and that's why he doesn't like Josh Freeman. In terms of NFL players who have been overpaid by an NFL team, Freeman isn't in the Top 20 of NFL players over the last two years. Matt Schaub made something like $8 million last year to be the backup to Derek Carr and Josh McCown made $4.75 million to help the Buccaneers get the #1 overall draft pick in this year's draft through his shitty play. Still, Peter will go to bat for McCown and talk about what a great teacher he is for other quarterbacks. But Josh Freeman sucked for the Vikings and made $2 million in the process, which is a felony that Peter King won't ever let Freeman live down. I wonder why.
Josh Freeman is a good dude, a good player, and glad he's getting another chance.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) April 2, 2015
Either the Freeman family is sticking up for each other (they aren't related in reality) or not everyone in the NFL hates Josh Freeman with the vigor and ferocity that Peter King does.
9. I think this Chicago headline means absolutely nothing to me: “Football autographed by Cutler gets no bids at charity event.” I just don’t care that a reviled player tries to do something nice for someone, or for some charity, and doesn’t get the football bought by anyone. I understand it suggests the community doesn’t like him, but we needed fans to pass on a signed football in a charity auction to know that? I don’t think so.
Peter doesn't need to know fans passed on buying a signed Jay Cutler football in order to know Bears fans don't like him, but Peter feels it is vitally important to point out what a waste of human flesh Josh Freeman is every opportunity he can get. Freeman was out of football last year, does it merit a mention that he'll have to prove he can play quarterback at an NFL level any more than a Jay Cutler signed football not being bought proves Bears fans aren't happy with Cutler?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
e. Mike Krzyzewski was hired to coach Duke on March 18, 1980—six days after I was hired to cover Xavier basketball and the Reds for the Cincinnati Enquirer. What a long strange trip it’s been.
And when I think of Coach K, my thoughts immediately go to the parallel that he and Peter King were hired within days of each other. Two lofty and haughty men, entering their business at the same time. Wait, Coach K went to Army. Why doesn't Peter King ask him how many people he killed?
f. I want to like Duke tonight. But I say Wisconsin on a Frank the Tank putback in the closing seconds.
It's your opinion. If you want to like Duke, you can literally do that if you want to.
j. Barry Zito outrighted to Triple-A by the A’s. I am officially not just old, but ancient.
Barry Zito is 36 years old and he isn't even close to being one of the oldest players who will be optioned to Triple-A by a major league team over the past/next few years. Why does this make Peter King feel old? Peter confuses me.
l. Coffeenerdness: Memo to Starbucks: If you want to see an assembly line of efficiency at an incredibly busy store, go to your place at Penn Station in Manhattan during morning rush hour.
Yes, every Starbucks employee in the New York area should go to the Penn Station Starbucks during the morning rush so that Peter's favorite Starbucks will be closed during this time and Peter can bitch about how not every Starbucks employee should have been away at the same time. If this did happen then it would really test the ability of the Penn Station Starbucks to handle a rush, once a thousand people all show up at the same time.
I did a quick count when I walked at about 7:45 Thursday morning. Forty-eight people, either in line or waiting for their drink. I was out with my coffee at 7:53. Three great baristas, working cheerfully, efficiently. My flat white was perfect. Not sure what the moral of the story is, other than you’ve got some really good people at that store.
I'm not sure how Peter King manages to find the time to balance his busy writing career and being the Quality Assurance Manager for every hotel/Starbucks/retail facility in the United States, but he does an impressive job of making sure everyone else is working as hard as he thinks they should be.
The Adieu Haiku
Ted Wells still studying Pats.
I mean, come on now.
This very well could have just been a sentence in the things that Peter thinks he thinks. This "Adieu Haiku" must go. It's purposeless and it hasn't even killed anyone recently.