What an intriguing weekend. One month ago, the first Sunday of the regular season kicked off, and this is how weird the season has gotten:
IT'S A CRAZY YEAR! All of Peter's preconceived notions prior to the season beginning have been shown to be false. Who would have ever thought this could happen? Has this ever happened before? "We" were wrong about everything that would happen.
Baltimore is four games out of first in the AFC North. Cincinnati is 5-0, Baltimore 1-4. Neither of those records is remotely fluky. The Ravens gave up 505 yards to the Browns on Sunday ... in Baltimore.
"In Baltimore" and not "away from Baltimore"?
The aged shall inherit the league. This weekend’s winning quarterbacks included Matt Hasselbeck (40) and Peyton Manning (39), both of whom were born before the newest head coach in the league, Miami’s Dan Campbell (39). Charles Woodson (39) had his first two interceptions of Manning ever on Sunday, but Manning got revenge for the 1997 Heisman voting (in order, Woodson, Manning, Ryan Leaf) with a 16-10 win.
I'm sure Manning considers this one victory to be direct revenge on Woodson for that Heisman voting victory Woodson had 18 years ago. Sure, Woodson may have a coveted Heisman Trophy, but Peyton Manning has an NFL regular season victory over Woodson's team. Who really won the Heisman Trophy in the end?
No quarterback’s getting beat up like Russell Wilson. No coincidence Seattle is 2-3 … lots of reasons why, really, including the leaky and green offensive line. But the Seahawks are still very much alive, despite the fact Wilson has been sacked an NFL-high 22 times.
If I'm not wrong, Wilson also tends to be among the league leaders in the time he holds the football before throwing a pass. So the Seahawks offensive line stinks, but Wilson may just have to try and get rid of the ball faster. Or he could play a potentially mediocre Panthers team who are missing their best pass rusher and get to play them at home this upcoming Sunday. That may help him and the Seahawks as well.
The Lions yanked Matthew Stafford for Dan Orlovsky while being routed by Arizona Sunday. Crowd at Ford Field: BOOOOOOOOOO. I repeat: Stafford out, Orlovsky in. Stafford healthy. Stafford stinking it up at an RG3 2013 level. Coach Jim Caldwell said Stafford was the starter, and there is no controversy. “It's like a pitcher not having a very good day,” Caldwell said of his quarterback. “That pitcher comes out and, obviously, he's still the starter.”
Jim Caldwell is to blame for everything obviously. I warned people about him. He can't sustain or build on a team's success. His head coaching record doesn't lie.
The leading rushers in Week 5 would have made you titter a month ago.
|Player, Team||Draft Status||Week 5 Total|
|1. Thomas Rawls, Seattle||Undrafted rookie, Central Michigan||169 yards|
|2. Todd Gurley, St. Louis||Rookie, 10th pick overall, Georgia||159 yards|
|3. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta||Fourth-round pick, 2014, Fla. State||153 yards|
I don't think I will ever "titter" and did Peter even look up this definition before writing the word? Titter means:
Why would I laugh nervously about this? Why would I express ill-suppressed amusement by which players led the NFL in rushing yards during Week 5? If I read Todd Gurley had the second most running yards then I would not be suppressing amusement. Devonta Freeman wouldn't surprise me either. In what world does Peter think Gurley and Freeman were seen as asshole bums who couldn't run the football prior to this season starting?
We’re going to start in a heartwarming place this morning: in Cleveland, where the quarterback of the 2010 Hartford Colonials just might have done enough to earn a spot on a wall he considers hallowed in a room in Berea, Ohio.
Josh McCown won a regular season game for the Browns. Crown his ass because he is what we thought he was!
Josh McCown probably should have taken his gold watch last year. Nice career, meandering from Arizona to Detroit to Carolina to Hartford of the United Football League to coaching high school football to Chicago to Tampa Bay last year. At 35, coming off a very good five-start stretch for Chicago in 2013, McCown was going to be the Bucs’ bridge to the future. But offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford fell ill before the season, never was right during the year, and the offense was in shambles, and the offensive line was the worst in football, and McCown played poorly.
"Poorly" is probably a nice way of saying how McCown played in 2014. He was 32nd in QB rating, 31st in completion percentage, threw three more interceptions than touchdowns, and in an offense with Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson was 31st in yards per attempt. He was Blake Bortles-bad, except he didn't have the excuse given for him that he was young and so it was okay for him to suck.
“But I just thought, ‘This isn’t the best I can be. I don’t want to go out like that. I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder from Chicago—I know I’m capable of doing that,’” he said Sunday night. “I just knew I could do it again, and my wife was super supportive.”
She probably didn't want to deal with McCown being around the house all the time from the age of 35 until he dies. Well, that and a little bit more money never hurt anyone.
McCown signed, won the starting job in camp, and led the Browns on a 17-play drive on the first possession of the season at the Jets. He was concussed on play 17, trying to dive for the end zone. Johnny Football time. Manziel had some moments, and beat the Titans in Week 2, and the locals were frenzied. Cleveland wanted Johnny. And this old-fashioned McCown understood.
"The old-fashioned" McCown understood this. What I love about Peter's writing is you never have to wonder if he personally likes a player or not. His wording will always tip you off to where his opinion falls on a player. Josh McCown is just an old-fashioned guy trying to make it in a young man's sport, a sport where assholes like Josh Freeman get all the publicity when they are PERSONALLY responsible for getting some of Peter's BEST FRIENDS fired and don't seem to give a shit one way or another.
“I was heartbroken after that long drive against the Jets, because I thought we’d have a big day,” he said. “But people don’t understand—you sign with a team, and you’re there to serve your team. If you’re called on to play, you play. If you’re not playing, you help your team in other ways. So my job until I played again, if I played again, was to help Johnny be the best. The organization picked this young man in the first round and has high hopes for him—still does. So I wanted to help him.”
That sounds trite, honestly. You’re tempted not to buy it. But I know it’s the way McCown feels, because I’ve heard it from him before—about Jay Cutler, about Mike Glennon—and because he has this weird attitude that quite a few players don’t. Team guy.
I am in a fucking titter right now hearing about what a team guy McCown is. He's precocious in all the right ways, old-fashioned in the ways that please Peter and he puts you in a titter with his modesty and team spirit. I would write him in as my choice for President of the United States, but he's just too fucking good to run this country.
“My wife and I went to couple of the NBA Finals games here in the spring,” he said. “We’re walking downtown and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if this would happen with the Browns?’
Yes, it would be great if the Cleveland Browns made the NBA Finals. If the Browns made the NBA Finals then that would put me all in a titter. I would be so titterful at that point.
Baltimore up 21-9. McCown, methodical, with 75 and 79-yard drives to put Cleveland up 22-21. The second touchdown came on the strangest TD catch you’ll ever see. From the Ravens’ 18, McCown, pressured, lofted one to tight end Gary Barnidge at the goal line. He jumped with a Ravens’ defender, and Barnidge ended up falling, the ball near his feet. As he fell, Barnidge kept the ball off the ground between his legs but not touching his hands; somehow it never touched the ground and he was able to pop it back into his hands while lying on the goal line.
It was an ass-grab catch, which by the way, is Peter's favorite type of catch. This is simply because Peter's favorite thing is to play grab-ass with some of his favorite white quarterbacks in MMQB. Josh McCown wins a road game for the Browns and Peter turns him into the greatest quarterback in Browns history.
The catch counted. But back came Baltimore. They traded touchdowns again—Ravens up 27-22, then Cleveland up 30-27—and Justin Tucker’s field goal with 25 seconds left tied it going into overtime.
Now, the Browns are not set up to be a throwing team. With Josh Gordon suspended for the year and a solid run-blocking line, coach Mike Pettine was to be pretty egalitarian run-pass. But it hasn’t worked out that way in the past three weeks. Since McCown has taken the reins back, Cleveland has called pass plays on a remarkable 72 percent of the snaps. “When I came here, I was thinking maybe 30 throws a game,” McCown said. “But in our quarterback room, we have the attitude that we don’t have to be babysitters.
Well, the quarterbacks don't have to be babysitters because the Browns think that Johnny Manziel NEEDS a babysitter. I mean, he can't babysit himself can he?
When it was over, McCown saw the incredible numbers: 36 of 51, 457 yards, two touchdowns, no picks.
The Browns were founded 69 years ago. Through Otto Graham and a succession of pre-nineties very good passers, and through the Browns’ rebirth, no quarterback ever had a regular-season game like this one. No Brown ever threw for as many yards.
That is very impressive. There's no snark there. I think the Browns deserve a competent quarterback on their roster.
“Now, we have a quarterback room, and the Browns have these murals on the walls with all the great quarterbacks, back to Otto Graham, and Frank Ryan, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar. You see the history in there. It’s cool. And I’ve sat there and I’ve thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to be on that wall someday, and have the respect of the next generation of quarterbacks in this room?’ That would mean something to me.”
McCown might be getting a little bit ahead of himself here, but that's okay. Let's aim for a winning season first?
This morning, I want to focus briefly on the progress of the Bengals.
Yes, focus on the progress of the Bengals and Andy Dalton, all while acknowledging you have said previously the true judgment of the Bengals and Dalton won't be made until after the season. If the Bengals struggle in the playoffs again then Peter will write, "Once again the Bengals fool everyone into thinking they can contend for a Super Bowl spot" because the Bengals were strong in the regular season again. It's like Peter is a lemming who knows how the Bengals should be judged, but he just can't stop himself from jumping off the cliff with the other sports media in writing stories about how "This is a totally different Bengals team!" when they all along said the Bengals and Andy Dalton should be judged on the postseason.
Simply, Sunday’s game was not one this team would have won in the past three or four years.
Sure, why not? I feel like this has been written repeatedly before about the Bengals. "THIS IS A NEW BENGALS TEAM!" Then they struggle again in the playoffs and it's all Andy Dalton's fault.
The depth of his offensive weapons is as good as any quarterback has in football. And the Bengals have good team shrinks for Dalton, pumping him up when so many in the public are down on him for his 0-4 playoff record.
Andy Dalton isn't mentally capable of pulling himself out of a funk, so it's great that there are team shrinks available to do it for him. He's fragile, which is how Peter wants to think of him.
From talking to Hue Jackson last week, I understood the Bengals weren’t going to be afraid of doing new/different stuff against the Super Bowl-veteran Seahawks.
Hue Jackson isn't afraid to do a lot of different stuff. He's the guy who has a wide receiver throwing passes to Andy Dalton. He's actually a really good offensive coordinator and probably deserves a shot at another head coaching job.
Midway through the third quarter, the game was slipping away. Seattle was up 17-7, and the momentum was all Seahawks. Jackson sent in a play of trickeration. Running back Rex Burkhead came hard from left to right on a sweep in front of Dalton, who handed to him, and immediately Michael Bennett—who sniffs out everything—
Everything. If someone farts in the locker room, Michael Bennett can sniff out exactly whose ass it is that smells.
banged into Burkhead, dislodging the ball. Bobby Wagner picked it up, ran 23 yards, and scored. Seattle led 24-7.
“Very bad call on my part,” Jackson said Sunday night. “I should never have called it. You could see how they were rushing and getting some penetration. They were ferocious. So I felt bad, and when Andy came to the sidelines, he said, ‘Coach, lotta time left. Don’t worry. We’re gonna win this game.’ ”
It's a good thing the Bengals have all these team shrinks to help keep Dalton positive or else he would have really been down in the dumps after this play was over. Thank God someone was there to pick Dalton up.
That, Jackson said, is what a leader says. It’s what Dalton said to his offensive mates on the sideline too—whether he believed it or not. The comeback began on what I thought was an amazing play call. On the first drive of the game, from the Seattle 14, Dalton sent Eifert—a better and more reliable pass-catcher and route-runner, with better hands, than last year’s tight end, Jermaine Gresham—up the left seam, and strong safety Kam Chancellor passed him back to a gap in the coverage that no one covered. Easy touchdown. “Through the game,” Jackson said, “I could see the adjustment hadn’t been made by Seattle. I don’t call the same play down there very often at all. But I saw something, and so we called it again.”
Mike Shula doesn't see what the big deal is. He calls the same play like three or four times a game. In fact, he only has 15 plays in his playbook, so he HAS to call the same play over and over. Sometimes he changes the formation though and has Cam quarterback sneak left rather than right though.
The chemistry now is so good in Cincinnati. Dalton (mostly) is kept clean to make the right decisions. His coordinator knows what the quarterback does well, and with the rare exception of the Burkhead play, understands defensive concepts of teams he sees as seldom as Seattle well enough to know when he can push the envelope. And Dalton just makes the right decisions and the crisp throws—with the confidence of his team.
Again, not to be the Debbie Downer, but the regular season has never been the issue for Andy Dalton and the Bengals.
The survivor from this clash, Cincinnati, is 5-0, and though it’s too early to obsess about the standings, the Bengals have a two-and-a-half game lead over second-place Pittsburgh, which plays a tough game at San Diego tonight.
"It's too early to obsess about the standings."
(Peter King begins obsessing about where the Bengals are in the standings)
As optimistic as the Bengals were before this season, they couldn’t have dreamed of having a three-game lead over Pittsburgh and Cleveland, and a four-game edge over Baltimore, after five weeks.
Yes, the Bengals couldn't have dreamed the rest of the AFC North wouldn't be very good. Peter doesn't want to obsess over the standings, but the Bengals have pretty much won the AFC North already, right?
Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell was near the end of a 30-minute conversation with me on Saturday. I felt like I was being coached for about half of it, with Campbell sometimes lapsing into coach-speak, like I was one of his players: We gotta get off to better starts! We gotta get manageable second downs! But then, at the end, I asked him what he wanted Dolphins fans to know about this perennially disappointing franchise, and what the Campbell regime, however long it lasts, had planned.
"We're just going to bro-out man, that's all. Bro-ing out is the way this team is making it to the playoffs. Give some skin."
“I would say this,” Campbell, 39, said ominously. “We’re about to wake the sleeping giant.”
Pause. Then nothing.
Okay, Dan. Have a good day! End of interview.
He was asleep. Campbell said they are "about" to wake a sleeping giant, so obviously the giant isn't awake quite yet. It's definitely waking up though.
I brought up to him how incredible it is and how much an indictment of the talent-laden team it was that, after four games, Miami has been outscored 37-3 in the first quarter.
“I addressed that with our team in our first meeting,” Campbell said. “Thirty-seven to three. I said, ‘Somebody tell me what that is.’ Nobody knew. I said, ‘That’s the score in the first quarter of our games. That’s the first thing we gotta look at. How can you win games when you’re always playing from behind so fast!’”
I don't know, how can you win games when you're always playing from behind so "quickly"...not "fast". How do you do this? I don't know. I know this though, go get Ryan Tannehill some more offensive weapons, because he's going to break out one of these years. He's been due to breakout for three years now, so at some point this will happen.
Before Miami went on its long bye weekend, Campbell had one practice. Wednesday. He decided to use one of the Dolphins’ allotted 14 full-padded practices for the season for that day, and he decided to go very heavy on one-on-one competition. Receivers versus cornerbacks. Tackles versus edge rushers. Guards versus defensive tackles.
“One of the most interesting practices I have ever been to,” said the executive vice president of football operations, Mike Tannenbaum, who will be in charge of the search for a permanent coach. He made it clear Saturday that Campbell will be a candidate, and that Wednesday’s practice, showered in intensity and competition, was a good start.
And with this franchise under the direction of Mike Tannenbaum, I can't imagine what could end up going wrong, besides "nothing" of course.
When Campbell reconvenes with his team this morning at 8, that’s what he’ll stress—competition and fun. “I think I understand the NFL,” he said. “I understand players. I relate to ‘em. Not in a buddy-buddy way. Without sounding conceited, I think I can pull the best out of people. It’s not fake; it’s from the heart. I have been around some phenomenal coaches, and I know what works. A lot of people say that. But the guys I’ve learned from—Bill Parcells, Sean Payton, Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, Mike Pope—my position coach with the Giants, a great teacher—and Tony Sparano … I think I’ve taken something from all of them.
Oh wow, that's quite the list of coaches to have learned something from. That list extends from Super Bowl winning coaches to coaches who had an 0-16 record in a season. More importantly, it doesn't list Joe Philbin, which I think speaks volumes.
“We gotta change the culture!” he said, voice rising. “We’re not just going through the motions anymore. We’re gonna be fast and we’re gonna be crisp. Hey, running the ball, running backs, you get a little crease and I want to see you put your head down and bull for two or three yards!
But only run for two or three yards. That's it. Run for two or three yards and then get tackled. It's a lesson learned at the Eddie George School of Being a Running Back.
So the Dolphins embark on an uncertain road today. Big names will be associated with this job for the next two-plus months. I’ve said this could be Sean Payton’s last year in New Orleans, and Adam Schefter reported Sunday the Dolphins could be interested if he’s available.
They should hire Jeff Fisher, like they wanted to do back in 2012. Of course, Joe Philbin had a better record with the Dolphins than Fisher has had with the Rams, but that's beside the point.
But Tannenbaum may go more anonymous. In his year-and-a-half between Jet and Dolphin jobs, he was an agent for coaches, and he repped NBA newbies Steve Kerr and David Blatt—who made the NBA Finals in their first seasons in Golden State and Cleveland—and other small names.
Well...Steve Kerr and David Blatt took over teams that had already had elite players on the roster and Blatt even had the best basketball player on the planet on his team. So it's a comparison, but not exactly a great one. I don't see a Steph Curry or LeBron James-type player sitting on the Dolphins roster. Also, this isn't the NBA.
What we know right now is the owners are likely to vote in January on which team or teams will be permitted to move to Los Angeles with the NFL’s approval. That’s pretty much all we know, other than that the owners seem most inclined to try to help the San Diego Chargers because the Spanos family has been such a good ownership family for the league.
And "good ownership family" is obviously defined as "moving the Chargers away from San Diego into another market." If a franchise screws over the fans of one city in order to make more money for the NFL and that franchise, the sun shall never set on the NFL's gratitude.
One bit of news this morning: St. Louis stadium task force chief Dave Peacock told me Saturday that the group “expects to submit” to the NFL the long-awaited term sheet, making the city’s bid proposal for a new stadium official. Owners have been waiting to see that approximately 20-page document, with precise details of the funding and financing for the proposed new open-air stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis. On the heels of National Car Rental signing onto the project for $158 million as the long-term naming rights sponsor, the St. Louis organization feels it has the momentum to present a strong bid for the Rams to stay in St. Louis.
There is something about the Rams trying to set up a permanent home in St. Louis while having the naming rights given to a company that makes their money from rentals that seems appropriate to me.
"No really, we are here to stay. Seriously. What says, 'Here to stay' more than rental cars?"
That’s something owner Stan Kroenke obviously doesn’t want to do. He wants to move the franchise to Los Angeles, and now the league is going to decide if he can or not. (Obviously, from a legal standpoint, Kroenke could take matters into his own hands if owners block his effort to move.)
On one hand, I think Kroenke should be able to move his team wherever the hell he wants to move his team. On the other hand, it annoys the hell out of me that Kroenke wants to move the Rams team after all he's done is put a product on the field over the last 5-10 years that can only be politely described as "mediocre crap." The Rams fans have supported the franchise through 10 wins over three years, and then the promise of better days with Jeff Fisher at the helm. So far they have been disappointed, so it's kind of dick-ish to move the franchise after all that.
If Kroenke is so dead-set on moving, and the league forces him to stay in St. Louis (at least for the time being), will the city and Kroenke be able to co-exist?
I don't care if a multi-millionaire and the city of St. Louis can co-exist. I imagine Rams fans don't care either. Maybe Kroenke can sell the team to someone who actually wants to keep the franchise in St. Louis and that would fix both problems. I feel bad for Rams fans. That's my position.
Three Columbia University students, including one 10-year fantasy player named Joey Levy, thought they had a great business plan: a daily fantasy business with a couple of twists from market-owners FanDuel and DraftKings. They would have games without salary caps, so the business might be more attractive to the non-sophisticates, the everyman (and woman).
Oh good, more daily fantasy leagues. Is it possible for the daily fantasy bubble to pop after such a short span of time? I certainly hope so.
The MMQB: So, you left an Ivy League school to start a fantasy-sports business. My first thought is, what did your mother say?
Levy: I’d become passionate about DraftPot, more about DraftPot than about school. I started playing fantasy sports when I was 10 years old, and I’m passionate about it. I got to a point where it wasn’t fair to me or to my professors to continue.
One would hope that Levy attended enough business classes at Columbia to know "DraftPot" is a terrible fucking name for a daily fantasy league. It sounds like an online marijuana exchange and not a daily fantasy league.
“Obviously that was an extremely poor performance. And that’s an understatement.”
—Detroit coach Jim Caldwell, after one of the worst home performances in recent Lions history, a 42-17 loss to Arizona when quarterback Matthew Stafford, and most of the team, was booed consistently through the second half.
(Bengoodfella shrugs his shoulders in a way of saying "What did you expect?")
The Award Section
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
It’s a Midwestern quarterback week at The MMQB.
Josh McCown, quarterback, Cleveland.
Yes, he plays in the Midwest now (is Ohio the Midwest in reality? I'm looking at a map and I know it's considered "Midwest" but it doesn't seem to fit Ohio very well), but he is from Texas and went to college in Texas.
Andy Dalton, quarterback, Cincinnati.
He's from Texas and went to college in Texas.
Matt Hasselbeck, quarterback, Indianapolis.
He's from Massachusetts and went to college in Massachusetts.
I mean, these guys do play for Midwestern NFL teams, but they aren't really Midwestern quarterbacks in the sense that's where they are actually from.
“Was literally on his deathbed Monday and Tuesday,” coach Chuck Pagano said in praising Hasselbeck, who deserved the gushing plaudits.
Matt Hasselbeck was not literally on his deathbed. He may have been figuratively on his deathbed, but if he were literally on his deathbed Monday and Tuesday then he would not have been cleared by the doctors to play football Thursday evening.
I doubt death was contemplated by Hasselbeck or the doctors treating him as he was beset with spells of diarrhea and vomiting in the days before the 27-20 win over Houston, but it certainly made for some good hyperbolic fun.
It's only good hyperbolic fun for those of us who weren't feeling terribly on Monday and Tuesday with vomiting and diarrhea. I think I had what Hasselbeck had a few weeks ago and it was terribly not fun, hyperbole or not.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Robert Alford, cornerback, Atlanta. After getting beaten for a touchdown and struggling mentally with it on the sidelines,
How does Peter know that Robert Alford struggled mentally with getting beaten for a touchdown? Just because the secondary coach was giving him a pep talk after the touchdown doesn't mean he was struggling mentally. It just means he needed a pep talk.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Detroit. It’s not all his fault,
It's not all his fault, but Peter will name him the "Goat of the Week" anyway. He says of all the players who played on Thursday or Sunday, Matthew Stafford was the biggest goat in his team's loss. But of course, how could individually pointing out Stafford's terrible play be seen as indicating the Lions' loss was his all his fault? He's responsible for most of the Lions loss if he is the "Goat of the Week" isn't he?
but Stafford has been terrible for the first five games, by and large, and coach Jim Caldwell was so despondent about his offense Sunday that he yanked his $19-million-a-year quarterback for the forgettable Dan Orlovsky in the third quarter after Stafford threw three interceptions.
"It's not all Stafford's fault, but he's been terrible all season and the Lions just happen to not have won a game all season. These are two totally non-related occurrences of course."
Do not ever debate the value of a good backup quarterback, by the way. Hasselbeck, for $3 million this year (a $1 million signing bonus and $2 million salary), has won two division games, and he may have to face the Super Bowl champions Sunday at home.
I don't think anyone would ever debate the value of a good backup quarterback. There is a reason Hasselbeck makes $3 million per year and teams don't immediately trade a backup quarterback who is worth a crap. The value of a backup is not up for debate, though the price requested by a backup and how easy it is to find a quality backup is up for debate. There is a reason Derek Anderson just signed a two year $4.7 million deal to be a backup and that reason isn't because he is such a nice guy. The problem will always be finding a good backup quarterback.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Memo to AFC Southerners: Can you at least make an attempt to compete with the Colts?
No, they can not.
Factoid 1. Since Christmas Day 2012, Indianapolis is 16-0 against teams in the AFC South: 6-0 versus Houston, 5-0 versus Jacksonville, 5-0 versus Tennessee.
Factoid 2. The Colts have won those 16 games by an average of 13.4 points per game.
The Colts can't control their division, so this isn't a reflection on them, but this is what I thought was interesting about the whole "Why should the Panthers get a home playoff game with a losing record?" issue last year. While I agree in part, why should the Colts get a home playoff game because they are the only good team in a shitty division? Why should the Bengals have to come to Indianapolis for a playoff game? The Bengals went 10-5-1 in a tougher division than the AFC South. They lost one more game, so what, they played more difficult teams if you pay attention to the record of the teams in their division.
It's never going to be totally fair. That's my point. The Colts have beaten up on their division over the last four years. Good for them, but no one questions why they get a home playoff game after going 5-5 against teams not in the AFC South last year, while the Bengals lost one more game in a tougher division and have to play a playoff game on the road.
Factoid 4. Records of AFC South teams since Christmas Day 2012:
That is one pathetic division.
Remember this the next time you bash a team from another division who makes the playoffs with a losing record or an 8-8 record. That team may not be very good, but there are also divisions where one good team is beating up on the really bad teams in that division.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
I had the pleasure, along with some of my crew from The MMQB (senior editor Matt Gagne, reporter Kalyn Kahler, videographer John DePetro), of traveling to Durham, N.H., on Wednesday to speak at law professor Michael McCann’s “Deflategate” class. I’ll have a report on it later this week on our site. It would be impossible to have been treated more hospitably.
This is untrue. Geishas for everyone!
Garrett said he will evaluate a quarterback change during the bye week— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) October 11, 2015
Well, I should hope so.
Yes, because Matt Cassel is probably going to be a huge improvement over Brandon Weeden. I guess we'll see. Matt Cassel could do a great job for the Cowboys, but it's not like he's going to be the elixir for all the troubles the Cowboys team has.
Combine 2015 salaries of #Dodgers Game 1 & Game starters Kershaw & Greinke $53M for #Mets Degrom & Syndergaard $967,000 #MLB #SportsBiz— Robert Raiola, CPA (@SportsTaxMan) October 11, 2015
Combine the MLB experience of Kershaw and Greinke, they have 20 years of experience, while DeGrom and Syndergaard have 3 years of experience in the majors. So you know, that sort of explains the salary differential. Let's compare these salaries in six or seven more years.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 5:
e. The new hats in the crowd at Lambeau Field: Men with huge ears of yellow corn on their heads, with a green 18 emblazoned on headwear. Get it? Randall “Cobb.”
Yes Peter, we get it. The Nebraska Cornhuskers would like to sue for infringement on the headgear the Packers fans wear to games. Maybe Texans fans can wear a lightbulb on their head because of J.J. "Watt" or Bengals fans can throw money on the field when A.J. "Green" catches the ball.
o. Jim Caldwell saying he’d go back to Matthew Stafford after making a quarterback change in-game. Good move during the game, when Stafford was an absolute lost sheep, but it’s smart to go back to him now because there’s not a backup Caldwell can trust.
DID YOU KNOW THAT BACKUP QUARTERBACKS ARE VALUABLE?
It's smart to go back to Stafford because there's no another quarterback on the roster that is worth a crap. That is true. What is a little frightening is the Lions don't have a backup quarterback the Lions can trust. I'll never understand this in season 2 of a coach's regime. Isn't that something that should be a high priority? Especially on a team like the Lions that isn't necessarily rebuilding on offense? Why not have a backup the head coach at least trusts to not fall totally apart on the field?
p. Todd Gurley.
Team on the rise!...and then on to Los Angeles. I like Peter's new obsession with Todd Gurley. I'm sure he has no motives around it or anything like that. This is pretty much what I expected Gurley to do once he was healthy, but I guess Peter is still shocked by Gurley actually being a great running back.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 5:
a. The video of the injury to Jamaal Charles.
It's not the actual injury to Jamaal Charles that Peter doesn't like, because fuck him and he deserves to get injured, but the video of Charles' injury is what Peter doesn't like.
b. Detroit’s offensive line. I do not put all of the mess on Stafford. At all. Lines of the Lions (and, very often, the Seahawks) are not letting their quarterback breathe.
Peter names Matthew Stafford the "Goat of the Week," but of course isn't putting the mess on Stafford. He's just the "Goat of the Week" which is an individual award for terrible play that Peter awards every week. It could just as easily be a team award, even though Peter gave it to an individual. Peter doesn't blame Stafford, except he does.
c. Jacksonville allowing 38 points and 369 yards to Tampa Bay’s offense. Gus Bradley’s got to be asking himself some serious questions about his team.
d. This is not good: The Jags have given up 35 points per game over the last three weeks.
These two points should be under the same letter, plus I thought Gus Bradley was turning it around down in Jacksonville with Blake "He made one pass like Aaron Rodgers" Bortles leading the way? It's almost like it's hard to replicate the success of the Seahawks without the players the Seahawks have.
f. Dalton’s poor decision—a rarity early this season—on the deep throw that Thomas picked off. The chance just wasn’t there. Shades of last year for Dalton, and the only big mistake he made on a very good day.
I can't wait for Andy Dalton to struggle again so we can all read the "I guess Andy Dalton isn't totally different" stories written by sportswriters who covers the NFL.
3. I think you’ve got to hand it to Greg Hardy:
These words should never be written. No, I do not have to ever hand it to Greg Hardy. Never. He gets himself in these messes and then acts tone-deaf to any criticism he receives for the mess he got himself into. If you begin a sentence with "You've got to hand it to Greg Hardy" then the following sentence better at least include something he did that is totally non-football related.
With the world hating him and watching him at the same time, he showed the NFL he hasn’t lost his ability to rush the passer in his 19 games away from football.
"You have to hand it to Greg Hardy, despite being a pretty bad person who refuses to even acknowledge in the slightest that he put himself in a bad situation, he is still good at playing sports."
This is like saying, "You've got to hand it to George Zimmerman, despite seeming to have a rage issue and shooting people, he's excellent at karaoke. That man can really belt out a tune and sing a tender ballad."
Hardy is still good at rushing the passer and playing football. That was never in doubt.
Hardy was superb against New England in his return to the field Sunday—though the Patriots routed the quarterback-less Cowboys 30-6—with two sacks of Tom Brady, five total hits of Brady, a forced fumble and five tackles.
He's excellent at playing football and he has no issues blocking out distractions because he lives in his own world. He's an odd dude, plus he doesn't really care how he comes off to others.
And it was odd to hear him speak after the game, mostly in nonsensical quotations. “I’m still excited,” he said at his locker after the game. “I’m just excited to be in the locker room and looking at all you guys. Just the smell and aroma.” This story bears watching. No idea if he’s a powderkeg or anything. But he sure had a strange and tone-deaf week in his return to football.
And why would Peter know if Greg Hardy is a powderkeg or anything? That's someone else's job to figure out, not Peter's job. He leaves that "reporting" stuff to others and since Greg Hardy is a rookie, there is no way to go back to any of the other teams in the NFL Hardy played for to find out the answer on how Hardy's act plays in the locker room. Oh well, (Peter shrugs his shoulders) just gotta hand it to Hardy that he's gotten through these tough times.
4. I think one thing I heard out of the league meetings in New York last week disturbed me. Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked if the data from testing air pressure in footballs in random games this fall will be released to the public. “I don’t know,” he replied. In the random games, the league is testing the air pressure of the footballs pre-game (as always) and then again at halftime. Officials will log the data, then remove those balls from play.
It has to be made public, or else the public’s going to think the NFL is hiding the results.
Even if the results are made public, I'm going to assume the NFL is hiding the results. That's what they do. This is a league that wants to use DeAngelo Williams and his mother to pump up how much they care about women during the month of October, (and only the month of October) all while telling him to go fuck himself when Williams wants to wear pink all season in honor of his mother. It's just his dead mother, who cares if Williams want to honor her when it's not October?
Goodell said before the Wells report was released that the league would be totally transparent and we would know what Wells knew when Wells finished the report. So why is this different? I can guess. The NFL wants to reserve the right to not issue the measurements if it makes the league’s case against Tom Brady look bad.
I think Peter is right. I also think the NFL has bungled this whole issue so badly there is no turning back for them at this point. Even if the Patriots did deflate those footballs, I'm not sure there is enough trust for the fans to believe it if/when the NFL actually ends up having hard evidence.
6. I think, on the other hand, there are many things to criticize the commissioner of the NFL about this year and last. But I laugh when I see the critiques of Goodell on domestic violence, or the NFL giving Greg Hardy “only” four games. Goodell put Hardy out for 15 games last year (while being paid) and then suspended him for 10 games this year before it was reduced on appeal to four games...In the end, Hardy missed 19 games, and only four games without pay, which isn’t enough. I don’t see that as Goodell’s fault.
Peter laughs when he hears this criticism of Goodell? "Laughs" as if it gets him in a titter at hearing anyone claim Goodell has responsibility for Hardy missing only four games without pay? Roger Goodell gets paid $35 million per year and was late to the party on domestic violence, but of course this isn't his fault. Why would it be? If the NFL took domestic violence seriously prior to the Greg Hardy and Ray Rice episodes then there would be a policy in place on which Goodell could base a harsher punishment. There wasn't, so Hardy got paid $14 million to do nothing last year, and was suspended for four games this year. A lack of foresight by someone getting paid $35 million per year is not the fault of the person?
7. I think you realize, of course, that if you say LSU running back Leonard Fournette should not play another college game, you’re telling him three things:
a. You won’t play a football game for the next 23 months, until September 2017.
Or Fournette would not play another football game in the NFL or NCAA. I'm not sure the rules in the CFL or if Fournette could play in the CFL next year, but I think the entire point of sitting out a year for Fournette would be to not play football until he is eligible to play football in the NFL.
b. You’re from Louisiana and dreamed of going to LSU, but your career as the big star lasted about one season: the last seven games of last season and first five games of this season.
This is such weak reasoning. Fournette dreamed of going to LSU, but he also dreamed of playing in the NFL where he can get paid to play football. I think I know which dream he would choose to pursue at the expense of the other.
c. The chances of getting a career-ending injury are slim, but you shouldn’t risk even that. You should just work out and stay in shape until the 2017 NFL draft.
Are the risks of a career-ending injury slim? I don't know, I'm asking. Considering I can think of three big name college running backs projected to go in the first 2-3 rounds of the NFL Draft in the last three years that have suffered severe knee injuries, the anecdotal evidence doesn't seem to state the risks are slim.
d. As you can tell by those three points, I think it’s crazy talk for Fournette not to play football for the next year and two-thirds while he waits to become NFL eligible. I get the fact that serious knee injuries happen. I get the fact that Nick Chubb of Georgia suffered one Saturday. But Todd Gurley suffered his torn ACL last November, and he had his surgery in late November last year, and still he was the 10th player picked in the 2015 draft, and still he had the best performance by an NFL running back in Week 4 of 2015.
Yes, Gurley came back and played perfectly well during Week 4 of the 2015 season, so what's there to worry about? This is great reasoning when used by the person who doesn't have to worry about the potential of his livelihood being threatened to injury while he plays a sport for free and also great advice given by a person who doesn't have to put in the work to come back from a torn ACL or other severe injury. It's easy for Peter to say, "Hey, Todd Gurley came back, so what could go wrong by playing the next two seasons of college football?" Peter doesn't have to live with the uncertainty on every play that his knee could get hurt.
What about Marcus Lattimore? He didn't exactly come back from his knee injury as the same kind of running back he was before. Peter will just ignore that Lattimore simply didn't bounce back from a severe knee injury.
But it’s not Fournette who wants to sit out. It’s the media who wants Fournette to sit out.
A media member blames the media. How does Peter know that Fournette doesn't want to sit out?
But I would say under the current rules, most NFL teams would put a pretty big mark against Fournette’s name in 2017 if he entered the draft that spring without having played football for the last one and two-thirds years of his college career.
So it's the media who wants Fournette to sit out, while NFL teams would put a pretty big mark against Fournette for sitting out all of the 2016 season. So it sounds like the NFL doesn't want Fournette to sit out and will downgrade him based on not having played in college during the 2016 season.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. So much about that Ruben Tejada-Chase Utley play Saturday night in Mets-Dodgers was nonsensical. Utley started his slide into second when he was even with the bag—way too late—and never attempted to touch second base. Tejada fractured his leg on the play. The umps, on replay, said Tejada never tagged second base and so Utley was safe, even though Tejada came within centimeters of the base and Utley missed it by three feet and then jogged off the field.
It was a bullshit play by Utley. MLB probably should institute a rule about breaking up a double play in the way that Utley did. I'm all for going in hard at second base to break up a double play, but the runner has to be going for the bag, which Utley clearly was not doing.
Then Cal Ripken on TBS said benignly that Utley was “breaking up a double play.” If he was breaking up a double play in a normal way, Utley would have started his slide well before the base, not high and even with the base, so he would knock over Tejada like a bowling ball knocks over pins. And truly, if Ripken, who is a mentor to so many kids and has a baseball organization of his own, was teaching young players how to break up the double play, is that the way he’d teach them to do it?
WHAT ABOUT "THE KIDS"?
I'm confused now. I thought breaking up a double play like Utley did was "playing the game the right way," so how could Ripken teaching young players to break up the double play like that not be the right way to play?
j. Did Boston College really lose by messing up a fake spike with zero seconds left on the clock?
k. It’s contagious. Rutgers, driving in the last minutes to try to tie Michigan State at home, spiked the ball on fourth down.
Spiking the ball on fourth down is almost as contagious as using unnecessary italics.
m. Leave Sam Ponder alone, trolls. A good person, a true professional, a worker.
Sam Ponder makes Peter King titter. Leave her alone.
p. Beernerdness: So, I’ve had better ideas than this one: lining up 12 pumpkin/autumn beers, tasting them, judging them. A crew of us did that Friday in the palatial offices of The MMQB in New York—me, beernerd Mark Mravic, Gary Gramling, Kalyn Kahler, visiting artist Greg Bishop.
Peter doesn't know why there is no such thing as a pumpkin white ale that he can put a lemon in for that extra splash of non-beer taste.
q. Cubs-Cards is so good for baseball, and this comes from someone who really wanted the Pirates to advance.
Saying a certain matchup is "good for baseball" is bad for Bengoodfella's brain. What the fuck does this even mean? If the Pirates had advanced then this would have been bad for baseball because they aren't considered a marquee enough team to deserve to play in the NLDS against the Cardinals?
Who I Like Tonight
San Diego 30, Pittsburgh 22. (See, you’re starting to get the weird scores this year because of the missed PATs and two-point tries.)
Peter likes the new extra-point rule. Has he mentioned this as of yet?
The Adieu Haiku
So the Haiku Society of America (man, I love this country) is holding its 2015 conference at Union College in upstate New York on Wednesday through Sunday. More than 100 haiku artists from as far away as India, Japan and Australia will gather at Union for the festivities, making the largest and oldest gathering of haiku poets.
And let me guess, they wrote a letter in protest about what Peter's Adieu Haiku is doing to the art form?
Haiku! Five-Seven-Five Forever!
Oh, my God. Son of a bitch. Make this stop.
Former Haiku Society president John Stevenson gets the honor of this week’s Adieu Haiku, going all e.e. cummings on me:
a gambling addict
certain a football will bounce
as he imagines
"The honor" of this week's Adieu Haiku. I imagine the Adieu Haiku will bounce off the MMQB column soon. It's all a dream though.