Weekend Updating the NFL Offseason News

offseason

It’s been exactly 50 days since the confetti fell from the University of Phoenix Stadium roof during another New England Patriots Super Bowl Celebration. And it’ll be another 170 days or so until the first meaningful game of the 2015 NFL season takes place.

But, c’mon, it’s the NFL. They’re almost never out of the news entirely. True to form, football free agency dominated the sports headlines in early March. The buzz around big ticket free agents like Ndamukong Suh and Darrelle Revis we saw coming from a mile away. Some surprise trades around that same time we couldn’t foresee (Chip Kelly, I’m glaring specifically at you).

But what about all the other comings and goings of the league, its teams and its players over the past month? There are only so many hours in a day. We can’t keep up with everything, especially if we enjoy other sports besides football.

So what I’ve got for you today is my best attempt at digging up some of the less notable, but still impactful news that’s transpired since Tom Brady became the Greatest QB of All-Time less than two months ago (Please feel free to read the following headlines in your best Saturday Night Live ‘Weekend Update’ voice):

The Minnesota Vikings acquired former Packers tight end Brandon Bostick off waivers on February 18th. In the team’s subsequent press release they stated, “Hey, if we’re in position next year for Brandon Bostick to bungle an onsides kick recovery that costs us a HUGE January football game, that’s major progress for our organization. We’ll take it.”

Brandon Marshall and Percy Harvin seem to be having a heated competition, and they forgot to invite the rest of their marshall harvinwide receiver brethren. In the battle for which uber-talented receiver can be traded or released by his team the most often in the shortest amount of time, it’s not even close. Marshall has been traded three times in the past five years (the Jets will be his fourth NFL team since he came into the league in 2006). But Harvin has been traded or released three times in only the past two years (He’ll be working on team #4 with the Bills in 2015)! With Marshall in the quarterback dead zone of New York and having a noted volatile personality, could we see Marshall retake the lead during the 2015 season? All signs point to…who cares?

The Buffalo Bills not only traded for LeSean McCoy, but they also gave him an enormous contract extension. Because that’s definitely what you want to do with a running back coming off a down year who is already under your contractual control. But I get it, Bills. I’m the same way. In the first year of living in Los Angeles, my apartment got broken into, I discovered a bunch of things I didn’t like about my complex, and I realized the neighbors were kind of assholes. So obviously I called up my landlord and asked him to extend my lease for five more years even though I still had eight months remaining on my current agreement. Only two more years and I’m out of this place!

Jake Locker retired after a five-year stint in the NFL, saying that he no longer has the burning desire to play the game. The game of football responded by saying it no longer had the burning desire to be played by Jake Locker. The game of football, seemingly thin-skinned, also added, “Hey Jake, if that’s how you perform when you do have a burning desire, I’d hate to see the aspects of your life where you are just kinda sorta into something.” So harsh, football, so harsh.

Question: Why do seemingly mediocre quarterbacks like Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford get locked up with huge deals by their respective teams?

Answer: Because if you don’t have someone at least average playing your team’s most important position, you get into a game of offseason Quarterback Russian Roullette / Sad Musical Chairs like this flurry of transactions from early March:

  • Bills acquire Matt Cassel from the Vikings
  • Jets acquire Ryan Fitzpatrick from Texans
  • Texans signs Brian Hoyer to compete with Ryan Mallett
  • Rams acquire Case Keenum from Texans
  • Browns sign Thad Lewis
  • Bills sign Tyrod Taylor
  • Raiders sign Christian Ponder

Or, you could go the route of puzzling mastermind Chip Kelly and stockpile a ton of quarterback assets that no one wants. chip kellyThere’s a chance the Eagles go into training camp with the following QB’s on the roster: Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Tim Tebow and Terrelle Pryor. I know reports have just come out that Cleveland is the most likely candidate for this year’s HBO Hard Knocks, but wouldn’t the unintentional comedy be through the roof if we got to watch one hour every week of these five quarterbacks competing for a starting NFL job? Everyone loves a “open tryouts for a fan to win a roster spot” gimmick, and this doesn’t sound any different to me.

A Report came out that the Browns offered their 19th overall pick in the upcoming draft for Sam Bradford, which just goes to show you that NO ONE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO HAVE THE KEYS TO THE CAR IN CLEVELAND! In fact, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Josh Gordon is hands down the best decision maker within the Cleveland Browns organization at this time.

The Colts waived Trent Richardson and five days later, the Raiders picked him up. So the big splashes Oakland made with all bellcowits cap room were Richardson and Christian Ponder? Got it. After the trade, Richard said, “The Raiders say if I come in and work, I can be the bell cow.” In the Raiders’ defense, their “bell cow” the last seven years has been a guy who averaged 606 rushing yards per season. If Richardson has a career year, he could totally hit that number.

Jameis Winston decided he will stay home on Draft night. When Roger Goodell finished off the blowjob he had been giving Peter King earlier this week, he told the longtime football reporter that he’s OK with Winston’s decision. Fine, but you just know the main circuit board in Goodell’s chest was overheating upon hearing this news. If Goodell stays consistent with how he handles discipline, Winston will be suspended for the first year of his career for such insubordination.

San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland abruptly retired, and while this stunning move has been attributed to his knowledge and fear of potential head injuries, it might just be that Borland looked around the 49ers’ roster and thought retiring’s what everyone does when your team goes from having Jim Harbaugh as its head coach to the football equivalent of Stan Van Gundy:

San Francisco 49ers Introduce Jim Tomsula

Collusion in sports is most often associated with teams conspiring to keep a player off their rosters (for instance, when Barry Bonds couldn’t get a job in 2008). But what are we supposed to think of the fact that literally every free agent or every major player that was traded found their new homes in the AFC East? Perhaps 31 teams are jealous of a certain team’s continued dominance and came up with a brilliant new plan to end that reign (since framing that team for low ball pressure doesn’t seem to have worked)?

The Pouncey brothers, Mike and Maurkice, ripped Mike Wallace’s character after the wide receiver was traded from Miami to Minnesota, calling him a coward…and if anyone is worthwhile to judge character, it’s these two high-character guys:

pouncey

Yes, those are the Pounceys wearing “Free Hernandez” hats a couple years ago. As in, Aaron Hernandez, the most obviously guilty murderer in American History.

Bernard Pierce of the Baltimore Ravens was released after his DUI arrest last week, becoming the third player on the Ravens to be arrested and released this offseason. But I gotta assume this is just random coincidence and bad luck for the Ravens organization. There’s no way there’s a pattern of them having lots of criminals on their team year in and year out or anything. Wait, what’s that? Here’s a headline from the 2014 offseason: Ravens offseason arrests stick out like sore thumb on NFL’s improved hand. Hmm…Am I the type of person to go back through my Twitter account and find all the Ravens fans from January who were talking trash about the Patriots and how they once employed Aaron Hernandez? Depends on how many episodes of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt I have to get through today.

Philip Rivers doesn’t want to sign an extension until after the 2015 season when his contract expires. Part of the reason is the riversuncertainty around the Chargers possibly moving. He said it would be tough to move his wife and SEVEN children to a different city. Philip, I totally get it. I organize a reunion vacation with 10 of my college friends every year and it is HELL to find a house that big on VRBO or Airbnb. You’re preaching to the choir here.

NFL Owner Meetings are underway in Phoenix right now, and while there were a whopping 23 new rule proposals from different teams, this is really the only one worth talking about: The Colts are proposing that if a team successfully converts a two-point attempt following a touchdown, that team should be awarded a bonus point attempt in the form of a 50-yard field goal try. This would mean a team can potentially get nine points at the end of a touchdown drive! What this really means, and it’s probably why the Colts are wanting to implement it, is that instead of needing an additional five touchdowns plus a field goal to tie the Patriots in January’s AFC Championship Game, Indianapolis would have only needed four touchdowns plus four successful two-point conversions and four bonus point conversions plus a field goal to BEAT THE PATRIOTS BY ONE POINT IN THAT SAME GAME! If this rule was in place last year, oh man, the Colts would have been thisclose to finally beating New England.

The owners are making it sound like expanded playoffs are still happening, but it’s on the backburner for at least another year. Here’s my idea for expanded playoffs: Expand it to all 32 teams. Have each team play 16 games in the “playoffs” in a round-robin type format where they are broken out into eight separate “divisions.” Whichever teams have the best record after that, move on to the “Final 12” where those 12 teams play one-game playoffs against each other until there’s a lone Super Bowl Champion remaining. I know it’s a risky proposal, and I know it might take some getting used to, but I think it just might work.

The Bucs are stockpiling punters, adding a third one to their roster this weekend, which means they are finally embracing that role as the NFL’s version of your sad sack buddy in fantasy who always has a couple punters and defenses on his bench.

Matt Moore decided to stay with the Dolphins, noting that if any coach is going to randomly pull his starting QB who happens to be playing really well to insert the backup on a whim, it’s definitely Joe Philbin.

Darren Sharper, he of the rape charges in a handful of states, has apparently agreed to a global plea deal. This is the criminal’s equivalent to buying products at a wholesale price. By raping more women in more states, Sharper was able to package it all up into one neat little crime and could serve as few as nine years in prison instead of a life sentence. We should all be so lucky.

Adrian Peterson and his agent continue to try to get the Vikings to release the Pro Bowl running back, but the Vikings aren’t budging. It may come down to Vikings management telling Peterson he can either play for them this year, or he can retire. But it’s not quite checkmate yet because Peterson could respond by viciously beating one of his other children, which would almost definitely get him released. And who would be waiting with open arms to scoop him up?

jerry jones

The Steelers are mum on the status of veteran defensive back Troy Polamalu. Sources close to the team said Mike Tomlin “Harry and The Hendersons”-ed Polamalu last week but they’re concerned he’s going to make his way out of the forest and show up at Steelers training camp. And for those of you who don’t know that classic film reference, this is precisely what Tomlin did:

The NFL sent an investigator to the Jets’ facility earlier this month to investigate the charge that owner Woody Johnson was in revis woodyviolation of anti-tampering rules when he was on record earlier this year saying he’d love to bring Darrelle Revis back to the Jets. But in a shocking twist, the NFL has decided to punish the Patriots for reverse tampering. It’s a little known corollary in the NFL’s rulebook that states the following: “Any team that signs a player with the knowledge that the team’s biggest rival covets that player is in effect baiting that rival into tampering, which goes against the integrity of the game.” There’s another minor addendum to this rule that states, “This reverse tampering rule only pertains to teams located in the six states of New England.”

Quarterback Pat White, a former second round pick by the Dolphins, retired from football after spending one year with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. In a press release, White said, “I’ll always cherish my time up in Edmonton with those guys. By the end of last season, it truly felt like we were a team of Eskimo Brothers, not just individual players.”

And finally, ESPN.com reported last night that Johnny Manziel is expected to check out of rehab and return to the Browns on April 20th to be part of their offseason workouts. Sounds like a plan to me. The worst thing that could have happened with Manziel’s reintroduction to the real world was for it to fall on a date famous for a dangerous substance, you know, like St. Patrick’s day on 3/17. What a disaster that would have been. But I’m certain there are no built-in temptations on the very innocuous date of 4/20. But just to be sure, let’s take a quick look at the google results when I search “4/20″…

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.50.15 PM

Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Browns organization, when photos surface of Johnny Football hanging out with Josh Gordon, Michael Phelps, Woody Harrelson and myself after his workout on that date.

Thank you, all. You’ve been great. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

Hey, NFL, Welcome Back! …A Preseason Primer

nfl training cmap

We typically use the word addiction only in the context of a harmful substance like alcohol, drugs, nicotine and porn. But when I arranged my entire weekend around being in front of a TV for the NFL’s Hall of Fame game this past Sunday, I started to wonder if football addiction could be a real thing.

Meriam-Webster defines addiction as the “persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.”

I would certainly say my love of all things NFL is an ongoing and irresistible urge, but do I know it’s harmful? Is it harmful?

Let’s see. With the way I watch football, there is usually a healthy decrease in my work productivity and the quality of my social life. Gambling losses are almost always part of football season for me (not to mention losing money on fantasy leagues, pick ’em leagues, suicide pools and more). Anger, sometimes taken out on a remote control, laptop or a wall, is consistent with my NFL viewing. There’s no situation where my fiancee rolls her eyes and storms into the other room more often than when I refuse to give up the good TV because football’s on. Sure, let’s go with harmful.

To put it another way, if instead of watching and reading about football these past 15 years, I had spent all that time studying medicine, I’m 100% sure I would have cured…[checks the internet for the latest “in” disease]…Ebola!

But, hey, if you’re going to have an addiction, probably better that it’s an addiction to watching football than doing heroin, crack or child pornography, right?

And why does this football obsession have to be so harmful anyway? I’ll have you know not only did I watch every snap of that riveting preseason game between the Bills and Giants, but I also placed a bet on it, and came away with my first gambling win of the 2014 season.

If nothing more, that Hall of Fame game at least launches us into the part of the NFL calendar where we might finally start reading on-field news. Even though the league does a great job dominating the headlines during the offseason, I get pretty sick of days like these (captured from espn.com’s headlines in early July):

nfl headlines

Concussions, stolen championship ring, accused murderer transferring jails, interventions through the media, contract dispute, same person on the receiving end of that intervention charged with DWI, 3rd overall pick from 2013 Draft suspended, lesser-known wide receiver banned at least one year, random offensive lineman suspended four games…and some story about a Redskins blogger hired to defend the Redskin name quitting (sorry, didn’t know how to be more concise on that one).

That’s a fuckload of bad news. Free agency and the Draft is always a fun time, but the June/July lull is killer.

And that’s why late July was so exciting…training camps officially arrived.  Suddenly we got the real football headlines. Let’s see there were…ACL tears, Achilles ruptures, Lisfranc injuries, guys getting suspended a full year for being stupid with pot while other guys get suspended two games for committing an actual crime…there was the daily report on how many squares of toilet paper Johnny Manziel used to wipe his ass, and of course we had those ground-breaking sound bytes about how every single player in the league came into camp this year in the best shape of his life.

But finally, FINALLY, the calendar turned to August and actual football has taken over. August marks the time where I transition from just dipping my toe in the water of football preparation to going in hard with a cannonball from a 20-foot diving board. It’s go time!

Let’s celebrate the official “LESS THAN ONE MONTH TIL OPENING NIGHT” milestone by running through some random thoughts about the upcoming season, shall we?

  1. I just want to begin by thanking DirecTV for giving its subscribers a special sort of “kickoff” to the NFL season in the form of the June 10th email reminder that they will begin taking an additional $40 from us for the next six months. I believe what DirecTV does to me every year with this NFL Package is the exact definition of “holding someone hostage.” But it’s still the best $240 I spend each year.
  2. I looked back on the past 20 years of the Hall of Fame game. Turns out neither team that plays in that opening preseason game has gone on to win the Super Bowl in that same year. Sorry Giants and Bills, you’re out.
  3. I’ve never been to any of the sports Hall of Fames, but the NFL totally has me by the balls. I am in on the whole Hall of Fame induction weekend whichever year Tom Brady gets in. Cost won’t be a consideration.
  4. If the NFL permanently moves the extra point attempt from a 19-yard try to a 32-yarder, what are we expecting to happen? The success rate drops from 99.5% to 98.5%? Sure, let’s spend more time thinking about that rule change though.
  5. Michele Tafoya told us during Sunday night’s broadcast that the refs are now equipped with wireless mics in order to better communicate with one another during the game and get the calls right. Sorry, not buying it. The quality of NFL refereeing has tanked big time over the past few years. In fact, I’m willing to bet all my winnings from Sunday’s game on there being a Twitter-exploding referee debacle at some point this season. In 2012 we got the fake hail mary in Seattle that royally screwed Green Bay out of a #2 seed in the playoffs. Last year it was the amazingly inept Clete Blakeman crew that singlehandedly boned the Patriots out of the #1 seed with the picked up flag on an obvious penalty in the final seconds of New England’s loss at Carolina. What will it be this year? My fingers are always crossed that the Super Bowl is decided on a blown call so that the NFL will finally review the state of officiating and do something about this obvious problem.
  6. The truth is the refs might not even be the ones to blame. They’re just trying to figure out the NFL’s mind-boggling rules like we are. Breathing heavily on the quarterback’s helmet is a big penalty. A defender who attempts to hit the ball carrier in the shoulder but then has the unfortunate luck of that ball carrier lowering his head—resulting in a helmet-to-helmet hit—gets slapped with a penalty & fine. It seems offensive pass interference no longer exists. Securing a catch may involve making a “football move” but don’t forget to keep the ball secure while you fall to the ground, but if the ball touches the ground and doesn’t move, it’s OK, but if the ball moves even slightly when it hits the ground, no catch. Nothing confusing going on here.
  7. Let’s go a little broader for a minute here…I tend to constantly write about the NFC vs AFC discrepancy (no doubt you’ll be seeing lots of this from me throughout the year), and it’s a very real thing. According to Bovada’s Super Bowl odds, eight of the nine worst teams in the NFL are from the AFC. To put it another way: The NFC’s second worst team would have a good chance of making the AFC playoffs.
  8. Peter King from theMMQB.com has the top four teams in the NFL all coming from the NFC. He also has two teams you don’t associate with being a contender, Arizona and St. Louis, ranked higher than the 4th best AFC team (San Diego, by the way).
  9. If the NFL had the same level of yawn-inducing predictability as the NBA, we’d be in for a pretty disappointing season in the AFC. It seems like it would take a borderline miracle for the Broncos, Patriots and Colts not to take the top three seeds in some order.
  10. The next tier down from those three just doesn’t stack up…San Diego and the entire AFC North, I guess is what makes up that second tier.
  11. Thankfully the NFL is chaotic and unstable. I’m guessing we’ll see some surprises in the boring AFC.
  12. Over in the NFC, there’s some real intrigue among the perceived elite: Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Green Bay and (possibly) Chicago. I can see any of those teams getting the #1 seed or the #5 seed, or possibly missing the playoffs all together.
  13. I’m going to wait until we’ve gotten through the first three preseason games to get deep into my predictions for division winners, playoff seedings and Super Bowl matchup, but right now I’m leaning towards the Saints earning the NFC’s top seed. They’ve got a top QB and coach combination. Their defense improved greatly last year and added some key pieces in the offseason. They can’t possibly be as bad on the road as they were in 2013. And they don’t have to play in the NFC West, which is a HUGE advantage over expected juggernaut and defending Super Bowl Champ Seattle.
  14. As for my totally random, not at all statistically-driven, call it a hunch prediction for who will win the Super Bowl this year: The Philadelphia Eagles. Seriously, I have no idea why I think this, but I always put my money where my mouth is. I have a betting slip in my wallet from the Aria in Vegas where I’m getting 12-to-1 odds on Philly winning it all.
  15. Problem is…I made that bet in March, when Desean Jackson was still on the team. Their current odds according to Bovada? 25-to-1. I apparently got robbed.
  16. Back to the AFC side of things…I’m trying my hardest not to predict the Patriots to go 16-0. If they had as easy of a schedule this year as they have the past few years, I’d probably go for it. The defense could be incredible (possibly seven or eight first rounders starting by midseason) while the offense will somehow reach their usual “top 5” status (amazingly, last year they ranked 3rd in points per game, but you probably just remember how awful the receivers were, how bad Stevan Ridley was holding onto the ball, and how Tom Brady set career worsts in several categories, including “amount of times staring daggers through his overmatched receivers). As a New England fan, I’m back to being my overly optimistic and giddy self.
  17. Gun to my head without doing all my research, if I have to pick five teams that didn’t make last year’s playoffs to make this year’s playoffs (there are always five), I’d go with Chicago, Washington,  Houston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. That will likely change by the time I release my full 2014 predictions in a couple weeks.

That’ll do it for my broad preseason primer. Stay tuned later this week for an article breaking down Preseason “speak” and mythology. Then starting next week we’ll go division by division and look at the most important questions heading into the season. And finally, a couple weeks out, it’ll be time to lock in each team’s win total for the year along with the usual predictions for Super Bowl winner and individual awards.

Football’s Back!