Skip to content

NFL morning after: Peyton’s place in history

peytonwave AP

The list of players who have won at least five MVP awards in the major sports reads like a who’s who of the greatest athletes in history. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan in the NBA. Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky in the NHL. Barry Bonds (perhaps with an asterisk) in Major League Baseball. And that’s it.

Peyton Manning, who almost certainly clinched the fifth Most Valuable Player award of his stellar NFL career, is about to join that list.

We could debate where Manning ranks among the all-time great quarterbacks in football history, but I almost think that’s too narrow a debate. Perhaps the discussion needs to be where Manning ranks among the great competitors in the history of sports.

Think about all Manning has accomplished. He’s already the only NFL player who has ever won four MVP awards. He already owns several NFL records and will most likely own every significant career passing record before he’s finished. In addition to his fifth MVP award this year, he’s also going to get his 13th Pro Bowl selection and his seventh first-team All-Pro selection and perhaps his eighth offensive player of the year award. Last year he added a comeback player of the year award to his trophy case. In college he was a first-team All-American and winner of the Sullivan Award as America’s greatest amateur athlete. In high school he was the national player of the year.

Manning broke the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season in Sunday’s win over the Texans, with his 51st touchdown pass of the year giving the Broncos their final score in an easy win. Next week he’s likely to break the NFL record for passing yards in a season, as the Broncos just need to beat the Raiders to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. They’re one win away from heading into the postseason as the favorites to come out of the AFC and go to the Super Bowl. But as I was watching that unfold on Sunday, I was thinking two somewhat contradictory things.

First, I was thinking that it’s undeniable how great Peyton Manning is. He’s been an American sports star since he was a teenager, and he’s the best player in the NFL today at age 37. He’s about to get his fifth MVP, and there are another few seasons when he had a good case for the award (including last year, when he came in second). He’s just consistently amazing.

But the second thing I was thinking is that, no matter how much he does individually, he won’t be remembered as the greatest ever if he doesn’t get a second Super Bowl ring. That’s not right — football is the ultimate team sport, and no one wins or loses alone — but that’s the way it is. If any team other than the Broncos is hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the first Sunday in February, this will be remembered as another year when Peyton Manning didn’t get it done.

To me, though, Manning’s place in history is secure. He’s the best quarterback who ever lived.

Manning was the player who impressed me most on Sunday. Below are some other thoughts:

Dallas has a badly coached defense. We’ve been talking all season about what a bad job Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is doing, and there are many examples of that, but I was particularly struck by how ill-prepared the Dallas defense was when Washington showed a new formation on Sunday. With Washington’s offense lining up four receivers to the left side early in the second half, the Dallas secondary didn’t know how to line up in coverage, and so they blew a timeout — and then Dallas gave up a touchdown pass two plays after that timeout. If your defense is wasting timeouts because you can’t figure out what the other team’s offense is doing, and if you can’t get your coverage straightened out even after you’ve called timeout, you’ve got serious problems. Firing Rob Ryan and hiring Kiffin was a huge mistake for the Cowboys.

Weird call that I liked: Longtime Jaguars center Brad Meester had never caught a pass in his NFL career, but because he was playing his last home game after announcing that he’ll retire at the end of the season, the Jags decided to call a trick play with Meester as an eligible receiver. Sure enough, Meester caught the pass and then made a nifty little move to run for a first down. The Jaguars have had a rough season, but they haven’t quit on coach Gus Bradley, and plays like that pass to Meester show why: Players enjoy playing for a coach who makes football fun, and what’s more fun than letting a 300-pound 36-year-old catch a pass?

Weird call that I disliked, Part 1: With the Broncos facing fourth-and-3 in Houston, the offense stayed on the field, and I liked that decision — Denver’s offense should be able to pick up three yards on Houston’s defense. But I hated the play they ran, with Peyton Manning throwing a short pass to tight end Julius Thomas, who was tackled for a two-yard gain. If you’re throwing on fourth down, throw past the line to gain.

Weird call that I disliked, Part 2: With the Titans facing fourth-and-goal in Jacksonville, the offense stayed on the field, and I liked that decision — you’ve got nothing to lose, why not go for it? But I hated the play they ran, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing it out the back of the end zone. If you’re throwing on fourth down, don’t throw it away.

Terron Armstead wasn’t ready. Armstead, the rookie left tackle inserted into the Saints’ starting lineup for the first time on Sunday, looked pretty much the way you’d expect a rookie from a small school like Arkansas-Pine Bluff to look in his first NFL start. The Saints have had problems on their offensive line all year, and I understand why Sean Payton wanted to see if Armstead could help protect Drew Brees’s blind side, but Armstead simply wasn’t up to the task. The Panthers’ pass rush terrorized Brees all day.

Luke Kuechly is amazing. The flip side of the Saints’ offense struggling is that the Panthers’ defense was incredible in Sunday’s win over New Orleans. Kuechly, the second-year linebacker, had an unbelievable day: His 24 tackles were tied for the most the NFL has ever recorded by one player in a game, since tackles began being tracked as a statistic in 1994. Kuechly also became the first player since Derrick Brooks to record 20 tackles and an interception in the same game.

How can teams play so badly, with so much on the line? The Bears entered Sunday night knowing a win would clinch the NFC North. They lost 54-11. The Ravens entered Sunday knowing that if they won out they’d make the playoffs. They lost 41-7. The Lions entered Sunday knowing they needed to win to stay alive. They lost at home to the woeful Giants. The Dolphins entered Sunday knowing that if they won out they’d make the playoffs. They were destroyed by the hapless Bills.

We have an exciting Week 17 ahead of us. Some years all of the top teams are locked into their playoff spots before the season’s final Sunday. But not this year. Only one team, the Chiefs, knows its playoff seed (No. 5 in the AFC). Every other contender still has something to play for. We’re going to see some great football on Sunday. Including, I expect, Peyton Manning to set a new NFL record for passing yards in a season while leading the Broncos to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Permalink 103 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Denver Broncos, Features, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
yo

Reggie McKenzie: Raiders have taken some calls about No. 4 pick

Reggie McKenzie AP

The Raiders have a young quarterback they like at the moment (and haven’t ruined yet), so they have some options when Thursday rolls around, when they’re on the clock with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

One of those options is not using the fourth pick at all.

Via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie said he has taken some calls about the availability of his choice.

“My phone line is always open,” McKenzie said. “You hear everybody out. If it makes sense and it’s going to help the Raiders, we’ll do a deal.”

Again, the Raiders have multiple needs, though getting one of the top wide receivers makes a lot of sense, giving second-year quarterback Derek Carr a better chance to progress.

But if they decide they can find help deeper in the first round, and add assets, it might be the prudent play to buy in bulk.

Or at least create the impression that’s what you want to do, in an effort to make the phone ring more often.

Permalink 13 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5

Melvin Gordon AP

After two consecutive years without a running back being selected in Round One, it’s likely the 2015 NFL Draft will have at least one first-round tailback, with Georgia’s Todd Gurley seemingly the favorite to be the first back off the board some time Thursday.

The question is, what other backs will be selected in Round One? Will Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon hear his name called among the first 32 picks? Rotoworld draft expert Josh Norris sees Gurley, then Gordon, getting picked in the first round next week.

And if Gordon goes second, who will be the third back off the board? Could a back like Boise State’s Jay Ajayi be a late first-rounder? How about Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah or Indiana’s Tevin Coleman? Will some team trade back into Round One to secure the runner of its choice before Thursday ends, a la Detroit five years ago for Jahvid Best?

The first-round running back question, then, is a perfect way to start PFT’s Draft Props series. Here’s the idea: We set a number and the odds on each side of the props, and we put it to PFT Planet to vote on which side they would prefer. Each vote will count as one unit of measure. When the draft ends, we’ll tally the results.

With this in mind, here is our Over-Under on first-round tailbacks: 2.5.

And here are the odds we’ve set:

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: How many running backs will be selected in Round One of the 2015 NFL Draft?

OVER 2.5 running backs — +150 (3-to-2)

UNDER 2.5 running backs — -170 (10-to-17)

As always, go ahead and give us your take in the comments and via the poll below.

UPDATE: After 131 of the first 138 votes were for UNDER, we’ve adjusted the odds to OVER +150 and UNDER -170. We’ll score the first votes under the old odds (+125/-145) accordingly.

Permalink 7 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Peyton Manning gives $3 million to University of Tennessee

UT Getty Images

Peyton Manning gave up $4 million in salary to the Broncos in March.  He’s now giving up $3 million more to his alma mater.

Manning has donated $3 million to the school in honor of university employees Gus Manning and Carmen and Deborah Tegano.  Gus Manning has served the UT athletic program for 64 years, Carmen Tegano has spent 31 seasons at the school, and Deborah Tegano was one of Manning’s professors.

The donation will create the Gus Manning Gate at Neyland Stadium, and it will place the names of the Teganos on a dining hall to be added to a dorm currently under construction.

At a time when more and more people are noticing the gross imbalance between the value generated by highly successful college athletes and the compensation they receive, it’s admirable any time any of them give anything beyond what they’ve already given.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Panthers pick up fifth-year option on Luke Kuechly

Luke Kuechly AP

Some decisions on whether to pick up the fifth-year option on a first-round pick can be agonizing ones.

The call to extend Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly’s contract through 2016 was not likely one of them.

Carolina has officially picked up the option of Kuechly, its star middle linebacker, the team announced Saturday afternoon.

The 24-year-old Kuechly has played and started every regular season game for the Panthers since entering the NFL in 2012, notching 473 tackles, defending 27 passes, recording seven interceptions and racking up six sacks.

Kuechly will now be due $11.1 million for 2016. The Panthers are likely to work to sign him to a longer extension at some point.

Teams have until May 3 to exercise fifth-year options on first-round picks in the Class of 2012.

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Former NFL defender secures deal on Shark Tank

Scott Getty Images

Only recently have I discovered Shark Tank, the fascinating, American Dream reality show in which fledgling entrepreneurs pitch investment opportunities to established investors for partnership opportunities.

After stumbling over reruns on CNBC, I set the DVR to record the new episodes of the show on ABC.  Last night’s new episode coincidentally included former NFL defensive back (and linebacker) Bryan Scott.

Scott appeared individually, on behalf of four total owners of Noene, the distributor of a thin shoe insole that absorbs and disperses high-frequency shock.  Scott sold 30 percent of the company to Mark Cuban and Daymond John for $200,000 — even though the company has no sales yet.

A second-round pick of the Falcons in 2003, Scott spent three seasons in Atlanta before being traded to the Saints in 2006.  He finished his career with six years in Buffalo, from 2007 to 2012.

At a time when far too many former NFL players find themselves out of money at some point after retiring, Scott could be one of the few who makes much more after his career ended than he ever made during it.

Permalink 9 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cosell would put Perriman with Cooper and White

Breshad Perriman, Jhavon Williams AP

The first round of the draft unfolds in five days.  And it has been assumed for months that two receivers stand alone at the top of the class.

NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell thinks another player deserves to be mentioned with Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin WhiteBreshad Perriman of Central Florida.

“I think Cooper is the top receiver prospect this year,” Cosell writes in an item for Yahoo! Sports.  “But if you asked me who is No. 2 among White and Perriman, that’s a tougher question.  I really like Perriman.  I heard an interesting comparison on Perriman from a scout the other day:  Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas.  I can see that. Perriman is a big powerful, explosive, fast guy.  Although he and White are about the same size, on film Perriman looks like the bigger guy.  I could see ranking Perriman even with or ahead of White, although I’m in the minority on that.”

So Cosell actually puts Perriman ahead of White.  When it comes to the draft, all it takes is one team planning to take a receiver to agree with Cosell.

We’ll find out Thursday night whether Perriman goes before White.  Or whether White before Cooper.  The only safe bet based on Cosell’s evaluation is that Perriman won’t go before Cooper.

Permalink 18 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dominik chafes at Jameis-JaMarcus comparison

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

It’s spring, when a middle-aged man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of figuring out how to get a coveted prospect to slide down the board.

As the draft approaches, some teams love a player enough to spread negative information and/or opinions about him in the hopes that he’ll be on the board when they are making their pick.

The highest-profile example (so far) for 2015 comes from the recent article featuring an unnamed executive comparing quarterback Jameis Winston to quarterback JaMarcus Russell.  The former G.M. of the team that is expected to select Winston has gone on the record to strongly disagree with the comparison.

I think it’s rude,” former Buccaneers G.M. Mark Dominik told Jorge Sedano of ESPN Radio, via JoeBucsFan.com.  “I think it’s completely off base to call him JaMarcus Russell.  I just don’t see the comparison.  Look, if you want to say one thing about Jameis [as a football player], the only thing I’d sit there and say is at the end of the season, he lost 17 pounds to go to the [Scouting] Combine.  I didn’t like that.  You now, because I’d like to think he’s playing as well as he can all the way through the bowl series and then getting himself ready for the Combine, instead of having to get himself in shape.  But from a football standpoint, from a football intelligence, from a competitor, from a leader, it ain’t close.  It’s embarrassing.  For my personal opinion, whatever G.M. said that, probably should not be a G.M., quite frankly.”

While that G.M. would likely respond by saying, “Well, I’m a G.M. and Dominik isn’t,” that G.M. can’t say anything because that G.M. hasn’t gone on the record with the Jameis-JaMarcus comparison.

Yes, the anonymous sourcing of information fuels the journalism industry in many ways.  But the anonymous sourcing of opinion can be harder to handle, since the anonymous source of the opinion may be hoping to get the Buccaneers to waver on Winston, ultimately passing on him or trading the pick for less than the Bucs would otherwise want.

Without knowing who the anonymous source of the opinion is, it’s impossible to know whether that source secretly hopes the opinion will prompt the Buccaneers and other teams to get out of the way, so that the team for which the anonymous source works can draft Jameis Winston.

Permalink 42 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

NFLRA takes issue with perception (reality) that some officials were let go

Officials Getty Images

The NFL has seen 18.5-percent turnover in its game officials over the last two years.  And for good reason; as V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said earlier this month, the league won’t keep officials who aren’t getting the job done.

“If an official isn’t performing up to the standards then they won’t be in the NFL,” Blandino said, confirming that the league “moved on from” some officials.

“Any official, in any competitive arena, could have a poor season, so one season may not necessarily cause us to terminate an official,” Blandino said.  “But if it becomes a trend, multiple seasons, we have a tier-based ranking system, the third tier being the lowest performers.  Once they enter Tier 3 we put them in an enhanced training regimen and put them in that program, and if we still don’t see improvement, that’s when we move on.”

The NFL Referees Association has taken issue with the characterization that five officials have been fired, via a Saturday morning press release.

“It is a totally inaccurate and disrespectful to these outstanding retiring game officials for anyone to give the impression or infer they were fired,” NFLRA executive director Jim Quirk said.  “After the reports surfaced, we immediately reached out to the League with our concerns.  We were pleased that during this conversation, management admitted that their public statements were misinterpreted, and they did not mean to give the impression the five retiring officials were fired.”

So who are the five officials who retired?  The NFLRA won’t say.

“Medical privacy laws do not permit me to publicly name the 20-plus-year veteran game officials who retired due to medical conditions,” Quirk said.

For 2015, the NFL has hired nine new officials, with five replacing those who aren’t returning and four new positions.

A league source confirmed that the NFLRA privately objected to the characterization the NFL has fired “some of its worst officials.”  But the source also acknowledged that some of the officials who “retired” had no intention of retiring, and thus were let go.

Which means that the league moved on from them.  Which means they were some of the league’s worst officials.

Before anyone takes up the cause of the officials who were involuntarily retired, keep in mind the broader goal of getting as many calls right as possible.  If people aren’t able to do that on a consistent basis, failure of the NFL to move on from “some of its worst officials” would justify far more criticism than whatever criticism has arisen from the league’s effort to improve the pool of game officials.

Permalink 22 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Sanchez: We need another guy to throw, that’s why we signed Tebow

Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez AP

Mark Sanchez thinks Tim Tebow is a camp arm.

Sanchez told CSNPhilly.com that he’s been told Tebow was signed as another quarterback to give the receivers some work because Sam Bradford is still not 100 percent.

“He’s obviously a great guy, he works hard. And we needed another guy to throw while Sam’s still recovering,” Sanchez said. “So that’s the reason [for the signing], at least as explained to me. We’re excited about the upcoming year and I think we have a great group.”

But that reason makes no sense. If the Eagles just wanted another guy to throw, there are dozens of quarterbacks with better arms than Tebow who could do that job.

Where Tebow potentially has value to a team is in the things he can do beyond throwing the football: Tebow is good at escaping the pocket under pressure, good at making something happen when a play breaks down and good at managing the clock when his team is trailing in the fourth quarter. There’s value in those skills, which is why Tebow had some success as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.

But as a passer, Tebow is limited, which is why he has completed only 47.9 percent of his passes in his NFL career.

So while Sanchez may have been told that Tebow is just a camp arm, Chip Kelly must have other plans. If the Eagles wanted a camp arm, they would’ve signed someone with a better arm than Tebow.

Permalink 102 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dan Marino wouldn’t trade the Hall of Fame for a Super Bowl ring

Marino Getty Images

Dan Marino is on the short list of the greatest players never to win a championship, and he’s just fine with that.

Appearing at a Pro Football Hall of Fame function on Friday, Marino was asked whether he would trade the gold jacket that comes with Hall of Fame induction for a Super Bowl ring. Marino’s one-word answer: “No.”

Enshrinement in Canton represents the greatest individual achievement a pro football player can aspire to, and Marino isn’t just in Canton, but he’s even among the elite in the Hall of Fame, an easy choice as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

And yet a Super Bowl ring is what every player is playing for every year, and although this is probably unfair, virtually every story about Marino’s career mentions the absence of a ring.

Marino’s comments are reminiscent of a story from a couple years ago, when LaDainian Tomlinson said he’d take the Hall of Fame over a Super Bowl ring, while Tedy Bruschi shot back that a ring is the greater accomplishment. Tomlinson, of course, never got a ring but will likely get to the Hall of Fame, while Bruschi isn’t going to Canton but does have three Super Bowl rings.

Marino’s comments may be an accurate representation of the status of enshrinement in Canton as the greatest achievement for a football player. Or they may just be an attempt to look on the bright side on the one count where Marino’s career fell short.

Permalink 148 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: LSU’s Jalen Collins has multiple failed drug tests

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

Timing is everything in life.

And if you’re a fringe first-round prospect, having bad news emerge in the week before the 2015 NFL Draft is particularly poorly timed.

Via Albert Breer of the NFL Network, citing sources with four teams, LSU cornerback Jalen Collins had “multiple failed tests” for drugs during his college days.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily have to ruin his prospects, as a former teammate with a similar rap sheet has gone on to have a productive and positive start to his career.

But teams will also have to weigh his ability at a coveted position against the possibility that he might not be able to keep himself eligible.

Permalink 43 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Greg Hardy has to abandon his Bentley on a flooded street

ImageGen.ashx

When it rains, it pours.

Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy capped off a memorable first full week of work in Dallas by having to abandon his Bentley when flood-waters rose around it.

According to WFAA, the Bentley was ditched near the intersection of Interstate 35 and Continental Avenue. Hardy returned to take some personal items from the car, but declined comment on anything to the news crew, before leaving in a white Ferrari while the Bentley was being pulled from the water.

Of course, this was the same day he was involved in a verbal altercation with a teammate while working out, an incident that escalated when defensive tackle Davon Coleman made reference to the domestic violence which led to his 10-game suspension.

So yeah, he’s had better weeks.

Permalink 69 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Roger Goodell says both Los Angeles stadium projects look good

Roger Goodell AP

St. Louis officials might have felt good about what they told the NFL this week.

But NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that not one but two Los Angeles projects are also appealing to the league, based on what he’s seen of both stadium plans.

Speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors Friday, Goodell said both the Inglewood site being planned by Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the Carson location being proposed for the Chargers and Raiders were both “viable” and have a “great deal of potential to be successful.”

We had presentations earlier this week that are very exciting,” Goodell said, via Barry Wilner of the Associated Press. “Not just for a return but to continue being successful going forward.”

He also suggested the timetable is accelerating, with the currently January 2016 window for applying for relocation could be moving up.

Goodell said he thought the St. Louis group was making progress, though it’s unclear if it’s too late to keep the Rams, as Kroenke has practically placed shovels next to the ground ready to move dirt in Inglewood.

Permalink 38 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

NFL moves on from ATC spotters with team affiliations

Spotter Getty Images

The ATC spotter charged with scanning the field for evidence of players in distress now has unprecedented power:  The ability to stop the game and direct the officials to remove a player for further evaluation.

Given the potential for that power to be abused through, for example, the erroneous perception that a quarterback needs to be removed from the game for evaluation on a key play late in the game, the NFL has decided to ensure that the ATC spotters have the appearance of independence.

According to the league office, any ATC spotter who has worked as an athletic trainer at any time for a team or who has been employed by any NFL team within the prior 20 years was relieved of their duties on Friday.

“It was done to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with the new safety rule change regarding the medical timeout that was passed last month,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarth told PFT by email.

While that amounted to only 12 of the 64 spotters, the 12 presumably aren’t happy.  One of the 12, who requested anonymity, expressed strong disagreement with the move.

“It’s sad to me that the NFL overreacts in this way, so as to put people who are much less able to know what’s going on down on the field (since they’ve never been there, as an Athletic Training Intern, ATC, or otherwise) and are going to be calling and stopping play for things that are not necessary,” the now-former ATC spotter said.

The move underscores the unprecedented authority that the ATC spotter will have, along with the league’s ongoing responsibility to ensure that it’s exercised properly.  It also arguably underscores the need for ensuring that potential conflicts of interest be avoided for other league employees with influence on the game — an issue with which Patriots fans have become acutely familiar in the wake of the #DeflateGate scandal.

Permalink 40 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Norv Turner tells Bridgewater doubters where to stick their brooms

New York Jets v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

A year ago, when the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of the NFL draft, there were plenty of doubts. After Bridgewater’s lousy Pro Day workout, some around the NFL believed he simply lacked the physical tools to become a franchise quarterback.

A year later, after Bridgewater showed a lot of promise as a rookie, the Vikings are feeling pretty good about their pick, and Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is taking shots at those who doubted Bridgewater. Noting that one of the drills Bridgewater struggled with at his Pro Day involved throwing passes over upraised brooms, Turner said anyone who downgraded Bridgewater over that is a fool.

“Someone should take those brooms and shove them up someone’s backside,” Turner told ESPN.

Turner’s son Scott Turner, the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach, said Bridgewater made up for his poor Pro Day with a good private workout with the Vikings, and that alleviated any concerns.

“We didn’t think he put forth his best effort on his Pro Day, but we weren’t sounding alarms like the whole world was at the time,” Scott Turner said. “That [private] workout answered those questions for us, positively.”

A whole lot of teams are now wishing they hadn’t dropped Bridgewater on their boards just because he couldn’t throw over a broom.

Permalink 144 Comments Feed for comments Back to top