ALAMEDA, Calif. — Thursday night. Round one. Pick 22 on the clock. Baltimore up, then Houston at 23, Oakland at 24, Philadelphia at 25. Two more picks for the Raiders to sweat out before they choose a player at 24 they’d targeted right here for the last three months.
“There’s been a trade,” someone in the Raiders’ draft room calls out. “Philadelphia’s got 22 now. Eagles on the clock.”
The rookie GM running his first draft, Mike Mayock, froze. “I’m like, ‘Sh–!’ Moment of panic. THE EAGLES JUMPED US FOR OUR GUY.”
The coach, Jon Gruden, who’d irascibly told Mayock he’d better not screw up the Raiders’ three-pick first round, jumped out of his chair, seething. “There goes our running back,” Gruden said. Coach and GM knew the Eagles loved the same player they did, Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, and now, moving up from 25 in trade, the Eagles would be in position to steal the guy Gruden had his heart set on making one of the three cornerstone players in his offense.
Thirty seconds passed, maybe. Mayock studied terms of the trade, and while he did, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther called out, “Wait—the Eagles traded ahead of Houston too.”
That’s right, Mayock thought. The Eagles didn’t just jump us. They jumped Houston too. They went ahead of Houston to Baltimore.
“Wait a minute, Jon,” Mayock said to Gruden. “I think this is about the tackle. They’re not going up for the running back.”
“Really?” Gruden said.
Mayock knows everyone in football from his 18 years being a media draftmeister. He knows Eagles GM Howie Roseman especially well, being a Philly guy and the color guy on Eagle preseason games the past five years. He knows the Eagle roster, and he knows the Roseman trading zeitgeist—he won’t waste draft capital trading farther up than he needs. Word on the NFL street was that Houston’s number one tackle was Washington State’s Andre Dillard. So the Eagles had to be angling for Dillard.
They were, as it turned out. Dillard to the Eagles at 22. We’re home free, Mayock thought. Tytus Howard to Houston at 23. And now …
“Can I call him?” said Gruden, suddenly a Golden Retriever, all bouncy and eager. “Can I call?”
“Hang on,” Mayock said. The NFL had asked teams to please not choose till at least five minutes of their 10-minute first-round time limit had passed, so the league could do the TV-presentation stuff and not get the picks all backed up. With five minutes left in the period, Mayock said go ahead, call Josh Jacobs.
One cliché to consider right here is, There’s a new sheriff in town.
More apt: There’s a new adult in the room.
My 2019 draft-coverage gameplan: in a word, weird. Thursday, Denver. I just thought John Elway might do something out of the ordinary, and he did, sort of, dealing down for a tight end/security blanket for Joe Flacco (Noah Fant) and falling into Drew Lock, which he never expected to do, with the 42nd pick … Friday, Oakland, playing catch-up with a chock-full Raider draft and the Gruden-Mayock dynamic. “The confidence I have [in the GM] is better than I’ve ever had,” Gruden told me. “The guy is sick. He’s a maniacal worker. I love him.” … Saturday, Tempe. Kyler Murray and Josh Rosen, oh my. Good chunks on all of those stops coming.
But first, headlines from the weekend:
• Tyreek Hill has to go. Audio surfaced in Kansas City Thursday, in connection with injuries suffered by Hill’s 3-year-old son, with Hill’s fiancé claiming the son said, “Daddy did it.” Further, when the boy’s mom told Hill the son was terrified of him, Hill said to her, “You need to be terrified of me too, bitch.” The Chiefs barred their all-pro wide receiver, Hill, from team activities after hearing the tape, and now must take the next step: cutting Hill, who already was walking a thin line after punching the woman in question in the stomach when she was pregnant. The second-round choice of Georgia sprinter Mecole Hardman (4.33 speed) telegraphed the end for Hill in Kansas City.
• The Giants, controversially, find Eli’s heir. All those who had Daniel Jones going sixth overall—nine spots ahead of Dwayne Haskins, 36 ahead of Drew Lock—well, you’re clearly in the head of GM Dave Gettleman. The Giants did not want to take a scintilla of risk by picking pass-rusher Josh Allen at six and taking Jones with their second pick at 17 (and he almost certainly would have been there then). On Sunday, Gettleman told me: “I agonized over that. Agonized.”
• Washington finally gets a long-term quarterback. After the failed RG III experiment in 2012, Washington has stumbled from passer to passer. Now owner Dan Snyder hopes Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (who prepped at the Bullis School in Bethesda) will be the franchise quarterback Griffin never was.
• GM of the Draft: An unknown one—Miami’s Chris Grier, who, with two trades in the span of an hour Friday night, turned the 48th overall pick into Josh Rosen, a sixth-round pick and a second-round pick in 2020. The Dolphins now have a year to see if the 10th pick in the 2018 draft, Rosen, can be the QB of the future … and if not, Grier will have five extra picks (as of now) in 2020 to find that franchise passer in a richer crop of prospects next April. “I know some people say we’re tanking,” Grier said from Florida on Saturday night. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth. It’s gathering draft capital, plus we’ve now got a quarterback to come in and compete for us.”
• The Steelers finally find a Shazier replacement. Mike Tomlin has been jonesing for a sideline-to-sideline playmaker and defensive captain-type since Ryan Shazier was lost with a spinal injury in December 2017. GM Kevin Colbert did something very uncharacteristic to help: He traded up in the first round for the first time in 16 years to get Michigan speed linebacker Devin Bush, who paid homage to his predecessor. Shazier is still trying to return to play football. “I know he has the heart and the will,” Bush said.
• Doug Baldwin might be done. The Seattle wideout and team conscience has had three off-season surgeries, is 30, and GM John Schneider acknowledged Baldwin could retire. “Whatever happens, Doug will go down as one of the great players in the history of this program,” coach Pete Carroll said. Undrafted out of Stanford, the slight Baldwin used guile and extreme competitiveness to catch 551 balls and score 55 touchdowns in eight seasons. He will be missed, in so many ways, if he’s gone.
• A strange pick in Carolina. “This has nothing to do with Cam Newton,” GM Marty Hurney said after the Panthers used a third-round choice on West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. Nothing? I am not buying what Hurney’s selling. In the last two years, Newton has had rotator-cuff surgery (2017) and arthroscopic shoulder surgery (2019), both on his throwing shoulder. Cam turns 30 in two weeks. It’s okay to say, “We need some insurance at the most important position in sports.” Because that’s what this is.
• So long, SeaBass. The last kicker to be drafted in the first round, Sebastian Janikowski, retired Sunday after a 19-year career, with the record for most field goals of 50 yards or longer (58) in a career. In 2000, Al Davis drafted him 17th overall. That’s one slot ahead of Chad Pennington, 125 slots ahead of Shane Lechler, 182 slots ahead of Tom Brady. That’s quite a run.
• The Road Draft is one of the best ideas the NFL ever had. Chicago was better than New York, Philadelphia was better than Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth was very good, and Nashville, even sopping wet Thursday night, was as good as Dallas-Fort Worth. Next year: Las Vegas. Lunacy alert.
As for the rest of the column … come for the Cardinals, then Giants, then Broncos. And please—stay for the Raiders stuff.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Kliff Kingsbury has learned a few things in his four months on the job as an NFL head coach. This is one thing: “People just make sh— up,” Kingsbury said, calmly, in a conference room at the Cardinals training facility late Saturday.
I asked Kingsbury if he ever said at the combine that it was a “done deal” the Cards were drafting Kyler Murray first overall.
“No,” he said. “Never.”
I asked Kingsbury what he’d have said if GM Steve Keim had told him a month ago the best thing for the team was to keep Josh Rosen at quarterback and draft Nick Bosa.
“I’d have said, ‘Let’s go to work,’ “ Kingsbury said. “That’s why I signed on here. I knew I was coming here to try and improve the offense. We were last in everything. Try to help Josh become a better player, more comfortable in the system, continue to build him. That was my job. If that was what we were going to do, that’s what I signed up for in the first place.”
“Biggest misconception about your role in this?” I asked.
“That I rolled here and was just like, ‘We’re taking Kyler Murray,’“ Kingsbury said. “First off … I don’t have that type of juice coming in the door. That wasn’t how it went down at all.”
This was an hour or so after the draft. Kingsbury and the man who hired him, Keim, sat together to discuss one crazy era of Cardinals football—the drafting of Josh Rosen 10th overall a year ago, the hiring of a coach who’d been fired at Texas Tech to pilot the franchise, the marginalizing of Rosen, the drafting of Murray, the unloading of Rosen to Miami, the drafting of three receivers to turn the Cards’ offense into Kingsbury’s personal Madden game.
I turned to Keim, who has put his GM career on the line with this coaching hire and this draft choice, and asked: “Did you seriously weigh the alternative of keeping Rosen and saying, ‘Sorry, Kliff, I’m not giving you your guy?’ “
“Absolutely,” Keim said. “That’s my job. All spring, your mind races with the different scenarios. At the end of the day, you had to look and say again, ‘What is really going to catapult us into being different?’ I’ve always been a visual guy and I’ve always had success evaluating quarterbacks when I trusted my instincts and my gut. I’ve missed on the guys that looked the part, smelled the part, you tried to invent and because all the things were connecting the dots. You scouted them and said, ‘Okay, they’re going to be a player because they look like this. I’m not saying that’s Josh Rosen. I’m saying I had my real success, guys I’ve loved that have been great NFL players, based on instinct.
“When I closed my eyes and I visualized Kyler Murray running around State Farm Stadium in red and white, for whatever reason, all I saw was just fireworks, excitement, a must-see [environment] where fans have to go and show up and see this thing. Him being the architect was a phenomenal fit for me.”
Interesting way to evaluate: scouting through visualization. “I either visualize them or I just have bigger balls than my brains,” Keim said. “I’m not scared to make a mistake. That could cost me my career but at the same time, to be great and to have success you gotta be willing to take chances—ones that you believe in.”
Clearly, that’s what this time in Cards history is about. Arizona took a chance on Kingsbury, and is taking another one on Murray. This is a franchise adrift, with a GM with his job on the line, a head coach the league looks at dubiously, and now a 5-10 quarterback the new coach has pined for since the kid’s sophomore year in high school in Texas. (True story: Kingsbury, then Texas Tech coach, offered 5-foot-5 sophomore quarterback Kyler Murray a full scholarship as a sophomore at Allen High in 2012.]
Keim said he didn’t study Murray thoroughly till after he studied the free-agent prospects. So it wasn’t till mid-March, Keim said, that he dug in on Murray tape. Until then, he said, there’s no way the organization would have made the decision to draft Murray—because Keim contractually has final say on the draft. “I was reluctant to study him because I knew what we had in Josh Rosen,” Keim said. “As I watched the first game, I watched the second game, I couldn’t put down the controller. All I wanted to do was keep watching this kid on tape. I don’t know if I wrote down ‘wow’ 100 times, or 500 times, but my hand got tired of writing it. In the time I’ve been doing this, I haven’t seen a guy who could throw like him and run like him. I’ve seen guys who could do one of each, but I’ve never evaluated a guy who possesses the skill set to do both things at such a high level. I was also studying guys that I was falling in love with, like Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, really having to really weigh which player makes the biggest impact for us. It became crystal clear in the end it was Kyler Murray.”
Keim was adamant about Kingsbury expressing his opinion, then staying out of the way of the evaluation process. “The thing I respect the most about Kliff is he never once interrupted the process,” Keim said, with Kingsbury sitting across the conference table. “He never once came down and put his fist on the table and said, ‘I want Kyler Murray. I have to have him.’ I knew that he loved him as a player, but he allowed the process to take care of itself. To me, that was the only way we were going to get it right.”
So now, in the wake of drafting four players to help Kingsbury run his offense, let’s see where these Cardinals are. Kingsbury’s offense, a cousin of Mike Leach’s Air Raid scheme, will often run four wide receivers and one back; it’s important to have specific roles for the receivers, but in the case, say, of second-round receiver Andy Isabella from UMass, Kingsbury found a receiver who can be used in the slot, outside, and on Jet Sweep-type plays, because Isabella is experienced at all three roles. Kingsbury likely envisions an offense, at least at first, with Isabella and the ancient but still productive Larry Fitzgerald in either slot, with second-year wideout Christian Kirk and this year’s 103rd pick, 6-5 Hakeem Butler, outside on either side. And, of course, strong runner and receiver David Johnson should get 300 touches out of the backfield. There will be a consistent no-huddle element too, so some of these Arizona games will be survival-of-the-fittest track meets.
What’s different with Kingsbury’s system, his friends in coaching say, is how game-plan-specific his weekly plans will be. A sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2003, Kingsbury spent that season (New England’s second Super Bowl season) on IR with an arm injury, but soaked in the Bill Belichick philosophy about varying the weekly game plan. With Belichick, every game plan is a snowflake; no two look alike. And though Kingsbury’s passing offense will be the wide-open, four-wideouts-on-the-field-regularly scheme, he’ll be sure to tailor it to that week’s opponent too.
Kingsbury told me the system for Murray will be “very similar” as his Oklahoma scheme under the progressive Lincoln Riley. “His ability to escape the pocket, escape those D-lineman when they can’t get off blocks—it’s just unique. And to still be able to drop back and survey the field and still be able to get the ball out on time, get through his progressions … When you spread people out he’s a weapon in a bunch of different ways. That’s tough on defenses because if you want to rush him upfield and he takes off, good luck catching him. And if you sit back, he can still pick you apart. The way we spread people out, the tempo in which we play, he’s the guy who can really thrive in system.
“We’re going to play the game at times wider than probably most people do in the league. We’re going to use the entire field and make them cover five wides and the quarterback and that’s tough on defenses.”
I was really curious how Kingsbury, back in 2012, just having taken the Texas Tech head-coaching job, could have been so smitten with a tiny quarterback in Allen, Texas. “Well,” Kingsbury said, ”nobody could touch him, he could throw it from the pocket, the mechanics were great. He was the quickest player on the field. I just always believed that he could be great. I’d never seen anything like it on the field, a combination of that type of quickness and explosiveness and a true drop-back passer. So we developed a relationship through the years. He always knew that I believed in him and saw great things coming. It’s been a wild ride and crazy to see how it’s all turned out. I think everybody just assumed since he was undersized he couldn’t play at the next level.”
So here is Murray, at the next level, and at the next level after that. The highest level. The NFL.
This is going to be a great test tube football season in Arizona. In the NFL this year, no coach/QB combo platter will be under more scrutiny. A coach with a losing college record, and the first sub-6-foot quarterback to be drafted in the first round. And going number one overall! Kingsbury and Murray will be must-see TV, and must-see Keim visualization.
“I think both of us are competitive and have a chip on our shoulder,” Kingsbury told me. “What’s been said out there … “ His voice trailed off. He knows. “Now it’s time to go. We’ve heard all the talk and the talking’s done now. It’s about what we do from this point forward. When he came in here [Friday], we both kind of had that conversation and that mindset. That was more what our meeting was about.”
“Any celebrating that you finally got your guy after all these years of chasing him?” I asked.
“Not yet, no,” Kingsbury said. “There won’t be any celebrating till we win some games.”
Two final points:
• Josh Rosen was done wrong, but he’ll have a good chance to stick it to Arizona. About that deal to Miami, Keim tried hard to get a first-round pick for him (no chance of that) and then made the best deal he could rather than bring a thoroughly unhappy player back to a team with starting-over juice. “We talked a couple times Thursday night,” Miami GM Chris Grier told me, “but Steve was holding fast. We were not going to give a one, this year or next. [Friday] we communicated again and laughed over the fact that it was out in the media that we’d agreed to make a deal, when we hadn’t.” Then they went a few hours without talking. Miami traded the 48th pick to the Saints in the meantime, and when Miami’s next pick was approaching, 65th overall, Grier and Keim talked again and worked out the deal: the 65th pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick for Rosen. “Lots of potential upside in the deal for us,” Grier said. And for Rosen, he gets a year to convince Grier, owner Steve Ross and coach Brian Flores that he should be Miami’s long-term starter—not a passer from among the cadre of top prospects in 2020.
• Steve Keim better be right. Keim started his Card tenure on a roll, hiring Bruce Arians, stealing Carson Palmer from Oakland for a seventh-round pick, winning 50 games in his first five years as GM. Then came a lot of ill-fateds: signing Sam Bradford for stupid money, hiring Steve Wilks as head coach and giving him only one season, and trading up for Rosen. Examining that Rosen trade … Keim dealt the 15th, 79th and 152nd picks a year ago for the 10th pick, so the Cards could draft Rosen. Keim just dealt Rosen for the 62nd pick and a fifth in 2020. Which means, in essence, he traded the 15th, 79th and 152nd picks of a draft for a slot receiver from UMass. Man, Andy Isabella’s got some draft weight on his shoulders entering his NFL career. The Cardinals could have had Derwin James, Orlando Brown and Deon Cain with those three picks. Instead, they got a one-year trial with Rosen. And now a Mid-American Conference receiver. These are not jobs for play-it-safers. But Keim needs to get on a winning streak soon, or this is going to be someone else’s team to general manage.
Odd travel weekend, and I was writing outside on a lovely early Sunday morning in Phoenix, at a table in the back of my hotel. Middle-aged guy approaches, introduces himself. “Giants fan,” the guy said. “Talk me off the ledge. Does Gettleman know what he’s doing?”
“I’ll give you one,” Gettleman himself said over the phone an hour later. “I was at my bagel shop this morning. Guy said to me, ‘Dave, great pick.’ “
Just a feeling: The guy at the bagel shop is not in the majority among Giants’ fans.
My big question to Gettleman in the wake of the weekend centered around taking Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at six. (Isn’t that the question on every Giants fan’s brain right now?) Actually, I had a couple of questions. That was the first, and then, why was Gettleman trying to trade with Denver at 10—which John Elway told me in Denver after the first round.
Why, I asked, did Gettleman not do what the chalk said there—get the desperately needed pass-rusher, Josh Allen, at six, and then take the calculated risk of letting Jones slide, and getting him either with the second first-round pick (17th) or in a slight trade-up from 17?
“I agonized over that,” Gettleman said from his office in New Jersey. “I agonized. Before the draft, we discussed that thoroughly as a group—first last Friday, then again Wednesday. Obviously we had great regard for Josh Allen. But the one thing I have learned is you don’t fool around with a quarterback. If he’s your guy, you take him. If you put 32 general managers in a room and gave ‘em sodium pentathol [truth serum], every single one of them would tell you a story of how they got cute in a draft and it cost them a player they wanted. So you don’t get cute there. You don’t get cute with a quarterback.”
Gettleman told me he “knows for a fact” there were two teams that wanted Jones between six and 17. I could not find them, though I certainly can’t say with certainty that two do not exist. Either way, Gettleman believed it was not a risk worth taking. And so instead of having some percentage of a chance to get Allen at six and Jones at 17 (or earlier in a trade-up), the Giants got Jones at six and run-stuffing defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence at 17. Finding a run-stuffer, obviously, is easier than finding a pass-rusher. So we’ll see how it works out.
But let’s go through the exercise and see about the two teams and Jones, starting with Jacksonville at seven. No; just signed Nick Foles. Detroit; highly unlikely with Matthew Stafford in-house. Buffalo; no, Josh Allen (the Wyoming QB) just drafted last year. Denver at 10: I was there, and Broncos had Drew Lock number one on their QB board. Bengals at 11; doubtful but don’t know for sure. Green Bay at 12; highly unlikely. Miami at 13; unknown. Atlanta at 14; no way. Washington at 15 seemed locked in on Dwayne Haskins. Carolina at 16; highly unlikely. So Miami, maybe. I can’t find another one that appears likely to have had Jones in the crosshairs, though that doesn’t mean it was not so.
The bile aimed at Gettleman was, even by New York standards, extreme. WFAN’s Mike Francesa called the Giants “football clowns … chronic losers” with a GM “who doesn’t have a plan.” The Post’s back page had Gettleman looking clueless and a “BLUE’S CLUELESS” headline. On Twitter, someone posted “Dave Gettleman’s Résumé” and this:
Gettleman brings some of this on himself when he says things like he fell in “full-blown love” with Jones after watching him play three series at the Senior Bowl … as though that’s all he had to see to mortgage the Giants’ franchise on Jones. Clearly he studied the quarterbacks at length and decided Jones had the arm strength and mental makeup to be the best of the four atop this draft. “Being the quarterback of the New York Giants is a mental load,” he said. “If you can’t handle the mental aspect, you can’t make it. That’s one of the things we liked about Daniel.”
Part of Gettleman understands the visceral reaction to the pick. He told me if he couldn’t deal with the brickbats he’d go back to coaching high school football. (At a fairly significant salary reduction.)
But part of him is sad for what the business has become.
“The bottom line is, I have confidence in what I do and who I am,” he said. “I’ve been a part of organizations that had pretty good quarterbacks—Jim Kelly, John Elway, Kerry Collins, Eli Manning, Cam Newton. I’ve led a charmed life with the quarterbacks on the teams I’ve worked for. I know what good ones look like. The other thing is, résumés matter. Every once in a while, I wish the people taking the shots would take a minute to look at my résumé. I’ve been a part of teams that went to seven Super Bowls. I had a hand in some of them. But today, there’s no patience. And there’s no room for civil discourse in our society, which I find sad.”
I would have done it a different way, I think. I’d have taken Allen at six and found a way to trade back for Jones, if I was that worried about missing him at 17. To me, the risk to acquire a pass-rusher (an essential element the Giants do not now have) would have been worth it. But the point about Jones, and going all-in for a quarterback you like, is something every GM has to do at some point. I don’t believe Gettleman was dumb for picking Jones, because quarterback-prospecting is one of the most inexact things a GM has to do. Lawrence is a solid but likely overpicked defensive tackle. The third first-rounder, cornerback Deandre Baker, could well be a day one starter at a position the Giants had a big need.
Nothing anyone could tell Gettleman could dissuade him from thinking the Giants got a lot better over the weekend—even if the sixth pick doesn’t play for a year or two. Football requires patience to judge whether players turn out to be good, particularly at quarterback. But the Giants haven’t won a playoff game in seven years. Eli Manning’s a swell guy, but seven-year droughts are not often broken by 37-year-old quarterbacks. It’s time to turn the page. Fans want change now. With the Giants, it’s not happening that fast.
“In three years,” he said, “we’ll find out how crazy I am.”
The old and the new, drafted to be franchise quarterbacks 15 years apart:
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Things you should know about the Denver Broncos:
If they didn’t trade the 10th overall pick to Pittsburgh on Thursday, they were taking Devin Bush (the player Pittsburgh traded up to grab) at 10, not Noah Fant (the tight end the Broncos drafted after trading down).
When round one ended, GM John Elway had no intention of getting all aggressive to go get Drew Lock, because Denver is smitten with 34-year-old ex-Raven Joe Flacco. I knew, because I asked Elway 45 minutes after the round. “Our comfort with Joe enabled us to pass on a quarterback,” Elway told me. “What made that decision is, Joe is fitting really well with what we want to do offensively, and he looked great in our minicamp last week. He really put on a throwing exhibition last week in camp. I truly think we’ve got a guy coming into his prime.”
Denver had the Giants and Falcons on the phone during the trade with Pittsburgh. The Giants made a competitive offer, Elway said, but not as good at Pittsburgh’s … and the Steelers, by the way, stonewalled Elway when Denver pushed for a first-rounder in 2020.
If you saw my mock draft, you may recall I had Denver trading back into the first round at 31 with the Rams, so the Broncos could take a plummeting Lock near the end of the round. The Lock drop surprised me, and surprised a lot of people around the league. But you’ve got to be logical about quarterbacks in the draft. It’s easy to say Drew Lock is a first-round pick, and in many years he’d have been a top-half-of-the-first-round pick. But there’s got to be a team that wants him enough to use a first-round pick on him too. As I left Denver near midnight, prepared to flying to Oakland at dawn Friday, I eliminated Lock for Denver—though I knew he was the number one quarterback on the board here. The Broncos were married to Flacco, and if he flunked out, they’d try to find a path to the top of QB-rich first round next April.
Driving back to my hotel, I got this vibe over the phone from a plugged-in league GM: Don’t assume they’ve abandoned Lock. Flacco is what he is.
Of course, late that night, Elway and his right-hand personnel man, Matt Russell, studied the board some more. When they got in the next morning, they thought seriously about getting the best two guys remaining on their board: tackle Dalton Risner of Kansas State and Lock. Risner was their pick at 41. Elway worked on the Bengals, at 42, and finally worked a deal to move from 51 to 42 in exchange for fourth and sixth-round picks.
Elway really didn’t want to deal those picks. He really didn’t want to draft a quarterback here, because he wanted to show faith in Flacco. But Elway’s a quarterback. He knows if you don’t have your long-term guy, you’re perpetually searching for him. Lock was his number one quarterback in this draft. If he could get Lock with the 42nd pick, he had to do it. He just had to.
Being in Denver, and then being sure Elway was done at quarterback for 2019, and then being a time zone away and seeing this Hall of Fame quarterback go after a quarterback the next day … it brought the biggest draft lesson crashing home: This is an emotional game, and the draft is an emotional business. Who can blame the great Elway for trying to find the next Elway with the 42nd pick in the draft?
ALAMDEDA, Calif. —The headlines on the Raiders in the last week or so are all Mayock-related. Scouts banned from the building. Mayockian … Clelin Ferrell over-draft at number four overall. Mayockian … Patience (I’ll explain). Mayockian … Makeup as important as talent, a scouting trait from the Belichick tree. Mayockian.
Now it’s Friday morning, the day after the Ferrell-Josh Jacobs-Johnathan Abram makeover, and I’m in the same chair in Mayock’s office that Gruden was in 24 hours earlier when just the two of them hatched the exact plan for their three-choice first round:
• At number four, try to trade down for value, but whether at four or as low as they’d like to risk going, 13 to Miami, be sure to procure Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell.
• At number 24, trust the board and the draft research. Know that Josh Jacobs was very likely to be there, and resist temptation to use draft capital to trade up.
• At number 27, be patient again and let Abram, the hard-hitting Mississippi State safety, fall to us. If he doesn’t, there will be options we like.
The phone never rang at four. Mayock and Gruden wished it had, but they never got a call. So they stayed there and picked a solid guy who won’t be the edge-rusher Josh Allen or Brian Burns will be; Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will take his leadership and practice habits and edge-setting and hope he can be an eight to 12-sack guy. No guarantee though. Ferrell at 13, with an extra first-rounder from 2020, would have been the dream; Ferrell at four, with no extra compensation, was acceptable.
Mayock had a chance to go to 16, Carolina’s slot, and ensure getting Jacobs. Nope. He thought Jacobs would last, and he didn’t want to sacrifice a good pick. A few minutes later, Mayock went to the draft board in the draft room on the second floor of the Raiders’ facility. He wrote down seven names in red marker. He said they’d have at least two left by the time they got to pick 24.
There were not two left then. There were four. And the two Gruden and Mayock wanted above all were Jacobs and Abram.
Interesting thing happened when the emotion of drafting Jacobs died down. Now it was pick 25. Baltimore on the clock. Ravens GM Eric DeCosta surely would have dropped down two spots for a fifth-round pick, knowing it was highly likely he’d get the same guy at 27 he could get at 25. Mayock wondered if they should make the trade. Gruden pushed. Mayock said he thought Abram would be there at 27; let’s sit. Mayock ignored the ringing phone, saw Marquise Brown and Montez Sweat go at 25 and 26, and then Gruden the Golden Retriever was back.
“Can I call? When can I call?”
Funny story about Abram. At the Senior Bowl, Gruden and the Raiders were coaching the North Team. Abram was on the South, but he was not playing because of a shoulder bruise. Abram’s a football junkie and he hung around the North practice, watching Gruden and his staff coach.
“Who the hell are you?” Gruden said the first day.
“Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State.”
“Number 38! Mississippi State! I am your biggest fan!” Gruden said.
Abram was at Gruden’s practice every day the rest of the week, just watching.
On Friday night, Gruden said: “I wanted the safety. I wanted this safety. Physical, tough, smart, loves football. I didn’t want just a safety. I think it’s hard to teach tackling now. They don’t practice it. You gotta find some guys that are really eager and interested in making tackles. This guy’s a throwback Raider safety. He reminds me of Jack Tatum and George Atkinson and Charles Woodson and some of the guys we’ve had walk through here. The middle of our defense, we need to strengthen that. Man, was I happy to get him.”
When Ferrell, Jacobs and Abram came into the facility Friday afternoon, it was easy to see why Gruden and Mayock zeroed in on them. Ferrell got emotional talking about being a leader on a storied franchise. Jacobs said he wanted to play special teams, just so he could be on the field more. Abram sounded like a guy who’d taken an overnight class in Silver And Black 101.
“This place … what a rich history, what a culture, what an honor to be part of this franchise,” Abram said. “But the Silver and Black’s in need of a rebirth. Lotta great things can happen here. Antonio Brown’s here. We got a franchise quarterback. We got Vegas around the corner. It’s an amazing time in the history of this place. And we get to write the new history.”
Now a day-two postscript. Raiders were due to pick third in the second round, 35th overall. When the day started, two of the Mayock’s seven red-markered players were still on the board. Great, Mayock and Gruden thought; we’ll probably get one of them at 35.
Both red guys were there at 35. Mayock gambled, trading from 35 to 38 with Jacksonville and netting a fourth-rounder.
Both red guys, still there at 38. Mayock gambled, trading from 38 to 40 with Buffalo, netting a fifth-rounder.
At 40, they were still there. No more gambling. Mayock drafted the third of the red-markered guys, Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen.
What I found interesting, sitting with Mayock for 45 minutes as he digested his first night, was how much this GM job seemed like his calling. He did football games on TV, he dissected the draft on TV, and no one knows if he’ll be great at this or just okay; it’ll take years to know. But what I saw was a guy who had patience, which is the calling of good GMs. They’ve got to be willing to lose a guy they want to get the max value on a pick. Mayock showed that several times in this draft.
“I’m gonna give you a great quote that Ozzie Newsome said to me at the Senior Bowl,” Mayock said. “I’ve known Ozzie forever. He congratulated me on the job. I said, ‘Do you have any advice?’ He said, ‘Mike, having an opinion is a hell of a lot easier than having to make a decision.’ I thought that was so well said back then. And then I really felt the weight of it last night.”
Now for the Mayock-scout relationship, and the infamous Ian Rapoport tweet about sending the scouts home.
Mayock: “I came in at an atypical time for a GM, in January, and we had a four-month run that might’ve been the most important in the history of the Oakland Raiders as far as a draft and free agency. We’ve been to one playoff game in 16 years. They’ve been doing things a certain way around here and it hasn’t worked. They bring me in in January and I inherit a group of scouts for four months. I was 100 percent transparent with them the first week I got here. I told every single scout that they might not like the fact that a media guy’s their boss, which they probably didn’t. I told them I knew I had to earn their respect, and I would. But they also had to earn my respect and they had four months to do it because all their contracts were up. I made the decision three weeks ago that when the scouts’ work was done in this building, I was gonna send most of them home. I told them, and 45 minutes later it was on Twitter. So the decision to send them home, in hindsight, was the right one.
“I’ve known for years there have been leaks out of this building. Al Davis had a phobia about it when he was in his prime. He was really good about keeping it from happening. My deal, the bottom line for me, is you’ve got to trust the guys you work with. To me, if you’re a good teammate, what goes on in this building stays in this building.”
Gruden needed Mayock. Gruden’s match with the GM he inherited when he re-took the coach job 16 months ago, Reggie McKenzie, a good football man, was an arranged marriage. Gruden wanted a grinder.
“Mayock’s like Abram,” Gruden said. “He just wants it.”
Can it last? The book on Gruden is that he falls out of love with people—he loves them, then he loves someone else, and there are rocky times. But he hasn’t worked with many like Mayock. When Gruden sees Mayock, he sees the personnel version of himself. The plus in this relationship, as this weekend showed, is that the GM won’t just bend to the Gruden when Gruden wants something badly. In each of the big decisions in this first draft—waiting for Jacobs, waiting for Abram, trading twice while angling for Trayvon Mullen—the gamble worked. Mayock’s a rookie, but he’s a precocious rookie.
“I’ve known Mike since I was offense coordinator at Philadelphia, I guess that was 1995. I work there, I see Mike. I get the [head-coaching job] here, I see Mike. I go to Tampa, I see Mike. I started broadcasting, I see Mike. I really got to know Mike then. His preparation is no bullsh–. A lot of these guys go on TV and they read the headlines but they don’t do the work. You know what I mean? He’s well respected because of the amount of preparation he does. And he’s a great listener and a great teammate too. I think we both have a strong desire to get this franchise going again. It’s an exciting time really because of the future of the Raiders and where we’re heading, players that we’re bringing in. It’s a pretty cool experience with him.”
It’s going to be a fun franchise to watch. Gruden, Antonio Brown/Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs, Derek Carr, Mayock, Vontaze Burfict … Imagine if they’re good—I mean, TV-ratings good, AFC West-challenging good. How fun will that be? It just might happen.
“Kyler, one more thing: An awesome two-bedroom in Old Town just came on the market. So lemme know if you’re interested. I think I can get you a pretty good deal.”
—Josh Rosen, the former Cardinals quarterback, in a Twitter video bidding farewell to Arizona and addressing the current Cardinals quarterback, Kyler Murray, about real-estate matters.
“You’re going to play for the Seahawks, and you’re going to catch footballs from Russell Wilson, so get your ass ready to go big fella. We are fired up for it.”
—Seattle coach Pete Carroll, in his welcoming phone call to wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, the Seahawks’ second-round pick. Metcalf wept throughout the phone call with Carroll. About the only understandable thing Metcalf was heard to say in the call released by the Seahawks was “Why y’all wait this long!”
“N’Keal gets to go catch passes from Captain America!”
—Arizona State coach Herm Edwards on N'Keal Harry, his wide receiver who was the last pick of the first round, to New England, via Boston Sports Journal’s Christopher Price.
“I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. The league done messed up.”
—New Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the third quarterback chosen in the draft and the one picked nine spots after Daniel Jones to the Giants, to Jen Lada of ESPN.
“If you’re watching these games, you have no life.”
—NBA analyst Charles Barkley on the Sixers-Nets and Raptors-Magic series in the NBA playoffs. Each of the best-of-seven series ended lopsidedly in five games.
“According the Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (whose parents sent him to journalism school for this) Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen has unfollowed the Cardinals on Instagram.”
—Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk.
“We did not punt much against the Tennessee Titans! So you probably have no idea who I am!”
—Former Colts punter Pat McAfee, trolling the Tennessee crowd on day two of the draft, before introducing the 89th pick, Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke, for Indianapolis.
“Yesterday was a rough day. But the sun came up today, and now I’m a Denver Bronco.”
—Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, bypassed in the first round of the draft and picked on day two, 42nd overall, by the Broncos.
It figures that Marshawn Lynch would sort of retire with zero fanfare, the news leaked by Adam Schefter and confirmed by no one, Lynch’s status just out there in the ether. I’m sure he loves it that way, people guessing about his future. But it’s clear he wants to play nowhere else, he turned 33 last week, he’s been hurt a lot, and the Raiders drafted a young, physical and fast back in the first round last week, Josh Jacobs (Marshawn Version 2007), and it’s clear Jacobs is the future of the Raider running game.
So now, judging Lynch’s career commences. Will he one day enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Let’s examine his case. It’s not open and shut.
• Stats. He is 29th on the all-time rushing list, with 10,379 yards, just behind Eddie George, just ahead of Ottis Anderson. Of the 32 backs in the Hall over the 99-season history of the league, Lynch’s total of 10,379 is less than 15 Hall of Fame backs and more than 17 others. Only two of those with fewer yards have played since 1980 (Terrell Davis, Earl Campbell).
• Impact. I’m mostly less of a stat guy for Hall entry and more of an impact guy. Between 2011 and 2014, Lynch was the most impactful running back in the sport. As Seattle was building a physical dominant defense, Lynch was the hammer in a nascent and powerful offense that grew into a two-time NFC champion in ’13 and ’14. His four-year averages: 4.53 yards per rush, 1,339 rushing yards per season, 14.0 touchdowns per season. He was the perfect inside-outside back, strong enough to bowl people over, with moves to make them miss.
• Impact in big games. Averaged 4.85 yards per rush in 11 playoff games. Had games of 131, 132, 140, 109, 157, 102 in the post-season. There is no question defensive coaches game-planned to stop Lynch as much as any back between 2010 and 2015 in the postseason.
• Signature plays. I always think when you judge a player’s performance over his career, you remember a couple plays in your mind’s eye. For Lynch, there is no question he had a few of those, but none more notable than this run, in the first playoff game of his life, in January 2011, pre-Russell Wilson, against the Saints.
In short, I think Lynch has a strong case for the Hall. We’ll see how his career and its impact percolates over the next five years. His off-field stuff, the weirdness and divisiveness, don’t enter Hall consideration—at least it should not, and definitely would not for me. When Lynch’s case comes up in 2024, I think he has a good chance at a bust in Canton.
At Ohio State, linebacker Ryan Shazier wore number 10.
At Michigan, linebacker Devin Bush wore number 10.
In the first round of this draft, Bush was pick number 10.
Shazier was an every-down linebacker for the Steelers.
Bush projects to be an every-down linebacker for the Steelers.
Seventh pick of the 2018 NFL Draft: Josh Allen.
Seventh pick of the 2019 NFL Draft: Josh Allen.
*From me and several outlets such as Pro Football Talk, all of whom apparently had the same brilliant idea at nearly the same time.
The TV analyst in the booth when Marshawn Lynch made the greatest run of his NFL life, the 67-yard touchdown run/survival test against New Orleans eight years ago:
Delta, New York-LaGuardia to Denver, Wednesday, flight attendant passing through serving drinks. He gets to the row behind me and asks the 40ish guy in the window seat, “Anything to drink?”
“Espresso,” the guy says.
I have been traveling for work since 1980. The first flight I took was on long-forgotten Republic Airlines, from Cincinnati to somewhere in 1980. I sat in one of the back rows, which I recall because the last six rows of the plane were the smoking section. I didn’t smoke, but that day I sure did. Anyway, that tells you how long I have been traveling for business. And I must say I have never heard anything come out of a passenger sound quite as humorous as the fellow behind me saying the word “espresso” on that packed LaGuardia-to-Denver flight.
Gotta love the reaction of the friendly Delta flight attendant.
“I’m sorry sir,” Delta guy said. “We don’t serve espresso. Can I get you coffee?”
No, that would not do. Huffy passenger harrumphed, settled for water.
Mail call. Send your questions and wordy assaults to email@example.com.
Dubious about Gettleman. From Paul M.: “Is Dave Gettleman an old man who is out of touch with today’s NFL? Was he hired because he was a friend of another old guy, Ernie Accorsi, who was an adviser to the two old owners of the team? ‘Hog Mollies’ and a quarterback from Duke who impressed him at the Senior Bowl? Oy Vey. And I’m saying this as an old guy myself!”
You’re not alone, Paul. I find Gettleman’s roster-building method quite old-fashioned, highlighted by last year’s Saquon Barkley-at-two pick in the draft. It’s fine to love Daniel Jones, but I have issues with thinking you need to take him at six instead of opting for the desperately needed pass-rusher, then taking Jones at 17. We’ll never know if Josh Allen at six and Jones at 17 would have happened, but I’d have taken my chances.
Cheesy coverup. From @whichever99 on Twitter: “Can you explain why you and other NFL writers covered up the Green Bay story?”
Assume you mean the story written by Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report. You and a few others have sent me emails or tweets asking this, so I thought I’d respond. A couple of things at work here: deep contacts inside an organization, and time to do a story. There are stories that are going to be difficult to do unless you’re around the team a lot and develop the kinds of contacts that Dunne developed when he covered the Packers for several years. My bet after talking to Dunne is he interviewed 50-plus people about this story over a three or four-month period. There are not a lot of people in this business who would have the depth of contact list on the Packers plus the time (kudos to Bleacher Report for empowering Dunne and giving him the time) to be able to do an investigative story like this one. I certainly have neither. It doesn’t mean we’re covering it up.
Why don’t you watch college football? From Roddy B.: “Heard you say on the Dan Patrick Show that you do not watch college football. Given that you do pro football and the draft, I’m curious why.”
Thanks for the question, Roddy. Basically, it’s a matter of survival for me. I spend about 12 hours most fall Saturdays working on my Monday column—writing and researching and interviewing people. During the season, this column is about 10,000 words long, so it can’t all get written Sunday nights. I exercise Sunday morning, write a little more, and watch nine hours of games and write the rest of it late Sunday and early Monday morning. I used to be able to write with the TV on, but now I find it distracting and bothersome, and I catch only snippets and the biggest games. If the column is that long, and it’s going to be timely, something’s got to be sacrificed. For me, it’s the college football slate on Saturdays. I catch up on the prospects in February, but I have nowhere near the knowledge of them that many of my peers do.
Stop ignoring the Bills (and you’re slipping). From Todd V.: “How can you write about older coaches without talking about Marv Levy? The guy did his best work when he was in his late sixties. While we are on the topic of the Bills, calling the Bills Mafia “insular” is insulting. Bills fans are not ignorant of what is going on elsewhere on the NFL, or uninterested in others outside their sphere. Educate yourself. You are slipping, Peter. Always been a fan, and always looked forward to your Monday columns, no matter what they are called or who published them. However, lately you pretty much ignore Buffalo. Yeah, you’ll throw in an occasional mention, but half the time it is insulting or mocking.”
In the stat I did about older coaches, I used the top 15 in coaching victories as the measuring stick. Levy is 20th. About the lack of attention for the Bills, you’re right; I haven’t covered them much recently. I try to write about the most interesting things every week, and with Buffalo going 24 years without a playoff win and now being the only team in 2019 scheduled to not have a prime-time game, those things impact how much I do about a team. There are no rules about how much I write about one team versus another, Todd. I just try to do what feels like the right thing to write about every week.
1. I think it’s all well and good for the Chiefs to have due process in the Tyreek Hill case (“We’ll make the right decision at the right time,” owner Clark Hunt said Saturday), but if that’s his voice on the KCTV5 audio, there is no alternative to cutting him.
2. I think that’s the single easiest opinion I’ve had in 22 years writing this column. “You need to be terrified of me too, bitch?” Glad to see the authorities in Johnson County, Kans., who said last week they could not charge Hill because of a lack of evidence, are allowed to legally re-open the case against Hill. And this is also one of those cases when the league has to draw a line in the sand. Commissioner Roger Goodell has left open the possibility that NFL teams can punish teams that draft domestic abusers (Hill had a prior incident in college in which he punched his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach) who later become recidivists. Remember: When Hill was drafted, Andy Reid said, “You have to trust me over time here.” And then-GM John Dorsey said: ���I would like to ask for you guys [reporters] to just have a little bit of trust in us in this thing.” Which, fast-forwarding to today, leaves me with this question in the wake of Dorsey signing the abusive Kareem Hunt for his new team, the Browns: I wonder what Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam thinks of his GM’s judgment now?
3. I think it’s time for the NFL to consider for all draftees who enter the league with a domestic incident on their résumés a new standard: Want to play in the NFL? Okay. But first, you spend six months in a program to educate and treat all symptoms of this violent disease, and if after those six months, the operators of the program say you’re not a threat to women or children in the eyes of the program, you can play football. I don’t know what Tyreek Hill did as far as treatment for these urges that result in him hitting those he lords over, but it obviously was not enough. Take football away from Tyreek Hill for at least six months, or until smart professionals say he’s not a threat to women and children. Then, and only then, will he be able to play football.
4. I think, without Hill, the Chiefs will have to lean on Patrick Mahomes even more, and he has the shoulders to try to carry a heavier burden. Hill, to me, is the most dangerous running back/receiver in football today, capable of wrecking a game any given Sunday. But that doesn’t matter now. He has to go. And one more point: Do many draftees in this crop have more pressure entering training camp than Mecole Hardman?
5. I think there’s so much smart talk on TV on draft weekend, but one thing I really liked and appreciated was NFL Network’s Peter Schrager on the machinations of the Rams, who started with three picks in the top 130, made six trades, and ended up with picks 61, 70, 79, 97, 134, 169 and 251, with the first five picks in particular a stratagem. It’s not the biggest story of the draft. But it’s an inside-football story that’s valuable to know that you probably wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.
6. I think there are bad looks, and then there’s Le’Veon Bell skipping the first days of voluntary workouts with the New York Jets. Resting up after the tough 2018 campaign, I guess.
7. I think, speaking of veterans who should be with their new teams, at least for appearance sake, I bring you Odell Beckham Jr. Cleveland coach Freddie Kitchens had to defend it Saturday. At length. “There is no problem with Odell not being here,” Kitchens said. “I would rather him be here. He is not here. It is voluntary. That is what the word voluntary means. He will be ready to play, and ultimately that is the only thing I want for him.”
8. I think the anti-Rosen rant by Steve Smith on NFL Network was ridiculous, petty and totally devoid of reality. Smith ripped into Rosen for not wanting to compete against Kyler Murray—“Be a man and go against that man one-on-one,” Smith said—and said of Rosen: “When things don’t go your way, you’re going to cry in the corner.” The truth: All Rosen has done this spring is show up to work every day at the Cardinals’ facility, even when the team that drafted him 10th overall last year and then said he was still the quarterback when Kliff Kingsbury was named coach and was clearly preparing to replace him with another quarterback. Rosen didn’t whine, other than to tell SI the situation was “annoying.” There are situations that cry out for NFL analysts to rip players or coaches. This Josh Rosen situation was absolutely not one of them, and Smith—who I like—was out of line for it.
9. I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt for now, but the helicopter-parenting of Dwayne Haskins’ dad and both parents of Kyler Murray is bothersome. They called people in their pasts and told them not to discuss anything about their sons with the media, via Robert Klemko of The MMQB and Sports Illustrated (Murray) and Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com (Haskins). Read this piece from Dunleavy about a conversation he had with Dwayne Haskins Sr. Wrote Dunleavy: “In 15 years reporting on New Jersey high school sports, including six on mainly high schools, seven on mainly Rutgers athletics and now two on the Giants, I never before experienced a level of mystery and push-back like this.” I wonder what Haskins Sr. has to hide. Not saying his son is about to be covered by Woodward and Bernstein in Washington, but Lord, the Haskins family is in for a rough go (and the Murrays too, from what I’ve seen) if they expect to dictate the coverage of their sons in the press.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Story of the Week: Not just for the subject matter and the emotion and the lesson we all need these days, but for a very good job of writing. Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times on the college story of L.A.-area high school senior Oswaldo Vasquez: “He got into a great college the old-fashioned way. He dreamed big, worked hard.”
b. Oswaldo’s mom got the call of his dream college acceptance a month ago, while at the bus stop on the way to her job as a cashier, and she started crying. When she got to work, she was crying so hard, the security guard felt bad for her and asked what was wrong.
c. “Do you really want to know? My son got into Harvard.”
d. Wow. More wow, from Eva Vasquez: “And the customers started clapping.”
e. Interview of the Week: The New York Times’ Victor Mather with James Holzhauer, who is re-writing every record in “Jeopardy” annals, and who has the recall and reaction time of John Nash.
f. Are you watching “Jeopardy?” You really should, if just to see what a true intelligentsia demolition is like. Three interesting points: Holzhauer’s strength on the buzzer is 60 percent of the success at the game, he says … His background as a professional gambler is big. “The fact that I win and lose money all the times helps desensitize me, so I can write down $60,000 as the Final Jeopardy wager and not be trembling at the thought of losing that money.” … And this factoid about his success: “I went to Illinois. Most people think I went to Princeton or something. But I was never a diligent student. I have a strategy of reading children’s books to gain knowledge. I’ve found that in an adult reference book, if it’s not a subject I’m interested in, I just can’t get into it. I was thinking, what is the place in the library I can go to to get books tailored to make things interesting for uninterested readers? Boom. The children’s section.”
g. People are so interesting. Thanks, Victor Mather.
h. Football Story of the Week: Lindsay Jones of The Athletic on Salli Clavelle, the only full-time female scout in the NFL.
i. It’s not just a story on Clavelle the scout. It’s a status report of women in scouting, and in NFL positions finally opening to women. Clavelle to Jones: “If I were to have said three years ago, ‘Hey, I want to be a scout for the San Francisco 49ers,’ somebody probably would have laughed at that. But now, it’s not funny. It’s not funny because I’m actually doing it.”
j. Football History Story of the Week: Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle with the story of how unintentionally Montana-to-Clark was born, on the 40th anniversary year of Joe and Dwight becoming Niners. Terrific reporting and story-telling by Branch.
k. There has never been a double play quite like this one, I feel confident in reporting.
l. Crazy and borderline hyperbolic to say, but I think Roman Laureano has the best outfield arm I’ve ever seen.
m. I guess I was like everyone else was when I saw that Damian Lillard 37-foot contested (by all-NBA defensive player Paul George) series-winning basket at the buzzer to beat Oklahoma City the other night: filled with awe.
n. I liked his explanation of why he didn’t try to get closer, or try to drive on George to either draw a foul or have an easier try: “I didn’t want to put it in the referee’s hands, where if there was contact and maybe they get away with contact or I end up having to take a tougher shot because there’s contact and they don’t want that to decide the game. When I was standing there, I was like, ‘I’m going to shoot it.’ He [George] was a little bit off of me and I was like, ‘This is enough space for me to just raise up and shoot it for game.’ At the last second, he stepped towards me a little bit and I was, okay, I’m going to pound-dribble, side-step and raise up. I just had to let it fly, shoot the ball high in the air to give it a chance. That’s what I did.”
o. I wasn’t crazy about this sore loser reaction of George, though: “I don’t care what anybody says. That’s a bad shot. But hey, he made it.”
p. Dude, that’s one of the great shots in NBA playoff history. A walkoff, contested, playoff-series-ending, buzzer-beating 37-foot perfecto. Truly, how many shots with those qualifiers have happened in the history of basketball?
q. Teanerdness: I’m all-in on the tea again this week, particularly after something gave me the raspiest voice I’ve had in a while. (Great! Shut up, King!) The choice of the week is Stash lemon ginger. My doctor told me that ginger is excellent for the throat, and to always include honey. And thanks to the readers—Jim B. of Nashville was first—who sent advice to use local honey, and lots of it.
r. Beernerdness: I learned a lot about Odell Brewing (Fort Collins, Colo.) the other day, causing me to seek out its 90 Shilling Ale—rich, darker than most ambers I’ve had, with a malty bite—the other day. They have taprooms in Fort Collins and Denver, and the tip jars there are pooled and go to a monthly cause for good (this month: the Loveland Youth Gardeners) while insuring their employees get paid a living wage. Kudos to Odell for, collectively, having such a good corporate conscience.
s. April 27. Tigers-White Sox snowed out in Chicago.
t. On the 31st day of the baseball season, a snowout.
u. For those keeping score at home—and I am sure that none of you do—here are the results of my mock draft from last Monday’s 32 first-round picks: eight of 32 players picked in the correct slot … nine of 32 players matched with the team that chose them though not all in the exact slot (Jones to Giants at 23, Jacobs to Oakland at 24, Drew Lock to Denver at 42 were in the wrong slot, though all landed with the predicted team) … six players got picked who I did not have in round one … picked the Frank Clark-to-Chiefs trade … correctly picked Seattle (21) and L.A. Rams (31) to trade, though I picked the wrong partners … incorrectly picked a Giants-Texans trade, and whiffed on the Denver-to-Pittsburgh trade for the 10th pick. It’s one of the best years I’ve had picking the mock, and putting it to bed four days before the draft complicates it further. I did pick the right landing spots for the top four quarterbacks, which I am happy to brag about.
v. I was a terrible basketball player growing up in northern Connecticut in the sixties and early seventies, but I used to practice a lot. I used to shoot at a hoop in our yard, practice a straight-up form jump shot. I wanted to shoot just like John Havlicek of the Celtics, who played under control and with incredible consistency. It never quite worked out for me and basketball, but I have great memories of watching Hondo Havlicek and JoJo White as deserving heirs to the Russell-Cousy Celtics. RIP Hondo.
w. Learned a lot about one of the most interesting players in the draft—problematic Central Florida defensive tackle Trysten Hill—from The Doomsday Podcast, the cool Cowboys-centric pod from Ed Werder and Matt Mosley. How about this nugget from their guest, UCF defensive coordinator Randy Shannon: Starts at UCF are earned in practice through good play and hard work—and Hill earned only one start in 2018 season. Should be a wild ride with the Cowboys.
x. Kudos, Scott Studwell, on a distinguished, multifaceted and starry-in-a-blue-collar-way 42-year career with the Vikings as a linebacker (leading tackler in the franchise history), scout and director of college scouting. I’ll have more to say on Studwell next week, plus some words from him.
The Dolphins had a
very good weekend. Highlight:
They pilfered Rosen.