On Thursday, the Chicago Bears will hold an off-season practice in Lake Forest, Ill. Then, around 1:30 p.m., team chairman George McCaskey, coach Matt Nagy and other Bears coaches and officials will board a van for a 3.5-hour ride south. On the van will be the guest of honor for a fundraiser Thursday night that’s unlike any charity event connected to the NFL these days.
It’s a cancer fundraiser, with Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as the man of the evening. It’s the seventh annual Chuckstrong Tailgate Gala. The first six have raised more than $5.5 million for cancer research. But this year’s is different.
Pagano, whose very public conquest of leukemia in 2012 was one of the great feel-good stories of recent NFL seasons, was fired by the Colts 16 months ago. Coaches who get fired go away quietly and stay away. They don’t say what they really feel most often—that they were wronged, that they weren’t the problem. The firing team moves on, and rarely mentions the vanquished coach.
The Colts are different. Pagano is different. Indianapolis is different. And now the Chicago Bears are in the Pagano web.
“I’m not bitter,” Pagano said from Illinois the other day. “I’m better. [Colts owner] Jim Irsay and I have a relationship for life. I love Jim Irsay. I love the organization. At some point coaches have to say goodbye to teams, and teams have to say goodbye to coaches. If you win, you keep your job, and if not, they move in a different direction. I never took it personal. And now I get to coach with one of the great franchises in sports, the Chicago Bears. I’ve died and gone to heaven.”
Those who fight cancer in Indiana, and football fans in Chicagoland, are glad that’s just a figure of speech. The Bears will have a table at the Tailgate Gala inside the Colts’ practice facility northwest of the city. The Bears and Colts might be rivals for the NFL fan in northern Indiana, but on this night, the Chicago head coach and chairman will attend this gala on the Colts practice field. The organization will write a check to support their defensive coordinator’s cause, and that coordinator will mingle with the people who fired him, and rub shoulders with those in Indiana who can make great things happen by writing checks of their own.
“Chuck brings magic to so many people,” Irsay told me. “I believe it. I’ve seen it. The impact he continues to have on fighting cancer, it’s just magic.”
A different column today, taking a breath entering the post-draft lull in the NFL calendar. Pagano and his Bears-boosted cancer cause, then the team that controls the 2020 draft, then the games that collectively pre-draft looked pretty ho-hum and now have a big buzz, then another country heard from on Daniel Jones, then the Dan Patrick drama, then the Kentucky Derby drama, then the rookie who’s going to be asked to do far more as a pro than he did as a collegian. The calendar has turned to May, and I’m going far afield.
The question I had for Pagano was a tough one. Cruel, really. But in many ways, he’s George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the banker who found out how much he meant to people in his town when it was almost too late to save the town.
Imagine, I asked Pagano, if you never got leukemia in 2012. Imagine if you hadn’t been cured, then gone on to raise almost $6 million for the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center. Imagine if the funds you raised to recruit to the Simon Cancer Center specialists in leukemia, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, cancer genetics, and, most recently, funding to endow a Chuck and Tina (his wife) Pagano Scholar hire each year, guaranteeing an annual hire for cancer research in one specialty area. Imagine, as Simon Cancer Center director of development Amber Kleopfer Senseny said, “Two hundred years from now, we’ll hire another Chuck and Tina Pagano Scholar, to research another form of cancer.” That’s George Bailey stuff.
“Do you sometimes wonder about all the lives that never would have been helped if you didn’t get leukemia, and you didn’t start this cause?”
Pagano paused. “That is a story that will never be told,” he said. “The Lord had a plan for me, I know that. Coming to the Simon Cancer Center saved my life. Really, research saved my life. Because somebody donated money for research into my form of leukemia 30 years ago, they came up with a cure for it. Thirty years ago, I’d have had a 50-percent chance to make it. When I was diagnosed, it was over 90 percent. That’s why I’m so passionate about research. All the money we’ve been raised through this Chuckstrong thing, it’s really the kindness of thousands.”
Now it extends to the Bears, who named Pagano defensive coordinator after Vic Fangio got the Denver head-coaching job in January. “When we hired Chuck,” coach Matt Nagy said over the weekend, “he said to me, ‘Hey, I want to get out front on this. I’ve got this event in Indianapolis, and the date was set prior to me taking the job. It’s for this cause I really believe in.’ I said this is great stuff. We wanted to figure out how to get involved. We got some coaches, we got Mr. McCaskey, we got some other people, and we figured a way to back Chuck and be a part of this event. We really feel fortunate to be involved. You talk about turning adversity into a positive. This is on a whole other level. It’s neat. It’s just a good thing.”
Pagano is in complete remission, and his prognosis to live a long life is good. There’s much of Indianapolis in Chicago with him—Pagano has pictures in his office of the cancer patients he got to know and help (and who helped him) over the past few years. “Not to get too trippy,” Irsay said, “but I have seen Chuck give his time, lots of it, to total strangers. He inspires them. Inspiration is rocket fuel, and he has given that over and over to the frightening world of people whose lives are on the edge. That’s not going to change because he works somewhere else.”
On his TV and radio show Thursday, Dan Patrick opened up about his seven-year battle with a joint disease called Polymyalgia Rheumatica. His powerful eight minutes can be seen here:
His immune system, he said, was attacking his immune system, and the results over seven years of the disease and treatments for it included intense joint pain that made the prospect of rising from bed in the morning debilitating, suicidal thoughts, wanting to quit the job he loved, memory loss (“I couldn’t start my car some days; I didn’t know how to do it”), severe mood swings, and what doctors told him was “brain fog,” the inability of his brain to sync with his mouth. Which, in the radio and TV business, is a pretty limiting trait to have.
So many of you know Patrick from his ESPN days, or his host role on NBC’s “Football Night in America” show, or his current popular syndicated TV/radio show. I worked with him on the NBC show for eight years, and he told me something I didn’t know: Every Sunday for the last few years of his time at NBC, when we’d be in a room at NBC watching all the football games prepping for the 7 p.m. ET “Football Night” highlight show, he’d watch the first half of games, then find a room to take a nap for 45 minutes or so, and then return to continue to prep and rehearse for the show. It’s something he had to do to cope with the overpowering fatigue and joint pain he felt.
“How do you feel today?” I asked Patrick on Sunday.
“I’m probably 90 percent pain-free, which is about the opposite of what it was at its worst,” he said. “For so long, I’d have varying degrees of pain. I would dread getting out of bed. Then it would dissipate over the next 90 minutes. My new normal was aches and pain. Couldn’t swing a golf club, couldn’t shoot baskets, couldn’t do all the things I’ve always loved to do.”
Continued use of the powerful steroid prednisone, he said, “sent me into dark spaces. It took away the pain, but you could cry for no reason. I had depression. Life was an emotional roller coaster.”
As he said on the air Thursday, he’s taking “light chemotherapy” to fight the auto-immune disease, and it’s working. “I’m supposed to take five more IVs. They’re trying to re-set my immune system. They hope by September I will be in the clear. The doctors can’t tell me why I got it and how to get rid of it and how to prevent it from coming back. But we’re looking at all sorts of [protocols] now—homeopathic, everything. Obviously, I don’t want it coming back.”
Nor do the people who’ve known him and worked with him and also those who rely on him to help get through their days.
I asked Patrick what he’s learned that he’d like to impart to those who suffer silently—as he did for years. “Don’t be like me, afraid to ask questions,” he said. “There are no stupid questions. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone. I didn’t know I was depressed till I got out of it. My wife was incredible. A day didn’t go by that she didn’t say, ‘How are you feeling?’ The Danettes were incredible; they did something so important for me, which is to make me laugh when I really wasn’t up to laughing. [Executive producer] Paul Pabst was Sean McVay to my Jared Goff, always telling me things in my ear so I would be able to remember stuff I’d forgotten.”
Patrick’s wife told him after his cathartic eight-minute coming-clean the other day that maybe his legacy would be helping some people with depression by talking about it so openly. “That might be nice,” Patrick said. “Like, ‘He helped people with depression.’ That’d be better on my tombstone than, En fuego! Or, You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”
Veering to an area I know very little about—horse racing—with someone who knows quite a bit about it. I asked Tim Layden, the eminently respected turf writer for Sports Illustrated and a contributor at NBC Sports, about whether the right thing was done in taking the Kentucky Derby crown from Maximum Security for a foul during Saturday’s race. Layden’s deadline story on the race detailed how Maximum Security was taken down and 65-to-1 shot Country House was declared the winner.
Layden, still in Louisville late Sunday afternoon, answered my questions about the first time in the 145-year history of the Derby that the horse that won the race was disqualified for a foul.
FMIA: Was there enough of a foul to disqualify Maximum Security?
Layden: Yes. I’m going to go with what a bunch of trainers have said to me over the last 18 hours. The regulations state the horse has to run a clear path down the track and can’t veer to the left or right to impede or endanger the horse aside or behind him. When I got out on the racetrack to report the story after the race, the infield video board was playing the head-on shot—not the network shot that shows the horses more from a side angle. The very first time I saw the replay head-on, literally, it looked like Maximum Security jumped about 10 feet to his right coming down the stretch. I thought [Maximum Security] absolutely had to come down, or there would be massive blowback. It seemed very obvious.
FMIA: Why did it take 22 minutes for the stewards to decide?
Layden: It took 22 minutes because this is the Kentucky Derby. The stewards are there, working four to five days a week in anonymity, and now suddenly they’re in position to decide the only horse race that matters to millions of people in America. I don’t know this first-hand, but they apparently were humbled by the decision and wanted to take time to get it absolutely right. Imagine. These stewards do their job every day, and no one notices them. This is like a guy who refs Pop Warner games his whole life, and suddenly he’s the guy who makes the non-call in the Saints-Rams NFC Championship Game. Different, of course, but the gravity of the decision is just huge.
FMIA: One of the reactions, judging from what I’ve read and heard, is that this is just another example of replay run amok in sporting society. Do you think so?
Layden: I haven’t heard that. I don’t think so. Instant replay has been a part of horse racing for decades, longer than in the other sports. Stewards review video before taking down a horse. I started covering horse racing in the seventies, and it’s been the normal course of action since then—stewards looking at video to analyze controversial outcomes.
FMIA: What’s next?
Layden: I would say it’s a liquid situation. The owner texted me this afternoon and it appears like he is going to challenge this. (Update: He will appeal.) He may be willing to take it to federal court. I don’t think this is over. But there were very few people at the racetrack who think it was anything other than the right decision.
After free agency and the draft, some games this fall got a whole lot more interesting. In fact, talking to the schedule nerds in the NFL (and talking to one owner at the league meetings this year), my guess is there’s a 50-50 chance that the schedule—which now gets released annually in the third week of April, a week before the draft—could soon get pushed back to being released in the first half of May instead.
Nooooooooooo! I can hear fans who make their annual treks to games from far away and already think the schedule gets put out too late. And I can hear teams complain too, because they need to make plans for travel and game-day events, etc. But in the end, TV ratings trump all, and the fact that Kyler Murray and the Cardinals are on TV only once in prime time this year could turn out to be poor TV planning. We shall see. But if the league thinks it can get a 10-percent-higher rating on a Monday night game with Kyler Murray than in a game with starless quarterbacking, the league’s going to seriously consider pushing back the schedule-release date.
For now, here are the games that got more compelling after the draft:
Sunday, Sept. 8. Detroit at Arizona. It’ll be a major upset if this is not the debut of Kyler Murray in the Valley of the Sun, and the unveiling of Kliff Kingsbury’s edgy offense too—he won’t be showing much in the preseason.
Monday, Sept. 9. Denver at Oakland. Talk about two new teams. Joe Flacco throwing to Noah Fant. Kareem Jackson covering Antonio Brown, Bryce Callahan trying to blanket Tyrell Williams. Josh Jacobs getting 20 touches (at least) against the rebuilding Denver D in Vic Fangio’s head-coaching debut. What a fun game this should be.
Sunday, Sept. 22. Pittsburgh at San Francisco. Nick Bosa begins his career with two road games against average quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton. Here in Week 3, he plays his first home game against tree-trunk QB Ben Roethlisberger and a premier offensive line. This game will be the first acid test for Bosa.
Sunday, Oct. 6. Baltimore at Pittsburgh. Devin Bush: This game’s one of the big reasons why the Steelers used first, second and third-round picks to draft you 10th overall. Today’s the day you’ve got to chase/neutralize/bash Lamar Jackson, the quarterback of your new nemesis.
Sunday, Dec. 15. Cleveland at Arizona. The Lincoln Riley Bowl. The last two Heisman winners, good pals Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, meet in the desert. Another note: Just imagine if someone had said a year ago that one of the interesting NFL games of 2019 would be Freddie Kitchens matching wits with Kliff Kingsbury. Good example of “NFL” really meaning Not For Long.
Sunday, Dec. 22. Giants at Washington. Week 16 for New York and Washington could be meaningless, wait-till-2020 stuff. But by this time, I’m assuming Daniel Jones is starting for the Giants, and a Daniel Jones-Dwayne Haskins matchup, which could be the first of many test matches between the two 2019 first-round QBs (they meet in Week 4 too, when Jones will still presumably be on the bench for the Giants). Dave Gettleman watches intently.
From this week’s Adam Schefter Podcast, Schefter weighing in on Giants GM Dave Gettleman’s claim that there were two teams that would have taken Daniel Jones before the 17th pick in the first round:
“I can’t find two teams. I think he’s referring, as most people would agree, to the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins. The Washington Redskins were a Dwayne Haskins team all along … The Denver Broncos were not taking Daniel Jones in the first round. That’s not the guy they wanted. At one point in time, I can tell you this for a fact, Daniel Jones intrigued them. They were curious about him. Then they shifted to go to Drew Lock. Drew Lock was gonna be the quarterback, and they didn’t want to do that in the first round … Could Cincinnati at 11 have been the sleeper team that Gettleman knows for fact could have taken [Jones]? Could Carolina [at 16]? Sure. Anything’s possible. But I firmly believe that Daniel Jones would have been on the clock for the New York Giants at number 17. I believe, actually, that Daniel Jones might have been on the clock when the New York Giants traded back up in the first round to go get Deandre Baker at that point in time, Deandre Baker at number 30.”
We’ll never know who’s telling the truth and who’s not on Jones. The fact is, if Denver was a Jones team till switching to Lock, as Schefter says, it’s possible that Gettleman counts the Broncos as one of the teams sure to pick Jones, seeing as though at one point they appeared to prefer him. As I wrote last week and continue to believe, I don’t think there were two teams between 6 and 17 that would have taken Jones had the Giants passed. But that story’s been beaten into the ground, so now all that matters is whether Jones can play. At some point this season, we ought to start finding out if he can.
“The thing I’ve always felt for me in my life—winning has been a priority. And my wife makes a lot of money … I’m a little smarter than you think. It’s a salary cap. You can only spend so much and the more that one guy gets is less for others. From a competitive advantage standpoint, I like to get a lot of good players around me.”
—Tom Brady, on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” detailing why he doesn’t push to be the highest-paid player in football.
What I’ve been saying for years.
“We are just beyond proud of what he was able to do. While kids were running one way, our son turned and ran toward the shooter. If he was in the room when something like that was happening, and he had turned away, he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself.”
—Natalie Henry-Howell, the mother of Riley Howell, who was killed by a gunman in a classroom at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte on Tuesday. Police said Riley Howell ran at the gunman, tackling him while being shot, and likely prevented mass casualties.
“Four for four! Four for four! Good stinkin’ job!! That could not have played out any better!”
—Colts coach Frank Reich, on the team-produced “The Colts Are On the Clock” draft video. Really insightful. Reich’s quote came after the Colts’ fourth pick, Stanford linebacker Bob Okereke, and, according to the video, each of the four was a priority pick for Indianapolis.
“I know things that I can’t reveal, but he would have gone well before [the 17th pick]. There were people that quietly had their heart set on him.”
—Duke coach David Cutcliffe, on whether the Giants, who picked quarterback Daniel Jones sixth overall, would have been able to wait till the 17th overall pick to snag Jones.
Maybe. I’m not buying it, but this is one we’ll probably never know.
“This is a production-based business, and we have to start winning games. It’s put up time. We understand that.”
—San Francisco GM John Lynch, to 95.7 The Game in San Francisco. Lynch and Kyle Shanahan enter year three of the tenure atop the Niners with a 10-22 record. Each signed a six-year contract in 2017.
“In light of the four-and-a-half years it took me to graduate, I thought I would share four-and-a-half specific truths I learned here as a student, truths that in the seven years since my time here I’ve discovered are exactly that: true.
“The first truth that I learned at MSU is that it is who, not what, that will count the most for you. For the past four years, it’s likely you have been focused on what—what career will I choose, what will I major in. I can tell you that it will be more important who you do life with than what you do. You see, a great job done alongside people you don’t enjoy becomes less than a great job. Conversely, a rough job done alongside people you enjoy can become a great job … What I do is a dream come true. But the truth is, while some football seasons have been very enjoyable, others have been a grind. The what remained the same. The who I played with made the difference.
“The second truth: In order to succeed, you can’t just deliver; you must over-deliver. Unless you run your own company, chances are you’ll start somewhere near the bottom. In the football world, that’s called being a backup. For two of four-and-a-half years at MSU and three of seven years in the NFL, my primary position on gamedays was called the bench. While I was spending time on the bench at Michigan State, I had a coach named Don Treadwell, who said, ‘Kirk, go out every day focused on playing so well in practice that the coaches can’t wait to put you on the field in a real game.’ While you’re a backup, prepare and lead like you’re the starter … Every day, work like you’re the company president, and one day, you may be the company president.
“The third truth: See life through a window, not a mirror. There are two kinds of people in life—mirror people and window people. Most, by a wide margin, are mirror people. We travel through life, focused on ourselves, thinking, ‘What about me?’ Window people measure success by the contribution they make to the lives of others. In August of 2007, I had my very first practice at Michigan State. It did not go well. I couldn’t spit out the plays, I couldn’t get the snap count right, I missed reads. Walking off the field that day, I was considering transferring to the small Division III school in my hometown, as that felt more like where I belonged. At that moment, a team leader named Justin Kershaw walked up behind me, put his arm around me and said, ‘Kirk—how do you think practice went for you?’ ‘Not well, Justin,’ I replied. He said, ‘You may not know the plays yet, but those of us on defense can see that you have ability. Just keep working and it will come. We all struggled on our first day here.’ And just like that, my entire perspective on my future at Michigan State had changed—all because an upperclassman had stopped thinking about himself for five seconds and put his arm around a meaningless freshman … I challenge you to look at life through a window, to be a blessing to the people whose paths you cross.
“The fourth truth: Life becomes a reflection of the decisions we make. On my recruiting visit here, my future quarterback coach, Dave Warner, said something that stuck with me for the rest of my career and has been the foundation of my success on the football field: ‘Kirk, if you make good decisions with the football in your hand, everything else takes care of itself. If you make bad decisions with the football in your hand, no other trait really matters.’ While true in quarterbacking, it’s more true in the game of life. The Bible puts it this way, in Galatians 6:7. Whatever a person sows, this also they shall reap. It’s not just the big decisions, like who you marry. It’s the everyday decisions, like how you care for your health. The bottom line: make enough good decisions, and chances are things will turn out just fine.
“Let me give half a thought for that extra half-year I spent earning my degree. Through it all, enjoy the journey. You can prepare for the future today, but you can’t live the future today. If your joy in life is always tied to a future experience, you will never know true joy … To quote The Office, a show I watched in my years here, Andy Bernard says in the final minute of the final episode, ‘I wish there was a way you know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.’ “
“Do those four things, while enjoying the journey along the way, and if my life is any example, you’ll have plenty of good days ahead. Maybe even good enough to shout at someone, ‘YOU LIKE THAT!’ “
Josh Jacobs, the first-round pick of the Raiders and the first running back picked in the 2019 draft, takes a truly bizarre college résumé into his NFL career.
• Jacobs played 40 games at Alabama. He ran for 100 yards against Kentucky in his fourth college outing, and then, in his final 36 games, never ran for 100 yards in a game.
• His highest 10 rushing games as a collegian, in yards gained: 100, 98, 97, 97, 89, 83, 68, 57, 52, 51.
• His biggest workloads as a collegian, in numbers of rushes in a game: 20, 16, 15, 12, 11, 11, 10, 9, 9, 8.
• In one of 40 college games, including receptions, Jacobs touched the ball 20 times.
Not to sound an alarm bell or anything, but the Raiders want Jacobs to be a bellcow back, the kind who regularly will have 20 touches or more in a game. It’s entirely possible that he’ll be great at that role. But if he is, it’ll be the first time doing it since high school in Oklahoma. In three years at Alabama, Jacobs was part of Nick Saban’s running back-by-committee system. This is going to be a very interesting test for Jacobs starting in September.
The Bears are in the midst of one of the most interesting stories in the NFL. They have eight kickers in camp—a total I’ve never heard of. Teams might have an extra kicker or two around in the spring, and I’m sure Chicago will bring maybe three max to training camp. But now there are eight, and the desperation to find one who doesn’t double-doink a playoff-game-deciding field goal hangs in the air at Bears camp.
On Friday, with the entire team looking on, coach Matt Nagy had all eight kickers, one after the other, attempt 43-yard field goals. That’s the distance of the missed kick by Cody Parkey (who is not one of the eight in camp) that lost the January playoff game against the Eagles.
“They know loud and clear why,” Nagy said, per Adam Jahns of The Athletic.
Six of the eight kickers missed their 43-yard attempts.
Doubleheader of the Week: Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury had a nice Saturday. He was a part of the Tom Brady entourage at the Kentucky Derby in the afternoon and early evening. Then he flew 3.5 hours from Louisville to Las Vegas to see the Canelo-Jacobs fight.
My good friend Ken Fost and I journeyed to Grinnell, Iowa, to visit his grandson, a student at Grinnell College and a ballplayer, and we watched a twinbill there Saturday. At LaGuardia Airport, in the waiting area before the flight to Des Moines on Friday, there were two gate agents. One welcomed us to Delta Flight 3914 to “Dez Moyns.” The other gave us the boarding announcement for Flight 3914 to “De Moyns.” The first person, apparently corrected, referred to boarding for “De Moyn” as I approached the gate.
For all of you Iowans, it must be crazy listening to America mispronounce the biggest city, and a lovely one, in your state.
By the way, our pilot, as we prepared to land put this cherry on the pronunciation sundae: “We’ve started our final descent into De Moyns.”
An observation about the Grinnell-Monmouth (Ill.) Midwest Conference doubleheader on Saturday, Grinnell losing the opener 7-0 and winning the nightcap 7-6: So impressed with all these kids (seemingly) playing for the love of the game, playing for each other, playing with great spirit. And doing it while achieving in the classroom at a very tough academic school. Grinnell has a 40-man roster, and last season, 19 players on the team were Academic All-Conference.
I was particularly impressed with the senior catcher, Noah Daniel, who caught all 18 innings Saturday … and then, on the other end of the home-and-home series with Monmouth, boarded a bus at 7:15 a.m. Sunday, traveled 170 miles to western Illinois, caught both ends of that doubleheader, got back on the bus, and got back to campus at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Daniel caught 35 innings in 30 hours—with a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, he told me. (On Sunday, he caught every inning despite suffering what may have been a cracked rib in a collision in the first game.) Grinnell has a dizzying array of pitchers—two righty fastballers who I saw, a lefty junkballer who got three straight strikeouts on nine pitches (which I believe were all changeups), a righty Tekulve submariner/sidearmer, and a righty overhand breaking-pitch guy. Daniel catches them all—and most of their bullpens. He blocks everything. He caught one pitch that was three feet behind a right-handed Monmouth hitter with a runner on third, saving a run in the tight second game. He apparently has time for school as well. He’s double-majoring in History and Political Science. Last summer, he interned in Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s office.
A very cool experience, watching Division III college baseball with kids who are so into it.
Mail call. Send your queries or comments to email@example.com.
Jim says Mayock is not fit to be a GM. From Jim K.: “One thing that’s different about Mike Mayock from every other GM in the NFL is that we can actually see his draft rankings over the years, and see how good (or bad) he is as an evaluator. I’m surprised that no one has written an article, about whether that history shows Mayock does (or doesn’t) know any he’s doing. Well, I did look, and it’s suggestive that he should not be a GM. The most important decision an NFL GM can make concerns what quarterback to pick and when. How has Mayock done? In 2017, he rated Pat Mahomes as the 32nd best prospect. In 2019, he had Baker Mayfield ranked as his fourth-best quarterback. So in the two most recent years, when faced with the most important decision a GM can make, Mayock whiffed and he whiffed very badly.”
Yes he did. Question is: How does that rank against others in the business? You don’t know. I don’t know. A lot of people in the football business downgraded Mahomes because of the offense he ran and the quality of defensive competition he faced. Same with Mayfield. The titters and guffaws at John Dorsey when he picked Mayfield first overall last year were audible across the league. But you are correct about Mayock—he swung and missed on both of those. But how about ranking Jimmy Garoppolo 38th overall in 2014—far better than any draft analyst I know—and having Carson Wentz one overall in 2016? Gutsy call that, before Wentz started getting hurt, looked pretty prescient. Not to mention having non-QBs like Orlando Brown, Trey Flowers, Za’Darius Smith and Yannick Ngakoue rated higher on his board than many of his peers.
Jim, no question he swung and missed on Mahomes and Mayfield. I would guess Bill Polian, Ron Wolf and Bobby Beathard—all Hall of Fame GMs of recent vintage—swung and missed on some quarterbacks too.
Really down on Gettleman. From Frederic G.: “Well, as John Maynard Keynes once said, ‘In the long run we’re dead.’ I bet Dave Gettleman and Giants fans alike wish the opposite were true right about now because things are about to get even uglier. Gettleman seems to have forgotten how to perceive value. This became clear when he jettisoned Odell Beckham Jr.––a potential hall-of-famer and even clearer when he drafted Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick. Gettleman fell in love with Daniel during three drives at the Senior Bowl, which should draw a red flag to any human being who understands how love works. What’s worse is that Gettleman love developed into, quoting the great Van Morrison, ‘Crazy Love.’ Doing what most people who are crazy in love do, he abandoned rationale. To be sure, when there’s a lack of QB talent on the market or in the draft, QB-desperate teams fall into a trap of confirmation bias to justify spending a top dollar or a top draft pick on an average or underdeveloped QB. In turn, QB desperation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
We’ll see. Lots of time has been spent (a lot of it by me) on the job Gettleman did this spring. We’ve got to let Daniel Jones work his way into the Giants offense and let him swim or sink. Nothing left to do now but let Jones germinate in the Pat Shurmur system, and see how he plays when he gets his shot.
DeCosta and his mentor. From Edward P.: “Would love your thoughts on Eric DeCosta’s first draft in Baltimore and the impact Ozzie Newsome has had on Eric.”
I like the fact that DeCosta wasn’t scared away by the Ravens’ recent experience of highly drafted receivers not working out. Marquise Brown is DeCosta’s attempt to find a Tyreek Hill for the Ravens, and it’s a fair shot. No idea if Brown can stay healthy, and he’s such a small guy. But his speed is game-changing and possibly AFC North-changing. And Miles Boykin has the résumé to be a contributing receiver right away. I love Trace McSorley in the sixth round.
As far as Newsome’s influence, I think that will come in this way: DeCosta has watched Newsome be thoughtful and patient in drafts, in trades, and in roster-building. I think DeCosta may tend to be slightly more reactionary, but that’s going to take time to see. Also, there’s no question DeCosta will tend to using analytics more, and that’s a very good thing. It’s just more information—you don’t have to be scared of it. I see DeCosta being an NFL leader in the use of advanced statistical research.
1. I think, fast-forwarding to what we know about the 2020 draft, I like Miami’s situation. A lot. Let’s go round-by-round on the Dolphins’ 12 picks in the seven-round draft:
• Round 1: Own pick.
• Round 2: Own pick, Saints pick from Erik McCoy trade.
• Round 3: Own pick, Compensatory pick (Ja’Wuan James signs with Denver).
• Round 4: Own pick, Titans pick from Ryan Tannehill trade.
• Round 5: Compensatory pick (Cam Wake signs with Titans).
• Round 6: Own pick, Dallas pick from Robert Quinn trade.
• Round 7: Own pick, Chiefs’ pick from Jordan Lucas trade.
New England, with two Compensatory picks in the third round again (from the free-agent losses of Trey Flowers and Trent Brown, also has five picks in the first three rounds. But the Miami draft, overall, is stronger … even before considering that the Dolphins could be picking in the top 10 of each round while the Patriots could be choosing much lower.
2. I think it’s interesting to hear Stephen Jones say Ezekiel Elliott is “the straw, if you will, that stirs our drink.” I believe it’s very hard for a running back to be the all-powerful guy on a very good team’s roster in 2019. It’s Dak Prescott who should be said straw, I believe.
3. I think Joe Theismann even seeming to suggest Dwayne Haskins had to kiss his ring before being rewarded with the number seven jersey in Washington is really weird, and a little bit mindful of the Emperor with No Clothes. Would anyone think that a man with fewer passing yards than Steve Grogan and Jim Harbaugh, with fewer touchdown passes than Earl Morrall and Jon Kitna, with a lower career rating than Kyle Orton and Dave Krieg … should have his number retired? Mark Rypien won a Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl. Brad Johnson and Jeff Hostetler won one. Come on. The fact that Washington never gave Theismann’s number out for years after his gruesome injury is a nice gesture, I suppose. But it’s silly to think he was an all-timer, the kind of player whose number should never be worn again.
4. I think Daniel Jones went to the Eli Manning School of Quotology. Jones said over the weekend: “The challenge for all us young guys is to be consistent through practice, to not be too high or too low at any point. I think that’s what I’m focused on and showing improvement from the first day to the second day.” I’d bet quite a sum that you could look up a minicamp transcript from Manning the rookie in 2004 and find something incredibly close to that.
5. I think the Pro Football Talk Twitter poll about overtime really surprised me. Of 34,696 respondents, 74 percent voted that each team be guaranteed an overtime possessions. I’m happy about that, because it’s only fair. But I’d be happy enough if the NFL instituted it for postseason play only at first. I hate a coin flip determining which team may get the only touch in OT.
6. I think it was great to see Ryan Shazier dance at his wedding.
7. I think, regarding the lawyering-up by Tyreek Hill following the release of the damaging taped conversation with his fiancé 11 days ago, with his career very clearly on the line right now, we’ll see. It’s pretty natural that a man thought to be on the verge of signing a lifetime-changing contract, and then having the rug pulled out from him, and then watching his team draft a man who might be his replacement, would do everything possible to legally defend himself and try to salvage his career.
8. I think my feelings about mock drafts are pretty well known (not a fan, I do one—three days before the draft), but I find the mock drafts done 365 days before the next draft particularly reprehensible and click-pandering. We don’t have any idea of the draft order. We don’t have any idea which underclassmen will declare. We don’t have any idea how the college players will play in 2019. But let’s give Tua Tagavailoa to the Dolphins anyhow.
9. I think if you don’t want to be deceived and played, you shouldn’t click on mock drafts 12 months before the real draft happens. Or nine months, or six months, or five months. Because you don’t know the draft order. You don’t know which underclass players will announce for the draft. You don’t know how any of the draft-eligible players will play in the fall of their final college seasons. I am not trying to be a get-off-my-lawn guy here, even though I’m sure many of you will think that is what this screed is. I’m trying to say:
It’s impossible to have a mock draft till at least late January. So let’s not deceive people who would click on them. Let the season play out, and let the players who are going to enter the draft play the season, and then let’s project where the players might go, in the correct order.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Sunday night, Denver at Portland. Not only did Jamal Murray of the Nuggets hit six of six free throws to clinch the game at the end. But consider this: Murray made all six free throws in the last 14 seconds, and none even hit the rim. All six, nothing but net, with a playoff game on the line. I want that guy on my team.
b. Jamal Murray: 18 for 18 on free throws in the series.
c. The NBA is impossible to officiate. So it’s fruitless to complain about how bad the officials are.
d. Does anyone have any idea how Steph Curry missed an uncontested layup in crunch time of Game 3 at Houston? That’s got to be the weirdest missed shot of his great NBA career.
e. Re: the end of the Kentucky Derby, I can’t kill the ruling, though it looked marginal. I can’t kill it because horse racing is under fire like never before—and rightfully so—because of all the deaths of horses. That was close, the DQ of Maximum Security. But it did appear he got in the way of other contending horses down the stretch. You want to say the officials shouldn’t make calls like that at crucial times of races, but I don’t view officiating that way. A foul’s a foul.
f. Good call, Mike Tirico, with perspective, on NBC: “For the first time in the history of the Kentucky Derby, the horse that crossed the line first has been disqualified!”
g. Story of the Week: “My Childhood in a Cult,” by Guinevere Turner for the New Yorker, a complicated and scary tale with a terrific you-are-there feel.
h. “I was raised to believe we were eventually going to live on Venus.” How do you get to be normal, or to live a normal life, after that? (Thanks to reader Madison B. for pointing out the story.)
i. Story of the Week II: Katy Steinmetz of Time on a woman named Esther Lederberg, and the shame of us not knowing who she is.
j. Great set-up by Steinmetz, getting right to the point about the injustice of women in science generations ago:
“Esther Lederberg is standing on an ornate carpet in Stockholm, wearing a ruched gown and a rather serious expression. It’s an unusual getup for the pioneering scientist, who more often wore a lab coat and a wry grin. But it is also an unusual night. The year is 1958, and Lederberg, 35 years old, has been invited to a tony ceremony in Sweden not as a bacterial geneticist but as a wife. Alongside other spouses, she will look on while three men—her first husband, her mentor and another research partner—are jointly awarded the Nobel Prize, for work connected to her own. “It’s this group of four people who worked on things,” says Rebecca Ferrell, a biologist who has researched Lederberg’s life. “The three guys get the prize, and she gets to put on gloves and a long gown and watch.”
l. Writes Pompei:
“Quarterback-imperiling, guitar-strumming, game-plan ruining, rom-com watching, halfback destroying, nature-walk taking, offensive-lineman steamrolling, Anita Baker playing—he is part warrior and part bard.”
m. Such an interesting piece on the Cleveland pass-rusher, a person I really did not know.
n. Football Story of the Week II: Conor Orr of The MMQB on the demise of the Alliance of American Football. This is going to take months, and lawsuits, to unpack, but Orr’s work is an excellent primer on a league designed to live at least for seven to 10 years—as founder Charlie Ebersol told me last year—but died after seven to 10 weeks.
o. Writes Orr:
“As word of the crash came down on April 2, players scrambled to book their own flights home. Others, some of whom had literally crammed their kids’ cribs into hotel rooms, searched for places to stay. In the mayhem, one Hotshots player texted a friend on the Memphis Express to ask if he was O.K. The reply: ‘This feels like the Fyre Festival.’ “
p. Column of the Week: Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star, on his quest to say thank-you to the Wisconsin teacher who propelled him on his path to be a sports writer.
q. Writes Doyel:
“I loved New Glarus High. And Mrs. Conner’s class. And the grades she’d give me on my papers, the comments in the margins, were so supportive, such wind in my wings. Nobody had ever told me I could write. And it had never occurred to me to become a sports writer – I figured I’d be a veterinarian or a baseball coach – until Mrs. Conner.”
r. Thank a teacher. That’s Gregg Doyel’s message. What a great message.
s. Coffeenerdness: Saints Rest, the cool coffee shop in downtown Grinnell, Iowa, was my writing place for three hours Saturday morning. Peaceful and friendly and full of locals. Loved it there. Thanks, Saints Rest.
t. Beernerdness: Peace Tree Brewing Co. (Grinnell, Iowa) is a lovely local pub, and I tried the Blonde Fatale, an 8.2-percent alcohol brew (too rich for me). Excellent taste, with a slightly hoppy and fruity ale taste.
u. Here is one crazy sequence of batters, Red Sox at White Sox, Saturday night, with two out in the top of the third: single, single, double, double, home run, home run, double, single, home run, single, walk. Eleven straight batters reach, the first 10 with hits.
v. I really disagree with Charles Lane, who writes of his profound disdain for James Holzhauer’s incredible run on “Jeopardy” in the Washington Post. He says it’s joyless and Holzhauer’s an info-automaton. The game is often non-competitive with Holzhauer playing, but it’s the American way. Until someone beats him, it’s his right to be brilliant to break the “Jeopardy” bank.
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