FMIA: Peyton Manning (Remember Him?) Quarterbacks New TV Series, Mulls Long-Term Life After Football

Peter King/NBC Sports

CHICAGO — Early one morning in June, 40 months after stepping off a football field for the final time as a player, Peyton Manning climbed into the back of a black SUV outside his Chicago hotel. At 43, smiling and trim and wearing a blue striped polo and pressed khaki shorts, Manning looked exactly like he did late in his career—not a pound heavier or lighter. This was the start of another day in his current but not permanent job as a TV host. At the beginning of it, he wanted to make one thing clear.

“I do not like the ‘R’ word.”

“Retirement?” I said.

“Right,” he said. “Because I’m not.”

The car merged into light traffic, headed for Wrigley Field. Manning was in town for one of the last days of taping for “Peyton’s Places,” the 30-episode series on pro football history set to debut on ESPN+ (the cable outlet’s streaming subscription service) on July 29. Four episodes will drop that day, then one will be released per week through the end of the football season.

I’ll explain how Manning is getting into this project with the verve he used to be one of the best quarterbacks ever, because it’s still a significant part of his ethos. But a few words first about why I’m opening my second season with NBC writing this Football Morning in America column with Peyton Manning and a TV show. With the NFL embarking on the 100th season of professional football, you’re going to get hit over the head with history and momentousness in NFL storytelling a lot this year. I thought a piece on the league’s most ambitious project in the 100th-season celebration was in order, and this is it. During the course of the year, I’ll get into some history stories as well—including naming my all-time top 100 players later in the year—without, I hope, overwhelming you with it. I realize history is cool, but the present is more of why you read this column. And mostly, the present is what this column will be this season, and there’s plenty of the present (the 18-game season, CBA negotiations, the reviewable pass-interference conundrum) for you to read today.

But back to the car with Manning, headed for the Bears’ home of a half-century, Wrigley Field.

“This has been a journey for me,” said Manning, who is also the executive producer of the series. “I’ve learned a lot about 100 years of football. I thought I knew a lot. There’s been a ton that I did not know. There’s been fascinating stuff. In 1929, when the stock market crashed, a guy named Bert Bell basically lost his tail and what does he do? He goes out and buys a football team for $50,000. Which at the time, is probably the worst investment you could make. A bunch of guys in leather helmets running into each other. That’s what he does. That team, the Frankford Yellowjackets, turns into the Philadelphia Eagles. Bert Bell starts the draft. He gets them to play on Sundays. He puts the blackout rule in. He was kind of a founding pioneer of the NFL.”

Manning sounds like he sounded so many times in his career, telling a story in intricate detail about why a play worked or what was said in the huddle. I try to think of others who could have done this series, players or former players with cache and a name. Michael Strahan, maybe. Cris Collinsworth. Maybe Tony Romo. But whoever did it would have to be all-in, the way Manning sounds this morning. “I don’t think anyone else could have done this,” said Neil Zender, honchoing the project for NFL Films. “Peyton’s been interested in every detail of every shoot.”

The Lead: Peyton

“Welcome, Peyton,” the reclusive 96-year-old scion of the Chicago Bears, Virginia McCaskey, said to Manning when they met along the third-base line at Wrigley Field. Mrs. McCaskey rarely does interviews, but when Peyton Manning called, she zipped over to Wrigley after morning mass.

Later in the morning, Cubs star Kris Bryant stepped out of the Cubs dugout, a couple of hours before first pitch against the Rockies. Looking out to see Manning, Bryant said, “Hey, cool. Peyton Manning.”

Around noon, Manning went to board a boat on the Chicago River for a Papa Bear Halas piece and met Mike Ditka, who hates being on the water. “I’m doing it for Peyton,” Ditka said.

The eldest daughter of George Halas, one of the founders of the NFL. The 2016 National League MVP. Da Coach. Now you see why Zender and NFL Films were fixated on convincing Manning to do this. I’m doing it for Peyton.

Watching Manning on this day, you see him schmooze like a TV anchor doing happy talk. “Amazing a football field could fit in here, Mrs. McCaskey,” he said to the Bear boss off-camera, and she was off, explaining how the field was laid out. He took Bryant and Cubs manager Joe Madden into the groundskeepers room under the stands down the third-base line (Bartman territory), and they all marveled that the Bears, from 1921 to 1970, used this room the size of a moderate conference room as a locker room. “How’d they all fit?” Manning wondered. With Ditka, they sailed to the spot where the SS Eastland capsized in 1915, killing 844 passengers departing on an excursion to a company picnic in Indiana. George Halas, 20, was supposed to be on the ship but got to the dock too late to board. So one story is going to be: Would the NFL had existed, and if so, would the Bears have, if Halas boarded the SS Eastland in 1915? And Ditka played his role well, wondering over and over about the fate of pro football if Halas had been on time.

Manning, with Bears principal owner Virginia McCaskey, at Wrigley Field in June. (Peter King/NBC Sports)

On this day, Manning loves being on the field at Wrigley. “When you come here,” I wondered, “do you wish you could have played here?”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “My dad played at Yankee Stadium. He didn’t play here. He played in the old … is it County Stadium? Milwaukee? He played there. But think about this place. Gale Sayers played here. Red Grange ran on this field. You can kind of feel that energy. It’s amazing, really, when you get around these old players, Joe Namath and Super Bowl III. Talking to [wide receiver Raymond Berry] about the 1958 NFL Championship Game, Colts-Giants. I mean, Berry was phenomenal. This game was 61 years ago. He was remembering there was a couple of muddy spots on the field at Yankee Stadium. He walked the field before the game so he knew where not to run. In overtime in the last two-minute drill, he ran a couple routes away from those spots but the defenders ran into them. They’re slipping and he’s catching the ball down the field and he’s talking about that. We did that one in Pittsburgh at the old field where Johnny Unitas played semi-pro ball.”

“Bloomfield Rams,” I said. “Got cut by the Steelers and went home to play for his neighborhood team.”

“Yeah,” Manning said. “For six bucks a game. So I found out where got Johnny Unitas started.”

“Peyton’s Places” has an NFL Films edge to it, with reverence and deep research into NFL history. That’s because this is a co-production between NFL Films and ESPN. It’s not a Ken Burns baseball doc, covering all aspects of baseball history in chronological order. It’s a more contemporary look at football’s century, telling anecdotal stories in 15 to 28-minute episodes that don’t have to fit into a neat network package. A little zany, really. I’ve seen rough cuts of two episodes. Episodes include:

  • The Joe Namath guarantee in Super Bowl III, reliving the Immaculate Reception with Manning throwing and Franco Harris catching
  • Hitting golf shots at Pebble Beach with Tom Brady
  • Manning running the famous Jerry Rice training hill with Rice
  • Re-enacting a 94-year-old New York Giants publicity stunt by trying to complete a pass from the 23rd floor of a Manhattan skyscraper—to Cris Carter, way down on the ground.

There is more conversation than interviewing in the things I’ve seen. “What Peyton is really good at is not the Action News interview technique,” said Zender. “It’s just talking to these guys like he’s one of them, which of course he is.”

In the first show, it’s Manning and Namath, with lots of 50-year-old footage of Joe Cool, including Namath playing pool and wearing his famous white fur coat. So of course Manning and Namath shoot pool. And when Manning goes to leave Namath’s home, he says it looks sort of cold outside, and Namath says hold on, and he goes and gets the white fur coat.

“That’ll keep you warm, I promise you that,” Namath said, helping Manning put it on.

Manning looked at Namath, slyly.

“Do you … guarantee it?”

In the episode where Manning and Carter attempt the same stunt Giants quarterback Lynn Bomar tried in 1926, completing a pass to a teammate from 324 feet up in the sky, Manning takes the elevator to the 23rd floor. Understand that the Giants in those days weren’t drawing, and stunts like throwing a pass from 23 floors up attracted more press than the games. In this case, Manning found himself 324 feet above the street, with Carter 85 yards away from the base of the building on the ground. Carter stood in what is now Bryant Park. Manning wondered what he’d gotten himself into.

“This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy,” he muttered to himself, taking the elevator up, and you’re not sure if he’s acting (which he can do, as the Nationwide spots suggest) or being real.

Narrating the scene, Manning made note of 11 cameras trained on him and Carter from various buildings and spots on the ground. “We brought in 11 cameras to pull off the most difficult pass of my life,” Manning said plaintively.

For today, that’s where the story will stop. I’ve got to leave something to suspense now, don’t I?

“We want to tell the story of the NFL but do it in a way that the die-hard football fan would like it,” Manning told me. “But maybe somebody who didn’t care much about football might go, ‘Oh that’s kind of interesting. I didn’t realize there was Stickum back in the day.’ And the Immaculate Reception, kind of the history of that. Whatever it is. We tried to do it in a way that’s fun and entertaining.”

The Immaculate Reception. Now there’s a story.

“Where is the ball?” I asked Manning.

“The ball is in an insurance salesman’s office in a vault. A full bank vault. If you buy a little piece of insurance you get to view the football. I got to touch it. I felt like Indiana Jones looking for the Holy Grail.

“It’s in Pittsburgh. You watch that play, Harris just kind of dropped the ball on the field. Nowadays, that ball is going right to the Hall of Fame. Somebody’s selling it. This guy was on the field and grabbed it and kept it and has had a number of serious financial offers for it. He just says it’s a piece of Pittsburgh history and he’s lucky to keep it. It was pretty special to visit with him.”

Manning, with former Bears coach Mike Ditka, in Chicago in June. (Peter King/NBC Sports)

Manning’s on a roll.

I asked: “Did you have a favorite moment?”

“Definitely had a moment where I said I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Manning said. “We did research and found out that Elvis Presley was not just a fan … he was a fanatic. He was a die-hard football fan with three TVs at Graceland where he could watch different games. He knew Jim Brown, and kind of became a Browns fan. He liked the Steelers. Then I guess all the teams had a little highlight tape made of each game that was played. He requested the teams sent their highlight tape to him so he could watch. What was unique about him was he kind of had his own football league. He had a little touch football league with his buddies. Full speed blocking, but it was touch. He had these plays that he drew up and they were good plays! He had some crossing routes and maybe a version of a pick play if you will. I said, ‘Wow! Elvis!’

“You saw the plays?” I asked.

“They had the plays. Graceland has the most unbelievable archives. They had the jersey that he wore.

“We went to the field where he used to play these games, whether it was on Saturdays or Sundays. We took the plays and kind of ran these plays with these kids, these high school kids in Memphis that didn’t know what they were doing that day. I said, ‘Elvis was all in. He was a die hard. I feel like something’s missing. I’ll be right back.’ I came back in the ‘70s Elvis costume.

“It was hard to throw. It was a tight suit. I never had that much chest hair and side burns on but I actually made a couple decent throws … What he would be like today with even more access and coverage. It kind of made me sad in some ways but it made me proud to have been a part of football.”


A couple more things, I wondered. “What are you going do with the rest of your life?”

Manning said, “I’ve kind of found myself with a different project for each year. You sign up for it and you go all in. That’s what I’ve always been about and always had the one main job. It was easy to , ‘What are you doing now?’ Well, ‘I’m a pro football player.’ End of the conversation. Now, they say ‘What are you doing?’ I say, ‘How long do you have?’ … I don’t have a clear picture of what five years or 10 years down the road looks like. I still enjoy talking to people. I listen to people’s ideas. It goes back to getting recruited in high school. If I say, ‘No, this is not a fit,’ I say no right away. Maybe I look at it in another year. Take that approach.’

“Have you had an opportunity to run an NFL team since you left football?”

“I’ve had talks with a few teams. It never got into any type of negotiation, if you will. I think a couple teams have expressed interest … I’ve given them that same answer. I’ve listened. I just said, that’s a job that is not a one-foot, dip-your-toes-in-the-water job. It is all-in, all-encompassing. I guess because I have that respect for the job and what it is, what it takes, that that’s why I’ve passed at this point. At some point, maybe I am ready to say, ‘Hey I’m all in.’ But I’m just not there yet.”

Manning, with Tiger Woods at The Memorial Pro-Am in Dublin, Ohio, in May. (Getty Images)

Over the last four years, since Manning won the Super Bowl with Denver, we’ve all tried to pick Manning’s next road. Trust me now: He’s not sure what it is either. I pried. I tried. I got nothing. I really thing he’s going to keep his mind open. One day I bet he’ll pull an Elway and run a team. Maybe he’ll own one, with a football sugar daddy with billion-dollar deep pockets. But I don’t think even he knows that now.

“But,” Manning said, “I do think I missed my calling: event planner. I mean, I have my calendar scheduled for the next year. I know where I’m gonna be on Dec. 2 or Feb. 9—a little bit to the irritation of some family members that don’t know what they’re doing. ‘But I need to know! Because I’ve got this thing in February. Are you gonna be in town?’ …Maybe one year out is probably fair. You just never know what might pop up. That’s kinda how I’ve taken it in this second chapter.

“I do not use the R word. Everybody … The one question, if you really want to annoy me …”

I said, “You mean, ‘How’s retirement?’ “

“‘How’s retirement?’“ he said. “Oh my gosh. I’m not sitting on my couch and I’m not sleeping in, in the afternoons. I like my kids seeing me up. I’m going to work. Whatever it is I’m doing, a version of work.”

Looks like fun.

CBA News

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In the news this week, as the league gets back to business for the 100th season of American professional football:

• The owners and players meet Wednesday in another formal bargaining session for a new CBA. A three-day meeting is scheduled between the NFL’s Management Council and the NFLPA’s Executive Committee (a 10-player unit including president Eric Winston and VPs Richard Sherman, Benjamin Watson and Adam Vinatieri). This will be the fourth bargaining session between owners and players this spring/summer, with the hope being the two sides can reach an agreement on a new bargaining agreement in 2019. (The CBA has two more seasons to run, and expires in the spring of 2021.)

Commissioner Roger Goodell recently told CNBC that it is “certainly our intent” to try to get a new CBA before the start of the season. In a round of calls Saturday, I got some optimism from a team source who felt the chance of making a deal on a new CBA was 50-50 this year if the union would stick with the current economic formula of the game; currently players get about 47 percent of the game’s gross revenue.

But I talked to a source on the player side who wasn’t nearly as hopeful, in part because he felt the players need a bigger cut of the pie to agree to a new deal two seasons out from the end of the current CBA. This person called the first three meetings positive, but baby steps toward a deal. I do know that there have not been any significant discussions on a change in the revenue split yet. Those talks will have to progress for anything to get done.

• The 18-game schedule is nowhere near a reality. I heard that one or two teams are interested in what the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the NFL has proposed discussing with the players as part of the CBA talks: an 18-game regular-season schedule, with each player eligible to play a maximum of 16 games. This is not a new idea—it’s been thrown around at league meetings as one idea to expand the inventory and enrich the league’s TV deals for years.

“I can’t see it,” one plugged-in club official told me. “Imagine you pay to see Tom Brady and the Patriots, and the Patriots announce that week it’s one of the two games he’ll sitting out this year. Now you’re seeing Brian Hoyer throw to some practice-squad guy. I don’t see any way we could ever do that.”

I’ve always thought in an era when the reduction of head trauma is job one in everything the league does, the only way the NFL could even consider 18 games is with teams playing players a maximum of 16 weeks. But the details make it too hard. How would a team divvy up the starts, say, for the starting offensive line? Would they figure the starting tackles should play every week with the starting quarterback, and thus doom the backup in his two games to a run-for-your-life offensive scheme?

The continued pursuit—or the continuing broaching—of an 18-game schedule is such a short-sighted and greedy thing. The NFL paid each team $275 million out of the league share of total revenue in 2018, and teams paid about $215 million annually in player costs (cap plus benefits). After that, teams can reap major raw profits over what they did in local team revenue.

Someone in the NFL seems determined to kill the most golden of geese by pursuing, even in a passing way, this stupid idea. Greed, in this case, is not good.

• Fans don’t want 18 games either. I put out a Twitter poll Saturday and Sunday, asking if readers preferred a 16 or 18-game schedule. Of 13,533 voters, 79 percent said 16. Great comment from a Vikings fan, Jason Altland: “If I pay out the nose for decent tickets in Baltimore or New York to see my Vikings, I want to see all the healthy stars play. I don’t want to pay and end up with a [Stefon] Diggs or {Adam] Thielen bye game.”

Pro Football Talk also polled its readers over the weekend about the 16/18-game idea, with more options than I offered … and 62 percent said they favored 16 games—with 8 percent saying they favored 18 with a maximum of 16 games per player per season.

Pass Interference

We won’t know for a while if we’ve finally gone too far with replay, if reviewing the consistently controversial calls of defensive and offensive pass interference will be the rubicon the NFL just can’t cross. The NFL has approved a one-year experiment in which, for the first 28 minutes of every half, coaches will be able to throw challenge flags to appeal both pass-interference calls that were made and plays the coaches think should have been flagged for pass interference. This is a reaction to the Nickell Robey-Coleman mugging of Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis in the NFC title game that was not called, and was a crucial non-call in the Rams’ victory.

I’m as concerned with the unintended consequences of this rules tweak as the intended one. Yes, we all want obvious blown calls to be fixed. But if you read this column, you watch football. And you see the super-slo-mo replays of pass interference, and if you’re with five people watching, there could be a 3-3 or 4-2 split about whether there was pass interference on the play … and maybe even whether the offensive players or the defensive players were the guilty part. Or whether both were. If you read Rich Eisen’s guest column in this space three weeks ago, you read Eisen taking us into the NFL Network symposium in June, when vice president of officiating Al Riveron showed a handful of plays on the big screen that had contact between receiver and defender. Interference? Riveron would ask. And on whom? As Eisen wrote:

“Riveron would show a sequence involving a possible offensive pass interference, pause the play and ask the room if we would throw a flag for OPI. Half of the room would say ‘yes’ and the other half ’no.’ Then, he would ask us if there was no penalty called, would we, as the replay official, put a flag down on the field for OPI. Half the room said ‘yes’ and the other half of the room said ‘no.’ Riveron’s well-taken point: not everything in this endeavor is going to be so glaring and easy to correct as the NFC Championship Game non-call.”

To say the least. Particularly in the final two minutes of a half, the booth-review official—in most cases, not a back judge or a person who has called pass-interference on the field (who will be in charge of deciding whether to review a play)—will have to figure out how much contact is too much. That, clearly, is the most subjective call in all of football. When I asked Riveron on Saturday about his biggest goal for the 2019 season, he said, “Consistency. We want to make the same call in Miami at 1 o’clock that we make in Seattle at 4 o’clock.” Admirable goal. But how you train 17 referees (seven of them in their first or second season as NFL refs) and 17 booth-review officials to all see the same thing … that’s the big issue. And probably the impossible issue.

“I think the new rule’s an overreaction, and I’ve said so since day one,” said FOX officiating analyst Mike Pereira, who once sat in Riveron’s chair at the NFL and felt the pressure that Riveron now feels. “It’ll cause more damage than it’ll fix, because there’s going to be too much judgment involved. I was in favor of a policy that would look at potential interference calls in, say, the last five minutes of a game; that’s when they’re really game-changing. It’s always the unintended consequences that get in the way. The good thing is it’s only a one-year experiment.”

Pass interference will be under the microscope in 2019. (Getty Images)

A few of the unintended consequences:

• Calling infractions away from the play. Imagine a touchdown catch in the right corner of the end zone, and the crowd goes nuts, and the coach of defensive team throws his challenge flag, saying his DB in the right slot was mugged by the tight end near the goal line and pushed out of the play as the ball was in the air. That should be offensive pass-interference. Will the ref watching the replay on the on-field tablet, in conjunction with Riveron or a member of his staff monitoring the game in New York, make the call by the letter of the law and flag the OPI that had little to do with the touchdown pass?

• Another layer for coaches. “Hey coach,” Reporter X asks after a 24-21 loss for the coach. “Why didn’t you throw the challenge flag on that touchdown that cost you the game with six minutes left? Replay showed the receiver looked like he pushed off.” Good question. I believe coaches appreciate having a fail-safe, but they’re going to hate the constant second-guessing over this rule.

• Another opportunity for coaches. “I can guarantee you,” said NBC rules analyst Terry McAulay, the former Super Bowl referee, “that coaches have been working this offseason to see how they can manipulate this rule and use it for an advantage.” One way I heard in recent days: One coach has decided that if his team is playing in a stadium with a premium video board (Dallas, for instance), he’ll instruct his offense to rush to the line to get a play off if he thinks there’s a likelihood that one of his receivers could be guilty of an uncalled pass-interference infraction.

Riveron, from the NFL’s annual summer officiating seminar in Dallas, told me: “Pass interference is not a new rule in any way. We will start with the premise that the ruling on the field, whatever it is, is correct. If we do not find clear and obvious visual evidence to overturn the ruling on the field, we will not reverse the call.” On-field officials, Riverson said, will not call interference differently. I asked if he was worried that interference would be too difficult to clearly adjudicate. Remember Eisen’s example. Riveron kept bringing up the “clear and obvious” part of the rule … or, as the league’s 2019 rule book says in Section 2, Article 1 of replay reviews: “An on-field ruling will be changed only when the Senior Vice President of Officiating or his or her designee determines that clear and obvious video evidence warrants a change.”

It sounds clear in July, and reads easy in the rule book. It’s not going to be so clear in Packers-Bears in Week 15, in an early Sunday game, with half the cameras and half the review capability, when Matt Nagy throws a challenge flag in a tie game with five minutes left claiming a Packers DB pushed off on Tarik Cohen, seeming to prevent Cohen from catching the potential winning touchdown pass.

“This is the business we’re in,” Riveron said. “We have rules changes every year, and we have to adjust. We have to adapt. On the field, nothing has changed for the officials in the way we call OPI and DPI.”

It’s off the field, of course, that will count. I doubt Riveron will be as sanguine in mid-October, but we’ll see.

What's New For FMIA

20

Between now and the start of the season, I’ll be rolling out some new ideas in the column, some weekly, some occasional. They’ll include: 

• Call of the Week: An analytical examination of a play-call that played a significant part in the outcome of a game that weekend, with the help of Pro Football Focus data on deadline. Starting in September.

• The Best. The Worst. I’m stealing this from the media brand Fast Company. (Hope you guys don’t mind.) I saw an interview of a rising business star in the magazine, and they asked, “What’s your best habit? What’s your worst habit?” We’ll start today with Peyton Manning pondering the question.

• The NFL Century. With pro football entering its 100th season, I’ll take you with me seeing some historic things in my travels. This occasional section of the column begins today, with a look at the old Chicago Bears locker room in Wrigley Field.

• A World View. I liked so many of the ideas readers had for guest columns that, occasionally this year, I’ll ask readers to write abbreviated pieces about their lives and fandom.

• The Profile. A weekly look at a different slice of life of an NFL person, debuting today with former Texans and Lions safety Glover Quin, who retired this summer after a 10-year career. It also will include a profile photo of our subject.

Quotes of the Week

I

“For us, it comes down to who players are as men, and is it good for us. If a coal miner is willing to spend more time in the hole, does it likely result in more money? Yeah. Is that a good thing for him as a person? Probably not. That’s the question nobody confronts. It’s easy to say it’s more money. But is it good for us? The answer is no.”

—NFLPA executive director De Smith, to ESPN, on the Wall Street Journal report that the NFL has discussed with the union the prospect of an 18-game regular season.

II

“Last year, they over-reffed the s— out of roughing-the-passer, then they backed off. So what happens on the first few [pass interference] calls this year? They’ll really impact the game.”

Aaron Rodgers, to NBC’s Chris Simms, on how he thinks the early pass-interference calls and non-calls in games this year will influence how those games will be officiated.

III

“I would bet my last dollar that we missed God knows how many Kylers because kids were told to make a decision early and people went along with that.”

—NFL analyst Charles Davis to Samantha Pell of the Washington Post, referring to Kyler Murray, on the potential of so many missed multi-sport athletes forced to choose one sport as teenagers instead of developing in two or three sports. Murray was a first-round pick in both baseball and football in the past 14 months.

IV

“We have pink hair and purple hair. We have tattoos and dreadlocks. We got white girls and black girls, and everything in between. Straight girls and gay girls. Hey!”

—Megan Rapinoe, speaking at the ticker-tape parade in New York City after the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won the World Cup.

V

“I don’t think in society in general that’s the way we should operate. What are you teaching kids? Not to try? Because if you don’t succeed then you’re going to get buried, so don’t try?”

—The late Bill Buckner, in 2008, referring to the never-ending emphasis by the press and fans on his error in the 1986 that contributed to a World Series Game 6 loss for Boston to the Mets.

Numbers Game

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I think this Melvin Gordon-Chargers impasse could get ugly. The Chargers running back, entering his fifth season, could hold out from training camp into the season if he doesn’t get either a new contract or a significant raise from his $5.6-million salary in 2019. There’s a few reasons the holdout could last a while, starting with the fact that Chargers GM Tom Telesco, who grew up in the Bill Polian front office of the Colts, is not afraid to take a hard line. But mostly, it’s about what happens in recent years when teams have either paid runners or drawn a hard line with them. Examples:

• Le’Veon Bell balked at the Steelers’ offer of $14.5 million on the franchise tag last year. James Conner wasn’t quite as productive as vintage Bell—270 touches, 1,470 yards, 13 touchdowns—but he was close. And Conner, who made $754,572 last year, cost 1/19th of what Bell would have commended. No one in Pittsburgh is bemoaning the loss of Bell, though he’s a great player.

Steelers running back James Conner. (Getty Images)

Todd Gurley is a great back too, and the Rams paid a guaranteed $45 million last year. They’ll say they aren’t regretting what they paid Gurley, but an odd and persistent knee problem last year limited him to 88 carries in the Rams’ last nine games—including a 35-yard rushing performance in the Super Bowl. The Rams picked up C.J. Anderson off the street in December, and in five games, he rushed for 488 yards.

David Johnson of the Cardinals responded to his new $13-million-a-year deal on the eve of the 2018 season by rushing for 940 yards (3.6 yards per carry).

Devonta Freeman signed with Atlanta for $22 million guaranteed in 2017. He’s missed 16 of the Falcons’ last 32 regular-season games and averaged 58 yards per game in the 16 he’s played.

In 30 games over his two NFL seasons, Charger understudy Austin Ekeler has proven elusive and reliable, averaging 5.3 yards per rush and 10.3 yards per catch, with just two lost fumbles. I don’t think Telesco will be afraid to take the slings and arrows of a holdout. So if you’re drafting your fantasy team very early, I’d give a long look at Ekeler.

The Best. The Worst

What’s your worst habit, Peyton Manning?

“My worst habit … Remember every time before going to the line of scrimmage, I always would lick my fingers just for a little better grip and feeling the texture of the ball. Which is fine on the field. But then, actually, I was doing it at dinner. I wasn’t trying to do it, and finally [wife] Ashley said, ‘You’re licking your fingers!’ I said, ‘I can’t help it.’ But I’ve been able to break it now, I think.”

And your best habit?

“Golly. Well, I don’t know if it’s a habit or not, a hobby or a passion. It’s writing handwritten letters to people. That’s a habit my mom instilled in me by writing thank-you notes. It really got reinforced when I got recruited to go to college. When I got a handwritten letter as opposed to a form letter, I said, ‘Wow. Bobby Bowden wrote me a handwritten letter. He must really be interested in me.’ It made such a difference to me. It’s just kind of a lost art. As you know, it’s an email world and a text world. But to me there’s a certain time and a place for a handwritten note. When a guy retires who I’ve played or who I know, it deserves more than a text, ‘Congrats on a great career.’ So I sit down and I still do handwritten letters. I know I enjoy getting them.”

The Profile

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A new weekly look at a different side of an NFL person.

Glover Quin • Retired Detroit safety • Photographed in Houston, Texas

“When I started playing in the NFL, I said I wanted to play 10 years. Being a little kid growing up in Mississippi, going to college in New Mexico, getting drafted in the fourth round, and just finishing my 10th year, it’s pretty overwhelming to see I lasted that long. I said to my mom, ‘Can you believe your little boy did that?’ I could have played one more year, but I’ve got three young sons now, and I wanted to be sure I could do everything with them all the years they’re growing up. I don’t really know what I’m going to do now, but I do know I am going to be here for my family.”

Quin adopted a practice of saving 70 percent of all of his after-tax income in his career, something he’s bullish about.

“That was all a part of the plan. I never had a Bentley. I never had a Maserati. My wife and I lived well. We just didn’t live extravagantly. My attitude was, if you sacrifice a little bit in your twenties, you can live great for the rest of your life. And by doing that, I could walk away without thinking right now, ‘I gotta play one more year because I really need that extra $2 million.’ “

Factoidness

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Several coaches, notably Sean Payton of the Saints, have said they’ll be more likely to hold at least one of their two challenge flags in their pocket till the closing minutes of a game; that way, say, inside of six minutes to play, they’ll have an option to challenge a call or non-call of a pass-interference call until the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter. (Coaches cannot challenge any calls in the last two minutes of a half.)

Seems like coaches are already being conservative with the challenge flags.

As you know, each coach gets a minimum of two challenges per game; if he is correct on both, he is awarded a third challenge. But in the 20-year history of the current coaches’ challenge system, there has never been a season with an average of even 1.0 coaches’ challenges per game. The trend continued last year, with coaches, collectively, throwing 156 challenge flags in 256 regular-season games. Think about that. Of 1,024 possible challenges (256 games times four), coaches used their challenge flags at 15 percent of capacity.

With the chance to throw four challenge flags, collectively, in every game, coaches are saving them … and for what?

The average number of challenge flags thrown per game in the past five seasons:

2014: 0.645
2015: 0.785
2016: 0.656
2017: 0.711
2018: 0.609

II

In 2018, there were no coaches’ challenges in 137 of 256 regular-season games. So 53.5 percent of games never saw a coach throw a red flag.

III

In the last calendar year, in 13 home starts, 2017 and 2018 American League All-Star starting pitcher Chris Sale is winless.

King of the Road

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Man. I need a vacation from my vacation. In brief:

• We moved from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Brooklyn last month, to a nice neighborhood called Prospect Heights not far from Barclays Center (Kyrie, here we come). It’s our fourth move in the last 10.5 years, which says something about our decision-making I guess. But we’re happy here. Cool spot, cool neighborhood, and we can see lots of sky from our apartment, rare in New York.

• We went to North Carolina, to the National Sports Media Association award ceremony (plus a Winston-Salem Dash baseball game), and I got one of the honors of my life, being elected with Bob Ley, Doc Emrick and Tony Kornheiser to the NSMA Hall of Fame.

• We went to England for my niece’s 35th birthday dinner, and to see London for a few days, and to see the Red Sox-Yanks game.

• And we had my daughter Laura’s family (wife Kim, kids Freddy and Hazel) in Brooklyn and later upstate New York for nine days. The Adirondacks … utterly beautiful.

• Freddy is two-and-a-half. He gets into a lot of things. He wears a shirt with “FREDDY” on the front. I did a lot of Freddy-bathing, which seemed to please the family. They left for home last Thursday, and I woke up Friday thinking, “I’ve got to work now? Can I please have about three more weeks off? To sleep?”

While I Was Sleeping

Notable deaths since I last wrote:

May 27: Bill Buckner, 69, who batted over .300 seven times and should definitely be known for being a good person and a very good ballplayer more than for one error.

May 31: Le Anne Schreiber, 73, the first woman to be named sports editor of a major metropolitan newspaper. The New York Times hired her to that post in 1978 at the age of 33.

June 13: Pat Bowlen, 75. Seven weeks shy of his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bowlen died of Alzheimer’s disease. What a legacy he left in his three decades as owner of the Broncos: seven AFC titles, three Super Bowl victories, and just five losing seasons in his 30 years running the franchise. (Over the same period, New England had seven losing seasons, Pittsburgh had seven, and Green Bay had seven.) Bowlen made his mark in the TV arena too. “More than any person in the NFL,” said longtime NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol, “Pat made ‘Sunday Night Football’ happen, and he made it the must-see event it is every week in the NFL.” I found Bowlen an interesting figure, because what he hated more than anything in life was attention. I knew him a little, but not much, and he never had any interest in credit. Of any sort. The team winning was good enough for him. He let his coaches coach, he let his scouts scout, and he let the football people run all things football. In that way, he should be the model for the modern owner.

June 25: Ken Behring, 91. The former Seahawks owner—who donated $100 million over the years to the Smithsonian—is best known for very nearly moving the franchise to southern California 23 years ago. The good thing about his ownership? The desperation of Seattle to keep the club led to Behring selling the team to Paul Allen.

July 1: Tyler Skaggs, 27, the Los Angeles Angels pitcher, in an Arlington, Texas, hotel. A stunning, horrible piece of news, an athlete in his prime dead and two weeks later, we have no idea why. (More about Skaggs later.)

July 3: Jared Lorenzen, 38, the former Giants backup quarterback (he won a Super Bowl ring when New York shocked the 18-0 Patriots 12 years ago) better known for his late-life battle against obesity. He was a big guy as a player, but the Hefty Lefty, as he was known, had health problems because of weight, which ballooned to a reported 500 pounds post-career. The Giants, after one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history, the David Tyree Velcro catch, credited Lorenzen for a valuable role in the play. New York coaches had Lorenzen, during practice, trying to sack Eli Manning, or strip the ball from him. Manning would battle to break free from the 270-pound Lorenzen. “The other quarterbacks tried to strip the ball out,” Manning recalled to NFL Films. “Lorenzen took it to the next level. He was the D-tackle, trying to get the sack.” Remember the Velcro play? Manning was nearly whistled down on the play because he was in the grasp of the Patriots, but he wriggled free and he completed the throw to Tyree, and, well, the rest is bitter Patriots history. “The legend of the Hefty Lefty will never fade,” Tyree said.

July 9: Rip Torn, 88, one of the best character actors of our time. I’m no TV/movie expert, but I have never seen a better supporting actor on the small or big screen than Torn’s Artie on “The Larry Sanders Show.”

July 10: Walt Michaels, 89, the former Jets and New Jersey Generals head coach, and rough-edged son of a Pennsylvania coal miner. He took particular pride later in life at being fired by Generals owner Donald Trump despite winning 25 games in two USFL seasons.

July 10: Jim Bouton, 80, a decent major-league pitcher but far better known for writing what I consider the greatest American sports book ever, “Ball Four,” in 1970. The book chronicled a fading Bouton’s 1969 season in Seattle, minor-league Vancouver, and Houston, but also, and more importantly, took the reader into the real-life world, often bawdy and R-rated, of ballplayers like Mickey Mantle. Bouton knew Mantle because they were teammates in the early sixties in New York, before Bouton’s arm troubles wrecked a promising career. Imagine the baseball establishment reading jaw-dropping stuff about Mantle’s cavorting through hotels throughout the American League, drinking so much you wondered how in the world he ever was able to shake it off and play baseball hours later totally hung over. The reaction? Talk about a hated man. Pete Rozelle didn’t hate Al Davis as much as baseball hated Bouton for the unvarnished truth. “F— you, Shakespeare!” Pete Rose once yelled at Bouton. No regrets, though, from Bouton. And later in life, Bouton and Mantle made peace.

Tweets of the Week

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More like Tweets Of The Past Six Weeks Or So…

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The NFL Century

On this iPhone video I took at Wrigley Field last month, check out the groundskeepers room down the left-field line, under the stands. For the half-century the Bears played at Wrigley (1921 to 1970), this was where the players dressed. As you can see, it’s stunning to think a team of football players could have found much comfort in a place this size. Although the active roster in 1921 was 18 players per team, rising over the years to 40 by 1970. Still, look at the tight quarters.

Newman!

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Mail call, with reader comments on my guest columnists.

Hugh Royal rules. From Ryan Orlinski: “I have loved reading the guest columns while you are way. Mr. [Chris] Ballard and Mr. [Rich] Eisen were great reads, but I particularly loved the column by Mr. Idaho, Hugh Royal. What a unique way to learn about something and somewhere completely different than you. America needs to hear more real voices and learn about small towns and places no one has heard of. I loved it. I hope we can hear more from Hugh.”

So glad you, and all the readers, got the Hugh experience. I loved his common-sense take and his the-sun-will-come-up-tomorrow-no-matter-who-wins attitude.

On Chris Ballard. From Jeffrey Horst: “Incredible article. I’m really blown away by Chris Ballard and the organization he has assembled. So impressive that he could/would articulate their framework for selecting personnel and how it directly correlates to their success.”

The best thing, I thought, was taking you inside his process of picking Rock Ya-Sin—including having a Green Beret help the winnowing process by asking the tough questions. So much to digest from Ballard, and I know how much he worked at that piece.

On the Fred Gaudelli column. From Chris Mortensen, of ESPN: “It’s a good thing Fred loves his job. This column was as good as it gets.”

I’ll pass your sentiment along, Mort. Fred Gaudelli worked harder at his column that anyone in the history of my guest columns. We went back and forth eight or 10 times with ideas, suggestions, edits, etc. And at the end of it, I realized why everyone at NBC loves working with Gaudelli. All he cares about is what makes his product the best it can be.

This guy really misses me. From Amit Likhyani: [The guest columns are a] massive improvement. No politics, lecturing or overemphasis on New England. Please don’t hurry back.”

Well, Amit, you’re stuck with me for the next 46 Mondays. But look forward to June 2020—the resumption of the next round of offseason guest columns.

10 Things I Think I Think

1. I think Melvin Gordon should study his football history. He’s in the aforementioned contract dispute with the Chargers, saying he won’t play this year for the $5.6 million he is due. On Saturday, he said: “You can’t just replace a great back. People think you can do that, and you can’t … Outside of [quarterbacks], running back’s the next-hardest position on the field and we should get paid as such.”

There are so many flaws in that argument; it’s hard to know where to start with it. Start with C.J. Anderson rising from his couch after being out of football for six weeks last December to rush for 167, 132 and 123 yards in his first three games as a Ram. Regardless of how hard a position is to play or learn, football history has seen scores of no-name running backs walk onto a team and take star turns. Paying huge money to backs is one of the riskiest ventures in the game. Very rarely is it worth it—especially when you consider the story of a James Conner; he played for 6 percent of what Le’Veon Bell was to have made last year, and he produced just fine.

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. (Getty Images)

It’s a free country, and it could well be (though I doubt it) that the Chargers will massage Gordon’s contract significantly and he’ll be back for the season. The recent history of paying, and not paying, running backs suggests you can replace good backs who want big money and still win.

2. I think the outpouring of well-wishes for Jim Caldwell—the former Colts and Lions head coach who took the job as quarterbacks coach under Brian Flores in Miami—suggests the respect Caldwell has in every corner of the league from players, coaches and staff league-wide. Caldwell announced Saturday he will devote this season to a health issue he is facing, and will act as a consultant to Flores and the coaching staff and not work full-time. Caldwell was going to be a key element in getting Josh Rosen up to speed in the new Miami offense, so Flores, who already has a full plate in his rookie year as a head coach, will likely give the assistant quarterbacks coach, Jerry Schuplinski, a bigger role in molding Rosen.

3. I think we’re still far away from knowing whether Tyreek Hill will play 16 or zero games, or something in between, for the Chiefs in 2019.

4. I think I’ll be surprised if you get my NFL Quiz of the Week (and no peaking/cheating/Wikipediaing): Jimmy Johnson’s birthday is Tuesday. How old will he be? (Answer in 10x.)

5. I think I owe major thanks/props to my six replacement columnists while I was away:

Former Chargers center/enlightened man Nick Hardwick, for his column on living his best life after football

NBC’s Fred Gaudelli, for a hugely insightful column on what it’s like to put on air the most-watched TV program in the America, the Sunday night football game

Cris Collinsworth and his team at Pro Football Focus, for an enlightened look at how the current game of football should be analyzed

• Rich Eisen of NFL Network, on his 50th birthday, with an inside look on the new way the league’s going to officiate pass interference in the replay era

• Hugh Royal, the fan from Idaho, with what football looks like from small-town America

• Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard, digging deep and explaining everything that went into the drafting of the Colts’ top pick, cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, this spring.

A great crop of guest columnists, the best I’ve ever had. Thanks to all, particularly for taking such pride in wanting to do the job right.

6. I think the next time you hear an NFL owner grouse about his expenses, or how much he’s paying players, think of this: The smallest-market team in football, the Green Bay Packers, took in $477.9 million in revenue last year. The salary cap plus benefits each team in the league had to pay last year (not counting some teams’ bonus payments to players, which can make the number skyrocket) was about $215 million. That’s one reason I think the league will have some negotiating wiggle room with players in upping the percentage of total revenue it pays players to 50 percent or slightly higher. Not saying I think that’s going to happen. Just saying I think the league is healthy enough to hand the players a few percentage points without that killing the business.

7. I think there’s another reason most football people dread the thought of going to 18 games. Last year, NFL starting quarterbacks missed 60 games. That’s about half the missed games, on average, from the previous three seasons. And the NFL had a healthy, very successful season. It’s no coincidence that the league had a very good year with a roster of healthy quarterbacks. The league is convinced that protecting the quarterbacks—which becomes a shakier proposition with a longer season—is part of the centerpiece of its success.

8. I think this is going to be a fun summer for camp visits, and my training-camp jaunt begins Friday morning in Denver. I’ll post my schedule next week, when all is final.

9. I think one of the sad pieces of this business, for me, is seeing players who were good NFL players retire and realizing I never had a chance to get to know them. That’s to be expected, with 1,800 or more players in the league every year. But the other day I spoke to former Texans and Lion safety Glover Quin for the first time, and I realized what I’d been missing in not knowing him. Smart guy, great perspective on life and football. I asked him about his favorite memories on the field as a player. Great answer:

In mid-year 2010, Quin’s second season, Houston was tied with Jacksonville 24-all, and the Jags threw a Hail Mary on the last play of the game. Quin leaped in the end zone and batted the ball down—as a DB is supposed to do. But it went right into the arms of Jags receiver Mike Thomas for a fluke touchdown. The next week, with Houston nursing a 27-23 lead at the Jets in the final minute, Quin was in coverage on Santonio Holmes—and a six-yard TD pass from Mark Sanchez to Holmes beat Quin and the Texans. “In that game, I broke my hand,” Quin told me. “So the next week, I was down, and I was hurt, and I easily could have taken a week and said, ‘I need some recovery time here.’ But I played the next week. We played Tennessee. And I got the first three interceptions of my career. I was [defensive] player of the week. That was pretty rewarding, and it was a good lesson too. You gotta keep going.”

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. I’m probably like many people in America. I saw Federer and Djokovic were in the fifth set of the final at Wimbledon, and I figured I should turn on the TV, and then, for the next 90 minutes, I was transfixed. Had no idea how the fifth set tiebreaker worked. You mean you don’t go into the traditional tiebreaker till it’s 12-12 in games? When did that happen? Well, this year. Each player broke service to make it 8-8, and Djokovic staved off two championship points, and it was then that John McEnroe said, “How much stress can we all take? This is crazy.” McEnroe was announcing on ESPN—amazing that neither player seemed flustered or tight in any way. What a fun match, and what heroic play through the fifth hour by both men. “How lucky we are to witness that?” McEnroe said at the end.

b. The death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs two weeks ago was a heartbreaker, and I never met the man. But what happened Friday night in the Angels’ first game back in Anaheim since Skaggs was found unresponsive in his Texas hotel room was quite incredible.

c. Skaggs’ grieving mother, Debbie Hetman, threw out the first pitch of the game—imagine what she must have been feeling—and it was a perfect strike. Two Angel pitchers threw a combined no-hitter. Every Angel wore number 45, Skaggs’ jersey. The Angels had a 45-second moment of silence before the game. Mike Trout, who never swings at the first pitch, swung at the first pitch he saw in this game, and hit it, 454 feet, for a home run. At game’s end, every Angel went to the mound and deposited their number 45 shirts on the hill, neatly, and observed the moment silently, tearfully.

d. In Anaheim, same town as Disneyland. “If you don’t believe in God, you might want to start,” said Dee Gordon of the Mariners, via the Los Angeles Times.

e. So much great journalism and story-telling out there right now. Here’s Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post on his grandfather’s foray to the shores of France on D-Day, and how it impacts his family to this day. Just brilliant.

f. “She’s the only kid on the island. And she’s graduating.” Zoe Greenberg of the Boston Globe, on a kid’s life on the tiny island of Cuttyhunk.

g. “The chief of police stays on the island from May to October; at other times, there’s no law enforcement (and also no crime).”

h. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, in mid-World Cup, about the influence and determination of the U.S. Women’s National Team, and Megan Rapinoe in particular.

i. Jenkins, so spot-on: “FIFA and U.S. Soccer may pay this team, but they do not run it or rule it. They never have and never will. It is the first truly woman-owned franchise in sports history.”

j. Interesting piece from John Koblin of the New York Times on the tough time even good talk shows are having making it on Netflix. Never would have thought of so much of this, but it makes sense.

k. Tyler Kepner of the Times on the death of Jim Bouton. Bouton to Kepner, once: “Hey, it’s okay to be on the outside.” That’s in so many ways the story of Bouton’s life, and Kepner captured it.

l. Congrats to Maggie Gray of WFAN, formerly of Sports Illustrated, on the birth of her first child, Lucas, July 1. Maggie and husband Andrew are going to be great parents.

m. Saw two great series over my vacation, and read one terrific book.

n. Binge-watched “Killing Eve,” an eight-episode British spy thriller, on the plane home from London. I’m not normally a binger, but I couldn’t stop. Sandra Oh as a British intelligence officer is perfect, and the object of her search, an assassin played by Jodie Comer, is a great, disturbed foil. Highly recommended. Just saw it’s in its second season now, and I’ll be watching.

o. “Chernobyl,” the HBO miniseries about the Russian nuclear disaster 33 years ago, both scared the crap out of me and made me wish it was 10 or 12 shows, not five. That was nearly six hours of riveting TV about the greatest nuclear accident of our time, merging reality-TV with a history lesson about Russia and its cavalier attitude safeguarding such a dangerous operation. We just didn’t know enough about Chernobyl when it happened (surprise!). That’s a big reason why this show matters so much.

p. “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the last trial of Harper Lee” by Casey Cep (Knopf) is a spellbinding true-crime book, and much more. Imagine the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” covering a big southern trial, and then her words on the trial never seeing the light of day. What happened to them? Where is Harper Lee’s final work? Such an oddly incomplete story—Lee’s manuscript, or lack thereof, not “Furious Hours”—told so well.

q. Coffeenerdness: I’ve got a great Only in America story for you. In our new Brooklyn neighborhood, Prospect Heights, I’ve tried the local coffee places (there are several) and found the best one: Gran Caffe De Martini, on Vanderbilt Avenue. I leave my dog, Chuck, on the sidewalk outside and go in for a four-shot latte to go. The coffee is exquisite, as are the Italian cookies and cakes, all hand-made on site by Camila Soto, the young lady who works the place with her partner Stefano De Martini. She is from Colombia, he from Torino, Italy. They met when Stafano, frustrated by the lack of jobs in Italy, took a big chance and moved to New York to open a coffee shop, meeting Camila here after he arrived. All of the coffee and espresso is roasted by his family back in Torino.

He is so happy. She is so happy. It’s on their faces every day when I walk in for the coffee. They work so hard, and they produce a great product, and I cannot recommend the place more highly. The first time I went to Italy years ago, I discovered these coffee shops where, on their way to work, local men and women stopped in for quick espressos, bellying up to bars as if this were 8 at night and not 8 in the morning, and it was a place for a Peroni, not coffee. And in my visits there over the years, I am in those kind of coffee bars once or twice every day. The shots Stefano pulls make me think I’m in Italy, which is the highest praise I can give him.

r. Beernerdness: Hot Brooklyn Sunday afternoon. Mid-eighties. Humid. Subway to Coney Island. Seeing the Brooklyn Cyclones minor-league team, with the Coney Island roller coaster just beyond the outfield fence. Perfect time for two 16-ounce cans of Mermaid Pilsner (Coney Island Brewing Company, Brooklyn, N.Y.), a light lager with a more hoppy taste than most pilsners. Loved it, particularly in the heat.

s. Man, the NBA has had an incredible last 16 days. Amazing. Two thoughts: With those seven extra first-round picks over the next seven years, can Oklahoma City build a great team, and should the GM be fired if they don’t? And why is Kyrie Irving such a big piece of salvation for the Nets? Didn’t he want out of playing with LeBron, and wasn’t he shown the door, in effect, by the Celtics, and isn’t he hurt too much? I guess it’s a no-brainer to want Kevin Durant and Kyrie. I’d rather have Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker.

t. Great stat from ESPN’s Jeff Passan: The second pick in the June baseball draft, high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., picked by the Royals, played in 39 high school games this season, and Kansas City had a scout or executive at each one.

u. Interesting prediction by Jim Callis of MLB.com, about Witt Jr.: “He will be to the Royals what Patrick Mahomes is to the Chiefs.”

v. Winning MVP in his first year as a starting player? … I mean, Jeez. Witt’s going to have be better than Cal Ripken, immediately, for Callis to be right.

w. That Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz trade sure looks great for the Mets, doesn’t it?

x. Quiz answer: Jimmy Johnson turns 76 on Tuesday. Does that stun you as much as it does me?

y. I guess most of you think I’m nuts for criticizing the gluttony of shoving 71 hot dogs down your throat as fast as you can without puking. I’ll just say the day I take that back is the day I cease being a person.

The Adieu Haiku

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As the NFL
starts its 100th year—Please!
No on 18 games.

20 responses to “FMIA: Peyton Manning (Remember Him?) Quarterbacks New TV Series, Mulls Long-Term Life After Football

  1. I don’t see how Manning is better than Brees.
    Per Pro Football Focus , the 2018 NFL best QB was Brees, not Mahomes…at 40.
    Per Football Outsiders, 2018 NFL Passing plus and minus, off the charts #1 was Brees.
    At 40.

  2. Manning is the right man for the job on this NFL series, he’s likeable, his “Q” factor makes it easier for people to open up to him in an interview setting, he has a natural sense of humor that would be painful if a person tried to fake it…the Bears recently did a phenomenally successful “100 years of Bears Football”, with a top 100 players of all time who all came together for a weekend at the Rosemont convention center for interview sessions and question and answer periods that were really remarkable. So it’s no surprise that the NFL would do the same thing.

  3. Word up, Gran Caffe De Martini! I live right down the block. There’s a great bar next door for watching football on Sundays – Soda Bar. May it grace FMIA starting in September!

  4. ahzroc says:
    I don’t see how Manning is better than Brees. Per Pro Football Focus , the 2018 NFL best QB was Brees, not Mahomes…at 40. Per Football Outsiders, 2018 NFL Passing plus and minus, off the charts #1 was Brees. At 40.
    ———————
    Firstly that ranking (as all such “year” rankings) was done before the postseason, and once again Brady outperformed Brees as he has outperformed everyone. Brady also threw more yards than Brees in 2018. And Brady has more titles than Brees and Manning combined, and Brady (not Brees or Manning) has the all-time career passing yards record (Brees just has the regular season mark). At 41. And after the SB and looking to 2019, PFF ranks Brady #1.

  5. Peter, could the 18 game schedule be a negotiating tactic for the CBA? I feel like the NFL puts in on the table just to get some leverage. The players then have to give something in negotiations to have it taken off the table.

  6. “I guess most of you think I’m nuts for criticizing the gluttony of shoving 71 hot dogs down your throat as fast as you can without puking.”

    Nah, the point is taken. Some of us just think a guy who brags about craft beers and expensive coffee (which can also be considered gluttony) isn’t the right person to make that point.

  7. Is an 18 game season possible? Not only, can it be done, with the international market becoming broader, I think 18 games is the only way it can be accommodated. I understand what you’re thinking “this guy is nuts!”. Hear me out. Not ONLY do we add 2 more games, to make it 18. We add 2 more bye weeks, per team. That would grant 18 games, and 3 bye weeks. The additional bye weeks are for teams to remain healthy, to prolong the season (think – no more dead sports summer time!) and to provide time for international travel. In turn, this would accommodate the team in London to have road trips to the US, for 3-4 game sets at a time, and week off in-between. Listen, we all want more football, and we all want less pre-season football, this truly seems like the best way to accomplish all of that.

  8. I like what Peyton is doing, but calling it ‘work’ has an out-of-touch feel to it.

  9. Brady’s had 14 top 10 defenses. Brees and Manning combined have had 7.

    —————————————–

    streetyson says:

    Firstly that ranking (as all such “year” rankings) was done before the postseason, and once again Brady outperformed Brees as he has outperformed everyone. Brady also threw more yards than Brees in 2018. And Brady has more titles than Brees and Manning combined, and Brady (not Brees or Manning) has the all-time career passing yards record (Brees just has the regular season mark). At 41. And after the SB and looking to 2019, PFF ranks Brady #1.

  10. I always though the NFL would expand the playoffs by a few games, eight teams in and no bye weeks, or seven teams in with only the number one seed getting a bye week. I assume the plan from there would be two games on Saturday, a huge day of football on Sunday (three games) and one Monday night game. The NFL gets its additional revenue and the majority of players don’t have to play an extra game. (And over the last three years, at least seven teams from each division have a had a winning record.)

    This has to be an easier sell than adding two games to the regular season.

  11. If the NFL were to go to an 18-game schedule, where players can play a max of 16 games, I will stop watching AND paying attention. Over the past few years, I’ve gone from recording and/or watching at least eight games a week, to only watching my Steelers and only the Sunday/Monday night games where the matchup is compelling. Thursday night football is not worth my time. This year, I have not decided yet if I will be paying for DirecTV’s NFL package, but I probably will so that I can watch the Steeler games. So I am gradually starting to not watch as much, but I do pay a lot of attention to the league on-line, due to my FF leagues. I usually couldn’t care less about the games themselves, outside of the Steelers, as long as my FF players do well. The 18/16 scenario will ruin fantasy, which will pretty much ruin my interest in the game. And for the kicker, I’m sick to death of the constant rule changes. Whether red or yellow, the number of flags thrown is getting out of hand.

  12. I am sure all the fans stopped watching when it went to 14 games and then 16? I am also sure that the Jimmy G games had a huge veto when Brady was suspended.

    If an extra two games of NFL football, spilling into February doesn’t get you excited, then maybe you should just switch to watching something else.

  13. Yours and Rich Eisen couldn’t be more wrong about PI..the league and media and players seem determined to insist the average fan simply don’t understand such a complicated sport..utter nonsense..if he showed them like that it’s nothing but spin..stop it already

  14. So if you pay out the nose to see Tom Brady play..and then he gets hurt, do you request a refund for his missed game or do you still go and watch your team? I cam imagine if a guy has a sack, yard or INT incentive in his contract, he’d probably would like to get one of the extra or both games in to achieve it. I don’t buy people would get upset. That’s a small sample of total NFL fans. Even the guys who follow this site who don’t like it, we’re just a minute portion of the overall base. The league didn’t fold during or after the anthem bruhaha. It didn’t fold after the tackling changes, the kickoff changes, two point conversions, QB protections and so on. I guarantee the dudes who voted no will still plop in front of the TV to watch the two games and people will still pay to attend.

  15. Seventeen games would work better and is more likely. No more 8-8 seasons. One more off-week in season and one less pre-season game makes it more attractive to the players. Also, game day squads would increase to 53. Wish the players could get guaranteed contracts, but doubt that can happen.

  16. Instead of going to an 18 game season, each team should be given an additional bye week. The NFL would extend the season adding an additional week of prime time games and generate revenue that way, while also giving the players additional recovery time which could address some player safety and injury issues.

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