It’s been a long time since I’ve answered reader questions in this space. Answering questions has been, for several years, a facet of the PFT Live radio/TV show and the #PFTPM podcast. But without as much happening this weekend as ordinarily would be (today would be the first day of the annual league meetings, with plenty of quotes from owners about rule changes and other team and league matters), we asked for questions on Twitter. Some of you asked some questions, and the 10 best questions are answered below.
From @dcowboy777: Will the schedule still be released before the draft?
Peter King made the case on a recent edition of PFT Live for the schedule release to be delayed until May. (The video is attached.) Given these unique circumstances, it definitely makes sense to wait.
One of the best arguments for releasing the schedule as early as possible comes from the notion that fans who will be traveling to specific games need to know when those games will happen so that they can make arrangements for time off from work, travel, etc. But very few would be doing that this year, if the schedule is released in April.
The strategic argument for releasing the schedule before the draft comes from the possibility that draft selections will be influenced based on when, for example, a defense will be facing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. That’s a highly nuanced factor that becomes largely irrelevant during this year’s no-frills draft.
With so many variables regarding when and how and if the season can be played, it makes sense to wait. It’s unclear how long the wait should last; ultimately, it may be a “know it when you see it” proposition.
Here’s another reason to wait — with nothing else happening in the sports world, the schedule release could become a much more significant offseason tentpole event for the NFL, rather than something that currently serves as an appetizer to the draft. If it happens in the middle of May and if live sports still haven’t returned, the schedule release could be turned into a multi-evening event, which would generate significant viewership.
The league’s official position on the matter, as of Sunday morning, is that no decision has been made on when the schedule will be released. That could end up being the official position, for a while.
From @BourbonStSaints: What’s going to happen to the morning radio broadcast of PFT Live after NBC Sports Radio shuts down after Tuesday? I and many others listen during our morning commutes. I catch up at night with the podcasts, but what about the mornings?
For those of you who haven’t heard, Westwood One has decided to stop distributing NBC Sports Radio as of March 31. It was a sudden, out-of-the-blue decision that stunned many at NBC (including me).
The bad news is that, at least for now, the radio hour from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. ET will be suspended.
The good news is that PFT Live will continue, with two hours of fresh content from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET every weekday, re-aired from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET. Without a radio clock that includes more commercial time than TV (and a pair of hard breaks every hour), the TV show will have a much better flow, with fewer stops and starts.
Also, the audio feed of PFT Live will continue to be broadcast live on SiriusXM 211 and TuneIn. A podcast of the show will be posted every day.
As to podcasts, I’ve done fewer episodes of #PFTPM since Westwood One announced its decision to end NBC Sports Radio. Once the dust settles this week, there will be more episodes of #PFTPM, which can replace the 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. ET radio hour during your commute or your shower-shave-shampoo-shiitake-mushroom-omelette time every weekday morning.
The best news regarding PFT Live is coming, eventually. It will be an exciting new twist on how we’ve done things, and we’ll have more to share on that in the not-too-distant-future.
From @RedskinsRant: Why do you hate the Redskins?
Anyone who tries to cover the NFL in an honest, candid, and objective way gets this question from time to time about all 32 teams. They also get the reverse of the question for many teams; “Why do you love the [insert name of team you supposedly love]?”
Cris Collinsworth has faced that question over and over again throughout his broadcasting career. At one point, he decided to respond to the question of why he hates a given team by saying, “I just do.”
We understand that people follow their favorite teams with a high degree of passion and engagement, and that they are always looking for any indication from broadcasters, writers, and commentators as to whether they are “with us” or “against us.” Did so-and-so say something good about our team? Or did that rat bastard say something bad, again? It’s an intensely personal reaction, along the lines of someone saying something about someone’s mother or sister or father or whoever is related by blood or marriage.
The problem for certain teams arises from the fact that, because they seem to do everything wrong, honest, candid, and objective analysis results in far more bad things than good being said. The Washington franchise has, in recent years, owned that category.
Seriously, what has the organization done right since Robert Griffin III’s knee bent the wrong way during a January 2013 playoff game on FedEx Field dirt that had enough green paint to stain the shoes of those who walked on it? Hiring Ron Rivera and firing Bruce Allen are, by far, the best moves the team has made in seven years. So maybe there will be more praise coming, from me and from others.
None of that will persuade me to resume using a nickname that has become a dictionary-defined racial slur. Some Washington fans get very upset with me for choosing to respect the Native Americans who are genuinely offended by the term. Which makes me wonder whether those fans are trying to shout down not only me but also their own consciences.
From @mikebowman2: Why do you have an agenda against Joe Burrow being drafted by the Bengals?
I don’t. I have an agenda for smoking out agendas that may be hiding from plain view, which is a very common dynamic in the NFL.
I gave zero thought to Burrow potentially trying to avoid being drafted by the Bengals until Super Bowl week. Before that, Burrow had said he’ll gladly play for anyone who’s willing to pay him. Then came Carson Palmer, a former Bengals quarterback, blasting the Cincinnati franchise for not being committed to winning. Then came the news that Carson’s kid brother, Jordan, is helping Burrow get ready for the draft.
Then came Burrow, appearing on Dan Patrick’s show two days before the Super Bowl, revising Burrow’s prior position and saying he wants to be the No. 1 overall pick, but that he also wants to play for a team that is committed to winning. It was an alarming twist, one that carried the obvious influence of Carson to Jordan to Joe.
Burrow, I firmly believe, was toying at the time with the idea of making an Elway/Eli-style power play. Burrow, I firmly believe, decided based on the advice of his agents at CAA that Bengals owner Mike Brown would not flinch in the face of a threat or promise to sit out the season and re-enter the draft. Burrow, I firmly believe, decided not to pass on the four-year, fully-guaranteed contract worth more than $36 million that he’ll be offered by the Bengals.
If Burrow truly had hoped to be drafted by another team, the better move would have been to say all the right things publicly, to provide no one in the media with any meat for an argument that he hopes to not be drafted by the Bengals, and to craft and hatch a plan aimed at having Mike Brown come to the conclusion on his own that he wanted to do something other than draft Burrow. That didn’t happen in January or early February, and it’s far too late to try to make that happen now.
From @letsgomtnrs: Is there any chance the NFL plays the season in empty stadiums?
Everything is on the table for now; there’s no other way to approach this unprecedented challenge to planning and logistics. Still, the NFL needs to be proactive about identifying every potential “what if?” question and coming up with a plan for every possible permutation.
So, yes, it’s possible that games will be played in empty stadiums. It’s possible that some teams won’t be able to play in their home markets. It’s possible that no games will be played at all.
Theoretically, it’s possible that the NFL will build in the middle of nowhere a corona-free campus where all players, coaches, trainers, doctors, broadcasters, officials, etc. would spend the entire season sequestered from the rest of the world, with games played on a series of fields from which the games would be televised, with no one else present. (I haven’t heard that this is a possibility, but it’s one that the league definitely should be considering.)
For now, it’s too early to know what will happen. But it’s not too early for the NFL to begin identifying clear and firm plans for every potential twist and turn that could play out over the next several months.
Another one from @letsgomtnrs: If you were advising a college player would you recommend they choose an agent?
Absolutely. Even though the rookie wage scale limits dramatically the topics for negotiation after a player is picked (especially after the first 20 or so picks), a good agent will help a player be drafted as early as possible, by getting the player in the right pre-draft workout program (and paying for it) and by working his or her contacts within the league in an effort to make the player’s case for being picked higher than his peers and — perhaps more importantly — responding to negative campaigning from agents who represent other prospects.
For example, Lamar Jackson quite possibly lasted until pick No. 32 in 2018 because he didn’t have an agent to advocate for him aggressively and to push back against agents representing other quarterbacks and first-round prospects who were undoubtedly spewing Bill Polian-style nonsense to any potentially interest team about the 2019 NFL MVP.
On the flip side, the late Gary Wichard launched an aggressive, multi-week effort that somehow vaulted former NFL cornerback Pacman Jones over Antrel Rolle and Carlos Rogers in the first round of the 2005 draft, despite very real off-field concerns that quickly came to fruition once Jones made it to the NFL.
That’s what good agents do in the days and weeks before the draft. This year, that advocacy by agents who are respected and trusted by executives and coaches arguably will be more important than it’s ever been, since teams won’t have the benefit of in-person visits and private workouts and Pro Days.
From @BirnUnit: What would the NFL have done if the Super Bowl was scheduled for the weekend everything started shutting down?
That’s a great question, one that the NFL is surely grateful it never had to address.
Things moved very quickly during the early days of the realization that the coronavirus presented a serious threat to American public health. If the situation had begun to deteriorate during Super Bowl week, with teams and fans in South Florida, would the NFL have pulled the plug on the game?
What if the NBA and other leagues had suspended play two or three days before the Super Bowl?
While technically irrelevant, the NFL needs to be thinking about these issues given the possibility that the pandemic will exhibit peaks and valleys and more peaks and more valleys throughout the country in the coming months. What if, for example, Tampa emerges as a hot spot a couple of weeks before Super Bowl LV?
Although the NFL avoided the question of shutting down the premier American sporting event in 2020, the next one could be affected. It will be critical to have clear contingency plans in place, which would include moving the game to a non-hot spot on very short notice.
From @treetru: Since coaches are relatively underpaid could they strike?
Coaches have no union, so they can’t strike without blatantly violating their individual employment contracts. And coaches likely will never have a union, because any effort to unionize would result in any coaches who organize the effort being blackballed by the league.
There are too many capable football coaches and not enough football-coaching jobs in the NFL for NFL coaches to roll the dice with their careers. And some (many . . . most) owners won’t hesitate to throw someone overboard permanently and move on to the next candidate if/when a coach shows troublemaker tendencies.
To the extent that some coaches in a non-union setting believe (and some do) that the market for coaching salaries has been suppressed by collusion among teams, it’s theoretically possible that one or more will file an antitrust lawsuit. Again, however, the coach(es) who take a stand will be trading the exercise of their legal rights for the privilege of working in the NFL.
From @Fuss_Nation: What does the CBA say in terms of a season being cancelled? Do players earn game checks and do they earn years of service? How would the 2021 draft order be determined?
The NBA’s CBA includes a “force majeure” provision that specifically addresses the inability to play games due to war, epidemic, etc. The NFL’s CBA and the standard player contract do not, which fuels an argument that the players are entitled to be paid even if games aren’t played.
The NFL’s position (although the basis for it currently isn’t clear) possibly will be that, in the event there is no season, the players will not be entitled to payment of any kind. For some owners, the eventual resolution of the issue by a judge or an arbitrator could force them to take out hundred of millions in loans or sell their teams, if players are entitled to be paid even though games aren’t played.
As to the 2021 draft, the order would be the least of the concerns. If there’s no 2020 NFL season, there likewise will be no 2020 college football season. Which means that teams would be drafting players in 2021 with no game film since 2019.
From @NFLeeds: Do you think Bruce Arians and being away from Bill Belichick will eventually result in a more free talking Florida Tommy where he has fun actually says something when he talks?
No. Brady has had 20 years of the Patriot Way baked into his DNA, and the art/skill of talking without saying anything is something that he surely hopes will spread to his new teammates and coaches.
Over nearly half of his life, Brady has mastered the art of creating sound bites that are 99.9-percent obvious or disinteresting. It’s not something that he’ll be willing or able to unlearn in a year or two with the Buccaneers.
Take, for example, his introductory conference call as a member of the Buccaneers. Not a word of it was surprising or enlightening. Indeed, the most significant thing he said (in my view) is that he personally attended Joe Montana’s last home game with the 49ers.
It may end up being the most significant thing Brady says during his entire tenure in Tampa Bay.