ST. JOSEPH, Mo.—Patrick Mahomes, with a throbbing turf toe on his left foot and assorted bruises from the beating he’d just taken from the Bucs, was dispirited walking off the field after the 31-9 Super Bowl loss six months ago. For the first time in 54 NFL starts, Mahomes hadn’t led his team to a single touchdown. On this night, the biggest factor wasn’t Mahomes stinking it up—it was a cobbled-together offensive line that leaked enough to get Mahomes hit or significantly pressured 29 times, likely the biggest beatdown of a quarterback in Super Bowl history.
One of the first people Mahomes saw post-game was GM Brett Veach.
“Trust me,” Veach told him. “We’re gonna get this line right.”
It’s a strange time in the NFL, with angry quarterbacks in Green Bay, Philadelphia and Houston trying to force their way off teams—and another in Seattle possibly on simmer. Tom Brady did the power play, politely, a year ago, and it worked wonders for him. Power to the Quarterbacks!
I thought of all that watching Mahomes and his Kansas City mates practice Thursday and Friday mornings at Western Missouri State University. I looked down from the media perch up a hill from the toasty practice field, and this is the first-unit offensive line I saw shielding Mahomes:
Left tackle: Orlando Brown, acquired in trade from Baltimore on April 23.
Left guard: Joe Thuney, the best guard on the free-agent market, signed March 18.
Center: Creed Humphrey, rookie, drafted 63rd overall on April 30.
Right guard: Trey Smith, rookie, drafted 226th overall on May 1.
Right tackle: Lucas Niang, in his first NFL camp, a COVID opt-out last year as a third-round rookie. (Mike Remmers, out with a back injury, could take this job when healthy.)
Five for five, for now. All new. I don’t recall in my 37 years covering the NFL ever seeing a prime Super Bowl contender with a brand-new offensive line—or any major position group with every starter a new import. We’ll see if those five guys start five weeks from now in the opener against Cleveland, or if maybe one or two other newbies—Austin Blythe or Kyle Long—win jobs up front.
But that’s not the point of this column.
The Lead: Chiefs' model
The point: Veach and coach Andy Reid realize Mahomes, a 25-year-old gift to modern quarterbacking, is the meal ticket for the entire franchise. It’s not kowtowing to Mahomes to promise him the GM will fix a woeful line. It’s not kowtowing to Mahomes when Reid runs a play Mahomes suggests, and the coach does it often (I’ve got a one for you later in that category.) It’s smart. And I think the Packers can learn from this, and the Eagles and Texans and Seahawks too.
Say what you want about the Packers going 26-6 with a traditional football structure—GMs pick players, coaches coach, players play—and criticize Rodgers for wanting, as he said, “to be more involved in conversations directly affecting my job.” But is it really smart to do things that make your best player seethe? Is it really smart to not provide him the best tools, large and small, to help him win? It seems smart to say to your franchise player, “Tell me what you think. Let’s talk.”
Mahomes, Reid and Veach comprise the modern triumvirate atop a football team, a model for franchises to study. Mahomes knows it.
“The big thing is, they really want to win and so do I,” Mahomes told me after practice Thursday, framed by some western Missouri woods, occasionally talking over some cicadas.
“I think whenever you look around the league, every guy that’s kind of had some stuff happen this off season, they just want to win,” he said. “They want to win Super Bowls. Having coach Reid and having Brett Veach, and knowing the commitment they have for this organization and to win, that’s what allowed me to sign the contract that I did. I knew that those guys were going to be around. I had talked to them before that and I knew they were going to surround me with great players and a chance to win every single season. We hold each other accountable. That’s why I think that we have this relationship that we have.”
Quick rundown of the column before we get back to my primer of the partnership of a quarterback and his team:
- Brandon Staley, a Division III defensive coordinator five years ago today, now has the fate of a Los Angeles sports franchise in his hands. “My path doesn’t make a lot of sense to people,” he tells me. Staley also introduces me to a new word.
- One heck of a message from the 2026 NFL commissioner, Peyton Manning, Sunday night in his Hall of Fame induction speech. “I’m not done with football,” Manning said near the end of it. “I never will be. I am committing to ensuring its future.”
- The future of Russell Wilson, who has started all 160 Seattle games since draft day 2012, and updates on other Seahawkisms.
- I get into a new book about communicating with Gen Z players, written by the son of a Pro Football Hall of Famer. The NFL’s paying attention.
- Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater throw camp incompletions. The Aaron Rodgers Watch continues in Colorado.
- The miscellany: The best HoF speech nugget, Von Miller’s cool jacket, the four most infuriating words in travel, the meaning of $2,529,411.76, the versatility of Pat Surtain, Quandre Diggs gets a memorable FaceTime call from two friendly rivals, the franchise that’s gained $740 million in value in COVID times, Jarrett Bell with a gem of a story, I love the HOF Cliffs Notes speeches, and let’s all celebrate Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird.
- Mahomes, by the way, on that offensively feeble Super Bowl: “For us to go out there and not be able to get in the end zone at all, it’s something that will kind of haunt me for the rest of my career.”
At dinner last Thursday night in St. Joseph, Veach brought along one of the stars of “Modern Family,” Eric Stonestreet, a two-time Emmy winner, native of Kansas City, Kans., in town to watch camp and worship his lifelong favorite team. As Veach and I were talking about the simpatico Mahomes/Reid/Veach relationship, Stonestreet said something that resonated.
“He’s our quarterback,” said Stonestreet, 49. “For the first time in my life—for the first time in most of current Kansas City fans’ lives—we have our own quarterback. The other guys weren’t ours. They weren’t permanent. They were band-aids. Not Patrick.”
Everything Mahomes does charms the fan base. They liked it last year when he bought a stake in the Royals, they liked it this year when he bought a stake in Sporting Kansas City (the MLS team)—they even liked it when he announced he was bringing his favorite Texas burger chain, Whataburger, to the Kansas City area. They loved it when he committed to the team with a 12-year contract last year. Collectively, Mahomes showed he was putting down serious roots.
I always thought a seminal moment for Mahomes came late in 2018, when Reid fired ace running back Kareem Hunt for not being forthcoming with him on a domestic-abuse issue. The next day, Mahomes, younger than 50 of the 53 players on the roster, asked to speak to the team, and Reid said yes. His message was, essentially: We can be friends with Kareem forever, but we can’t let this wreck our season. The franchise knew it had something precocious and special in Mahomes, but that day sealed it. And the franchise has responded in kind.
“He’s got a great pulse of the team,” Veach said. “Smart players have an innate feel of their responsibility inside the team. He has that, and he’s been able to stay humble while becoming a global product. We would be doing a great disservice to the franchise long-term if we didn’t engage him on the important issues that affect our team. His play warrants, his impact warrants it.”
Mahomes also just gets it. He gets all facets of the organization. After he made his first Pro Bowl in 2018, he inscribed a Pro Bowl jersey for Veach—his biggest pre-2017 draft champion in the organization—with this: “Thanks for believing in me from the beginning! Let’s go get some rings!”
I asked Veach about the problems other teams are having with their franchise quarterbacks, particularly in Green Bay, where Rodgers went to the edge of a cliff with the franchise before finally agreeing to report just before training camp.
“I guess to use Green Bay as an example—clearly I don’t know the ins and outs of the issues there,” Veach said. “But I find it hard to believe that what happened there could happen here.”
Brady was 42 when he got his amicable divorce with New England. Rodgers almost got his freedom (and still may next year) at 37. Sometimes players just get sick of their surroundings and want to start over. But it’s not just a seniority thing. Deshaun Watson’s 25 and desperately wants out of Houston. Carson Wentz basically went rogue late last season in Philly, at age 27, and got himself traded. The disputes can come at any time … if the relationships are not nurtured well.
Reid is the Big Kahuna in Kansas City, of course. Nothing happens without him. But he’s also the Big Listener. The biggest play of the team’s Super Bowl season came with the Niners up 20-10 with 7:17 left in the game; it was third-and-15 from the Kansas City 35-yard line, and on a replay challenge, Mahomes came to the sidelines to discuss the next desperation play. “Do we have time to run ‘Wasp?’“ Mahomes said, a quote that is emblazoned on the brain of every Eric Stonestreet in the team’s vast fan base. Mahomes thought this play (“Wasp” is the abbreviation) could get Tyreek Hill free against a single safety downfield. “If he feels it, I’m giving it to him,” Reid said, and so Mahomes picked the play that turned the game around. The completion went for 43 yards and started the onslaught that led to the first Super Bowl title for Kansas City in a half-century.
The other day, I asked Mahomes to pick a more recent play that illustrated his chemistry with Reid. “I don’t know if you remember,” Mahomes said. “But early in the season we had that play against the Chargers where Tyreek kind of ran like a triple move and I sprinted out to the right and threw him a [54-yard] touchdown. It actually went off a route that we had ran against the Chargers in the year prior, where he ran a double move and they covered it really well. I went to coach Reid and I was like, ‘You think we have time to let him do three moves?’
“I look at stuff that we do in the game, and games prior, even stuff that Alex [Smith] did when he was here. I say, You think we can do it this way or that way?’ He [Reid] has no hesitation on trying it. I think that’s been the biggest thing. There’s some of them that we run that don’t work at all that we don’t talk about. But he will always give me a chance to try because he feels like if I believe in it, I can make it work.”
The play to Hill was in the gameplan already—Mahomes had advocated for it with Reid, and Reid had it in that week. So the fact that Mahomes brought it to Reid, and Reid liked it, and Reid had it in the gameplan … it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the coach okayed the QB’s idea at a fairly crucial point of the game—KC down 17-9, and struggling, midway through the third quarter.
“I meet with Patrick Fridays and then with the quarterbacks again Saturday, and we rank the plays the way we like ‘em,” Reid told me. “I say, ‘If there’s something you don’t like, be honest with me, and we’ll just get rid of it.’ I mean, we got 200 plays. What we want to call in the game we should feel pretty good about. Patrick’s good at suggesting things that have a good chance to work.”
It’s a good partnership. Reid and Veach will be joined at the hip through at least 2025, long enough to enter quarterback-middle-age with their partner, Mahomes. Anyone out there paying attention to how such a partnership should work the right way?
After two days in KC camp…
Mahomes on his surgically repaired turf toe: “This is the best it’s felt since before the playoffs last year. Haven’t had to take any days off or any plays off.” … Yes, Mahomes does want to be part of an ownership group for an NBA franchise in Kansas City. Baseball and soccer, cool. Basketball would be his dream. “He’s been talking about it a lot,” said Tyrann Mathieu … Reid spent chunks of time this offseason dealing with the fallout of his son, former linebackers coach Britt Reid, critically injuring a 5-year-old girl when he struck her family’s vehicle three days before the Super Bowl. Britt Reid has pleaded not guilty to felony DWI charges and awaits trial. “Life’s full of balances,” Andy Reid said. “We all have challenges. I’m sensitive to the little girl and her family. I’m sensitive to Britt and his family.” … Jerick McKinnon made $17 million in San Francisco, but it was one injury after another in three washout seasons trying to be a feature back. He’s wearing number one and looks good here.
L.A. Chargers: Meet Brandon Staley
COSTA MESA, Calif.—Just after 7 a.m. last Monday, Brandon Staley, the 38-year-old head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, walked through the hallway of the team’s training facility when he passed and fist-bumped veteran cornerback Chris Harris. Walking away, Staley said, “He’s such a G.”
G. Gangster. [I will attempt to explain: A “G” is someone great at his job, usually spoken by people under 40. It’s a respectful term.]
“We got Coach talking the lingo!” safety Derwin James said.
Meeting his players on their terms is part of Staley’s deal. His rise to be a head coach is one of the most amazing stories in the league right now. Five years ago today, he was preparing to coach the 2016 John Carroll Blue Streaks. But not as head coach—as defensive coordinator of the Division III school in the Cleveland ‘burbs. He was not a normal Division III assistant coach. He used his connections, for instance, to wrangle a week to learn inside New Orleans Saints camp in 2009. A football-nerdy notebook with drawn plays from that week sits on his desk in Orange County today. “God bless my wife,” Staley said. “I spent every last dime we had to make that trip. I soaked in everything.”
In 2017, he interviewed for a job coaching linebackers coach with the Bears under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and got the gig. He followed Fangio to Denver in 2019, won the defensive coordinator job with the Rams in 2020 (by force of personality and verve), and got the Chargers’ gig 24 hours after the Rams’ season ended last January.
“My path doesn’t make a lot of sense to people,” he told me, sitting in his office. “I was just hoping to make it to the NFL within five years. But this? No.
“Something I vividly remember from my interview here: I told them, ‘I don’t know it all, guys. But I promise there won’t be anyone who will figure it out and learn it faster. That’s who I am—teacher, leader, competitor.’ I didn’t want to come across as a know-it-all, savant, wizard-type.”
Staley didn’t come across that way, GM Tom Telesco said. He came across as a communicator who knew all three phases of football well. “The business has changed a lot,” Telesco told me. “Gosh, he was coaching Division III five years ago, but we thought if you can connect with players, and you really know football, does it matter how old you are?”
The Chargers hope Staley is the defensive Sean McVay. Both are young, extremely exuberant, bursting with ideas, and incredibly self-assured. Both took over Los Angeles football franchises with no head-coaching experience. McVay head-coached in a Super Bowl at 33, though. There’s the difference. Staley’s got a lot to prove, and a league-full of eyes will be on him.
It’s not like the Chargers made a David Culley pick, though—picking a coach out of left field. Lots of teams loved Staley after his lone year as defensive coordinator with the Rams, when they finished first in the league in yards and points allowed. “He’s the best defensive coordinator I’ve had in the NFL for sure,” said all-pro Rams corner Jalen Ramsey, who spent just one season with Staley. The man who hired him to coach linebackers in Chicago out of John Carroll in 2017, Broncos coach Vic Fangio, told me: “Some players, some coaches, see the game through a straw. They see how the game affects them, or their group. They’ve got tunnel vision. Brandon sees how it affects all 11, all 22.”
Staley fit the Mike Tomlin/McVay profile. I remember asking Dan Rooney about hiring Tomlin at 34 when he was a first-year coordinator for the Vikings. “If we didn’t hire him now, we’d never have had the chance,” Rooney told me. NFL teams like to pluck the next hot coach, and Staley was going to get a job soon. The Eagles might have picked him to succeed Doug Pederson; Staley was due to spend a full day with Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman before the Chargers cut them off by hiring him the day before that scheduled meeting.
I think the 2021 Chargers are the most fascinating team in football, the only team with a prayer to seriously challenge Kansas City in the AFC West. They have:
- Justin Herbert, the rising-star quarterback who looks like a franchise player at 23, piloting a very young team.
- Staley, the kid head coach.
- Derwin James, the quarterback of the defense who’s had two straight years wrecked with injuries (broken foot, torn meniscus, COVID) after being a first-team all-pro safety as a 2018 rookie. He’s healthy and motivated to show he’s not injury-prone.
- A skeptical league staring at them. The Chargers, who didn’t have a strong Los Angeles fan base when they left San Diego, surprised locals last week by saying they’d exceeded 45,000 season tickets in their first year with fans at new SoFi Stadium. The big question: Will those fans be Chargers’ partisans, or will they be lovers of the teams on an attractive home slate—New England, the Giants, Dallas, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City—who buy from brokers and make this a stadium with road-team advantage. “I think SoFi will be StubHub on steroids,” said one L.A. sports market expert I know. The Chargers took steps to not sell a load of tickets to brokers. Now we’ll see if their attempts to make SoFi a place with a majority of Charger partisans can work.
- A potential Defensive Player of the Year in Joey Bosa, another cornerstone player who’s been hurt more than his share too, with six missed starts last year. His pass-rush ability for 17 games is vital.
The biggest question, I think, is Staley’s ability to hit the ground running with a playoff contender—and with such a thin NFL resume. When I shadowed him for a morning last week, I saw a confident coach with a meticulous plan. But will he have his players’ ears in a three-game losing streak in November, when times get tough? Everyone can be optimistic now, and everyone in this franchise is. But in August…everyone’s optimistic.
At 7:28 a.m. last Monday, Staley walked into a staff meeting at the Chargers’ facility in Costa Mesa. There were 27 coaches/coaching interns in the team meeting room. The average age looked to be about 36 or 38. As he got going, Staley didn’t have any surprises—just verities he wanted his coaches to reinforce on the practice field that morning.
“Make it a great day today, guys,” Staley said at one point. “Physical. Fierce. I want the quarterback to feel the consequences of something bad happening. Show ‘em how we practice. Keep reinforcing it with your players. Talk to them. Talk about competition all the time. Talk about playing the game the right way.”
We went to his office before practice. On the desk was a book called, “When Breath Becomes Air,” by a Stanford neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, written while he was dying of lung cancer at age 37. It’s educational and inspirational and tragic, all at once. Staley, a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was moved by the book, by the surgeon’s search for meaning and importance, all the way to the end.
“Why ‘When Breath Becomes Air?’ I asked.
Staley opened the book, which was rife with Staley’s hand-written notes and underlined passages. “This book spoke to me,” he said. He found a passage written by Kalanithi and read it aloud: “I was compelled by neurosurgery with its unforgiving call to perfection … Neurosurgery seemed to present the most challenging and direct confrontation with meaning, identity and death.”
“I think this job, being the head coach of a football team, requires that type of skill set,” Staley said. While emphasizing that Kalanithi was trained to save lives and that’s real-worldly far different than being trained to coach football games, using all aspects of your brain and your drive felt similar to Staley.
He said: “The depth and the breadth—you’ve got to have command over a lot of things. You have to be able to deal with tough news. You have to be able to have important relationships in your job and your life. Relationships with patients, relationships with doctors, relationships with your family. A lot’s being asked of you all the time. There’s really high expectations, there’s high pressure on the outside. There’s a standard of performance that is real. That’s why I love it so much—because I think it really brings out the best in you. It requires a lot of you.”
The Chargers practice a few miles from their facility. In the 10-minute ride to practice, I asked Staley about being in charge of a team so early in his life. “I don’t care what your age is,” he said. “Whether you’re 38 or 58, it’s important to know who you’re coaching. I am going through some of the things my players—Corey Linsley, Bryan Bulaga, Derwin James, all with young kids—are going through. We’re raising three kids under 6. What I enjoy the most is staying out here, coaching and teaching and building relationships with the players. Relationships are big for us here. Relationships and competition. I feel like in order for you to push it, you gotta know these guys. A lot of people will say ‘players’ coach.’ I’m like, no, I’m just their coach. I would hope that I’m a players’ coach. I would hope that I would say that I have that type of relationship because then we can push it harder. I can ask more of them.”
On the field, Staley’s defense has a good day. Two picks of Herbert frustrate the young passer (“This defense does a great job of disguising,” Herbert said afterward), and overall, the defense won the day. Brandon Staley’s team seems happy, forward-looking, optimistic—which, of course, it should be in training camp.
“He challenges us every day,” James said after practice. “He’s a great leader too. My mom always taught me you can lead at any age. It blows me away that he was a college coordinator five years ago, but that shows me the kind of person and coach he is. It’s his time.”
Denver: Obvious storyline of the year
ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—Rank the quarterback situations in the NFL for 2021. We could go many different ways, but let’s take one crack at where the AFC West teams stand:
Kansas City: First overall. Patrick Mahomes is 25 and at the peak of his powers, in an offense that helps him be great.
L.A. Chargers: Ninth overall. Justin Herbert, doing his best Dan Fouts imitation.
Las Vegas: Thirteenth overall. Derek Carr’s definitely good enough to be an asset in January.
Denver: Somewhere around 28th overall.
Ahead of Houston and Philly, but then how does one rate WFT (Ryan Fitzpatrick), the Jets (Zach Wilson and nothing behind him), Carolina (Sam Darnold), and New Orleans (Winston/Hill but with Sean Payton)?
Point is, the Broncos, with 2019 second-rounder Drew Lock and tarnished vet Teddy Bridgewater competing for the job in training camp, do not know if they’ve got the quarterback of the future on the roster today. The answer at this point in camp is resoundingly cloudy.
“The quarterback’s the big elephant in the room,” rookie GM George Paton told me, sitting on a bench next to the practice field before practice last Wednesday. “Everyone wants to talk about that. Which they should.”
On this day, Lock and Bridgewater, who are splitting starter reps, each had the same game situation at the end of practice in 11-on-11 work: first down, 2:10 left, ball at his own 25-, two timeouts left, down seven. Lock moved the offense downfield smartly, completing six of seven throws and moving 20 yards away from scoring. On the next throw, he forced a ball into traffic to Jerry Jeudy at the goal line, safety Justin Simmons jumped it, and the interception wrecked Lock’s day.
Now Teddy Time. He, too, moved the offense efficiently, and he too got down to around the 20-yard line, and he too threw an interception intended for undrafted rookie Branden Mack, who never turned around for a pass down the left sideline.
Pick, pick. If that’s not a perfect metaphor for the Broncos in 2021 …
“That’s a doable situation,” coach Vic Fangio said post-practice, meaning having that much time and timeouts to go 75 yards. He was annoyed. “We gotta go do it.”
The NFL has some simple truths. The biggest: If you don’t have a quarterback, you won’t win. Jobs will be lost (Gary Kubiak and Vance Joseph and staffs couldn’t survive, and Fangio, at 13-19 two years in, knows he’s got to win more), fans will turn sour, hope will be fleeting. Denver’s gone from being a relatively sure playoff thing to being in the franchise’s worst dry spell in a half-century. You can look it up: Since the AFL-NFL merger, no Denver team has had four straight losing seasons, until now.
Following the weekend Peyton Manning entered Canton, it seems an apt time to take the temperature of the men who have tried to replace him. It’s an ugly scene. Denver is 32-48 since Manning left, and the Broncos’ 79.0 composite passer rating over the past five seasons (per profootballreference.com) is better than only one team—the Jets. Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemien, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Lock have all had the chance to be the heir to Manning since he retired six years ago. None could do it. Maybe Lock will. The clock’s ticking.
Paton gets knocked for not choosing Justin Fields or Mac Jones with his first first-round pick ever last April (he took Alabama cornerback Pat Surtain), and he’ll have to live with the results. But he wasn’t convinced Fields or Jones would be a franchise quarterback; had he been, he probably would have taken one. He’d been watching Surtain in college for three years, and he was sure that the son of the former NFL cornerback could be a combination cover/physical corner in a league hungry for versatile cover players. Finally, he felt a duty to the franchise to give Lock a legitimate shot to be the long-term guy after predecessor John Elway picked him 42nd overall two years ago. So, he could have taken the plunge for a quarterback he liked but didn’t love, and chose to pick a surer thing at a lesser position—but an important position nonetheless.
“Plus—and this is not why we did it [draft Surtain]—but quarterbacks are available more than franchise corners every year, at least the last couple of years,” said Paton. And everyone knows there could be a pretty big quarterback market next year. Aaron Rodgers would be a great fit in lots of places. He’d be a perfect fit in Denver, which has enough draft/player capital to trade for him if it comes to that.
Lock knows where he stands. This off-season was a crucial one for him, and he spent it, in part, being tutored by the man he’s trying to replace—Manning. What really helped Lock is Manning watching plays with him, then trying to figure out, Why didn’t I see this blitz coming? Why didn’t I see this coverage coming? Lock needed that mentoring. After a hopeful 2019, he regressed last year, completing just 57 percent and making some rockhead throws. “After watching some of the ball I played last year,” he told me, “I don’t blame people for being mad at some of the plays I had. So this is a big growth year for me and I’m excited I get to prove that I’m a better football player than I was [last year].”
At Missouri, Lock raised his profile with a big arm and taking chances downfield. Some of those chances were just bad decisions last year. “My whole life, I relied on just having arm strength, gunslinging it. I’ve learned from Teddy—he’s more calculated, puts the ball out of breaks before guys get there.”
The draft was a nervous time for Lock, who wasn’t give a heads-up about whether Paton might pick a quarterback. Which, of course, he didn’t. “Of course I watched the draft,” Lock said. “I was elated we picked Pat.” So now the future for Lock—this season and beyond—is in his hands. He knows he has to beat out Bridgewater and play well—or the Broncos will either trade for a big star or pick the next potential heir to Manning in the ’22 draft.
One last point from Denver camp: No team in the NFL has the secondary depth of the Broncos. As of today, Surtain would play dime … with ex-Bear Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darbv the starters at corner, Bryce Callahan the nickel, and Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson at safety. Surtain has been working on each side at corner, and in the slot, and the Broncos believe at 6-1 and 205 he’ll be the kind of physical corner with excellent cover skills who can fit anywhere. Which, in a 17-game season with injuries commonplace in the back end, will probably matter.
Seattle: The Wilson show … forever?
RENTON, Wash.—Always great to come to camp here adjacent to lovely Lake Washington, on the Seahawks’ pristine Augusta-like fields—the nicest practice fields in football, with Turf the Dog (the 8-year-old chocolate lab and team Wildlife Manager) keeping the field free of local birds and pests. The team, of course, has a chance to be really good, as usual. But there are storm clouds.
Since the devastating Super Bowl loss to New England seven years ago, the Seahawks are just 3-5 in the playoffs and haven’t reached another conference title game. Down the stretch last year, Seattle averaged just 21.5 points a game in the last four games, and was feeble in a surprising Wild Card home loss to the Rams. Then came Russell Wilson’s infamous Dan Patrick interview, when he said he wanted to be more involved in team decision-making, starting an avalanche of speculation about Wilson’s future.
So, watching practice one afternoon last week, here’s what I saw:
Wilson looked like he was coaching more on the field and taking charge. With new offensive coordinator and Sean McVay disciple Shane Waldron upping the football modernity on offense from dismissed OC Brian Schottenheimer, Wilson seems to feel more open to telling receivers, for instance, exactly where they should be on a given route. It’s a little like the way Tom Brady felt free to be a coach on the field in Tampa Bay last season. Two things I’ve heard about Wilson: He views this as a new beginning. In the off-season, he imported a mostly new team of trainers/nutritionists to his San Diego home—down the street from Drew Brees—and made a barn on his property into a strength and conditioning area, and turned his large yard into a practice field. And he spent a long session with Pete Carroll post-Patrick trying to iron out their issues in the off-season. Both told me it was a great discussion. But we’ll see. I’m not convinced this is one big happy family, though Wilson did tell me here he “absolutely” wants to finish his career with the Seahawks.
He has an incredible memory. “Nine years ago, I met you here,” he told me, reminding me of a meeting in August 2012 when he was the only one who thought he’d win the starting job to open his rookie year. “I think everyone was questioning me. ‘Can he do it, can he do it?’ I think they still wonder. I don’t wonder. I didn’t wonder back then. I don’t wonder now. When you want to win it all every year and you don’t, you get frustrated.”
I told him I saw the cameras focus on him at the Super Bowl, where he accepted the NFL Man of the Year award, and he looked absolutely miserable watching another team not call the Seahawks win the Super Bowl for the seventh straight year.
“I was thinking we’ve been to two [Super Bowls], and we need to be at more.”
Perhaps that’s really what he was thinking.
The Jamal Adams situation is, well, disquieting. I watched a fairly spirited Adams rooting his defense on in a long practice, occasionally huddle with safety running mate Quandre Diggs. Playing together, Adams-Diggs is the best safety combination in football. But they’re not playing together now. Adams, while a new contract is being negotiated, isn’t practicing, and the Seahawks are not pushing the issue.
Here’s the problem: Seattle’s got a few vets (Adams and left tackle Duane Brown most notably) who are under contract but who want new contracts. I hear the Seahawks have stretched themselves quite a bit for Adams, but he’s still not happy with the offer, and if you know Seattle’s negotiating stance, it’s not likely the offer’s going to change much now. Seattle is the perfect spot for him, as one of two leaders (with Bobby Wagner) of a Super Bowl contender on defense, with a coach who treats veterans like treasure. So we’ll see if Adams takes the deal. But the larger issue for Seattle and how it can pay players is that the cap went up, beginning in 2014, $10 million, $10 million, $12 million, $12 million, $10 million, $11 million and $10 million … before dropping by $16 million per team, to $182.5 million this year. So vet-heavy teams like Seattle are getting squeezed. It’s great to get high-performing vets, even those who cost two first and one second-round pick like Adams. But if they don’t figure a way to keep Adams, and keep him happy, that trade will be a disaster.
There are some storm clouds, but I like this. In the off-season, Athletes First, one of the most prestigious firms of player agents and representation, had an off-the-record seminar for clients and people in the business. One of the speakers was Notre Dame associate head coach and special-teams coordinator Brian Polian. He’s written a book about communicating with modern athletes called “Coaching and Teaching Generation Z: Honoring the Relationships.” It’s a quick read, 101 pages, that Polian said he wrote while the pandemic was keeping everyone home. “It used to be if the player couldn’t adjust to the coach, tough luck,” Polian told me. “But now there’s got to be a true give and take, a true trusting by the player in the coach. I’ve come to believe if you have any chance to build a team, you’ve got to build the relationships and the trust first.”
One team already asked Polian to come to speak to the coaching staff about it. In his book, Polian writes about how tech-driven this generation is, with players who grew up with phones in their hands constantly. “You can have an incredibly meaningful conversation with a player now via text message, a conversation that player would not have with you in person. You may not like it, but this is the way it is, and you’re going to live in this world and try to win in this world, you’ve got to communicate in this world.”
I bring this up because of someone in the audience that day: Seattle GM John Schneider. When I heard he was there, I figured what a commitment it was for Schneider to fly cross-country and basically devote two days to this seminar. For a scout at heart, and a GM with some major issue on his team, it impressed me that Schneider would take most of two days of his world to study how young people communicate these days.
“It’s a reminder of the importance of staying current,” he said. “These are different times, and [Polian] is right—lots of guys are much more comfortable these days letting it rip in a text than telling you in person.”
Seattle’s at a bit of a crossroads. Taken together, the Wilson/Adams/Duane Brown conundrums are trying the soul of the team and its general manager. Maybe this little bit of continuing education will help the long-term team-building.
Manning's HOF speech sings30
Peyton Manning, as one would figure, had to rush through his Hall of Fame speech Sunday night in Canton to get everything he wanted to say in there. His was the kind of speech you actually wish lasted longer. Sounding almost presidential, Manning made a case to succeed Roger Goodell whenever Goodell steps down—which, as I’ve reported, shouldn’t be anytime soon. Five years, maybe. But Commissioner Manning’s got a good ring. (Not that he would take it. I doubt he would. But smart people could throw good money at him to try.)
His ending message to the Hall and the country:
“As members of this honored class, we have a responsibility to make our game stronger from the core playground to the most celebrated stadiums. During the past few years, the game of football has been challenged by an explosion of sports and entertainment options, safety concerns, erupting social justice issues and a world-wide pandemic … We certainly shouldn’t walk away now. When we leave this stage tonight, it is no longer about us. It is about cultivating the game that has given so much to us. It’s about nurturing football to live and thrive another day, another year, another decade, another generation. It’s about guaranteeing that kids everywhere can learn, bond, grow and have fun with every flag pulled, every tackle made, every pass thrown, every run, block, sack and touchdown scored.
“I am not done with this game. I never will be. I am committed to ensuring its future.”
“Thank you, and God bless football.”
X-Men: Week 2
In my first week last week, I introduced you to four players who I called the X factors for their teams in 2021. If they do well, there’s a good chance their teams will. Here goes with my four quick hits of key players in my most recent camp stops:
L.A. Chargers: Jared Cook, tight end
In every camp, I survey the roster and say, Oh, that guy’s here? That happened in Orange County last week when I saw a very fluid number 87 running with the ones and looked down and said, Jared Cook’s here. I forgot. He’ll have a good shot to show he was slightly underused in his two Saints’ season (29 games, 80 catches, 1,209 yards). “I think he’s got a lot more to give,” said Brandon Staley. The fact that ex-Saints assistant Joe Lombardi got the coordinator job here and wanted the 34-year-old Cook to come with him says something too.
Denver: Bradley Chubb, pass-rusher.
The fifth pick in the 2018, picked to be half of a dominant pass-rush duo with Von Miller, would have to have a grade of incomplete after three season. After a solid rookie season, he’s missed 14 of 32 games the last two years and has had a minimal impact (8.5 sacks) in the 18 games he’s played. He’s coming off a bone-spur injury that required off-season surgery. Miller and Chubb have not played together for the last 28 Denver games, which makes this season vital. To beat the Mahomes/Herbert/Carr triumverate of the AFC West, Denver will need a great defense, and that great defense must feature the Chubb/Miller pass-rush.
Kansas City: Trey Smith, right guard. After a Tennessee career marred by blood clots, most NFL teams steered clear of Smith, who, with a clean bill of health, would have been a top-50 pick last April. He went late in the sixth round. “If I didn’t get drafted,” he told me, “I’d probably have gone into coaching, or maybe gone back to Tennessee and figured out what to do with my life.” Smith’s a metaphor for the all-new KC offensive front. If it works, this is a very strong Super Bowl contender. If the line struggles as it did in the Super Bowl, maybe Buffalo or Cleveland makes the big jump. Smith’s a 6-6, 335-pound road-grader with quick feet for his size. In one-on-one drills in pads, he’s stoned some KC tackles, and he’ll have a real chance to win this job. Interesting last point: GM Brett Veach admitted to me they took him with the team’s last pick in the draft because they feared with the new-round off-season line depth, there was way to insure he’d sign with them as an undrafted free-agent.
Seattle: Gerald Everett, tight end
We’re on a roll with the tight ends. After averaging 32 catches a year in his four seasons with the Rams, Everett hit an uncertain market. Seattle showed some faith in him, giving him a one-year, $6-million guaranteed deal. He spent time in the summer working out with Russell Wilson, and the Seahawks think they might finally have an heir to Jimmy Graham as an offensive force off the line. “We loved him with the Rams, and he’s got us really excited so far here,” said Pete Carroll.
Quotes of the Week40
“Lamar’s gotta get [vaccinated]. With the rules the NFL put down, I can’t imagine a team wanting to forfeit a game or lose a chance at the playoffs and none of the players getting paid because someone won’t get a vaccine.”
—Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, per WBAL radio in Baltimore. The governor was speaking of the Ravens’ COVID-positive quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who also tested positive and missed time last season.
“We—WE—we did make sports history, not only for the Dallas Cowboys but for the NFL. To go from the worst team in the league two years in a row to winning back-to-back Super Bowls and building a heck of a football team, we did it, and let me tell you from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Jerry. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.”
—Jimmy Johnson in his Hall of Fame speech, thanking Jerry Jones for hiring him in 1989.
Now that’s a pat on the back I never thought I’d hear Johnson give Jones.
“I’m at peace with where I’m at. I’ll be following the protocols vigilantly.”
—Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, returning to practice Thursday after missing five days of practice, per NFL COVID rules, for being a close contact with fellow QB Kellen Mond, who tested positive for the virus. Cousins is not vaccinated. The Vikings, per the Washington Post, have the league’s lowest vaccination rate as of Friday, at less than 70 percent of the squad fully vaxxed.
“Can’t make that up, right?”
—Colts coach Frank Reich, announcing that for the second day in a row, a cornerstone offensive player (guard Quenton Nelson, after QB Carson Wentz) underwent a rare but similar foot surgery. Each will miss five to 12 weeks, the team said.
I find Russell Wilson’s run of durability amazing, particularly considering the schlock offensive lines he’s played behind. The five Wilson stats that blow me away:
- Since Wilson was drafted 75th overall in the 2012 draft, the Seahawks have played 160 games—144 in the regular season and 16 in the playoffs. Wilson won the starting job a month into his first training camp and has started all 160 games.
- He is the only quarterback to play every one of his team’s games since opening day 2012.
- He has never played less than 95 percent of the snaps in a season. In the last four seasons, he’s played 100, 100, 100 and 98 percent of the Seahawks’ snaps.
- Among the quarterbacks in the league since 2012, the only quarterbacks to play 100 percent of the snaps in four seasons or more since 2012 are two lower-regarded passers from the 2012 draft class—Wilson and Kirk Cousins (102nd overall). Both have played four compete seasons, while, for instance, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady have played one, Aaron Rodgers none.
- Quarterbacks in the 2011 Big Ten Championship Game: Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson.
Talked to Wilson at Seahawks camp. He’s careful, most often, with every word. Wilson on longevity, in his usual staccato fashion:
“I’m playing every game. I want to be the best in the world. I want to be one of the best of all time. Availability’s everything. Probably fifth grade, I got to shake Cal Ripken’s hand. Longevity is everything. I’ve got another 10 or 13 years to play. I take every day one day at a time, but my goal is to try to get to 45, play as long as I can. The gift of playing is a special gift. I don’t fear the hard times, the adversity. It’s something I’m super proud of, playing every game.”
Josh Allen, by virtue of his new six-year, $258-million contract, will make $2,529,411.76 per game over the next six regular seasons.
Seahawks and COVID:
2020: Zero positive COVID tests among active players, coaches and staff with daily player interaction.
2021: 89 of 91 contracted players are vaccinated. During training camp, as of Saturday, zero positive COVID tests among players, coaches and staff.
“We do the same thing [with COVID] that we do every day around here,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Compete.” Carroll says that word all the time. So what does it mean? In this case, it means position groups competing against position groups to see which group has the fewest minutes of close-contacts—which the tracking devices each player wears can monitor.
Crazy times. Coaches in the NFL making up games between position groups based not on anything football-related, but rather on players staying more than six feet apart to avoid potential virus spread. What a time to be alive in football.
So Von Miller went to Peyton Manning’s Hall of Fame induction Sunday night in Canton. He had a jacket made for the event, with photos of he and Manning, and just Manning, from their four seasons together in Denver superimposed on the lining of the jacket.
Miller said in camp: “I just wanted to do something memorable for him.” Mission accomplished.
King of the Road
Ran into a great guy sitting next to me in the Friday’s in Terminal T at the Atlanta airport Friday evening on the way home for the weekend. This Friday’s was understaffed, as so many places are. Really understaffed. This fellow was about 30, gym shorts and tank tops and well-tatted. I saw him order a Coke, wait at least 15 minutes for the Coke, totally patient, and thank the server when the overdue Coke showed up. Then when his bill came, he put his card on top of the bill right away and said, “Miss?” You know, I’m ready to go. Need the check. But she hustled past us to the next table. The place was mobbed. This server was handling 20 tables, at least. The guy just sat there and waited. Had to be 15 or 20 minutes. The guy never flinched, never got annoyed, never even sighed his anger. Finally she took the check an credit card and came back with it, maybe six to eight minutes later.
I said, “Tough night for her.”
“Tough for everyone here,” the guy said. “I feel for her.”
“You got an incredible attitude,” I said.
“We’re all in this together,’’ he said.
That’s all he said. He got the check, paid it, and left. I learned something from him.
I asked for my check, and I paid, and while signing mine, I looked over at his.
Bill was $19. He left a $10 tip.
This is a good country, with good people. I’m sure of it.
Four most infuriating words in travel:
“Our gate is occupied.”
Last Monday, our Alaska Airlines flight from Orange County to Seattle landed on the SeaTac tarmac at 5:54 p.m. Four minutes later, we pulled up well short of the gate. “Our gate is occupied,” the pilot announced. He told us the same thing at 6:28. At 6:55, we got to the gate.
SeaTac is one of the busiest airports in the country. Gates galore. It’s amazing to me that one in five flights I take ends like this—with a few minutes or in this case an hour of the lives of 100-some travelers wasted because we couldn’t simply use another gate.
My proposal: Big airlines (like Alaska in Seattle) should have a couple of ground crews on call to relocate early-arriving planes to different gates. The euphoria of pilots bragging that they’ve made it to City X 36 minutes early, or whatever, is way too often quashed by “Our gate is occupied.”
Southwest Airlines, Denver to Kansas City, crack of dawn Thursday. We have reached our cruising altitude.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the flight attendant announced, “we will be through the aisle soon with our beverage service. Please keep your masks on when ordering your beverage. When we come to your row, hold up one finger for Coke, two for Diet Coke, three for Seven Up, four for water, five for coffee. When you are finished enjoying your beverage, please put your mask back and wear it for the remainder of your flight.”
System seemed to work fine.
FYI, public service category: The Fairfield Inn and Suites in St. Joseph, Mo., does not have almond milk on its breakfast buffet.
Tweets of the Week40
All night long! Thanks to @LionelRichie for making my @ProFootballHOF party just perfect. God willing I’ll have a voice left for tomorrow! God Bless! pic.twitter.com/WzGEZmly4n
— John Lynch (@JohnLynch49ers) August 8, 2021
That must have been a good Hall of Fame party, Lionel Richie serenading the Lynch crowd.
Troy Polamalu’s Hall of Fame bust is next level 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/8aFavGBaul
— PFF (@PFF) August 8, 2021
Pro Football Focus, Tweeting the truth.
Zach Wilson: 11-of-24 for 112 yards and 2 INTs in the Green and White scrimmage #nyj
— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) August 8, 2021
Brian Costello, who covers the Jets for the New York Post, reporting from the Jets’ scrimmage Saturday night on an unimpressive debut for the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
On Today Show, Simone Biles says she went to athlete village after pulling out of team event, expecting to feel embarrassed. Then, one athlete after another came up to her – to thank her:
"In that moment I was like, 'There's more than gymnastics and medals.'" #Tokyo2020
— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) August 3, 2021
McCarvel is a digital news producer for @olympics.
Philip Rivers to @latimes: “I’m not predicting I will play in December or January, for that matter. One, you’ve got to have somebody who wants you, and two, it’s got to be right.
“But I have not completely ruled that out.”https://t.co/Ry3oeLw99I
— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) August 3, 2021
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, who went to Alabama to take Rivers’ temperature on his high-school coaching life, and his NFL future.
Send me your comments/thoughts/brickbats at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @peter_king.
Good question about a topic that perplexes the smartest NFL people. From Paul Owens, of Boynton Beach, Fla. “I know there are only so many good quarterbacks to go around. But it still seems like teams aren’t placing enough of a priority on finding backup quarterbacks who can keep the season afloat if the starter goes down. With Carson Wentz now hurt, the Colts are left with a bunch of inexperience. And what happens if Ryan Tannehill or Kyler Murray suffers a serious injury? The Titans and Cardinals, who both expect to make the playoffs, would be screwed.”
I’ve always felt the backup quarterback on most teams—excluding teams with ironman quarterbacks like Seattle—was one of the 10 or 15 most important players on the team. The backup QB’s an insurance policy; you hate spending big money on insurance, until you need what you’re insuring. Ask the Eagles if they regretted the investment in Nick Foles in 2017. So for this season, for instance, I am perplexed why some team hasn’t invested in trading for Foles when he’s number three in Chicago and so many teams (Jets most notably) have a major need for an experienced backup.
All is well. From Benjamin Golden: “Thoughts and prayers. I saw you met with Mike Mayock at the Raiders. I hope you are doing okay.”
Hey, thanks. All is well. Interesting story. I met with Mayock for about 45 minutes in a conference room at the Raiders’ team facility July 28. I was masked, and sat across a wide table from Mayock, maybe six feet away. My mask never came off. I was informed by the Raiders at 5 a.m. on July 30 that I was a close-contact with Mayock, and he had tested positive for COVID, and he was attempting to keep it private. I wasn’t sure what exactly to do, but was advised by the NFL’s medical director, Dr. Allen Sills, that because I’d been vaccinated in March and was masked throughout the interview, it was safe for me to continue by camp trip, but to monitor my health the way you’d normally do in a case like that. In addition, I thought it was safest to test for three to four days, and to inform each team I was seeing of the situation, in case they wanted to either limit or amend my access to their people. I’d tested negative at the Niners 29th, then at the Cowboys on the 30th and Rams on the 31st. I also tested last Monday, Aug. 2, at the Chargers, and Wednesday at the Broncos. All negative. My coverage wasn’t affected, except for sitting about 25 feet apart, for instance, from Dak Prescott when we spoke at Dallas camp. You might ask: Why reveal this now and not last Monday? It’s because Mayock didn’t want it out there, but once it was out there last Monday, it became fair game.
He didn’t like me predicting the Raiders going 8-9 this year. From Steven Bell (via Twitter): “Can’t wait until you’re pulling ‘crow feathers’ out of your mug from that uninformed and lazy prediction of eight wins for the Raiders. You national NFL media are turning into CNN.”
Curious: If I’d predicted the Raiders to go 12-5, would the prediction have been “informed and smart?” This is a team that has had the running backs coach and club president resign shortly before training camp, had three players retire in the first week of camp, and then saw its VP of strategy and business development quit last week, and has had significantly underachieving rookie classes since Mike Mayock took over. If all goes well, they could make the playoffs and win a game in January. I see some storm clouds, but we shall see.
I’ll still take the critter with intestinal issues. From Gary Mirsky: “If you liked the name of Belching Beaver thank you should know about Barking Squirrel. I can’t imagine what a peanut butter milk stout would taste like (not very good I suspect) but I can tell you Barking Squirrel is great.
Good one, Gary. Thanks for sending. I knew one of my readers would find a competitor in the best beer name contest.
Ten Things I Think30
1. I think my favorite story of the week comes from Seattle safety Quandre Diggs, the former teammate of Matthew Stafford in Detroit. Diggs loves Stafford, and vice versa. Now that they’re in the same division, the NFC West, the old friends will see each other twice a season. Seems that last winter, the day that the Stafford trade to the Rams was announced, Diggs’ phone buzzed. FaceTime request from Stafford. Diggs answered it. He looked at his screen. It was Stafford and Rams coach Sean McVay, together in Cabo, calling him. Stafford said to Diggs: “Man, better back up! We’re throwing deep!”
2. I think you might wonder why Tom Brady called his fellow NFL players “ignorant” on social media last week (actually he said “IGNORANT”). Let me give you an example. The year before Brady arrived in Tampa, 2019, Forbes valued the worth of the Tampa Bay franchise at $2.2 billion. Today, two years later, after the Brady-led Bucs won the Super Bowl, the team value is up to $2.94 billion. That’s an increase of $740 million in two years. Meanwhile, the salary cap, due to COVID-related financial losses, is down $6 million per team. So think of that: The franchise value of the Bucs has increased 34 percent in two years; the salary cap has decreased 3 percent over the same period. It’s fluky because of the pandemic. But even if the cap went up, say, 12 percent over the last two years, it’d be nothing like the increase in value of one of the very good teams.
3. I think holding Hall of Fame speeches to less than 10 minutes—something keeper-of-the-Hall-flame Joe Horrigan pushed for years—is the best thing that’s happened to induction night in years. Inductees were told to keep the speech length to eight minutes, with the warning that get-off-the-stage music would soon start if they went over. “The hardest thing was cutting to eight minutes,” John Lynch told me. “There’s so much you want to say, and so many people to thank.” But he made couple of drafts, got help from friends in tweaking/nipping away words, and he got down to eight minutes. I know the families and friends don’t mind half-hour speeches, but they make for a lousy evening for 85 percent of the crowd.
4. I think my favorite Hall of Fame speech chunk over the weekend was from Edgerrin James. He said:
“People looked at my gold teeth and dreads and were shocked and surprised I had never been arrested or spent time in jail. Some people told me that you can’t have gold teeth and dreads and be accepted in the NFL, but I never listened. I always knew who I was: a great football player, a great father, a proud Black man, a lion, and this was my mane, which many of those doubters later discovered once they got to know the real me.
“Times have changed. Look around the league, look at some of the young stars. As a matter of fact, look at my Pro Football Hall of Fame bust, rocking the same dreads they said I shouldn’t.
“My closing message: Try to represent the real you. Follow your dream, aim high and create the life you want to live. And to all those who have judged prematurely because of their appearance, the way they talk, where they come from and in the minds of many should be locked up in prison, I represent us.”
5. I think, and maybe it’s because I’m not a particularly vengeful person, that it seemed small to me that Isaac Bruce called out the football person who didn’t think he was a great NFL prospect before the 1994 draft. “I know you’re alive,” Bruce said in his induction speech, talking directly to the person he would not name. “And I prayed God would keep you alive for this day. My message to you is rap legend Kool Moe Dee wanted me to ask you: How Ya Like Me Now?” Bruce is entitled to take a shot, but at a time of great joy for him and his family and his fans, taking a shot like that, saying you’re glad this person is alive so you could zing him … not my cup of tea.
6. I think the Football Story of the Week is USA Today’s Jarrett Bell writing on Paul Tagliabue, as the former commissioner entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame:. It’s behind a pay wall, but I recommend subscriptions anyway. The gist: Bell dives deep with Tagliabue on what kept out of the Hall for so long—his perceived dismissive attitude toward head trauma a generation ago, at a time when research just picking up into the myriad issues associated with concussions. It’s also good about Tagliabue’s current battle with the degenerative Parkinson’s Disease he’s been quietly dealing with. Bell has covered Tagliabue for decades—and it shows in the insight of this story. Writes Bell:
Nearly three years ago, Tagliabue was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. He said that he is in the early stages with his condition and hasn’t experienced tremors or balance issues. He drove himself to the interview.”I work out every day, including an hour of walking,” Tagliabue said. “For Parkinson’s, they say an hour of exercise is worth more than the medication. So, I take a bunch of pills and I walk every day.”He also had hip replacement surgery in 2020, and a stent was inserted in his aorta earlier this year. “My wife [Chan] says, ‘You have an annual visit to the doctor for infrastructure repair. What’s coming up next year?’
“I don’t care what comes up,” Tagliabue said. “As long as I’m still around to do it.”
7. I think you can add these to your datebooks:
- The 2021 trading deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 2 (after week-eight games) at 4 p.m. ET.
- The 2022 Super Bowl is Feb. 13 in Los Angeles.
- The 2022 Scouting Combine is March 1-7 in Indianapolis.
- The 2022 trade season (big names may move) begins March 16 at 4 p.m. ET.
- The 2022 draft is April 28-30 in Las Vegas.
8. I think this is the headline that made me chortle the most in the last week: “Minshew just wants chance to compete for Jags’ starting job.” It’s from an Associated Press story out of Jacksonville training camp. Someone want to tell the 178th pick of the 2019 draft that the first pick in the 2021 draft is going to be playing barring injury?
9. I think the “hold-in,” players reporting to camp but not practicing while healthy will become more and more of a thing. Teams don’t want to antagonize important players with $50,000-a-day mandatory fines for holding out with valid contracts at a time when negotiations over new contracts are fragile.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. RIP, Lucy Bonvissuto, my editor’s mom, who died Saturday in Nashville. She was a rock in the life of Dom Bonvissuto, who makes this column possible every week. I never met Lucy, but the greatest thing you can say about a mom is that she raised a very good person. Dom is the best. I’m indebted to him, and I feel for him.
b. Thought of this the other day, watching Jimmy Johnson get into the Hall of Fame: Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson and the triplets (Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin), the collective backbone of the great Cowboys teams, are now all in Canton. Pretty amazing. That pretty much defines them as an all-time great team, and when Jones this summer admitted his frustration that the Cowboys hadn’t been able to stay together longer, I’s still amazing to this they had the run they did.
c. Thought of this too: Jimmy Johnson, baring his soul a bit to me before his second season coaching (1990), was honest about how soul-crushing the 1-15 season was in 1989, and he admitted quite a bit of personal stuff to me. As we left a restaurant that night, I put my notebook away. He said to me, “Peter, if you f— me on this story, I’ll squash you like a squirrel in the road.”
d. Still here.
e. How is it possible that two women could do any more in the sport of basketball than Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird? They are awesome.
f. Taurasi: three NCAA titles with UConn, first pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft, WNBA all-time scoring leader, three-time WNBA champ, five-time Olympic gold medalist. Five! … Bird: two NCAA titles with UConn, first pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft, WNBA all-time assists leader, four-time WNBA champ, five-time Olympic gold medalist. Five!
"SEE YOU IN PARIS." – @DianaTaurasi 😳
The most perfect interview.#OlympicHERstory | #SeeHerShine pic.twitter.com/9pikrQNRD6
— On Her Turf (@OnHerTurf) August 8, 2021
g. What’s bigger: Tom Brady leaving New England for Tampa Bay, or Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain? Of course we know the answer internationally. One big difference: Brady played his first year at Tampa at age 43; Messi will join the French club at 34. It’ll be interesting to see how much of his prime Messi has left. Brady proved at nine years older, he still had quite a bit of it.
h. Get Off My Lawn Note of the Week: Still makes me sad, even after a couple of years, to see no newspapers in Starbucks. For many of us on the road, other than airports, that was the only place we’d even see newspapers. I realize I’m the relic, and newspapers are too, but I loved to walk into a Starbucks near the Browns facility, for instance, and pick up the Plain Dealer and the New York Times, and pore through them for 15 minutes. No more.
i. Airports, restaurants, hotel bars: oldies music. Jurassic rock permeates the planet. We are stuck in time listening to “Wayward Son.”
j. Football practices: rap. Very loud rap.
k. Beernerdness: Manny’s Pale Ale (Georgetown Brewing, Seattle). The old ale standby when I got to the Pacific Northwest. So smooth and tasty. Had two of the tasty pints at Dino’s Pub, the Seahawk hangout across the 405 from the Seattle training facility. Great bar, great beer choices, lots of TVs tuned to Mariners and Olympics last week.
l. Cautionary Tale of the Week: Patrick Malone of the Seattle Times on Richard Sherman, and illuminating the problems with his mental health in recent months
m. Malone reports that a statute in Washington state, the Extreme Risk Protection Order, allowed authorities to intercede and prevent delivery of a firearm to Sherman. As he reported: “The Extreme Risk Protection Order de-escalated the [Sherman] crisis. ‘Time is one of our most effective tools,’ said King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Tim Meyer. ‘When we can slow things down, delay delivery of a firearm, we can harness the resources we have to get someone in crisis the services they need. It is a team effort in these cases to do that, and it takes families coming forward to allow us to help them with this work.’”
n. Scary story. “I vow to get the help I need,” Sherman said after his alcohol-fueled July incident with his family. Reading that story, that help is vital.
o. RIP, Bobby Bowden. A great coach, of course, and a person his players swore by. He packed a lot into his 91 years.
p. Resign, Andrew Cuomo. It’s over. You violated the public trust. You’ve got to go.
q. Column of the Week: Writing in the Washington Post, Erin N. Marcus explains the insanity of the current United States.
r. The point: In Florida, you need to show proof of vaccine to work at Disney World. You do not need a vaccine to work at a hospital in Florida.
s. Is anyone in charge out there?
t. Baseball Story of the Week: So cool to see the Field of Dreams field in Dyersville, Iowa hosting a ballgame this week—Yanks at ChiSox, on Thursday. Interesting to think of this after what a huge movie that was a generation ago: Many White Sox players had no idea what “Field of Dreams” is before this game was scheduled.
u. That story was produced by Matt Buckman of NBC Sports Chicago. Matt joined me and produced the images you’re seeing from the first leg of my camp trip. Tireless and productive and a worker bee, Matt was a great companion for some long days, from Vegas to California to Seattle to Denver to Kansas City, in nine days.
v. The road ahead: I’ll start this week with new videography partner Nicole Barros, winding our way into the Midwest. Tuesday: Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. … Wednesday: Packers in Green Bay … Thursday/Friday: Colts/Panthers in Westfield, Ind. … Saturday: Dolphins at Bears, Soldier Field, Chicago, noon CT … Sunday: Writing Day, Minneapolis … Monday: Vikings, Eagan, Minn.
w. Congrats, Bob Glauber, on your splendid career, and your inclusion forever in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as this year’s Bill Nunn award winner. That award goes to the writer whose long service distinguished him among his pro football writing peers.
x. And congrats, in memoriam, to my good friend Don Banks, who got the same award for 2020, an award that couldn’t be given last year because of the pandemic. Donnie Brasco, my name for Donnie Banks (don’t ask me; it just fit), will also live forever in Canton—where he died of heart failure two years ago while covering these festivities. No one has replaced Banks in my world, and no one has replaced his writing either. Miss you Brasco.
Chargers got lucky,
Very lucky, when the Fins
Did not pick Herbert.