I am not going to write about the difference Deshaun Watson makes in the Cleveland Browns as a football team. There will be time for that—five years. Five obscenely expensive years, in which the Browns will pay a question mark $2.7 million per game to play football.
I am going to write about the Browns selling their souls for a football player who has 22 open accusations of sexual assault or sexual harassment against him.
This is all necessary, of course, because the Browns acquired Watson from Houston in a blockbuster trade on Friday. Cleveland sent three first-round picks (including the No. 13 overall pick in April’s draft), a 2023 third-rounder and a 2024 fourth-rounder in exchange for Watson and a 2024 fifth-rounder. As part of the deal, Cleveland gave Watson a new five-year, $230 million contract.
The Lead: Watson
I don’t think any team should go into business with a player—though cleared of criminal charges—who has 22 women accusing him of indecent acts. Thirty-one teams should have risen up and said, We might be interested in this great football player, but only after we know the full scope of what we’re dealing with. The fact is, they don’t know. Watson could be faultless, and he could have run into 22 women, all of whom are lying, as his attorney Rusty Hardin thinks. That would be an incredible coincidence, 22 women all lying. But let the legal system play this out.
What happens, do you think, if the cases run their course and the Browns find they’ve handed $230 million, guaranteed, to a man who loses some of these civil suits, or one, or all? What happens if even some of the ghoulish and sexually graphic offenses described in the reporting of Jenny Vrentas for Sports Illustrated in the last year are true? Extrapolate. How would Browns fans—women and, I hope, men—feel about wearing their WATSON 4 jerseys in the community and to games? How would you feel about your children wearing them?
I stress: We are innocent till proven guilty in this country. But in what other business, in what other line of work, would a person with such serious accusations against him be handed a guaranteed $230 million to lead the jewel of the community, a prized and beloved public trust like the Cleveland Browns?
I don’t know how this happened, and I don’t know whether there was internal disagreement among the owners or executives of the Browns about signing Watson. I don’t know if the Browns volunteered to do this five-year, $230-million deal, the one with $80 million more in guarantees than any contract in NFL history, or if it was what Watson’s camp insisted. It doesn’t matter. The result is the result: Deshaun Watson got a $74-million raise after sitting out the 2021 season (the difference between his Houston contract and the new Cleveland pact) while his legal fate was being decided. How does this happen?
What is also reprehensible is the fact that Watson’s signing bonus is a reported $45 million, while his first-year salary is a relatively puny $1.035 million, which becomes significant if he gets suspended, as is widely expected. The suspension and resulting fine would come out of his salary only. Say the NFL bans him for six games. The fine would be $345,000, which is seven-tenths of 1 percent of his 2022 compensation.
It’s hard to be more outraged about this story, but that last paragraph makes me want to spit nails.
Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam signed off on it all, obviously, and will have to live with the consequences. Those consequences might be a Super Bowl, or two, in the next five years. That’s why they’re going out on such a risky limb, of course.
Those consequences, for now, are these, from the community:
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center said Saturday, “We understand the story surrounding Deshaun Watson joining the Cleveland Browns is triggering for far too many of our friends and neighbors … To the community we say, we see you. We hear your outrage. We feel it too.”
Doug Lesmerises, a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, quoted a woman, 23-year-old Molly Rose of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, who wrote to him saying: “I don’t know how to root for a team I’ve loved my whole life when every time I see their QB it reminds me of my own experiences being a victim of sexual assault. It may sound dramatic, but my heart is broken.”
“They chased the joy, and they dented the pride,” Lesmerises wrote.
They better hope it’s only dented.
Usually after you make a trade for the quarterback you believe will make you a contender for the next 10 years, you have a press conference trumpeting the event. The Browns waited till Sunday to issue three statements—one each from the Haslams, from GM Andrew Berry and from coach Kevin Stefanski. “We are acutely aware and empathetic to the highly personal sentiments expressed about this decision,” the statement from ownership said. The owners said they spent “a tremendous amount of time” in “in-depth conversations” in a “comprehensive evaluation process.” They said Watson was “humble, sincere and candid” and “embraces the hard work needed to build his name both in the community and on the field.”
We did our due diligence, in other words. What did you expect? But words and statements don’t matter now. The action of signing a player with so much hanging over him, that’s what matters.
I am also going to write about the National Football League, which is very good at making billions, not so good with the moral compass.
The NFL is good at marketing the game to women, at having breast-cancer awareness and pink cleats, at hosting Women’s Careers in Football Forums, at trumpeting female game officials, scouts and assistant coaches. But when it comes time to discipline the owner of the Washington franchise for a string of sexual harassment (and worse) cases against women, all the NFL could muster up was fining Daniel Snyder $10 million, about 3 percent of his franchise’s annual TV revenue, and making him hand over the day-to-day ops of the organization to his wife for several months. Snyder wasn’t banned from being part of the organization. While $10 million is a lot of money, it is also about 2 percent of an average team’s annual total revenue.
How do women who go to work in the league office every day, or women who work for teams, feel when they see the hushing-up of what surely would have been a damning report on Snyder? How do they feel when the league sits idly by and watches one of its most popular franchises, Cleveland, chase after a tarnished (to put it mildly) star? The league is alienating the part of its fan base, women, it is marketing so aggressively.
The moral of the story is if you’re good enough, or you’re rich enough, all else can be overlooked.
The NFL will be in-person for its annual league meetings starting next Sunday, the first time every significant league figure will be together since the last non-virtual meetings in 2019. Roger Goodell needs to show he’s more than a business leader who makes 32 owners richer by the day. Goodell needs to show he’s a moral leader as well. I don’t know how he can look at the last few days in the NFL, with four teams vying for Watson’s services and the winner looking so craven and embarrassing in the process, and not feel shame about the direction of the league.
Free agency and the start of trading in a new league year is always a fun and rejuvenating time. This year, I feel like I just drank a quart of sour milk. The bad taste will take a while to go away.
The news doesn’t stop, of course, and I’ll cover it. In the headlines:
RIP, John Clayton. The most indefatigable reporter I have ever met.
The Davante deal. I wouldn’t despair for the Packers, who probably thought it was insane to commit $85 million in new money to Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams in 2023 and thus dealt Adams to Vegas for first- and second-round picks. Green Bay is in the wide-receiver sweet spot of this draft now.
Aaron Rodgers to Chris Olave? The hot Buckeye prospect sure fits what the Packers want in a receiver.
Get some rest, Dave Ziegler. In the span of 28 hours, the rookie Raiders GM traded one edge-rusher (Yannick Ngakoue), signed another in free agency (Chandler Jones) and with one last reluctant concession, made the trade heard ‘round the league (for Davante Adams).
The AFC West is the best division this century. The league went to eight divisions in 2002, and none can touch the depth of the 2022 wild West.
The AFC, overall, is insanely better. Six of the top-rated 10 Pro Football Focus free agents when the market opened have signed, all with AFC teams. Lamar Hunt is smiling down at the AFC dominance.
I pick my five favorite signings. Clue: One’s a hyphenated space-eater from Rutgers.
Davis Mills intrigues me. And multiple ones in 2023 and ’24 give Nick Caserio the chance to see if Mills, coached by Pep Hamilton, can be the long-term guy in Houston.
Bobby Wagner still free? Not smart.
Mahomes to JuJu. That combo could be absolute gold for Andy Reid.
Deep breath, David Ojabo. Terribly rotten luck for the prospective first-rounder, tearing his Achilles at the Michigan Pro Day. Probably pushes him to round two.
The 2022 Colts QB will be: a) Jimmy Garoppolo; b) Matt Ryan; c) Baker Mayfield; d) The field. Don’t ask me, but pressed to the wall I’d pick Mayfield.
Coach K and the sad evergeen tree. Master class in feature-writing. Professor Kent Babb takes a shot at the story everybody’s done ad nauseum, Mike Krzyzewski, and nails it.
On with the show.
Davante Adams Deal10
Late in the free-agency prep process, about 12 days ago, Raiders coach Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler looked at Davante Adams’ tape independently. When McDaniels and Ziegler met to discuss what they’d seen, they agreed he was an incredible prize: great start-and-stop ability to create separation, big and thick but excellent short-area quickness, runs through defenders, excellent hand strength, dictates leverage. A premier talent.
Adams, a free agent who had told the Packers he wouldn’t play on the franchise tag, had been tagged by Green Bay nonetheless. Every team has been in this situation—an unhappy player saying he won’t play under his current deal. Ziegler didn’t know what to expect but called Packers GM Brian Gutekunst last Sunday, eight days ago. Over the next three days, they talked six or seven times. Late in the process, it became clear it would take a first-round pick and a second-rounder to pry Adams away. While Ziegler was willing to give Vegas’ first in 2022 and second in ’23, he didn’t want to denude his draft this year by giving both picks in 2022.
But in the opening days of free agency, you’re not just doing one deal. You’re cutting players—in Vegas’ case, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and defensive end Carl Nassib—and trying to get minor and major deals done too. While the Adams talks were getting serious, the outside world was moving fast at edge-rusher.
McDaniels and Ziegler both loved edge-rusher Chandler Jones, the 32-year-old former Patriot. They’d known him in New England, and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham coached on that defensive staff for Jones’ four seasons as a Patriot before Jones was dealt to Arizona. In order to pursue Jones, for cap integrity and roster balance, they probably had to move edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Luckily, Ngakoue had engendered some interest, specifically from Colts GM Chris Ballard. And when Ziegler looked at the Colts roster, he saw a player he liked entering the last year of his contract: cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. As a Patriots scout, Ziegler had spent two hours with Ya-Sin at Temple the day before his 2019 Pro Day and found him cerebral and competitive.
Ziegler’s first talk with Ballard and the agent for Jones came Tuesday. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, Ziegler had to balance both deals. He wasn’t signing Jones without being sure he could deal Ngakoue. He had the structure of a deal done with Jones’ agent Ethan Locke but nothing set in stone. So around 4:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, Ziegler and Ballard agreed to the trade, and within 10 minutes, Ziegler finalized an agreement with Locke.
Success in one area. In another, Adams was getting to be a slog.
It became clear by Wednesday afternoon that Gutekunst was firm. The deal for Adams wasn’t getting done unless the Raiders traded both the first- and second-rounder in this year’s draft. That would give the Packers enough ammo to replenish the receiver group minus Adams in this year’s draft—four picks in the top 60 of a draft chock-full of wideouts. But it would rob the Raiders of any picks in the 2022 draft till 86th overall. Ziegler didn’t want to be shut out of his first draft as a GM through 85 picks.
They’d sleep on the Green Bay ultimatum Wednesday night. The next morning, McDaniels and Ziegler met in the room they were using as the sort of free-agency command center at the Raiders’ facility in Henderson, Nev. The meeting lasted four hours. Was there another creative way to entice Gutekunst? They couldn’t think of one. Pros and cons, cons and pros. Contract alternatives in case they could get Adams, and cap ramifications. Around noon PT, Ziegler and McDaniels agreed Adams was worth the one and the two this year. That’s how much they wanted Adams to be reunited with his good friend and former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.
Early in the afternoon Vegas time, mid-afternoon in Green Bay, Ziegler called Gutekunst and said they were willing to do the deal: Adams for the Raiders’ first- and second-round picks this year. But now they had to be concerned with getting a new contract done; Adams wasn’t playing on a one-year deal. Gutekunst gave them permission to talk with the agent for Adams, Frank Bauer. In the next couple of hours, the Raiders got a deal done that satisfied Adams—five years, average yearly compensation of $28 million, best for any wideout in the league—and one that satisfied the Raiders. The deal, practically, is three years for an average of $22.5 million a year, with no guarantees in year four and five. Vegas expects Adams will still be a big-time player in year four, when the contract would likely be extended or amended.
Now the deal could be consummated. When they got back on the phone, Gutekunst and Ziegler, to be official, so there would no mistake, each repeated the terms of the trade:
Davante Adams from the Packers to the Raiders. First-round and second-round picks in 2022 from the Raiders to the Packers.
“We’re good,” Ziegler said into the phone before hanging up.
He turned to his partner in this new Vegas adventure, his friend from the football team at John Carroll University just outside Cleveland in the mid-nineties.
“We’re good,” Ziegler said to McDaniels. “Got Davante Adams!”
Ziegler and McDaniels bear-hugged.
The deal gives Adams the most guaranteed money ever for a wideout, per a source: $65.67 million, with an eye-popping $42.75 million in compensation in year one. And it gives Adams the happiness he wanted: He wanted to play in the west, and his first choice was to be able to play with his college quarterback from Fresno State, Derek Carr. Adams gets the money, and he gets the happiness.
Carr was happy. Adams was happy. The Raiders were happy. The Packers, well, realized it was probably unwise to get in a possible holdout war with Adams, and now have the ammo to replace him with a veteran in trade or a couple of draft picks from a loaded wideout pool in the April draft. (More about that down in 10 Things I Think I Think.)
Outside the building, the football world got bug-eyed over the stunning Packers/Adams divorce and what it meant for Derek Carr and the retooled Raiders. After the hug, Ziegler looked at his board. Back to work. Next job: importing free-agent running back Ameer Abdullah. Ziegler finished Abdullah’s deal Thursday night.
Weekly News Fallout
Five mini-storylines that strike me in the wake of the week:
Free agency, trades have made the AFC a lot better
It’s already absolutely out of balance, AFC over NFC. The best players who jumped from NFC to AFC in the last week: WR Davante Adams, edge-rusher Von Miller, edge-rusher Chandler Jones, S Marcus Williams, edge-rusher Randy Gregory, G Brandon Scherff, G Laken Tomlinson. The best players who jumped from the AFC to NFC: CB Casey Hayward, CB Charvarius Ward, S Marcus Maye. No contest.
Now, do a top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL under-35: My list, with AFC quarterbacks in italics: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson (impossible to know where to put him), Derek Carr. Eight of 10 in the AFC. You can argue Kyler Murray and Kirk Cousins, but they’d be outside my top 10 right now.
AFC West: Best division in the last 20 years
Every team in the division got better, three of them markedly.
• The Chargers needed surgery on a D that allowed 27 points a game, and added Sebastian Joseph-Day to the front, Khalil Mack to the rush, J.C Jackson to the back end. No team attacked its weaknesses the way the Chargers did.
• Denver got a quarterback, Russell Wilson, who turns the division from a three- to four-team race.
• Las Vegas added Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, two day-one impact players.
• Kansas City has a league-high 50 wins in the last four regular seasons, so they’re the hunted. Swapped out a great player/leader, Tyrann Mathieu, for safety Justin Reid (they hope it’s a wash, but that’s not a sure thing). Added a potential major weapon for Patrick Mahomes in JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Hard to predict every team in the division will be over .500 because of the six division games, but I’m predicting it.
Sneaky signing of the week: JuJu Smith-Schuster by Kansas City
Smith-Schuster is 25, he’ll have two huge weapons (Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce) to draw attention from him, he’ll benefit from the play never being over with Patrick Mahomes and he’ll benefit from a coach who knows how to get his best players the ball. This is my personal favorite note: in Smith-Schuster’s two 16-game seasons in Pittsburgh, he averaged 104 catches, 1,128 yards and eight TDs. With the proviso that he has to stay healthy, if Smith-Schuster plays 15 games, this will be a brilliant signing by Kansas City.
Five contracts I liked
1. Russell Gage, WR, Tampa Bay. He’s 26, signed for three years and $30 million, and gives the Bucs a strong third receiver.
2. Ted Karras, C, Cincinnati. For three years and $18 million, the Bengals upgrade a crucial spot—and Joe Burrow will love the smart and feisty Karras.
3. Allen Robinson, WR, Rams. A tad pricy (three years, $46.5 million) but I love this stat from PFF: Robinson’s a top-10 NFL receiver since 2018 in catching inaccurate throws (72). Imagine what he’ll do with the accurate Matthew Stafford.
4. Rasul Douglas, CB, Green Bay. More than they wanted to pay, but a top-five defensive player on the Packers (as of 2021 season’s end) is well worth three years and $21 million.
5. Myles Jack, LB, Pittsburgh. This is the kind of player, with coach from Brian Flores and the faith of Mike Tomlin, who EASILY could be a Pro Bowl player in 2022. This is a great defense for a playmaking linebacker like Jack.
Gut feelings on the Packers, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams
• I don’t think Aaron Rodgers is particularly surprised about Adams leaving, nor do I think he’s really angry about it. He’s known for some time that Adams’ heart was out west.
• I think Rodgers is year-to-year at this point. I saw the money he signed for. If he’s not enjoying the game or his place in it in 11 months, I could see him walking away.
• The decision-making of GM Brian Gutekunst reminds me of those GMs (Ron Wolf being one of them) who understand team-building is a continuum. It won’t surprise me if Gutekunst trades for a vet receiver, or signs one like Jarvis Landry off the street (that’d be my choice right now) and then uses the 22nd pick on one. He could trade for one and draft one, sign an aging one and draft one, or draft two. But the one thing Gutekunst can do is take the heat, and he will in the wake of losing Adams.
• Postscript on Adams: He wanted to play out west. He wanted to play, mostly, with Derek Carr out west. No crime in that. I always think fans bases should be grateful for the greatness they’ve been able to experience, and in this case, revel in what’s to come. If Rodgers stays two more years, get excited about the new receivers he’ll have in his stable, rather than mourn over a player whose heart was somewhere else.
RIP John Clayton20
The little borough just east of Pittsburgh where John Clayton grew up, Braddock, declared John Clayton Day in 2018. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote a story on it, and writer Ed Bouchette touched on Clayton’s love of the job, of the sport, of the business. “What I love about it is there’s so much more stuff we didn’t have access to years ago and now we do — the salary information, NFL Game Rewind where you can watch coaches tape,” Clayton told Bouchette. “There’s so much information and analytical stuff, it’s phenomenal. That energizes me. I feel like a student still learning because you pick up all this stuff. I get excited about the little things. I have a data base that keeps track of every salary, the height and weight of all the players in the league. I put together a program on a worksheet for the top 51 players so I have an up to the minute salary cap sheet of every team in the league.”
That’s the John Clayton I knew. Clayton died Friday afternoon at 67 in Bellevue, Wash., after a brief illness. Just a week earlier, he’d been reporting in print and on the radio in Seattle about the impact of Russell Wilson’s departure. Very few people knew he was ill.
Lots of us in the football media business really like our jobs. It’s not work, doing what you love. But John Clayton lived to do his job. He had no hours on, no hours off. He woke up thinking about football and went to sleep thinking about football. Later in life, he cared for his wife, Pat, who has multiple sclerosis, and took her everywhere on the NFL circuit—league meetings, the Super Bowl. Football was the thread through it all.
In 1984, when I started covering the NFL as a young reporter in Cincinnati, Clayton was a reporter in Pittsburgh, covering the Steelers and the NFL for the Pittsburgh Press. The Bengals and Steelers would play twice a year, of course, and when the game was in Cincinnati, he showed up on Friday and grilled me for an hour. Of course I knew of John, but I didn’t know him. But he talked to me like I had a PhD. in Bengaldom, wanting to know everything about injuries, lineup changes, Anthony Munoz anecdotes. I thought at the end of that session, “John Clayton might know more about the team I cover than I do. I better get moving.”
Over the years, he was omnipresent. At league meetings, the NFL Scouting Combine (he absolutely loved getting to know 330 more prospective players for his database), big games, playoff games. The combine was a passion week for him, annually. He could strike up a conversation with a Boise State fifth-round guard prospect; he’d know something about the kid.
Clayton could converse with anyone, and did. Specifically, he used to make 32 phone calls every Friday afternoon, asking every PR director about injuries and who had practiced and who hadn’t. And he used to make 12 to 15 more calls on Sundays, 100 minutes before kickoffs. He wanted the inactives at every stadium. Imagine covering a huge game with playoff implications in San Francisco one Sunday, and seeing a solitary guy with big wire-rims in row two of the press box at Candlestick, a Martinelli’s apple juice half-consumed in front of him, calling the press box in Jacksonville for the Jets-Jags inactives.
The essence of Clayton.
He moved to Tacoma to cover the Seahawks in 1986, then struck it big as one of ESPN’s original insiders in 1995. For 22 years, you’d see Clayton pop up on “SportsCenter” as the NFL profile grew there. All hours of the day America saw him, in bars and homes and dorms. I’ll always think he was a driving force toward making the NFL the 24/7/365 phenomenon it became. He was a 24/7/365 phenomenon. Once we were together at a Colts’ training camp practice in Indiana, and when it was over, more people wanted Clayton’s autograph than any player except Peyton Manning.
“Weird,” he said with a smile, “but fun!”
A good friend, Seahawks PR man Dave Pearson, told me Saturday: “I went out to lunch with John a lot over the years, and going out to lunch with was like being with a beautiful woman. You had teenage boys and 75-year-old men stopping at the table wanting to talk to him. They just loved being around him.”
Clayton was a metronome. I never saw him sick, never saw him tired, never saw him angry, never saw him in any way other than, Let’s go! Let’s talk some football, big guy! That’s how I’ll remember him.
Quotes of the Week
“I’m voting for realignment.”
—Buffalo GM Brandon Beane, after every good player in recent NFL history landed in the AFC in March.
“I was 3 years old when Tom Brady got into the NFL. For me to hear from somebody like that, now he’s reaching out to me, it was unreal.”
—New Tampa Bay wide receiver Russell Gage, on the recruiting phone call he got from Brady when considering his options after leaving the Atlanta Falcons.
“He is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the storied history of the Packers and we look forward to him being enshrined into the Packers Hall of Fame one day.”
—Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst, after trading Davante Adams to the Raiders.
“It really felt like I broke up with my girlfriend and she never did anything to me. She was good to me. She was good to me, and I had to break up with her to choose another girlfriend. I hate that part.”
—Von Miller, after spurning an attempt by the Super Bowl Rams to re-sign him and instead working out a deal with the Buffalo Bills.
“Until they plant me, I guess.”
—John Clayton, to Ed Bouchette, then of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in 2018, when Bouchette asked Clayton how much longer the indefatigable sports reporter and radio host planned to keep working.
Clayton died Friday at 67.
Yannick Ngakoue was traded from the Raiders to the Colts on Wednesday.
In case that sounds familiar, Ngakoue has been traded three times in the last year and a half.
He is on his fifth team in 19 months.
You wonder how something like that is possible—that a starting edge rusher in a league starved for them, who has not yet turned 27, who has missed two games in a six-year career, who has never had a season with fewer than eight sacks, would be traded three times since the end of 2020 training camp. Really. How? Why? This is just … weird.
How long Ngakoue has been with the five teams that have employed him in the last 19 months, since Aug. 21, 2020:
Jacksonville, 9 days
Minnesota, 53 days
Baltimore, 143 days
Las Vegas, 366 days
Indianapolis, 5 days
To: Texans fans
Re: Davis Mills
Let’s not mourn the fact that there’s a 60-40 chance your quarterback this year is going to be Mills, and that your front office has very little interest in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo (unless it’s a major bargain) or scotch-taping the position with a Baker Mayfield type. Be happy. Four reasons:
• Mills’ final five starts last season: 2-3, 68.4 completion rate, 9 TD, 2 INT, 102.4 rating.
• Pep Hamilton, who once worked under Mills’ college coach David Shaw at Stanford, is back for his second season as Mills’ mentor, this time as offensive coordinator.
• Let’s say the Texans are going QB-hunting one year from now. You’ll have four first-round picks over the 2023 and 2024 to use as draft capital. Considering that one of the 2023 picks should be a top 10 pick, maneuvering to trade for a high pick next year should be doable.
• It’s waaaaay early, but you’re $118 million under the projected 2023 cap this morning, per Over The Cap. The Texans are a receiver-poor team right now, which GM Nick Caserio has to work on over the next six weeks, but I’d rather be close to an answer on Mills in 10 months than going for broke to try to be .500 this year.
Every year there’s at least one of these ridiculous upsets in the NCAA Tournament. This year, it was 15th seed St. Peter’s, of Jersey City, N.J., beating two-seed Kentucky 85-79 in overtime in Indianapolis Thursday night, and then, in a lesser stunner, taking out Murray State 70-60 Saturday night. St. Peter’s is the third 15 seed in history to make the Sweet Sixteen, and they could have a decent home-court advantage Friday night playing in nearby Philadelphia. The five factoids I like about the Peacocks:
• They were 3-6 on New Year’s Day.
• Five weeks ago, in their little gym in Jersey City, they lost to Rider by nine to fall to 11-9. Attendance: 571.
• They were swept this season by 15-14 Siena.
• They have a particularly laid-back mascot, as this video from ESPN’s Mike Wells shows:
This is how Saint Peters is feeling after beating No. 2 Kentucky pic.twitter.com/faOiMwXVdo
— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNFL) March 18, 2022
• Per Pete Thamel of ESPN, Kentucky has four assistant coaches who are higher-paid than St. Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway.
Tweets of the Week40
Thinking of the 22 women today. https://t.co/xmUUkwYVq3
— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) March 18, 2022
Ghiroli, who covers baseball for The Athletic, on the 22 women who have accused Deshaun Watson of sexual assault or impropriety.
Turn me up brotha!!! 💪🏽💪🏽 https://t.co/CqCkbZBJtl
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) March 18, 2022
Mahomes, after JuJu Smith-Schuster signed with the Chiefs on Friday.
If tomatoes are a fruit, is ketchup a smoothie? 🍅🥤
— George Kittle (@gkittle46) March 18, 2022
The Niners tight end asks the important questions in the Twitterverse.
I understand Baker Mayfield being upset. I just don’t know what qualifies as a better circumstance for him.
— Judy Battista (@judybattista) March 17, 2022
Battista is a reporter for NFL Network.
What is cap space https://t.co/WYHoW1vhsE
— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) March 17, 2022
Reed is an NFL writer for The Athletic.
Davante Adams leaves Green Bay after 116 games, exactly as many as Don Hutson (1935-1945) played. Here are their career stats as Packers. pic.twitter.com/RWkFdlx2gk
— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) March 18, 2022
Chase Stuart, of Football Perspective, is one of the smartest football people in our business.
This is a phenomenal illustration of a player, Hutson, who rarely gets his due in historical perspective.
One other point about Hutson below in 10 Things I Think I Think.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @peter_king.
Good question. From Phil Rohtla, of Ottawa, Ontario: “Has the NFL lost its collective marbles? This is a man who allegedly did improper things with 22 women that we know about. I know it is the job of GMs to win, but at what point does someone say, “You know, maybe we should take a pass on this guy, no matter how good he is.” I know that not all of our heroes are saints and that he is innocent until proven guilty, but where there is smoke, a fire is often easily found. How is this even happening in the #MeToo era?”
Talent wins. Talent dictates a lot of decisions in the business world, and it’s dictating this decision too. I can’t defend it. I don’t like it either.
On John Clayton. From Ken Boyer, of Redmond, Wash.: “I am in shock about his death. Not sure how to be a Seahawk fan without John. Such a geek in every good way possible. This one hurts.”
Sure does. One thing to remember, too, as many have pointed out, was his constant care for his wife, in a wheelchair for the last years of his life. John was so good to Pat. I remember being at a dinner hosted by the Steelers at the annual league meetings a few years back. John was so devoted to her, making sure she was a part of every conversation, and being gentle transporting her. Sweet.
Kind and courteous man. From @jamesg7932, of Seattle, on Twitter: “Dedicated to his callers on his Saturday morning weekends show in Seattle. He treated every caller with respect and dignity. He made me love the game even more. RIP professor.”
Very well said.
Teams can grant permission. From Steve Rodgers, of Havre de Grace, Md.: “Explain to me how if a coach or GM talks to a player on another team “under contract” it’s tampering, yet Deshaun Watson (under contract) can talk to as many teams as he feels. Why isn’t that tampering?”
Because Watson has a no-trade clause, he needs to okay whichever team he is traded. In order to be sure he would want to go to a team, the Texans gave him and his representatives permission to talk to teams. So the deal had to be multi-layered from the start: Houston GM Nick Caserio had to be satisfied he had a team paying enough to make a deal, and Watson had to be satisfied with the team he was going. The only way he could know that was by meeting with the candidate teams, with Caserio’s permission.
Becky is out. From Becky, of Oregon: “I have read your column almost religiously since at least 2007. I’ve put up with inane comments, arrogant clap-backs, obtuse observations, and an extremely unhealthy obsession of [Tom Brady]. After your latest column, I’m just done. Devoting that much space to Tom Brady unretiring is absolutely ridiculous. Who cares?! Outside of Tampa, New England, his family and your own pathetic attempts to constantly get on his radar to be his best friend, no one actually cares! You really don’t need to find a reason to bring him up in Every. Single. Column. You do realize he manufactured this whole retiring thing for attention, right? Your column is toxic. I’m out.”
It was good to have you as a reader for 15 years, Becky. Thanks. I write what I think is topical, and you disagree, and you stop reading. That’s the great thing about the country we live in. We can think differently, and life goes on.
10 Things I Think I Think50
1. I think now that the compensatory picks have been set, and the draft order has been released by the NFL, here are a few notable draft nuggets:
• Cleveland still has five picks in the top 120, because the deal with Houston for Deshaun Watson includes just one pick this year—the first-rounder, 13th overall.
• Houston now has multiple first-rounders in the next three drafts. The Texans get first- and third-round picks from Cleveland in 2023, and first- and fourth-round picks in 2024. Don’t complain, Texans fans: Houston has five of the top 80 picks this year, and it’s better to spread these picks out, particularly if a quarterback is a target next year.
• The Niners have zero picks in the top 60. The Raiders have zero picks in the top 80. The Rams have zero picks in the top 100.
• The Giants, picking fifth and seventh overall, are likely to look to move one of them to try for multiple first-rounders next year.
• The Jets, with four picks in the top 40, would also love to put one of them off till next year, if the right offer comes.
• Denver has zero picks in the top 60, and five picks in the next 60.
• The Ravens, starting with the 76th overall pick, have seven of the next 66 picks.
• The Packers have an intriguing option or two …
2. I think I’m not trying to say trading Davante Adams is a good thing. But Packer fans should realize five things after life post-Adams:
a. They have the 22nd, 28th, 53rd and 59th picks in the draft.
b. Davante Adams was the 53rd pick eight years ago.
c. The three NFL all-pro receivers in 2021 were the 36th overall pick (Deebo Samuel), 53rd (Adams) and 69th (Cooper Kupp) in recent drafts.
d. Picked between 22 and 59 in the last several drafts: Justin Jefferson (22), D.J. Moore (24), DeAndre Hopkins (27), Tee Higgins (33), Michael Thomas (47) and A.J. Brown (51).
e. I asked Daniel Jeremiah to pick two receivers to give Green Bay—one in the 22-28 area, and one in the 53-59 area. “Chris Olave for the first one,” he said. “Incredibly smart, disciplined route-runner, 4.3 speed, the kind of receiver Aaron Rodgers would love.” For the second, Jeremiah chose North Dakota State’s 6-4 burner, Christian Watson. Smart and physical, with 4.36 speed. Practiced in Fargo for five years, so the weather wouldn’t be an issue.
3. I think the saddest draft news of the week had to be first-round edge rusher David Ojabo of Michigan, the yin to Aidan Hutchinson’s yang on the Wolverines’ defense, tearing his Achilles on the school’s Pro Day. No way to sugarcoat it than to say it probably pushes Ojabo—who should be fully recovered for the 2023 season, and has a ghost of a chance to be fit by late this season—down into the second round. It’s mindful of the Achilles tear Washington cornerback Sidney Jones suffered on his Pro Day in March 2017. Jones was likely to be a mid-first-round pick; the Eagles picked him 43rd overall, with the 12th pick of round two. Jones hasn’t been the player the Eagles projected. But I doubt that will be a negative in the consideration for teams playing the long game (Seattle at 41 overall, Indianapolis at 42, Baltimore at 45, Philadelphia at 51) if Ojabo is on the board for them.
4. I think I’m dizzy considering the rapid transport of Case Keenum, who has moved to eight teams in the last eight years. Starting in 2014, from Houston to the Rams, the Rams to Houston, Houston to the Rams, the Rams to Minnesota (for the Minnesota Miracle), Minnesota to Denver, Denver to Washington, Washington to Cleveland, and now Cleveland to Buffalo. He’ll back up Josh Allen, and the Browns get a seventh-round pick in this draft.
5. I think it’s only right that Matthew Stafford signs a four-year extension with the Rams (which happened Saturday) and finishes his career with the Rams. The end of this deal, most likely, would give Stafford 18 NFL seasons. If he wraps up with 12 seasons in Detroit and six in L.A. (should he stay healthy), that feels like it’d go down as a highly successful trade by the Rams.
6. I think it qualified as a wow to see a highly respected young general manager, Buffalo’s Brandon Beane, throw a dart at Washington after running back J.D. McKissic agreed to a free-agent contract with Buffalo, then reneged when his original team, Washington, offered to match. McKissic chose the Commanders. Beane was not pleased, particularly because many of those in the Washington organization, including head coach Ron Rivera, were Beane’s co-workers in Carolina. “Once you have an agreement,” Beane said in a news conference the other day, “the agent is supposed to say, ‘It’s over.’ And this agent did that. And this agent told the other club it’s over. But the other club didn’t back off.” That’ll sting for a while.
7. I think I can’t believe Bobby Wagner, healthy and coming off the second- and 11th-best seasons for linebackers per Pro Football Focus in the last two years, is still on the street.
8. I think the headline that was lost in the Friday mayhem of Deshaun Watson but was notable to me was this from the Washington Post: ”Anheuser-Busch cuts ties with Washington Commanders.” No reason given. But what reason could there possibly have been, other than the one that has plagued this team for months—the endless string of sexual-harassment claims against the franchise and its disgraced owner, Daniel Snyder? I’ve said it repeatedly: How much longer will this tarnished franchise be forced to get whittled away, day by day, because Daniel Snyder will not sell? If he truly loves the franchise, rather than loves the thought of owning this franchise, then he’d sell. But of course Snyder loves the power more, so he hangs on while the team continues its descent long past mediocrity.
9. I think the easiest way to show me you’re a lousy football fan is to scoff at Don Hutson’s career, which many in the Twitterverse did when Chase Stuart tweeted about his greatness the other day after Davante Adams was traded to the Raiders. Stuart pointed out that both men had played 116 regular-season games for Green Bay, and Hutson had 99 TD catches to Adams’ 73 … and Hutson’s career average reception was 16.4 yards to Adams’ 12.1. I understand Hutson played in a far different era, and there wasn’t the same kind of competition and emphasis on the passing game throughout the league as there is today. But the way players should be considered in historical perspective is by comparing them to those in their eras. When Hutson retired in 1945, the NFL was a quarter-century old, and he had three times as many touchdown receptions (99) as any player in NFL history at that point. That record lasted a remarkable 44 years, till Dec. 10, 1989, when Steve Largent caught his 100th for Seattle. Don’t tell me Hutson doesn’t belong in the discussion for the greatest receiver who ever lived. (Before you rush to your keyboard and write or Tweet at me, “You idiot! Jerry Rice was far better!”, I said that Hutson belongs in the discussion. There’s a good argument to be made for Rice, of course.)
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Sports Story of the Week: Kent Babb of the Washington Post with a masterful piece on what it’s like to have Mike Krzyzewski for a father-in-law.
b. How many in our business have tried to find something new about a very famous figure? So often, it’s the great white whale: You get an assignment to turn over something new about LeBron or Brady or Coach K. And it’s well-nigh impossible. But Babb did it, about as well as it can be done.
c. Babb wrote that son-in-law Chris Spatola, soon after moving to Durham with one of Coach K’s daughters, Jamie, was preparing for her parents to come to their home for dinner for the first time. He hired Krzyzewski’s landscaper to make the yard look great. But when the folks arrived, the coach/groundskeeper-in-chief took one look at a sad evergreen planted near the house, frowned and said, “Whose decision was this?” Wrote Babb:
Its branches drooped, making it look a little like a forlorn Christmas tree. And that was precisely the problem, Krzyzewski explained, in the same excruciating detail as if he were correcting a freshman’s mechanics on a jump shot
“You need to send a strong message, plant-wise, when people come up to your home,” Chris remembers him saying, an extremely Coach K way to think about such a thing. “And that’s just a sad-looking tree.”
In that moment, on that walkway, Krzyzewski — with his five national championships, dozen Final Fours, three Olympic gold medals — wasn’t a coaching icon who built a basketball dynasty using talent, his own instincts, and relentless attention to detail. He was every father-in-law ever …
“It wasn’t even about me liking the plant! It was about him coming to my home and telling me to change that plant,” Spatola says. “By that time, I had been to combat. I was a West Point grad, and I was a good husband. ‘This may be your daughter, but this is my family.’ There were some real mind games going on, and no, that tree is going to stay right there.”
d. Wonderful, Kent Babb.
e. If you have a chance to see my TV Show of the Week, please do. It’s a year or so old, but my wife and I found it on Netflix: My Octopus Teacher. It’s a documentary that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film … about a South African conservationist, Craig Foster, who is at a low point in his life when he begins to dive deep off the southern coast of Africa. He sees an octopus. He’s fascinated, and begins to watch the octopus every day he can find her. The octopus begins to trust him, and gets close and touches him. Such a cool story, complete with good news and bad news and the ultimate bad news of nature.
f. Eighty-five minutes very well spent. Thanks, Craig Foster.
g. Seems so easy to understand, and so apolitical. But this bill to keep the time the same year-round in the United States actually has some consequences that, particularly in northern climes in the U.S., should certainly be considered.
h. Daylight Savings Time Story of the Week: Gal Tziperman Lotan and Sahar Fatima of the Boston Globe, with health experts saying it’s a terrible idea. As reported by Lotan and Fatima:
“In their zeal to prevent the annual switch, the senate has unfortunately chosen the wrong time to stabilize onto,” said Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “What the Senate passed yesterday would require all Americans to start their work and school an hour earlier than they usually do, and that’s particularly difficult to do in the winter, when the sun is rising later.
“… It is disheartening to think, especially as progress was being made in starting high schools and middle schools at a later hour, that all of that would be reversed by causing children at schools and adults at work to start an hour earlier,” Czeisler said. “And that was never mentioned in any of the articles I saw describing this legislation.”
Think back to the darkest day of 2021, the winter solstice on Dec. 21: The sun rose at 7:08 a.m. and set at 4:16 p.m. Boston got 9 hours and 8 precious minutes of sunlight, which, for many people, fell during work or school hours.
A permanent switch to daylight saving time would mean that next winter solstice, the sun won’t rise until after clocks strike 8 a.m., and set at about 5:15 p.m.
i. This bill seemed to come out of nowhere. It’s not the biggest thing confronting our country, and it’s not in the top 20. But it seems to need a little more consideration.
j. Passionate Texan Story of the Week: Christian Wallace, writing for Texas Monthly, on his vehicle: “Me and My Truck: A Love Story.”
k. So cool, waxing warmly on his 2005 GMC Sierra. Wrote Wallace:
… After its initial owner had put 30,300 miles on it, that pickup was mine. I drove it off the lot of a used-car dealership on Valentine’s Day 2007, and we’ve been on the road together ever since. My truck and I have weathered blizzards, sandstorms, floods, I-35, and four presidencies. We have (sadly, unintentionally) taken the lives of a couple of deer, a turkey vulture, and an armadillo. And on at least two occasions, the two of us have very nearly been sent to that big garage in the sky.
Yet here we are. At last check, the odometer read 266,195. That’s enough miles to land you on the moon or to make about seventy trips along the perimeter of Texas. Our most recent visit to the repair shop wasn’t a cheery affair. The mechanic handed back the multipoint inspection scrawled in ink. He said the brakes needed to be replaced ($1,478), the tires showed signs of sun rot ($1,120), the engine could use a new serpentine belt ($139), and the engine was leaking from “basically everywhere.” I suppose with unlimited money and the right mechanical skills, a truck can technically last forever. But after you’ve replaced the motor, the seats, the dash, the windshield, the panels, it becomes a bit like the ship of Theseus. Is it really the same truck?
Lately, I’ve begun to look, every now and then, at used pickups online. But every time I start browsing, I can’t help but think, “Yeah, but besides the wobble and the wacky thermostat and that weird whirring noise when I press the throttle, there’s nothing really wrong with my GMC.”
Part of me knows that our travels are nearing their end. Still, I’m having a hard time letting go.
l. I’ve never felt that way about a vehicle. Wish I had.
m. Ukraine Idea of the Week: David Muir of ABC News, on the Door County Candle Company in northern Wisconsin making Ukrainian-themed candles, with all money raised going to Ukrainian relief.
n. And 20,000 orders by the airing of this, with thousands more to come I’m sure.
o. Fowl Story of the Week: Christian Martinez of the Los Angeles Times on a weird event in northern California, “A feud between mail carriers, wild turkeys comes to a deadly climax near Sacramento.” Just wild.
p. Martinez reports that while a postal worker was delivering mail in a neighborhood outside Sacramento, one of the oldest of the wild turkeys attacked him. The carrier got a stick from his truck and bashed the turkey to death. Wrote Martinez:
So far, the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s investigation into the incident has revealed strange details about the area’s turkeys and their behavior and treatment.
Investigators found that some residents had been feeding the turkeys “copious quantities of food,” which is prohibited in California and could be a factor in the birds’ aggressiveness.
“It probably contributed to the massive size of the turkey in question because it was eating just an unlimited amount of food every day from this particular household,” Capt. Patrick Foy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said. “We are addressing that issue as a major contributing factor to this overall problem.”
The turkeys seem to have been targeting delivery workers in the neighborhood since October, when the postal service began reporting the situation to wildlife officials. Foy said the attacks had also disrupted deliveries from FedEx, UPS and other carriers.
Foy said the turkey that was killed Monday was by far the heaviest he had ever lifted.
“I’ve been around about 25 years, so I kind of know turkeys,” he said. “And I just I looked at it, and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is the biggest turkey I’ve ever seen.’ ”
q. Last week, it was disclosed that unvaccinated New York athletes (as of now) will not be allowed to play home games this year. Which means Mets and Yankees need to show vax proof to be able to play.
r. What Aaron Judge was asked in Florida: “Are you vaccinated?”
s. What Aaron Judge said: “I’m so focused on just getting through the first game of spring training. I think we’ll cross that bridge whenever the time comes. But right now, so many things can change. I’m not really too worried about that right now.”
t. What Aaron Judge meant: “No.”
u. John Clayton, gone. Man, that one hurts.
The Adieu Haiku
Never saw a scribe
who loved his job like Clayton.
Lesson for us all.