In the wake of the NFL’s 87th player selection meeting, catching up on the stories that resonate a week later …
“We all wear the scars,” Rich Eisen said, speaking for New York Jets fans across the universe. “The Buttfumble scar, the fake-spike scar, and the NFL Draft scar. Or scars.”
1980: Lam Jones drafted ahead of Anthony Munoz
1983: Ken O’Brien over Dan Marino
1988: Dave Cadigan over Michael Irvin
1995: Kyle Brady over Warren Sapp
2002: Bryan Thomas over Ed Reed
2003: DeWayne Robertson 12 picks ahead of Troy Polamalu
2012: Quinton Coples over Chandler Jones
2018: Sam Darnold over Josh Allen
“The greatest statistic in NFL history concerns the Jets draft,” Mike Greenberg said. “They picked Ken O’Brien over Dan Marino, Al Toon over Jerry Rice, Blair Thomas over Emmitt Smith—and when those guys retired, Marino, Emmitt and Rice were the most productive quarterback, running back and receiver of all time!”
I called the two biggest Jets fans in mediaville to ask about what the Joe Douglas New York Jets just did, drafting four of their top 19 players (per Douglas) and exiting the draft as the consensus biggest winners. Drafting cornerback Sauce Gardner, receiver Garrett Wilson, edge-rusher Jermaine Johnson at 4, 10 and 26 in the first round and snagging running back Breece Hall four picks into the second round sent their fans into orbit, which is a strange place for them to be in the days after the draft. Usually, Jets fans are hoarse from booing picks.
“The Jets stole the draft,” said Greenberg, the ESPN host of it. “An embarrassment of riches.”
Best Jets draft ever? I asked Eisen.
“Not a very high bar,” he said. “But yeah!”
I’m not a fan of grading drafts, as you know. For perspective, three years ago, the fourth, 10th and 26th picks in the first round were Clelin Ferrell, Devin Bush and Montez Sweat, and only Sweat had his fifth-year option exercised by his team this spring. Projecting GREAT DRAFTS!!!!! a week after they happen is fool’s gold. The 10th pick in the three drafts before Devin Bush: Eli Apple, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Rosen.
The Jets had Gardner, Wilson, Johnson and Hall rated among their top 19 prospects, so clearly they’re thrilled with the haul. Now they have to produce, and we’ll see.
I will say the more impressive thing, to me, than the players chosen was the plan GM Joe Douglas executed in the last two years to maximize resources. With the 2020 trade of Jamal Adams to Seattle and 2021 trade of Sam Darnold to Carolina, Douglas turned those picks into three offensive pieces the Jets think will be long-term keystones: left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker—who had a 15-game streak with no sacks allowed as a rookie—plus Wilson and Hall. (What I especially liked was Douglas moved up for Johnson and Hall, and he was able to keep his 2023 draft intact; he did it all with his 2022 draft picks alone.)
Add quarterback Zach Wilson, tackle Mekhi Becton and wideout Elijah Moore from the first two Douglas drafts, and tight end C.J. Uzomah in free agency this year, and you’ve got an offense Douglas has built from scratch. Becton’s worrisome, with weight and injury concerns. He needs to grow up fast and prove to Douglas he can be a long-term tackle. No one knows if he can.
Overall, the Jets have ground to make up. To compete with Buffalo, Miami and New England in the AFC East, obviously, Zach Wilson has to be good. But I think a lot also depends on Garrett Wilson being explosive and physical enough to be what Stefon Diggs is for the Bills. Douglas said working through the receiver group and prioritizing Wilson was “really tough.”
“Every single receiver brought something different and dynamic,” Douglas told me. “You had guys that could run by anybody. You had big body guys with unbelievable catch radius. You had guys that were just pure route-runners. Ultimately, we felt like the guy that had the best combination of all those traits was Garrett Wilson, a guy that had the route skills, the ball skills, the catch radius, the ability to attack the ball and make contested catches, the ability to make people miss right after catch, create explosive plays in space, and a guy that had the top-end speed to get behind defenses and threaten vertically. He had the best combination of all the traits we were looking for.”
The quarterback will be the key to it all, of course. Zach Wilson had some nice moments last year—a 28-24, turnover-free loss to Tom Brady and the Bucs sticks out—but not enough to know yet whether he can be a long-term passer for a playoff contender. “It’s all on a quarterback who still looks like he’ll be carded at every bar he walks into,” said Eisen. “We don’t know if he’s the right guy yet.”
I’m not sure I’m in league with Greenberg when he says, “Dramatic improvement is a very reasonable expectation.” But I do know this: The Jets have a plan, with a GM who’s executing it well, and they have a chance. Finally, long-term, they have a chance.
More items of information after letting the draft digest…
The Sensible Draft
One veteran club boss called the 2022 draft “rational,” which I thought was spot on. “It didn’t seem like teams acted out of desperation,” he said. Teams really didn’t like the quarterback crop and so, after the Steelers picked Kenny Pickett 20th and said they’d give him a chance to win the job as heir to Ben Roethlisberger in camp, QBs were picked as backup plans: 74th (Desmond Ridder), 86th (Malik Willis) and 94th (Matt Corral). This puts zero pressure on teams to play any of these players this year. Willis, in particular, was seen by scouts as a project. Now, he can learn the position and the pro game, and if Ryan Tannehill plays poorly this year, Willis could be in position to challenge for the job in 16 months. If Willis had been a first-round pick, the clock would tick till he played—this year.
There was one trade that showed rationality: Detroit moved up 20 spots, from 32 to 12, to take a potential number one receiver, Jameson Williams. The Lions traded the 32nd, 34th and 66th pick to Minnesota for the 12th and 46th picks. Normally, the 12th pick would fetch more. But the Vikings didn’t love a player at 12; in their estimation, four picks between 32 and 66 were better than 12, 46 and 77. Of course, we won’t know for two or three years if Vikes GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was right in the first big trade of his GM career.
Receivers might have short shelf lives with teams. In the good ol’ days, maybe like 15 months ago, Amari Cooper’s $20-millon-a-year contract was the gold standard for receivers. DeAndre Hopkins got a two-year bandaid deal in Arizona for a few dollars more in 2020, but $20 million was the long-term target for players … until Christian Kirk (who?) got $18 million a year in free agency from Jacksonville. Then seven wideouts got between $20 million and $30 million a year in the next five weeks ending with the A.J. Brown trade-and-sign deal in Philadelphia on night one of the draft.
As one GM told me: “I could see the receiver position becoming like running backs. Get as much out of the receiver in his first contract and then, after four or five years, let him go and draft another one high. There are so many good receivers now, I’m not sure they’re all going to get paid going forward.” Tennessee, for instance, simply swapped one physical 4.5-speed, 225-pound receiver (A.J. Brown) for another (Treylon Burks) and will pray that Burks can be 90 percent the player for the Titans that Brown was. That’s a very big ask. In the end, one team not paying big money to a QB (Philadelphia) could afford Brown, and one team paying a QB (Tennessee) couldn’t. Or calculated that it couldn’t.
What A Ransom
I did like the 11th pick in the draft, Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave, selected by New Orleans after a trade-up with Washington. Olave, multiple GMs told me, is the most NFL-ready of the receiver group, a precise route-runner, tough and consistently productive, and a sub-4.4 guy.
But that was one heck of a commitment the Saints made to get him.
Per the Jimmy Johnson draft trade value chart, the 11th pick in the draft is worth about 1,250 points of trade value. And by my approximation, the Saints paid about 1,942 points for it. New Orleans used value from two trades to move up to take Olave—the one with Philadelphia in which they acquired the 16th overall pick, and then the one with Washington in which they traded up to 11. Scrape away all the fluff, and here’s what the Saints used altogether to move up to the 11th overall choice:
Picks 16, 98 and 120 in 2022
First-round pick in 2023
Second-round pick in 2024
The 11th pick on the Johnson trade chart is worth 1,250 points. The 16th is worth 1,000, with the 98th worth 108 and 120th worth 54. I counted next year’s one as being worth the least amount of points for a first-rounder (590) and the second-rounder in 2023 as being worth a mid-third-round pick (190) in today’s value. There are many ways to extrapolate the value of those picks, but I chose to decrease the value by half-a-round per year. Total value of the five picks: 1,942.
(You might wonder about the other picks involved in both trades, which is fair. I equated the two other first-round picks involved in the trade with Philly, because 18 and 19 are so close in value, and I equated the late-round picks exchanged because they too are so close in value.)
I understand why New Orleans did it. It’s a Rams-type move. Maximize your chances today, worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Three pieces to this:
1. Olave’s ready to contribute opening day, to a team very much in need of a productive wide receiver, particularly after Michael Thomas has had two straight washout seasons. Thomas should be healthy this year, but they don’t sell insurance for that, as Bill Parcells was fond of saying.
2. The Saints are ready to win now, and think they can win now. And why shouldn’t they think that? In four regular-season games against the Tom Brady Bucs, they’re 4-0, with an average victory margin of 16 points.
3. I believe some of this is GM Mickey Loomis sending a message to his team post-Brees/Payton. The message: We’re not building for 2025 here. We’re in it to win it now. With a defense ready-made to win now, the acquisition of Olave (and Tyrann Mathieu) says New Orleans thinks it can make a deep run this year. Loomis wants the players to believe it too.
Speaking of Mathieu …
Local Dude Comes Home
Lots of ways to look at Tyrann Mathieu, who turns 30 this week, signing with his hometown Saints to finish his career. I think it’s borderline poetic. The timeline:
February 2010: Saints win Super Bowl. Local high school hero and big Saints fan Tyrann Mathieu celebrates in the French Quarter.
September 2010: At LSU, Mathieu stars as a true freshman defensive back.
August 2012: After two great years at LSU, Mathieu is kicked off the team for violation of team rules. Drug violations surface.
April 2013: Arizona picks Mathieu in the third round of the NFL draft, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles gives him four spots to learn in the Cardinal defense.
March 2018: Mathieu signs for one year in Houston.
March 2019: Mathieu signs and plays three years with Kansas City. He is the defensive leader on the Chiefs’ 2019 Super Bowl team. And then … nothing. No offer from Kansas City. After two all-pro seasons and two Pro Bowl seasons for KC, the team never made him an offer to stay.
May 2022: Mathieu signs with the Saints.
A look back at the last time @Mathieu_Era played for a Louisiana team 🐯
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) May 7, 2022
Mathieu is confused, a little angry, that Kansas City never gave him a chance to come back. He says he got caught in bad timing, with younger players like Orlando Brown getting the cap money that might have been his. They never gave him an answer about not giving him an offer to stay, which hurts. “The business sucks,” he told me, still wounded by it. But he’s not going to let it be a scar for his time in Kansas City.
“I have a lot to accomplish on the field and off the field,” he said. “To come back here and play where I grew up is really good, really important. When I was young, and I was making mistakes, some big mistakes, a lot of times, something bad would happen with me, or I’d go to jail, and I could sense it in the people who believed in me. Disappointment. Hurt. So now, in my community, I’m gonna be the everyday reminder. You can get better. You can turn your life around. I did. It’s important for me to play great. But it’s as important for me to show these kids you can come back from big mistakes and be better. I’m better. I really want to help these kids in New Orleans.
“When I came by the Saints building to talk to them, I had a great talk with [defensive coordinator] Kris Richard. What a great teacher. I learned so much. I remember walking out of the building that day. ‘Those guys don’t need me. They don’t need the Honey Badger.’ That’s what I thought. I play a tricky position. Once you turn 30, it’s easy to just go draft a 22-year-old. Then they called me. I was thrilled. The money doesn’t matter. I just feel like there is so much more for me to accomplish.
“This is my last stop, my last challenge. I am just thrilled to be here. When I put the uniform on and play in the Superdome for the first time, I will have to take a moment. Honest. It’ll be so special. Just special.”
Now Mathieu had to pause for a moment. Four, six seconds.
“God is good,” he said. “God is good.”
All-Conference teams and All-America teams are not very important when it comes to the best prospects for the draft. But I find this interesting:
• The Southeastern Conference coaches vote for all-conference first and second teams. They vote for four first-team defensive linemen and four second-team offensive linemen. Travon Walker, the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, did not make the first or second team on the defensive line, among the eight players chosen.
• PFF honored its 2021 All-Americans, with four defensive linemen on the first, second and third teams, and four honorable mentions. Sixteen defensive lineman. Walker was not one of the 16.
• On the traditional Associated Press All-America team, with four linemen named on each of the first, second and third teams, Walker was not one of the 12 defensive linemen selected.
Walker is a gifted athlete who played on one of the great college defenses in recent times, and he didn’t start until this year at Georgia. But he’s not going to be in shadows anymore when his pro career starts in Jacksonville. And the spotlight will also be on the man who picked him, GM Trent Baalke, over Aidan Hutchinson or some top tackle prospects to protect the franchise quarterback. It’s going to be fascinating to watch the NFL development of Walker.
Four Sentences On Four Teams
Chicago. The Bears paid for the drafting of Justin Fields last year by losing the seventh and 112th picks to the Giants this year. He’d better be the guy, or this rebuild will be beyond arduous. With only three picks in the top 160, they got two physical players in coach Matt Eberflus’ image, corner Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker. No need for the Bears to panic here, because barring a huge jump from Fields this year, they won’t contend till Aaron Rodgers leaves football, or leaves Green Bay.
Carolina. Panthers keep chasing quarterbacks. In trading up into the low third round to take Matt Corral, Carolina dealt its third-round pick next year to New England to sweeten the deal. To me, it just continues to show the pressure from the owner to find the next quarterback. If Sam Darnold proves he’s not the guy this year and Corral is shaky in whatever 2022 opportunity he has, Carolina will be back at QB Ground Zero nine months from now—and without a ’23 third-rounder as ammo to move.
Seattle. Probably smart to not take a flier on Baker Mayfield, unless Cleveland throws the Seahawks a fifth-round pick to take Mayfield, and some of his salary, off the Browns’ hands. Barring that, I’d just let Drew Lock and Geno Smith handle QB in a restocking year with a big plus—taking the franchise tackle (Charles Cross) they could never find for Russell Wilson. Seattle could have four picks in the top 50 or so next year: their own first- and second-round picks, and Denver’s first- and second-rounders from the Russell Wilson trade. For the first time in recent Seahawk history, they’d be in position to draft one of the top quarterbacks from what is shaping up as a deep pool.
L.A. Chargers. By using draft capital to address pass-rush need with Khalil Mack and free-agency capital on the best young corner in the market, J.C. Jackson, the Chargers had two major needs plugged entering the draft. Zion Johnson, the top pick, will fit at guard or (more unlikely) at right tackle. And they got a bigger back, 220-pound Isaiah Spiller, who just maybe converts that fourth-and-one at Las Vegas. The Chargers are one of the most improved teams in the league.
I like pulling the string on draft-pick trades, and what happens to all the teams associated with picks that get traded and picks that don’t. This year, I am smitten with the impact of pick 130.
So the Bills owned pick 130 as the draft opened. Mike Silver wrote a cool story about how Buffalo, with the 25th pick in the draft, was likely to sit at 25 and pick. But when that area of the draft came up, GM Brandon Beane got a little nervous that the last player with a first-round grade on his board, Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam, would be gone by 25. So Beane got Baltimore, at 23, to swap picks, and Beane gave the Ravens a fourth-round pick in return … number 130 overall.
Acquiring pick 130 gave Baltimore six picks in the fourth round. As I wrote in last week’s column, Baltimore had its eyes on three players for the first three picks, and the Ravens hit on all—tackle Daniel Faalele at 110, cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis at 119 and tight end Charlie Kolar at 128. Now, at 130, here were the Ravens’ options: punter Jordan Stout (the only punter with a draftable grade for the Ravens) or Memphis wideout Calvin Austin III, the last speed receiver left in the draft, the last guy Baltimore could use to possibly replace the traded Hollywood Brown.
Baltimore chose Stout, figuring they’d still have a good shot to get Austin at the next pick, 139. Baltimore heard the Bucs and Bengals both wanted punters; Tampa Bay took one at 133, and the Bengals passed on one at 136. I heard Cincinnati was likely to take Stout at 136. And, as you may have read in my piece last week, the Steelers, at 138, picked Austin, punching the Ravens in the gut.
The Baltimore Ravens pick Penn State Punter Jordan Stout at No. 130 overall.
93.2 punting grade (highest in college football last season) 🐾 pic.twitter.com/CUECtjqKMU
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 30, 2022
The Ravens have zero regrets over the pick, because they figure Stout, an all-weather punter with excellent hang time, should be their punter for the next 10 or 12 years. When you draft a 5-foot-7 receiver late in the fourth round, there are no guarantees he’ll ever play a prominent role for your team. And there was one last factor no one knew till after the draft.
Last Monday, I got a text from an NFL GM. He said he got chills reading my account of that area of the draft for Baltimore. In his text, he said he composed a text to send to Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta after the Ravens’ pick at 130 was announced. In the text, he had an offer to DeCosta for the 139th pick in the draft. The GM waited till the announcement of the 130th pick. The Ravens picked Stout. “Stout was our guy,” the GM said. “That’s who I was trading up to get. I couldn’t believe they picked him right there.”
And that is the rest of the story of pick 130.
If you love the Steelers, there’s a good chance you’ve read thousands of words by Ed Bouchette. He began covering the team in 1974 for the Indiana (Pa.) Evening Gazette. Then he wrote about them for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and then for the last couple of years for The Athletic. Last week, at 70, he retired. Eight grandchildren will do that to a person—as will a growing been-there, done-that desire to stop chasing the piddly stories that now seem to be unending in the 24/7 world of covering pro football these days.
I’ve got great admiration for Bouchette, an old-school scribe who didn’t take crap. We talked how times have changed. He said:
“At Three Rivers Stadium, early in my time covering the team, you walk by the doors to the Steeler offices and you could see the Super Bowl trophies as you walked past. Anybody could come in. Lots of people did. The door was unlocked. They’d just come in and take pictures with the trophies. No security. Not even a receptionist out front. Everybody was in their offices. You could just waltz in and the press room was right there in their executive offices. There was a coffee room at the end of the hall, a little kitchenette at the end. I drank so much coffee because I was hoping to bump into people. Many times I chatted with Chuck Noll back there. The morning he resigned, we were just chit-chatting with him back there. If you hung around long enough, you picked up some good stories.
“Many times the Chief [founder/owner Art Rooney Sr.], his office was right across from the press room, would poke his nose into the press room. He’d say, ‘Wanna go to lunch?’ We’d go to the Allegheny Club, just me and him. The stories I heard. One day I’m working on a story in the press room. I’m the only one there. I want to finish work and go home. He popped in, and I’m thinking, ‘Noooo.’ Then I caught myself. I said, I’ll never remember what I’m writing right now. But I’ll always remember chatting with him.
“At training camp, we’d walk the sidelines during practice. I’d see a scout. I’d sidle up to him and start BS-ing with him. You’d learn stuff. You’d learn stuff about players. It’s off the record, but you know, you pick up things. At night, at training camp, Chuck Noll had this room. Beer room, they called it, the 5 o’clock club. We’d have beers with the scouts, with the coaches and Chuck Noll. I remember sitting there, late one night, talking to Tony Dungy. One year, the Steelers hosted some football coaches from Japan. Thirty-plus years ago. Chuck’s sitting down. Then he gets down in a three-point stance in this 5 o’clock club room, showing these Japanese guys proper technique. You don’t see that anymore.”
— Blitzburgh✨ (@Blitz_Burgh) May 4, 2022
Contrast those days to today, I said. He used his last assignment, the 2022 draft, as an example.
“Now, it’s just different. They’re over at the different practice facility now and they have a parking lot with a gate. You go in, you push the button. The guy goes, ‘Are you media?’ Yeah, I’m Ed Bouchette. He lets me in. Then you walk over, outside the facility. There’s another gate. There’s security there. He says, ‘What’s your name? Who do you work for? OK, you’re on my list. Go ahead in.’ He opens a gate. Then you walk over to the main facility and they have two guards behind the window there and they buzz you in. You go in and you have to show him your drivers’ license and who you’re there to see. I type in ‘The Athletic.’ Then they print out a little sticker that you have to wear. You put it on your chest. Then when you go home at night you have to give that sticker back to them.
“A little different. It’s never sucked, it’s just a little different. You can’t build the relationships you used to, but you know what? Fans don’t care. Do the job.”
Good attitude to have. We’ll miss you out here, Ed.
“RICH STRIKE IS COMING UP ON THE SIDE!!! OH MY GOODNESS!!!! THE LONGEST SHOT HAS WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY!!!!!!”
—Announcer Larry Collmus, calling one of the big upsets in Derby history.
Seriously: How great is this?
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) May 8, 2022
Lord. How amazing it was to hear HOW LATE IN THE CALL Rich Strike even entered the picture.
“Snyder and Jones hate Goodell … Goodell is a coward, and he is incompetent.”
—Former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter, in an interview with Jason Whitlock on Sportscasting.com, via Pro Football Talk, referencing Washington owner Dan Snyder and Dallas owner Jerry Jones.
1. Dan Snyder has to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth to still own an NFL franchise.
2. Schnatter, the Papa John’s guy, left the company after using a racial slur in a conference call, then claimed to Bloomberg his departure was a “crucifixion.”
3. Jones has had his run-ins with Goodell. I don’t doubt deep down he’d like to find a commissioner the league didn’t have to pay $64 million a year, and Jones won’t forgive Goodell for suspending Ezekiel Elliott for six games in 2017. Jones also was roaring mad at Goodell five years ago, and I believe he would have supported an effort for remove him. Today? I’m dubious that Jones is on a crusade to get Goodell fired. In fact, I know he’s not.
—Green Bay rookie edge rusher Kingsley Enagbare, asked which player he’s going to pick the brain of early in his Packer career.
Aaron Rodgers, of course.
“If I trade up for someone tomorrow, that means I really love him.”
—Brandon Beane, Bills GM, to Mike Silver in an enlightening Bally Sports story about the building of the Bills. He did trade up—two spots—and drafted cornerback Kaiir Elam.
“I think his future is bright. As far as his future with us, we’ll kind of see how that goes, obviously with what we’ve done with Aaron and how long Aaron wants to play.”
—Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst, on the future of backup QB Jordan Love.
Coby Bryant will wear number eight in the NFL.
How perfect that the Seattle fourth-round cornerback picked the original number of the man he was named after by his parents 23 years ago.
“My parents loved Kobe Bryant, not just as an athlete, but how he carried himself,” Bryant said on Good Morning Football. “I try to carry myself as a leader, with the Mamba mentality.”
The true schedule nerd comes out in me at this time of year. This is the time of year when I actually ponder byes after overseas games. So when Seattle versus Tampa Bay in Munich was announced at the first regular-season game ever to be played in Germany, I started doing the math.
There is a nine-hour time difference between Munich and Seattle. Here’s a look at the Seahawks’ possible post-game itinerary:
Sunday, Nov. 13 (All times Pacific)
9:40 a.m.: Bucs-Seahawks games ends at Allianz Arena, Munich.
1:15 p.m.: After travel to Munich airport and going through customs and packing plane, Seahawks depart for flight to SeaTac Airport, Seattle.
11:35 p.m.: Seahawks land at SeaTac.
A couple of thoughts. It’s fairly amazing to consider that, all in the span of one day, Seattle time, the Seahawks will wake up in Germany, play a football game, fly home for 10 hours and 25 minutes, and land (probably) before midnight.
When the Seahawks play a West Coast Sunday night game, they would return to SeaTac in the midnight to 1 a.m. range. Theoretically, by landing before midnight Sunday after the Munich game, they’d be able to have the same prep time for a game the next week as if they had a road Sunday-nighter.
But there are two factors: Teams coming back from an overseas game have the option to take their bye that week. And a Week 11 bye would be desired by almost any team because it’s better to have a bye in midseason or later. So when the schedule comes out this week, expect the Seahawks and Bucs to both have Week 11 byes.
WR Jahan Dotson said he was ready to skip his graduation at Penn State tomorrow; didn't want to miss practice. But he said Ron Rivera told him he had to go. So he's going.
— John Keim (@john_keim) May 6, 2022
Keim covers the Washington Commanders for ESPN.
So proud of my daughter Alexis who graduates today from the University of Minnesota Medical School. Hard work, dedication and a passion to serve others!❤️ pic.twitter.com/TssHETsBRo
— Rich Gannon (@RichGannon12) May 6, 2022
Gannon, the former NFL MVP, is a proud dad today, and rightfully so.
Marquise Brown wanted out of Baltimore because of Greg Roman NOT Lamar Jackson. Marquise knows G-Ro’s system runs through the backs and tight ends, so it’s unlikely a WR1 will get big money. The best way to get paid was to be in a pass first offense in @AZCardinals A THREAD 1/4
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) May 5, 2022
Former Brown teammate Robert Griffin III, on the trade of Hollywood Brown to the Cardinals, putting the blame on Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman for it.
I will never understand the “I’m not here to mentor the next guy” mentality… so for all you young QBs that need a mentor, DM me & Ill be that guy, happy to help in any way I can!
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) May 3, 2022
Warner, the Hall of Fame QB, responded to Ryan Tannehill saying he didn’t think it was his job to mentor rookie Malik Willis.
Two dinner guests: Secretariat; Mr. Ed https://t.co/0W6cKvG49l
— Steve Serby (@NYPost_Serby) May 7, 2022
The inimitable Steve Serby, after the historic 2022 Kentucky Derby.
I've read a lot of articles about the Steelers over the years and no one wrote them up better than @EdBouchette. Wishing him the best in retirement.
— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) May 3, 2022
Meyers is an ardent Steelers fan and, in his spare time, an NBC late-night host.
Thanks to the 313 emailers who responded to my “why is there an Anne Hathaway Drive in Randallstown, Md.” query with a piece of knowledge I did not know: Anne Hathaway was William Shakespeare’s wife, and there is a Shakespeare Apartments in that neighborhood. Some of you questioned my lack of knowledge there, to put it nicely. Anyway, I guess a few of you, anyway, read my column to the end. Thanks for the answers. On with your other post-draft email:
I missed on the Jets. From Michael Fuchs, of Venice, Fla.: “I am a long-time fan of your column, but as a Jets fan, I was reminded this week how often you have chosen to ignore or belittle them, even in the face of positive developments. Football analysts consistently praised their draft, with many calling it the best of any team. I understand your continued focus on the Ravens and Steelers and Raiders and other flashy or winning teams through the years. But there are other teams in the league, and they deserve positive attention when appropriate.”
Couldn’t agree more. I should have found a way to do something more about the Jets than just a brief mention. I carried that guilt into the chunk of the column this week on Joe Douglas and the job he did, and you’ll be able to hear from Douglas in this week’s “The Peter King Podcast,” which will be posted late Tuesday. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes my news judgment is not good enough.
The insider perspective. From Matthew, on Twitter: “I enjoyed the read, but felt like you missed the main story. You spent time in Philly and Baltimore and instead of focusing on a blockbuster trade, you spent more time covering a punter and kid from Coastal Carolina.”
Hi Matthew. There were a lot of draft columns and draft stories that hit the big marks of the weekend—Jets and Giants hitting home runs, the Eagles-Titans deal, a bunch of trades in the first round, Detroit hitting on two prime picks. What I look to do most years is something a little off the beaten path, and something inside the game. Thus the reason for my trip to Baltimore. I was the only writer (to my knowledge) to be inside a team’s draft room for a story this year. Some readers will enjoy the 2,700-word view of a team with a bounty of picks in the middle of a draft; some wish I would concentrate on bigger news. I get it, and I hear you. But I do think I add more to the football draft discourse by doing something out of the box like I did.
He thought I was wrong on the Green Bay draft. From Richard Temkin, of Farmington Hills, Mich.: “I was very surprised to see your take on the draft and that you joined the many who bemoan the ‘failure’ to draft a first-round receiver. This Packers fan/owner is just fine with what they did. Here’s a little history for you: The last two Packers Super Bowl winners had the top scoring defense in the NFL. If we can avoid serious injury, this group has that same potential. And those SB winners did not have a real number one wideout. I suggest you reconsider.”
You could be right, Richard. Time will tell. A few thoughts:
• In 2010, I think you’re mis-remembering a receiving corps with a top receiver, Greg Jennings, coming off his third straight 1,000-yard, 16.0-plus-yards-per-catch season, a trusted former number one in Donald Driver, and a rising player in Jordy Nelson. Compare that to Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, Amari Rodgers, Christian Watson. No comparison.
• I like Watson. But he played at a lower college level and averaged two catches per game. It’s a level-jump to think he’d be as big an opening-day factor as, say, a Chris Olave.
• Green Bay had the best draft position in years. It also has a quarterback who could have one, two or three years left; has fallen short two straight years at home in the playoffs; and is now missing one of the best receivers in football. I think with all that, a conservative GM like Brian Gutekunst should have broken out of his comfort zone and sold out to get one of the best receivers in the draft.
There are many Packers fans, and some in the sports media, who think Gutekunst did just fine in bypassing one of the top receivers. I don’t. So we’ll see who’s right.
On the Courtney Brown comparison. From Jim Dunn: “Aside from being soft-spoken black men of similar stature, what is it about Travon Walker that reminded you of Courtney Brown? It seems a surprising comparison. Brown: 33 sacks (NCAA record at the time), 70 TFL (NCAA record at the time) … Walker: 9.5 sacks, 13 TFL.”
It’s their relative invisibility. At Sports Illustrated the year Brown came out, I profiled him and was struck at how unfamous he was, and how he wanted to keep it that way. He hated the spotlight. I thought, When you’re the first pick in the draft, you’d better be ready for the spotlight. He wasn’t. I was reminded of that in the coverage of the draft on TV. Walker’s pick seemed like a cameo. I don’t recall the first pick of the draft being as glossed over as Walker was, at least since draft coverage exploded in the last 10 or 12 years. For better or for worse, after a college career of never being in the spotlight, Walker is about to feel the pressure that first overall picks can find suffocating.
He didn’t like me criticizing the Patriots pick. From James Barnicle, via Twitter: “Are you planning to ask Bill Belichick or the Patriots for info or background anytime soon? That would be ‘naïve’ of you. Think back to Tom Jackson for the reply.”
No, I’m not. The Patriots picked a player way higher than the rest of the league projected him to go, and I criticized Bill Belichick for it. Big deal. We all have jobs to do, and sometimes the greatest coach in the game does something I don’t agree with and I point it out. That’s a little different, don’t you think, than reporting that his players hate him, as Jackson did in 2003.
1. I think—quick!—you’ve got to hustle to the TV. Turn on NFL Network. The NFL’s about to announce Houston’s Week 9 foe! Must-see TV!
2. I think, as I’ve written recently, I still think the two front-runners for the first game of the season—which the NFL has a very tight lid on right now—are Buffalo at the Rams or Denver at the Rams, on Thursday night, Sept. 8.
3. I think if I’m Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler, the new Raiders’ braintrust, I am drawing a solid line of demarcation between the business side of the building in Henderson, Nev., and the football side. And I’m staying on the football side. The ownership and business side is mayhem, and I have no idea who I’d be able to trust there.
4. I think I don’t know who’s to blame for the Raiders’ front-office follies. I do know they’ve had enough club presidents, GMs, COOs, etc., to fill 10 Fortune 500 companies in the last two years, and I do know the Raiders have one of the most undisciplined front offices in recent NFL history. If Mark Davis wants his new GM Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels to have a real chance to challenge Kansas City in the AFC West, he’ll make sure his organization is buttoned up a lot tighter than it is now. (That’s assuming Davis’ internal behavior is clean as a whistle, which needs to be established.)
5. I think there’s just one thing amiss with Tom Brady saying the ball getting knocked free in the Tuck Rule game “might have been a fumble.” It’s not his decision to make. It’s the officials’ decision to make, and they ruled, by the letter of the law, that it was not a fumble. However it looked, however cute the Brady video is 21 years later … it’s meaningless. Brady is good at stoking social-media furor, that’s for sure. And of course it looked like a fumble. But by rule at the time, it was not a fumble. Case closed.
6. I think much has been said about Ryan Tannehill’s statement that he doesn’t think it’s his job to mentor Malik Willis, the quarterback picked in the third round by the Titans. Tannehill’s right. It’s not in his job description, the same way it hasn’t been in other quarterbacks’ job descriptions. But I know Tannehill a bit. He’s going to be a very good teammate to Willis. He’s a good person. Of course he’s right that he doesn’t have to mentor Willis. But naturally, he will.
7. I think the big problem with what Tannehill said is this: It sounds selfish, and it becomes a story. Why let it? Why not answer the question this way … I’ll support Malik in the quarterback room and on the field, the same way Matt Moore supported me early on in Miami. We’ll both get better through the classroom work and competing on the field.
8. I think it’s pretty tone-deaf to think the Titans wouldn’t think of backstopping the quarterback position after Tannehill’s meh 2021 season and poor performance in the playoff game against Cincinnati—a performance that shook Tannehill so much that he said last week he sought professional help to deal with the disappointment of it. He’s on the verge of turning 34, and the Titans, today, can’t be positive he’s their quarterback on opening day 2023. Taking a quarterback 86th overall isn’t a slap in Ryan Tannehill’s face. It’s an insurance policy for the team coming off being the first seed in the AFC, and coming off being shaken by the play of the guy who’s supposed to be the franchise quarterback.
9. I think the Interesting Note of the Week That No One Realizes (I invent some pretty weird stuff in this space) is this: Returner/receiver Andre Roberts signed with Carolina last week. It’s his eighth team in nine years. Let us count:
2013, Arizona. Last season as Larry Fitzgerald’s receiving partner (182 catches in four years) and golf partner.
2014-15, Washington. Had a 99-yard TD on a kickoff return at Carolina in 2015.
2016, Detroit. Had a 55-yard punt return for TD in win over Jacksonville.
2017, Atlanta. Unimpactful.
2018, N.Y. Jets. Superb year. First-team all-pro, with punt and kick returns for TD.
2019-20, Buffalo. Made his second and third Pro Bowls as dual-threat returner.
2021, Houston. Played six games, cut after fumbling against the Colts.
2021, L.A. Chargers. Had his longest kick return, 101 yards, a week shy of turning 34.
2022, Carolina. Joined his sixth team in 54 months.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Klemko! You’re back! Robert Klemko, Washington Post correspondent and former NFL scribe, returned to the mainland after a month writing about the war in Ukraine. He’s happy to be home, as this shot from Instagram would illustrate.
b. Enfield, Conn., is my hometown. And Enfield High School is my alma mater. The most influential coach/teacher I had in my formative years was Bob Bromage, who helped me love baseball. The town just named one of its baseball fields after him, and Bob Bromage Field is a long-overdue honor. Bob Bromage has no idea how much like Bill Parcells he was to a bunch of wide-eyed doofuses trying to learn baseball. He didn’t take crap, he taught the game acerbically and magnificently, and he didn’t care about anything except doing everything he could to win. Congrats, Bob, on a great honor, and I’m glad you’re still around to see it.
c. Engrossing Radio Interview of the Week: Jennifer Grey, the star of “Dirty Dancing,” and a big part of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” has written a memoir called, “Out of the Corner.” She was on WNYC’s “All of It,” with host Allison Stewart, and Grey had no issue with discussing everything about the botched nose job that so affected her life. The guts of Grey to admit stuff from the deepest part of her self was riveting, I thought. Grey said: “Somebody hear me! I am so alone!” Recommended.
d. Peyton Manning must be lauded for volunteering to start a scholarship fund for former Broncos teammate DeMaryius Thomas at his alma mater, Georgia Tech. What’s so cool about this effort is that it’s not going to help athletes who already have a chance at a college education. It’s to help those needy students from Thomas’ county in Georgia, Laurens County, or neighboring areas, for students who have a significant financial need. One other cool part of the scholarship: Students not only need a “B” average or better in high school, but also should have elements of community service or volunteerism on their student résumé. That is a great way to honor Thomas, a very good player and a very good person in the community. Good for Manning and his wife, Ashley.
e. Albert Breer: Congrats on your terrific mock—particularly the direct hits on Zion Johnson at 17 and Quay Walker at 22. That’s some great picking. You never told me you had fortune-telling capabilities. Seriously, dude: Great job.
f. Brilliant Baseball Moment of the Week: The nephew of Alex Rodriguez hit a big fly, a monster jack, a sultanous swat, in his first major-league at-bat for the Miami Marlins. Not only that, but he hit it off a legit hurler, Sean Manaea.
A-Rod's nephew Joe Dunand just hit a HR in his first big league AB. pic.twitter.com/ZCSVipk7Ab
— Talking Friars (@talkingfriars) May 8, 2022
g. Oh my. The 2022 Kentucky Derby. Do I have a voice left?
h. Rich Strike! A $30,000 claimer 7.5 months ago, opened at 99 to 1 in the crowded Kentucky Derby Field, AND LOOK AT THAT HORSE COME DOWN THE STRETCH … and Rich Strike is your Kentucky Derby winner.
i. Tech Story of the Week: Georgia Wells, Yoree Koh and Salvador Rodriguez of the Wall Street Journal with an excellent look at how TikTok staffers had to work ridiculous hours as a matter of course to simply get their work done. They wrote:
“In Los Angeles, the base of TikTok‘s U.S. operation, some employees complain of sleep deprivation exacerbated by frequent weekend work and mandatory meetings with colleagues across the globe.
Some ex-U.S. employees said to attend virtual meetings with managers in Beijing, they had to begin their work week on Sunday afternoon, which is Monday morning in China.
“I actually think I developed a sleep disorder from working so late into the evenings,” Chloe Shih, a former employee in California, said in a YouTube video.
j. I’m reminded of the hours young coaches have to work in college and pro football. In the NFL, you don’t ask about the hours you’ll have to work when you take a job, because the line of willing employees behind you will be thrilled to work said hours if you’re not.
k. One thing I forget to get to last week: Are you Brooklyn Nets fans happy you moved heaven and earth to sign Kyrie Irving?
l. No, I didn’t think so.
m. Let me know, Red Sox fans, if you have any hope to be remotely competitive in August. Sure looks grim to me. It’s a bad thing if you can’t hit. But not hitting combined with a bad bullpen, now that’s the death knell of a baseball season. And it’s only May 9!
n. Eff 2022. That’s what the baseball gods have to be thinking, with the Sox blowing game after game and now Chris Sale having a setback with the rib injury.
o. Golf Story of the Week: Alan Shipnuck, writing for The Fire Pit Collective, on the bizarre life and times of Phil Mickelson, which, apparently, include the gambling losses of $40-million. Writes Shipnuck:
Mickelson’s love of gambling is fundamental to understanding his style of play as a golfer. It might also explain the Saudi seduction. Based on his comments to me, he clearly enjoyed the idea of sticking it to the PGA Tour, but the real motivation was plainly the funny money being offered by the Saudis. Why was Phil so eager to cash in, at the risk of alienating so many fans and endorsement partners? The massive scale of Mickelson’s gambling losses has never before been made public, but, as noted in the book, during the Billy Walters insider trading investigation, government auditors conducted a forensic examination of Phil’s finances.
According to a source with direct access to the documents, Mickelson had gambling losses totaling more than $40 million in the four-year period (2010–14) that was scrutinized. In those prime earning years, his income was estimated to be just north of $40 million a year. That’s an obscene amount of money, but once he paid his taxes (including the California tariffs he publicly railed against), he was left with, what, low-20s? Then he had to cover his plane and mansion(s), plus his agent, caddie, pilots, chef, personal trainer, swing coaches and sundry others. Throw in all the other expenses of a big life—like an actual T. Rex skull for a birthday present—and that leaves, what, $10 million? Per the government audit, that’s roughly how much Mickelson averaged in annual gambling losses.
p. Ahhhhh … I don’t know exactly how to think of that, but I do think it’s pretty obvious that a man who loses $10 million a year gambling probably isn’t going to be able to just stop when the sick money stops rolling in.
q. Legal Story of the Week: Conor Orr and Gary Gramling of Sports Illustrated, with a look at the recently dismissed case against the Browns by former coach Hue Jackson.
r. Orr and Gramling detail a bonus system that skirts the boundaries of a team trying to build up high draft choices. In other words, a system that some could see as not trying as hard to win as possible. They write of their story:
The reporting provides an intimate look at a franchise attempting to walk a tightrope between “smart rebuild” and “all-out tank,” while trying to meld classic “football” coaches and scouts with a progressive “analytics” front office. They reveal actions that could be interpreted as violating the league’s principle of competitive integrity: Specifically, an addendum to Jackson’s contract includes bonus incentives that—while they do not specifically call for Jackson to lose games—appear to incentivize losing.
… Ostensibly, the bonus system was built in order to encourage collaboration between the coaching staff and personnel department, as [owner] Jimmy Haslam sought to meld traditional scouting with an analytics-heavy approach (a column, presumably designated for the head of personnel, had the same goals as the “coach” column, though some of the percentages differed). It didn’t work; Jackson, according to his unfiled application to vacate arbitration, first alerted the NFL to his concerns with the Browns’ four-year plan in November 2016, about halfway through his first season in Cleveland.
Multiple people outside the Browns organization who reviewed the table believe it could be seen as innovative. But it is, objectively, not in the best interest of the coach from a win-loss standpoint.
“If I got that sent to me, the first thing I’d think was ‘Holy s—, this is, like, a tank bonus,’” one veteran coaching agent says.
s. Nothing to see here, the league ruled. Surprise!
t. Beernerdness: Forgot to mention this gem from my trip to Philadelphia on draft night: Ship Bottom Brewery (Beach Haven, N.J.) has a delightful “Blueberry Bikini Bottom” Wheat beer—and don’t blame me for the name—that is light and summery and tastes good even on a 43-degree Philly evening. Recommended.
u. As usual, Rich Eisen is doing good things for children who need it most with his Run Rich Run sprint and fundraiser: https://www.stjude.org/get-involved/other-ways/run-rich-run-nfl-40.html. Good luck to him, and to St. Jude.
v. So I’ve got an idea. Ready?
w. I will have several guest columns in June and July, when I am off. (And when I will be off with my wife on a two-year-Covid-delayed 40th-anniversary trip to Italy.) I was thinking about guest columnists while I’m gone, and this thought came to mind: I should ask my readers to give their best suggestions on how to make the NFL better.
x. So here is the idea: Between now and midnight May 23, send me your idea of something that would make the NFL better—a playing rule, a franchise shift, a quirky thing you’ve had on your mind forever, a scheduling change, anything to make the game you love better. Write a smart summary of your idea, 300 words max. And on one of my off weeks, we’ll plan to use the 10 best/most interesting/most valid ideas for one of my guest columns.
y. So send me your idea in 300 words or less, with your name and where you live. Send to email@example.com. Make it concise. Make it sing. And I’ll choose the best 10, and you’ll be (for a moment) famous! You’ve got two weeks. And also: Put “FMIA contest” in the subject line.
I can’t stop watching.
RICH STRIKE IS COMING UP ON
THE INSIDE! GOODNESS!!!!