Jalen Ramsey to the Dolphins made too much sense, for both Miami and the Rams. It happened Sunday afternoon. We should have seen it coming for weeks.
The trade—Ramsey to Miami for a mid-third-round pick, 77th overall, and an invisible tight end from the 2021 third round, Hunter Long—seems light for the Rams. And it is, but the market for a cornerback entering his age-29 season who wants a contract extension and who gave up 65-percent completions to his man in coverage last year wasn’t as robust as the Rams had hoped. There was also the matter of Ramsey wanting to go to Miami.
The Dolphins are all-in for 2023. The Rams are all-in for 2025. It’s now officially official: L.A. is a bleep-them-picks franchise no longer, and will build for the future with their 11 picks this April.
Miami will contend if Tua Tagovailoa can stay on the field most or all of the regular season. That’s a certainty. But this deal is an admission the Dolphins won’t be a title team without major improvement on defense. The new coordinator, Vic Fangio, is piece one of the rebuild. Ramsey is an important second piece. The Dolphins in 2022 allowed 113 more points (one TD per game) than the Bills and had interceptions in just five of 17 games. The pricy free-agent cornerback from 2021, Byron Jones, may be too injured to count on. If Aaron Rodgers signs with the Jets and if Lamar Jackson plays with Baltimore, Miami will have nine games in 2023 against premier quarterbacks: Josh Allen and Rodgers (two each), with one against Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, Jackson and Dak Prescott. Ramsey and Xavien Howard should be a formidable cover duo in Fangio’s new defense.
The Rams are going to build through the draft for the foreseeable future, reversing course from the Super Bowl LVI title team. In the last two years, they’ve had one pick in the top 100, total. This year they’ve got three in the top 77 (36, 69 and 77, and I would look for GM Les Snead to try to swap the 36th overall for two or three picks). Long has done zero in two years for two head coaches in Miami, so I wouldn’t count much on him.
Two teams traveling different roads, both using present-day logic. This weekend of big transition will continue with the first week of the new league year and more transition.
Boldface names/events as the off-season officially kicks off, starting with the trade that rocked the NFL Friday:
Beware Carolina know-it-alls. Three days after the mega-deal with Chicago and 45 days before round one, I don’t think the Panthers know their quarterback target.
D.J. Moore was the key to the deal. Take that to the bank. There’d have been no trade without him in it.
Bryce Young-related Stat of the Week: In Carolina coach Frank Reich’s 17 years as an NFL head or assistant coach, a grand total of six games were started by quarterbacks under 6-foot-4. Young’s 5-10.
Man, Ryan Poles is overseeing a face transplant, not a facelift. No NFL team will be more different from September 2022 to September 2023. When you go 3-14, that’s a good thing.
Happy trails, Devin McCourty. The glue to the Patriots’ D retires at 35. TV awaits. “For us, for so long, it was Tom Brady on the offensive side, Devin on the defensive side,” New England statesman Matthew Slater told me Sunday. “They led us for so long.”
Rest in peace, Bud Grant. The glue to the Vikings franchise, and one of my favorites in 39 years covering the NFL, dies at 95.
Free-agency names to watch today. I’ve got seven without franchise tags who should do well in the next 24 hours: DTs Javon Hargrave and Dre’Mont Jones, Ts Orlando Brown and Mike McGlinchey, S Jessie Bates, CB Jamel Dean, DE Frank Clark.
Memo to Aaron Rodgers: Take the Jets’ gig for the next two years. Your life has been about adventure. (Weirdness too, but adventure.) Imagine going down as the best for this franchise since Joe Willie Namath off-off-Broadway. That’d be a cool way to end a great career.
All’s quiet on the Lamar Jackson front. What a weird, weird story.
The Niners got good news on Brock Purdy. Whew.
Finally, a quarterback middle class. Derek Carr and Geno Smith reside in it, and Daniel Jones is atop it.
On with the show of the week roster remodeling begins.
CHI-CAR Big Trade10
This is the day NFL free agency begins, the day when agents and teams can legally begin to negotiate contracts that they’ve already been, you know, illegally negotiating. But a Molotov cocktail got thrown into the top 10 of the draft over the weekend, so that takes precedence this morning.
And well, that escalated quickly.
The top of the draft got turned upside-down by Ryan Poles and the desperado Carolina Panthers just after 5 Eastern Time Friday afternoon, six days after he told me it’d take a ransom for the Bears to deal the top overall pick.
Poles got a lot from Carolina for the top pick: the ninth and 61st overall picks this year, a first-round pick in 2024, a second-round pick in 2025, and the Panthers’ number one wideout, D.J. Moore, healthy and entering his age-26 season. Moore’s not a top-10 NFL receiver, but he’s certainly in the top 20, after three 1,000-yard years in his first five NFL seasons.
Because the trade cannot be announced until Wednesday, the start of the 2023 league year, the Panthers and Bears were zipped up tight over the weekend. But I’ve gathered a few nuggets.
The prevailing wisdom: Chicago got enough for the pick, assuming D.J. Moore can be the primo receiver Justin Fields desperately needs. Carolina paid through the nose, and recent draft history is littered with lousy tradeups into the top five for quarterbacks who didn’t pan out (Robert Griffin III, Carson Wentz, Mitchell Trubisky, Sam Darnold). “If Carolina doesn’t pick the right quarterback, the trade’s a disaster,” said former NFL wheeler-dealer Jimmy Johnson.
This deal was not getting done without D.J. Moore in it. The Bears had a bottom-five group of wideouts in 2022, even after trading for Chase Claypool in midseason. Darnell Mooney, Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown, as a group, weren’t going to give Fields his best chance to emerge as a quarterback and developing Fields is priority one for the ’23 Bears. The free-agency wideout crop is a D-minus, and unless Poles wanted to use his only pick in the top-50 on a receiver, Moore (or a number one receiver like him) was vital. Certainly Carolina didn’t want to deal one of its best five players, in his prime; in the span of six months, the Panthers have dealt their two best offensive players, Christian McCaffrey and Moore. But if they wanted to be sure of having their choice of quarterbacks come April 27, Moore had to be sacrificed.
I don’t think Carolina has decided which quarterback it wants. Of course the GM, Scott Fitterer, and scouts who’ve investigated quarterbacks have their leanings. Of course coach Frank Reich and his staff have their opinions after watching tape and meeting the passers at the Combine. But 45 days out from the first round, this isn’t a done deal. It wouldn’t be smart for it to be a done deal.
I’ve heard the same rumors everyone else has—that Frank Reich loves Florida QB Anthony Richardson. And he may be the pick. But I’m a bit skeptical. Nothing against Richardson, who is one of the most interesting QB prospects in the past few drafts. I wonder, though, about trading two first-round picks, two second-round picks and one of your five best players for a player with a high ceiling but with one year as a college starter. Trading to number one and choosing Richardson might turn out to be brilliant. But picking Richardson number one after dealing five prime pieces for him is a major risk.
However, if Richardson become The Guy, I expect Carolina to consider a minor trade-down. This would be tricky. When teams make draft trades, the team trading up doesn’t usually admit who the player target is. In this case, the Panthers, if trading from one to, say, Houston at two, would have to be assured the Texans weren’t taking the quarterback Carolina wants. That would require some trust, obviously. Going much beyond two would be a chancy venture.
Reich has never coached a short quarterback, and Bryce Young is 5-10. Is that meaningful? I give it a little weight. In Reich’s 17 years as a quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator or head coach, his starting quarterbacks in Indianapolis, Arizona, San Diego, Philadelphia and Indianapolis (again) have been 6-6 (Nick Foles, John Skelton), 6-5 (Peyton Manning, Kerry Collins, Dan Orlovsky, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Rivers again, Wentz again), 6-4 (Curtis Painter, Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Matt Ryan), 6-3 (Ryan Lindley) and 6-2 (Sam Ehlinger). The 6-3 and 6-2 guys totaled six starts, and I suspect that starting Ehlinger twice in Reich’s last two games in Indy was not Reich’s idea. So in 17 years, all but six games Reich coached were started by quarterbacks 6-4 and taller. Reich’s a traditionalist. He played in an era with big quarterbacks. To stake the future of the franchise on a great player, but a 5-10 player, would be unconventional for him. However, Fitterer comes from Seattle, where the 5-10-ish Russell Wilson was a major outlier for a decade. Young has gotten rave reviews for his football smarts, and just finished two years with a demanding NFL QB teacher, Bill O’Brien, at Alabama. So never say never about the short QB.
One other thing about Bryce Young that Reich and his staff will love and could sway them toward a 5-10 QB. There probably wasn’t a quarterback in college football last year who was as smart and resourceful as Young. Case in point: On most snaps at Alabama, Young called two plays in the huddle and decided which to use—himself, not with a signal from the sidelines—once he read the defense at the line. “That’s very NFL,” said one league quarterback authority who has studied Young. “I think that’s one of the reasons his height isn’t as big a deal as it might be—he’s dealt with figuring out the right play all the time based on what he sees from the defense, and I’m sure he factors in not getting in traffic with a bunch of 6-5 guys.” Two other points to consider about Young: He didn’t have many balls batted down. And Reich is not an inflexible person—if he thinks Young’s markedly the best prospect, he’ll be good taking him.
Does Young’s size mean 6-3 C.J. Stroud has the best chance to be the pick? Two veteran front-office people I spoke with Saturday think Stroud makes the most sense, but those two men are not making this call. Stroud did play the single-most impressive game of any of the four first-round prospects (including Kentucky’s Will Levis) this year—putting up 41 points on Georgia in the college playoffs, throwing for 348 yards with four TDs and no interceptions—so that counts for something.
Where is Chicago left? My column last week focused heavily on the Bears, and now that the deal’s been done, Poles faces a few truths. He knows he needs to bulk up on the offensive line; he has the cap room (a league-high $69.9-million in effective cap space, per overthecap.com) to afford one of the top three tackles in free-agency—Orlando Brown, Mike McGlinchey or Kaleb McGary. Re the draft: Being at nine takes him out of the ballgame for the best pass-rusher, Will Anderson of Alabama, and likely puts number two edge player Tyree Wilson of Texas Tech out of range. But the top offensive-line prospect, Peter Skoronski of Northwestern, could be there at nine. Poles could be smartest spending on one tackle in free agency, and one defensive linemen—Dre’Mont Jones or the pricey Javon Hargrave, or perhaps Frank Clark to beef up the pass-rush.
It’s amazing how different the Bears could look come training camp. Imagine Fields throwing to D.J. Moore outside or in the slot, with Brown protecting his blind side, and Skoronski plugged in either at guard or tackle as a day-one starter. Imagine Jones and Clark buttressing a needy defensive line. That’s all fantasy football, of course, but Poles has the cap room and draft picks (9, 53, 61, 64 overall) to make some plug-and-play decisions between now and May 1.
Re Carolina: Anyone who scouts the quarterbacks comes away thinking Young and Stroud are good candidates for the top pick. The game has changed in the past few years. If you love Young the most, you’re going to deploy an offense that’s 97-percent in shotgun and let him be the smart guy at the line he was at Alabama. Stroud showed the ability to drive the football with confidence; clearly, he’ll be able to make every NFL throw, and he’s afraid of nothing. But then there’s Richardson. It’s certainly possible in the next six weeks the Panthers could talk themselves into the versatile Florida quarterback with the great arm and 80- and 81-yard college TD runs.
I wish I could tell you a good gut feel on who Carolina will pick, but I can’t. As I say, I’m sure those who will collaborate to make the pick have leanings today. Leanings can change in 45 days.
The Rest of the Story
Free agency will be pretty heavy by mid-day Monday, but it’s not going to be nutso this year. The crop, as has been well documented, is the worst it’s been in some years. As one prime agent told me Saturday, “The full evaporation of the middle class in the NFL is underway.” That might be a bit dramatic, but another agent told me over the weekend he expects teams to play one team against another more this year than ever before—because there simply aren’t enough desirable players on the market. I’m not covering the market in much depth for a simple reason: What’s new in free agency gets wholly overtaken in half a day. For example, I’d guess Jessie Bates will be well-pursued by Atlanta and Javon Hargrave by Arizona, but we’ll likely know where each is going a few hours after this column posts. So you know where to find the results of the mayhem on Twitter and various sites today. I cede to them.
On the retirement of Devin McCourty. In his 14 NFL seasons, McCourty left a mark as a player and perhaps more as a man, with his work in social justice and human rights. I admire him greatly for that. But I’ve thought for some time that McCourty the player and irreplaceable team leader was slightly minimized by the great person he is. So I want to focus on that in noting his retirement on Friday at 35. McCourty will likely join his twin Jason—how special that they’ve been good at so many of the same things over the years, at Rutgers and in the NFL, and Jason McCourty became a good NFL analyst in his first year in retirement in 2022—doing TV and media work.
“I’m glad you’re taking that angle,” Matthew Slater, Devin’s 14-year teammate and close friend, said Sunday. “I do think that it’s important to acknowledge how good of a player he was. Our football team really had two heartbeats for a long time—Tom [Brady] and Devin. Devin was the one unifying voice on our defense for a long, long time.”
The most impressive thing about McCourty, to me, was how long he played, how consistently he played, how somehow he never suffered a serious injury … and how impressive he was as a football player and leader in his thirties.
Think of these two McCourty factoids:
- After turning 30, McCourty played six years. The Patriots played 106 regular-season and playoff games in those six years. McCourty started all 106 at safety in Bill Belichick’s defensive back end.
- In the last 10 games of McCourty’s career, he played every snap in nine. (He sat 11 snaps in the other one, an easy win at Arizona, with the game in hand.) His performance down the stretch of his career, when most limp to the finish line after 14 seasons, was notable. Against the Jets, he intercepted Zach Wilson twice and had an important pass defended in New England’s 22-17 win. On Christmas Eve against Cincinnati with the Bengals up 15-0 and threatening to make it a rout before halftime in the Red Zone, McCourty baited Joe Burrow—waiting an extra half-second before sprinting forward—and picked off a ball intended for Tyler Boyd. That helped the Pats make what could have been a rout into a 22-18 loss. In his last game, in Buffalo, McCourty picked off Josh Allen at the Patriots’ three-yard line, keeping the emotional Damar Hamlin-return game tied at 14 entering halftime.
He played his best when his best was important. He talked his best too. NFL Films captured his talk to the team just before kickoff in New England’s final Super Bowl win of its dynasty period, the 13-3 win over the Rams—the best defensive performance in New England’s Super Bowl era.
“Devin addressed our team before every game probably the last seven or eight years,” Slater said. “He was the last voice we heard before every game.
McCourty said this before New England’s sixth Super Bowl victory, in the din of a Super Bowl sideline:
“Two is better than one, because if one falls, the other can pick him up! Woe is the man who’s alone, because no one can pick him up! All day today fellas, have each other’s back! One last time for the 2018 season! We’ve been through everything to be here in this moment! In this moment! For your mom, your dad, your grandparents, everyone who loves you! Tonight is the night! Show the world!”
McCourty showed the world, for 14 years, at the highest level of football.
An Ode to Bud Grant20
Bud Grant, 1927-2023. Grant and Marv Levy are the only coaches to take teams to the Grey Cup (Canadian Football League title game) and Super Bowl. Grant died Saturday at 95. What a life. The 10 things you need to know about him:
1. Born in Wisconsin and diagnosed with polio at a young age, his doctor told him sports would help his mobility. He played football, basketball and baseball as a kid, and at the University of Minnesota, lettered in each.
2. Baseball might have been his best sport, but upon graduating from Minnesota, he was a first-round pick of the NFL champ Eagles in 1950, and a fourth-round pick of the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers. He won a championship ring with the Lakers in 1950, teaming with the best player of the day, George Mikan. But he was a basketball sub, and could be an NFL starter, so he moved to Philadelphia—and football.
3. With the Eagles in 1952, he caught 56 passes for 997 yards, second in the NFL. But Winnipeg of the CFL offered him more money–$11,000, to $8,000 with Philadelphia—so he jumped leagues in 1953. “That’s not tough arithmetic,” he said.
4. A two-way player in Winnipeg, Grant intercepted five passes in a game for the Blue Bombers in 1953.
5. At the end of the 1956 season in Canada, Grant was named to play in the CFL all-star game in Vancouver. The day after the game, Grant and five teammates were due to fly back to Vancouver late in the afternoon. But he asked the airline to move the group to the early-morning flight, not wanting to hang around Vancouver all day. Four of the teammates made the early flight home. One, Cal Jones, chose to sleep in and fly later. The afternoon flight crashed into a mountain after takeoff, killing all 62 people on board, including Jones. Grant always maintained it was a matter of chance that he didn’t die at 29 on that airplane.
6. He took the Winnipeg head-coaching job in 1957 and won four league titles, in 1958, ’59, ’61 and ’62. The Vikings hired him as coach in 1967.
7. He hated Vince Lombardi. Thought he was a bully. On Oct. 15, 1967, the 0-4 Vikings traveled to Milwaukee to play the 3-0-1 Packers. Green Bay was the defending world champion after winning the first Super Bowl nine months earlier. Minnesota shocked Green Bay 10-7 for the first win of Grant’s career. Grant went to shake hands with Lombardi post-game. “I put my hand out,” Grant said years later. “He wouldn’t shake hands with me. And that was the last time I ever talked to him.”
8. Grant coached the Vikings for 18 years, winning 11 division titles and four NFC championships. The Vikings lost the Super Bowl each of those four times, but Grant said later in life, “If all you live for is winning, you’re going to have a sad life.”
9. He was a disciple of the outdoor life, often dressing in short-sleeve shirts on frigid coaching days. He loved hunting and fishing and fought for hunters’ and fishers’ rights. After his coaching career, he lived for those outdoor passions. And he had a Bud Grant Yard Sale every year.
10. I wrote this about Grant’s yard sale a few years ago:
Mark Hamilton, a retired owner of five wildlife galleries in North Dakota, will get up this morning and drive nine hours—506 miles—from Minot, N.D., to 8134 Oakmere Road in Minneapolis, so he can go to a yard sale.
Bud Grant’s yard sale.
“Nowhere else in America can this happen,” Hamilton said Tuesday, preparing for his long journey. “Bud’s a Minnesota boy, and he’s revered. He’s not just a Minnesota treasure. He’s a national treasure.”
At 5 p.m., Grant will blow a whistle—his old coach’s whistle, in fact—and somewhere between 500 and 1,000 early arrivers will flood his yard. No one can come onto the property until 5 p.m. exactly. “They’ll be respectful,” Grant said. “We’re Minnesotans now, not New Yorkers.” The crowds will come from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Grant was excited. “You want fishing lures? We got fishing lures!”
Said Bob Hagan, the Vikings’ long-time PR czar: “He’s the most famous person in the state, a guy you’ve loved for years, and here he is, inviting you into his yard once a year. Stay as long as you want. Who does that?”
Quotes of the Week
“No single individual more defined the Minnesota Vikings than Bud Grant.”
–The Wilf family, owners of the Vikings, on former coach Bud Grant, who died this weekend at age 95.
“For 13 years, Devin made everyone in our organization feel better and be better because of who he is—a pillar of professionalism, unselfishness, work ethic, preparation, intelligence and performance. I am excited to see him bring those same traits to his next chapter and brighten the lives of even more people.”
–Bill Belichick, Patriots coach, praising Devin McCourty on the announcement of his retirement.
“I love coaching. I love working with players and coaches, and I think in some instances when you lose your way, you can lose perspective on things.”
–Rams coach Sean McVay, on Friday.
“I would not have come back here … if you can’t look people in the eye and say, ‘You’re going to get my best every single day. It doesn’t mean there won’t be a bad moment, but I’m going to be so much more intentional and deliberate about trying to be the best version of myself for you guys so that we can all have a more enjoyable experience.’”
–McVay, vowing not to be distant and curmudgeonly.
“Geno, I want to let you know what an inspiration you’ve been to men, women, young, old, all around the country. Lessons about faith, perseverance, work ethic, being a good person. Watching you last year was awesome. So thank you to you.”
–Seattle GM John Schneider, to Geno Smith in a press conference, after signing the resurgent Smith to a contract extension last week.
Two teams in the NFC West, and the point value of their top four draft choices in 2023, with values assessed by the Jimmy Johnson Draft Trade Value Chart, the first chart ever made to assign point values to each pick in the NFL Draft:
Seattle: With the fifth, 20th, 37th and 52nd overall picks, the Seahawks’ top four picks have a value of 3,460 points.
San Francisco: With the 99th, 101st, 102nd and 155th overall picks, the 49ers’ top four picks have a value of 321 points.
San Francisco will have zero picks on day one of the draft, when there will be 31 picks. On day two, when there will be 71 picks, the Niners will have the 68th, 70th and 71st picks of the day.
For the second straight year, Miami is slated to have two draft choices in the first 190 picks of the NFL draft.
Last year, it was LB Channing Tindall (102nd overall) and WR Erik Ezukanma (125th). This year, Miami picks 51st and 84th, then not again till the 197th choice, midway through the sixth round.
Seems to define “all in” with vets.
Tweets of the Week40
God is SO AMAZING! OHMYGOD! 🙏🏾
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) March 12, 2023
The cornerback on Sunday, on the verge of being dealt from the Rams to the Dolphins.
— DJ Moore💫 (@idjmoore) March 10, 2023
The Twitter account of wide receiver D.J. Moore, shortly after news broke that he had been traded to the Chicago Bears. Those two emojis, per Twitter, are “faces screaming in fear.” Hmmmmm (he later added “It’s Up Chi Town” with a yellow star emoji).
DJ Moore with J fields is gone so fun to watch ✌🏿
— Ty Hill (@cheetah) March 10, 2023
The Twitter account of Tyreek Hill seems happy for Justin Fields after the Bears-Panthers trade.
One day there will be a 30 for 30 on Lovie & week 18 of 2023… 🤝🏾
— Lance Briggs (@LanceBriggs) March 11, 2023
The former Bears linebacker with a prescient Tweet about Lovie Smith’s end-game strategy in the comeback, last-minute win that cost Houston the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
HOF @Vikings Coach Bud Grant seeing his new office at #TCOPerformanceCenter for the first time 🏈 #SKOL pic.twitter.com/mhi9LLXLKF
— Lindsey Young (@LindseyMNSports) March 8, 2018
Lindsey Young works for Vikings.com
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @peter_king.
Sam Bradford was in Carson Wentz’s league for costly players. From Shaun Meyer: “You may very well be right that no player has cost so much and delivered so little as Carson Wentz, but since you did say ‘in NFL history,’ I’d like to nominate Sam Bradford as a contender. I’d love to see a similar breakdown.”
I got 12 such emails in the past few days, all saying, What about Sam Bradford? It is comparable. Let’s see:
- Wentz has earned an average of $18.39 million in seven NFL season. He has not won a playoff game. In his best year, 2017, Wentz went 11-2 as a starter for Philadelphia with 33 TD passes before injuring his knee and being lost for the season—the year the Eagles won the Super Bowl. To acquire Wentz in trade, three teams traded a total of nine picks for him—three first-round picks, a second-, four third-round picks and a fourth-.
- Bradford earned an average of $16.24 million in eight NFL seasons. He never won a playoff game. In his best year, 2016, Bradford completed a league-best 71.6 percent of his passes with a 20-to-5 TD-to-interception radio for the Vikings. To acquire Bradford in trade, two teams dealt—combined—picks in the first, second and fourth rounds.
The big difference, obviously, is that teams spent eight picks in the first three rounds to acquire Wentz, while teams spent two picks in the first three rounds to acquire Bradford. It’s close, but the wasted value for Wentz outweighs the waste for Bradford.
You’re right on the money. From Chris Ciavarro: “Are you tweeting less or am I crazy? Honest question. I’ve been reading your work for 15-plus years, using Twitter more over the past three years and seems like I don’t see you out there as much these days.”
I’m not. Good of you to notice. I’ve been on Twitter since 2009, when Sports Illustrated asked me to interact with fans on this new social media platform, and I’d go on a lot in my first eight to 10 years. I vastly curtailed it for two reasons. One: I found I was Tweeting during worktime—either covering games or while I was home working during the week—and I thought it took away from me concentrating on my job. Two: Twitter has become a gotcha place, a disrespectful place, a place where there are more and more potshots taken at people like me (don’t get me wrong: when I mess up, calling me out is fine) as the years have gone on. If I’m going to take my own time to voluntarily interact with people, and the interaction is overridingly negative, why would I do that? I’m not trying to grow my social following. These days I Tweet out my Monday column and once or twice a month, I answer questions from followers when I have some extra time. Twitter’s a good information tool, but there are too many tools using it.
Thank you. From John Mayernick, of Harrisburg, Pa.: “I noticed you continue to refer to the ‘tush push’ as a scrum. In rugby parlance what is occurring is more akin to a maul than a scrum. A scrum is used to restart the game after certain penalties are committed. A maul occurs when an upright player is in contact with the opposition and several players from each side join to contest for the ball.”
Good to know, John. I think I’d have to define “maul” each time I use it, whereas most people associate “scrum” with the pile of moving bodies in rugby.
10 Things I Think I Think50
1. I think the one tributary about the Carolina trade that should make Bears fans feel good this morning is this: The Panthers had previously turned down at least one offer of a first-round pick plus some lesser trade chip for D.J. Moore. So when you try to figure out the relative value of Moore in the deal, think of it as probably equal to a mid-first-round pick—because in a down year for receivers in the draft and certainly in free agency, a wideout in the range of 15th- to 20th– best in the league with three manageable years left on his contract entering his age-26 year has great value.
2. I think that means—or at least Chicago can argue—the deal to move down eight spots from the top of the draft is the equivalent of the ninth and 61st picks this year, two more first-round picks and a second-round pick … three ones and two twos. And that’s a load. Now the pressure’s on Ryan Poles to turn those pieces into a competitive football team.
3. I think Dick Haley, who died Friday of Parkinson’s Disease and dementia at 85, had a storied career in football and rightfully got credit early in his scouting career and late for being a key man for Chuck Noll and Bill Parcells. After being hired by the Steelers in 1972, he was one of the scouts who favored Franco Harris over the smaller Robert Newsome in the 1972; Noll picked Harris and the rest is history. Haley was also a player in one of the best drafts ever, Pittsburgh’s in 1974, when the Steelers took Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster. Four Hall of Famers in 125 picks; not bad. Then he teamed with Parcells—massive respect on each side of that relationship—in a strong 2000 draft (Chad Pennington, John Abraham, Shaun Ellis, Laveranues Coles). Haley was always a behind-the-scenes guy, which earned him massive respect as a scouts’ scout, never wanting the credit. That’s a good legacy to leave.
4. I think the best news the Niners could have gotten from Brock Purdy’s elbow surgery was that it didn’t have to be massively invasive, and there is optimism that he should be able to throw the football without restriction in five to six months. Just another reason why San Francisco won’t overreact and spend/draft significantly on a quarterback. This also gives Trey Lance a runway to be the number one guy through the offseason, with the reps and responsibility that entails. Overall, good news for Kyle Shanahan.
5. I think I’ve got nothing new to say about Aaron Rodgers or Lamar Jackson. The world waits on Rodgers, and I have no idea what Jackson’s going to do—and I can’t find one team anxious to give him a fully (or nearly fully) guaranteed contract for four or five years. I stand by what I wrote last week: the smartest thing is for the Ravens and Jackson to agree to a two- or three year guaranteed contract. I say two, for $90-million guaranteed, with Jackson having the right to negotiate again in 2025 at age 28.
6. I think Derek Carr and Geno Smith are absolutely in the right places for them. Carr will love the offense and receiving talent with the Saints. Smith is the living, breathing example of a quarterback who is handed a golden chance and plays excellent football when no one thought he would. Even if the Seahawks pick a quarterback high in this draft, this job is Smith’s until he plays poorly.
7. I think Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune should be proud. A snippet of his Bud Grant obit, posted early Saturday afternoon:
There was a weekly study in stoicism that fans of the Vikings saw, month after month, year after year, from Grant. The no-heaters-on-the-sidelines, no-gloves-allowed, weather-be-damned toughness he displayed — and demanded from his players. The chiseled, taut, expressionless face with the clear blue eyes that we saw on the sidelines. Somewhere along the line Harry Peter Grant, born and raised in Superior, Wis., came to embody how a lot of Minnesotans liked to think of themselves: hard-working, successful. Steady, reliable. Unflappable, independent.
8. I think there’s not much else to say if you want to define Bud Grant.
9. I think the funniest thing I saw in recent days was Mike Florio’s report—true, I‘m sure—that Odell Beckham, after working out for teams in Arizona Friday, after averaging seven games played, 22 catches and 285 yards over the past three years, views himself as a $20-million-a-year player. Riiiiight.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. I’m not a huge Oscars guy, but I watched a bunch of it Sunday night. I teared up twice in the first hour. My gosh, Ke Huy Quan is phenomenal. His speech, incredible. From the time he got on the red carpet for his role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once”—our home is a Red Carpet home, because it’s the equal of the Super Bowl pregame show—Ke Huy Quan was grateful, effusive, humble. He won Best Supporting Actor, and man, his speech unleashed the water works.
b. Ke Huy Quan said:
“My mom is 84 years old and she’s at home watching. Mom, I just won an Oscar!
“My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like these only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me.
“This … this is the American dream!!!”
"Mom, I just won an Oscar!"
Ke Huy Quan's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor hit us right in the feels. pic.twitter.com/CzHuHU45Ip
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 13, 2023
c. Tony Curtis, famous. Janet Leigh, famous. Great Hollywood stars. Jamie Lee Curtis, famous. She won Best Supporting Actress. Her mom and dad, as huge as they were, never won an Oscar. Before Sunday, Jamie Lee Curtis had never won one. So here she wins. How very, very cool.
d. Happy birthday, Mikaela Shiffrin. And take the day off. Shiffrin turns 28 today, two days after breaking the all-time record for World Cup victories, men or women, in alpine skiing. Shiffrin’s 87th breaks the all-time record of Ingemar Stenmark, who was winning races till age 33—which, naturally, leads us to think Shiffrin, who is without any major injuries in her career, probably could hit 100 if she really wants to.
e. To be the best at anything is a great feat, obviously. But I admire Shiffrin so much because of how, after the death of her father, she had such a frustrating Olympic Games a year ago. To come back from that crushing experience and regain her dominance of the sport says so much about her athleticism and her ethos.
f. Imagine being Vance Worley. You’re 35. Last year, you were 6-9 with a 4.89 ERA for Kane County in independent-league baseball and got released in September. No one picked you up. On Saturday, you started for Great Britain (there are some family connections that allowed entry to pitch for Britain), and this was the one through nine you faced:
g. Worley struck out Trout in the first, and gave up two runs in a 6-2 loss that most expected to be 16-2. Good for him.
h. Sports Story of the Week: David Waldstein of the New York Times on the most unlikely team and story in the World Baseball Classic this spring, the team of regular Joes from the Czech Republic. Love the dateline: OLOMOUC, Czech Republic.
i. Wrote Waldstein:
The nation has done it organically, with players actually from the country, rather than mercenary pros brought in from abroad.
“In over 30 years of scouting, it’s the most remarkable achievement I’ve seen by a small country to qualify for the W.B.C.,” said Gene Grimaldi, an international scout, who now works for the Philadelphia Phillies. “In terms of development, what they have done is really unbelievable in the history of baseball.”
Most European national teams rely on imports from the United States and Caribbean nations, but the Czech roster is overwhelmingly Czech, by birth, passport and temperament. From the language they speak to the food and beer they consume — schnitzel and lots of fresh pilsner — these guys are Czech to the core. To see their fluid swings and precise throwing mechanics at modern facilities just a few kilometers from 14th-century cathedrals, in a country where hockey, tennis and soccer dominate, can be jarring.
j. The manager is a neurologist. One pitcher works in PR. One is a firefighter, one a real-estate agent, one a schoolteacher.
k. Game 1, in Tokyo: Czech Republic 8, China 5.
l. Cliche I of the Month: All these basketball teams that “punched their ticket” to March Madness.
m. Look it up. I would bet that 10 times the number of headlines/stories/announcers will use “ticket punched” rather than “qualified.”
n. Cliché II: “Big dance.”
o. A bit eye-rolling to me.
p. Amusing Story of the Week: Rocco Constantino of Ball Nine on a forgotten character from the ’86 Mets named Doug Sisk.
q. I would invest five minutes of your life in this. It involves Richard Nixon, a bullpen fight, a blood-soaked uniform and a plea to the sitting Cardinal of the New York City Catholic diocese.
r. Sports Story of the Week: Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times with a headline that says it all about the story: How an FBI agent’s wild weekend stained an investigation into NCAA basketball corruption.
s. Love Fenno’s first graf: “The FBI agents arrived in Las Vegas with $135,000 and a plan.”
t. Wrote Fenno:
One of the agents was posing as a deep-pocketed businessman wanting to bribe coaches to persuade their players to retain a particular sports management company when they turned professional. He distributed more than $40,000 in cash to a procession of coaches invited to the penthouse. The sting concluded at a poolside cabana on a blistering afternoon in July 2017 with a final envelope of cash passed to one last coach.
After that transaction, the lead case agent, Scott Carpenter, joined the undercover operative and the two other agents in eating and drinking their way through the $1,500 food and beverage minimum to rent the cabana.
Carpenter had consumed nearly a fifth of vodka and at least six beers by the time he returned to the penthouse to shower and change clothes before a night out.
He grabbed $10,000 in undercover cash from the penthouse safe, then headed to a high-limit lounge at the casino next door. What happened next would ultimately stain the investigation like a cocktail spilled on a white tablecloth.
u. It gets better.
v. Cautionary Tale of the Week: Ann Carrns of the New York Times, on why it’s not such a great idea to mail checks at the corner mailbox anymore.
w. I guess I’m one of 19 people left in America who pays bills by check through the mail, but this story spooked me. No more mailing checks at the mailbox on the street in Brooklyn. Post office only.
x. Writing Song of the Weekend:
y. “Southern Cross.” How many great songs did Crosby Stills and Nash have? That is so great and might not be in the top 10!
z. One of the great professionals in our business, Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, has announced her retirement, effective in April. Such a positive person. Such a pro. Such an excellent reporter and writer. It’s been a privilege to share a press box with this good friend, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. Liz, you’ve made our business markedly better.
The Adieu Haiku
Adam Thielen, cut.
This is a tough, tough racket.
Hometown boy made good.