I have a story for you. It’s a draft story. It’s 39 years old, from my first month covering pro football. On April 30, 1984, I was a rookie beat reporter covering the Bengals for the Cincinnati Enquirer, and I walked into the Riverfront Stadium office of first-year Bengals coach Sam Wyche to do a draft preview story. The 12-round draft was May 1 and 2, and my preview story would be in the Enquirer on the morning the draft kicked off. Big draft for the Bengals. They had three first-round picks — seventh, 16th and 28th overall.
“Do you want to know who we’re going to draft?” Wyche asked.
Has there ever been a question with a more obvious answer in journalism history? I don’t think so.
Wyche said, As long as you don’t phone anyone in other cities, as long as you don’t share the information, I’ll tell you.
In those days, the Associated Press wire and the landline telephone were the only ways to share deadline information about the draft. The AP bureau in Cincinnati surely wouldn’t re-write a story from the morning paper in town with the beat writer’s speculation on who the Bengals would choose. As strange as it sounded, Wyche wasn’t risking a damn thing sharing the information he was about to share — ostensibly to get on the good side of the kid beat writer.
“In the first round,” Wyche said, “we’re gonna take Ricky Hunley, linebacker, Arizona, with our first pick. Then, we’re thinking Boomer Esiason, quarterback, Maryland. The lefty. Or Brian Blados, guard, North Carolina. Hopefully can get all three.”
He went on. Later: running back Stanford Jennings, Furman … Don Kern, tight end, Arizona State … Bruce Kozerski, center and long-snapper, Holy Cross.
So the next day, in primitive draft-coverage times, in a makeshift media room at Riverfront Stadium, as the draft rolled on over ESPN, here came the Cincinnati picks: Hunley, seventh overall; Maryland defensive end Pete Koch, 16th overall; Blados, 28th overall; Esiason, 38th overall; and Jennings, Kern and Kozerski later. One problem early on: Wyche forgot Koch, the defensive lineman. That pick ended up pushing Esiason to the second round.
(I’ve got to tell you a sidebar part of the story. Late in the afternoon, I heard the Bengals were flying Koch and Esiason in from Baltimore to meet the local media. I found out the flight info. I got in my car, a two-door red Volkswagen Rabbit, and drove to the Cincinnati airport. Man, those were the days. No security. No lines. I went to the gate of the arriving flight from Baltimore. When the flight disembarked, here came the tall Nordic-blonde Esiason and the over-bulked Koch, a member of the All-Lobby Team if there ever was one. I went up to them and introduced myself and said I was there to drive them to the stadium to meet their new employers. “The newspaper guy’s driving us?” Esiason said incredulously. The best part: They saw my car out in the parking lot and wondered how they’d both fit. Esiason folded himself into the back seat. Quasi-bitterly, he said, “Welcome to the f—ing NFL.”)
After the draft, one of my editors saw me and said, “Are you Nostradamus?” No, just lucky, I said, and told him exactly what happened. I was still stunned about it. I suppose I still am to this day.
I relay this story this week, 2.5 weeks before the draft, because of how impossible it is to predict drafts these days, and how humorous it is that Wyche served up my first one on a silver platter.
I thought about this Saturday evening when I was swapping information — or trying to, anyway — with a well-connected operative from a team with a pick in the top 12. “I don’t know what’s happening in front of us,” he said. “Anything.”
“I’m not kidding.”
No one wants to hear that, but the longer I’m in this business, the more I absolutely believe the draft mystique until the final hours. As one agent with 30 years of experience told me Saturday: “The mocks this year are going to be laughable. So many guys repeating the same thing, trusting guys who might not know anything.”
Boldface names this week:
Odell Beckham’s a good signing for the Ravens, but I doubt it changes their draft plans one iota. Baltimore still will strongly consider a first-round receiver, in part because the three or four top receivers should land in a bunch right around where the Ravens pick in the first round, at 22. Adam Schefter reported the one-year deal includes $15-million guaranteed, which is a little rich for my blood for a guy with two ACL surgeries in the last three years entering his age-31 season.
Bryce Young might be inching closer to Carolina.
Speaking of inches, a new Atlanta Falcon who will be chasing Young has 10 of them on Young, and 110 pounds. Wear some armor, Bryce.
The more people I talk to, the more I agree with that veteran agent about the laughable mocks. There will be shocks on April 27.
Put your best foot forward in Vegas and Seattle, Jalen Carter. Where the Georgia defensive tackle goes is a major mystery.
This Michael Bidwill-Terry McDonough conflict in Arizona, with the former personnel man accusing the owner of ordering him to use a burner phone to communicate with suspended GM Steve Keim, will be exceedingly ugly.
Great quote from McDonough to me Saturday: “I am Will McDonough’s son.” Meaning: I’m going to fight this one hard, the way my dad would have. Will, one of the great football columnists of all time, did not take guff from anyone, ever.
Tyreek Hill announces he will retire in 34 months. Seems a little odd to me, saying you’ll retire after playing three more NFL seasons, but to each his own.
I bet most NFL scouts don’t know there’s a late-first/early-second-round prospect in this draft who could throw 95 in high school and eschewed Tommy John surgery to concentrate on football.
Greg Cosell makes a point no one’s discussing about a great player in this draft getting blanked by an okay player in college. Cosell knows things.
Love Dick Vermeil, but please: no campaigning for a flood of coaches in the Hall of Fame.
John Schneider’s died and gone to heaven, with five picks in the top 95. Talk about a luxury for a strong GM — particularly when arch-rival San Francisco has zero in the top 95.
Big change in FMIA column sections today. My bet is not everyone will agree with me.
Hey! Big draft event for a great cause coming up April 19! Read all about it in 10a of Ten Things I Think.
Love this Sam Bennett story. The best amateur at the Masters will have your heart melting with this Golf Channel piece.
Never shut up, Gregg Popovich.
And now, on with the show.
What's On Draft10
So I wrote the top of the column the way I did to tell you how much life has changed in 40 years, in so many ways. And to temper the expectations of who will know what before the evening of the first round of the draft April 27.
A few things I’ve heard about the draft with 17 days left on the hype train:
1. This is important: Most draft boards are not finalized. Keep in mind that most teams have their rankings done in pencil now, with the ability to change the order by position and overall. That’s an important thing to realize as we go down the home stretch. For instance, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter is due to visit two teams in the top seven, Seattle (five) and Las Vegas (seven), in the coming days. How can Vegas GM Dave Ziegler and Seattle GM John Schneider finish their evaluation of Carter before sitting down with him at length? They can’t. So if you hear, “Carter’s out in Seattle,” for instance, it’s just not feasible.
2. Mr. Beckham goes to Baltimore. Pragmatism should be the best reaction to Beckham signing with the Ravens, no matter who his quarterback turns out to be. (Still betting on Lamar Jackson, by the way.) Entering his age-31 season, Beckham will be playing football for the first time in 19 months in September after two ACL surgeries. He has just 67 catches for 856 yards over the past three years. It’s a nice signing, but expectations should be tempered. Beckham’s last mega-season was seven years ago (101 catches, 1,367 yards, 10 TDs as a Giant in 2017). The best thing might be the sign it sends to Jackson: We want you back, we’re probably going to add one more bright-prospect receiver in the draft, and it’s all set up for you to take us deep in the playoffs. Which leads to …
3. The receivers are all bunched up. One team thinks it’s nuts for Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba to be ranked ahead of USC’s Jordan Addison. Another team has BC’s Zay Flowers the top-ranked wideout on the board. In short, we’re going to see some surprises at receiver on draft night. Smith-Njigba caught just five passes last year for Ohio State as he battled and eventually succumbed to a hamstring injury. Addison caught 100 balls from Kenny Pickett at Pitt in 2021, then 59 more in a new offense for USC in 2022. With a lesser supporting cast at Boston College, Flowers caught 200 balls in four seasons and has been hugely impressive in interviews with teams. To me, Baltimore getting Addison or Flowers at 21 would be a big get in the Ravens’ only scheduled pick in the first two rounds.
4. The Bryce Young-to-Carolina talk increases. Though ESPN’s Chris Mortensen stressed the final call has not been made, the plugged-in Mort did say he thinks the Panthers “will stick with him when it’s time to turn in the card” on draft night. This jibes with what I wrote last week — that Young has a lot of fans in high places in the organization. I agree with Mortensen that it’s not a done deal, but the momentum toward Young is real. What’s interesting if the 5-10 Young goes before the 6-3 (and accomplished) C.J. Stroud is how it signifies how much the game has changed over the past few years. Young likes people comparing him to a point guard, a distributor of the ball to the open man, because it illustrates a lot about modern quarterbacking. In today’s game, a short quarterback can work better than a generation ago because it’s more of a horizontal, short-passing game overall.
5. One coach of a team with a pick in the top half of the first round had an interesting observation about Young/Stroud. This coach told me he had Stroud a strong number one on his board, with Young two. The overriding point was about size. If Young plays at 5-10 and, say, 198, he’ll be one of the smallest quarterbacks ever, obviously, in the NFL. Not just short, but slim. This coach asked me about the defensive fronts Young will face. “Alabama’s line was superior,” this coach said, “and Young consistently had enough time to throw. Taking away nothing from him, because he made the throws and made the plays to be great. But the offensive line for him will be crucial. Think of the defensive coordinators he’ll face, and how much they’ll emphasize putting good hits on him. I don’t see how that’s not a big factor when you put a grade on him.” Think of 6-8 Calais Campbell and 6-3 David Onyemata bull-rushing Young on the Atlanta defensive front—Campbell has 10 inches and 110 pounds on Young. People will say Young faced great defensive linemen in the SEC, and he did. But he’s not likely to have an NFL offensive line as foreboding as the one he had at Alabama.
6. Mystery of the first round, example one. Among those making or strongly contributing to high first-round picks: Carolina, with a first-year coach and a strong-willed owner, picking first; a GM in Houston, Nick Caserio, who’s as secretive as former boss Bill Belichick, picking second; a GM running his first draft in Arizona, Monti Ossenfort, picking third; GMs in their second or third drafts with skimpy books on them — Brad Holmes (Detroit), Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas), Terry Fontenot (Atlanta) and Ryan Poles (Chicago) — picking six, seven, eight and nine. How can anyone have great ideas when they’ll all do?
7. Mystery of the first round, example two. Used to be that there were a few mock drafts by veteran scribes with sources inside draft rooms that were used by teams for homework. Now there are hundreds of mocks, and most will turn out non-prescient. I remember in 2016 being at the Dallas Cowboys for the draft, and one of the best to ever do it, longtime pro football writer Rick Gosselin, had that year’s mock brought up six or eight times while I was at the Cowboys. “Who’s Goose got going here?” someone would ask. That’s influence. Now mocks are perused but not thought of authoritatively because on most teams, leakers are long gone, and old-time sources have been muzzled for fear of inside info getting out. One team aggregates scores of three-round mocks to try to figure who will be available on day three. Another team uses mocks to see if it’s way off on a player, and if its grade is way different, will ask a scout to go back and double-check some tape.
8. Hearing a lot about Emmanuel Forbes, the Mississippi State cornerback. Interesting story. Forbes was a high school pitcher who threw in the mid-nineties until suffering an elbow injury. Then he switched full-time to football, and what a college career he had: 14 career picks, six pick-sixes, zero games missed due to injury. He may slip to the second round because he weighs only about 170, but one team believes he can play comfortably and with more strength at 185. At 6-1 and running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, Forbes should go no lower than late in the first, even with the weight question.
In short, sit back and enjoy the surprises on draft weekend. We’ll see a lot of them.
Quotes of the Week
I’m going to finish out this contract and then I’m going to call it quits.
– Miami WR Tyreek Hill, to SportsRadio810 in Kansas City.
I think we’ve cracked the code. We’ve got a great head coach, we got a great general manager, we’ve got a great quarterback and that’s the trifecta for success in the NFL.
– Jacksonville owner Shad Khan on his leadership team.
He’s gonna be here.
– Jets GM Joe Douglas, on Aaron Rodgers, to Boomer Esiason of WFAN radio in New York.
He just stoned Will Anderson every time. If you didn’t know who Anderson was, you would think he is not a draftable player based on what Darnell Wright did to him.
– Greg Cosell of NFL Films on the Ross Tucker Podcast, on the play of Tennessee right tackle Darnell Wright against first-round prospect Will Anderson, the Alabama edge rusher.
In memory of Grant Wahl.
– Ending credits of Ted Lasso, new season, episode 4.
Dick Vermeil is a championship mensch. That we know. He said something this week, however, that made me shake my head. Vermeil told a Denver reporter, Chris Thomasson of the Denver Gazette, that he’d like to see a deceased coach enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame every year along with another coach.
No. Please no.
You may like the way the Hall selects people for admission; you may not. But I can’t believe anyone outside the coaching sphere would want to ensure two coaches every year enter the Hall. The softening of standards has already put in a cadre of coaches whose numbers and accomplishments would not have gotten them in a generation ago. In the last four years, the Hall has enshrined five coaches with an average of 119 career victories (which would be 39th all-time) and six Super Bowl wins.
Tom Flores coached two Raiders teams to Super Bowl wins, but his career record is 105-90 (8.8 average wins per year, including postseason) and when he left the Al Davis cocoon, he went 14-34 in Seattle. Vermeil advocated for George Seifert, and maybe post-Flores he’ll have supporters because of his two Super Bowl wins on the team Walsh/DeBartolo made dynastic; like Flores, Seifert was impotent outside San Francisco with his 16-32 record in Carolina.
I do think Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan have Hall resumes, and Mike Holmgren is worthy of discussion. But where are the other coaches with slam-dunk Hall of Fame resumes? If, for instance, 20 coaches would be voted in over the next 10 years, let’s assume Bill Belichick and Andy Reid retire in the next five years and get in, and let’s assume Shanahan and Coughlin make it, and then let’s try to figure who else is left. There is one who is the most deserving coach not in the Hall today.
Buddy Parker coached the Lions the last time they were championship good. He won two titles in Detroit in the fifties and was the nemesis to the greatest coach of his day and perhaps the greatest of all time, Paul Brown. Parker was 112-76 with two NFL championships (1952, 1953) against Brown’s Browns, and Parker made formerly moribund Pittsburgh respectable with a 51-47-6 record in eight years. Against Paul Brown, Parker’s Detroit teams were 4-1, and he won five games against the Jim Brown/Paul Browns in the fifties and sixties. I’ve always found it ridiculous Parker has been victimized by stats because he coached in an era with 12-game seasons, when coaches didn’t hang around long. He deserves it, and the 2020 Centennial Class did him wrong.
Marty Schottenheimer and Dan Reeves. League titles, rightfully, are vital. But Schottenheimer coached 21 years, Chuck Noll 23 and Reeves 23. Wins (including playoffs): Noll 209, Schottenheimer 205, Reeves 201. Coaches with 200 wins and zero titles have a good case.
Mike Holmgren. His 174 wins and one Super Bowl title are six more than Bud Grant with one more league title than Grant.
Belichick, Reid, Coughlin, Shanahan, Parker, Schottenheimer, Reeves, Holmgren. That’s eight. You might not agree with all of them, but try to find 12 more. Maybe if they retire in the next few years—Mike Tomlin, Pete Carroll, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton.
There’s still eight more to enshrine. Who? John Fox, Marvin Lewis, Jeff Fisher, Jim Mora?
At some point, we’ve got to look at the name of the building.
It’s called the Hall of Fame. The standard, some standard, must be upheld.
It’s a weird draft but an important draft for the 49ers, as they compete with some of the contending teams in the NFC.
In the top 95 picks, as of this morning:
San Francisco has zero picks.
Detroit has five picks in the top 95 (sixth, 18th, 48th, 55th and 81st).
Seattle has five picks in the top 95 (fifth, 20th, 37th, 52nd and 83rd).
Philadelphia has four picks in the top 95 (10th, 30th, 62nd and 94th)
John Lynch, the GM, and Adam Peters, ace scout, are on the clock for San Francisco.
It is April 10, and the Mets have played the Marlins 13 times in 2023 (six spring training games, seven regular season).
Last 43 days: 13 Mets-Marlins games.
Next 161 days: Zero Mets-Marlins games.
King of the Road30
The King family just had a wonderful week in Hawaii — 10 of us, sharing fun we’ll always remember. Four quick thoughts:
1. Man, the flying. Not that I never want to go there again, but think of this on the way home: 5 hours 58 minutes from Honolulu to Seattle, change planes, 5 hours, 16 minutes on a redeye to JFK. We got home and you could have wrung us out.
2. Cool to leave in mid-afternoon in the mid-Pacific, fly over the Pacific and see the ocean for three hours, land in Seattle, fly overnight just south of Moose Jaw and just north of Minot, fall asleep and wake up over the Atlantic Ocean on the approach to New York. Travel might get old to some, but I’m someone who always wanted to travel as a kid, never did, and found it fascinating to see highway signs for OHIO on the way to college, the first time in my life I’d been west of Pennsylvania.
3. Not crazy about how tickets to see everything at Pearl Harbor are made available. I had no idea this was something of an exclusive deal to see the USS Arizona, the hero ship in the attack on Pearl Harbor. I went to the concierge desk in my hotel to find out how to get tickets, and the woman said to go online at 3 p.m. — no later — the day before we wanted to go to get tickets. There would be competition for them, she said. So I went online Wednesday at 2:57 and kept refreshing … and there were 75 tickets available for each of six different timeslots for the next day. Refresh, refresh, refresh, and at 3:01 p.m. came word that all tickets for the next day were sold out. What, am I at a Taylor Swift concert sale or what?
4. Ever had “shave ice?” Not shaved ice. It’s the luxurious form of a snow cone. Grandkids Freddy and Hazel were wild for it. I had a surprisingly fantastic combination — coffee and banana ice cream — and the kids went nuts for it too. You always know kids love something when, no matter at what voice volume, you say, “Hazel. HAZEL!” And she pays no attention, because her face is buried in the mango/strawberry shave ice. Good time had by all.
Tweets of the Week
I’m ending this section. We’ve all known for some time that Twitter czar Elon Musk is such a deep and critical thinker (Musk, March 2020: “The coronavirus is dumb”), and his slap-dash handling of a once-valuable tool for journalism has been damaging, to say the least. But when Twitter labeled National Public Radio “state-affiliated media,” (and now “government funded media”) that was it for me. Equating superb news source NPR with the state-run media in China and Russia is an absolute disgrace, and just another way to divide this country. So we’re done here.
Twitter still is a good way to keep up with NFL happenings, to be sure. For now, I’m not going to abandon something that provides a service I can’t find anywhere else — smart reporters posting stories and good content daily. As far as my Twitter postings, I’ve cut way back in recent months, with just 11 posts in the last seven weeks, eight of those with the link to this column. Other than that, and whatever fundraising things I’m involved with, I won’t be Tweeting much anymore.
Reach me at email@example.com.
I bet the NFL has thought of this. From Ben Klausing: “Any chance the following Thursday flex compromise could work? When the scheduled announced two (or three) games are penciled in for Amazon Thursdays weeks 14-17 and then two to four weeks before kickoff, Amazon makes its selection? For example, say week 14 Amazon has scheduled one of the three between Green Bay at Minnesota, Pittsburgh at Baltimore and New Orleans at Atlanta. After week 11, Amazon selects one of the three and releases the other games to Sunday. It might not be entirely Solomonic but increases the odds Amazon gets an attractive Thursday game, limits the teams potentially impacted and gives advanced notice to fans that the games could be altered.”
Good idea for a bad concept, Ben. Thanks for the thought. The NFL already does something like this for a Saturday tripleheader late in the season, so the concept has precedent. Though I dislike the ability to flex to Thursday, the league could consider this. There’s only one catch. The NFL announces its schedule in early May, and the vote on the Thursday flex is not scheduled to happen till the next NFL meeting, which is late in the month. Not sure the NFL would wait that long to release the schedule.
Wants me to shut up about football becoming rugby. From Alex Gruel, of Albany, N.Y.: “We get it. You don’t like the play. But stop beating the dead horse. Something like 20 percent of the actual football content of your last three articles has been whining about the push play.”
Alex, you are not alone in telling me enough’s enough with my feeling on assisting-the-runner. But I feel strongly about it. And let’s correct your math. Number of words in last three columns: 24,541. Number of words devoted to the assisting-the-runner play: 1,269. Percentage of total words written: 5.2 percent. My regrets on having a strong opinion on it: zero.
The conclusions you’re drawing are yours, not mine. From Todd Ricci: “You gotta do more homework on this path you’re trying to pave for Jordan Love to be a third straight Hall of Fame QB for the Packers. Not happening dude. Lunch and a baseball game on me if he gets three wins, and I’m not even sure he’ll make it through the season.”
I haven’t said Jordan Love is going to be the equal to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. I simply agreed with Matt LaFleur in preaching patience and pointed out Favre and Rodgers were a combined 14-15 with 26 interceptions in their first years as Green Bay starters. I’m neither high nor low on Love, who hasn’t done enough in three years to prove anything.
Thinks the Packers should stand firm on demanding a first-round pick for Rodgers. From Alex Reed: “I keep reading how the Packers do not have the ‘leverage’ to stand firm on wanting a first-round pick this year. What I do not understand is it is human beings, people with internal wants and needs, who make decisions. If the Jets’ GM and coach do not get Rodgers after all the fanfare and expectation, and then the Jets enter the season with Zach Wilson or some second-tier QB and go 7-10 or 8-9 in such a tough division, they have to know there is a high chance they are both getting fired. Seems the Packers should stay firm and say if you want Rodgers, send the first-round pick. If not, good luck then.”
You could be right, Alex, because we don’t know what the Packers are demanding and what the Jets are willing to give. But the more apt question, to me, is whether it’s fair for the Packers to demand the 13th pick in this year’s draft for a quarterback who turns 40 this year and may play only one year in New York. I don’t think it is. I doubt the Jets think it is. And with Rodgers saying publicly he wants to play for the Jets, and with the Packers clearly having moved on to Jordan Love, yes, Green Bay could say, No way we’re trading Rodgers without the Jets’ first-round pick. I’d definitely hold onto my first if I were the Jets and trade a second-rounder this year and a future high pick if Rodgers indeed plays more than one year with New York.
10 Things I Think I Think
1. I think I’ll spend some time this week looking into McDonough v Bidwill, with the former top scout of the Cardinals accusing the owner of the franchise of telling him and then-coach Steve Wilks to use burner phones to communicate with suspended GM Steve Keim. Just before training camp started in 2018, Keim, who had pleaded guilty to extreme DUI, was suspended by the team for five weeks and fined $200,000. McDonough, second in command in the Arizona personnel department at the time, was handed the reins as temporary GM. Adam Schefter reported that, per McDonough, Bidwill gave McDonough and coach Steve Wilks burner phones to communicate with Keim during his suspension. On Saturday, McDonough told me he and Wilks were uncomfortable with breaking the rules of the suspension, which required Keim to have no contact with anyone associated with the Cardinals on team business. “I went to Michael,” McDonough said, “and I told him Steve and I don’t feel comfortable talking to Steve Keim during his suspension. Michael started screaming at me.” That led to a series of set-tos with Bidwill, McDonough said. Wilks was fired after one season and McDonough’s salary was eventually reduced, and then McDonough was dismissed by the Cardinals early this year.
2. I think we’ll find out in due time who’s telling the truth here. The bothersome thing about how the Cardinals handled this: They didn’t spend much time addressing McDonough’s major charge – that Bidwill supplied McDonough and Wilks with burner phones to illicitly communicate with Keim. The statement, attributed to Jim McCarthy, external public relations advisor to the Cardinals, did say that Bidwill “took swift action” and “directed the phones be retrieved and communications stopped.” But then the statement veered into character assassination that had nothing to do with the charges made by McDonough, alleging “extreme domestic abuse” by McDonough and cutting off support to one of his children. What purpose does the public smear campaign serve? If I’m a Cardinals fan, I want to know if my owner broke the rules. Period. That’s what the organization should be putting out there. That’s it.
3. I think if Bidwill is found to have supplied burner phones to two employees with the purpose of surreptitiously contacting Keim during a suspension in clear violation of league rules, commissioner Roger Goodell would have to suspend him.
4. I think there’s one more point to be made here: McDonough, the Cardinals’ VP of Player Personnel, lost out to John Lynch for the Niners’ GM job in 2017. McDonough very much wanted to be a GM. If it was ever discovered he’d broken a fairly sacred NFL rule and communicated with Keim during a suspension, then it’s likely he (McDonough) would have faced league discipline—and very likely blown any chance he’d have in being a GM one day. If this story is true, McDonough as whistleblower would be a pretty expected way to go, and it’s ridiculous to think it was a smart decision for Bidwill to ask him to break the rules. We don’t know yet if that happened, but if it did, that’s a bizarre request by Bidwill.
5. I think Jalen Carter could be drafted fifth or 25 and I wouldn’t be surprised.
6. I think if I were Howie Roseman, I’d draft Bijan Robinson 10th overall, break the Eagles’ mold of always fortifying the two lines, and say to the world: Okay, you all try to stop Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert and Bijan Robinson—I know you can’t.
7. I think I understand the devaluation of running backs in the NFL ecosystem; teams have discovered you can find good ones in middle rounds of drafts. But there’s one on the street that I just don’t get: Kareem Hunt, the 2017 NFL rushing champion as a rookie. He’s got plenty of tread left on the tires (125 carries per year in the last five years), and a 27-year-old back who’s averaged 4.5 yards per rush should have some value. If you eliminated him because of his 2018 assault of a woman and not coming clean about it to Kansas City team officials, I understand.
8. I think we get it, Cam Newton. You want a QB job in the NFL. The way you get that after being a total non-factor in the NFL for the last four years (you’re 45th in the league in passer rating since 2019 among those who have attempted 500 passes or more, and the only quarterback worse is Zach Wilson) is not to say where you’d want to play. It’s to say this: I’ll help any team in any way I can, and I’ll help the starter if I’m not the starter in every way I can to help us win. Why, oh why, with your recent resume would you think teams out there are eager to sign you?
9. I think Newton’s a person who cares about the future of the position, and I’ve talked to him about how much he wants to be a beacon for the next generation of Black quarterbacks. That’s really good. The way to do that now is to humble himself and get in a team facility and put those helpful intentions into action.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. On Wednesday, April 19, I’ll be hosting a draft preview event with two good friends and great journalists—Steve Serby of the New York Post and longtime college football/hoops writer Ivan Maisel. We’ll be at Torch and Crown Brewing, 12 Vandam Street in Manhattan, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Draft talk and great drafts! Ivan knows the stories of all the top prospects, and his insights are tremendous. Serby knows everything else. I mean, everything. Come and hear what the Giants and Jets will do, when Aaron Rodgers will be a Gang Greener, and how Serby gets everyone to tell him everything. I will contribute a little bit, but mostly stay out of the way. We’re limiting it to a small crowd so everyone will get their questions answered. A good time will be had by all—or at least by me. Please come. Tickets are $250, and every dime will go to the “Write on Sports” middle-school literacy programs. Write on Sports is such a great cause, particularly to students who can use writing and reading about sports to narrow the literacy gap in many students’ lives. Hope to see you there.
b. All of that Jon Rahm golf Sunday, over a round and two-thirds to win such a revered tournament, was so cool. And his post-match reverence for the game and his Spanish countrymen was touching. I love when athletes love the sport and love traditions. Great moment in sport.
c. Not a great moment in sport: Shame on the Mavericks. Shame on the NBA.
d. Year after year, we hear stories of teams trying to lose to improve draft or trade positions in pro basketball, and year after year the league does nothing about it. The NBA says it’s investigating this one, but we’ll see if the league takes it more seriously than in the past. You bought a ticket to Mavs-Bulls Friday night, and you got 12 minutes and 35 seconds of the best player in the game, Luka Doncic, and after that you were treated to your team trying to lose. It’s insane, is what it is. Every fan at that game should have gotten a refund.
e. Great pickup of Kyrie Irving, by the way, Mark Cuban. Mavs were fifth in the Western Conference at the time of the trade. They were 11th after the Friday night debacle. When will the basketball world learn Kyrie Irving is a sugar high and not a winning basketball player?
f. My word: 150 points for Edmonton Oiler Connor McDavid. He got his 63rd goal and 87th assist in San Jose Saturday. First time this century the NHL has had a 150-point person. I’ve got to get to a game with Connor McDavid on the ice.
g. As I wrote much of this column Saturday night, I had Devils-Bruins on TV. The Bruins are such a good team. Relentless. Don’t let you breathe. They deserve the Cup. It’s good to see the Devils be competitive (and better, really) after years of post-Brodeur malaise.
h. Sports Story of the Week: Ryan Lavner of Golf Channel on how amateur golfer Sam Bennett, the biggest story in the Masters through the first two rounds, got his biggest source of inspiration:
i. This is a haunting, important story. Really important. With so many great human lessons. Good for Lavner to find it and develop it.
j. Wrote Lavner:
MADISONVILLE, Texas – In the family’s darkest moment, here was one final flicker of light.
Having awoken from an afternoon nap, Mark Bennett was wandering around the house, as he often did, when he bumped into his son, Sam. It was June 2020. Seven years earlier Mark had been diagnosed, at age 45, with early-onset Alzheimer’s, a cruel and unrelenting disease that would eventually rob the gifted dentist of his coordination, reduce him to nightly medical care and transform doting family members into complete strangers. Mark’s deteriorating condition had tested a grieving family in every conceivable way: their patience, their resolve, their faith, even their sanity. But this was a clear-eyed thought from a cloudy mind, and so it was one worth savoring.
Mark squared up his youngest son in the kitchen and told him: “Hey, don’t wait to do something.”
Then patted him on the back.
Sam stood in stunned silence. So did his mother, Stacy.
“Mom,” Sam finally said, “do you think you could get him to write that down?”
And so Stacy grabbed a sheet of paper and sat at the table with her husband of 27 years. A language-arts teacher at the local junior high, she carefully drew each letter, then watched for 15 minutes as Mark tried like hell to recreate them, his face determined, his pencil trembling.
D O N ‘ T
W A I T
S O M E T H I N G
Then he signed the message, “Pops”, in what looked like pre-K scribble.
Sam folded the paper and stashed it in his truck. Eventually, he knew what to do with it, how to memorialize it. But for now, it was simply a cherished memento.
The last thing his father ever wrote.
k. Wow. What a story, Ryan Lavner
l. Sam Farmer Story of the Week: I joke, slightly, because my friend Sam, of the Los Angeles Times, writes so many good ones. But this one, about the vault underneath the Pro Shop at Augusta that houses the trove of green jackets given to Masters champs, is one of those places in sports we never get to see. Until Farmer saw it last Thursday.
m. Wrote Farmer:
The vault is located beneath the pro shop, which is accessible to members and their guests. On the other side of the door are 24 steps down, with motion-sensitive lights that gradually illuminate the room below.
At the bottom of the stairs is an exposed brick wall, curved like the ceiling of a wine cellar, with Byron Nelson’s green jacket under glass and museum lighting. On either side are two large touch-screen displays. Those use video and three-dimensional graphics to tell the story of how the jacket tradition came to be.
The other half of this space is a glass storefront that requires fingerprint entry. On display is the club’s oldest green jacket in its archives, which dates to the 1930s, has a different logo — a far more rudimentary outline of the United States with a golf flag planted in Georgia — and looks to be made of a heavy felt.
Also in the room are two leather arm chairs, decorated with tiny Augusta logos, and the bust of a mannequin draped in a marked-up and deconstructed green jacket. The club has a tailor on retainer.
… The jackets are not supposed to leave the club. Only the current champion can take it home for his reign.
n. Now you know something that you did not know about the tournament that occupies four pleasant days of your life every year.
o. Real Golf Story of the Week: Kent Babb of the Washington Post about the golfer you may not know who took the Saudi LIV money, Harold Varner III.
p. It’s all about the money for Varner. I’m sure that’s it for the other LIV golfers, most of whom try to hide it.
q. Wrote Babb:
“I play golf so I can change the direction of my family’s life,” says Varner, 32. “And that’s it. No other reason.”
When he joined LIV in August, he says, its public relations apparatus sent Varner the same talking points it sent other players. He ignored them. Instead, he posted on Instagram that it was “simply too good of a financial breakthrough,” a chance for a Black man from rural North Carolina to acquire generational wealth. In other words, Harold III made a decision that factored in the experiences of Harold I and Harold II and saw a one-time opportunity to change the math for Harold IV, a possible Harold V and beyond.
So what about LIV chief executive Greg Norman’s declaration that players’ motivation to defect from the PGA Tour expands beyond greed? That golf can be an instrument of global diplomacy and that LIV players wish to grow the game?
“They’re full of s—; they’re growing their pockets,” Varner says. “I tell them all the time, all of them: ‘You didn’t come here to f—ing grow the f—ing game.’ ”
r. Public Service Story of the Week: Adrian Florido of National Public Radio on the increasing news deserts in America because of the death of newspapers and the ability of big newspaper companies to remain solvent.
s. Florido spoke to Joshua Benton of the Nieman Newspaper Lab at Harvard, and the conversation was stark. Said Benton:
“Newspapers have generally given up on the idea of creating new print readers. They’re not really making new print readers anymore. So the idea has been to shift to digital, and Gannett claims some degree of success in doing that. But even when that does happen, newspapers generally make significantly less money off of a digital subscriber than they do from a print subscriber. The other problem is that there are lots of other free alternatives for a lot of local news and information, and people will be happy to consume those without bothering to subscribe to the local daily.”
t. The more stuff isn’t covered, the more local officials can get away with what they want, if they’re so inclined. It’s not just that. It’s about human beings losing touch with their communities. It’s just not healthy.
u. You’re an American hero, Gregg Popovich.
v. The Spurs coach, in his media session Sunday, made some terrific points about how public officials in Tennessee after the massacre of six innocents there did just what public officials do—give thoughts and prayers, and never give any real ideas to stop the mass shooting in the country.
w. Popovich quoted the governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee: “He said, ‘I’m closely monitoring the tragic situation. Please join us in prayer.’ What are you monitoring? They’re dead! Children. They’re dead!”
x. Popovich said he thinks of his 6- and 11-year-old grandchildren getting dropped off at school and hoping every day that they’ll be okay. “Most of the people in this room,” he said, pointing out to the reporters, “when we were in school, we worried if Nancy would dance with us after the football game Friday night or something. That was our anxiety.”
y. No more. I love Popovich for saying what the majority of Americans think every single day.
The Adieu Haiku50
have to take a quarterback?
Will Anderson tempts.