I’m going to top the column today with news that’ll make sports fans in the Washington area weep tears of joy. They’re already weeping. Now, I know the Caps won the Stanley Cup in 2018, and that’s fantastic, and the Mystics won the WNBA a year later, and Nationals shocked the Astros to win the World Series in 2019. Yuge, all of them. But the pro football team in Washington being on the verge of NOT being owned by Daniel Snyder is cause for the biggest parade in the city this century.
On the verge being the operative wording. This thing’s not done.
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the leader of the prospective new-owner group, Josh Harris, spoke on Wednesday, no one knew exactly what the topic was. But as one ownership source told me over the weekend, “Calls like that would be Harris saying he had a tentative deal with Snyder.” I believe that’s likely, and word spread through ownership circles that, basically, Ding dong, the witch is dead. Snyder’s selling!
The terms, reportedly, were the Harris-Mitchell Rales group paying $6.05 billion for the team and Snyder, the most reviled owner in the NFL, disappearing. By the weekend, the NFL was no-commenting up a storm, refusing to acknowledge even whether Snyder had communicated to the league that he had a tentative deal or had forwarded the requisite paperwork so the league could begin to process the deal. Adam Schefter reported that it wasn’t a done deal, that Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos was still in the mix. And the strangest part: It was widely reported Snyder’s deal with the Harris-Rales group was “non-exclusive,” meaning he retained the ability to barter with other potential buyers.
The hang-ups could rest on maximizing the sales price, of course. Or it could rest on Snyder wanting to be indemnified from any legal liabilities associated with his ownership, or it could rest on his insistence that the league not release the glacially slow investigation of Mary Jo White into the sordid ownership of Snyder and the team. As one ownership source told me: “Dan’s got no chance of quashing the report. Roger’s releasing that report, I’ll tell you that.”
Either way, it figures that Snyder couldn’t do anything peaceful on his way out. The uncertainty, after a quarter-century of bad ownership with a once-proud franchise, is more logical than illogical.
“Seems like we’re at the two-yard-line going in,” said one source with knowledge of the prospective sale over the weekend, “but with Dan, it’s never over till it’s over.”
Four points to consider:
Snyder, feeling abandoned by the NFL, really doesn’t care about the league anymore. He’s always thought owning the NFL franchise in Washington was a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card. Now that he knows it isn’t, why should he do the league any favors by bowing out gracefully?
Lots of speculation about why Jeff Bezos didn’t make a serious offer, but I’ll give you the best reasons. Snyder hates The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, but forget about that for a moment. Think about this. The next team likely on the market in the NFL is the Seattle Seahawks. Under the terms of the Seahawks’ current ownership agreement, if the team is sold before May 2, 2024, 10 percent of the sale price would go to the state of Washington. Current owner Jody Allen, sister of late owner Paul Allen, would face handing over, say, $700 million if the team was sold for $7 billion, which is in the ballpark of the next NFL team sale, if she sells in the next 13 months. Why would she do that? She wouldn’t. The NFL is lobbying Bezos quietly, but hard, to buy a franchise. The advantages of buying the Seahawks are many: Seattle has a consistent winner with a great GM/coach team in John Schneider/Pete Carroll, Seattle has an incredible fan base, Seattle has a state-of-the-art loud home venue in Lumen Field, and Seattle has one of the best training facilities in pro sports. All four of those are far, far better than what Washington has. Why would Bezos not want Seattle if he’s serious about buying into the league that prints money?
I know why the NFL won’t comment on the process or on Snyder. They’re shut up so tight because all they want is for Snyder to go away, and they don’t want to leak anything that would potentially interrupt the transition of ownership.
For the record, Snyder has been the worst owner in the NFL for the last quarter-century of NFL history. The scandals are one thing, and they matter. But it’s how the scandals were handled and the besmirching of the team legacy and the endless badness that have turned off a top-five fanbase in NFL history, so that now a Washington fan simply will not care about pro football in the nation’s capital again until Snyder goes away. Here is everything you need to know about the reign of Snyder in Washington versus the tenure of the previous owner, Jack Kent Cooke:
If you’re a reader of a certain age, or a history student, you may remember Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon after Nixon resigned as president in 1974, and Ford saying in a famous speech in Washington: “Our long national nightmare is over.” The NFL’s long nightmare in Washington is close to over, but it won’t be until the petulant Snyder takes his $6 billion and goes home.
T-minus 10 days to round one of the draft, and the NFL world is hopping.
Four big names in the first round I heard a lot about in recent days. I cast a wide net. I listen. I pry with people I’ve known for a while.
Bryce Young is (no pun intended) head-and-shoulders in the lead to be the first pick in the draft.
Tyree Wilson, the Texas Tech pass-rusher, might be in competition with Alabama’s Will Anderson for the top defensive prospect on Houston’s draft board, and that could mean something if the Texans aren’t quite as smitten with C.J. Stroud as Mock Draft World thinks.
Jalen Carter has two visits to top-10 teams left before Wednesday’s deadline for players to make pre-draft visits to teams. That’s what agent Drew Rosenhaus told me Saturday. I’ll tell you the team that is the most perfect fit for Carter in the NFL: the Pittsburgh Steelers, who’d have to trade up from 17 to get him.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba had a left hamstring injury last year. He had a gigantic 2021 season at Ohio State, then played only 60 snaps in 2022, and I’m hearing some reticence about taking a guy 12th or 18th in the first round when, in a 4.5-month season, he managed to play the equivalent of one football game with a hamstring injury.
This might sound crazy, but I’m not sure how many teams will be aggressive in trying to move up for C.J. Stroud if Bryce Young goes first to Carolina.
All the anti-Bijan-Robinson-in-the-first-round folks, hear this: There’s this reticence to pick a running back in the first round because he might not be around for a second contract. Fact is, most first-round picks don’t sign second contracts. Per overthecap.com, 31 percent of first-round picks from 2011-’14 signed second contracts with teams, and well under half the players from 2011 to 2019 (the last year we’d be able to figure if first-rounders got second contracts) re-signed.
One other Bijanism. His college coach, Steve Sarkisian, told me Robinson could be a slot receiver, regularly, in the NFL. I’ve got the clip to convince you. “I probably made a couple of receivers on our team mad last season,” Sarkisian said, “but he had the best hands on our team.”
Twenty-five years ago this spring, ESPN wrote, “Come 2018, Ryan Leaf, not Manning, will be strutting up to a podium in Canton.” They might want to have that one back.
The Miami Dolphins have zero picks in the top 50, and two in the top 190. That’s going to be one heck of Draft Party in Dolphinville.
Arch Manning is doing his best to be unfamous.
Fun beer in Commandersland: “Tastes like 23 years of bitterness!”
That’s some truth YouTube is telling. Just give people the single-team option so they don’t get soaked, please.
Happy trails, Jim Thomas and Liz Clarke. You blazed great trails for future journalists to follow.
Oh, and please, please, please enter my contest. I’m having a draft event Wednesday night at a brew pub in New York, benefiting a middle-school literacy charity called Write on Sports. I am giving away some tickets. But mostly, I’d like you to buy them here. I know, they’re expensive, at $250 each. But you will be enriched in life goodness and draft knowledge by at least $6 billion, so it’s really a great bargain.
The contest can be found later in this column at number 2 of Ten Things I Think. I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to the event in Manhattan. Good luck. Would love to see you there.
What I’m Hearing10
I pass these mini-nuggets along as a fan service. They are among the things I’m hearing about the top of the 2023 draft.
- This doesn’t mean anything on the surface, because the way “reporting” works this time of year, things that make sense get repeated and repeated and repeated and it all becomes one giant Insider Echo Chamber. But I didn’t hear anyone, in calls Friday through Sunday, who thinks the first pick won’t be Bryce Young. He may not be. I’m just telling you what’s out there.
- I will not be surprised if, in the Edge category, Tyree Wilson is picked ahead of Will Anderson. I particularly will not be surprised if Houston—whether at two or through a trade-down if the Texans don’t take a quarterback—takes Wilson over Anderson. “DeMeco Ryans could look at Wilson after his year in San Francisco and say, ‘I got my Nick Bosa,’” said someone in the league who knows Ryans.
- One coach with a pick in the top 10: “Wilson will be a better pro than Anderson.”
- I’m like you. I hear the Houston’s souring on Stroud stuff, and I just can’t believe the Texans wouldn’t take a quarterback high in this draft. How would Cal McNair answer to his disaffected season-ticketholders if, after passing on a quarterback with the third and 15th picks in the first round last year, he passes on a quarterback at number two this year? It’s the job of coaches to get the best out of players, and there’s certainly enough potential in C.J. Stroud—should he be there for Houston at two—for the Texans’ coaches to make a good NFL QB out of him.
- An increasing number of people around the league think Jalen Carter has done enough in his visits to not sink like a stone on draft night. (More on Carter in my next section.) It’s become almost a cliché, how many team officials think the Seahawks will take Carter with the fifth overall pick.
- Best rumor of the week: Steelers trading up from 17 to nine if Carter’s there. There could not be a more perfect coach for Carter than Mike Tomlin.
- Carolina owner David Tepper has not been overbearing in the QB-search process. I can hear it now: You’re giving us a sanitized version of this to get on Tepper’s good side. Uh, I’ve never met the man. I could care less about buttering up David Tepper. I’m just telling you the real stuff.
- Peter Skoronski’s an interesting case. The Northwestern tackle has the dreaded short-arm plague, and two teams in the top 10 see him now as a guard. So what? Guard Chris Lindstrom got drafted 14th by the Falcons in 2019, and he’s now a cornerstone player in Atlanta. Ditto Zack Martin (16th) in Dallas, and with a slightly smaller exclamation point, Quenton Nelson (sixth) in Indy. All got second contracts. If Skoronski’s a great guard, getting picked ninth or 12th or 15th is absolutely fine.
- This is not an overriding negative on Jaxon Smith-Njigba, an excellent receiver prospect. But the Ohio State football season was five months long last year, including practice, and Smith-Njigba got a left hamstring injury early, and he played 60 snaps total in three games, and never got on the field in the last 10 weeks. He runs a 4.48 40-. I’m not the only one wondering: How is Jaxon Smith-Njigba the top-rated receiver on so many boards with 10 days to go?
On Jalen Carter. Interesting to note that last week, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter was on the list of draftees who will be in Kansas City on Thursday night for the first round. On Saturday, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told me: “We definitely would have skipped it if I thought there was the potential of him falling out of the top 10. I’m not concerned in the slightest about that.”
Carter is the lightning rod prospect in this draft after pleading no contest to charges of racing and reckless driving connected with the deaths of a teammate and Georgia football staffer in another car earlier this year. Some thought his draft prospects would plummet after he was sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine and 50 hours of community service. Since then, Rosenhaus said Carter would make visits to teams only in the top 10 of the first round; if other teams wanted to talk to him, they could travel to Carter’s home of Apopka, Fla. Entering this week, he’s made visits to four teams (Seattle, Las Vegas, Chicago and Philadelphia) and Rosenhaus said there will be two more this week before the league shuts off visits on Wednesday. Adam Schefter reported one of the visits will be to Detroit today.
“The goal has been to educate teams about Jalen and the case and who he is,” Rosenhaus said. “It hasn’t been an easy process, but I do think it’s been good for Jalen to get out and see the teams. I think there’s a very good chance he’ll go in the top five.”
Lots of teams look at the fifth slot—Seattle, with Mr. Positive, Pete Carroll, as coach—and automatically think it’s a good shot. It may well be. Detroit, at six, and Chicago and Philly, at nine and 10, also seem to be in play. Who takes the risk on Carter, and who gambles on the potential reward, is going to be one of the big stories of round one.
Former QB Lists of the Week. I asked the very opinionated Chris Simms of NBC Sports and Dan Orlovsky of ESPN, both former NFL quarterbacks, for their top five at the position. Simms has gained notoriety in the past few years for loving unfamous guys entering the draft, and he’s not as crazy this year, but a couple of his picks are notable.
What’s interesting to me: Both like Hendon Hooker more than the market—Simms in particular—and one thinks C.J. Stroud is Burrow-like while the other has cooled on him a bit.
And Simms, the one who brought you Kellen Mond and Matt Corral, has another one you’ll have to look up: UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Hmm. Purdy-like in this way—Thompson-Robinson started 48 college games.
Simms’ Top Five QBs:
- C.J. Stroud, Ohio State. “To me, Stroud was the offense at Ohio State. Bryce Young ran the offense at Alabama. Stroud’s the best pure pocket passer in the draft. He’s big, he can make any type of throw you want, he’s got a great ability to process information. He’s as good as I’ve seen at making all the throws since Joe Burrow.”
- Bryce Young, Alabama. “The natural. He’s slick. I mean, there’s a lot to like. Like Stroud, the processing information there is really good. He’s got a lot of wow releases, but there’s not a lot of wow throws. But he is a phenomenal, quick athlete. He can make people miss. He can throw off different platforms. Of course I worry about his size.”
- Hendon Hooker, Tennessee. “This is a pure pocket-passing quarterback. Man, nobody is better in the draft than Hooker playing from the pocket. People around him, hanging on him, and he can throw a 20-yard incut or a 20-yard comeback. You’re like, ‘Man, he couldn’t even step into that, and wow, what a throw.’ His ability to move is being way underrated.”
- Anthony Richardson, Florida. “How can you not love his potential? I don’t love the comparison to Josh Allen, because Josh wasn’t this raw. But we’ve never seen anything like Richardson. His arm is the most explosive arm in the draft. His running is real. Yeah, there’s a lot to work on from the quarterback aspect. I hear some people say, ‘He needs to sit a year.’ It’s the exact opposite. This is Trey Lance. He’s gotta play; he hasn’t played enough. You gotta start him right away if you draft him.”
- (tie) Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA; Will Levis, Kentucky. “Dorian Thompson-Robinson might be the most underrated prospect in the entire draft. Bigger than Bryce Young (Thompson-Robinson is 6-1 ½), better arm than Bryce Young. A little frail, but I think he’s ready to play right now. With Levis, the word for me is inconsistency—in everything. Decision-making, mechanics, quality of throw. I don’t see a guy with a natural feel for the position.”
Orlovsky’s Top Five:
- Bryce Young. “I think he’s got a feel for football like Steph Curry’s got for basketball. My favorite quality about him: In moments of panic, he doesn’t panic with the football. From decision made to ball coming out, it’s so sudden, but he doesn’t force the ball. His size … who were the last quarterbacks to have their careers derailed by injury? Carson Wentz. Andrew Luck. Cam Newton. They’re mountain men. Bryce’s size does nothing to impact his ability to play.”
- Anthony Richardson. “This is a flip for me over the past couple weeks, Richardson over Stroud. He’s got rare, rare athleticism, size and arm talent. Very unique combination. Oftentimes we’ll get two out of three. One out of three. He’s got all three. Really good in the play action game and the RPO game.”
- C.J. Stroud. “C.J. was number two for me for a while. He has a tremendous pre-snap plan. This kid’s very good at understanding tells of a defense and what’s the problem with this play and how to fix it. Elite ball placement. Rhythm and timing might be the flaws. When he’s off rhythm, he’s not the same player. You could say that about a lot of guys, but C.J. guides the ball at times.”
- Will Levis. “Super tight release, very similar to Stafford. Big, strong-armed, tough dude. Played his best football in the toughest moments in games, third downs. But he’s an incredibly difficult evaluation. By far the worst protection that any quarterback had to deal with this year, by far the worst skill group. So it’s tough to come to a conclusion on him.”
- Hendon Hooker. “I love the adversity that he’s faced, the maturity that he’s acquired. He’s a big, athletic, touch thrower who also can drive the football. But naturally he’s a touch thrower by nature. With the designed runs, I don’t think he’s a crazy creator, but he can run when he needs to. He had to think very quickly in their offense this year.”
The Case for Bijan
I seem to be in the minority on this: I don’t think teams, particularly teams that are in contention and would be significantly improved with a great offensive weapon, should be overly concerned with whether a rookie will be around long enough to sign a second contract. That’s partially because the majority of first-round picks do not sign second contracts with teams anyway. From 2011 to 2014, in fact, per overthecap.com, only 38 percent of the top 10 picks signed second deals with teams, and just one-third of those picked 11 through 20 re-signed with teams.
That brings me to Robinson, the talented Texas back. He’s a great runner, first. But watch this clip (this link is set to begin right at 3:00, on the exact play I want you to see) of a deep route run out of the slot by Robinson to see his versatility and hands—and to see why his college coach, Steve Sarkisian, thinks Robinson could be a full-time receiver if that’s how a team wanted to use him.
My point: If you only had Robinson for five years—four years plus exercising the fifth-year option as a first-round pick—and he played behind the kind of offensive line in, say, Philadelphia, are you telling me he wouldn’t be worth the pick? Not to fixate on Philly, but two of the last four top picks (Jalen Reagor, Andre Dillard) didn’t work out anyway. The average first-contract cap number for Robinson in Philadelphia would be $5.5 million. But let’s not stick to Philly. Go to mid-round, and pick 18, where Detroit would certainly be in contention to draft Robinson. His cap number in the first four years as the 18th pick: $2.8 million, $3.5 million, $4.2 million, $4.8 million … between 1 and 3 percent of your cap each year.
I asked Sarkisian if he thought Robinson was an exception to the rule about taking running backs high in the draft. “I definitely think he is,” he said. “Bijan is not your typical first- or second-down back. He’s not your typical third-down back. He is an every-down back who can run between the tackles, can make people miss on the perimeter, is extremely difficult to get on the ground in space, and can run routes like receivers. He can catch the ball like a receiver. I think the game of the NFL is really fit for his skill set, maybe to some degree a little better than college quite frankly.”
I asked him which teams have been sniffing around Robinson in pre-draft phone calls. “It’s so hard to gauge because, for instance, I was at Alabama, and I recruited Bryce Young and coached him for a year, so there are questions about Alabama guys,” Sarkisian said. “But you gotta remember: Lots of teams never let you know what they’re thinking. I was with Al Davis in Oakland for a year, and he never called the people he knew he was going to draft.”
Who needs draft picks?20
The Miami Dolphins are in the second year of a three-year draft desert. It’s amazing how denuded their 2022, 2023 and (as of now) 2024 drafts have gotten. What GM Chris Grier has done isn’t wrong, but because of trades for a new receiving corps and a good edge-rusher, and because of tampering stupidity by the Dolphins, he’s cast his lot with veterans over cheaper rookies, like the Rams did in building their 2021 Super Bowl team. The next three seasons will show if Grier made smart moves.
A look back at Miami’s high draft status over three years:
2022: They hold zero picks in the top 100. Picked at 102 and 125, then not again for 99 picks. Dealt first-, second- and fourth-round picks in the deal for Tyreek Hill, and sacrificed first- and fourth-round picks to move up six slots to pick Jaylen Waddle.
2023: They hold zero picks in the top 50. Scheduled to pick at 51 and 84, then not again for 113 picks. Had a first-round pick docked in the Tom Brady tampering scandal, traded another first- to acquire Bradley Chubb, and traded a third-rounder for Jalen Ramsey.
2024: They hold two picks in the top 130, as of today: their first- and second-round choices. The third- was docked in the Brady scandal, the fourth- dealt to Denver as part of the Chubb deal.
Amazing: Miami lost control of all four of its first-round picks in ’22 and this year. Obviously, the additions of Hill and Chubb are big, but it just adds to the pressure on them and Waddle to deliver in a big way over the next two or three years.
This is how the balance of power in a conference can shift. Not saying it will, because draft picks are unproven. But assuming the Dolphins are over .500 this year and don’t make a deal to move up in 2024, all of this draft-dodging means Miami will have one pick in the top 50 over three drafts—while Houston, for instance, is likely to have 10.
On the Mannings
A quarter-century ago this week … A couple of months before the draft in 1998, I took a VHS tape with 30 to 35 plays each of Tennessee QB Peyton Manning and Washington State QB Ryan Leaf, the presumptive top two picks in the draft, around the country to show six people and to ask: Who would you pick among these two players? (VHS qualified as high-tech in 1998.) My panel of experts: Hall of Fame coach/QB guru Sid Gillman, retired Niners coach Bill Walsh, Giants QB Phil Simms, Denver coach Mike Shanahan, Tampa Bay director of player personnel Jerry Angelo and UCLA coach Bob Toledo (who’d faced both players).
There was some debate over who should go first that year. ESPN published a long magazine story opining the easy pick was Leaf. “Come 2018, Ryan Leaf, not Manning, will be strutting up to a podium in Canton,” was one line from that story, one of the great wish-we-had-that-back lines ever. ESPN wasn’t the only one to go all-in on Leaf. But I sat with each expert and asked the question.
The vote: Manning 6, Leaf 0. “Now this is a pro quarterback,” the 86-year-old Gillman said in his Carlsbad, Calif., home. “Is that a beautiful throw, or is that a beautiful throw? I’d draft this kid in a second.” The iconoclastic Walsh favored Manning over Leaf, but also said he’d pick another position first in the draft, then chose Brian Griese in the second round.
When I wrote the story in early April, I remember a few stories like the ESPN one, or ones quoting anonymous scouts or GMs saying they’d pick Leaf. I wondered if I’d picked the wrong guys to poll. But sitting with Gillman, a seminal figure in quarterback history, and Shanahan, and hearing their this-is-no-contest tone, I thought Manning was the guy. “Peyton will handle the inferno of going to a 3-13 team. He’s a sure player,” Angelo said. And he was.
“On the Clock.” Interesting concept by the Manning family and Omaha Productions: a four-part series shadowing four quarterbacks from their participation as counselors at the Manning Passing Academy—where, each summer, college QBs and Archie, Peyton and Eli serve as counselors to 900 youth quarterbacks—through their college seasons and into draft prep. This year, the four they chose were Bryce Young, Hendon Hooker, Anthony Richardson and tonight, at 8 ET on ESPN2, the half-hour show following Kentucky’s Will Levis. The highlight: Peyton Manning walks into a room and offers Levis, who has this weird predilection of adding mayonnaise to coffee, a coffee.
Manning: “Cup of Joe?”
Levis: “Put some mayo in there.”
Manning (surprised): “Coffee?”
Levis, stirring in the mayo: “Why not?”
Manning: “Mel Kiper better have this in his scouting report.”
Archie Manning, the scion of the mega-camp, said Friday the idea was to show the players in their element at the camp, teaching kids the position, then at times during their seasons. The first show had a lot of Young and Archie, and it’s easy to see the elder Manning was smitten with the Alabama QB. “A lot of these kids don’t remember Fran Tarkenton, but really, he was a lot like Bryce is now. Small, wasn’t fast, could make every throw. Bryce is just like that—he’s just a ballplayer. Nice kid, polite, cool customer. I can tell by the way he interacted with the kids that he was into it. He’s just great around people, and that’ll serve him well in the NFL.”
With the Panthers, perhaps? “If so,” Archie said, “Bryce is getting a very good coach. Frank Reich will be a great teacher for him.”
Sarkisian on Archie’s grandson. Couldn’t help but ask the Texas coach about his new recruit, the latest in the line of quarterbacking Mannings: Arch Manning.
“He just finished his 13th practice of spring ball today,” Sarkisian said. “Doing great. Really wants to be good. Very humble. That’s what it’s been like the whole time. The recruiting process was very normal. I mean, I credit his parents. They did a great job. The kid, in a world of ‘look at me,’ is not the look-at-me guy. Once the recruiting got down to about three schools and then he chose us, it wasn’t some huge announcement. He called me randomly one morning about 9 and said he was coming. And then he said, ‘I gotta go to my math tutor now, and then I’m gonna announce it on Twitter at 11 o’clock.’ All these guys doing press conferences, that’s just not him.”
Quotes of the Week30
I mean, what do you compare it to? Birth of a child? Marriage? Super Bowl win?
–Scott Jackson, Washington talk-show host on 106.7 The Fan, on the news that Dan Snyder selling the Washington NFL franchise is imminent.
I don’t think it’s a lock that Houston is going quarterback at number two.
–ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Bryce Young is going to visit the Houston Texans. I think it’s a waste of time.
If you want to make money around the NFL Draft, go all-in on C.J. Stroud at plus 150 being the number one overall pick.
–Former QB and current NFL analyst Ryan Leaf, on the first pick in the draft. “This was locked in long ago,” Leaf said on social media.
Apparently Adam Schefter and Ryan Leaf are talking to different people about the first pick in the NFL Draft.
The goal was to come here and play with him, but I didn’t get any assurances. My thoughts would be he would be here. I would assume it’s going to work out.
—Odell Beckham Jr., the new Baltimore Raven, on whether he’ll be playing with Lamar Jackson.
Detroit really interests me entering this draft. GM Brad Holmes, as of today, got five starters out of the 2022 draft—DE Aidan Hutchinson (first round), WR Jameson Williams (first round), safety Kerby Joseph (third round), and linebackers James Houston (sixth round) and Malcolm Rodriguez (sixth round).
Holmes is in great position this year, picking sixth, 18th, 48th, 55th and 81st overall in the first three rounds. In 2024, the Lions are slated to have a first-, second- and two third-round picks. That’s nine picks in the top three rounds over the next two years. Knowing Holmes, there’s a good chance he’ll add to that by jockeying for more with trade-downs. If Jared Goff is even a B quarterback this year – and he showed signs of that last year – it’s a sure thing that these are not your father’s (or even your big brother’s) Lions anymore.
Two other teams will have fingerprints all over the draft.
Seattle picks five, 20, 37 and 52. Anxious to see what GM John Schneider, who normally has to make do with lesser choices, can do as one of the drivers of this draft, a year after getting both starting offensive tackles and a good back in the draft.
Houston picks two, 12 and 33 a year after having four of the top 44 picks.
Less than one mile from the Washington Commanders training facility in Ashburn, Va., is Old Ox Brewery. The place brewed a special IPA last week, in honor of the looming sale of the area’s pro football team. It’s called “Bye Dan IPA.” WJLA-TV in Washington did a story on it.
My favorite part of the can is the slogan.
“Tastes like 23 years of bitterness!”
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fight for old D.C. From Anil Chandra: “I’m old enough to remember when Dan Snyder bought the team. Local boy buys childhood team. Great story. In the following draft he traded up and got the best two players—LaVar Arrington, Chris Samuels. It felt like this owner would get it. Well, 25 years later hope is back in the air. What’s the defining trait (in your opinion) of a good owner versus a bad one?”
Good owners must be patient, but also must understand when to take big swings, and most importantly, they must know what they don’t know. Snyder’s three damnable traits:
- He was horribly impatient, particularly early, with six coaches in his first 10 seasons running the franchise. His kneejerk firing of Marty Schottenheimer after going 8-8 in 2001 for the ill-fitting Steve Spurrier was the biggest dud.
- He always wanted to “win the offseason.” Snyder’s reward for winning the 2000 offseason – signing Bruce Smith and Deion Sanders – was finishing 8-8, third in the NFC East and out of the playoff money. Start of a trend.
- He always acted like the smartest guy in the room. Imperious is not a good way to be ever, but particularly before you’ve accomplished a single thing in your chosen business. Snyder chose football, stunk at running a team, but acted above it all at all times.
I haven’t even mentioned that he simply is not a good person. That counts for something too.
Wants me to stick to football, I think. From John Newman, of Riverview, Fla.: “I have enjoyed your column virtually every Monday morning for the past 25 years or so. I read your column for enjoyment, I read your column to get away from thinking about serious problems. Those two turds you threw in at the end of [the April 3] column destroyed any enjoyment I got out of your column. (I criticized a California county abandoning operable voting machines to spend $1.4 million on hand-counting votes, at a cost of $35.14 for a family for four, and criticized a Tennessee politician for saying “there’s not a whole lot we can do” to prevent gun violence after a Nashville school shooting.) Then this week, you go on a drama queen rant about Elon Musk and/or Twitter’s decision to label NPR as ‘state affiliated’ and ‘government funded’ media, while ‘state affiliated’ is a reach, they settled on ‘government funded,’ which is factually true … You decided to eliminate your Twitter section in snit of rage. You pointed out at the very beginning of your last column that you were going to annoy some of your readers, so you knew letters like this were going to be headed your way. And you didn’t give a s—. I find it very sad that you have so little respect for your readers that have enabled you to live a life that most sports fans would give anything for.”
I have tremendous respect for my readers, John. But I’m not going to avoid topics because you, and many others, find them uncomfortable. This is how I feel. For 26 years I’ve given my opinion about life things in this column. I don’t do it to show disrespect to readers. I do it to be true to them. As I’ve said on many occasions, if you don’t want to read my life opinions, all good. Just skip number 10 of Ten Things I Think.
One thought on abandoning Tweets. From Jose Manuel Conde: “I have been reading you since 2008 (I’m 34), Mexican and now living in Spain. I sincerely think your column is getting boring. And now you take out the Twitter section? C’mon man, we are bigger than Elon. I am one of those guys who once every couple of days goes into your Twitter profile to check out your opinions. We miss you and we as a community for sure don’t want you to delete the Tweets of the week section. Please think about it!”
Thanks for reading all these years, Jose. I always try to tell you things you don’t know in the column. Sorry you find it boring. If you’d like me to recommend other columns about football to try, please write back and I’ll send some links to columns you might find more lively.
Another thought on abandoning Tweets. From Tom Tilert: “On Feb. 15, 2021 I wrote in my journal, ‘no more rabbit holes’ and ‘NO TWITTER.’ I may have had some instances where I went back over the next few weeks. Now, no Twitter for at least 2 years. I’d get on Twitter and fall into a deep rabbit hole and hours later, I’d crawl out, and at no time did it make a positive influence on my life. I fully support your take on Twitter and I don’t think it will hurt your column one bit.”
Thanks Tom. Twitter is useful to a football writer. There are smart people on there who help me do my job. But Musk is damaging it with decisions that aren’t well thought-out, and though I’ll continue to use it (less, admittedly) for my football corner of the world, I can’t support or promote it any longer.
10 Things I Think I Think50
1. I think if Mike Florio’s ear to the ground is true, and Nick Caserio could leave the Texans after the draft, I’m pretty sure this is not the way to build an NFL franchise. Imagine your GM making seven picks in the top 50 over two years, and then imagine that GM leaving, and then imagine a new GM coming in to be the architect of a team with seven cornerstone players he had nothing to do with picking. Do I buy the Caserio rumor? Well, it wouldn’t surprise me—let’s just say that. The part of the rumor that doesn’t make sense to me is the prospect of Caserio returning to New England. It would strike me as odd if he went back to the Patriots. First, he didn’t leave the organization on the best of terms; the Patriots filed tampering charges against Houston in 2019 for contact with Caserio, charges that were dropped when Houston dropped its attempt to hire him. But the Texans did hire him as GM in 2021. In the meantime, the Patriots seem happy with Matt Groh and Eliot Wolf as director of player personnel and director of scouting, respectively. Where would there be a spot for Caserio, especially after leaving a plum GM job?
2. I think I’ve got a contest for you to enter. I’m hosting a draft preview Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. at Torch and Crown Brewery in Manhattan, telling you everything you need to know about the draft with my friends Ivan Maisel, the prize college football writer, and Steve Serby, New York Post columnist and expert on all things New York football. Here is an opportunity for you:
- First, there are a few tickets left, at $250 apiece, to benefit a middle-school literacy nonprofit, Write on Sports, that helps students improve their writing and reading by getting them involved with sportswriting and reading and interviewing. I’m on the board there, and I can tell you—Write on Sports is doing great things with young people. Your money would be well-spent on things like summer camps (two weeks of intensive writing and reading with instructors from sports media fields). Click here to see how you can come Wednesday night, or, if you can’t make it, how you can donate to the cause.
- Next: I have two pairs of tickets that have been donated and that I am giving away. The qualifications are simple: There will be two winners. Each winner will get two tickets to the event Wednesday … You have to either be able to come Wednesday night with a guest, or turn the tickets over to a pair of people who can come … And you have to be able to answer a question about football, and be one of the first two people who can do so. It will not be an easy question.
- Ready? Here is the question: What athletic feat do Bill Parcells and Hank Aaron have in common?
- Send your answers, by email, to email@example.com, and include “DRAFT QUIZ” in the subject line. Remember: You must be able to come to the event Wednesday or have two friends who are able to come. The first two emailers who get the answer right will be the winners, by time stamp of the email.
3. I think the most interesting thing I read this week was Tyler Dunne’s extended interview with former Packers GM Ron Wolf, the Pro Football Hall of Famer. You can find it on his “Go Long” Substack here. Wolf retired at 62. He talked about when he knew it was time to leave the job in early 2001, even though he’d struck gold in the late rounds of his previous two drafts with future mainstays Donald Driver, Mark Tauscher and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Wolf told Dunne:
“Father Time. That’s what happened to me personally. I couldn’t do what I did before to help the Packers, so it was time for me to move on. And I realized that. There weren’t enough hours in the day for me anymore. There were 24, but I needed 34. You slow down. It’s the human element involved here. I think the big thing is, you can never lose sight of who you’re working for. Whenever we started the draft, I would always say, ‘Men, this is not my pick or your pick. It’s our pick. It’s the Green Bay Packers’ pick. We’re picking for the Packers.’ That’s what you have to remember.”
That’s some great perspective from Wolf, and a great reminder to the rest of us getting on in years that when you think you don’t have it anymore, it’s time to go.
4. I think I call BS on YouTube not making available a team-only package for the new iteration of NFL Sunday Ticket. YouTube could have introduced a single-team option—charging, say, $150 for a big Browns fan, born and raised in northeast Ohio and now living in Santa Fe, to see all 17 Browns games in the regular season. But YouTube will charge $349 ($389 if you want to see Red Zone, which is a must) if you buy early and $449/$489 if you buy closer to the season for the full package only. With technology so advanced in this space, there’s no reason YouTube couldn’t have introduced a single-team option. Well, no reason other than squeezing more money out of people.
5. I think this explanation from YouTube about its pricing schedule was rich. YouTube VP Christian Oestlien to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic: ”One of the things we really wanted to do is introduce a much greater level of simplicity and clarity in the pricing for users, so if you have YouTube TV, it’s an additional $249 at this point [with a presale discount], and if you don’t have YouTube TV if you’re not ready for it, you can buy [Sunday Ticket] as a standalone subscription.” Yes, of course! It would have been so complex and hard to understand to tell people they could buy their team only for $150, or whatever. Just say what you really mean: We’re testing the market to see how many people we can get an additional $200 a year from even though they’re probably only going to watch their favorite team from far away. Oestlien said YouTube is “doing research” on single-team options. If they announce a single-team option before Labor Day, I’ll give them credit. But I don’t think they’ll be doing that.
6. I think this news item from Front Office Sports—Jeff Bezos won’t bid for Washington Commanders—makes two things crystal clear: Time for Dan Snyder to sell to the Josh Harris/Mitchell Rales group. And time for that group to begin the process of moving the team back to the District of Columbia, where it belongs.
7. I think it’s interesting that the Bills actually might take a receiver late in the first round. Over the last two years, they’re third in the NFL in scoring—27.6 points per game—but they hit a 10-point rough patch in the playoffs against Cincinnati, and Gabe Davis disappointed last year, and Stefon Diggs ended the season in a snit, so I guess I understand. But taking one would be an acknowledgement that GM Brandon Beane is a little worried about his two-man core, and perhaps rightfully so.
8. I think Stephen Holder did an excellent job in summing up why fully guaranteed contracts are so rare in the NFL. As one GM told Holder, a veteran NFL reporter: “Lamar might not be the right player to fight this fight,” and this GM is right. No one’s giving Jackson $250 million guaranteed after he missed 34 percent of the Baltimore offensive snaps over the last two years due to injury; it’d be GM malpractice.
9. I think Holder hit on one other part of the problem—the NFL’s insistence on keeping the archaic funding rule for contracts. This means the vast majority of guaranteed money for a contract must be put in escrow upon execution of the contract. Family businesses like the Browns in Cincinnati don’t have $225 million or so in some account to put away for Joe Burrow’s contract, while also guaranteeing chunks of other contracts that require additional millions to be escrowed. Wrote Holder, who is spot-on, about the funding rule: “An NFLPA source viewed its continued existence cynically, suggesting it provides owners with a convenient excuse to not offer bigger guarantees.”
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Happy trails, Jim Thomas. The 48-year sportswriting vet, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch institution, covered the Rams with insight and smarts, the go-to beat reporter every time I went through town. All the best to you, Jim.
b. TV Piece of the Week: The inimitable Steve Hartman of CBS News on a daughter who defied her father, saving his life in the process.
c. John Ivanowski needed a kidney. He had one matching person in his family, a daughter. The man’s only other child, a boy, died young of cancer, and he didn’t want to take the risk of complications to take one of two healthy kidneys from his only remaining child.
d. Hartman reported:
When John Ivanowski’s kidney began to fail and he needed a transplant, the most likely donor match was his daughter, Delayne. But Ivanowski would have no part of her.
While his daughter didn’t understand why he was so adamant about not taking her kidney, Ivanowski said his reluctance was because of a previous loss the family had.
“She’s the only thing I got,” Ivanowski said.
e. The Cavinder Twins played on the Miami women’s basketball team that went to the Elite Eight this year. Next year they’ll be WWE wrestlers, apparently.
f. What a country.
g. Cool Story of the Week: Roman Stubbs of The Washington Post on Hockey Night in Hershey.
h. This is a fun Americana story. I mean, Hershey’s been in the American Hockey League since before World War II.
i. Wrote Stubbs:
HERSHEY, Pa. — Dave and Jeanne Lutz sat down for their Sunday afternoon supper in Section 107 at Giant Center last month, just as their beloved Hershey Bears skated onto the ice. An announcer bellowed, “Chocolate Town, it’s time to roar!” That sound had never gotten old for the Lutzes, who started coming to Bears games shortly after they were married 66 years ago, eventually buying seven season tickets for themselves and their five children. They owned a pharmacy and gift shop on Main Street, just a few minutes from the arena, and over the years they helped the Bears with all their needs, often popping by after games so injured players could get medication late at night.
Everyone in the arena seemed to know them — even the cooks who prepared their meatloaf and green beans before the game. “They tried to keep it warm for you,” a server said as she delivered the food, and Dave, 85, smiled at his wife. “People are loyal here,” said Jeanne, 83, and eventually they finished their meal and cheered on the Bears, who are chasing another Calder Cup this spring as champions of the American Hockey League, in which Hershey has played since 1938.
j. The Pelicans have to be ruing the day they drafted Zion Williamson.
k. Out for four months with a hamstring. “I think a big part of it is on him,” said Pelicans VP David Griffin. It’s got to be said.
l. It’s the 10-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. That decade went fast. By the way, interesting to see 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara running the marathon today. Good luck to him.
m. Sports Column of the Week: Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal, with the tale of a college lacrosse player who had a heart transplant two years ago … and is playing college lacrosse this season.
n. Talk about an inspiration. Meet Ryan Scoble.
o. “I’m not just here to put on a jersey. I’m here to get it done. I also want to actively push the idea of what a heart transplant recipient can achieve. I don’t want to stop with college lacrosse. I want to keep living my life till it’s full.”
p. Thank you, Ryan Scoble. And thanks, Jason Gay, for telling this moving tale.
q. Column of the Week: Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star on Elon Musk and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
r. Sounds familiar.
s. Wrote Arthur:
The problem should be clear. Tass, People’s Daily and IRNA are literal organs of the state, under full government control. The BBC and NPR — and the CBC — are independent entities that receive government funding, but have editorial independence. If you can’t see the difference, please consult an optometrist.
It’s predictable, though. Since buying Twitter, Musk has leaned heavily into easily disprovable right-wing conspiracy theories — for instance, he promulgated the repellent lie that the home invasion attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of prominent Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, was a gay tryst gone wrong. Equating the BBC and NPR to state propaganda was in keeping with Musk’s fart-cushion childishness of late, and his habits.
t. All the best to you in retirement, Liz Clarke. I hope a thousand journalism students follow in your footsteps.
The Adieu Haiku
Snyder, it’s been real.
Real, as in quite tortuous.
Long past time to go.