For the NFL, it’s been three months full of news. Really, a (mostly) tremendous start to 2023 for a league that manufactures news cycles, even in the off-season. A 38-35 Super Bowl with the re-coronation of Patrick Mahomes and the emergence of a new 24-year-old superstar, Jalen Hurts. The Super Bowl, with the third-biggest audience in TV history. Aaron Rodgers, caped crusader, flying in to save the Jets—at great, great cost. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens making a five-year peace treaty. A short quarterback, Bryce Young, perhaps forever changing how we look at short quarterbacks by being the first pick in the draft.
There are scars, and potentially big ones. The nightmare of Dan Snyder’s ownership moving toward a sale in Washington might drag on; his divorce with the league continues to be exceedingly ugly. On Thursday, attorneys general in New York and California opened a joint investigation into a hostile work environment and discrimination against female NFL employees. This follows a New York Times investigation with disturbing allegations, particularly by one former NFL Network VP who said the league never addressed her claims of “pervasive sexism in the workplace,” per the Times. I’ve heard the league is concerned about the investigation, as it should be, and what the AGs could learn.
No matter the news off the field, though, the game looks unassailable, at least to its fans, 11 weeks before the start of training camps and the new season.
The last NFL TV event before training camps open in late July, the release of the schedule, is nigh. What we know this morning:
- The release of the schedule, which the NFL had hoped to have for a primetime show Thursday night, may be delayed. It’s still likely to be done in time for release Thursday at 8 p.m., but I was told over the weekend it may not be finished in time. The 2023 mega-games—opening Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights, Thanksgiving Day, the new Black Friday tilt, the Sunday night game on Christmas Eve and the Monday tripleheader on Christmas—are not set in stone yet. The mega-games are usually solid by early May. The schedule crew is slated to meet with commissioner Roger Goodell this afternoon in New York, at which time more clarity on the tentpole games is expected. I’m told as of the weekend the NFL was still in search of options on the 272-game regular season slate, with a series of computers continuing to spit out alternatives.
- Not so fast on the reports of Kansas City dominating the Germany games in 2023 and 2024. Kansas City is playing a November game in Frankfurt this year; that’s a fact. The German newspaper Bild reported KC would play Chicago in the Germany game, and that KC would play again in Germany in 2024 when Carolina is due to host a game there. Bild reported Carolina’s 2024 foe would be Kansas City. I’ve been told there’s some doubt on both of those reports. First: When a team gives up one of its home games to play overseas, it has the option of requesting to the league one home game on its schedule the team does not want moved. I’m told Kansas City requested that the Chicago game not be played overseas. As for 2024, it’s hard to imagine Carolina would not try to keep Patrick Mahomes’ only currently scheduled game in Charlotte for the next eight years at Bank of America Stadium. You might ask, Wouldn’t Kansas City want to protect red-hot home games against Buffalo, Cincinnati and Philadelphia from moving to Germany? The league would almost certainly not schedule those games for overseas, because Germany games are played in the 9:30 a.m. ET window, which is not nearly as conducive to big ratings as are Sunday late-afternoon or primetime games.
- The resolution of the Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson situations allows the NFL to move forward with the Jets to be a heavy primetime team and the Ravens to be more attractive for night games too. I’d previously reported the Jets, who had one primetime game last year without Rodgers, would likely have 11 or 12 primetime/Sunday doubleheader games this year with Rodgers. Each team can be scheduled for six primetime regular-season games, with the league option of flexing that team into a seventh, and then regardless of primetime appearances, any team can be scheduled on Sunday night in week 18. Expect the Jets to have five or six primetime games and at least four or five doubleheader games. Baltimore may not be in prime time as much as the Jets, but the Ravens should expect multiple primetime games as well.
- I would not expect every team to have a Thursday night game on Amazon this year. The league traditionally has made Thursday night the receptacle for bad teams once a year to play in prime time. But now that the league passed a rule in March allowing teams to play short-week Thursday games twice instead of once, that could empower the league to eliminate some of the teams that look like bad ones from prime time in favor of maxing out some teams with two Thursday games. So Arizona might be left out this year, and maybe Tampa Bay or Houston. Stronger teams could find two Amazon games on the schedule, which would serve two purposes—strengthening a streaming schedule the NFL badly wants to work for Amazon, and giving good but not great teams with major national followings (Pittsburgh or Green Bay or New England, perhaps, this year) another primetime appearance.
- One thing making schedule construction tougher this year: the elimination of the road team determining the televising network for Sunday day games. With few exceptions, the road team for Sunday afternoon games has dictated where it would go on TV. In a game with an NFC road team, FOX would televise. For a game with an AFC road team, CBS would do it. Now, every Sunday afternoon game is a free agent, which expands the possibilities for the schedule. You can be sure CBS will be fighting for as many Kansas City games in the late-afternoon doubleheader slot, and I won’t be surprised if CBS gets every Mahomes doubleheader game this year. With the AFC so much stronger (particularly in franchise quarterbacks), don’t be surprised to see FOX get a couple of roadies with Cincinnati or Buffalo or Baltimore or maybe even the Jets.
Boldface names and things with the draft in the rear-view:
Detroit might be the surprise team in my annual 1 to 32 spring team rankings. Which, by the way, should be experienced with a giant box of salt.
Arizona, Tampa Bay, Houston … not so happy.
Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst: “We’ve always believed that we like to develop quarterbacks. Part of developing quarterbacks is they gotta sit for a while, I think, and then they gotta play. Obviously, Jordan Love sat and Aaron [Rodgers] did a great job just kinda mentoring him. But now Jordan’s ready to play. He needs to play.”
I’ve found the Bryce Young play that sealed the deal for Frank Reich falling in love with him. I’ve got the video too. It’s the 10th pass of his college career. Young was 19 years old.
The five-man slide. Ever hear of it? Coaches have. You’ll learn it today, re: Bryce Young.
A medium-deep dive into the Houston trade-up from 12 to 3 for Will Anderson. No, the trade was not for C.J. Stroud.
Lamar vs. Brady. Prepare to be shocked.
Evidently, my take on In-N-Out fries was controversial. Chris Carlin checks in.
Paging Al Dente. Mr. Dente? Al Dente?
Take a bow, Zach Ertz. You too, Julie Ertz. What a good deed the Ertzes have done in their adopted hometown of Philadelphia.
And an announcement about FMIA, down in number 10 of Ten Things I Think I Think.
On with the show.
My Early Assessment10
It’s too early, and I’m not ready to form rock-solid opinions on ranking the teams 1 to 32. I’m going to do it here, but I reserve the right to change my mind after seeing the teams in training camp. I’ve separated the teams into seven categories.
Can’t find a weakness
- Philadelphia. The Eagles averaged 34.7 points per game in the playoffs, have adequately compensated for losses of both coordinators, are not worse at any position (amazing on the defensive line, considering they had a 69-sack year last year and lost Javon Hargrave), have an offensive line that should keep upright a rising superstar QB-of-the-future at the top of his game, and will field two top-15 NFL wideouts entering their age-25 (DeVonta Smith) and age-26 (A.J. Brown) seasons.
They’ve got Super Bowl vibes
- Kansas City. Most wins in the last four seasons, including playoffs: KC 62, Buffalo 51, Green Bay 49. Eleven more wins than any team since 2019 qualifies as a wow. Andy Reid, as usual, has work to do, after losing left tackle Orlando Brown, leading wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and speed receiver Mecole Hardman in free agency.
- Cincinnati. Since New Year’s Day 2022, Cincinnati has beaten Kansas City by 3, 3 and 3, and lost by 3—after being tied at 20 with 30 seconds left and punting to Patrick Mahomes. (Guess what happened.) Lucky for the Bengals, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo didn’t get the Arizona job—he’s been as good as a schemer can be against Mahomes.
- San Francisco. I know you don’t necessarily pick up where you left off the previous year, and I know the QB situation is odd, but prior to the quarterback injury implosion in the NFC title game, I can’t unsee this truth: The Niners were on a 12-game winning streak, with nine of the wins by double digits.
- Buffalo. Bills at the crossroads after the toughest playoff loss any team suffered last season (Bengals 27, Bills 10, at Orchard Park). Josh Allen needs Gabe Davis to return to late-2021 form, and for two additions—first-round TE Dalton Kincaid and under-appreciated free agent WR Trent Sherfield—to contribute immediately. Very important year, chasing the ever-elusive Lombardi.
They’re on the border
- Detroit. Loved ‘em with their 8-2 record after Halloween. I still find myself smitten with the Lions. But curious move this offseason. The Lions took what wasn’t broken and tried to fix it. Jamaal Williams/D’Andre Swift last year: 1,608 rushing yards, 4.5 per rush, 22 rushing touchdowns. Now both are gone. That’s pressure on Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery, particularly when the head coach is a big-time running guy.
- Baltimore. Lamar Jackson has the best weapons, by far, that he’s had since being drafted five years ago. Now he needs to stay on the field, and his collective weaponry should improve his 33-to-20 TD-to-pick differential over the last two years.
- Miami. Slight edge over the Jets counting on two big things happening: Tua Tagovailoa being healthy for 15 games and new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio markedly improving the league’s 24th-ranked scoring defense.
- N.Y. Jets. It’s logical to think Aaron Rodgers will lift all Jets, and I believe he will. Rodgers is the kind of person who can set his mind to something—such as showing the Packers and the world he’s not kaput entering his age-40 season—and go out and do it.
- Dallas. Know why this is a crucial year for the Cowboys? They’ve won 24 regular-season games in the last two years, then scored 29 points in eight quarters in two playoff losses to the Niners. Dak Prescott’s got to do something about that, now.
If all goes right …
- N.Y. Giants. No team exceeded expectations in 2022 more than the Giants, and to build on that, Daniel Jones and a rising defensive front both have to be 10 percent better. I believe each can be.
- Seattle. They’re deep at running back (Kenneth Walker/Zach Charbonnet), and there aren’t many teams with a better three-man receiver corps than D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
- Jacksonville. Rising team, with one asterisk. For all borderline playoff teams, the most important rookie this year might be tackle Anton Harrison, picked 27th by GM Trent Baalke after starting 24 games at Oklahoma, because of the free-agent loss of right tackle Jawaan Taylor and the looming PED suspension, reportedly, of left tackle Cam Robinson.
- Minnesota. The league’s 31st-ranked defense has lost Dalvin Tomlinson, Eric Kendricks and Patrick Peterson already, and edge Za’Darius Smith badly wants out. The Vikings can score, but they can score consistently in the low thirties, which they may have to do to contend?
- L.A. Chargers. You can’t unsee blowing a 27-0 playoff lead and losing to the Jags, which makes the resuscitation of pricy cornerback J.C. Jackson vital after his lost 2022 season.
- Pittsburgh. NFL position group with the most surprising 2023 makeover: the Steelers’ secondary, with corners Patrick Peterson and Joey Porter Jr. and safety Keanu Neal. Every one of those is a double take.
- Cleveland. I think Deshaun Watson is still good, but how can you tell after seeing him play six (highly) mediocre games in the last 28 months?
- Tennessee. Feels like the Titans are a slow start from Will Levis playing by Nov. 1, selling Derrick Henry by the trade deadline, and building for 2024.
They’ve got holes
- Las Vegas. Devon Witherspoon would have been the perfect draftee, due to the Raiders’ major corner need in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert (and Russell Wilson if he can be revived), but pressure from Tyree Wilson would be vital for the pass defense as well.
- New England. Other than new OC Bill O’Brien, it’s hard to get excited about a team that finished losing five of the last seven, with the D/special teams allowing 29.7 points per game in the last seven weeks. And then defensive leader Devin McCourty retired.
- Green Bay. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers were 14-15, combined, in their first starting seasons in Green Bay. So a rocky season for Jordan Love won’t rock the Packers’ future with him, unless 2023 is a total debacle.
- Atlanta. One thing I think: The Falcons offense has the most diverse weaponry of any offense in football; imagine trying to defend monstrous Cordarrelle Patterson and Jonnu Smith, big-man receiver Drake London and elusive Bijan Robinson in the slot, productive Kyle Pitts at tight end and 1,000-yard-rusher Tyler Allgeier as a sledgehammer alternative.
- Denver. Broncos will be a playoff contender if Sean Payton unlocks Russell Wilson. It is entirely possible Payton will.
- New Orleans. A bad division is there for the Saints to win—if old warhorses like Demario Davis, Cam Jordan and Tyrann Mathieu can muster up one more charge, and if Derek Carr can improve a team that was 22nd in scoring last year to middle of the pack.
- Carolina. I don’t expect it to take long for Bryce Young to get up to speed in the Carolina offense, but what no one knows is if Young will be sturdy enough to make it through an 18-week NFL campaign.
- Indianapolis. There are more problems than the five-year revolving door at quarterback, so don’t just laser-focus on when Anthony Richardson plays. See if Gus Bradley can mend an atrocious D that allowed 36.6 points a game after Dec. 1.
- Washington. I get giving Sam Howell his big chance here, and backing him up with Jacoby Brissett is okay too. But keep in mind how far this offense—which averaged 17.7 points a game in the last 16 weeks—has to go.
- L.A. Rams. Not saying Sean McVay reads Football Morning in America, but I do believe that retching sound you’ll hear around 7 a.m. PT today is the sound of McVay vomiting when he sees his team ranked 28th in the NFL offseason power rankings.
- Chicago. Bears have fixed a lot of things in one offseason, without question, and could be anywhere on this list from 31 to 13 by December. But today, I need to see more of Justin Fields the passer to fall in like with this team.
- Houston. I don’t think a team with the presence and ethos-changing ability of DeMeco Ryans and the playmaking ability of C.J. Stroud can be the worst team in the league.
- Tampa Bay. Well, the Super Bowl was still worth it.
Wait till 2025
- Arizona. The best thing about being awful this year is GM Monti Ossenfort could have the next 11 months to figure out whether his quarterback of the future is Kyler Murray or if it it’s one of the mega-prospects due out in the 2024 draft—Caleb Williams or Drake Maye.
Young is one smart guy
Question to Frank Reich: What’s the one moment, the one thing, that clinched your conviction that Bryce Young should be the first pick in the draft?
“It happened on his 30 visit,” Reich said, referring to one of the 30 visits by prospects to team facilities that each team is allowed to host. Young was at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on April 11, talking deep football with Reich, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown and QB coach Josh McCown. They were talking protections—how a quarterback manages and changes blocking calls at the line of scrimmage.
Young and the coaches were talking about a play they’d seen in their scouting process. It happened in garbage time during Young’s true freshman year, in his second college game. Alabama at Tennessee, Oct. 24, 2020, 10 months to the weekend that Young had been playing high school ball in Santa Ana, Calif.
This third-and-six call from the ‘Bama 38 was the 10th called pass play of Bryce Young’s college career. He was 19 years, 3 months old.
You can watch the play right here, first from the sideline angle, then from the endzone view:
On the surface, it’s nothing special—a 12-yard third-down conversion pass to John Metchie with Alabama up 48-17. Certainly no one in attendance would remember the play. You know who’d remember it? Coaches who were looking for clues to judge Young’s mastery of his offense, and something no fan would notice but lifetime football people certainly would.
Young was in shotgun at the snap, with running back Najee Harris snug to his right. Tennessee had four potential rushers to the left of center and only one to the right. As Young prepared to snap, a fifth Vol pass-rusher snuck to the line outside the left tackle. Young called out an adjustment. Center Landon Dickerson pointed left while Young said something to Harris to his right. Then the right guard pointed to his left. Then, at the last second, a Tennessee safety sprinted toward the line over the right tackle.
The right tackle paused, then teamed with the right guard to move left and block the rusher up the middle. Dickerson handled the defensive tackle. A Tennessee blitzer blasted through the B gap—but Harris was there to neutralize him. Alex Leatherwood, the left tackle, pushed the wide blitzer out of the pocket.
Young waited for Metchie to get to the top of his 12-yard stop route. As the receiver turned, the ball was right on him. First down. Gain of 12. Young was not touched.
“Bryce right there called a five-man slide, which is an incredibly smart and incredibly risky call,” Reich said, watching the play while dictating a voice note to me. “If you’re going to call a five-man slide, you have to be 100 percent sure you can bring that [right] tackle over. Because if you bring him and that [left defensive] end comes, you’re in trouble. And just watch the play—how smooth the call is, how sure he is. He saw overload pressure to his left, he figured he wasn’t getting pressure to his right, he had the line all move left to compensate—and he even got the back to cover a blitzer. Just look how easy he made it look.
“That play just confirmed everything we were thinking and already know. Just confirmed the level of football IQ he has that’s on par with Peyton [Manning], [Matt] Ryan, [Philip] Rivers, [Andrew] Luck. I’m telling you: There are quarterbacks in the NFL who haven’t done what he did right there—and he did it easily in his true freshman year in college. To have the confidence to make that call for Alabama in his second college game. Unreal.”
This play, showing this knowledge of the game, is one reason there is no doubt in my mind that Young will begin the season as Carolina’s starting quarterback. The Panthers might have Andy Dalton number one on the depth chart today, but Dalton’s the definition of placeholder. I don’t know if Young will succeed, or if the huge size disadvantage will catch up to him. But from this play and from everything I’ve heard and seen, the game will not be too big for Young. The 10th pass of his 949-pass college career showed the Carolina coaches that.
The Green Bay way20
Three years ago, after the draft, Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst seemed oblivious to the noise outside the Lambeau Field walls. Good God man! You just drafted Aaron Rodgers’ replacement, and the man still has lots of good football left in him! Indeed Rodgers did. Two MVP years out of the next three, in fact. I asked Gutekunst then what would happen if Rodgers continued to play at a high level. “That’d be great for the Packers,” Gutekunst said that late-April day in 2020.
And he recalled a history lesson taught to him by Ron Wolf, the GM who turned the Packers around for good three decades ago.
“Ron traded a one in 1992 for Brett Favre, who had been a second-round pick and wasn’t even starting for Atlanta,” Gutekunst said. “Imagine the media fervor if that happened today.”
Fast-forward to today. Gutekunst didn’t know that day he’d get three more years out of Rodgers, then hand the reins to Jordan Love in year four after making one of the strangest trades we’ve ever seen. Gutekunst traded Rodgers, who was clearly no longer all-in in Packerland, to the Jets for a move from the 15th to the 13th pick this year (taking Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness), the 42nd overall pick this year (tight end Luke Musgrave of Oregon State), a first-round pick in 2024 if Rodgers plays 65 percent of the Jets’ snaps this year (he has played more than that five years in a row) and a second-round pick if he doesn’t, and the potential transfer of $100.7 million to the Jets’ salary cap in 2024. For that, Green Bay takes on $40 million in Rodgers-related dead money on the cap this year, a rebuilding year for Green Bay.
All in all, trading Rodgers prior to his age-40 season could backfire on Green Bay. He could be Brady, playing great for four or five more years. That’s the chance they’re taking. But just look at the landscape. Rodgers is reborn in New Jersey, excited to be part of the New York social scene. The Knicks aren’t playing the Heat in the NBA playoffs in Green Bay. Jessica Alba and Spike Lee aren’t chumming up to Rodgers in northeast Wisconsin.
This trade was a must-do. Green Bay got a one and a two, most likely, for a great player who’d checked out of Green Bay. When the Packers did a hybrid two-year contract for Jordan Love, they gave themselves two seasons to make a decision on Love—two seasons at about $22 million. Pretty smart in today’s QB market.
“We believe in our process and in how we make decisions,” Gutekunst told me. “You never get them all right. We like to develop quarterbacks. Part of developing quarterbacks is they gotta sit for a while, I think, and then they gotta play. Obviously, Jordan Love sat and Aaron did a great job just kinda mentoring him. But now Jordan’s ready to play. He needs to play. I think our fans kinda realize why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
The Packers drafted two tight ends and two wide receivers in the first five rounds last week and seem fine with growing with Love and a young core, including 2022-drafted wideouts Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. This isn’t a skill group of Randall Cobb and Marcedes Lewis anymore. The Packers felt like it was time, and it was.
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Gutekunst said. “We’re a very young team. But I think the players, Jordan and the young guys, realize there’s gonna be more and different opportunities than they had in the past.”
On the Houston trade
I’ve heard this point from quite a few readers and some in the media, so I’ll let reader Rick Lawson make the point: “I think your take on the third overall pick is incorrect. What the Texans gave up was for C.J. Stroud not Will Anderson. If they took Anderson at two, then other teams could have outbid them for Stroud. You even stated that in one of your items. There is no added pressure on Anderson due to what the Texans gave up for the pick. That compensation was so they were able to draft two cornerstone players.”
There’s no doubt the Texans would have risked some other team jumping them for Stroud had they picked Anderson two and then tried to trade for Stroud. The inference is that Anderson is the real number two here, and the high compensation was actually for Stroud. I do not believe it.
After my trip to Houston on Friday of draft weekend, I do believe Anderson was higher-rated than Stroud on the Texans’ draft board. But I also believe GM Nick Caserio and coach DeMeco Ryans knew a quarterback was essential for the team with the worst record in football over the past three years, and for the team with the worst QB situation in football today. Caserio told me the day after the draft that there was still work to do once Arizona was on the clock at number three, even though the two teams had had discussions about trading the pick prior to the draft. As Albert Breer of The MMQB pointed out the other day, Cards GM Monti Ossenfort had no idea once the third pick was on the clock whether he’d have gotten another offer that would not have forced him to use the draft capital to move back up to get Paris Johnson Jr. at number six. If Ossenfort comes out and says, “We agreed to that deal and locked it up before the draft,” then I might change my opinion. But I don’t think that happened, and until it was locked in the 10-minute period of pick three, there was no guarantee Anderson was going to Houston.
Now, if the pick Houston traded ends up being for one of the franchise quarterbacks who turns out to be a Mahomes or Burrow, and if Anderson isn’t a standout star, you can bet the Texans will take heat for the trade. For the record, this is what Caserio told me on the trade to three:
Me: “You traded franchise-quarterback compensation to go get Anderson. You felt that strongly about Anderson.”
Caserio: “When you make a trade, there’s gonna be compensation involved with it. The terms are the terms and you’re either comfortable with the terms or you’re not. How we look at it, really—it’s really two extra picks that we really gave up. Essentially, we were gonna pick in the first round anyways. We had 12 (the 12th overall pick). So we really didn’t give up anything other than move. It’s really more positioning. So really the two additional picks next year were sort of the extra capital if you look at it in real terms.”
Me: “It’s a lot though, a one and a three.”
Caserio: “In the end, you accumulate assets and then you use them at your disposal.”
Caserio omitted the fact that Houston also traded its high second-round pick, 33rd overall, in the deal for Anderson, and received the 105th overall pick, which Caserio traded for the Eagles’ third-round pick next season.
Two more points: The Texans have been awful, and they’re sick of being awful. If this is the double-pick that kick-starts Houston to relevance, all the power to Caserio. We can’t know the result now. It’s not a trade I would have made, but it’s not my rear end on the line either.
Quotes of the Week30
We have serious concerns about the NFL’s role in creating an extremely hostile and detrimental work environment. No company is too big or popular to avoid being held responsible for their actions.
–California attorney general Rob Bonta, who, along with New York attorney general Letitia James launched a joint investigation Thursday into allegations of employment discrimination and a hostile work environment at the NFL.
I wanna throw for like 6,000 yards. No one’s ever done it, and we’ve got the weapons to do it.
—Lamar Jackson, in his press conference announcing his re-signing with the Ravens.
I was just signing an autograph, and I had to think. They wanted ‘Super Bowl LII MVP’ on it, and I said, ‘Wait, what Super Bowl was that again?’ Because I don’t really think about it. Life goes on.
—Nick Foles to Kerith Gabriel of The Philadelphia Inquirer, after he was released by the Colts last week.
You can count on three things in life: death, taxes and Jake Moody.
–Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, to Matt Barrows of The Athletic, on the reliability of rookie Niners kicker Jake Moody.
Go earn the left tackle. Competition.
–Jets coach Robert Saleh, in a message to 2020 first-rounder Mekhi Becton, who has missed most of the last two years. Becton tweeted Saturday he is a left tackle. Saleh will believe that when he sees it.
This is how times in the NFL have changed re: compensation in less than a generation:
Under the terms of Lamar Jackson’s new contract with the Baltimore Ravens, he will make $80 million in salary and bonuses in 2023.
In the first 10 years of Tom Brady’s career with the New England Patriots, he made $73.059 million in salary and bonuses, per overthecap.com.
Lamar Jackson in his first five seasons in the postseason: 1-3, with three TD passes and zero Super Bowl wins.
Tom Brady in his first 10 seasons: 14-4 in the playoffs, with 28 TD passes and three Super Bowl wins.
Aaron Rodgers’ salary-cap number for 2024, as it stands today, is $107,600,000. That is $22.1 million more than the NFL salary cap number per team in Rodgers’ rookie year, 2005.
In the 2021 NFL Draft: Miami traded from 3 to 12. When the sixth pick was on the clock, the Dolphins traded from 12 to 6 and with the sixth pick chose wideout Jaylen Waddle.
In the 2023 NFL Draft: Arizona traded from 3 to 12. When the sixth pick was on the clock, the Cardinals traded from 12 to 6 and with the sixth pick chose tackle Paris Johnson Jr.
History lesson: The third pick in 2021, Trey Lance, hasn’t panned out and looks to have lost his starting job to the last pick in the 2022 draft, Brock Purdy. In its own way, that’s disastrous enough. But at least the picks San Francisco ended up surrendering were late first-round picks in ’22 and ’23, both times the 29th overall choice, as part of the deal. The Cardinals should end up with a far better pick, Houston’s first-rounder in 2024, than either of the first-rounders the Niners gave up.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric thinks I dissed Tua. From Eric Sloss: “Truly amazing how Tua is never mentioned among the standout AFC QBs. The dude had the highest passer rating in the NFL and still gets snubbed. Baffling to me.”
I take it you’re referring to me including Tua Tagovailoa in a group of players behind the eight big stars in the 2020 first round. Tagovailoa has a chance to be in that group, for sure. But he’s not there now. He’s a guy who’s started 34 games of 50, and never led his team to a playoff win. He was very good when he played last year, and I hope he’s healthy for a full season this year so we can take the restrictor plates off our judgments of him.
John is okay with people getting too excited about draft picks. From John Falenski: “If people choose to get excited over the draft, have at it! Being a professional bookie of over 30 years in Nevada and now Oregon, I like to put it in bookie terms: All of life is handicapping how things will turn out. Going to work one expects a good day. Buying a gift for your wife, you hope she likes it. The weather, planning a vacation, a new recipe, filling the trash bag to a certain level, everything involves at least a tiny bit of handicapping. I say, if folks want to get joyous over a draft, do it. Some of us won’t be here in 3 years.”
Good perspective, John. My only point about the talk of how wonderful a career every first-round pick is going to have—which is what you hear most often on TV—is that it’s inherently false. I just think we (in media) ought to rein in the sunshine a bit and be real with readers and viewers.
A man who loves fries checks in. From [ESPN radio host and Rutgers play-by-player] Chris Carlin: “Surprised at your In-N-Out fries take. No argument that it’s always a must-stop out west, but I’d argue those fries are a McDonald’s wannabe. Get cold/semi-stale too quick. Burgers more than make up for it.”
The In-N-Out fries are the kings of fast food fries, Chris. I do not find them to get stale or cold too fast. I feel like I’m biting into a crispy, hot Idaho potato when I eat one.
On the seven-Mimosa woman on my morning flight, Chicago to Vegas. From Charles L. Freeman Jr., of Los Angeles: “Why in the real hell did the flight attendants serve her SEVEN mimosas in TWO hours—on a damn airplane??? That seems idiotic and irresponsible to me.”
That makes two of us, Charles. I wonder if she would have had more, except Ms. Mimosa was knocked out cold for the last 45 minutes of the flight. Surprise!
You’re right, Brian—I was negligent in not giving the answer to the quiz back in April about what Bill Parcells and Hank Aaron had in common. From Brian, of St. Lucie, Fla.: “Did you ever tell us the answer?”
Sorry, Brian. The answer is they both hit home runs off Al Downing—Parcells as an American Legion ballplayer in his teens in New Jersey, Aaron with the 715th home run, a significant one, of his career.
10 Things I Think I Think50
1. I think it sounds like the attorneys general of New York and California are going to dig deep into The New York Times’ allegations from more than 30 female NFL employees of mistreatment and sexism in their work at the NFL. That Times investigation described a “stifling and demoralized corporate culture that drove some women to quit in frustration.” Don’t dismiss this one.
2. I think I found myself wondering this week, with some time on my hands, whether any tight end will ever have the kind of four-season run we have just seen from Travis Kelce. In the last four years, including playoffs, Kelce has caught 525 passes—425 in the regular season, 100 in the postseason—in a total of 76 games. That’s 6.9 catches per game. For reference, the leading tight end pass-catcher ever, Tony Gonzalez, had a career high of 356 catches in his most productive four consecutive seasons. Of course Kelce benefits from playing in so many playoff games, but he’s still 73 catches better in their best four consecutive regular seasons. It’s hard to overstate the importance of Kelce in a generational NFL offense.
3. I think I’d bet a lot of money that when Nick Foles was drafted in the third round in 2012 by the Eagles, he never thought he’d make $82,255,520 in 11 NFL seasons. And who knows? Maybe, after his Friday release by the Colts, Foles will choose to play some more. Or back up some more. He’s only 34. In today’s NFL, that’s just-entering-your-prime territory for a quarterback. By the way, this couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Foles is first class in every way.
4. I think the Eagles/Cards dispute over Arizona GM Monti Ossenfort talking to then-coaching candidate Jonathan Gannon disappeared quietly with an odd trade of draft choices 10 minutes before the start of the draft. Very odd. There’s an offshoot to it. The Eagles were angry that Gannon was talking to a team during a period not allowed by the league. But the whole system is rife with chances to cheat. I’d be shocked if he were the only one in this year or any year that violated the time period when assistants are allowed to discuss jobs with other teams.
5. I think the offshoot is this: The NFL, in allowing these conversations/interviews while teams are still in the playoffs, is allowing some of the most important coaches for playoff teams to have their attention divided at the most important time of the year. Let’s take Dan Quinn, the Dallas defensive coordinator and wholly honorable and good man. The Cowboys played at Tampa Bay on Monday night of Wild Card weekend. Dallas won. The Cowboys got home about 4 a.m. Dallas time on Tuesday, then had to prepare to play the 49ers the following Sunday afternoon in California. Short-week playoff game, on the road, a three-hour flight away, against a team Dallas hadn’t played that season, against a quarterback the Cowboys had never played. Big week, long week, compressed week. And Quinn interviewed for head-coaching jobs with three teams that week. I don’t blame Quinn, who is playing by the rules. I blame the rules. They stink. How is it fair to the Cowboys that Quinn has his attention divided in a short week and the biggest week of the season? Do you think Quinn was as fresh and focused late in that week as possible?
6. I think the NFL absolutely, positively should not allow any interviews for new coaches until after the Super Bowl. There is no fair reason for the NFL to have these January interview rules on the books. The Competition Committee should present a proposal, now, to mandate that no interviews for head-coaching jobs take place until noon Eastern Time on the Monday after the Super Bowl.
7. I think I noted Cam Newton’s statement last week to Josina Anderson implying that some people in football think his unemployment in the NFL is related to the length of his hair. Well. I would recommend to Cam Newton that he watch video from a certain freshly paid quarterback’s news conference last week, or simply look at this photo:
8. I think we should all appreciate the humanity of Zach and Julie Ertz. They have done a wonderful thing: purchase and refurbish a three-story stone home in downtrodden North Philadelphia so kids will have an after-school base to study, be tutored and to have a safe space in what is often a tough neighborhood. The after-school space will be open this summer, and in full operational mode for students and families by the time school opens this fall. The Ertz family has moved to Arizona and would be forgiven if they said Thanks for the memories, Philly, and moved on. But no. The place that led to their marriage and having a family would not be forgotten by the couple. They hope to make the place a safe place for after-school learning, for aiding a community with things like financial literacy, and for helping kids get on a college track. “We don’t have all the answers,” Zach Ertz said Saturday. “We’ve partnered with people who have a heart for giving, and ideally, we’re helping any after-school student. Whether it’s help, hope or love, we just want to be there for people.” Good point by him: “We could just give money. But we are invested in the community. We started our relationship here, started our lives here, our family here. We really care about this city. We want to help. This is our effort to help Philadelphia through some tough times.”
9. I think there should be more Zach and Julie Ertzes in this life.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. RIP Vida Blue. The A’s pitcher seemed like a demigod to me at the height of my love of baseball in ninth grade. Vida was 24-8 that summer with a 1.82 ERA—at age 21. He looked like the new Koufax in his A’s uniform—the one I remember had green sleeves and gold vest and gold pants. Tall and rangy with a whipsaw left-handed fastball that had to be in the upper nineties, I was amazed how durable he was throwing the way he did. Nine times he threw more than 220 innings in a season. Those days are gone.
b. Blue started and won probably the most noted of all All-Star Games, in 1971 at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Look at the murderer’s row he faced as the A.L. starting pitcher: Mays, Aaron, Torre, Stargell, McCovey, Bench, with Clemente and Rose coming off the bench. That’s the game Reggie Jackson hit the (reported) 520-foot home run out of the stadium over the right-field upper deck. The All-Star Game was a very big deal in those days, the only time other than the World Series that A.L. faced off against N.L., the only time Blue would ever have faced, say, Willie Mays.
c. You go, Mage. What a great, great story. Celebrate, Venezuela!
d. Read wonderful turf writer Tim Layden of NBC Sports on Mage, and on the spate of thoroughbred deaths, on the jockey who finally won a Derby (Javier Castellano), and on the way he was bought for a pittance against all the millionaires in the horse business.
e. Javier Castellano, good friend of late-in-life horseman Bill Parcells, by the way.
f. Wrote Layden:
It was co-owner and bloodstock agent Ramiro Restrepo, weary of fighting for draft picks against the giant hedge fund and private equity syndicates that have increasingly come to dominate the high end of the thoroughbred game, reaching to spend $290,000 – at Delgado’s urging: “Gustavo took out his whip and cracked me two times and said, ‘Let’s go, don’t stop bidding!’ – last May for an unraced two-year-old. We went up to $290,000,” Restrepo said, “Which in the real world is a lot of money, but which in horse racing, it’s just, it’s a respectable number, but it’s by no means a lot of money.”
And this: “This is a game where so many successful people are buying bulk, and I feel like they have unlimited bullets, and we have a musket.”
… Restrepo also reduced his risk. At the start he co-owned Mage with Delgado; he then brought in Herzberg and Commonwealth Racing, a partnership group that specializes in selling micro-shares, and has more than 400 “owners” with a piece of Mage.
On Saturday, Mage broke very slowly from the gate. Castellano settled, and then maneuvered Mage to the rail, saving ground, a veteran move. “The horse, he didn’t break,” said Castellano. “I didn’t panic. We have plan A, B, C, D. I knew there was a lot of speed in the race. Take your time, enjoy the ride.”
g. Layden’s last line in a tumultuous week for a troubled sport about the fun and competitiveness of the 149th Kentucky Derby: “Not a cure, but a salve.” Perfect.
h. Story of the Week: Chris Walker of 5280 on this strange and hugely dangerous business of transporting cars and goods, called transmigrantes transport, from the western United States to Guatemala—and a kidnapping. Hat tip to Don Van Natta and Jacob Feldman for The Sunday Long Read, which is where I found this story.
i. One of the great things about journalism—it’s something one of my Ohio University professors told me back in the seventies—is that our job quite often is to take people to places they cannot go, to tell stories they cannot know. This story by Walker is a perfect example.
j. Writes Walker:
“Why haven’t we killed him already?” It was one of the few things Orlando León could hear his captors arguing about through the sound of rain pounding on a metal roof in Guatemala. From where he sat with his hands bound in front of him and a hood pulled over his head, he wondered the same thing: How was he still alive? And how long had he been sitting there?
A metallic taste filled Orlando’s mouth as blood dripped from the gums where his top four front teeth had once been. It was difficult to see anything through the hood, but Orlando knew he was in a cemetery. Before his kidnappers had shoved him inside a small building, he’d been able to make out the silhouettes of gravestones and crosses when flashes of lightning illuminated them against the dark backdrop of the jungle. Judging from other stories he’d heard about kidnappings in Guatemala, he figured his abductors had already dug an unmarked grave for him.
k. “Call the police again and we’ll kill your husband.” Yow.
l. Ridiculous, Horrific, Indefensible Stat of the Week: Per this Mother Jones story, there are at least 20 million AR-15s in circulation in the U.S. today … and 14 million of those were manufactured here and bought in the last decade. Those 14 million weapons of war generated sales of $11 billion. Regardless of what weapons were used in the last two or three or five mass shootings, it’s only a matter of time before those 20 million murder machines are used again, and are used in a mass shooting.
m. But hey, thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers.
n. Allen, Texas is the latest, with nine dead ranging between 5 and 61, including reports that a young girl had her face shot off. Oh my God! Keep that out of a football column!!!
o. A thousand times no.
p. Quote of the Week from an Allen resident: “This is sickening. When is this s— gonna stop?” From Kyler Murray. That’s the question of the day, of the week, of the month, of the year, of the millennium.
q. The problem, as I see it, is the relentless acceptance of the status quo. We used to be a country that would come together to solve crises. We are a country now that finds it more important to protect our own turf than to protect our children and our citizens from being massacred by guns. That’s not only the opinion of some flaming liberal. That’s a pure, unadulterated, indisputable fact.
s. Happy trails, Dale Arnold, and the best to you in retirement. I always valued Dale as a terrific and knowledgeable host on my WEEI appearances for years. A very good man.
t. New Jersey is fortunate to have Steve Politi, the Star Ledger and NJ.com sports columnist, living in it. He had the line of the week, about the 200 pounds of pasta found in a wooded area near Old Bridge, N.J., apparently dumped by a man cleaning out the house and finding a huge stash of food left by his late mother in case, you know, a couple of years of pasta was needed for some reason.
u. The pasta was found laying out after some heavy rains, so it appeared to have been prepared and left outside in gigantic mounds of spaghetti and other styles. The authorities were in search of the culprit.
v. Wrote Politi:
w. “Early suspect emerges. Police now searching for local man Al Dente.”
x. Good luck, Jim Trotter, in your new gig at The Athletic. I have a feeling I’ll be chasing some of your stories.
y. This is my last column for 12 weeks. I will resume with a column from the training camp trail on July 31. Nothing really complex about this—I just wanted to take some time off and do some family things (and a bunch of nothing too) before the start of my 40th season covering the NFL this summer. There won’t be any replacement columns in my absence; in the past few years, the guest columns quite often have been more work than my offseason columns. So we just decided that FMIA would go on hiatus till training camps begin.
z. A few notes: The Peter King Podcast will have two more episodes, this week and next week, before returning in early August. And I will tweet out my annual Father’s Day book recommendations the week of June 5, so you can still buy the dad or dads in your life a book for Father’s Day (June 18). Thanks, as always, for your support in reading the column, and I hope you don’t mind me recharging the battery before season 40. Have a great couple of months, everyone.
The Adieu Haiku
See you in July.
Think it’s time to read some books.
And watch some baseball.