FMIA: ‘You Just Woke Me Up!’ Sleepy Aaron Donald Explains How He Rose To The Challenge In Super Bowl 56

NFL: FEB 16 Rams Super Bowl LVI Championship Parade
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For two straight years, in the last game of the season, cameras caught Aaron Donald crying after a game and telecast the images to tens of millions. He’s not much of a crier, really. But for him, opposite ends of his football life almost required tears.“Last year,” Donald told me, “the thing about the Green [more]

2022 NFL first-round draft order: Jaguars own the first choice, and the Lions the 32nd

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With Super Bowl LVI finished, it’s on to 2022.

The 2022 NFL draft order is set for the first round, which will be held Thursday, April 28, in Las Vegas.

Five teams don’t have a first-round draft choice, including the Super Bowl champion Rams. The Giants have two of the top seven choices and the Jets two of the top 10. The Eagles have picks 15, 16 and 19, and the Lions picks 2 and 32.

Here is the entire first-round draft order:

1. Jaguars (3-14)

2. Lions (3-13-1)

3. Texans (4-13)

4. Jets (4-13)

5. Giants (4-13)

6. Panthers (5-12)

7. Giants (via 6-11 Bears)

8. Falcons (7-10)

9. Broncos (7-10)

10. Jets (via 7-10 Seahawks)

11. Washington Football Team (7-10)

12. Vikings (8-9)

13. Browns (8-9)

14. Ravens (8-9)

15. Eagles (via 9-8 Dolphins)

16. Eagles (via 9-8 Colts)

17. Chargers (9-8)

18. Saints (9-8)

19. Eagles (9-8, Wild Card loser)

20. Steelers (9-7-1, Wild Card loser)

21. Patriots (10-7, Wild Card loser)

22. Raiders (10-7, Wild Card loser)

23. Cardinals (11-6, Wild Card loser)

24. Cowboys (12-5, Wild Card loser)

25. Bills (11-6, Divisional round loser)

26. Titans (12-5, Divisional round loser)

27. Buccaneers (13-4, Divisional round loser)

28. Packers (13-4, Divisional round loser)

29. Dolphins (via 10-7 49ers, NFC Championship Game loser)

30. Chiefs (12-5, AFC Championship Game loser)

31. Bengals (10-7, Super Bowl loser)

32. Lions (via 12-5 Rams, Super Bowl winner)

FMIA Super Bowl 56: Airport After-Parties And The Play That Won The Championship For The Rams In L.A.

Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 to win the NFL Super Bowl LVI football game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
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HAWTHORNE, Calif. — No, this is not the place where Super Bowl LVI was won by the Rams, 23-20, in another coin-flip of a football game, the only kind the NFL plays these days. That dateline would be INGLEWOOD, Calif. This is the place where, in a private airport hangar, the Rams celebrated the first [more]

Tony Dungy’s letter to the NFL: How to improve the head coach hiring process

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference
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To Commissioner Goodell and NFL Owners,

The current system for hiring head coaches is broken. It’s not producing good results. Two-thirds of the league changing hands every three years is not the model of stability we should be striving for.  The minority hiring record, which I wrote about this time last year, is very poor as well. None of this is good for business.  But what can we do to fix these problems?

The league faced this issue with minority hiring 20 years ago. Dennis Green and I were fired after the 2001 season, leaving one African American coach at the time, Herm Edwards. Prominent civil rights attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri came to the NFL asking to work together to get answers to the problem. They advised the league that litigation was certain to follow if things didn’t change.

After meeting with Cochran and Mehri, the league set up a subcommittee to work on diversity and inclusion and Dan Rooney made some suggestions on how to help the head coaching/GM searches. He suggested a process and the league adopted what was called the Rooney Rule.

But the rule was only a small part of the process. We have followed the rule but by and large have ignored the process. And now 20 years later, it’s been deja vu. At the end of the 2021 season, two African American coaches were fired, leaving only one in position at the time.  Many of the same problems still exist, and the litigation did come with Brian Flores’ lawsuit.

Dan’s hope was that decision makers would follow this process and it would lead to successful outcomes—that is, choosing the best candidate for each franchise. Here was the process he followed, which was very successful for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

  1. Set the blueprint for what you want in your head coach. That is certainly different for every franchise but establish in your mind what the parameters are.

For Dan, it was a defensive-minded coach who would be invested in the city and the franchise for the long term. For another franchise it might be an offensive-minded quarterback coach. Someone else might prefer a candidate with previous head-coaching experience. There are many possible criteria but spell out the ones that are most important to you and lay out your blueprint.

I’ve lived the other side of this. My first interview ever was with a team that said at the end of our meeting they were looking for an offensive-minded coach who had previous head coaching experience. Since I was a defensive coach who had never been a head coach, it was no surprise when I didn’t get the job.

I’ve talked to owners who have said they wouldn’t hire a coach who hadn’t been an offensive or defensive play caller. Listing the qualities that are top priorities to you and your organization is a great first step, which leads us to:

  1. Do an exhaustive search looking for people who fit those parameters. Take your time, research candidates you don’t know, and interview as many people as you can who fit your blueprint. Those interviews must include minority candidates.
  1. After doing an exhaustive, inclusive search, pick the best candidate for your franchise. Then stick with that candidate and be committed to a long-term process.

When Dan selected Chuck Noll in 1969, the team won one game in Chuck’s first year and didn’t have a winning season in any of his first three years. But Dan was committed to the long-term plan. Had he fired Chuck after three years, he would have missed out on 20 more years of excellence and four Super Bowls.

Zac Taylor’s Cincinnati Bengals won two games his first year and four games his second year. In most cases today, we don’t see teams stick with a coach who struggles like that out of the gate. But Cincinnati did and they are in the Super Bowl this year.

David Culley won four games in his first season with Houston and was fired due to “philosophical differences.” Pat Shurmur won nine games his first two years with the Giants and was fired. His replacement, Joe Judge, won 10 games his first two years and was fired. We’ll never know what could have happened had teams been committed to their coach for the long haul.

That is the process Dan laid out. Unfortunately, you can’t mandate the process. The only thing instituted was the rule to interview a minority head coaching candidate (that was increased to two minority candidates in 2020).   Unfortunately, only implementing the rule but not the process has not helped matters. In fact, it may have hurt the process in some cases.

Looking at Dan’s blueprint, I can recommend two things that would help owners make better decisions.

  1. Have a job description and let it be known what you are looking for.

If your number one criterion is to fix your quarterback, then every candidate who interviews needs to know they must have a plan to do that. If you prefer someone with previous head-coaching experience, you can concentrate on those candidates. Having those things identified in advance will allow you to utilize your time better and focus your search.

  1. No interviews before the Super Bowl and no hirings until 10 days after the Super Bowl.

We need to slow the process down and make it fair for every candidate. Right now the interviewing and hiring process is done in a self-imposed tight window from the end of the regular season to the week before the Super Bowl – a window in which many of the best candidates are also involved in preparing for playoff games.

This hurts the process in a couple of ways. It puts the owners under unnecessary pressure to make a decision quickly, and it forces many of the best candidates to go through the process when they are totally engaged in trying to help their current team get to the Super Bowl. This can’t produce the best outcomes.

It also has had an inordinate impact on minority coaches because for the most part, the minority coaches who are getting the interviews are in the playoffs. Last year, Eric Bieniemy interviewed for five different jobs in a three-day span. Since 2019, he has had 15 interviews, and only one – last week with the Saints – has taken place after his team was eliminated.

This recommendation would level the playing field. Owners would not feel like they have to hurry up and hire their coach so he won’t be behind in compiling his staff.  It would also take away the disadvantage of candidates being in the playoffs and not being able to devote full time, thought, and energy to the interview process.

For this plan to work the Commissioner would have to make sure these rules were followed and teams didn’t try to circumvent them with “unofficial” interviews or secret agreements. Any violations of the policy would be penalized with the loss of that team’s first round draft choice in the upcoming draft.

You might ask me, “Why should I have to spend a month after the regular season doing nothing when I have to replace my head coach?”

It is true that you might get behind in the short term. But if we are looking at it as a 10-20 year decision, then those few weeks don’t seem so significant.  Hopefully  that time would be spent researching possible candidates and learning about people you don’t know. You might discover some coaches you’ve never heard of who fit your blueprint perfectly.

The NFL has also taken this approach before, with the draft, which used to be in January.

Think how much time, energy, and research goes into making that pick. People realized they needed more time to conduct due diligence on prospective NFL players, and the correct decision was made to move it back. I would argue the selection of your head coach is just as important.

I know this is radical and it won’t necessarily produce an instant increase in minority hiring. We know that you can’t mandate hires and if someone does not want to hire a minority candidate there is nothing that can be done. However, giving our owners the best opportunity to make decisions and giving the candidates the best opportunity to showcase themselves to the owners will make for better, more informed decisions. And, in my opinion, if we make more-informed decisions, we will get more minority hires because there are plenty of excellent candidates out there.

NFL playoff schedule 2022: Bracket, Super Bowl LVI winner, scores for AFC, NFC games

NFL: AUG 21 Preseason - Bills at Bears
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Only one team stands after Super Bowl LVI: the Los Angeles Rams are this year’s Super Bowl winner after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals. Check out the full NFL playoff schedule and completed bracket for 2022 below as well as scores for every AFC and NFC playoff game, recaps and more.

2022 NFL Playoff Bracket

2022 NFL Playoff Schedule

Super Bowl LVI

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Los Angeles Rams

READ MORE: Super Bowl MVP Voting Needs To Be Overhauled

2022 NFL Playoff Scores and Results

Championship Round

AFC Championship Game: (4) Cincinnati Bengals at (2) Kansas City Chiefs

NFC Championship Game: (6) San Francisco 49ers at (4) Los Angeles Rams

Related: 2022 NFL Draft order: Bills, Titans, Bucs, Packers get their spots

Divisional Round

Saturday, January 22

(4) Cincinnati Bengals at (1) Tennessee Titans

(6) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Green Bay Packers

Related: PFT: Is that it for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay?

Sunday, January 23

(4) Los Angeles Rams at (2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Related: Tom Brady is retiring from the NFL

(3) Buffalo Bills at (2) Kansas City Chiefs

Super Wild Card Weekend

Saturday, January 15

(5) Las Vegas Raiders at (4) Cincinnati Bengals

(6) New England Patriots at (3) Buffalo Bills

Sunday, January 16

(7) Philadelphia Eagles at (2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(6) San Francisco 49ers at (3) Dallas Cowboys

READ MORE: Final play for Cowboys was failure of coaching and execution

(7) Pittsburgh Steelers at (2) Kansas City Chiefs

Monday, January 17

(5) Arizona Cardinals at (4) Los Angeles Rams

Check back after each game for final scores and follow ProFootballTalk for more on the 2022 NFL Playoffs as well as game previews, recaps, news, rumors and more.

PFT’s Super Bowl LVI picks

NFL, Rams, 49ers, NFC Championship
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The final game has arrived. Super Bowl LVI. Rams “at” Bengals. The one for all the marbles. If anyone even knows what marbles are anymore.

For the year, I’m now 182-101-1. MDS is 179-104-1.

Our takes and picks for the last game of the year appear below. We agree on this one. Which makes me even more nervous about my selection.

MDS’s take: It’s tempting to treat Super Bowl LVI as little more than Matthew Stafford vs. Joe Burrow. Both teams’ quarterbacks have such compelling storylines. Stafford was the longtime quarterback in Detroit who could rarely even get to the playoffs, and could never win a playoff game, and now he’s one win from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Burrow was the first overall pick whose rookie season ended with a devastating knee injury, and now he has emerged in his second season as one of the NFL’s brightest young stars.

And yet I think the biggest difference in this game is going to be the contrast between the two teams’ defenses. The Rams have Aaron Donald, football’s best defensive player, as well as a former Super Bowl MVP in Von Miller, a cornerback they paid a fortune for in Jalen Ramsey, and one of the best stories in the NFL in the return of Eric Weddle. I think all four of those players are poised to make a significant impact, and I think Burrow may be in for a rough Sunday as his offensive line struggles to protect him.

The Bengals’ defense can put some pressure on Stafford too, and defensive end Trey Hendrickson will be a factor. But I don’t think the Bengals’ secondary is going to be stop Stafford from hitting Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham.

And so I see this as a game that’s competitive in the first half, but the Rams will pull away in the second as their defense puts pressure on Burrow, while their offense finds receivers open downfield. In the end this one won’t be close.

MDS’s pick: Rams 34, Bengals 20.

Florio’s take: It’s head versus heart. I’d like to see the Bengals win the game. I think the Rams will. After being burned far too many times this season by letting what I’d like to see cloud what I think we’ll see, I decided to rely on my head for this one.

The Rams are the better team. And if they don’t play like they did against the 49ers, they should easily. If they stumble around for most of the game, they’ll give the Bengals an opening — and quarterback Joe Burrow will be inclined to take it.

L.A. coach Sean McVay surely knows this. He knows the importance of establishing a lead and then building on it. He has the players to make it happen. The offense is great, the defense is better. The pass rush can provide the kind of crippling pressure that we’ve seen plenty of Super Bowl champions generate.

That will be the difference. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, capping his eighth season and second shot at a Super Bowl win, will be relentless. He has the support on defense to get it done.

Then there’s the offense, where quarterback Matthew Stafford finally gets a shot at immortality, and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caps years of frustration with the championship he has long coveted.

It’s time. It’s happening. The Bengals will have plenty of chances. For the Rams, this may be the lone moment where the planets align. They have. They will. The Rams will host a Lombardi for the second time in franchise history.

Florio’s pick: Rams 30, Bengals 21.

NFL invites 324 players to 2022 Scouting Combine

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Northwestern at Michigan
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When the Super Bowl ends on Sunday, the next big event on the NFL calendar will be the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

The event brings draft prospects together for measurements, on-field drills, and medical checks from March 1 – March 7 and the league announced the list of players invited to participate on Wednesday.

There are 324 players who have been extended invitations and the complete list appears below:

Cal Adomitis, LS, Pittsburgh
Austin Allen, TE, Nebraska
Chase Allen, TE, Iowa State
Christopher Allen, LB, Alabama
Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU
Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
Tycen Anderson, DB, Toledo
Blaise Andries, OL, Minnesota
Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State
Jalyn Armour-Davis, DB, Alabama
Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma
Calvin Austin, WR, Memphis
Kevin Austin Jr., WR, Notre Dame
Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri
Kalon Barnes, DB, Baylor
Amaré Barno, DL, Virginia Tech
Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati
David Bell, WR, Purdue
Greg Bell, RB, San Diego State
Markquese Bell, DB, Florida A&M
Daniel Bellinger, TE, San Diego State
Dane Belton, DB, Iowa
Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor
Bubba Bolden, DB, Miami
Slade Bolden, WR, Alabama
Nik Bonitto, DL, Oklahoma
Thomas Booker, DL, Stanford
Andrew Booth, DB, Clemson
Max Borghi, RB, Washington State
Jaquan Brisker, DB, Penn State
Gabe Brkic, K, Oklahoma
Kennedy Brooks, RB, Oklahoma
Ben Brown, OL, Mississippi
Leddie Brown, RB, West Virginia
Montaric Brown, DB, Arkansas
Logan Bruss, OL, Wisconsin
Coby Bryant, DB, Cincinnati
Spencer Burford, OL, UTSA
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
Darien Butler, LB, Arizona State
Matthew Butler, DL, Tennessee
Percy Butler, DB, Louisiana
Grant Calcattera, TE, SMU
Jake Camarda, P, Georgia
Chance Campbell, LB, Mississippi
Ja’Tyre Carter, OL, Southern
Zach Carter, DL, Florida
Tariq Castro-Fields, DB, Penn State
Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina
Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin
Lewis Cine, DB, Georgia
Damone Clark, LB, LSU
Micheal Clemons, DL, Texas A&M
Jack Coan, QB, Notre Dame
Qwynnterrio Cole, DB, Louisville
Snoop Conner, RB, Mississippi
Bryan Cook, DB, Cincinnati
James Cook, RB, Georgia
Jashaun Corbin, RB, Florida State
Yusuf Corker, DB, Kentucky
Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi
Charles Cross, OL, Mississippi State
Nick Cross, DB, Maryland
Dustin Crum, QB, Kent State
Myron Cunningham, OL, Arkansas
DJ Davidson, DL, Arizona State
Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
Kalia Davis, DL, UCF
Ty Davis-Price, RB, LSU
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Dawson Deaton, OL, Texas Tech
Austin Deculus, OL, LSU
Cameron Dicker, K, Texas
Kellen Diesch, OL, Arizona State
Dai’Jean Dixon, WR, Nicholls State
JoJo Domann, LB, Nebraska
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada
Dontario Drummond, WR, Mississippi
Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
Bill Dunkle, OL, San Diego State
Cobie Durant, DB, South Carolina State
Jerrion Ealy, RB, Mississippi
Arnold Ebiketie, DL, Penn State
Trestan Ebner, RB, Baylor
Ickey Ekwonu, OL, N.C. State
Kaiir Elam, DB, Florida
Kaleb Eleby, QB, Western Michigan
Noah Elliss, DL, Idaho
MJ Emerson, DB, Mississippi State
Kingsley Enagbare, DL, South Carolina
Akayleb Evans, DB, Missouri
Obinna Eze, OL, TCU
Joshua Ezeudu, OL, North Carolina
Erik Ezukanma, WR, Texas Tech
Daniel Faalele, OL, Minnesota
Neil Farrell, DL, LSU
Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
DaMarcus Fields, DB, Texas Tech
Cordale Flott, DB, LSU
Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati
Jonathan Ford, DL, Miami
Luke Fortner, OL, Kentucky
Ty Fryfogle, WR, Indiana
Sauce Gardner, DB, Cincinnati
Haskell Garrett, DL, Ohio State
Jeremiah Gemmel, LB, North Carolina
Trenton Gill, P, N.C. State
Luke Goedeke, OL, Central Michigan
Mario Goodrich, DB, Clemson
Tyler Goodson, RB, Iowa
Kyler Gordon, DB, Washington
Isaiah Graham-Mobley, LB, Boston College
Danny Gray, WR, SMU
Vincent Gray, DB, Michigan
Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M
Jeffrey Gunter, DL, Coastal Carolina
Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
Jeremiah Hall, TE, Oklahoma
Logan Hall, DL, Houston
Kyle Hamilton, DB, Notre Dame
Jake Hansen, LB, Illinois
Aaron Hansford, LB, Texas A&M
Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina
Kolby Harvell-Peel, DB, Oklahoma State
Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan
Blake Hayes, P, Illinois
Marquis Hayes, OL, Oklahoma
Peyton Hendershot, TE, Indiana
Connor Heyward, TE, Michigan State
Dax Hill, DB, Michigan
Chasen Hines, OL, LSU
Chris Hinton, DL, Michigan
Curtis Hodges, TE, Arizona State
Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
Aidan Hutchinson, DL, Michigan
Ed Ingram, OL, LSU
Keaontay Ingram, RB, USC
D’Marco Jackson, LB, Appalachian State
Drake Jackson, LB, USC
Jordan Jackson, DL, Air Force
Joshua Jobe, DB, Alabama
Jermaine Johnson II, LB, Florida State
Johnny Johnson III, WR, Oregon
Josh Johnson, WR, Tulsa
Tyree Johnson, DL, Texas A&M
Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College
Braxton Jones, OL, Southern Utah
Jack Jones, DB, Arizona State
Marcus Jones, DB, Houston
Travis Jones, DL, Connecticut
Velus Jones, WR, Tennessee
Kerby Joseph, DB, Illinois
Cam Jurgens, OL, Nebraska
George Karlaftis, DL, Purdue
Cole Kelley, QB, Southeastern Louisiana
Derion Kendrick, DB, Georgia
D’Eriq King, QB, Miami
Darian Kinnard, OL, Kentucky
Bam Knight, RB, N.C. State
Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
Quentin Lake, DB, UCLA
Nate Landman, LB, Colorado
DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina
Tyler Linderbaum, OL, Iowa
Alec Lindstrom, OL, Boston College
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Drake London, WR, USC
Vederian Lowe, OL, Illinois
Abraham Lucas, OL, Washington State
Chase Lucas, DB, Arizona State
Jesse Luketa, DL, Penn State
Boye Mafe, LB, Minnesota
DeAngelo Malone, DL, Western Kentucky
Damarri Mathis, DB, Pittsburgh
Phidarian Mathis, DL, Alabama
Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee
Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
Marquan McCall, DL, Kentucky
Zakoby McClain, LB, Auburn
Zyon McCollum, DB, Sam Houston State
Sincere McCormick, RB, UTSA
Roger McCreary, DB, Auburn
Trent McDuffie, DB, Washington
Micah McFadden, LB, Indiana
Marcus McKethan, OL, North Carolina
Verone McKinley III, DB, Oregon
Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers
John Metchie, WR, Alabama
James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech
Max Mitchell, OL, Louisiana
Smoke Monday, DB, Auburn
Jeremiah Moon, LB, Florida
Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan
Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
Thayer Munford Jr., OL, Ohio State
Jalen Nailor, WR, Michigan State
Evan Neal, OL, Alabama
Otito Ogbonnia, DL, UCLA
David Ojabo, DL, Michigan
Chig Okonkwo, TE, Maryland
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Leon O’Neal, DB, Texas A&M
Esezi Otomewo, DL, Minnesota
Cade Otton, TE, Washington
Isaih Pacheco, RB, Rutgers
Dylan Parham, OL, Memphis
Joshua Paschal, DL, Kentucky
Chris Paul, OL, Tulsa
Jayden Peevy, DL, Texas A&M
Trevor Penning, OL, Northern Iowa
EJ Perry, QB, Brown
Nick Petit-Frere, OL, Ohio State
Kyle Philips, WR, UCLA
George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida
Jalen Pitre, DB, Baylor
Makai Polk, WR, Mississippi State
D’vonte Price, RB, Florida International
Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State
Teagan Quitoriano, TE, Oregon State
Bernhard Raimann, OL, Central Michigan
Charleston Rambo, WR, Miami
LaBryan Ray, DL, Alabama
Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
John Ridgeway, DL, Arkansas
Ronnie Rivers, RB, Fresno State
Reggie Roberson Jr., WR, SMU
Brian Robinson, RB, Alabama
Dominique Robinson, DL, Miami (Ohio)
Tyrese Robinson, OL, Oklahoma
Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State
Mike Rose, LB, Iowa State
Dare Rosenthal, OL, Kentucky
Josh Ross, LB, Michigan
Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
Jeremy Ruckert, TE, Ohio State
Andrew Rupcich, OL, Culver-Stockton
Jamaree Salyer, OL, Georgia
Jack Sanborn, LB, Wisconsin
Braylon Sanders, WR, Mississippi
Myjai Sanders, DL, Cincinnati
Nephi Sewell, LB, Utah
Justin Shaffer, OL, Georgia
Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
Abram Smith, RB, Baylor
Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State
Lecitus Smith, OL, Virginia Tech
Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa
Tyreke Smith, DL, Ohio State
Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson
Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
Chris Steele, DB, USC
Derek Stingley Jr., DB, LSU
Jordan Stout, P, Penn State
Cole Strange, OL, Tennessee-Chattanooga
Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
Pierre Strong, RB, South Dakota State
Andrew Stueber, OL, Michigan
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, DL, Notre Dame
Alontae Taylor, DB, Tennessee
Cam Taylor-Britt, DB, Nebraska
Isaac Taylor-Stuart, DB, USC
Luke Tenuta, OL, Virginia Tech
Kayvon Thibodeaux, DL, Oregon
Cameron Thomas, DL, San Diego State
Isaiah Thomas, DL, Oklahoma
Juanyeh Thomas, DB, Georgia Tech
Zach Thomas, OL, San Diego State
Josh Thompson, DB, Texas
Skylar Thompson, QB, Kansas State
Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor
Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia
Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest
Cole Turner, TE, Nevada
Tré Turner, WR, Virginia Tech
Delarrin Turner-Yell, DB, Oklahoma
Eyioma Uwazurike, DL, Iowa State
CJ Verdell, RB, Oregon
Cordell Volson, OL, North Dakota State
Matt Waletzko, OL, North Dakota
Kenny Walker III, RB, Michigan State
Quay Walker, LB, Georgia
Rasheed Walker, OL, Penn State
Travon Walker, DL, Georgia
Jermaine Waller, DB, Virginia Tech
Jaylen Warren, RB, Oklahoma State
Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Jaylen Watson, DB, Washington State
Luke Wattenberg, OL, Washington
Sam Webb, DB, Missouri Western State
Dohnovan West, OL, Arizona State
Isaiah Weston, WR, Northern Iowa
Rachaad White, RB, Arizona State
Zamir White, RB, Georgia
ZaQuandre White, RB, South Carolina
Devon Williams, WR, Oregon
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Joshua Williams, DB, Fayetteville State
Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
Pepe Williams, DB, Houston
Sam Williams, DL, Mississippi
Tre Williams, LB, Arkansas
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
JT Woods, DB, Baylor
Mike Woods, WR, Oklahoma
Tariq Woolen, DB, UTSA
Alex Wright, DL, UAB
Mykael Wright, DB, Oregon
Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia
Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
Cade York, K, LSU
Nick Zakelj, OL, Fordham
Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky

From Playmakers: NFL general counsel Jeff Pash ordered expungement of 2015 air-pressure measurements

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks
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The past week has been a rocky ride for the NFL. The past 20 years have featured plenty of bumps, too. One of the biggest came in 2015, which began with the allegation that the Patriots had used deflated footballs during the first half of the AFC Championship.

Playmakers, my new book (buy early, buy often) containing more than 100 essays regarding various events and issues and controversies in the NFL from 2001 through 2020, devotes a chapter to the saga known as Deflategate. And while pretty much everything that could be told about the situation was told about it at the time, I managed to stumble over a couple of intriguing pieces of information while putting the book together.

First, let’s take a closer look at the development that caused Deflategate to mushroom from a curiosity into a firestorm. It came from Chris Mortensen of ESPN, who reported that 11 of 12 footballs used by the New England offense during the game against the Colts were underinflated by at least two pounds each.

The information was eventually shown to be false. Mort took the bullet for it, never complaining or calling out his source. (In fact, he clung to the discredited information for months, before his original item at ESPN.com was “clarified” with an acknowledgement that the initial report was incorrect.)

So who was his source? Per a source with knowledge of the situation and as explained in Playmakers, the source for the notorious 11-of-12 footballs report was NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent.

It makes sense. It needed to be someone sufficiently high on the organizational chart to make it credible, and to prompt Mortensen to use it, despite the fact that (unbeknownst to Mortensen) it wasn’t true. It’s unclear whether Vincent deliberately lied to Mortensen. Things were muddled and hazy and confusing in the early days of the scandal.

Regardless, the report from Mortensen immediately put the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady on the defensive, setting the stage for Brady’s incredible (and definitely not-credible) press conference just a few days later. (Among other things, Brady was asked if he’s a cheater. His decidedly unconvincing response was, “I don’t believe so.”)

Second, there was an important P.S. to Deflategate. One that received scant attention in the aftermath of the scandal, in large part because that’s what the league wanted.

Beginning with the 2015 season, the NFL began conducting air-pressure spot-checks at halftime of games. The numbers were collected and protected, with none of the information ever coming to light.

It was expected that, given the operation of the Ideal Gas Law, the pressure inside the balls would rise on warm days, and that it would fall on cold days. That’s exactly what happened. As the source put it, “numerous” measurements made at halftime of games during the 2015 season generated numbers beyond the permitted range of 12.5 to 13.5 psi, with the reading showing a direct correlation between temperature and air pressure.

On cold days, pressure readings taken before the balls were moved to the field resulted in lower readings after 90 minutes of exposure to the conditions. On hot days, the pressure increased.

Indeed, it was believed that the actual numbers measured in the footballs used by the Patriots were generally consistent with the numbers that the atmospheric conditions should have generated that day. This should have resulted in a finding that, at most, the evidence was inconclusive as to whether there had been deliberate deflation on the day in question.

The formula for the Ideal Gas Law goes like this: PV = nRT. The “T” is temperature, the “P” is pressure, and the “V” is volume. As the temperature drops and the volume of air in the bladder remains constant, the pressure necessarily drops.

So what happened to those numbers from the 2015 season? Per a source with knowledge of the situation, and as reported in Playmakers, the NFL expunged the numbers. It happened at the direct order, per the source, of NFL general counsel Jeff Pash.

Why would the league delete the numbers? It’s simple. For cold days, the numbers were too close to the actual numbers generated by the New England footballs at halftime of the playoff game against the Colts. Which means that the numbers generated at halftime of the January 2015 AFC Championship were not evidence of cheating, but of the normal operation of air pressure inside a rubber bladder when the temperature drops. Just as it was expected.

We’d always believed the Patriots and Brady got screwed. While something fishy was indeed happening, based on the text messages exchanged by John Jastremski and Jim McNally, the NFL failed to catch them in the act. The NFL failed to catch them in the act because the measurements made at halftime of the Colts-Patriots game were not out of line with what they should have been.

The numbers harvested during the 2015 season corroborated this. Which would provide a clear motivation to make those numbers go away, for good. Which is exactly what Pash ordered.

During the drafting process of Playmakers, I sent two separate emails to the NFL giving them an opportunity to respond to both aspects of this report. The NFL did not reply to either message.

So there’s the last word on Deflategate, as harvested in the process of drafting Playmakers. The effort to test the operation of air pressure in footballs in the season played after the game in question (an effort the NFL had never before undertaken) resulted in numbers that were inconveniently similar to the numbers haphazardly collected in a game of “gotcha” that was instigated against the Patriots. Thus, those numbers never saw — and never will see — the light of day. The NFL made sure of that.

This article is based on information taken from Playmakers: How the NFL Really Works (And Doesn’t) by Mike Florio ©2022. Available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. You can (and should) order it here.

FMIA: On Jeopardy, Joe Burrow and Super Bowl 56—Predawn Drive Into Work With Bengals Coach Zac Taylor

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Another quiet week in the NFL. An owner got accused by his former coach of trying to fix games, said coach sued the league for racism, Tom Brady retired, Washington owner Daniel Snyder was accused of pawing a former employee, Doug Pederson got a head-coaching job, a minority coach was finally hired Sunday night, WFT [more]

The NFL’s current draft system clearly incentivizes tanking

2020 NFL Draft - Round 1
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The allegation that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross regarded the 2019 campaign as a full-season exercise in tanking isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom of it.

The NFL’s procedure for determining draft order creates a clear incentive to tank. Usually, it kicks in once a team is eliminated from playoff contention, mathematically or as a practical matter. It happened most conspicuously in 2014, when the Buccaneers removed roughly half of their starters at halftime of a Week 17 game against the Saints, which Tampa Bay led by double digits. The Saints came back and won, the Buccaneers lost, and the Bucs secured dibs on the first pick in the 2015 draft. (They took Jameis Winston; some would say the punishment ultimately fit the crime.)

If the allegations against Ross are true (he strongly denies them), it means he took tanking to the extreme, embarking on a potential path to the top of the draft well before his team had declared itself to be a non-contender for postseason positioning.

The possibility of short- or long-term tanking will linger as long as the NFL rewards ineptitude with dibs on the best players entering the league from college football. It therefore becomes incumbent on the league, once and for all, to remove that incentive.

We’ve kicked around possible approaches in the past for doing that. One idea, as mentioned on Wednesday’s PFT Live, would be to implement a lottery for the 18 non-playoff teams, with each having an equal shot at getting the first pick, second pick, and so on in the first round, or perhaps beyond.

A separate lottery could be held for each of the seven rounds on that basis; obviously, the most interest would be generated by round one. And the first-round lottery would become a tentpole event that would generate millions of viewers and dollars — especially as fans bet on which team will get which pick.

Another approach would be to give the best of the non-playoff teams the first pick, descending from best to worst through the first 18 selections and filling in the final 14 spots with the playoff teams. (That could potentially tempt a borderline team to pass on a quick exit from the wild-card round, opting instead for the first pick in the draft.)

Then there’s the possibility of ditching the idea that bad teams secure the right to compel the best players to join their dysfunctional organizations. Maybe the Super Bowl champion should get the first pick, as one of the spoils of victory. The worst team would pick last. Some would say that’s not fair, but it definitely would remove the incentive to lose games.

Finally, there’s the option that would be the most fair and appropriate for the teams and the players. Ditch the draft. (It’s WAY too late for that, given the Draft Industrial Complex that the league has created over the years.) Instead of a draft, teams would have a hard cap on first-contract compensation, with the worst team having the most to spend and the best team having the least. Teams would have to recruit incoming players to join the franchise, and they’d have to allocate the cap dollars accordingly.

While the naysayers will say the best teams would stockpile the incoming talent, would (for example) the top quarterback in the class choose to sign with a team that already has a franchise quarterback in place? While some teams may do a better job of persuading young players to join them instead of a competitor, a free-agency approach would remove the incentive to be bad and replace it with an incentive to be attractive to young players. Which of those two incentives is better for the game?

There surely are other potential ideas and approaches. (Feel free to put your own in the comments.) Regardless of what the league chooses to eventually do, sticking with the current system necessarily will tempt certain teams at certain times to, for example, “evaluate” young players in the hopes that those young players will cause the team to lose in the standings — and to win in the draft order.

The value of finishing poorly is undeniable. Consider the trades made every year for the purposes of climbing a few spots in round one. Last March, the 49ers surrendered two extra first-round picks and a third-round pick for a flip-flop with the Dolphins of the No. 3 and No. 12 spots in the order. In 2012, Washington gave up two extra first-round picks and a third-round pick to upgrade the sixth pick into the second pick.

In 2019, a Week 17 loss to the Giants gave Washington dibs on defensive end Chase Young with the second overall pick in 2020. If the Giants had simply lost that game, they would have won Young.

As the Ross allegations and his response to them promise to become nasty and ugly and contentious in the coming months, the simple truth is that the entire issue springs from a system that illogically rewards losing with the promise of snagging potential generational talent.

Indeed, if Flores had simply accepted and acted on the owner’s plan (if that truly was his plan), the Dolphins would have quarterback Joe Burrow — and the Bengals wouldn’t. While that doesn’t mean Miami would be preparing to play in the Super Bowl, Cincinnati definitely would not be.

So even though Ross, if the accusations are true (again, he strongly denies them), undermined the integrity of the game, violated the Sports Bribery Act, and/or set the stage for class actions in the various states that had legalized betting during the 2019 season (more on that possibility in another post), the current system creates a clear strategic reason to lose now, in the hopes of winning later. Until the current system changes, that fundamental truth will not.

FMIA Conference Championships: Rams vs. Bengals? The ‘Not In A Hundred Years’ Super Bowl Is Here

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams
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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — A few minutes after the confetti flurried around Matthew Stafford at his new home Sunday night, and it began to sink in that he was going to the Super Bowl, he started thinking of how ridiculous and incredible this situation with the Rams has been. And how lucky he is that he [more]

NFL overtime rules and procedures

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When a NFL game ends in a tie, the game continues with overtime.

Overtime commences with a coin toss. The visiting team captain calls the toss. The winner of the toss can choose whether to receive the kick or to kick off, or the team winning the toss can choose which goal to defend.

If the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on the kickoff return or the ensuing possession, the game is over and that team has won the game. There is no one- or two-point conversion attempt.

If the team that receives the opening kickoff does not score a touchdown or a field goal on its initial possession, the next team to score wins the game.

If the team that receives the opening kickoff is tackled in the end zone for a safety, the game is over and the second team has won the game.

If the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a field goal on the initial possession, the second team receives an opportunity to possess the ball.

If after the first team scores a field goal the second team scores a touchdown, the game is over and the second team has won the game. There is no one- or two-point conversion attempt.

If after the first team scores a field goal the second team scores a field goal, the next team to score wins the game.

If after the first team scores a field goal the second team fails to score during its possession, the game is over and the first team has won.

If after the first team scores a field goal the second team loses possession by interception or fumble, the play continues until its conclusion. For example, the first team can return the ball for a touchdown, winning by nine points. Or the first team can lose possession during the return, the second team can recover the ball, and the second team can return it for a touchdown, winning the game.

Possession means simply an opportunity to possess the ball. An onside kick or a muffed kickoff recovery or a live ball recovered by the kicking team constitutes an opportunity to possess.

In the regular season, overtime continues for up to 10 minutes of clock time. If the game remains tied after the extra 10 minutes, the game ends in a tie. Both teams have two time outs, and the two-minute warning applies.

In the postseason, the initial overtime period proceeds for 15 minutes. If the game remains tied after the initial 15-minute period, another 15-minute period begins, and so on until the game ends.

After a second 15-minute overtime period, the third period begins like the third quarter of a normal game, with a new kickoff. Both teams have three time outs for each two quarters of postseason overtime.

PFT’s 2022 AFC and NFC championship game picks

NFL: JAN 09 49ers at Rams
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Last weekend was great. Except when it comes to picking games. MDS and I were a combined 1-7. Which is only slightly better than pointing out that I was 0-4.

For the year, I’m now 181-100-1. MDS is 178-103-1.

Here are our picks for the conference championship round. We agree on the winners, but not on the spreads.

Bengals (+7) at Chiefs

MDS’s take: These teams met four weeks ago in one of the best games of the regular season, a 34-31 Bengals win in Cincinnati. On that day Joe Burrow looked like the better quarterback, putting up 446 yards and four touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes‘ 259 yards and two touchdowns. I expect Burrow to have another big game on Sunday, but I think Mahomes will match him drive for drive, and this time I like the Chiefs to be the ones to pull out the win in the last minute.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 38, Bengals 34.

Florio’s take: The Bengals are the future. The Chiefs are the present. Drop any team into Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, and Kansas City wins. ’72 Dolphins, ’85 Bears. Any of them. And look for the Bengals to go down swinging; the last thing they’ll want to do is to change who they are. Because who they are could get them to the Super Bowl, as soon as next year.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 41, Bengals 24.


49ers (+3.5) at Rams

MDS’s take: The 49ers had the Rams’ number this season, blowing them out in Week 10 and punching their ticket to the playoffs with an overtime thriller in Week 18. But I expect the Rams’ defense to play well against a 49ers offense that escaped Green Bay with a win despite playing poorly. And I expect Matthew Stafford to spread the ball around well, and for Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham both to top 100 yards. This Rams team looks destined for the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Rams 28, 49ers 24.

Florio’s take: Great teams are made up of great players who are playing great. The Rams have great players who, until recently, hadn’t been playing great. They currently are. It will be more than the 49ers can handle, but not by much.

Florio’s pick: Rams 24, 49ers 21.

2022 NFL Draft order: Bills, Titans, Bucs, Packers get their spots

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
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Four more teams were eliminated from the playoffs over the weekend and that means four more spots in the 2022 NFL Draft order have been set.

The Bills will pick 25th after falling to the Chiefs in overtime on Sunday night and the Titans will be right behind them as a result of their loss to the Bengals. The Buccaneers are slated to pick 27th and the Packers will pick 28th after another home playoff loss.

Next Sunday’s games will determine who goes to the Super Bowl and the Lions could also learn where their second first round pick will land. They’ll be getting the Rams’ selection as part of the compensation for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but the Rams’ continued success means they won’t join the Jets and Giants in doubling up on early picks.

Here’s how the entire first round draft order shapes up heading into the conference title games:

1. Jaguars (3-14)

2. Lions (3-13-1)

3. Texans (4-13)

4. Jets (4-13)

5. Giants (4-13)

6. Panthers (5-12)

7. Giants (via 6-11 Bears)

8. Falcons (7-10)

9. Broncos (7-10)

10. Jets (via 7-10 Seahawks)

11. Washington Football Team (7-10)

12. Vikings (8-9)

13. Browns (8-9)

14. Ravens (8-9)

15. Eagles (via 9-8 Dolphins)

16. Eagles (via 9-8 Colts)

17. Chargers (9-8)

18. Saints (9-8)

19, Eagles (9-8, Wild Card loser)

20. Steelers (9-7-1, Wild Card loser)

21. Patriots (10-7, Wild Card loser)

22. Raiders (10-7, Wild Card loser)

23. Cardinals (11-6, Wild Card loser)

24. Cowboys (12-5, Wild Card loser)

25. Bills (11-6, Divisional round loser)

26. Titans (12-5, Divisional round loser)

27. Buccaneers (13-4, Divisional round loser)

28. Packers (13-4, Divisional round loser)

FMIA Divisional Round: Four Classics, All With Walk-Off Endings, Deliver The Best NFL Playoffs Weekend Ever

NFL: JAN 23 AFC Divisional Round - Bills at Chiefs
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In 25 hours on the greatest playoff weekend in the 102-year history of professional football, each headline, one by one, overtook the last one:BENGALS KNOCK OFF 1 SEED TO REACH FIRST AFC TITLE GAME SINCE 1988 NINERS KNOCK OFF 1 SEED ON 45-YARD FIELD GOAL AT :00 RODGERS’ FUTURE UNCERTAIN; WON’T SAY IF HE’LL STAY [more]