An emotional week for me: I told my staff at The MMQB and my bosses at Sports Illustrated that I’ll be leaving June 1—my 29-year anniversary of being hired by SI—and beginning a new job with NBC Sports in July.
This is an NFL column, and I’ll get to the news of the moment in a few paragraphs. But for the past 21 years, this has been a personal column too. You’ve gotten to know way too much about the softball and field hockey exploits of Laura and Mary Beth King. You’ve been with me through the deaths of one mother, two brothers and two dogs. You’ve been with me through the joy of Laura’s wedding to her wife Kim, and now through ridiculously cute photos of their son Freddy. You’ve been with me through some opinions you hate, through over-Favring and excessive Bradying, through some bad poetry, through a Westin-lobby-near-fistfight, and even through a little bit of football thrown in there. I’ll have some career thoughts in my last column here in the coming weeks. But I did want to take a moment to explain to you how I came to this decision, and what my future is, and about the exceedingly bright future of The MMQB.
First: I am not retiring. My column will continue in the digital space at NBC Sports, very likely with a new name, beginning in July. So I’ll continue to write a Monday column; it’s my first love. In addition, I’ll be doing what I’ve done for NBC the past couple of years: four to six feature stories for the “Football Night in America” pregame show. I’ll be appearing with Mike Florio one morning per week on his “Pro Football Talk Live” radio show. I may be doing a few other things at NBC in the Olympic sphere or other places. My plan is for the Monday column to still be long and filled with football plus the strange detours of this strange brain. I’m not going to be writing a lot more than that. Some, but not a lot.
Second: This is not about any dissatisfaction with SI, or any worry about the future of a great franchise. I love the place. Always will. Sometimes it’s just time. I am 60. My dad died at 64. I had one brother die at 55, the other die at 64 just months into his retirement. I don’t want to continue the family trend. A few weeks ago, my wife Ann and I were on the train from New York to have dinner with friends in New Jersey. A few minutes from Montclair, I saw on my phone that Saints owner Tom Benson died. I was the only one on our staff who knew Benson even a little, so I knew it was up to me to write the deadline obit. I sat outside the restaurant thumb-typing the obit on my phone. No complaints. That’s the life. The 24/7-ness of the job, though, has worn on me, as has some of the silly and invented stuff that populates the football media (e.g., 2019 mock drafts 360 days before the 2019 draft). The monster must be fed daily. Enough.
Now, SI boss Chris Stone offered me a chance to stay and just write “Monday Morning Quarterback” with no other responsibilities. It was a great offer. I was tempted. But there was something else at play.
At The MMQB, we’ve got a group of writers who are blossoming and ready to do more—Jenny Vrentas, Robert Klemko, Andy Benoit (three originals from when we started the site in 2013), Albert Breer, Tim Rohan, Jonathan Jones, Conor Orr, Jacob Feldman, Kalyn Kahler. Average age: 30. I got hired at the magazine a week shy of my 32nd birthday. I think of the good things they’ve done already, the imaginative things, the smart things, and I know they’re so far ahead of where I was when I started. If I stay, their development gets stunted because I’m the 225-pound gorilla. It’s time for them too, and for a new generation of football writers. They deserve the spotlight I’ve been hogging. They’re ready. I’m really excited for them.
I’ve been an NBC part-timer since 2006. The network has treated me very well, and I like the football team (led by Sam Flood) and the digital team (led by Rick Cordella) there. I think it’s going to be a great fit. Look for me there—with a new Twitter handle I’ll figure out; I’ll miss @SI_PeterKing—in a couple of months.
There’s a lot of emotion coursing through me as I write this, early Sunday morning. I almost made it all the way through my talk to the staff Thursday afternoon without breaking, but when I got to our youngest staffer, 24-year-old Kalyn Kahler, it got tough. She came on staff three years ago, straight out of Northwestern, as my editorial assistant/office manager/fledgling writer, and she’s grown into a promising young multimedia presence. She oversaw our Football in America series last fall, handles our social media, and has written some strong pieces for us. She never has a bad day. She never says, I’m too busy. When I got to Kalyn, it sort of all hit me. All these young people, all of these young women too, so many of these young people different than my generation, all ready. It’s just cool to see. So I choked up a bit.
I’ll have time to reflect on this wonderful life in my final column, but for now, I wanted you to know why I did what I did. I wanted you know what great hands you’ll be in, with such imaginative and vibrant young writers and an editing group led by Mark Mravic. This plunge into the unknown, while entirely different, is going to be energizing.
For now: Thanks for letting me be a part of your lives for so long. Onward.
When I made my round of calls Friday and Saturday, I wanted to get a few questions answered on what actually happened on some of the mystery picks, trades, action and inaction that still hung out there. Quick answers to a few draft issues:
• The Dolphins do not have quarterback buyer’s remorse. Miami guaranteed $16.7 milion of quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s team-friendly deal in March, which meant the Dolphins were locked into him for 2018. That didn’t mean if somehow Baker Mayfield fell down the board that they wouldn’t have tried to nab him. But I can tell you they’re happy with the most versatile player in the draft—safety/corner/nickel/box linebacker Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama. This is Tannehill’s prove-it year. After missing 19 straight games due to injury, he’s got to play well and be sturdy to have a future in Miami, which is the way it should be.
• The Saints need Marcus Davenport to produce close to Bradley Chubb. The second-best pass-rusher in the draft cost New Orleans the 27th pick this year and a first-rounder next year. But say the Saints are a playoff team again, and pick in the twenties next year. I would ask: If you think a pass-rush prospect in a weak class for them is legit, wouldn’t he be worth two ones in the bottom third of the round? After Davenport, the next guy for the Saints might have been Boston College’s Harold Landry, and there wasn’t much excitement for him at 27.
• The Bills moved from 12 to seven in the first round to get Josh Allen, and they tried to move from 12 to 6. The Colts, at six, did a great job disguising their intentions, because the league thought GM Chris Ballard wanted Roquan Smith there. But the Colts’ research showed their quarterbacks being hit more than any quarterbacks in football since 2012. So sure-fire guard starter Quenton Nelson had been locked in for a while at six, and Ballard got the last prospective early interior-line starter on their board at 37, Auburn guard Braden Smith. Interesting that in his pre-draft press conference Ballard said the offensive and defensive lines are how they’ll build this team, and in the first two rounds, he took two guards and two defensive ends. Maybe those useless press conferences are worth something after all. Anyway, when the Bills called Ballard, he didn’t have much interest, because he wanted Nelson so bad as a shield for beaten Andrew Luck.
• Joe Flacco’s gotten the message. That’s what I hear. And he’s too smart not to have gotten it. Flacco, 33, understands the tradeup to pick of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson means the Ravens have noticed his sub-.500 record and 82.4 passer rating in the past three years, regardless how much is his fault. The quarterback always takes major blame when an offense is lousy, and Baltimore’s has been bad—29th, 12th and 29th in passing yards in the past three seasons. What’s more, the Ravens are a boring offense. They excite no one. They’re inefficient—and you can’t blame only Flacco, because the receiving group has been consistently disappointing too. When I saw this pick, I said I bet this is about more than dissatisfaction with Flacco. It’s about making the team exciting again in a market that has grown blase, and throwing some change-ups with an electric quarterback. Flacco will get the first shot, and he may well play well enough to beat back Jackson. We’ll see.
• You know what amazed some teams in the league? Where the tackles were picked. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey at nine to San Francisco, UCLA’s Kolton Miller at 15 to the Raiders. Said one GM: “The biggest gap of our grades between any two picks in the first round was Roquan Smith at eight and Mike McGlinchey at nine. That’s a premier player followed by a need pick of a good player.” Interesting. Those two tackles, in another year, could have gone 29 and 35 instead of nine and 15. But it’s a vital position, and there weren’t many in the draft this year—and maybe none who can plug-and-play.
• The Niners were trying to trade right tackle Trent Brown all spring. New England got it done on draft weekend, acquiring a potential starter at a need position. The Niners just didn’t think Brown, a big masher, was a system fit for them in a zone-rushing offense. But until the Patriots stepped up, they couldn’t find a trading partner.
• Here’s what it come down to between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold: 2 3/8 inches. “Baker’s obviously an outlier at 6 feet and 5/8 inches tall,” Browns assistant GM Eliot Wolf said. “But would we be doing the right thing if we changed our board and picked a lesser player because he’s two inches taller?” I asked another draft-decider with a definite quarterback interest two questions: How many teams in the league would he guess graded Darnold higher than Mayfield. (“Twenty.”) And who did he have number one among the passers? (“Mayfield. His tape was so good, there was no comparison to the others.”) Now all we need is two years, maybe more, to see if the Browns were right.
• Kentavius Street was a hot name on day three. Street, a North Carolina State defensive end prospect (lesser prospect than Bradley Chubb, obviously), is rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in a private workout for the Giants a month ago. Amazing little story. The Falcons, Saints and Niners all liked him a lot. His college line coach till last season, Ryan Nielsen, took the Saints d-line job last season, and told the Saints ACL or no, Street would be a great pro player. In the fourth round, Atlanta had pick 126, New Orleans pick 127 and San Francisco pick 128. Atlanta considered him and took a back, Ito Street. The Saints considered him and took a tackle, Rick Leonard. The Niners picked Street, a gutsy move by GM John Lynch for a 2018 redshirt player. The Saints and Falcons could both have picked Street with their next choices. Those are the things that make GMs wince.
• The Titans jumped over New England for Rashaan Evans, but the Patriots weren’t going to take him at 23. New England’s not sure if Evans is a three-down linebacker. Tennessee thinks he is. So the Patriots likely wouldn’t have taken a player at 23 if they didn’t think he could be a full-time player. Now, New England did like Arkansas guard-center Frank Ragnow a lot and he would have been a candidate at 23. But Georgia tackle Isaiah Wynn fills a hole at tackle, and gives the Patriots (with Trent Brown) legitimate competition at a needy position.
• Just my opinion, but … I do think if the Panthers passed on Maryland receiver D.J. Moore at 24, there’s a good chance Baltimore would have taken the local hero, Moore, over tight end Hayden Hurst at 25. As it was, Baltimore tight ends at 25 and 89 (Hurst, Mark Andrews) and wideouts at 132 and 162 (Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley).
Let’s put to bed the Patriots’ tradeup for Baker Mayfield
This deal, thrown out as a possibility by Mayfield’s agent to Andrew Brandt after the draft, was certainly not possible if the Browns picked him, which happened, and almost certainly not if Mayfield fell to the Giants at number two. Cleveland never was going to trade the first pick. Let’s say Mayfield was there when the Giants picked. The Patriots would have had to deal with Giants GM Dave Gettleman, who, in five previous drafts, had never traded a first-round pick—and now he was going to trade from two to 23, which was the Patriots’ first pick? And let’s say he would have. What would the compensation have been? I’d maintain it would have had to be all four New England picks in the first two round this year, plus next year’s first-round pick. Here’s how that would have looked on the draft-trade value chart, which some teams and use and other do not:
• Giants pick: number 2 overall. Value of Giants’ pick—2,600 points.
• Patriots picks: number 23 (760 points), 31 (600 points), 43 (470 points) and 63 (276 points), with a projected number one pick next year. Let’s say you gamble the Patriots are picking 30th next year. That’s 620 points, devalued by about 20 percent because it’s a year down the road. Give next year’s first-round pick a value of 496 points. Total value of the five New England picks—2,602 points.
So it’s close. But would it have made any sense for the Giants to get a slew of picks but not the player of their draft dreams, Saquon Barkley? And would it have made sense for the Patriots, needy at so many positions with an MVP quarterback apparently intending to play multiple seasons, to go without a pick after Mayfield until day three, and then to likely go without a pick next year in the top 50? Seems totally nonsensical.
The Matt Ryan contract
Three thoughts on Ryan’s five-year, $150 million deal ($100 million guaranteed), making him the first $30-million-a-year player in NFL history:
• No one should care about guaranteed money for a star 33-year-old quarterback who’s always been healthy. As with the debate over how much guaranteed money Aaron Rodgers should get, it’s nonsensical. What real chance is there that Ryan will be cut anytime in the next four years? Name the last proven good quarterback who got big guaranteed money and later, because of injury, a team was dying to dump. Sam Bradford doesn’t count, because you couldn’t call him great during his rookie contract, and because the Rams didn’t want to dump him till after the guaranteed money ran out after year five. In year three of his mega-deal, Andrew Luck is still very much wanted by the Colts despite a nagging shoulder injury. Point is, there’s maybe a 3 percent chance Ryan will suffer some kind of career-altering injury in the next three years that will render the guarantee a waste. Now, gigantic guarantees for other, less valuable positions … I see why teams recoil at those. But I’d fight for every guaranteed dollar if I had the leverage.
• The per-year cap numbers are not killer to the Falcons. Mike Greenberg campaigned with me—on his “Get Up” ESPN show the other day—for a cap exemption for one player per team, because he said contracts like Ryan’s make it exceedingly hard to build championship teams. Let’s look at the cap over the next three years, using the increases of the past two years (a $12 million bump from 2016 to 2017, and a $10 million boost from 2017 to 2018) to judge how much Ryan’s deal will eat up for the Falcons:
Hard to summon much energy for the one-superstar exemption. In 2018, Atlanta will have $159.5 million to spend on the rest of the roster, minus Ryan. In 2016, Atlanta had $155.3 million to spend on the entire roster.
• In the end, it’s all monopoly money. Teams have been paying huge money to quarterbacks since the beginning of time. It’s all relative. Of course it’s better to have your young quarterback get very good very fast in his fixed-salary first contract. But it’s a fallacy to think you can’t build a great team around him if he’s making Ryan money.
The NFL has to step in and act on this cheerleader issue
You remember something like what’s happening with the NFL and cheerleaders right now. Maybe you saw a car crash about to happen in an intersection and you couldn’t stop it, or a friend was about to make a terrible mistake taking the wrong job and you couldn’t stop it. That’s the story with cheerleaders right now. The Washington Post reported an attorney representing the NFL is willing to meet with a lawyer threatening to sue the league on behalf of former New Orleans and Miami cheerleaders who claim discrimination in employment and pay. The New York Times also reported last week that five Washington cheerleaders charged the team with having them pose topless for a photo session at which male sponsors and luxury seat ticket holders were present. The Washington cheerleaders also claimed they had to go to a nightclub as personal escorts for some of the male team guests. On the Today show Friday, two former team cheerleaders countered the Times report, saying they weren’t forced to do anything that was not voluntary.
The MMQB’s Kalyn Kahler, a former Northwestern cheerleader, is working on a story about cheerleaders—particularly the difference between those in college and pro football—and believes the women who are considered athletes in college are “male fantasies” in pro football. We’ll run Kahler’s story this week. Her recommendation: “It’s time to rebrand these women as athletes, not sex symbols, so they can be treated with the respect they deserve. No more swimsuit calendars, online voting for your favorite cheerleader, or marketing the teams with creepy slogans like, ‘Football’s Fabulous Females.’ NFL cheerleaders should be full-time employees or at the very least, better-paid part-time employees. They should receive proper medical treatment for their injuries. They should have security guards to protect them when they mingle with fans at events and tailgates before the game. They should be allowed to use their last names, and use this job to build their own dance and entertainment careers.”
Nice life, Chris Mara
The Giants’ veteran senior vice president of player personnel has had a pretty good month. His son Conor was married April 14, his Giants drafted Saquon Barkley on April 26, and his Starlight Racing syndicate—part owners of Justify—were on hand to watch the three-year-old horse win the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Mara is also the father of noted actors Kate Mara and Rooney Mara, and has walked the red carpet at the Academy Awards; Rooney was nominated as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. So he’s on a pretty good run this decade.
I believe Mara now becomes the first NFL executive to have a hand in winning a Super Bowl and a Kentucky Derby. Starlight is a 10-person syndicate that buys several thoroughbreds every year, and also buys significant stakes in higher-profile racehorses. This year, Starlight bought pieces of both Justify and Audible, and they finished first and third in the Derby. I asked him how winning the Super Bowl compared to being part of the ownership group that won the Derby. “The Derby happens so fast, and the instant gratification of winning something in two minutes is so amazing,” he said Sunday. “But I’ll tell you this, as someone who’d been hooked on horse racing: You can own a percentage of a horse, or you can own 100 percent of a horse, and when that horse crosses the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby, it just doesn’t matter.”
‘You know the kickoff is going to disappear.’
Interesting story by Jenny Vrentas on the future of the kickoff, and the contributions of nine NFL special-teams coaches, from inside the NFL office the other day.
It sounds very much like, in the NFL’s attempt to make players running down on kickoffs and players blocking for kick returns more concussion-averse, it could ramp up the chance for more long returns. Writes Vrentas: “The overall idea is to make the kickoff more like the punt, creating a play in which the players will be running with each other down the field, rather than running at each other full steam ahead. The new formation and alignment in this play could also discourage use of bigger linemen, which can often result in dangerous, mismatched collisions with smaller players … At one point during Wednesday’s meeting, an injury reel of injuries sustained on kickoffs was played for the room. Some were of the run-of-the-mill, unavoidable variety, such as a returner breaking his foot. But others were difficult to watch: free runners racing downfield and lighting up opponents who never saw them coming; bigger players mauling smaller ones; and one defensive back down on the turf, concussed, on a touchback.”
That’s where the disappearing-kickoff sentiment (expressed by the league’s Troy Vincent to Chiefs special-teams coach Dave Toub) comes into play. The NFL is desperate to make a dangerous game slightly less dangerous. I still believe that, some season soon, the NFL will just eliminate the play unless concussions are reduced drastically.
Quotes of the Week
“I got to the edge of the cliff numerous times in the last 72 hours, really longer than that, and couldn’t really jump.”
—Dallas tight end Jason Witten, one of the best at his position in NFL history, talking about the difficulty in announcing his retirement last week. He missed one game in a 15-year career.
“I want to keep playing. I’ve said for a long time I want to play to my mid-forties. I feel like I can do it. I can keep doing it because: A) I love to do it and I’m willing to make the commitment to doing it, and B) I have a great plan. I have a great system in place that works well for me in order to keep me performing at my highest level.”
—Tom Brady, who will turn 41 this season, to Jim Gray at the Milken Institute Global Conference in California, dispelling thoughts he may be entering his last season with the Patriots in 2018.
“I plead the fifth.”
—Tom Brady, to Jim Gray, who asked him if the Patriots have the “appropriate gratitude” for what he has accomplished.
A couple of thoughts here. Something’s bugging Brady; it’s come to the fore in the last few months. He and Bill Belichick won’t be close friends when they retire. They have a business relationship, and it’s a very good one. Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren don’t hang out, or see each other regularly. Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson, same thing. Joe Montana and Bill Walsh, before Walsh died, weren’t close. Obviously Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll—you know how ugly that was. So there’s that.
But there’s more. Brady takes hard coaching. He likes hard coaching. But after going to eight Super Bowls—if it were me—I know my attitude would be, Can we please ease up on ripping me? My point is: Brady will be in camp this summer, and probably be at some portion of the off-season program, and he’ll work harder than anyone else and be as driven as he ever was, and he’ll once again give the Patriots the best chance to win than any quarterback will give his team in 2018. That’s how he’s wired. But that doesn’t mean he likes every minute he’s in the building either.
“It’s my job in the fourth quarter to close it.”
—LeBron James, after he banked in a running shot from a difficult angle at the buzzer to beat Toronto 105-103 Saturday night.
We are not worthy.
Stat of the Week
When Jason Witten retired Thursday to join the ESPN booth, he left the game as one of 12 tight ends in history to have 500 catches or more. Witten actually caught 652 balls more than 500, and he leaves the game as the fourth-leading receiver in NFL history. You can see the way the game has changed. Only two of the men on the list played in the first 75 years of NFL history; the other 10 all played at least parts of their career in this century.
The leading tight ends in NFL history, and there they rank on the all-time receptions list:
Factoid That May Interest Only Me
Starting with Week 6 in his rookie year, 2003, Jason Witten played every Dallas Cowboys game till he retired last week. That’s 243 straight games.
Hall of Famers Mike Ditka and Kellen Winslow, two of the toughest tight ends to play the game, played a total of 21 seasons.
Witten missed one game in 15 years.
Ditka and Winslow missed 37 games in 21 years.
Last November, I did a TV story for NBC on how Jason Witten could play 14 straight years and never miss a game (which, at the time, was his streak). The thrust of the story was that Witten would spend six to 10 hours on most Mondays rehabbing and getting treatment. I met him at 7 a.m. at his home, the day after the Cowboys played in Atlanta, and followed him till about 3 p.m., when he finished a long massage that included a therapy known as cupping.
In between, I was the Cowboys’ facility in Frisco, Texas, witnessing Witten do pool therapy with a jet spray, dry needling with acupuncture needles, pressure sleeves on both sore legs, and a few other rehab-ish things. Walking down the hall to one of his sessions, I saw one of the biggest and most foreboding murals in this practice facility known as The Star. It’s Witten, from the time he lost his helmet on a play and kept running. Pretty impressive.
Tweets of the Week
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think I don’t know if Eric Reid has a collusion case. I really don’t care. I just know if he’s not signed and in an NFL training camp in July, as an above-average, healthy 26-year-old safety, the NFL deserves what it gets if and when Reid can one day haul them into court.
2. I think there obviously is no easy solution to the anthem dilemma the NFL faces when the league’s owners meet later this month to discuss how to address what players should do when the national anthem is played before games. But my solution is a bit of a split of the baby. As much as I think it’s a player’s right to do what he wants during the anthem, the way to make this go away is to tell players who don’t want to stand to stay in the locker room until after the anthem is played. It’s not perfect, but it’s a better solution than making this an endlessly politicized issue.
3. I think I’d make this postscript to the Matt Ryan deal: Ten years ago this spring, he arrived in Atlanta under extreme pressure, the franchise moving on from Mike Vick in a clearly divided city. The day before the draft, owner Arthur Blank told me: “We’re not starting a new chapter. We’re starting a new book.” I went to mall on the north side of the city the day before the draft and much to my surprise after the Vick dogfight scandal scarred the team and the city, there were several young people wearing VICK jerseys. “These people won’t forget him,” said local sports anchor Gil Tyree. “He’s a messiah here.” And Tyree told me he didn’t think Ryan would ever be accepted. I remember some on the team hankering for Glenn Dorsey, a defensive tackle, with the third pick, not Ryan. Talk about a tough spot to walk into. And Ryan still has work to do and a Super Bowl title to deliver, but I’d say Ryan certainly has been accepted and is well-respected, well-liked and greater Atlanta is glad he’s the quarterback.
4. I think I still cannot figure out for the life of me why Jerry Richardson doesn’t put a clause in his contract of sale for the Panthers to ensure the team remains in Charlotte. Maybe he will. Maybe we just haven’t been told everything about the negotiations. But even if it meant sacrificing 10 or 15 percent of the sale, who on God’s green earth would care if one of the richest men in the Carolinas, who is in his eighties and can properly provide for the next 20 generations of Richardsons with the money he’ll pass down, earns a couple of hundred million dollars more out of this sale? His reputation is already badly sullied because of the sexual harassment scandal that forced him to sell the team; what would his everlasting legacy be if eight years from now the Panthers move?
5. I think for the first couple of weeks in the 2018 season, I’ll be sure to find the third-team CBS game. I want to hear Bruce Arians with Greg Gumbel and Trent Green. Arians is witty and smart and not afraid to criticize—at least that’s the way he’s been with me since the day I met him. I truly hope the homogenization of TV analysts doesn’t get to Arians. If he stays real, he can be really good.
6. I think the smartest thing for the Seahawks to do with Shaquem Griffin right now is being done. It’s football only. At his rookie minicamp, Griffin did his mandatory media interview and nothing else. He’s (justifiably) one of the most famous third-day draft picks in NFL history because of how he excelled playing with one hand at Central Florida. But for him to have a chance to be an NFL player now, he’s got to be an NFL player. “It’s extremely important for that turn [to football] to occur,” Pete Carroll said. “It’s been a great story and it will always be a great story. But right now he’s got work to do.” Seattle’s got Griffin working behind K.J. Wright at weakside linebacker, and of course he’ll be a star of special teams.
7. I think for 36-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to question the wisdom of drafting a quarterback in the third round when the quarterback of the future is certainly not on the roster already is … well, there are lots of words for it, but I think I’d pick “unintelligent.”
8. I think I already feel for Sam Darnold. It’s so hard anyway to walk onto a team as a high-first-round rookie quarterback anyway, but I watched over the weekend as his every throw and move were micro-analyzed. It’s the kind of microscope that helped mess up Christian Hackenberg, but he was the 51st pick in the draft. Darnold’s the sure thing, the quarterback for the next 15 years. My advice to him: Read nothing, other than stuff provided by your coaches. Listen to nothing, other than Todd Bowles, Jeremy Bates, John McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.
9. I think I love the “next step is the Super Bowl” confidence of Pat Mahomes with the Chiefs. There’s a reason why a year ago Andy Reid and John Dorsey fell in love with Mahomes and had to have him (they weren’t alone), and it’s not just his arm. It’s everything.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Series of the Week: by Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, on how the Miami Dolphins prep for a draft, the 2018 draft specifically. Totally fascinating. Thamel gets into the weeds so well as a reporter—and I say that with the highest respect—and in a 10-part series (I’m only six parts done right now) gives such an insightful look into how an NFL teams picks players. I love the stat about veteran director of college scouting Adam Engroff. He’s got more than 7 million Marriott Points! He’s stayed in Marriotts for 3,778 nights in his life! You will like this a lot.
b. That’s some reporting right there.
c. Story of the Week: by Jonathan Martin of the New York Times, a touching piece about old friends and colleagues journeying to Arizona to share some final stories with the seriously ill American hero and longtime senator, John McCain.
d. Sometimes I wish I loved basketball and made time for it in my life. I mean, the drama of Saturday, when I watched a bunch of it, was just awesome.
e. That LeBron James game-winner against Toronto … I mean, how can an athlete playing any game be better than LeBron James? It is an absolutely treat to watch that man play basketball, and to carry his team as far as he’s carrying it.
f. And the Celtics, missing their two best players (that might be up for debate after this season), and having a wave of shooters and effort guys, and getting some incredible coaching calls like that Al Horford game-winner at Philly on Saturday night … That is a fun team to watch.
g. Everyone says Cleveland or Boston won’t beat the best in the West, and I do not doubt people who know the game. But I’ll be watching.
h. The Vegas Golden Knights. In the immortal words of Dan Patrick, “You can’t stop ‘em …” You know the rest. An expansion team winning the Cup?
i. Congrats, Albert Pujols, on your 3,000th hit.
j. Three men, not tainted by association with steroids, in baseball history, have exceeded 600 homers and 3,000 hits: Hank Aaron (755 and 3,771), Willie Mays (660 and 3,283), and Albert Pujols (620 and 3,002 as of Sunday morning).
k. My most fun young baseball player to watch (and I’m admittedly prejudiced): Mookie Betts.
l. Memo for next year, with the Bruins out of the playoffs: Stop being bush-league, Brad Marchand. Licking opponents in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Gordie Howe’s rolling over in his grave.
m. Matt Harvey, 29, in the last three seasons: 9-19, 5.93 ERA. And he refused to go the minor league to try to get himself straightened out. He did the Mets the biggest favor he could do, forcing them to get rid of him.
n. He’s been an entitled oaf from day one, a near-daily soap opera. Whoever signs him, man, buyer beware.
o. Great graf from Tom Verducci on SI.com, about how maybe we could have seen this coming, when Harvey had a disappointing senior season in Connecticut in high school: “A touted high school pitcher, Harvey dropped to the third round of the draft, picked by the Angels, after not flashing elite velocity as a senior. The Angels offered him a million dollars. Harvey said he wouldn’t sign unless they gave him $2 million, and not a penny less. He wanted enough money so that after taxes, commissions and a brand new car, he could put $1 million in the bank. Ed [his father] was pacing in the backyard as the midnight deadline neared. The Angels didn’t call back.”
p. Harvey stayed bitter over that. Buyer beware.
q. Coffeenerdness: Italian Roast, 5:20 a.m., quiet offseason Sunday, writing. That’s the good life.
r. Beernerdness: A few of you asked why the Great Lakes Brewing (Cleveland, Ohio) Holy Moses White Ale was the beer of choice post-draft for Browns GM John Dorsey. Well, because I bought it, knowing that post-draft I’d certainly want a couple and having no idea he might. But he did, and he liked the White Ale.
s. We’ll miss you, Bud Shaw. Heck of a career in Cleveland writing about some fascinating people.
t. I know I won’t have the chance to thank all of you the way a decent person should, but I’ve read quite a few of your well-wishes, and I just want to say I’ll always be indebted to you for reading me and giving me such a rewarding life. Thank you.
The Adieu Haiku
SI. It’s my home.
I’ve been a little morose.
Give me a minute.
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