BALTIMOR – "M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P! "It was the thunderous chant of a good chunk of 70,731 that cheered the terrifying 41-7 routes of the Ravens on Sunday, the love of a city that poured over Lamar Jackson. The chant may have been addictive a few weeks ago, but no more. It's not a lock, but Jackson may have been ahead of Russell Wilson in the MVP race with more emphasis to make Deion squeak, including his first ever Kent Tekulve submarine. Every week is something with this person. Something fun. Something exciting.
Football is changing so fast.
One project can change a team in 15 years; The 2018 draft was probably made for the ravens, and it only happened because their personal leadership pushed the envelope in front of most front offices. One month can change the season; The Ravens were 4-2 without a signature win a month ago and have since beaten Seattle, New England and Houston (a combined 108-43). The Patriots were locks for the AFC home field a month ago and could still win it. But Baltimore is the better team today, especially after Deshown Watson's defensive stifle on Sunday.
Football is changing fast in other ways. About Jackson for sure.
Ten months ago at this stadium there was another chant from the fans. They wanted Joe Flaco and Jackson. Remember? In the first 50 minutes of losing the Chargers wild card playoffs, Jackson completed three passes. Think about it today. It is not clear! His score for a passer in 50 minutes? Jackson threw a blutter. Zero whole and zero. His late-season balloon burst. I was there 45 weeks ago. I was stunned, John Harbaugh didn't call out Flaco just to take a break for the kid who looked like a meltdown.
On a quiet moment on Sunday, an hour after the crowd had finished serenading Jackson, I found him a locker. She looked a little cruel, dredging up the worst day of her short professional life. But I heard that this game crushed him and I heard that the hatred for him motivated him to make sure he would never happen again. How much motivation did this game give? I was wondering.
"Oh, man, a lot," Jackson said immediately. "A lot of motivation. I watched … this game a lot. I criticized myself, looked at myself, and studied myself. I didn't seem to be in it at all. This is not fair to my teammates. I have to build on that. Be a better player. Be a better teammate. I have to go on. This one playoff game is in the past. "
But maybe not.
" That haunts me. I want to get my team back there and beyond.
Man, what a week of news. A few seconds of Miles Garrett's violence, Colin Kaepernick's rise to a league that ends badly, Chicago's season (and before long-term defenseman) dissolves into a terrible night in Los Angeles … and the Ravens look a lot like the new NFL top team with six weeks to play.
For a minute, just for fun, let's focus on sports candy. MVP. I would give it to Jackson today. Wilson, with a less offensive supporting cast, inflicted on the Niners his first road loss and won six of seven while most often running for his life. Jackson is ready to rush for 1,261 yards and clear Michael Vic's record of 222 yards. It is a factory for weeks of highlighting. "He just freaked out and we're on board with him," said Seth Roberts, the traveling man who caught the first of four Jackson TDs on Sunday. "I've never, ever, ever seen anything like Freaky L." Well, he is. But he is not MVP for being a stress machine. In Head-to-Head Matches for Mid-Season MVP Competition, Wilson and Watson:
- Jackson is 2-0.
- His passer rating is 116.2.
- He rushed for 202 yards.
- It has zero revolutions.
After 11 weeks leading up to the MVP race (if it is) … and six bucks will buy you a grand pumpkin spice pumpkin. It still means nothing, but if Jackson has a few more days left on Sunday, he'll be the youngest MVP winner since Jim Brown won in 1957 and 1958, just ashamed of his 22nd and 23rd birthday. Most recently, Dan Marino and Patrick Mahomes were 23 years and several months old when they won in 1984 and 2018, respectively. Jackson turns 23 on January 7; the prize will be awarded 29 days later.
It's easy to look at Baltimore now and be seduced by the quarterback and think that's why the team is so good. Surely this is the biggest reason. But I will give you two other reasons. One: They are smart on draft day. Second: They have stones on draft day.
On the first day of the 2018 draft, the Ravens had one choice – a total of 16. Three straight seasons had passed without the playoffs. They had a 33-year-old quarterback who they fell in love with, even though Flaco was suspended for five years from winning the Super Bowl. Their offensive core needed replenishment. This was GM Ozzie Newsome's latest project before retirement. It was a big red back, with Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Jackson expected to make it into the first round. There were scouts in the building who loved Jackson. Secretly, both Newsome and Assistant GM DeCosta (Newsome's successor) loved Jackson. And owner Steve Bissiothy was jazz for electric Jackson because he wanted to bring a little life into a competitive but uninteresting franchise. The lack of interest in vanilla football was also evident at the gate.
"We wanted quantity this day," DeCosta, the rookie, said after Sunday's game. "With the way the project went down that year, we saw a way to really improve our crime. We were hoping the phone would ring starting at 16. "
Baltimore uses the 16th pick to handle Buffalo for 22 and 65." We're getting to 22, and all the players we liked are still there, "DeCosta said." So we traded again. "Baltimore used 22 and moved it to Tennessee for 25 and 125. Newsome and DeCosta had not shared with the scouts or coaches that love Jackson so it wasn't stunning when he decided to pick a player at the age of 25. It wasn't Jackson.
Haden Hurst, Tight End, South Carolina. A failed baseball pitcher. the Pirates' small championships and it turned to football. "We loved it," DeCosta said.
But, I was wondering, you're every quarterback has a chance to lose him. Cincinnati is 21 and can pick him. Maybe Denver or Miami, at the start of the second round, move up to pick him. Mobile man. Great hand. Winner.
There was a certain cynicism about Jackson who helped the Ravens. He was asked to work as a receiver on the combine and refused. "I'm a quarterback," he said. Hall of Fame CEO Bill Polian said he could to apply as a receiver. There were rumors that the Bengals did not like him. As in most drafts, crows used a strategy for best knowledge and a network of people in and around the game and in the media to squeeze information.
"You have to use a strategy somehow," DeCosta said. "We felt like there was a pretty good chance Lamar would be there later in the first round, the start of the second round. We were ready, if we could, to trade back, to trade back, to raise capital, and then eventually to either try to trade back or in a second round, make a game and get Lamar at that moment. But, you know, it was a risk. "
" Are you nervous about losing him? "I asked.
" We were. We were. But I think you need to stay as clinical as you can and really just go with all your best information and plan. So yeah, you're always nervous. You agree that you will lose some players working this way. But I think we try to stay as measured as possible and not get carried away right now. ”
Two peaks before Phil at 32, the Ravens called Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman. He wanted to turn 32. He would go to 52, but that would cost Baltimore the second round in 2019. So two doubles for Jackson? Newsome and Jackson were good with that. "We didn't share what we were going to try to do with anyone," DeCosta said. "The drafts are similar. Only Ozzy and I are at the end of the table, the only ones who really know. When trying to make a decision as important as this, try to keep it as calm as possible. Because it's not that you don't want to share it with people, but the downside – which would lose a player – is much greater than the tip of sharing information with someone you care about.
We Were Not Even interviewed Lamar at the combine because we did not want to contact him. We didn't want rumors about us and him to start. They weren't proud of it. So we choose him, and hear him talk, and hear his emotion, and see Lamar on television with Deon Sanders, so happy, and see his conviction, and see his competitiveness. This is a powerful thing. So after the announcement of the selection, we didn't even have the opportunity to announce to the scouts and coaches.
"And I think for the first time in my 24 years you can hear applause outside the office. You could hear the coaches and you could hear the scouts. It was a powerful moment for us.
Postcript: Remember the 65th choice Buffalo acquired? Baltimore sells 65 to Oakland for 75, 152 and 212. Baltimore sells 75 to Kansas City for 86 and 122. Baltimore trades 152 to Tennessee for 162 and 215.
The 65th pick gave five players. Two (Jordan Lasley and Greg Senate) are gone. Mark Andrews from the third round is the fifth leading tight end in NFL receptions. Bradley Bozeman's sixth round starts. Kenny Young of the fourth round this year traded to the Rams (fifth to fifth) for Marcus Peters, who has two pick-six TDs in his first four games with the Ravens.
Not a bad project. Baltimore turned the 16th pick into a draft and two doubles, at its core, into its long-term quarterback and tight end, starting guard and a major one-year corner upgrade.
The Ravens got full pace. Six deals and the opportunity to take a deep breath and be prepared to lose a player you are sure will be a franchise quarterback. What if they lost Jackson? What if someone jumped in to take Jackson? It won't look like such a smart strategy now.
They have not lost Jackson. Nobody jumped at them. You take your best shot. You use your best information. What happened here is exactly why the Ravens are competitive franchises, and even better, since they moved to Baltimore in 1996.
In April, the Ravens asked Jackson to attend a draft party on the third day of the weekend of the project. Of course, he said. He would be in New York to see a concert with some teammates on Friday night, and he would be arriving on Saturday and heading back to Maryland for the event. He went to the concert and got up on Saturday to drive home. One problem: He couldn't find one of his teammates. He called and sent a message, to no avail. So he got in his car and headed back for the draft event.
He then returned to New York for three hours to pick up his teammate. And he turned to his right and headed for Baltimore.
He really didn't have to do that. The teammate could board the train to go home. No, said Jackson; we got together and I'll bring him home.
With Jackson, football is great. But you have to have other things – the management, your teammates to have your back, a good dressing room. Jackson brings that, too.
Plus, they have a convinced person that they will never again have a 0.0 rating. Sometime. A loss like the playoff loss last January won't happen again if Jackson has anything to do with it.
"I've watched this game enough times," Jackson said. "I was watching it with my brother. We talked about that. I hate this game. I really hated it on the movie because that's not me. I don't play with my abilities at all. This is not fair, as I said, with my teammates, my coaching staff. So every week I try to improve. And that begins in practice. "When he arrived as a rookie, 'I was like', I want to be a better player practically, because everywhere I went, I practically sucked, but in a game I could show myself. So I want to be a player with more good practices and a player. "
We can all get opinions on Colin Kaepernick's training history. Mine: Here's a guy who has asked teams to develop it over the last two years, and even though Saturday's arrangements were not to his liking, the NFL arranges to have 20 or more teams at the Atlanta training center and the Falcons for their first training session with NFL scouts (mostly those with the lowest level), agreeing that a training video be available for every GM and coach and staff in the league, which was ultimately not enough Kaepernick had a problem with the waiver he had to sign. (I was told that waiver is essentially the same wide-experience receiver, let's say he'll have to sign to work for a team during the offseason.) He didn't trust the NFL send the full videotape to the teams. He didn't believe the NFL's motives were pure – he invited scouts to see him when he worked, when the league never did for anyone else. One … apology … after … another. Someone who dies for experience puts all of these obstacles at the age of 32, and then cancels NFL training and moves the gym to 60 miles while his last chances of playing in the NFL fade more and more in the day ? If it was me and I was dying to get into the NFL, I would show up and show these NFL scouts how much they and their organizations were wrong – whether it was genuine experience or something that allowed the NFL to say it.
But my opinion is pointless. I don't make any decisions about the NFL. It is more important to understand what decision makers think. I called several veteran and intelligent NFL people (no names, positions, or teams to be honest) within 24 hours of the training blast.
I will paraphrase three points I learned.
1, Is a backup defender worth it? It may not be a backup for long; and maybe if he signs with a team like Cincinnati, he'll be able to win the starting job in 2020. But put the cards on the table. No one had made it for more than two years. The NFL said some teams are interested in him, but I don't know if that's true. This year I had never heard of any beetle about him as a football player. Not a syllable. One man continued to wonder why he would not approach this workout this weekend, despite his aversion to the NFL, with the seriousness of a player longing to play football.
2. You may be surprised by this, but I believe there is some (slight) interest in the NFL. I told one of the two NFL people: Remember last year on Kaepernick for the 49ers, 2016? He worked very hard, cooperating with the press, giving a socially-fair opinion, kneeling before games, but he was dead-serious about winning and coaching and being a team leader. I think it will take Kaepernick to say that he will enter as a football player for six or seven months of the preseason and season, leaving his politically and socially just aspirations out of season. I don't know about the kneeling part. It will obviously be a sore spot in some markets and with some teams. Gut feeling: I'm betting sometime in the next six months (we probably won't find out) Kaepernick is very quiet with the team.
3. One person I spoke with said he thought three coaches would fit in with Copernicus: Frank Reich of the Colts (nothing bothers him and he's a good teacher), Andy Reed's superintendent (signed by Michael Vic of Leavenworth, not he is interested in fires at his door) and Bruce Arians / Byron Leftwich in Tampa (good teachers, hardcore boys). This guy stressed to me the importance of Kaepernick going to a place that would allow him to focus on football and study football and return to football after three or more years. The most interesting in this regard is the man who wonders how long it has been since Kaepernick was hit. By the time he signed, if he did, would it be 40 months since he played football?
It's easy, of course, for me to say, Just suck it up and play it, dude. But Kaepernick is connected differently. I thought something I read on Sunday night by Marcus Thompson II of Athletic was smart and appropriate.
"It's been clear for years that the league doesn't want him in it," Thompson wrote. "And suddenly the league extends the olive branch days before week 11? This seems like a setup at work. But I would have done it anyway. Because I'm just human. I wouldn't feel big enough, strong enough to take on a multi-billion dollar corporation. I would have known that I was in a hurry, but I just used the opportunity to make a mistake. Because after all, what other option would I have? Some forces feel too much. Някои поражения изглеждат твърде неизбежни. Ето как се чувстват повечето хора. Вземете това, което можете да получите. Често се съгласявате с това, което е по-малко, отколкото заслужавате. Примиряваш се с това, което знаеш, че не е наред, защото не е толкова лошо, колкото би могло да бъде. Бих си казал, че това е най-доброто, на което се надявам. Бих си казал, че съм благодарен за възможността. Вероятно бих го нарекъл благословия, като през цялото време знаех, че вероятно ще играя. Кой съм аз, за да не взема маслинено клонче, ако NFL, притежателят на мечти, предложи такова?
„Но затова Колин Каперник е различен и толкова обичан. Ето защо го намирам за вдъхновяващ. Той просто отказва да се наведе, да компрометира убежденията си. ”
Нещо умно да помислите, каквото и да мислите за решението на Kaepernick в събота.
Различно от факта, че не си спомням нещо толкова възторжено през последните 20 години гледам спорта, моите поглъщания:
• NFL вярвам, че това е най-вече правилно. Бих дал на центъра на Питсбърг Маурис Пунси две игри вместо три, тъй като той току-що е видял, че неговият защитник предприема най-жестоката атака, на която бяхме свидетели, а център / лидер като Пунси е майката на неопитен негов защитник. Той ще изхвърли нападателя и яростно. Съмнявам се за продължителността на окачването, но той със сигурност го заслужава.
• Бих глобил Мейсън Рудолф, но не го спирам за ролята му. Съгласен съм, че той отиде зад борда, опитвайки се да свали Гарет от него, и дали той се опитваше просто да свали Гарет от него, използвайки крак върху средната му секция / слабините, това е прекомерно за мен. Но според мен не е прекъснато престъпление И ако това подтикна Гарет да излезе извън контрол, това е 90 процента за Гарет, който трябва да има повече самоконтрол.
• Що се отнася до Гарет, със сигурност се надявам, че той не го прави спечели обжалването му. Опитът ми в две кратки интервюта беше, че той е внимателен човек и сериозно се интересува от това, че е страхотен във футбола. Изглежда, че той просто щракна. Той трябва да изслужи времето си, да се покае и да се върне, за да бъде великият играч, какъвто е и да бъде отбранителния крайъгълен камък, който Кливланд го състави. Въпреки че той показва признаци на свръх агресивност, този акт пресича рубикона и Брауните трябва да установят дали някои съвети са в ред. Ако той покаже подобаващо угризение и работи с това да се справи с Рудолф и базата на фен на Кливланд, бих се наклонил да го пусна обратно на терена за седмица 1 през следващата година.
Офанзивни играчи на седмицата
Джими Гарополо, защитник, Сан Франциско. Той измисли как точно да се бори с посредствен понеделник срещу Сиатъл. Играта на Гарополо при победата 30-26 срещу Аризона – връщайки се от 16-0 надолу по-рано – беше това, което играе многократен защитник. Той завърши 34 от 45 за 424 ярда, с четири тъчдауна и две кирки. Той изкара 65-те ярда на Нийнърс в осем пиеси през последните 2:15, завършвайки го с пропуск на ТД с 25 ярда до тотално неизвестно бягане назад Джеф Уилсън. Niners 36, много трудни карти 26.
Дак Прескот, куотърбек, Далас. Страхотен ден за Дак в Детройт, точно когато Далас се нуждаеше от него. Неговите 274 минаващи ярда, най-добрият в кариерата за първото полувреме, заложиха на „Каубоите“ с 24-14 преднина и той излезе от деня като четвърти играч в историята на NFL, надхвърляйки 3000 ярда и 20 пропускания за преминаване във всяко от първите му четири NFL сезона. За деня той попълни 29 от 46 за 444 ярда, три ТД и без избори. (Как така е само 116,6 оценка на минувачите? Несправедливо.) Прескот се хвърли за 841 ярда в поредни игри, повече от Роджър Щаубах, Троя Ейкман или Тони Ромо – или, по този въпрос, всеки защитник на Далас някога – е съставил. Плати човека, Джери.
Отбраните играчи на седмицата
Макс Кросби, отбранителен край, Оукланд. Колко лудо е, че средноамериканската конференция на стипендианта с най-много чували в лигата не е Халил Мак (Бъфало) от Чикаго, а Кросби (Източен Мичиган) от Рейдърс? Кросби, късен цъфтеж, взет от Рейдърс през четвъртия кръг миналия април, уволни Раян Финли от Бенгалите четири пъти, давайки му 6,5 чувала за сезона. (Мак има 5.5.)
Матю Джудън, линкер, Балтимор. Гарваните продължават да изтласкват недооценените неразмерни (6-5, 265, в случая на Judon) плеймейкъри. (Стартиращите в неделя срещу Хюстън: Джудън и Джейлън Фъргюсън, и двамата в диапазона от 265 паунда като външни „бекъри и леки вътре отзад“ Джош Байнс и Патрик Онууасор, и двамата в диапазона 232.) Те бяха свирепа група в изненадващия път от Хюстън, водена от крепкия четвърти годишен бивш Grand Valley State Laker. Джудън е като рушер на Джон Рандъл; той просто продължава да идва и идва. Неговите 21 чувала от деня на отваряне на 2017 г. водят всички гарвани, а седемте му снаряжения и два чувала в този ден поведоха всички нелепи гарвани в тяхната отбранителна игра за годината.
Джамал Адамс, безопасност, Ню Йорк Джетс. Очевидно няма такова нещо като защитния играч на FMIA на седмицата проклятие. След като го спечели миналата седмица за победата над Giants, Адамс може би е изиграл най-добрата си игра като професионалист в неделя във Вашингтон. Подреждайки се както в кутията, така и дълбоко, Адамс беше неразрешим от Вашингтон. Той имаше три чувала, още един мач за загуба и четири мача при победата на Джетс 34-17 над много лош футболен отбор. "Просто искам да продължа да се издигам", каза Адамс. И да си помисля, че Джетите попаднаха в малко по-добра оферта да го търгуват преди три седмици.
Джо Шобер, лидер, Кливланд. Изгубеният в хаоса край на победата на Кливланд с 21-7 над Стийлърс беше отлична защита на Брауните, водена от недооценената 99-та селекция на черновата на Уисконсин, Шеберт. Шоберт поведе всички защитници в четвъртък вечер с 10 борби; той имаше две прихващания; той имаше един от четирите чували в Кливланд на Мейсън Рудолф; той скъса още два прохода в Питсбърг; и той продължи да бъде вид физическо присъствие на странични линии на странични линии, които Брауните са били необходими, за да запазят непоследователно нарушение в игрите през тази година.
Специални отбори на играчите на седмицата
Джейк Бейли, пътер, Нова Англия. В игра на полеви позиции, Бейли е MVP на патриотите, пускайки осем пъти за средно 47,6 ярда и пускайки шест в орлите "20. Той спаси най-добрия си удар за последно: Късно в четвъртата четвърт на игра 17-10, той стартира последния си пунт на 54 ярда до линията на 12-ярдов Филаделфия. Ballgame.
Джейк Грант, връщач на ритник, Маями. С делфините в тежък затруднение и на път да се насочи към полувремето, проследяващ бивол 23-7, Грант предприема ритници на двор дълбоко в крайната зона, маневрира си през първата вълна на борда на сметките, стигна до равилната странична линия, и спринтира останалата част от пътя за прекъсване. Страхотно усещане за това кога и как да избягате от първата линия на момчетата от биволите и да стигнете до страничната линия.
A.J. Мур, ъгъл, Хюстън. Огромна хед-ъп игра на Мур срещу много добро звено за специални отбори в Балтимор. Ситуацията: Първа четвърт в Балтимор, без резултат, четвърти и четвърти, Рейвънс се подрежда в линията на 37-ярда в Хюстън за опит в полето на 55 ярда от Джъстин Тъкър. При щракането, притежателят Сам Кох с лопата преминава към стегнатия край Марк Андрюс в средата на формацията, а Андрюс започва да се движи около десния край. Но Мур, 23-годишна неотстранена 5-11 ъглова греба от Оле Мис, се втурна през блока на офанзивния лайнер на Балтимор Мат Скура и събори Андрюс за загуба на два двора.
Треньори на седмицата
Wink Martindale, координатор по отбрана, Балтимор. Тексасците влязоха в неделното показване на 7-2 (гарвани) и 6-3 (тексасци) в Балтимор с 10-и най-висок резултат в отбора. Балтимор ги изключи за първите 52 минути, като държеше Дешаун Уотсън без резултат в първите си осем диска и имаше седем чувала с висок сезон. Мартиндейл винаги имаше рояк от защитници около Уотсън, който изигра една от най-лошите игри в кариерата си – и не беше по негова вина; той просто беше завладян от прилив, който направи линията на Хюстън да изглежда слаба. Беше невероятно да видя как тексасците размахват белия флаг през последните минути, надолу с 41-7 в игра, която изглеждаше като мач на AFC за деня и се превърна в разгрома. Екипажът на Мартиндейл накара Хюстън просто да избели часовника в последните минути, за да се измъкне от тази внезапна офанзивна и отбранителна електростанция.
Джош Макданиелс, офанзивен координатор, Нова Англия. За това, че се мотаеш там, когато нищо не върви както трябва, завършвайки с обратния пропуск на Том Брейди към Джулиан Еделман, който хвърли великолепна спирала към Филип Дорсет за спечелената ТД. Красив дизайн и изпълнение на игра. Макданиелс знае с разликата в таланта на обидата, че ще трябва да извади някои неща от шапката си, докато се развият нови обидни фигури (той и Брейди се надяват). Патриотите се отдръпнаха от дефицит 10-0 с четири гола, но единственият резултат от второто полувреме, 15-ярдов перфект от Еделман до Дорсет.
Козел на седмицата
Майлс Гарет, отбранителен край, Кливланд. Наистина ли трябва да попитате?
Уникален първи цитат от седмицата, от затихващите моменти на Питсбърг-Кливланд в четвъртък вечер и играта на Джо Бък и Трой Айкман от FOX като Майлс Гарет-Мейсън Рудолф свада ескалира. Някои редакти бяха редактирани и ролята на Майк Перейра беше премахната за краткост. Исках да направя цитата по този начин, защото смятах, че реакцията на Бък и Айкман в реално време е много добра. Те нито са прекалено драматизирали инцидента, нито са го подценили и когато са имали 10 или 15 секунди, за да усвоят повторението, са използвали думите, които Америка използва в следващите три дни, за да опишат видяното. варварски. Ужасяващо.
Бък: „Има флаг.“
Aikman: „Уау! Здравейте! Уау! ”
Бък:„ Това е… Какво в света! Можете ли да повярвате на Майлс Гарет? Размахване на шлем ?! "
Aikman:" От това ще излязат някои изхвърляния. "
Бък:" Може да има някои суспензии. "
Aikman:" Правилно, суспензии. "
Бък: „Беше Гарет и беше добре след пиесата.“
Айкман: „Е, той се справи с Рудолф. Рудолф не харесваше начина, по който се решаваше. ”
Бък:„ Ооо! Боже! ”
Айкман:„ О, човече! ”
Бък:„ Ъ-ъ-ъ! О, Боже мой … откъсва шлема от главата на Рудолф и след това в крайна сметка го замахва и го удря с него в главата. "
Aikman:" Отвъд думите, Джо. "
Бък:" Ааааа, боже! Това е едно от най-лошите неща, които съм виждал на професионално спортно игрище. ”
Aikman:„ Това е суспензия за много игра точно тук. Просто … искам да кажа, аз-мразя, че някой дори трябва да гледа това. Това е варварско, това е. "
Бак:„ Остават осем секунди в тази игра и това е, с което всички се отдалечават от тази игра в четвъртък вечер? Ужасно е. Ужасно. ”
„ Някои го наричат скучно. Наричам това да е умно, да бъде главен изпълнителен директор и просто да остане на курса. ”
– Кирк Кузинс, куотърбекът в Минесота, който доведе викингите назад от дефицит 20-0 с някои бавни и стабилни стремежи да победят Денвър, 27- 23.
„Престижът и статутът на вашингтонските червени кожи в района на DC достигнаха своето абсолютно дъно – най-ниската точка в съществуването на франчайзинга в този град от 1937 г. – в неделя на полето FedEx. ”
– Томас Босуел, уважаваният колонист на спортната публика на Washington Post, след като Вашингтон загуби от ужасните Jets 34-17 пред няколко десетки тълпи в мавзолея на FedEx.
"Усещаме, че сме загубили."
– Бейкър Мейфийлд, четвъртък вечер, след победата на сезона на Браунс 21-7 над Стийлърс – и след инцидента с Майлс Гарет.
„Усеща се, че сме загубили.“
—Одел Бекъм-младши, четвъртък вечер.  VI
„Само на 22 години! Трябва просто да си помислите, че хората, които хората в Маями са по-тънки от кутия скали, за да пуснат това дете. ”
– Залата на славата на защитник Тери Брадшоу, на FOX, за търговията с Делфините през септември на втората година безопасност Минка Фицпатрик до Питсбърг.
„Той не иска да играе. Той иска да бъде мъченик. ”
– Стивън А. Смит от ЕсПН на Colin Kaepernick, след като Kaepernick отмени тренировката си в лигата и работи за далеч по-малко отбори в гимназиално поле в крайградската Атланта. 
Mitchell Schwartz • Офанзивен снаряд на Канзас Сити • Снимано в Канзас Сити, Mo.
Серията на Schwartz от 7 894 последователни щриха – най-дългата активна игра сред NF —ended after eight seasons and 121 games last week. He tweaked his left knee when quarterback Patrick Mahomes was sacked late in the second quarter at Tennessee. Schwartz missed three snaps, then returned to start a new streak in the third quarter. Entering tonight’s game in Mexico City against the Chargers, Schwartz has played 37 consecutive plays.
“I knew, at the moment of the play, that it was over. It’s the worst single instance of pain I’ve had in the NFL, and I couldn’t stay out there just to keep the streak alive. We’ve got to keep our quarterback safe, and when I walked around and tested a little bit, I knew I had to come out.
“A little weird, to see football being played and it was going on without me, and I’m watching from the sidelines. I haven’t done that. It was sort of like practice. But it’s a good reminder than one person is not so important that the game can’t go on without you.
“It’s funny—there’s only one time I was close to missing time, one time I was really hurt in a game—and it would have ended the streak. Week 17, rookie year, 2012, I got hurt that game. I hurt my knee. I would have had to miss a few weeks. What’s incredible is [all-time record-holder for consecutive snaps] Joe Thomas, believe it or not, had the exact same thing happen that game. If there’d been a Week 18, neither of us would have played. You keep going till you can’t. Woke up the next morning and it hurt. It was my MCL.
“Joe Thomas reached out to congratulate me this week. That was cool. I am not at his level—he’s a top five tackle all-time. But I’m glad I got to play with him early in my career in Cleveland. We’re similar people, with similar attitudes.
“I wish it didn’t end. But my feeling is mostly pride for how long it lasted. There’s a huge amount of luck involved. You could break a shoelace or something like that. My brother [retired veteran offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz] and I have the same genetics, but he had a career filled with injuries. Who knows why? I have been fortunate that it hasn’t happened to me. Of course I have pride in it. An offensive lineman doesn’t have stats, doesn’t score touchdowns. So your stats, basically, are things like durability. I’ve always been there.
As for tonight …
“I’ve felt better than I expected this week. My intention is to play. It’s what I do.”
The Jets placed center Ryan Kalil, 34, on injured reserve Saturday, likely ending his career. He came out of retirement in August to play center for the Jets, but he was plagued by knee, shoulder and elbow injuries, and fought through seven mediocre starts. Pro Football Focus rated him the 32nd of 36 NFL centers in 2019.
It was a costly gambit by the Jets. For his seven starts this year, Kalil earned $958,929 per game—or more per game than PFF’s second-rated center, Washington’s Chase Roullier, makes for the season ($645,000).
I always wondered how many times TV networks show coaches on game telecasts. Sometimes, as with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh last week in the Seahawks-Niners game, it seems excessive. So I fired up NFL Game Rewind and went back and counted all dedicated coaching shots for head coaches and coordinators in the game last Monday night.
The coaches-on-camera scoreboard from the five-quarter game, the 27-24 overtime win for Seattle:
San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan: 59.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll: 53.
San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh: 21.
Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: 14.
Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.: 4.
• Saleh was shown 10 times in the fourth quarter and zero times in overtime. Incredibly odd, unless ESPN heard the plaintive wails of those sick of seeing Saleh on the screen from his 16 second-half appearances. Very strange that he never showed up on TV in overtime for his reaction to Seattle generating 109 total yards and the winning field goal—not to mention his reaction to the sensational interception by rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw in the red zone that almost cost Seattle the game.
• Norton losing the coordinator battle 21-4 by Saleh is somewhat understandable because Carroll is a defensive coach. Somewhat. Still seems out of whack.
• Carroll is fun on camera and Shanahan can have the impassive glare of a hitman. Seems like overload, 112 shots of them, but they’re camera-friendly.
• Shanahan is the de facto offensive coordinator—the 49ers have a passing game coordinator (Mike LaFleur) and run game coordinator (Mike McDaniel), and unless I missed them, I don’t think either was shown on TV Monday night.
In 1999, Tom Brady set the University of Michigan school record for passing yards in a game against Michigan State. On the Michigan State coach staff that season: graduate assistant coach Josh McDaniels.
On Saturday, Shea Patterson broke Brady’s record for career passing yards against Michigan State. On the Michigan coaching staff now: quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels.
You are sick of me extolling the virtues of football-writing East Coast living. But here is the latest example:
8:11 a.m. Leave apartment in Brooklyn for New York Penn Station in Manhattan.
8:48 a.m. Board 9 a.m. Amtrak Acela train for Baltimore. Write some of this column as the gray day in Jersey, Philly, southeastern Pennsylvania, Wilmington and bucolic Maryland passes by the window.
11:19 a.m. Arrive Baltimore Penn Station.
11:24 a.m. Get in cab for M&T Bank Stadium.
11:46 a.m. Arrive at press box.
1:02 p.m. Texans at Ravens.
4:26 p.m. Work locker rooms. Linger un-annoyingly (I think) till I can get a few minutes with Lamar Jackson.
5:45 p.m. Cab to Baltimore Penn Station, through post-game stadium traffic.
6:35 p.m. Board 6:38 p.m. Amtrak Acela train for New York. Write column stuff on train.
8:55 p.m. Arrive New York.
9:06 p.m. Take subway to Brooklyn. Walk last seven minutes home.
9:46 p.m. Arrive home.
9:50 p.m. Write like a bandit with second half of NBC’s Bears-Rams.
During pro football’s 100th season, I’ll re-visit important games, plays, players and events from pro football history.
On this day 74 years ago, Hutson scored his 99th career touchdown, a 10-yard pass from Green Bay quarterback Irv Comp, in a 28-0 victory over a combined team (wartime rules allowed for combined teams) of the Boston Yanks and Brooklyn Tigers. Hutson played safety that day. Hutson kicked four extra points that day. Hutson kicked off that day. The Packers played two more games in 1945, and Hutson kicked field goals in each, but it was in Boston, 11 weeks after the end of World War II, in front of 31,000 in a ballpark made for baseball, where Hutson reached the end zone for the last time. After this season, his 11th, Hutson retired.
What made his career so special: At the time of his retirement, his 99 touchdown receptions were triple the number of touchdown catches by any player in the first quarter-century of pro football. (The Cleveland Rams’ Jim Benton had 33 through the end of 1945.) Talk about dominating a sport … I went back and looked up Babe Ruth’s best 11 consecutive seasons for home runs, and it turns out he hit 496 from 1919 to ’29; in the same 11 seasons, Rogers Hornsby had more than half of that, 258. To me, there’s little doubt that in the first quarter of the NFL’s history, Hutson was the greatest player. In his final season, he may have saved his best for last: He scored 29 points in one quarter of a game against Detroit: four touchdown receptions, five extra points, all in the second quarter. That record’s never been broken, and it’s hard to imagine it ever will be. A player would have to score five touchdowns in a quarter, most likely, for the record to fall.
Hutson’s one of the best players ever, with his immense air production at a time when football was still a running game, and because he was a very good safety (once led the league in interceptions) and a serviceable placekicker. I do understand the level-of-competition argument, seeing that it was a wartime-weakened NFL at the time, and seeing that there were no black players in pro football when he played. It’s an interesting debate. But I believe you should be judged by how you compare to players in your era. And Hutson, under those conditions, should be in the argument for the best receiver, ever.
In 1988, ESPN’s Chris Berman, who reveres football history, dropped by Hutson’s home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Hutson was 75 then. At the time, Steve Largent was creeping up on his record for touchdowns receptions; Largent broke the mark in 1989. Jerry Rice was in his fourth season then, and he’d yet to have even a 90-catch season. Hutson saw something in the lithe 26-year-old kid from Mississippi, playing a half-century after his own prime. Berman asked him about Largent breaking his 99-touchdown record.
“Chris,” said Hutson, “I believe there is a young man up the road in San Francisco that will have all the records by the time he retires.”
Ben Volin covers the NFL for the Boston Globe.
Bobby Belt is a sports field producer for ESPN.
Banner, tweeting about Colin Kaepernick, is a former NFL executive.
Kyle Juszczyk is a fullback for the 49ers.
Lang is a former NFL guard for the Packers and Lions.
Jamison Hansley covers the Ravens for ESPN.
Field Yates is an NFL analyst for ESPN.
I asked parents of young people—and potential football players—on Twitter for reaction to the Myles Garrett incident, and 311 emails landed in my inbox by 11 a.m. Sunday. They ran the gamut. My biggest takeaway: Far more emailers—maybe by 5 to 1—were more concerned by the two concussions suffered by Steelers receivers Thursday night than by Garrett clubbing Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with his own helmet. Most concerning: the massive cheap hit by Damarious Randall of the Browns on Pittsburgh’s Diontae Johnson, causing Johnson to be KO’d and Randall to be ejected. I chose 11 voices across America, edited in almost every case for space, to represent what I read from you.
From Somerville, N.J. Ryan Engelstad writes: “I’m a parent and have thought a lot about whether I’d want my kid to play football at any level. While the Garrett incident was definitely jarring, that’s not the incident I’d point to that makes me want to avoid football at all costs. By FAR it was seeing blood coming from the ear of Diontae Johnson after the helmet-to-helmet hit. The Garrett play happens once a decade. The Johnson hit happens at least a couple of times a season if not every week.”
From Hastings, Neb. Abigail Lauters writes: “My son was watching the Browns-Steelers game, but went to bed before the fight. He’s 6. This fall, he’s absolutely fallen in love with football and wants to watch it all: high school, college, NFL. My husband won two state championships as a high school quarterback, and still coaches football. I’ve been a football fan since I was a little girl, so we are both thrilled at our son’s interest in the sport. This morning when I saw the replay, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m so glad Jude wasn’t watching!’ And then I thought, ‘What is football coming to that I am glad my 6-year-old wasn’t watching?’ He wants to play football so badly, but by the time he’s ready for contact football in middle school, what will the sport look like? Is this violence going to trickle down? My heart wants to let my son play … and if his love for the game continues, I will let him play … praying for his safety.”
From Portland, Maine. Dennis Welch writes: “A sport should not be condemned by the actions of one fool.”
From Shoreview, Minn. Greg Herman writes: “My first thought was how disturbing it was—on a totally different level than an unnecessarily rough hit. My second? I’m so glad my 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter weren’t watching. How would I have even attempted to explain that? I don’t want either of my kids to play tackle football (or hockey for that matter). The violence of this game doesn’t change that. What it does change is my interest in even exposing my kids to the NFL as a fan.”
From Halls, Tenn. Curtis Berkley writes: “I currently serve as the coach of the Halls 11U football team in a suburb of Knoxville, and just completed my ninth season of youth football coach or league commissioner. I have two sons who have participated in youth football—flag, tackle and now high school. Even in a football-crazy place like Knoxville, we are keenly aware and increasingly concerned with the overall decline in the number of kids who are playing tackle football, and which has recently been as precipitous as it is shocking. I sat in a meeting with the Knox County Parks Director just a little over two years ago, and heard him say that Knox County has 75 fewer tackle football teams than it had just five years prior … I’ve seen the play in question and find it abhorrent. If they can’t prevent the big egregious stuff like this, they’re hopeless to stop the smaller stuff, which also requires immediate correction for the survival of the game … Do I think that kids will now start bashing other kids over the head with helmets now? No I don’t. Do I think that it’s now at least been introduced into the minds of several million kids who saw it, and who will now consider it, but wouldn’t have before? Almost certainly yes.”
From Cleveland. Eric Crow writes: “I have a 2-year-old son. My wife often jokes about him not being allowed to play football when he gets older. She has bought him toy golf clubs, soccer balls, and a Little Tikes hoop for him to play basketball. The concern [over football] is very real in our house. However if my son decides to play tackle football and I had to show him one play from this game to convey the consequences of his decision, the Myles Garrett play is CLEARLY behind Damarious Randall’s hit on Diontae Johnson. Don’t you think a player bleeding out of his ear is a way worse visual when it comes to deciding about letting your child play football? It was for me.”
From Portland, Ore. Ashlee Yuille writes: “I’m 40, a licensed clinical social worker in an emergency room. I’m the mother of a 13-year old son who was watching the game with me, and he plays football. I’m in no manner condoning the incident. However, what I actually find most disturbing about it is the collective outrage from professional media, twitter, players, fans, and the NFL. When a domestic violence incident occurs and a player assaults a woman, there is never this amount of collective outrage. It’s crickets. The penalties are inconsistent or nonexistent. The stark contrast in this is really disturbing honestly.”
From Wisconsin. Richard McClure writes: “My son is 10 and just finished fifth-grade tackle football season. I am the parent people look at and say, ‘Why would you let your kid play football? It’s so dangerous!’ My son loves football. All parts—the mental aspect, the physicality, the camaraderie, the team. Seeing a play like this just reminds me how important it is to teach our youth the challenge of the sport and the respect you should give to the opposing players and teams. Be respectful. Shake the hands of your opponents.”
From St. Louis. Thomas B. writes: “The hit on Diontae Johnson is why I don’t want my son playing football, not the Garrett nonsense.”
From San Diego. Connor Sorohan writes: “I am a high school football coach who is still reeling after the incident with Garrett. Though [my wife’s and my] decision is still years away, whether we will let our child play football is something we have debated hotly over the course of our relationship. I am obviously biased in that I am around the game daily and see what it can do for young men and women, but last night certainly forced me to pause and consider the ramifications of what happened. As far little Vincent (who is due in January) I hope he has an opportunity to play the game I love so much. But as with so much in today’s society we will have to wait and see. Shame on Garrett for making the case that much harder for parents who want their kids to experience the myriad benefits of this wonderful sport.”
From Los Gatos, Calif. Jesse Kimbrel writes: “My son is 5-and-a-half and plays baseball, basketball and soccer. He’s an active kid and really enjoys anything sports-related, and he bikes and skateboards. The reason football isn’t listed in those sports and activities is because my wife and I decided not to allow him to play football beyond playing catch with us or friends at the park or beach. While we know there’s always a risk of getting injured playing any sport, football puts kids at an unnecessary amount of risk of injury. … My wife and I couldn’t believe what happened. Our first comment back to each other was: ‘That’s why our kids aren’t playing football.’ “
1. I think I like what DeAndre Hopkins said on Twitter after the Texans got blown out at Baltimore. Loved it, in fact. Backstory: Scoreless game, fourth-and-two for Houston at the Baltimore 33-yard line. Deshaun Watson threw deep to the right goal line, and Baltimore cornerback Marlon Humphrey hooked and mugged Hopkins before the ball arrived. No flag. Houston coach Bill O’Brien threw the challenge flag, and the non-call was upheld. “We need someone new in New York deciding calls,” Hopkins said. Couldn’t have said it better myself. If NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron isn’t going to overturn that call, he should not be sitting in judgement of any calls, period.
2. I think the maddening part is Riveron and everyone else in NFL offices in New York sitting there and not addressing the elephant in the league: The owners voted 31-1 to give coaches a chance to challenge pass-interference calls, to allow reviews on plays that were not called pass interference but coaches believed a flag should have been thrown. Entering the weekend, according to ESPN, 32 of the last 33 coaches challenges were not overturned. Yet Riveron and the NFL sit there, sphinx-like, saying nothing, not acknowledging that the rule that was passed in March is being ignored in November. It’s outrageous. Absolutely outrageous. Someone changed the rules without telling the coaches and without telling the public. Say something, Al Riveron. Say something, Troy Vincent. Say something, Roger Goodell. Jobs are at stake here, and all of you sit there like Kevin Bacon in “Animal House.” “ALL IS WELL! ALL IS WELL!” It’s not. Not at all.
3. I think the most stunning thing about the National Football League on Nov. 18, 2019 is this: The Oakland Raiders are a Chiefs loss to the Chargers tonight in Mexico away from owning a half-game lead in the AFC West after 11 weeks.
4. I thinkscraping away the emotional hammer that came down late in the Thursday night game, the harsh reality is Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph just misses too many throws. It’s getting late early in his effort to be the heir to Ben Roethlisberger long-term.
5. I think the chances have to be at least 75 percent that LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is the first pick in the April draft.
6. I think there’s one asterisk: Cincinnati or Miami would have to have the first pick in the draft. If that pick belongs to tbe Jets, Giants, Washington or Atlanta, I could see them taking Ohio State pass-rusher Chase Young, or trading down to a team desperate for Burrow. With the unfortunate Tua Tagovailoa hip injury, which could sideline him well into 2020 or longer, and with another command performance by Burrow (16 straight non-dink-and-dunk completions at one point Saturday night, for 242 yards), Burrow is clearly the top quarterback prospect. There could be four teams in the top 10, within striking distance to get the pick if they don’t finish this regular season in the pole position: Miami, Cincinnati, Denver and Tampa Bay (if Jameis Winston finishes the regular season shaky).
7. I think I erred in rounding up the usual suspects for my head-coaching-candidates note two weeks ago. Five points:
• We (I, certainly) get too caught up in Flavor of the Month guys. Not saying, for instance, that Robert Saleh of the 49ers is not a strong candidate for the 2020 coaching market—he is—but I am saying that it’s just not smart to isolate the best teams in a given season and pick the top assistants on those teams and say, “There’s the list.”
• The smartest thing to do would be for the NFL to ban coaching interviews and coaching hires till after the Super Bowl. That’s in part to alleviate the frenetic pace of coaching interviews the week after the regular season, when prime assistants should be most focused on their playoff assignments. But it also would level the playing field for all teams seeking coaches. As for those people who would say it disadvantages the non-playoff teams, making them wait five weeks before they get on with the business of restocking their franchise with new coaching minds, I say that coaches get hired by NFL teams to work toward winning the Super Bowl. And if on New Year’s Day, the dawn of the playoff season, you’ve got a couple of coaches on your staff spending two or three days in the month prepping for interviews and executing those interviews, then they’re not totally present for the job they’ve been hired to do. Not blaming them—I’m blaming the system that allows it to happen. I get it that these interviews happen in bye weeks. But it’s still a division of attention toward the reason these coaches got hired in the first place.
• But it’s important that downtrodden teams get to build their coaching staffs—you don’t want to give them a five-week penalty by delaying the process. In early 2018, Frank Reich was hired as the Colts head coach 37 days after the Raiders hired Jon Gruden. Reich’s got one of the best coaching staffs in football. (Though two of the coaches were already under contract because of the ill-fated Josh McDaniels hire.) The Colts had the field to choose from when Reich was retained a week after the Super Bowl, and he hired wisely.
• The Jets might be ruing the day they passed on Baylor coach Matt Rhule last winter. (The Jets wanted Rhule to hire either Adam Gase or Todd Moncken as offensive coordinator, and while Rhule as open to interviewing both, he didn’t know them and wouldn’t sign off on them without meeting and interviewing them; the Jets then turned to Gase.)
• Great example of excellent coaches being taken for granted: the New Orleans coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has choreographed a once-moribund unit into a top-five defense, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael—always overshadowed by Sean Payton—deserves to have his case heard by an offensively needy team, and assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell is a commanding presence with an excellent football mind. These guys should be in front of teams in coach-hiring season.
8. I think the NFL steamrolling toward a 17-game schedule is so predictably greedy, and so health-and-safety sad for the players. On Thursday night (which could be any night or day in the NFL by the time Week 11 rolls around), the Steelers were already playing with their franchise quarterback lost for the season with an injury. They lost both starting receivers in a crucial division game with concussions; Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster played a composite 40 percent of the snaps. Starting running back James Conner logged only 13 snaps with a bum shoulder. The Browns lost their best safety, Morgan Burnett, for the season with a torn Achilles. On the other side of Pennsylvania, the Eagles faced a crucial Sunday game against the Patriots without their best rusher (Jordan Howard), their two best receivers (Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson) and their most versatile offensive-and-return weapon (Darren Sproles). Oh, and their veteran left tackle, Jason Peters, returned to the field, but has to be considered week-to-week with his spate of injuries. But by all means, let’s schedule more regular-season games.
9. I think I want to tailgate with the Kurds in Nashville. So Americana. So perfect.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Story of the Week: Steve Politi, excellent columnist for NJ Advance Media, on one of the strangest trials in recent New Jersey history. “He told a kid to slide. Then he got sued.”
b. Imagine being sued because, as a third-base coach, one of your kids was steaming toward third, and there was going to be a close play at the base, and you yelled, “Slide!” Welcome to the seven-year legal fight of a man named John Suk, superbly told in painstaking detail by Politi, watching it all unfold in a jury trial in a New Jersey courthouse. Politi:
“If Suk is found liable for an injury that took place because of that slide — and if a seven-figure check is written because of his actions — what will happen to high school sports? Who will sign up for these coaching jobs knowing their reputation and livelihood might be in jeopardy? And how long before school districts drop sports entirely rather than pay skyrocketing insurance premiums? So, yes, I have found the intersection of our overly litigious society and our out-of-control youth sports culture. As Suk sits there, scribbling away, I am consumed with a sickening thought: If this JV baseball coach is found liable for telling a player to slide, there’s nothing to stop the dominoes from falling everywhere around us. In short: We’re all f—ed.”
c. Star Profile of the Week: On Tom Hanks playing Mister Rogers, and who exactly Tom Hanks is, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner of New York Times. So interesting that Brodesser-Akner put herself smack dab in the middle of this story, and how well it worked. She writes:
“It isn’t easy being a parent, not for any of us, he said. ‘Somewhere along the line, I figured out, the only thing really, I think, eventually a parent can do is say I love you, there’s nothing you can do wrong, you cannot hurt my feelings, I hope you will forgive me on occasion, and what do you need me to do? You offer up that to them. I will do anything I can possibly do in order to keep you safe. That’s it. Offer that up and then just love them.’ ”
d. I cannot wait to see Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. I might camp out the night before it debuts.
e. Football Story of the Week: Dan Wiederer and Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune on the backstory of the Bears choosing Mitchell Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL Draft.
f. Cool graphic element, too—the front sports pages in Chicago, Kansas City and Houston the day after Trubisky went to the Bears, Mahomes to the Chiefs and Watson to the Texans.
g. Kaepernick Story of the Week: Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times on the one-time semi-muse for Colin Kaepernick, and how Nate Boyer thinks the story and the person have been co-opted a bit over time to fit specific narratives.
h. Please read the story. Please understand that most every story has shades of gray.
i. Regarding the Astros alleged cheating scandal: Let me tell you a story.
j. Back a decade or so, when I lived in Montclair, N.J., I coached a girls’ travel softball team, 10-and-under, with my wife and two good friends. We didn’t have kids on the team (which made it a lot more fun). We coached the Montclair Bears for seven years. I tried to be fairly big league. I taught the girls signals, which they loved, because it was a game within a game. For instance, the outfielders played shallow because the girls didn’t hit the ball very far. Baserunners were allowed to lead off first base. We had a play to try to pick off the girl at first base. If I used any city word beginning with “B” (Boston, Boise, Birmingham, for example) in a sentence, the right fielder would run to the base as the pitch was being thrown, and the catcher would throw down to first to try to pick her off. We had hand signals for sacrifice bunts and bunts for hits, with an indicator preceding them, as most baseball and softball teams have. I also had a signal to a batter if I thought the opposing team wasn’t alert. If I called out an even number (“16!” “52!”), that was the signal for our batter to not stop at first base on a hit, but rather automatically to run to second. For the girls, it was like a puzzle. “Like they were in a joke that no one else knew,” my assistant, Jack Bowers, said. The kids loved it. It made the game more fun.
k. There was one other favorite signal I had. We had one pitcher, 9, who could throw a changeup passably well. (“Passably” means sometimes it didn’t go way over the catch’s head.) My signal to her and the catcher: If I use the name of a girl not on our team, she should throw the change. Like: “Don’t let the ball get past you out in center, Kate.” We didn’t have a “Kate.”
l. One evening, we had a game in Dumont, a town in Bergen County. I coached third base and gave all the signals. Dumont was a competitive team. (Nothing wrong with that.) I thought I’d seen one of their coaches at a game of ours a week or so earlier, but I couldn’t swear to it. So right away, first inning, I gave the sign to bunt for a hit. The coach told his third baseman to play way in. Then he knew the “B” signal, I thought, in the bottom of the inning. So before we went to bat in the second inning, I told the players we were changing signals, totally. I gave them a new indicator word—but it wasn’t just one word. It was any word beginning with the letter “C.”
m. They didn’t miss a sign the rest of the game. I gave a bunch of fake signals that the coach picked up and positioned his players as if he knew what we were doing. Smart by him. But the signals didn’t matter anymore. We won, but that doesn’t matter. The point is: Stealing signals are as old as the sun, and it’s pretty common to change them so they can’t be stolen. Which leads us to …
n. Baseball Story of the Week: Following The Athletic’s excellent piece about the Astros using technology to steal signs in 2017 (and who knows—perhaps longer), Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post documented how the Nationals prevented any chance at sign-stealing in the World Series this year. Terrific story about the intrigue.
o. Svrluga detailed the byzantine plans of the Nats (you have to read it) and then wrote this:
“Next came the way the Nats employed their signs, which was nontraditional. Rather than just use, say, the second sign the catcher put down, the Nats might ‘chase the two.’ That meant the pitcher would watch for the catcher to put two fingers down, and then throw the pitch that corresponded to the following sign. Or they could play ‘outs plus one.’ So if there was one out, the pitch would be the second sign the catcher put down. If there were no outs, it would be the first sign. ‘Strikes plus one’ worked the same way. That’s a lot of thought, right? But it’s a small cost in preparation if it frees the mind of the pitcher in competition.”
p. That is some great reporting by Svrluga.
q. Beernerdness: Don’t tell NBC that I had a beer while waiting for my train Sunday night. It’s a new one, from an area teeming with cool breweries. Good Company Pale Ale (Calvert Brewing Company, Upper Marlboro, Md.) is very pale, and satisfyingly tasty. I’d never heard of it before.
r. Speaking of Beernerdness, the Acela’s got Allagash White aboard now. Be still, my liver.
s. Congrats to my fleeting friend James Holzhauer, who won the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions last week. What a treat, watching a beautiful mind like that work.
t. RIP, Bill Lyon, superb columnist of the Philadelphia Inquirer. One of the great truth-tellers in our business.
u. RIP, Vera Clemente. A noble woman, dedicated to the causes important to her late husband and her family.
v. The saddest thing about the early impeachment hearings: the degradation and lampooning and lambasting of clear-eyed American government servants like Marie Yovanovitch, Bill Taylor and George Kent. It’s pathetic to impugn their dignity and honor. The only good thing about it? There will be a historical record for those in the hearings and in the media who do the impugning, on the internet forever for future generations (and impugners’ family members) to see.
Today: Mexico City. The important football note about Chargers-Chiefs tonight in football-mad Mexico: The field at Estadio Azteca has been switched from a grass-artificial hybrid (too beat up last year to play on, forcing a switch of Chiefs-Rams to L.A.) to natural grass, and I’m told it’s in very good condition for the game tonight. Cool personal note: Anthony Lynn becomes the first NFLer to play and coach in Mexico City. As a Denver running back, he played in a 1997 Broncos preseason game in Mexico, and 22 years later he head-coaches in one.
Tuesday. Cool TV event coming up on NFL Network. “NFL 360 With Melissa Stark” has the latest installment on the impact of the life and times of Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals safety turned Army Ranger, killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire in 2004. Amazing that it’s been more than 15 years since Tillman’s death. But so much about his life was the stuff of inspiration, and filmmaker Trent Cooper found how military vets and the 628 Tillman Scholars—young people whose lives have been changed by financial and inspirational aid from Tillman’s foundation—are keeping him alive. The half-hour show is called “The Legacy of Pat Tillman” and you need to see it.
Wednesday: Manhattan. Day four. Colin Kaepernick sitting by the phone. Waiting.
Thursday: Houston. Jacoby Brissett has started 26 NFL games in his brief career, four against Houston. He’s 4-0 against the Texans, with one win apiece over Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, T.J. Yates (now there’s a QB Murderer’s Row) and Deshaun Watson.
Sunday: Santa Clara, Calif. Beginning on this evening in California, the Niners will start the toughest 15-day stretch any team in the NFL will have all season: home with Green Bay, then at Baltimore and at New Orleans. Combined Pack/Raven/Saint records: 25-6.
Might be a pipe dream.
But I would like Andy Reid
to coach Kaepernick.