Wednesday Thoughts from Around the League

| October 19th, 2022

We are entering the seventh week of the season and it’s an opportunity to take stock of the league. It might be the strangest beginning to a season in recent memory.

  • MVP: He’s averaging 330 yards passing per game. His TD/INT is 17/4. His passer rating is 109.1. His team is 5-1. Josh Allen is already +150 to win the MVP and I recommend betting him now because in a few weeks the bet might be off the board. The best team in the league also has the league’s best player.
  • Coach of the Year: Brian Daboll has done a wonderful job reinventing the culture in New Jersey, but their wins have been mostly smoke and mirrors. What Arthur Smith has done through six weeks in Atlanta is a legitimate revelation. The Falcons are 3-3, in first place in the NFC South, and they’ve actually been better than that. Their three losses are by a point, four points and a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty that deprived them the opportunity to beat Tom Brady. But even more importantly, Atlanta is one of the most entertaining teams in the league and that’s because of Smith’s offense.
  • When one watches the Packers, there is a bizarre trend. About five times a game, Aaron Rodgers just floats a ball deep down the field into double and triple coverage. The pass has almost zero chance of being completed but he doesn’t seem to mind. It’s as if he’s trying to prove a point as opposed to get a first down. Green Bay letting Davante Adams leave town is proving to be one of the worst personnel decisions a contender has made in recent memory.
  • The Raiders are good. They just don’t win.
  • The Vikings are not. But they don’t lose.
  • Are the Eagles a bit overrated at 6-0? Probably. Their games share a theme: get out to a big lead and hang on for dear life. But man, looking at their 11 remaining games, they’re unlikely to be underdogs a single time. Does that mean they’ll go undefeated? No. But they are headed to 13-14 wins minimum and the top seed in the conference.

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Random Thoughts from Around the NFL (Mostly About Quarterbacks)

| November 30th, 2021

Feels like the big-ticket Bears items have been thoroughly discussed. So today, DBB takes a look around the NFL. (I’ll be writing more about my idol, the legendary Stephen Sondheim, in this week’s game preview.)

  • What are the Vikings going to do? Kirk Cousins is just good enough to keep you “in the hunt” and not good enough to win a big game/title. How much more evidence do they need? That organization needs to detonate this current program and build everything around Justin Jefferson.
  • Can Jalen Hurts become a professional passer? Because right now, he’s not close. That’s not to say the Eagles can’t win with him playing quarterback but they’re going to need a diet version of what Baltimore is doing. He’s physical. He’s got the leadership qualities you want. But that arm is backup level stuff.
  • Denver shouldn’t fire Vic Fangio. They should get him a quarterback.
  • Buffalo vs. New England on Monday Night Football is the game of the year, and it’s the most important regular season game for the Bills since the 1990s. They need to win. They need to kill the demon that has haunted them for two decades. And they need their quarterback to rise to the moment.
  • Justin Herbert is quietly not having a particularly good second season. He was bad Sunday in Denver and bad in three of his previous five games. He’s a special talent and the stats will always be there, but there are some red flags popping up.
  • Shad Khan has a lot invested in Urban Meyer but what the hell is going on in Jacksonville? There’s not one positive thing in that program, including Trevor Lawrence looking beyond ordinary. Meyer has always had the best players on the field because he’s a shady recruiter. That will never be the case in Jax.
  • Carson Wentz is capable of being a great quarterback for about two and a half quarters.

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What Should Teams Do at the Goal Line?

| June 9th, 2020

It has become common knowledge that passing is far more valuable than running in the NFL. But I have surprisingly seen very little data about how that changes as teams approach the end zone and the real estate tightens.

I found this excellent article looking at all goal-to-go plays, which found that passing is still more valuable than running and highlighted specific types of runs and passes that work better than others. But that groups plays from the 8 or 9 yard line together with plays from the 1 or 2, and those are drastically different scenarios.

I spent about 15 minutes on Google trying to find something detailing what’s most effective for teams to score a TD from the 1 or 2 yard line, and couldn’t find anything, so I decided to do it myself. I started by using the Pro Football Reference game play finder to get a basic look at how often, and how successfully, teams run vs. pass from the 1 and 2 yard line. The table below shows that information for the years 2016-19. I chose that specific time range to be consistent with available information from later in the study.

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NFL is Playing Politics of the Worst Kind

| June 1st, 2018

“Stick to sports.”

Every sports journalist or athlete who has ever expressed a political opinion has probably had this insipid phrase thrown their way. It’s become quite a common refrain, particularly after the media took note that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t standing for the national anthem a couple years ago.

Like most snarky retorts it’s not meant to be particularly clever or thoughtful. It’s meant to shut down conversation and put someone in their place.

It’s also bullshit.

Not only is it ridiculous to expect a person, let alone a public figure with a large platform, to solely talk about their profession and nothing else 24/7, it’s also disingenuous because often the person saying “stick to sports” doesn’t mean they don’t want someone talking about politics. They just don’t want someone expressing a political viewpoint opposing their own.

Last week’s decision by the NFL to amend their national anthem policy was not made in an effort to “stick to sports”, or appear nonpartisan, as some have claimed. The decision was explicitly political. They implemented this rule in the hopes it would appeal to the political and social leanings of those they view as their core audience: namely, conservative white people.

Let me get two things out of the way before I go any further.

  1. Yes, I am aware not all people who are against the protests are white and/or conservative, and that many conservative-leaning white people are fine with or supportive of players protesting. But in general, white conservatives have been much more disapproving of the protests than liberals and people of color.
  2. This is not a First Amendment issue. Let me repeat that, just so we’re all clear. This is not a First Amendment issue. Private organizations have the right to restrict what their employees say and do during company time. I am well aware of this, so no need to point that out in the comments.

Moving on…..

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Across The Middle: 2018 NFL Mock Draft

| April 25th, 2018

I don’t remember ever being so confused before a draft.

It used to be — back when men were men and beat writers smoked four packs a day — that we’d have some sort of idea at least how the top five would go. We’d have a few surprises but they’d be minor. This year, the Cleveland Browns could blow everything up by taking the quarterback nobody thinks they should. If that happens, the Giants could take another quarterback, then the Jets another and, who knows what could happen with the fourth pick?

The only thing we do know is to expect the unexpected. Everything is on the table. Here’s how I think it might play out, Warning: I didn’t spend too much time on it.

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB,  USC

I think Darnold has been the guy for months, but the NFL wants them to keep everyone guessing up until draft day.

2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St.

Pretty much every old school scout says Barkley is the best player in the draft. The Giants are run by an old school scout. I think they’d take Darnold if he were available but aren’t enamored with the rest of the quarterbacks.

3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

This has been the buzz for about a month. In my opinion, Mayfield is the best quarterback in the draft this year and they’ll sell him as the second coming of Broadway Joe.

4. Cleveland Browns: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St.

The first big surprise, I guess, but their interest in Ward was rumored a couple of months ago before everything went quiet. Ward really is a top-level cornerback prospect and those guys tend to go very high.

5. Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb, Edge, NC State

Chubb is going to be a good player from Day One. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a premier pass rusher, but I do think he’s going to be terrific against the run and at least adequate at taking down quarterbacks. Don’t be surprised if the Bears moved up to this spot if the draft falls this way.

6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

There is a lot of buzz about Roquan Smith being the pick here, but I think that’s Chris Ballard intentionally leaking information. I think Nelson is their guy but they don’t want to risk a team moving ahead of them to take him. They have to protect Andrew Luck at some point, right?

7. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

I think this is the first prime trade-up spot for teams. The Bills can move from 12 to 7 without giving up their second first round pick. The other teams possibly pondering a quarterback would have a hard time getting the ammunition to move much higher than this.

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How The Masters is Like the NFL (And a Few Other Thoughts)

| April 5th, 2018

Here are a bunch of Around the League thoughts for this random April Thursday.

  • I love the Masters. But I don’t care for the people who run the tournament, Augusta National Golf Club. I love professional football. I can’t stand the people who operate the league, it’s thirty-two owners and league office. These are by-and-large shitty, old, racist white guys shepherding a great product.
  • This “lowering the head” penalty has been universally panned by players and the NFL’s attempt to rule change brain injuries out of the game (see: kickoff removal) reminds me of golf’s debate over the ball going too far. You can’t legislate strength and speed out of sports. There are more head injuries in the league now, and the ball goes further off the driver face, because the players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before in human history. In the NFL they are hitting each other at 25 MPH.
  • Don’t look now but the Panthers are going to sell for north of $2.5 billion. The Bears, should the McCaskey family ever show interest in selling, would fetch $4 billion, even without owning a lucrative piece of real estate.
  • Has there ever been a team attack the NFL off-season like this Rams club? And does anybody really think it’s going to work? One lesson the NFL should learn from this approach: the key to modern success is winning on a good QB’s rookie deal. Once that QB gets his $100 million, the chances of winning consistently drop precipitously.
  • What’s been almost as amazing is the Seahawks embracing a down year, referring to 2018 as a “reset”. With Jimmy G. exciting the Bay Area, not hard to imagine Seattle trafficking down the bottom of the NFC West this year.
  • Derwin James is a special player and he was profiled here on DBB during this college football season.
  • An NFL GM texted me this week: “Everything coming out of the Giants right now is bullshit. Don’t believe any of it.” He’s right.
  • When asked if the Redskins were better with Alex Smith than Kirk Cousins, Jay Gruden responded, “Without a doubt.” One day there will be a 30-for-30 on Cousins’ time with Washington. And I will watch the hell out of it because I simply don’t understand his tenure with that team.
  • Saw an ESPN segment debating whether Mitch Trubisky will throw 20 TDs this season. He’s going to fly by that number is he stays healthy.

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Everything Wrong With the NFL, In One Play

| November 3rd, 2017

There were audible screams in the basement bar on Waverly Place. Zach Miller had caught a perfect Trubisky toss in the end zone but nobody seemed to notice anything but his leg. My God, his leg. On replay it was even worse. Maybe it was shown a third time on television, maybe it wasn’t. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t watching. I went to the toilet, disgusted.

When I came out of the bathroom, Miller’s season was over and somehow the NFL had determined they had enough visual data to overturn the touchdown. Not sure which of the two sickened me more.

The Zach Miller Touchdown illuminated everything currently dragging down this great sport and formerly great league.

Forget about anthem protests. They’ll be a thing of memory in a few months. Forget about declining ratings. Television ratings are plummeting everywhere, and will continue to as cable companies lose their monopolistic grip on home entertainment. Forget about head injuries and CTE. People will always play this game and people will always watch.

What will bring the league down?

Injuries & Greed

Aaron Rodgers. Andrew Luck. Deshaun Watson. David Johnson. Dalvin Cook. Odell Beckham Jr. Julian Edelman. Joe Thomas. Jason Peters. JJ Watt. Eric Berry.

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Brandon Marshall Fine Continuing NFL’s Disgraceful Treatment of Mental Illness

| December 1st, 2016

The following piece originally ran on DBB on May 19, 2014. Two years later the NFL is finally allowing players to showcase their personal causes on the field. It’s probably the best thing ever published in this space, non-game related.


Josh Marks liked to cook. He was good enough at cooking and handsome enough to land a spot on the television program MasterChef. He finished second. At twenty-six years old and with a seemingly limitless future before him, Marks took his own life Friday. In a CNN article Marks’ family recount the young man’s struggles with mental health issues, with the family lawyer going so far as to say “It is overwhelming to think that with proper, intensive treatment, Joshua may still be with us.”

He was found dead by his mother in an alleyway on Chicago’s south side.

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