Ahh, what a glorious day! Vance Joseph is gone, and my grandparents got me a Phillip Lindsay jersey. (Let’s hope it ages better than my Brock Osweiler jersey.) I figured it was a mighty fine time to hand out my annual awards. Without further adieu...
By the plain definition of the award, Khalil Mack is objectively a candidate for this award. He brought more value to his team than arguably any other player, leading the perennially mediocre Bears to the playoffs. In addition, the Oakland Raiders were worse than they have been in years in his absence, getting the fourth pick in the draft just two years removed from Derek Carr’s MVP-deserving 2016 season. Mack is, without a doubt, the Most Valuable Player.
Many people think this award should be eliminated, but in a world where a defensive player can be the MVP, their argument is invalid. Mahomes faced stiff competition from such playmakers as Lamar Jackson, Todd Gurley and Adam Thielen, but in the end, he is the biggest difference-maker on his side of the football today. While he didn’t break Manning’s rookie record, he did take his team and his offense to new levels. And he scored a good deal, in ways that Alex Smith was unable to score, and an offense’s primary function is to score.
The defense has two jobs: stop the pass and stop the run. Donald is the premier play-stopper in the league in the air and on the ground, being both a top run-stuffer and the league’s sack leader. I try not to be obvious, but the pundits are right about this guy. His value to the Rams is immense.
Yes, I’m biased. But Lindsay has provided more value to his team than any other rookie, all without being drafted. He brought a young, injury-plagued team with an incompetent coach within a stone’s throw of the postseason. He was among the league’s leaders in yards per carry, and consistently got more yards than he should’ve. He was also arguably the smartest back in the league, seeing holes where players and fans alike saw nothing but tacklers and making the NFL’s finest defenders miss. Despite his small size, he has Hall Of Fame skills.
Over the course of one season, the Indianapolis defense has gone from looking like President Trump’s imaginary (and easy to bypass) border wall to the Great Wall Of China. While much of the credit will go to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Leonard has been a force to be reckoned with this season. He shows signs of being a solid player for years to come.
Shortly after the court of public opinion declared him one of the league’s best men for his above-and-beyond work in Houston, Watt re-established his place as one of the NFL’s most dominant defenders and all but ensured that he will be in Canton as soon as he is eligible. Most prominently, he led the league in forced fumbles, which are, in my opinion, the most valuable defensive play possible, as they have prevented many a score.
The Chargers have finally realized their full potential, and Lynn’s quiet leadership and defensive schemes are a huge part of that transformation. And to think that he was available to the Broncos the year we hired VJ...but I digress.
Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are playing each other tomorrow. It's the second showdown between the game's greatest passers of all time, former MVPs, former Super Bowl winners, future Hall Of Famers, yada yada yada. The way I see it, this is just another Sunday night football game, and I fully expect Chiefs vs. Browns to be the tastier matchup. I'll elucidate.
First off, this article is not meant as a criticism of Rodgers and Brady themselves; at least, that's not the sole purpose of this post. Rodgers and Brady are both capable quarterbacks who have achieved remarkable success. They will both be in the Hall Of Fame one day, and I plan on voting for them personally as soon as they are eligible. It's a criticism of the silly way people talk about Sunday's game. "Who's the real GOAT, A-a-ron or Brady?" "Rodgers-Brady Bowl II!" "Super Bowl preview?" Blah blah blah blah blah. It's none of those things.
First, let's get it out of the way. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are not the greatest quarterbacks of all time, or even the greatest quarterbacks in the game today. Tom Brady, while extremely intelligent and physically gifted, is not half so responsible for New England's success as Bill Belichick, who is certainly football's greatest mind. His attitude costs him games nearly as often as his talent wins them. And while Rodgers can definitely sling a pigskin further and more accurately than just about anyone, he lacks the modern quarterback's most important skill-keeping the play alive. Also, in a more subjective way, I don't think he loves the game as much as a player should. He seems to have more fun off the field than on it. I thought that about Johnny Manziel too, although Rodgers has the arm to make up for it and was drafted by a better team than Manziel. So both are very good, but both have glaring weaknesses.
While we're on the subject, why do people only consider active or recently retired quarterbacks for the coveted title of GOAT (greatest of all time)? Peyton Manning and Brett Favre are the only retired players who even crop up in the GOAT conversation nowadays, and even then, not nearly as often as Brady and Rodgers. But you go back another decade and there's Joe Montana, John Elway and Dan Marino to be considered; go back further and you have Ken Stabler, Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach; and in the pre-Super-Bowl era, there's Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, and Johnny Unitas. It seems lazy to write off the entire history of football to call a successful modern-era player "the GOAT."
And that's only the quarterbacks. How come no other players are ever mentioned? Todd Gurley, J.J. Watt, Von Miller, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Champ Bailey, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Lawrence Taylor, Anthony Muñoz, Mike Ditka, Jim Brown, Floyd Little, Mike Singletary, Bronko Nagurski...the list goes on and on. Nobody ever considers these players candidates for "greatest of all time." Yet I think their claims to the title are every bit as valid as any quarterback's.
GOAT debates and media hype are pretty silly, overall. On the grand scale of football, this is just another mid-season prime-time showdown. I'm much more excited about seeing Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield, two players I expect to join the above list someday, battling it out early tomorrow morning. And, accounting for my bias, I'm also pretty dang thrilled about seeing Deshaun Watson and Phillip Lindsay at Mile High tomorrow. Go Broncos. In Elway We Trust.
We're a quarter of the way through the year, and already, some very interesting things have happened. I'll give my take on each one, as well as a surprising prediction for each development.
1: The Browns Are Not The Browns
Baker Mayfield seems to have brought new life to a team that hasn't been any good since the Belichick era. But this is a completely different team. They are 1-2-1 and would be 2-1-1 if not for some erroneous officiating. I've been saying for a long time that the Browns have great potential. It appears to be finally taking place. Yes, I still think they'll win the division.
Prediction: The Browns will win a Super Bowl during the Baker Mayfield era.
2: The Patriots Are Not The Patriots
Or maybe they are. They did give the Dolphins, a very capable team, a good shellacking on Sunday. But they have shown signs of aging. Brady has looked more like a journeyman than a Hall Of Famer all season, and his supporting cast is noticeably weaker than in years past. I'll know more after the next game, but at this point in the season, the most predictably good team in football is a 2-2 enigma.
Prediction: At some point during this season, Belichick benches Tom Brady. He trades him next offseason.
3: Is Mahomes The Next Manning?
Well, they do have the same initials-and they post similar numbers. Honestly, I rather doubted the Chiefs' decision to trade up and draft him. I'm always a trade-down guy, and Mahomes looked pretty spotty in his college tape to me. But it worked out pretty well for them.
Prediction: This season, Mahomes will break Manning's record for the most passing touchdowns in a rookie season (26). At some point in his career, he will throw an unprecedented 8 TDs in one game.
4: The Broncos Could Be Way Better
Unpopular opinion: this is the best Broncos roster since Elway retired. Keenum and Kelly are very capable quarterbacks; the rookie running back duo of Freeman and Lindsay gives us the best ground game since Terrell Davis; Peko and Chubb make Miller impossible to double-team, leading to more sacks; Justin Simmons and Bradley Roby are even better than Ward and Talib in my humble opinion; and to top it all off, both our punter and our kicker are among the top five league-wide. Our coaching staff, however, is a different story-between laughably old-school play-calling, costly penalties, and poor time management, VJ and Company repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. It's not as ugly as last year's circus, but it's frustrating to think of what this team could be.
Prediction: By this time next season, Vance Joseph is long gone and Chad Kelly is starting.
Surprise! I'm not dead, and neither is this blog! I'm back to make my annual season predictions. There's always something completely off the mark in this post, whether it's the Broncos winning the Super Bowl, the 49ers winning their division or Derek Carr being the MVP. (Come to think of it, I got a LOT wrong last year.) But, without further adieu...
1: Jacksonville Jaguars (13-3)
2: Oakland Raiders (12-4)
3: Buffalo Bills (11-5)
4: Cleveland Browns (9-7)
WC1: Houston Texans (11-5)
WC2: Denver Broncos (10-6)
There's been a passing of the torch in the AFC. The Jaguars, not the Patriots, Broncos or other such team, are now comfortably atop the conference. I think the Raiders will be a lot better this year. Many of last year's problems were coaching-related, and they still have a future Hall-Of-Famer in Derek Carr. However, the Khalil Mack trade is concerning, to say the least. The Bills made the right choice by starting Nathan Peterman and should return to the postseason. The Browns now have Baker Mayfield and a host of quality defenders, and I can't see anyone else winning that division. The Steelers are solid when Big Ben is healthy, but I honestly don't think he'll make it through the year. The Texans are playoff locks when Watson is healthy, and honestly, I think they could be much better than this. Of course, I'm ever the optimist about my Broncos, so I put them in the playoffs once again, but they could land anywhere from 13-3 to 3-13. We're dealing with a completely different team with a lot of rookies, so we don't know exactly how they'll look.
1: St. Louis Rams (15-1)
2: Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
3: Detroit Lions (11-5)
4: Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
WC1: San Francisco 49ers (12-4)
WC2: Chicago Bears (10-6)
I think the "Los Angeles" Rams are the team to beat this year, at least in the regular season. Sean McVay is the best new coach I've seen in years, and the addition of Aqib Talib should only make them stronger. I expect the Eagles to be a great team for a long time. I admit that, given their tough division and mediocre run game, Detroit's placement was a mite generous. However, I'm a big believer in Stafford's ability to rally the team. They could make a serious Super Bowl push. The Falcons could be higher or lower, depending on my mood. I think they realize that their time with Matt Ryan is limited, and that could be a good motivator. The 49ers would be much higher if it weren't for the Rams. Shanahan is a fantastic coach, the San Francisco defense is solid, and Jimmy Garoppolo is an excellent passer. I think he'll be better than Tom Brady ever was, frankly. Chicago has a new coach, another promising young quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, and future Hall-Of-Famer Khalil Mack. Football is very much a team sport, more so than basketball or baseball, but on merit of these two players, the Bears should make the playoffs. The rest of their front seven is fairly underrated, and they do have a potential star at running back in Jordan Howard, so they could end up being much better than this. The NFC is going to be extremely competitive this year, and teams like New Orleans and Dallas were hard to leave off.
Lions over Jaguars, 31-27
Man, this is risky. The Jaguars have their conference pretty well locked up, I think, but I have no idea who the NFC contender could be. However, if the Lions can improve their run game and fight through arguably the best division in football, they are taking home the Lombardi Trophy. Stafford's unique ability to engineer drives and win games is the best quality you can ask for in a quarterback. Their secondary is one of the NFL's best and Matt Patricia is one of the smartest guys in football. IF they can make the postseason (and that's a huge if), they are my pick to win the Super Bowl. Their attitude is ideal for a playoff team.
MVP: Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
Offensive Player Of The Year: Todd Gurley, "Los Angeles" Rams
Defensive Player Of The Year: Aaron Donald, "Los Angeles" Rams
Offensive Rookie Of The Year: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Defensive Rookie Of The Year: Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos
Comeback Player Of The Year: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Coach Of The Year: Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders
There's a formula for predicting the Coach Of The Year: the first-year coach with the most-improved team. Try it-it always works. I think this says less about how good Gruden is than how bad Jack Del Rio was. As for MVP, it's hard to say any player is worth more to his team than Jimmy G, and if you don't believe me, check out the Niners' record pre-Jimmy and their record post-Jimmy. Gurley and Donald are arguably the two best young players in the NFL and will factor greatly into the Rams' dominance. The next pick depends largely on the assumption that Mayfield will, in fact, become the starter at some point, which is what tends to happen with the Browns. Of course, Tyrod Taylor is a MUCH more viable option than the kind of player the Browns usually send out on day one, so you never know. There are two things standing in the way of Chubb winning his award: Von Miller and Domata Peko. He's the best defensive player of his draft class, in my opinion, but he may not catch voters' attention as part of such a solid front seven. Watt is practically a lock for Comeback Player; when he's healthy, he's the most exciting player in football.
Top Three Draft Picks
1: Cincinnati Bengals
Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
2: Seattle Seahawks
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
3: Miami Dolphins
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
The tough thing about this part of my predictions is that I'm not only predicting the NFL season, but the college football season as well. I don't foresee any team being as terrible as the Bengals this year. The Ravens have Lamar Jackson, the Colts have Andrew Luck, the Seahawks have Russell Wilson, but the Bengals are about on the end of their rope. Nick Bosa is a stellar player, but in their position they'd be better advised to trade down for heaps of picks and get a solid core of reliable starters. The Seahawks are next, and Williams would help fill their constant need for quality offensive linemen. My placement of the Dolphins is dependent on the assumption that Ryan Tannehill gets injured. If he does, the Dolphins will have many fine quarterbacks available to them at a high draft slot. It was a close call between Stidham and Oregon passer Justin Herbert, but I think Stidham is poised for a fantastic year.
Well, there you have it. What are your season predictions?
This draft is going to be a hard one to predict. There are a lot of really interesting prospects this year, the kind that you just know are either going to Canton or Cleveland. In other words, boom-or-bust prospects. They have a few guys pegged as "once-in-a-lifetime" players this year, and while I despise light use of the term, I definitely see what they're talking about this time. Furthermore, it's a QB-heavy draft class. That always makes for good television, right? But while there'll be big moves to get the quarterbacks, I'm actually not that impressed with the passers this year. I'd actually rather be looking for a QB in last year's class, which was supposedly weak.
Without further adieu...the 2018 Mock Draft.
1: Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold makes legitimate sense as a number 1 pick. He's tall and tough. He's possibly the smartest quarterback in the draft, which is a quality I look for. He's a fine leader. And while I don't really care if you can throw a football 70 yards...he can throw a football 70 yards. But his interception level is a big concern. He'll be a pick machine for sure. But he can move the chains like the best, so I think he'll work out okay.
2: New York Giants
The Pick: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
A lot of people have the Giants drafting a successor to Manning. After the investments they've made in Davis Webb, I really don't see them drafting a quarterback this early. (I think they may grab a passer in a later round.) Barkley is a hard talent to pass up and would make a Giant difference in New York. Although, if I were the GM, I'd trade down and grab a guard, a defender, and a QB, in that order!
3: New York Jets
The Pick: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
This is a Phil Collins pick-I can feel it coming in the air tonight. Gang Green has had their eye on this dude for weeks and has made no effort to hide it. Rosen's strength and speed aren't much, but he can stay cool and move the chains. That's the kind of quarterback I like, personally.
4: Cleveland Browns (Again?)
The Pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
I was sort of joking when I said that Goodell gives the Browns extra first-round picks, but I'm serious this year. I think it's entirely possible that the league pays teams to trade high picks to the Browns, because no matter who the GM is or what his strategy is, Cleveland always gets to go twice in the first round. And after all, it really does the league no good to have consistently terrible teams. That said, Fitzpatrick has potential to change the narrative. He loves the game more than any Cleveland pick in years. He'd work well with Jabrill Peppers.
5: Denver Broncos
The Pick: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
I had Mayfield pegged here for a long time, but after we signed Keenum it became clear we weren't drafting a quarterback this early. Nelson is possibly my favorite lineman in the draft. He's not flashy, but he's solid and doesn't have any real concerns. And that's the kind of guy the Broncos need. However, if it were up to me, I'd trade down.
6: Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
Quite honestly, it would be a surprise if he fell this far. Physically, there's not a better defender in the draft. He has the size and strength that scouts look for. I'm not sold on him just yet, however. I'm not sure if he's as good a tackler as I'd want in an edge rusher! He's a solid player, and Indianapolis needs more of those at all positions.
7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Derwin James, S, Florida State
This would be a bit of a reach, but it's a good pick for Tampa. James has something of an X-factor; the team that drafts him will get something you can't put on a stat sheet. He will make a noticeable difference on any team. The Buccaneers could use that kind of player. They don't have a lot of glaring needs and would do well to add leaders and playmakers like James.
8: Chicago Bears
The Pick: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Once again, I think this is something of a reach. But I really can't see the Bears picking anyone else. Ward is a solid corner who can start from day 1, and that's a major need in Chicago. I could definitely see them trading down for multiple picks, as they have more than a couple big needs.
9: San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The 49ers lack a major force at outside linebacker, so it's easy to imagine they'd draft Smith. However, I think Dumervil and Thomas, their defensive ends, can handle the edge rushing duties just fine. What they really need is a receiver or a tackle, but it's hard to imagine Ridley or McGlinchey going here. I'm pencilling Smith in because he's the player that makes the most sense, but this pick will be traded more likely than not. Expect major moves from Shanahan on draft day.
10: Oakland raiders
The Pick: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
This guy is as good as linebackers come. He's big, athletic, and a good tackler. He also has great speed and quickness. That counts for a lot, especially when Oakland is on the clock. Frankly, I think he's the best defender in the draft-a classic middle linebacker in the Singletary mold.
11: Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
After losing Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins need depth at nose tackle. Vea is a very physical, tough player who resembles Suh in a lot of ways. His technique, however, is a concern. I do think the Dolphins should trade down and get more picks; they have needs all along the defensive front and should also consider drafting a backup quarterback.
12: Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
A lot of people have Allen (the other Josh) going here. I think the signing of AJ McCarron gives the Bills just enough security at quarterback to draft the biggest boom-or-bust in the draft: Baker Mayfield. He has the best decision-making and playmaking ability of any passer in the draft. However, his off-field antics and short stature will make a lot of teams think twice, and may result in a short career. It's not a pick I would make myself, but it may well pay off.
13: Washington redskins
The Pick: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
I've seen Vander Esch all over the board on mock drafts. I've read drafts that put him at number 5 overall and drafts that don't think he'll go until the third round. I think he's a great fit for Washington. He's a solid, versatile middle linebacker with the ability to lead a defense.
14: Green bay packers
The Pick: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
Hughes is a slight reach, but I can't see the Pack not choosing a defensive back here. Their secondary has been their greatest weakness for years. Once again, I think they ought to trade down and get more picks, and they should use at least two selections on defensive backs. Hughes is fast and plays like a receiver. He can be counted on to create game-winning turnovers.
15: Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Like the Bills, adding a veteran quarterback (Bradford) allows the Cardinals to take a risky prospect at the position. Allen isn't ready, but Bradford is reliable for the time being. Unfortunately for Arizona, I really don't think Allen is that good. Sure, he can throw a football 70 yards, but as I've established, that doesn't really matter. His inaccuracy and poor playmaking are also concerns.
16: Baltimore ravens
The Pick: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
It's entirely possible that Ridley gets picked sooner than this. He's the best player available at this point and certainly fills a need for the Ravens. I do think they'll take a quarterback this year, especially if this is Ozzie's last year, but I don't think they'll reach for one this early. Flacco can't go on forever and I think it may be time to add depth at the QB position.
17: "Los Angeles" Chargers
The Pick: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Chargers are in desperate need on the offensive line. McGlinchey is possibly my favorite line prospect in the draft. He's smart and hardworking. However, I highly doubt they keep this pick. I foresee them trading either up for a successor to Rivers or down for additional picks, as hey have a variety of holes.
18: Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
The Seahawks' famed defense is cracking at the seams. Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman, two of their key players, are on new teams, and Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor may never play football again. It is vital that they bring in defensive talent. Davenport is a solid option at defensive end. As a side note, they may try to upgrade the offensive line with this pick.
19: Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
This is a make-or-break year for Dallas. We don't quite know which Cowboys we'll see going forward: those of 2016 or those of 2017. This is a pick that will get them closer to the 2016 edition. Payne is possibly the most underrated prospect in the draft. He plays as hard as anyone and has ideal size. The scouts love his skill set, but the pundits don't love it so much. I think Jerry Jones got himself a steal.
20: Detroit Lions
The Pick: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Some might consider this pick a reach. Frankly, any other pick would surprise me. The Lions could be a Super Bowl contender with a legitimate workhorse back. Guice isn't my favorite RB in the draft (I'd like to see them take Sony Michel) but he's a good fit for the Detroit system.
21: Cincinnati bengals
The Pick: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Brown might well go sooner than this. He is a very raw prospect and a definite boom-or-bust, and that's why I think he'll skid a little. He is, however, one of the bigger tackles and promises to have a long career. Cincinnati should consider trading down; they are an aging team in need of more than a few young talents. I will admit; Lamar Jackson is a possibility here.
22: Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
The Bills grab a potential franchise quarterback and a player to protect him. Miller is a consistent, tall tackle with immediate starting ability, although scouts aren't very excited about him. Buffalo may see a Super Bowl in the next decade, depending largely on how Miller and Mayfield work out.
23: New England Patriots
The Pick: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
How could this be a bad pick? His last name is Wynn! (Sorry. Dumb, dumb joke.) The Patriots have a very simple, very effective strategy: draft the best player available. Wynn certainly is that.
24: Carolina panthers
The Pick: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
This isn't as surprising as some may think. Sutton is my favorite receiver in the draft and would transform Carolina's offense. Yes, this would be a bit early. I think the Panthers should trade down with the Browns and take Sutton with the first pick in the second round. But that's just me, of course.
25: Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
The Titans seem primed for a breakout to me. Mariota, as my best readers will remember, was my favorite QB from his class and still is. They certainly have the pieces to do so. Landry is possibly the best pass rusher in the draft and is good at creating turnovers at key points.
26: Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Rasheem Green, DE, USC
The Falcons would do well to take Green. He's another polarizing boom-or-bust but you can count me in the "boom" column. He's raw for sure, but he's got some really special stuff going on and should be a force once he is fully developed.
27: New orleans saints
The Pick: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
It would be a bold move to pick a tight end in the first round; however, for New Orleans, the opportunity is too good to pass up. They've been able to get nothing done at the position since the departure of Jimmy Graham, and Gesicki is a perfect fit for the Brees system. Lamar Jackson is tempting here, but I imagine they'd rather draft a quarterback sometime later, as they don't need one immediately.
28: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
I can't imagine this guy falling past Pittsburgh. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't lose my crackers if they moved up to select him. He's exactly the kind of tough, hard-nosed defender the Steelers have always loved, but with the speed and smarts to succeed in a modern NFL. All my favorite scouts say he goes here, and I wouldn't argue with their judgment. At least, I wouldn't for this pick...
29: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Will Hernandez, G, Texas-El Paso
I don't expect Hernandez to go lower than this. His short arms are the ONLY reason he's not a top-ten prospect. Really. He's one of the safest prospects in the draft; really a great competitor whose head is always in the game. The Jaguars have the tools to go to the Super Bowl and a great draft this year is exactly the push they need to go all the way.
30: Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
While we're discussing a prospect from Iowa, I'd like to say that Iowa huge debt to y'all for reading my blog. Wouldn't be possible without you. (And if you are considering leaving, now's the time. These jokes will only get worse.)
That said, Jackson will change the game for Minnesota. He is a turnover machine and always knows where the ball is. If Kirk Cousins works out, a Lombardi Trophy is in their near future.
31: New England Patriots
The Pick: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Hear that, New England? You're picking 31st. Not 32nd, 31st! (That is satisfying.) Anyhow, after losing Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo to promising futures away from the Evil Empire, they must find a successor to Tom Brady. Jackson is another of those boom-or-bust prospects; he may not fit the NFL system well, but if he adapts he'll really pay off. I'm really excited to watch him in an NFL system, and if the Patriots take him I'll just be that much more enthusiastic when Brady hangs up his cleats.
32: Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
It's rare for running backs to go in the first round, and even rarer for a Super Bowl team to be in need of one. Nevertheless, I can't think of a player who would be more valuable to Philly. Having a playmaker at the RB position would put less weight on Carson Wentz's arm, and make him even better when he does have to throw. His versatility and speed will allow the Eagles' brilliant offensive minds to have a little more fun with their play calls. He's a player the defense can't ignore.
Peace out. In Elway we trust...but I trust him better in free agency.
I love football, I admire many players and I support the Broncos. But as an organization, the NFL STINKS.
Many things about the way the NFL runs are ludicrous. My least favorite thing is not players disrespecting our veterans, nor is it patriotic types proudly announcing their boycott of football on every football-related comment thread. It is not the fact that the officials are gradually turning it into flag football in the name of safety, nor is it the fact that nobody even knows what the crud a catch is anymore. It is not the fact that taxpayers who don't watch or care for sports must pay for gigantic athletic temples, or the fact that a good amount of the owners who run sports leagues are legitimately horrible people. These things are all horrible, but one thing in particular makes me very upset with the kind folks who run the NFL.
It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
A very well-written article by Julie DiCaro of Sports Illustrated (click here) shows that, out of all the money the NFL makes on pink merchandise, only 8.01 percent goes to cancer research.
8. Effing. Percent.
That, of course, is only counting the money the NFL earns. They spend a lot during breast cancer month too. They buy pink towels, cleats, and other apparel for the players and coaches. They deck up their giant stadiums with pink crud. They spend millions on stupid TV commercials featuring survivors.
Imagine if they donated all that money to breast cancer research.
Obviously, they don't. Why? Because they want credit. They want to be seen as the league that cares about your dead grandma. Well, if the owners who ran the league cared about your dead grandma, they'd stop spending money on looking good and start spending it on actually saving people!
Don't tell me they're raising "awareness." We're all aware of breast cancer. Women know to get mammograms, men know to get their prostate checked, and children (well, their parents, anyway) are all too aware of the tragedy that is childhood leukemia. It's because these are the easy cancers that are easy to promote. It's so easy to wear pink in October, wear a fake mustache on prostate cancer day, or put sick kids in a TV commercial. Well, my grandma died from myeloma. Never heard of it? Well, neither had my family, until Oni got it! Everybody pretends to care about breast cancer, but when it comes to a cancer that isn't quite so fun, everybody shuts up. And it's not just cancer. One of my oldest family friends has cystic fibrosis. Don't know what that is? I'm not surprised. 1 in every 2,500 children has it (whereas breast cancer only affects 21 in 100,000 women). Yet nobody seems to care. Nobody seems to care that my friend isn't expected to make it to fifty. They can't show survivors on TV, because there are no survivors. They haven't found the cure. It's a disease without a color or a poster child. Yet, it's absolutely horrible and frighteningly common.
So here's what I'm suggesting this October. Don't buy pink gear from the NFL. Instead, donate $37 to medical research-the price of a breast cancer hat from the NFL online store. If you choose to donate to breast cancer research, absolutely go for it. Breast cancer, prostate cancer and childhood leukemia are all the more tragic, because people KNOW about them and still do not do anything that makes a real difference. I, personally, will donate to the International Myeloma Foundation and Cure4CF in memory of Carol Henson. I invite you to join me.
It's commonly postulated that Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, is the greatest quarterback of all time. As my more faithful readers know, I'm skeptical. I'd like to show some information that will hopefully convince some people that Brady is really not that great.
Let's be clear: this article is not a rant about the Patriots. Belichick is the greatest football mind of his generation, and perhaps second only to Vince Lombardi all-time. Which is a huge factor in the Pats' success. Brady, in my opinion, has done relatively little for his team. He took a playoff team to the Super Bowl, and that's about all that can be said. Belichick, I believe, deserves all the credit for New England's dynasty. As evidence, I offer the tremendous success of Drew Bledsoe before he was injured, and of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett during the suspension last year. Is Brady an improvement over Bledsoe? Probably. Is he better than Brissett? Undeniably. But Garoppolo, as well as all the truly great quarterbacks, has changed his franchise much more dramatically than did Brady.
I'm not some crazy conspiracy theorist, but it's hard to argue against the fact that Brady has been involved in more cheating scandals than any other quarterback in the league. His involvement with Spygate is well-chronicled, and he has actually been suspended for his involvement in Deflategate. Did this affect any of his success? If pressed, I'd say it probably didn't. Still, it is enough to taint his legacty.
How do teams beat the Patriots? They hit Brady, and he loses his cool. You know what they usually call that? A weak link. Brady's immaturity and short temper have hurt his team in many key situations. He's well-known for his seven straight AFC title game appearances. Only two teams have beaten him during that streak; the Ravens and the Broncos (who did it twice). What was their strategy? Hit Brady! Make him mad! Von Miller said so himself before the 2015 AFC Championship. I'd argue that if Peyton Manning or Drew Brees had quarterbacked the Patriots, they would have won every one of those conference championships.
So, who IS the G.O.A.T.?
There is not a doubt in my mind. The clear and objective answer is Otto Graham.
You think Brady's seven straight conference championship appearances is impressive. Graham WON seven straight LEAGUE championships-the old-timey equivalent of Super Bowls. And while his team was solid, most of the best players were defensive. The Cleveland offense was all on his shoulders. It's about time we recognize him as the player he is. He is the Wayne Gretzky, the Michael Jordan, the Babe Ruth, the Tiger Woods, you name it, of football.
If you ask me about the greatest passer of the Super Bowl era? That's a question for another day.
Welcome back to HardnoseRocks! This year's coaching matchmaker is very different from last year's, because I didn't come up with a corny name for it this time. I kept it short and to the point. Basically, I'm deciding which coaching candidate is the best fit for each HC vacancy. Enjoy!
Chicago Bears: Vic Fangio
This was a no-brainer. While it wouldn't be a shock to see them find a quarterback guru to work with Mitch Trubisky, I think it's wiser to stay within the organization. Fangio is an up-and-coming defensive mind who will not find it too hard to turn the Bears into winners.
Arizona Cardinals: Jim Caldwell
The Cards are entering a period of change, as both their veteran quarterback and longtime coach have retired. I believe the best fit for a team in turmoil is a calm, consistent coach, and Caldwell is exactly that. I will be interested to see whether or not Larry Fitzgerald hangs in there another year.
Detroit Lions: Jim Bob Cooter
When your formula is working, it's best to promote someone in the organization. Detroit's offensive coordinator is one of the league's most promising young coaches and has been a head coaching candidate for a few years now. He'd give the Lions the energy they need without causing too much shakeup.
Indianapolis Colts: John Defilippo
It's no secret that the biggest perk of the Colts' coaching job is the opportunity to work with Andrew Luck. The ideal candidate would be John DeFilippo, Eagles QB coach. He's one of the best quarterback whisperers in the league and should help Luck become an elite quarterback.
New York Giants: Tom Cable
You have to wonder why this guy doesn't have a job already. He's been a top candidate for years and has faced a lot of adversity as the offensive line coach for the Seahawks. He's part of the legendary Pete Carroll coaching tree. I won't list all the coaches who have worked under Carroll, but it's a good number, including many coaches whom I think are fantastic. He'd be a great fit for the blocking-troubled Giants.
1: Matt Patricia
This guy will be incredible once someone gets the bright idea of picking him up. Belichick has taught him all he knows, but he's not a Belichick wannabe like Josh McDaniels.
2: Dan Campbell
Everyone forgets what a great job he did with the Dolphins after Joe Philbin was fired. He should've been given the opportunity to run the team, and Gase should have been promoted to HC in Denver.
3: Eric Studesville
I can't believe we let this man go. He's a unique talent and should have been the Broncos coach after Kubiak retired. As the Broncos running backs coach, he took guys that haven't been good anywhere else and made them look like superstars! But it's hard to imagine he'll get his chance this year.
Well, there you have it. Peace out.
Welcome back to HardnoseRocks. You probably thought I died and/or got hired by the Browns. Well, the good news is, I'm alive and well, both in the physical sense and the football-related! Today, I'll be counting down the dumbest things coaches say. They get dumb, so count yourself prepared.
5: "I'm giving 110 percent."
No, you're not. There is only 100 percent of you. To give "110 percent" would be to give something you don't actually have. While this might work for a hopelessly-in-debt dude who still buys extravagant presents for his girlfriend, it doesn't work in football. Say "going the extra mile" next time. Please.
4: "We're in rebuild mode."
No, you're not. You're in sit-in-a-corner-and-cry mode, and you're going to stay there for quite some time. When a team decides it has to "rebuild," what it means is that it will undergo a long period of stockpiling high draft picks and sitting talented rookies in hopes that, over time, they'll magically transform into winners! That takes longer than necessary, and usually longer than that coach's tenure. Think the Browns. Think the Jets. Think terrible teams that haven't been not terrible since who knows when, just because somewhere along the way, they decided to "rebuild."
You know what does work? Building the best team you can every year, possibly at the expense of next year. Signing aging players who will be super helpful for a couple years. Starting your rookies. Think John Elway and Bill Belichick.
3: "It'll take time."
2: "It was a good loss."
There are no good losses. Imagine, if you will, a football league where the record is expressed as Wins-Good Losses-Bad Losses. Some of you are cheering this idea on, while others are groaning in disgust. Either way, that's not what we have. If the last Wild Card spot in the NFC is between a team with 5 ugly losses and one with six "good" losses, we all know who gets the spot. If you lose, there are definitely things that must be fixed before next week, and after that, maybe there'll be time to focus on the good stuff that happened. Take losses like a man; don't revel in the glory of pseudo-victory.
1: "The best offense is a good defense."
The best offense is a good offense. The offense scores the points. Defenses rarely score points. And as my great-grandfather once said, "You can tie without scoring any points, but you can't win." A functioning offense is vital to a team's success. One might flip the proverb and say that the best defense is a good offense. After all, the bigger the lead, the easier it is to defend. If you have the lead, and the team scores, it's much more effective to score on your next drive than to mosey around in your own territory and then get a defensive stop. Look at the Broncos-Pats game. When we had the ball, we had no trouble scoring. But New England extended their lead, and ate up clock in the process, proving once again that the best defense is a good offense.
Rant over. See you on the flip side.
Vance Joseph is most definitely NOT having the time of his life.
I'm not afraid to admit it, either: my team stinks. We are flirting with mathematical elimination right now. Geddy knows we've been emotionally eliminated, barring some insane sweep, which won't happen. After three easy wins and a close loss in the first quarter of the season, people were saying we were a top-ten, even top-five team. Now, we're in a different top ten...the first 10 picks of the next NFL draft.
I'm going to go through everything that DIDN'T happen, just for the record.
1: It wasn't the quarterback.
Siemian has been a completely viable option this year. His accuracy and mobility has been on point. However, bad decisions other coaches and teammates (we'll get to that in a second) made vital mistakes that ruined his great season, and possibly, his career. Osweiler was dismal against the Eagles, but let's face it, so are most QBs, and he put on a solid performance against the Pats. He didn't make his famously dumb decisions, but kept his cool and consistently moved the chains. Except in the red zone.
2: It wasn't the injuries.
Granted, we lost a few key players for a couple games. But at that point, it was just pouring gasoline on a dumpster fire. We had all our key players present and accounted for during the games that threw our season against San Diego and New York.
3: It wasn't Brock Olivo.
At the end of the day, you can't just run out onto the field and tackle the dude. Having seen Olivo, he'd probably get seriously hurt, not to mention costly penalties, fines, and firings. The special teams gaffes we've displayed have been all on the players.
4: IT WASN'T KARMA
This is an inside joke between me and my very favorite readers. Including one whose football philosophy is influenced by Eastern philosophy.
In the end, we can tack it down to Vance Joseph's inability to make decisions and our shabby offensive line.
Think about it. Why did we have a "quarterback competition" when Siemian had already effectively won the job last preseason, and why did it stretch until long after the Trev had clearly established himself? It hurt Siemian for sure. He was less prepared because he'd lost so many first-team reps to Paxton Lynch. How many players muff five punts in one season and still see the field-heck, and even carry the ball? Most coaches would have sat McKenzie weeks ago. Some would've cut him. But it took five muffs to get Joseph to pull him. And who, really, is our guard? I'd rather see Barbre and Garcia play rock-paper-scissors for the starting job than see a coach fiddle with the question for weeks.
Joseph clearly cannot make tough decisions. But we'll see soon enough if Elway can. Would he fire a terrible coach after only one year? Only time will tell.
Peace out. In Elway We (at least, I) Trust.
This is so I can see how many people are visiting my blog and send them updates!