Go Ahead, Open Pandora’s Box
NFL Network host Rich Eisen on Manziel Mania, The Quarterback Whisperer and why he’d never cut it in Santa’s workshop
1. I think the preseason should be two games long, period. I know everyone is now focused on the regular season (as they should be!) but this past preseason was positively dreadful. Perhaps it’s because Twitter now lets us know what’s happening in 7-on-7 training-camp drills and we have more information in real-time than ever before, but it felt as if someone was getting carted off every single day in August. Why not have the preseason start with two teams holding a joint scrimmage in Canton the Sunday after Induction Day, with returning Hall of Famers available to meet fans in the process? Then each team holds two weeks of joint scrimmages before playing two weeks of actual preseason games. I know Tom Brady got dinged—and put hearts in New England throats—due to a hit suffered in a joint practice with Tampa Bay, but it’s still safer than a full-speed contest. Two weeks of preseason would be enough for me—and, from what I hear, enough for talent evaluators, too. If you had a GM fill out on Aug. 1 what he thought his 53-man roster would be come Sept. 1, and then compare the actual final 53-man roster to the initial guesstimate, I bet the lists would be virtually identical. Let’s do this, people.
2. I think Von Miller’s suspension is not a Super Bowl-season-killer as many believe it is. Here are the six games Miller is watching like the rest of us: versus Ravens, at Giants, versus Raiders, versus Eagles, at Cowboys, versus Jaguars. Denver could easily wind up 4-2 after that stretch. Last year, the Broncos captured the No. 1 seed in the AFC after starting 2-3. They’ll be fine.
3. I think, come to think of it, I’m taking the Broncos to win the AFC. And let’s say I think the 49ers are winning the NFC again. And let’s say I know you think taking two favorites is an easy way out. But sometimes, especially when predicting a Super Bowl matchup five months in advance, it’s best to not overthink things you think.
4. I think helmet-to-helmet hits should be reviewable. These hits happen so quickly that the resulting 15-yard flags are quintessential drive-killers (or drive-revivers) and refs frequently err on the side of player safety. But there needs to be a competition safety net here, too. If a defender’s helmet hits a shoulder and it wrongly gives the offensive team 15 yards and a first down—and on third down, to boot—shouldn’t that be considered a correctable error under the parameters of replay? Now, if that opens a Pandora’s Box to allow coaches to throw challenge flags just to see if an unflagged helmet-to-helmet actually occurred, then so be it. Let the game last three minutes longer to get it right.
5. I think toy makers should create products that don’t feature this dreaded 1-to-1 ratio: minutes it takes to assemble to seconds a child will play with the toy. Recently, it took me 45 minutes to put together a birthday gift for my son, who then played with it for 45 seconds. And he has enough of an attention span to sit through any 90-minute movie he likes. By the way, Planes was not one of those movies.
6. I think the biggest X-factor entering the 2013 season is how Reggie Bush will fare in Detroit. Ever since the Lions lost the dynamic Jahvid Best after a 5-0 start in 2011, the team has gone a horrid 9-18. If Bush can thrive in the matchup advantages he’s sure to see out of the backfield—or perhaps the slot—the Lions have quite a shot to surprise in the NFC North, if they can also put the kibosh on all the stupid unsportsmanlike penalties. That’s a lot of ifs.
7. I think, while we’re overloading on ifs, I’m taking the Cleveland Browns as the surprise team of 2013. Solid young defense, new regime and new coaching staff, including The Quarterback Whisperer—Norv Turner. Any running back who’s ever toted the rock in his offense also swears by Norv, so if Trent Richardson can stay healthy and the only second-year quarterback in the league eligible for an AARP card (Brandon Weeden) can catch the same fire as, say, Alex Smith did when he was under Turner’s wing, then this team has a shot to win more games than people expect.
8. I think Breaking Bad may just be the best TV drama ever. I understand the magnitude of that statement, but considering how some of the best TV dramas—The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood and Homeland—are pay cable TV programs, Breaking Bad has had to operate within tighter content constraints than the aforementioned shows. And no show crackles and shows how the human condition can crack quite like Breaking Bad. We all know of Bryan Cranston’s genius—three Best Actor Emmys will do that—but the actor who plays his protege, Aaron Paul, deserves a gold statuette, too.
9. I think all the fans who think the media spends too much airtime and ink talking about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel best brace themselves. Every move (or gesture) the kid currently makes is not only seen through the prism of whether he can lead his team to a title or himself to the Heisman podium again, but also what it means to his impending draft status. If he officially turns pro (insert joke here) in January as expected, that’s all my network and others covering the talent evaluation process will talk about from the Combine in Indianapolis to Radio City Music Hall. And keep in mind: the draft is being held later next year, in May.
10. I think being part of NFL Network has been one of the greatest thrills of my professional life. We turn 10 years old this November, and every person walking the halls is rightfully beaming with pride. When I joined NFL Network, we were the only entity on television airing a daily live program about the NFL. Now we are the first of many with as strong a digital and Internet presence as anywhere else, raising all boats at a time NFL fans thankfully seem to have an increasingly insatiable appetite for the sport we love. So, thanks to Peter King for allowing me to use this space to thank my colleagues—past and present—for the honor to work with them building and nurturing something great. And also thank the fans for their support. As for the rest of my colleagues around the dial and Internet: Have a great season. This is why we lift all them scripts!