The quarterback market will be rich next May.
(Still can’t believe I’m typing a reference to the NFL draft in “next May.” It’s too late, people.)
The other day at The MMQB, our college football guru, Andy Staples, did his weekly list of the top 50 draft prospects. He had nine quarterbacks rated among his top 32 picks. When I asked Staples to do this list weekly during the college season, I told him to put underclass players in if he thinks they’ll be declaring for the draft. Thus Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a junior, in. Thus UCLA redshirt sophomore Brett Hundley, out. Staples’ gut tells him Bridgewater comes out and Hundley stays in school.
So I asked a veteran road scout who has been out this fall looking at quarterbacks—his team will be in the market for one in the 2014 draft—what he thought of us having nine quarterbacks, from Bridgewater at No. 1 to Fresno State senior Derek Carr (brother of David) No. 31.
“It would not surprise me when we make our board if we have nine quarterbacks with first-round grades,’’ he said. “Not at all. Obviously, that depends on which underclassmen declare, and you hear things out there. But I could see it.’’
That doesn’t mean nine quarterbacks will go in the first round, obviously. That won’t happen. But the big numbers at quarterback, assuming players like Manziel and Bridgewater and Oregon redshirt soph Marcus Mariota do come out, could be very good for teams like Minnesota and Oakland. The Vikings and Raiders could exit 2013 doubting Christian Ponder/Josh Freeman (and Freeman could want to play elsewhere) and Terrelle Pryor as their long-term quarterback answers—but they may not be ready to pull the plug on them for good. The market might be so good that teams thought not to be in the market (Philadelphia, Dallas, Denver, Cincinnati and Houston, for example) could see a highly ranked guy on their board sitting there in the third round and think he’s just too good a player to pass up.
This road scout said the most intriguing prospect he’d seen this season was 6-5, 235-pound LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who he said has improved a lot under new offensive Cam Cameron.
And so you want to be a Hall of Fame voter …
Well, you can’t. But I’ve got the next-best idea: Have some input into the system of electing Hall of Fame players.
The 46 voters for the Hall have until Nov. 1 to cull the list of 126 modern-era candidates to 25. When the 126-person list is cut to 25, Hall voters will then submit their votes for the final 15, and those 15 finalists will be considered for election at the 2014 selection meeting in New York on Feb. 1.
This week, The MMQB will give 10 of you a chance to make your best case for a player you believe belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Nominate and support your favorite candidate in short, 250-word essays, and we’ll run the best ones Friday on The MMQB.
The list of nominees:
Quarterbacks—Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Doug Flutie, Trent Green, Steve McNair, Phil Simms.
Running backs—Shaun Alexander, Ottis Anderson, Tiki Barber, Jerome Bettis, Larry Centers, Roger Craig, Stephen Davis, Terrell Davis, Warrick Dunn, Eddie George, Priest Holmes, Dave Meggett, Eric Metcalf, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters.
Wide receivers—Tim Brown, Gary Clark, Mark Clayton, Henry Ellard, Marvin Harrison, Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell, Andre Reed, Sterling Sharpe, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith.
Tight end—Mark Bavaro.
Offensive linemen—Willie Anderson, Tony Boselli, Lomas Brown, Jim Covert, Jay HIlgenberg, Chris Hinton, Kent Hull, Joe Jacoby, Walter Jones, Mike Kenn, Jim Lachey, Tom Nalen, Nate Newton, Don Mosebar, Will Shields, Steve Wisniewski.
Defensive linemen—Jerome Brown, Charles Haley, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Dexter Manley, Charles Mann, Steve McMichael, Fred Smerlas, Michael Strahan, Ted Washington, Bryant Young.
Linebackers—Cornelius Bennett, Derrick Brooks, Tedy Bruschi, Kevin Greene, Ken Harvey, Clay Matthews, Willie McGinest, Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills, Darryl Talley, Zach Thomas.
Defensive backs—Eric Allen, Steve Atwater, Joey Browner, LeRoy Butler, Rodney Harrison, Albert Lewis, John Lynch, Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain, Troy Vincent, Everson Walls, Aeneas Williams, Darren Woodson.
Kicker/punter—Morten Andersen, Gary Anderson, Sean Landeta, Nick Lowery.
Special teams players—Brian Mitchell, Steve Tasker.
Coaches—Bill Arnsparger, Don Coryell, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Tom Flores, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson, Chuck Knox, Buddy Parker, Richie Petitbon, Dan Reeves, Lou Saban, Marty Schottenheimer, Clark Shaughnessy, Dick Vermeil.
Contributors—Bud Adams, Bobby Beathard, Gil Brandt, Leo Carlin, Red Cashion, Jack Kent Cooke, Otho Davis, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Ron Gibbs, Jerry Jones, Eddie Kotal, Robert Kraft, Elmer Lyden, Art McNally, Art Modell, Bill Polian, Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue, Jim Tunney, Ron Wolf, George Young.
The League of Denial hits the NFL hard this week.
With the book League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth (Crown Archetype) coming out Tuesday, and the PBS documentary of the same name set to air Tuesday from 9-11 p.m., the subject will be hot. Authors, brothers and ESPN reporters Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada claim the league “went to war against science,” knocking the studies of brain researchers who said the league was belittling their work. I spoke to the authors Thursday.
The MMQB: What was your reaction when ESPN suddenly parted with PBS on the documentary?
Steve: We were as surprised as everybody. We got a call from our editors telling us that this decision had been made to pull out of the partnership. A lot of it didn’t really make much sense to us. The partnership was going so well. A lot of the reporting had already been published in ESPN in some form. That said, I mean, Mark and I were both obviously disappointed, particularly with the implication that the NFL got involved and put pressure on the network. But I think our position has been that the journalism piece did not change. The book is coming out Tuesday, and it’s totally intact. The film is the same film that would have been made if ESPN didn’t pull out.
Mark: The series of events that happened would be disappointing to any journalist. It was really frustrating for us because we had a phenomenal relationship with Frontline for those 15 months and produced a lot of stuff we were really proud of.
The MMQB: Do you believe the NFL told your bosses to lay off?
Steve: Honestly, I don’t think we know. I don’t think either of us would be surprised at all, because they never cooperated; they wouldn’t make anyone available for either the book or the film.
The MMQB: It sounds like ESPN’s name is going to be off the film, but everything remained the same with your support, contribution and reporting to the show?
The MMQB: So what do you believe the league knew and when did they know it?
Steve: Starting in about 1999, 2000, nearly two dozen scientists went to attack this issue of football and the connection to long-term brain damage. Those neuroscientists went to the NFL in various forms, some of them directly, some of them through publishing their research, to issue a series of warnings. The league’s response was to try to discredit the neuroscientists and put forward its own research, which pretty much promoted a completely contradictory narrative: that concussions were minor injuries, and NFL players were impervious to brain damage. And that sort of systematic effort continued up until basically 2010 when, under pressure from Congress, the NFL completely reversed itself and basically embraced the same people who had been pushing for these other ideas in recent years.
The MMQB: How culpable do you believe former commissioner Paul Tagliabue is?
Mark: I don’t know from a legal standpoint, but … he did not confront the issue until 1999, at least in a serious way … And what you’ve got is the commissioner of the time denying that this is a serious issue for the league. He’s trotting out a statistic about maybe one concussion every three games, or something like that. And then saying this is not about football and the dangers of brain trauma. And then he creates a committee, and the head of the committee is a rheumatologist who later becomes his physician, a guy who has zero background in research on concussions or brain damage or a specialist in that area. So we certainly don’t know what was inside Tagliabue’s head when he made these decisions, but I think our goal is to lay out what we think his mindset was at the time, based off his public statements and based off his creation of that committee. One thing we laid out in the book was the shock from researchers in the field based off this committee being put together.
The MMQB: What do you think about Roger Goodell’s role?
Steve: I think that he’s certainly been more proactive than Tagliabue on this issue. At the same time, there was a meeting in Chicago in 2007. It was billed as a concussion summit. Goodell was there, and he invited all of these medical personnel to sit in an amphitheater and discuss the issue. They also invited independent scientists who had a completely alternative view than the NFL had at the time. That meeting turned into a complete fiasco. They showed slides of brain tissue of deceased players who had been diagnosed with CTE, and the head of the committee essentially mocked the findings. … It’s a mixed bag. Goodell is certainly more proactive. People who have met with him, they believe his heart is in the right place. He’s really trying to implement change. At the same time, it’s taking him some time to get there.
The MMQB: How do you think the league handles concussions on the field today?
Mark: The league should be this way [with independent neurologists involved]. The league has so much money and resources, it should be providing the best care to its players and seems to be at that place in the reality of how to treat players on game day and deal with that issue. I think the real lingering question for the league is not, ‘Are they doing everything they possibly can on game day to deal with this?’ But it’s the question being put forth by folks at Boston University: ‘The repetitious nature of the sport, especially from the line of scrimmage, is that inherently exposing to the kinds of damage we’re seeing down the road?’ When you look at the CTE cases, a huge preponderance of those cases are offensive and defensive linemen. And the argument is because those guys are being exposed on every single play to the repetitious nature of hitting. Is there really a way to legislate that out of the game? I’m not sure there is. I love the sport, and one of the things people love about it is that it’s an inherently violent sport. Whether you can really change that, at the core, or whether you really want to, beside legislating out the big, huge hits everyone talks about, I’m not sure that’s really possible. … We love the sport. This was never anything for us about wanting to kill football or those kinds of things that people would try to suggest. We wanted to write a book that would inform people what was going on.
The MMQB: Should football exist?
Steve: Since I have season-tickets for the 49ers, I hope so. I don’t mean to be flippant about it. But we love the sport. I played the sport in high school, and that was a major life experience for me. I don’t think in any way would we want to minimize that. It is a game, but it is a big part of our culture. At the same time, these are real issues.
Mark: To me, the answer is a simple [yes]. We love the sport. I think it’s more about people now being as informed as they can possibly be and making decisions because of that. I think the issue previously for NFL players was the argument that yes, they knew their knees and their hips and their shoulders or whatever could be shredded, but they weren’t necessarily in tune with the idea that they could get brain damage. Well, now it’s out there, and there’s a clear knowledge that it’s a possibility, and guys are going to make decisions. It’s more about being as informed as you can be and people can make those decisions, whether it’s at the NFL level or Pop Warner level or whatever. But I would never be as presumptuous as to say it shouldn’t exist. It’s a big part of our culture.
Steve: Also, there are these comparisons to Big Tobacco. But football isn’t smoking. It is firmly established in the last 75 years that smoking can kill. Football is not that. It’s a great sport, a uniquely American sport. Ten million people watched the finale of Breaking Bad. A hundred million people watch the Super Bowl every year. This is something that we, as a country, cherish.