Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the NFL could write a book on having one’s cake and eating it too. The one thing that jumped out at me from the news that CBS has bought eight early-season Thursday night games is that the league gets to simulcast the games on NFL Network. Certainly the NFLNet ratings will be severely diminished by the games also being on CBS, but just as certainly the ratings will be higher than anything else NFLNet would put on at the time. And CBS wasn’t the only carrier the NFL asked to do this—the league mandated it as part of the package for all bidders.
2. I think Jimmy Graham is a tight end, regardless of where he lines up on the field. It’s ludicrous there’s even a discussion about whether Graham should be tendered as a tight end (at a franchise number of $6.8 million) or wide receiver (at $11.6 million). Watch the game today. You see how often teams split out tight ends and even fullbacks. Remember the San Francisco-Baltimore Super Bowl, when the 49ers split out tight ends and even fullback Bruce Miller consistently during the game? Splitting a player away from the formation doesn’t mean he’s not what he is defined as. It’s going to be a sad day for football if head coaches like Sean Payton have to consider when they formulate a game plan, “Well, I can’t flex Graham out too often, or he’ll be considered a wide receiver.” Just a stupid, stupid can of worms that has been opened up.
3. I think there is one TV-related wish I have for 2014, as long as we’re on the subject: another one of those 11:35 p.m. Sunday night starts, a la San Diego at Oakland from last fall. The West Coast fans deserve one game that happens in their prime time—and I would love one I could watch all the way through after the NBC Sunday-nighter. When this game aired, I couldn’t believe all the folks interacting with me on Twitter, crazy about having a late-night gift from the football gods. Alas, because most of the Eastern time zone (with 48 percent of the TV households in America) is in bed, the NFL has no interest in another 11:35 p.m. start, I’m told.
4. I think my readers would say this to Howard Katz, the NFL’s schedule and TV czar: We want Denver at Seattle to open the season on Sept. 4. That’s not me, necessarily, though I’d certainly like to see it. That was the decisive sentiment from readers after I posed the possibilities for the NFL’s first game next season. Not sure Peyton Manning or John Fox would like it, but they’ve got to play it sometime. Why not when the weather’s likely to be best?
5. I think Seattle’s 2012 draft should be a clarion call to the smart people in our business to knock off draft grades. They are stupid. They are mindless and misleading candy for fans and those who think no one remembers what’s written or said 10 minutes after it’s published or aired. I looked back on the comments from the days after the 2012 draft—in order, Seattle’s top four picks were Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson and Robert Turbin—and the only good draft grade I found while searching over the weekend was a “B” from my buddy and veteran NFL scribe John Czarnecki of FOXSports.com … even though now that class, after just two years, produced the offensive and defensive signal-callers (Wilson and Wagner) of the Super Bowl XLVIII champions and was clearly the best draft of any team in the league that year. As Czarnecki wrote: “Coach Pete Carroll is hoping Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson (75th overall pick) develops into Drew Brees. The knock on Wilson is his height; he’s only 5-foot-10, a tad shorter than the 6-foot Brees. But he can throw a deep ball, is very athletic and off-the-charts in the locker room. He can be a great leader.” Sampling other grades:
• NFL.com: C-plus. Seattle “took a lot of chances.”
• CBSSports.com: C-plus. Seattle “took Russell Wilson in the third when they just signed Matt Flynn. Why?”
• SI.com: C. “Russell Wilson has a bright future, even if Seattle really didn’t need him.”
• Mel Kiper: C-minus.
• Bleacher Report: D. The Seahawks “messed up … with Russell Wilson after having signed Matt Flynn this offseason.” (Another Bleacher Report draft review gave the Seahawks the only “F” grade in the class.)
• USA Today: Didn’t grade drafts with a letter, but basically did the same thing, ranking the drafts from 1 to 32. Seattle was 26th.
6. I think I am fascinated to see what kind of linebackers coach Mike Vrabel will be in Houston—and, three or four years from now, whether he starts climbing the ladder to coordinator or future head coach, or both. Strikes me as a potential rising star in the business.
7. I think I have one comment about Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright saying the Seahawks would beat Denver 90 out of 100 times: He’s right.
8. I think Jon Runyan, the former Eagles tackle and current U.S. congressman from New Jersey, has tasted politics and had enough of it. He will exit after two terms. His second term expires next January, and he’ll head back to private life and his wife and three kids, one of whom will follow in his footsteps as a football player at Michigan. Jon Runyan Jr., a high-school junior offensive lineman, was an early commit for Michigan, and will begin play there in the fall of 2015, eight months after his dad exits the halls of Congress. “Politics shouldn’t be a career, and I never intended to make it one,” said Runyan the dad.
9. I think Carolina’s Greg Hardy—just 25, and coming off a 15-sack season—could be the jewel of free agency if the Panthers let him get away. Young pass rushers are what every teams wants, and there are teams with lots of cap money (Oakland comes to mind) who could make Hardy think twice about going back to Charlotte.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Headline of the Week: “Beloved Deaf Composer Seems None of the Above,” from the Friday New York Times, about a man in Japan who passed himself off as deaf (which he is not) and a composer (he paid a ghostwriter to write music in his name), and for years was beloved (which he won’t be now) as a hero musical underdog.
b. Fifty years ago on Sunday, The Beatles debuted in America on The Ed Sullivan Show (in the Manhattan theater where David Letterman’s show is now produced) with “I Want To Hold Your Hand.’’ Never knew that, after the show, they recorded another set that was played, to another ratings bonanza, on the show two weeks later.
c. I guess Ashley Wagner didn’t feel her short-program score was fair.
d. If Oklahoma State basketball player Marcus Smart was indeed told by a fan the things that are alleged after the incident Saturday that resulted in Smart shoving the fan, I back Smart all the way.
e. Thank you, A-Rod, for accepting your suspension and not subjecting the world to your bunk for the next two months.
f. What an admirable figure Joe Tacopina is.
g. And I say that in absolute jest.
h. Coffeenerdness: Ground Central, on East 52nd in Manhattan, was the site of my first business-meeting-at-a-New York-coffee-shop the other day. You passed the test very nicely, Ground Central, with that swell and comfy back room.
i. Beernerdness: Tried Carib, the lager from Trinidad and Tobago, the other day. Not bad. A tad stouter Heineken.
j. Steve Gleason’s a huge Liverpool fan. Who knew? Tweeted Gleason after Liverpool’s surprisingly decisive 5-1 win over Arsenal: “#Carnage. #LFC.”
k. Charles Barkley is such a one-of-a-kind analyst. On a conference call to promote TNT’s NBA All-Star Game stuff next week, Barkley said of the Nets, a team on a 12-4 streak at the time of his words: “The Nets stink, man … They’re beating up on a bunch of ugly chicks in the Eastern Conference. Don’t act like they’ve got a good team. Stop it.”
The Adieu Haiku
Dylan sang it well:
Don’t criticize what you can’t
understand … today.