Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the difference between this year and many recent ones is that we know which players to place at the top of the draft, but we have no idea whom to match where. I’ll take this shot at the top 10, though the Rams certainly will have a chance to trade the second pick, and will be very interested in doing so:
- Houston: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida.
- St. Louis: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn.
- Jacksonville: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina.
- Cleveland: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville.
- Oakland: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M.
- Atlanta: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M.
- Tampa Bay: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo.
- Minnesota: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA.
- Buffalo: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson.
- Detroit: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan.
2. I think if you add these six players—cornerback Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State, tight end Eric Ebron of North Carolina, linebacker C.J. Mosley of Alabama, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama, and wideouts Mike Evans of Texas A&M and Marqise Lee of USC—you’d have something very close to the first half of the first round May 8.
3. I think this was the line of the weekend, from one GM to me when I asked about the value he got from his six days in Indianapolis: “I look at it as the combine and the ‘con-bine.’ So many agents are telling you what your players are worth, and what their players are worth.”
4. I think this is not the way to get drafted by your dream team, the Seattle Seahawks: U-T San Diego reported Sunday that San Diego State running back Adam Muema bailed from the combine without working out, telling the website that if he didn’t work out, he would get his wish and play for the Seahawks. Muema had been projected as a late-round pick in May. He said God told him to “sit down, be quiet, and enjoy the peace.” I’m sure combine officials and the NFL are pleased to have had Muema take a running back slot at the prestigious tryout camp and to have paid his way from San Diego to Indianapolis for the combine, and then have Muema inform them God didn’t want him to work out. Just a hunch: This won’t raise his grade on the Seattle draft board. Or anyone’s. If he’ll be on one at all.
5. I think, regarding Manziel and Bridgewater not throwing at the combine, I can’t buy the mantra: If they were competitors, they’d be out there competing. Silly. First: If I were Manziel, and I had a huge amount riding on my offseason workout for NFL teams, I’d want to throw in my absolute comfort zone—with receivers I trust and know well. He’ll do that March 27. Second: Never after a draft have I heard a coach or GM or personnel man say anything like this: You know, we liked Bridgewater, but when he didn’t throw at the combine, we lost interest in him. That was a decisive black mark. Just never happens like that.
6. I think the strangest thing I heard on the NFL Network’s combine telecast over the weekend came from Mike Mayock, who, on the one hand, called Blake Bortles a certain franchise quarterback, then said he under-threw some deep throws horribly. Not sure how you can be one with the other.
7. I think, though, it’s educational to listen to Mayock riff on almost everything, and to have him and Rich Eisen play off each other. Mayock doesn’t buy the common wisdom, and wasn’t in the mood to rip LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry after he struggled in a 4.65-second 40. “Just because he ran slow, I’m not getting off that kid. I like him,” Mayock said.
8. I think this is all I could think to say when I ran into Rob Chudzinski quite late Saturday night here at the combine: “Whoa! Rob! How the heck are you doing?” Or words close to that. Chudzinski, now a Colts offensive assistant, has been invisible to the public since suffering the most ignominious job fate in recent NFL history—he learned he likely was getting whacked after 50 weeks as Browns head coach (his dream job) while on a bus ride back from Pittsburgh after the final game of his rookie season. It was just a sight I didn’t expect to see, sitting there having a drink with good friend Terry Robiskie at the JW Marriott. We spoke for a few minutes, and all I can say is this: In words and facial expression, he is not over the Cleveland nightmare.
9. I think the league’s a more fun place with Mike Tice in it. Hired recently as the Falcons offensive line coach, Tice is a big man with a bigger personality. Great to see him back—in this case, entertaining a crowd Saturday night at the JW Marriott, talking horses and Long Island and Boomer Esiason and his new coaching life—after being fired by the Bears when Lovie Smith’s staff was cleared out following the 2012 season.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. This, according to the Wall Street Journal, was the delicious (pun intended) exchange between some Russian reporters and the head coach of the Russian hockey team, Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, after the team was eliminated from medal contention with a 3-1 loss to Finland last week:
Question: “What future, if any, do you see for your own work and for your coaching staff? Because, you know, your predecessor was eaten alive after the Olympics.”
Coach: “Well then, eat me alive right now.”
Question: “No, I mean—“
Coach: “Eat me, and I won’t be here anymore.”
Question: “But we have the world championship coming up!”
Coach: “Well then, there will be a different coach because I won’t exist any more, since you will have eaten me.”
Question: “But you’re staying, aren’t you?”
Coach: “Yes, I will remain living.”
b. That has to be the quote of the decade: “Well then, there will be a different coach because I won’t exist anymore, since you will have eaten me.”
c. Saw 12 Years a Slave. Then I cried for 12 years.
d. Tremendous movie. Riveting, painful, memorable. I haven’t seen all the Best Picture nominees, but it will take an epic film to beat that one in the Oscars for me.
e. Really liked the Kerrigan/Harding show Sunday night on NBC. I’d forgotten how nutty the whole thing was. Nancy Kerrigan came off classy and human, I thought, and Tonya Harding a train wreck.
f. Coffeenerdness: Patachou, the great breakfast spot and NFL personnel hangout in downtown Indy, could use one darker roast coffee, but the Simon Blend, with a medium bite, is so much better than coffee you get in restaurants almost anywhere.
g. Beernerdness: Two selections from a weekend of fine beer-drinking in the fine city of Indianapolis. One: Osiris Pale Ale, by Sun King Brewing of Indianapolis. A delicious and perfectly hoppy pale ale served in a tall can. That beer needs to get to New York, and fast. Two: Rail Splitter IPA, of Triton Brewing, also of Indy. (Great craft beer town by the way. I’d be hospitalized if I tried them all.) Not many IPAs give off a citrus scent, but this one does. I really liked it.
h. One last Indy reference: I strongly recommend a pizza shop there, Napolese Pizzeria, downtown. The crust is a bit thicker than my wafer-thin crust preference, but the taste of the crust, and the fresh ingredients, make it a great meal. Looking forward to going there in the summer, because locally grown stuff will make up all the salads and pizza ingredients then. Very good wine list too.
i. You tell ’em, Bob Costas. Of the home country’s government as the Sochi Olympics wound down, Costas said: “This is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria—and that’s just a partial list.”
j. Pleasure to see you and spend time with you at the combine, Matthew Berry.
k. Speaking of Mr. Berry, I am 15 days out from my Rotisserie League draft, and I am totally clueless, and I wonder if my BFF knows he’s about to get hammered with such vital questions as: “Kyle Seager or Pedro Alvarez in the 11th round, Matthew? Or wait two or three more rounds and take the Xander Bogaerts flyer and hope he gets 550 at-bats?”
l. We keep three players in our league. Mine: Dustin Pedroia, Jay Bruce, Ian Desmond. Had Ellsbury, but didn’t protect him as one of my three keepers. Because, well, you know.
The Adieu Haiku
Indy in winter.
Autograph guys chase Manziel.
But they don’t catch him.