Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think I owe so many of you thanks for your kind wishes—and I owe Greg Bedard much more than that for filling in for me last week and writing this column—after the death of my brother. I appreciate the texts, emails and tweets. And now we’ll continue on.
2. I think this is the way Jacksonville could have forged a contract that Cleveland would not have matched with center Alex Mack: agree to pay him $15 million in the first year, fully guaranteed, with the option to quit the deal after one year. Many of you on Twitter have made the point over the past couple of days that Cleveland matching Jacksonville’s offer sheet means there couldn’t have been an offer to entice Cleveland to let Mack go. Well, there could have been, but the Jaguars didn’t go far enough in their offer to make Browns GM Ray Farmer blink.
3. I think all three sides in this deal won.
a. Mack won because he gets $18 million fully guaranteed over two years and the chance to be an unrestricted free agent at age 30 in 2016 (he’s never missed a start in five years), and he will have his third season at $8 million guaranteed if he gets a disabling injury in either 2014 or ’15.
b. Cleveland won because the Browns keep a rock-solid player and leader in the middle of their offensive line for what will be about 7.8 percent of their 2014 cap and 6 percent of their cap in 2015. Now the Browns don’t have to explain to their fan base why they let a top player at his position, a home-grown one, walk.
c. Jacksonville won because the Jags showed their fan base they’re serious about bidding, reasonably, for good players. My only quibble with the Jags is they took a swing at Mack, but they had to know it was virtually certain the Browns would match. I have an ulterior motive in this from Jacksonville’s standpoint: In two years, if the Jags find and develop a quarterback and are a contender, Mack could look at them and remember the favor they did him by offering him $18 million fully guaranteed for two seasons, and he could think about opting out of the last three years in Cleveland to sign in Jacksonville. We shall see.
4. I think the only blip on the Cleveland radar from this issue is Mack had to put himself out on the market and force the Browns to pay him market value for a top-five center, and if you’re Mack, a smart guy, you have to be thinking: The team I’ve played every game for at a high level had a ton of cap room available and didn’t choose to pay me until its hand was forced. I’ll remember that in two years.
5. I think the same thing about the Colin Kaepernick incident in Miami—whatever exactly it was, and we don’t know exactly what it was yet—as I thought about the Ray Rice incident in New Jersey in February: I’ll make a judgment when all the information is in, when we know whatever the full investigations unveil. In the Rice case, for instance, we know what the video showed when he exited an elevator with his unconscious fiancée, but we don’t know what other video evidence shows, and we do know there is some other pertinent video related to the incident. The point is, there’s no need for any final judgment on April 14, on either story.
6. I think the news nugget of the week—reported by NFL Media’s Albert Breer—was Johnny Manziel scoring a 32 on the Wonderlic test. That’s five points higher than Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson scored once upon a time, and probably goes a way toward confirming that Manziel could digest any offense.
7. I think the least surprising thing about the football world in the past few days is that Shawne Merriman has signed to do something with World Wrestling Entertainment.
8. I think I don’t know how much traction this story got in my absence, but I know how hard Jenny Vrentas and Emily Kaplan of The MMQB worked on it, and I think it’s the most comprehensive and reasoned discussion of what Native Americans think about the “Redskins” controversy. I urge you to take a few minutes and read it.
9. I think more teams should do the human thing, the thing GM Doug Whaley and the Buffalo Bills are doing with the Easter holiday coming up and the draft pushed back two weeks on the calendar from last year: The Bills are giving their scouts and draft personnel a week off to be with their families, and to halt this paralysis-by-over-analysis that happens when you give more time to a process that already lasts a month too long. Good for the Bills.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Remembering a most painful anniversary this week, as the city of Boston heads into an emotional week of remembering the three who died and the 264 who were injured in the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago. Peace to everyone there.
b. What a hockey game Union (N.Y.) and Minnesota played for the NCAA championship. I watched much of it. End-to-end action for three periods, and a school with 2,200 students and zero athletic scholarships and one NHL draft choice (Union) beating a school with full scholarships and 51,000 students and 14 NHL draft choices. The score was Union 7, Minnesota 4, in Philadelphia. What effort and raw enthusiasm, on the ice and in the stands. Cool stuff.
c. I am a Nutmegger. The first 18 years of my life I lived in Connecticut. And so I have followed UConn sports closely over the years. I saw none of either basketball championship game, but the Huskies of both genders did their state proud last week. Congrats to the UConn men and women. Nine titles for the women now, and four for the men in the last 15 years. That is pretty amazing for a university in Storrs, Conn.
d. Atlantic Coast Conference fathers must be so pleased about excluding UConn from the ACC. What a smart decision, listening to Boston College, which never wanted a rival as dangerous in recruiting and in games as UConn in the ACC. BC got its wish, and UConn now toils in some conference invented to give some athletic orphans a port in the NCAA storm.
e. Boston College men’s basketball in the past four seasons: 52-74, zero national titles.
f. UConn men’s basketball since 2009: 104-41, two national titles.
g. Well, BC sure has a pretty campus.
h. Coffeenerdness: I couldn’t drink Starbucks while in the hinterlands of England. My brother worked for three decades for Whitbread, which bought Costa Coffee. So I drank Costa. “Starbucks had a chance,” Ken told me on our visit in March. “We went looking for a coffee company a few years ago, and Starbucks could have been it. But they drove too hard a bargain, and so we bought Costa.” Costa is at least on equal footing with Starbucks there now, and I had a few Flat Whites over there, with an extra shot. A Flat White is like a latte, with the espresso and milk mixed together better than a latte.
i. Beernerdness: Felt like a bit of an ugly American doing it, but had too much Guinness and too little of the local ales in England. Guinness was darn good, as always.
j. Read that a Red Sox fan booed Jacoby Ellsbury on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium and called him a traitor. Well, okay. I don’t see it that way, at all, as a follower of the Red Sox. Ellsbury grew up in Oregon, went to Oregon State, got drafted by the Red Sox, climbed the ladder in the Red Sox system, played seven years for the Red Sox, lived in Oregon every off-season, and his contract expired. He wasn’t nurtured in the Sox-Yanks cauldron of the northeast. As a free agent, why should he be allowed to sign with any team except the Yankees? I don’t blame him one iota for signing with the Yankees—I don’t like it, but I don’t blame him—if the Yankees paid him the most money, and they overwhelmingly did.
k. Saw “20 Feet From Stardom” on the trip home from England. What a tremendous movie. Those poor women, basically getting ripped off for such memorable work. Excellent storytelling too, particularly on “Gimme Shelter” backup singer Merry Clayton’s story.
l. I really want to see that LBJ play on Broadway. Anyone seen it? How is it?
m. I am a basketball doofus, but if you gave me a vote for the professional team of the century, I’d pick the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich and his guys are amazing. You can’t keep them down.
n. Good luck, Jim Kelly, as you head into your second week of chemotherapy and radiation, battling the cancer in your head.
o. Bubba Watson seems like the coolest of guys. Congrats to him on a second Masters win. He celebrated by going to Waffle House with his wife. How awesome is that?
p. And you, Martin Brodeur … You are my Player of the Week, for your 688th and probably final win as a New Jersey Devil, 3-2 over Boston Sunday. You’ve been great to watch over the past 23 years.
The Adieu Haiku
Bedard can’t Haiku.
But what a job last Monday.
I got Wally Pipped!