The NFL’s Silly Season Can Have a Serious Side, Too
From mid-June to mid-July, the NFL goes on vacation. But the news cycle never stops. Here, we separate the senseless (Sherman-Crabtree drama) from the significant (Josh Gordon) and appoint an all-time downtime star, Johnny Manziel
The Silly Season. Late June. Early July. No workouts. No OTAs. No meetings. Nothing.
Well, in full disclosure, it’s not like we’ve had nothing to help us through this football diaspora. We have had the stupendous World Cup. There’s been an NFL Network countdown of the Top 100 players in the NFL, voting methodology for which is loudly questioned by players who don’t like their ranking and barely mentioned by players who do. Of course, let’s not forget LeBronCenter, brought to you by the famed, fickle Sources Family—League, Unnamed and Close To The Situation. In this final week before the opening of training camp, we shall have the ESPYs.
But in the league Made In America and Played in America (except for now three games in London), this is the rare time of year when absolutely nothing is going on. It’s when everyone in an NFL office takes vacation. It’s why most weddings get planned this time of year. It’s why Peter King is off on the final week of his 2014 walkabout, probably searching for a Starbucks in places named Moose Jaw. And it’s why your humble NFL Network narrator writes this week’s MMQB on my way to shoot this year’s round of Courtyard commercials you’ll probably be seeing every three seconds during the season.
Don’t worry. I’m not driving. It’s just the way I roll during The Silly Season.
Which, to be honest, isn’t completely silly. The headlines recently generated by troubled Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon are beyond concerning, especially when some of them express doubt about his entire playing future. The kid is clearly mixed up and needs help. Cris Carter believes the best thing for the Browns and Gordon may just be what the Eagles did to Carter and for themselves back in 1989—cut him. While that may or may not happen, it did lead to one of my favorite storylines of The Silly Season, care of my colleague Michael Irvin: Cris Carter, Nightmare Marriage Counselor.
Which, again, may not be so silly after all, especially if it involves someone’s life, career and/or family. It’s only silly if it has nothing to do with the ultimate question: Will this story affect wins or losses when toe meets ball in September?
Sometimes, it’s easy to tell which stories reach these standards. Take, for instance, the Andre Johnson contract drama playing out in Houston. Nothing silly about this. First, it involves his bank account or, as players would put it, providing for their families. I understand his current salary ($10 million for ’14) is a dream come true for most readers (or the writer) of this Guest MMQB column. But it’s about Johnson getting his industry value while he can, which all of us would attempt to accomplish given the chance in whatever profession we undertake.
So, one of the most prolific receivers in recent memory is threatening to retire at age 33 or sit out until he gets a trade. That absolutely reaches the standard for seriousness. New Texans coach Bill O’Brien and his new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick not having Andre Johnson around—even during training camp—would affect wins and losses in Houston this season. Thus, we have a Silly Season story that is not silly at all.
Then there’s the re-sparking of the Richard Sherman/Michael Crabtree feud this week, thanks to an excellent new reality series on The Discovery Channel called “American Muscle.” The show televises the exploits that take place in a Plymouth, Mich., gym owned and operated by decorated and popular strength coach Mike Barwis. In the pilot episode, Sherman appears in the gym to inspire some of the current NFL players and future NFL prospects who put their off-season workout programs in the iron hands (and legs) of Barwis.
The fireworks began when one of the trainers in the gym asked Sherman what the deal was between him and Crabtree. Fully aware of the rolling cameras, Sherman said: “It’s more than just I don’t like the dude.”
“It’s not going to be something that goes away,” he added. “I hope to play him every year for the rest of my career and choke him out. There’s not much else I can say about the subject. Nobody will understand it but him and me. That’s all that needs to understand.”
Let’s not focus on what Sherman said but rather when he said it. Sherman said it mere days after Super Bowl 48. In February. When the story was still hot and the feelings still raw. When, as Sherman arrived in Barwis’ gym, he limped on the ankle he had just sprained against the Broncos. He was wearing a parka and there was snow on the ground. He said these words five months ago. It just happened to make air in July.
Sure, it will be great when Sherman first lines up against Crabtree in 2014 … on Thanksgiving Night. But, right now, this affects no one’s bottom line. And, since the game would have been afoot between the two regardless of these statements, nothing will be affected in the win/loss department. It’s merely a fun story to help pass the time until training camp. Thus, silly.
And then, we have an occasional outlier. In that department, we have the fascinating case of one Jonathan Football. What to make of him? And of his … endeavors?