The NFL's Silly Season Can Have a Serious Side, Too

Forget Messi. The real star of the World Cup was the disappearing foam. (Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Forget Messi. The real star of the World Cup was the officials’ disappearing foam. (Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think the World Cup is spectacular theatre (European spelling, out of deference), and I enjoyed every bloody (more deference) minute of it. I must admit, though, it was maddening at times. There was the frequent flopping—what’s in that magical spray that allows men go from incapacitated to running like a deer in seconds?—to the seemingly arbitrary method of determining stoppage time. Why not have a running clock throughout the match so fans know and refs can be held accountable?

But there were so many things to love about it, especially how much each game meant. I know this might be heresy to say, but the only sporting event that even comes close to mirroring the World Cup in terms of worldwide interest and epic magnitude of the outcome is the Super Bowl. For instance, as Japan was getting set to face off with Ivory Coast in group play, I explained to my 5-year old that a country in Asia was going to play a country in Africa in a stadium in South America and we were going to watch it in North America with everyone else from those continents and others at the same time. I got goosebumps, relaying the sense of global community to my little son. He blinked at me. And then asked if he could go on his iPad. Nevertheless, I think you get the point. It’s just one massive Worldwide Big Dance. To my delight, as well as the entire country, the American national team played a formidable role in it too.

2. I think Ian Darke is as good a play-by-play announcer as there is in any sport, and I would love to hear him call an NFL game. Darke’s calls on the U.S. games on ESPN were clinics on how to sound impartial while still broadcasting the emotions of a game to a highly partisan American audience chock-full of folks new to the sport and event. His sense of humor, grasp of the game and storytelling ability were downright Marv Albert-like. And his use of the English language was beyond refreshing, especially for a sports broadcast. I would love it if an NFL announcer called a jarred, fumbling running back “dispossessed” of the ball or a team getting beaten down like Brazil was by Germany “thoroughly chastened by the result.” I know broadcast teams for the upcoming NFL season are set, but perhaps in 2015 someone will give Darke a pop. Perhaps FOX Sports, which should absolutely procure Darke’s services for the 2018 World Cup.

3. I think the greatest sports invention in recent memory is the vanishing foam World Cup referees sprayed on the field to delineate the spots where a player should take a free kick and, 10 yards away, where defenders could build their wall. What an ingeniously simple way to communicate to fans at home.  It was, in essence, FIFA’s version of the yellow first-down line on NFL broadcasts. Except, unlike the yellow line, this simple white foam was quite official. And I loved that the foam dispenser was clipped on the back of the ref’s belt.

Perhaps the NFL can use that foam to mark off the 5-yard zone from the line of scrimmage in which defensive backs can’t touch a receiver. You know, have the back judge spritz the field with a parallel line five yards away from the line of scrimmage while the offense huddles up. Or have the umpire run up to the quarterback and spray a circle around him since, you know, most of the time he can’t be touched. 

4. I think I’m a freaking football Nostradamus. Here’s what I wrote last time I did this “I Think I Think” thing in this space last August.

I think all the fans who think the media spends too much airtime and ink talking about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel best brace themselves. Every move (or gesture) the kid currently makes is not only seen through the prism of whether he can lead his team to a title or himself to the Heisman podium again, but also what it means to his impending draft status. If he officially turns pro (insert joke here) in January as expected, that’s all my network and others covering the talent evaluation process will talk about from the Combine in Indianapolis to Radio City Music Hall. And keep in mind: the draft is being held later next year, in May.

Alright. That’s not a very long, thin limb to reside. (Also, in that piece, I did happen to pick Cleveland as my surprise team of 2013 based on what Norv Turner’s offense could do for Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson.) I figured I’d bring back the Manziel note to just reiterate what an insane season it’s going to be in Cleveland. With all due respect to Hoyer and his status atop the Browns’ depth chart for quarterback—and, recently, Indians’ ceremonial first-pitch throwing—the Cavs’ addition of LeBron will no doubt turn up the heat for the Browns to make their own splash. I think they’ll start JFF in Week 1 in, of all places, Heinz Field, against, of all defensive coordinators, Dick LeBeau. I’d be up for watching that. So will, you know, most of the country. CBS will be doing cartwheels over having that as a regional contest in their first Sunday slate of games.

The Seahawks will be trying to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl winners since the Patriots in 2003-04. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
The Seahawks will be trying to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl winners since the Patriots in 2003-04. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

5. I think Seattle is your Super Bowl favorite this year. Or should be. I know we haven’t seen a repeat champion in more than a decade for good reason, but here’s why I think the Seahawks could do it: 

a. The Seattle roster wasn’t ravaged by salary cap decisions or free agency, like last year’s defending Super Bowl champion Ravens were. To the contrary, the Seahawks paid some top players to keep them in the fold for years to come. 

b. The Seattle coaching staff hasn’t been raided, like most Super Bowl staffs have been. In fact, coach Pete Carroll may be singularly equipped to keep the competitive fires burning. Carroll’s daily mantra of “always compete” sure sounds like the perfect antidote to resting on one’s Super Bowl laurels. 

c. The perfect extension of Carroll’s philosophy is Russell Wilson. I know this firsthand. When he guest-appeared on the 2013 season Championship Sunday edition of NFL GameDay Morning, Wilson reported for work at 3:30 a.m. Pacific Time—two-and-a-half-hours before air and a half-hour before your humble host, who usually beats everyone else on the on-air staff to work. Wilson gets it. He knows there’s much on which to improve personally and offensively as a whole. 

d. Then there’s the Seattle home-field advantage, which should once again afford the Seahawks the luxury of needing only to play .500 football on the road to have a chance at the division title and, perhaps, conference. That’s regardless of how the NFC West is easily the toughest division in football. 

That’s why I truly expect to see Seattle in Arizona next February playing for the right to pick up more confetti off the ground.

6. I think I’m glad I’m not an Emmy Awards voter. Just look at the recently announced nominees for Best Actor in a TV Drama: 

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad 
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Woody Harrelson, True Detective
Matt McConaughey, True Detective

For those keeping score, that’s the reigning Emmy (Daniels), Oscar (McConaughey), and Tony Award (Cranston) winners for Best Actor all in the same category. Toss in two previous Oscars for Spacey (American Beauty, The Usual Suspects), a Golden Globe for Hamm and a combined four previous Emmys for Cranston and Harrelson (Cheers) and you have The Emmys Group of Death. I loved True Detective and think McConaughey will win but, when it all comes down to it, Cranston in his final season as Walter White gets my nod. The third-to-last episode of Breaking Bad, entitled “Ozymandias,” may be the best hour of TV I’ve ever seen.

7. I think we may have repeat division winners in six of the eight divisions this year. If you think that sounds far-fetched, well, NFL GameDay Morning researcher Bill Smith says the last time it happened was … 2012. But I’m going to say it happens again, and it’s still not going to involve the division that has yet to have a repeat winner since realignment brought it into existence in 2002: the NFC South. So I predict the Packers, Patriots, Colts, Broncos, Eagles, and Seahawks all repeat as division champions. Is it possible the Panthers and Bengals also repeat too? Of course, but that would give us repeat winners in all eight divisions, which, again, thanks to the NFC South, has not happened once since realignment. I think I’m not ready to predict that one … yet. 

You can make book on Peyton Manning having another 50-TD season. If I had the first pick in my fantasy draft this year, I would take Manning. He is going to be on figurative tilt this year.

8. I think I might be naïve, but I was surprised to see how the Packers are still holding off on the inevitable Brett Favre jersey retirement ceremony for fear of negative reaction from the Lambeau faithful. In a story mentioning how Green Bay’s No. 4 won’t be retired in the 2014 season, team president Mark Murphy told Jason Wilde of ESPN.com that concern over booing is “an issue,” adding Favre “doesn’t want it and neither do we. He wouldn’t want to come back and get booed. You can’t control 80,750 people. I really think as time goes on, every year that passes, it’s less likely that he would get booed, but that’s an issue.” Again, I don’t have boots on the ground in Wisconsin, but Favre would get booed out of the stadium if he came back to Lambeau to be feted as the all-timer he clearly is? Really? This Vikings stuff isn’t water under the bridge yet? I find that surprising.

9. I think you can make book on Peyton Manning having another 50-touchdown season. If I had the first overall pick in my fantasy draft this year (by the way, I’ve never had one), I would take Manning. Yes, over Adrian Peterson. Over any running back. I know that’s crazy talk. Every fantasy expert I’ve ever been around says to draft your quarterback in later rounds. I finally did last year with Andrew Luck (Round 6 in a 10-team league!) and I won it all, barely winning the final against the team that had … Peyton Manning. So consider me sold. Manning is going to be on figurative tilt this year, especially after the way last year ended. Plus, I don’t understand how real football is a quarterback-driven sport that no longer drafts running backs in the real draft until the third round, but in standard scoring fantasy football, running backs are still the most valuable commodity. Of course, if I’m not drafting first (and I never do) and if Manning isn’t available when I’m picking, I’m going running back. And then running back again.

10. I think I’d like to offer kudos to Peter King, who bangs out these MMQBs like they’re a limerick and each one is a monster tome. I do have thoughts on coffee and travel—Jet Blue recently insisted my wife remove our sleeping baby from her chest-carrier prior to takeoff—but time constraints at the computer (I have three kids all under 6) forced me to attempt an abridged version of this column. And it was a bear. I have no earthly idea how Peter does this so well for 48 weeks. Kudos to you, sir. 

While I’m at it, kudos to all my NFL Media colleagues who toil day-in and day-out in what we call the “non-playing season.” As we know all too well on our Culver City, Calif., campus, there’s no such thing as an off-season. When the playing season is in full swing, there are many NFL Media staffers preparing for events like the Senior Bowl, the Scouting Combine and, yes, the NFL Draft, which we’re all expecting to be far more logistically challenging in 2015. So, congratulations to all my friends and colleagues at NFL Network, NFL Films, NFL.com and all other NFL Media platforms (NFL Now on the way!) on crushing the coverage for yet another “non-playing season.” That said, we made it. Training camp has arrived! To the season!

For more from Rich Eisen, follow him on Twitter or listen to his weekly podcast.

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92 comments
JimCody
JimCody

Are all you sportswriters afraid to criticize Sherman because you think you'll be called a racist, or do you just like making excuses for a-holes?

RawrRay
RawrRay

This comment section has been just as if not more entertaining then the MMQB this week. Next year during King's vaykay lets give the guest spots to  @Wombat @Mike26. As long as there is no real football news let us be entertained 

ArchMage
ArchMage

Mr Eisen, I enjoy reading you much more than listening to you.  This column is so good that I would hope you could be a regular substitute for Mr King who has gotten rather set in his ways and pleased with himself.  Perhaps you can nudge him off of his throne a bit!

I am glad you left out politics and filler Tweets which are getting to be so annoying to me on TV (in print I can just skip them).  If I cared what those people had to say, well guess what, I would subscribe to them.  It is lazy, cut and paste journalism.

You have an agile mind, and the discipline of writing suits you very well!


Thank you!

RobertGrier
RobertGrier

Gosh that was so much better than reading all of King's personal stuff.... an MMQB column actually about football....

JasonO'neal1
JasonO'neal1

Johnny Manziel is the worst thing to ever happen to the NFL. No one needs this crap, NFL has too many guys you personally would not get along with off the football field just because you don't like their lifestyle.

JasonO'neal1
JasonO'neal1

Sad to say, but the NFL will lose viewers when Peyton Manning retires.

Knowitall
Knowitall

Peter - how about a guest column from @Mike26? You could call it "Dean of Mean vents Spleen."

You either need to give this jerk a forum, or get him some therapy, but help us out if you can.

JakeSteed
JakeSteed

I am personally split on what I would like to see happen with Manziel. On the one hand I hope he succeeds so it it would fly in the face of the all the stuck in the mud fuddy duddies who believe that you have to sleep in your office to be successful ala Jon Gruden. You know, the Peyton Manning way. I think that is just BS because for all the countless hours of film study Gruden and Manning have only 2 Super Bowls. Both Orchestrated by Dungy IMHO. Gruden won in Tampa not with a dynamic offense or great QB play, his supposed expertise, but with the defense left to him by Dungy. These are the people who think touchdown celebrations are the root of all evil and are the epitome of the No Fun League and I would definitely like to see them taken down a peg. Also the the hypocrites like Barkley who talk out of the side of their mouth and have no clue wtf they are talking about! Not to mention if I were in that position I would be in Vegas with the Gronk and the Bikini models too! 

On the the other hand, just based on what Ive seen and things he says I think the kid is a spoiled brat and a world world class tool and he needs to fall flat on his face to get some kind of humility. 

So I guess I hope for something in between, maybe he falls flat on his face, but then recovers to be a star.

GoPSULions
GoPSULions

I can easily understand GB fans booing Favre.  When released from his contract he said he would not play in the division, and he did go to the Jets.  But then to go to the Vikings was a slap in the face to the fans.  As a life long Steeler fan, would Bradshaw be as beloved had he left and played for the Browns, Bengals or Houston?  Favre didn't care about his GB legacy, he wanted to attempt to stick it to GB for wanting Rogers over him.

dennis
dennis

The upcoming downfall of society got it's start by this new trend of pretending not to notice reality. Such as pretending like soccer is more than an inferior sport played by third world countries who don't have what it takes to play real football. Oops, oh yeah, I wasn't suppose to say that out loud.

dksherlock
dksherlock

Will it ever end, this gushing over a sport that's meant for third-graders?  Can't I even get away from it when I'm reading an alleged NFL column?


dawnsblood
dawnsblood

Number six makes me thankful I don't watch tv. That list sounds cringe inducing.

GraemeSimpson
GraemeSimpson

'the only sporting event that even comes close to mirroring the World Cup in terms of worldwide interest and epic magnitude of the outcome is the Super Bowl."

Really? Get a grip. 

Interest in the Super Bowl outside USA is tiny compared with the World Cup - or a lot of other actual, you know, world events. Even the Rugby World Cup final has a far more international audience spread (and rugby sevens will be an Olympic sport in 2016). 

Love the Super Bowl and what comes before over the entire season, but the World Championships of the USA really doesn't cut it in the world, sorry.


ChitownTexan
ChitownTexan

You forgot "drinking champagne while floating on a swan" in the Johnny Football mad lib. 

seamillguesthouse
seamillguesthouse

must have a young wife with 3 kids 6 and under. he looks to be middle aged

Orange Crush
Orange Crush

I see Hoyer being the starter going into the season and having a fair amount of success. I think more than anything I am intersted in seeing how Manziel responds when/if his team has success with Hoyer. Does he play the good teammate happy for his team's success role or the pouty it should be me role.

Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan
Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan

Rich Eisen’s MMQB contribution above is well-written.His conversational tone doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of his piece, which need not be laced with colorful metaphors and flowery language to be successful.Unlike some national television sportscasters, Eisen is witty and has a good sense of humor.His book, “Total Access:A Journey to the Center of the NFL Universe,” is a great read.

One thought about those lazy, hazy, news-less days of the NFL’s summer “silly season.”As to Johnny Manziel, the last time I recall this degree of media-inspired sensationalism accompanying an NFL rookie, his name was Tim Tebow.Manziel would be wise to steer clear of all the glamour and glitz, and tune out the media’s seductive siren call to avoid risking damage to his football career.If given the chance, some in the media will tear him down just as fast as they build him up.It’s their favorite sport.

jordanN
jordanN

"But the news cycle never stops."

No, it does; you guys just pretend it doesn't by manufacturing nonsense.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

plus once again jameille hill showed basically how much of a racist she is by going why is everyone getting on Josh Gordon but not getting on Jim Irsay basically implying if Irsay were black the media would be all over it.  I mean she finds a way to always insert race, when she should be worried that the way Gordon is going he might kill someone

number18
number18

All Johnny FootBall has to do is to get drunk, kill somebody,do drugs,hang out with gang members,beat up a few women,give a frothing at the mouth sideline interview, and he will be Loved by the Media,including Wannabee eisen.

IHeartMotelCoffee
IHeartMotelCoffee

I came here for motel coffee reviews and insights to Amtrak car social norms. SMH. At least there are some thoughts that someone thinks they think, which I think I think is pretty groovy. But that's just me and the silly way I think I think.

pirate
pirate

Interesting column, mostly because of the difference in style. Eisen is a talker, not a writer, and it shows. This just feels loose, meandering, overwritten and fluffy. It makes me appreciate King all the more. That said, I enjoy the change up.

Mike26
Mike26

@Knowitall You seem upset about something.  What, pray tell, are you particularly ratted about this time?

BrentStorrs
BrentStorrs

@dennis Not sure how the world cup made the MMQB this week but I'll take it.  Many NFL-fan-only people probably skipped over it which is understandable. Soccer could learn something from the NFL's concussion protocol and many other things. Not sure why FIFA is so slow to deal with things. And for those of you that say soccer players are not the best athletes, which I understand, please view soccer players as NFL quarterbacks. Having a more athletic quarterback will not necessarily translate into a better quarterback. Just compare Vick and Manning. One is beast mode athlete and the other is a beast mode QB with a whole lot less athletic ability. Whats Peyton's 40 time? Imagine mixing the 2 and you have a soccer player. A smart, explosive and technically sound athlete who can run long distances and short sprints for 90 minutes or 120 minutes if needed. Average = 6 miles per game. Hey, even Dennis could play soccer for a few minutes. He could probably play "real football" too. Who knows? He may be 5 foot 10 and weigh 500 pounds. I've seen some real big American football fans out there, massive, just massive people.

LuisDaniel
LuisDaniel

@dennis The downfall of society got it's start when people decided to spend much more time and effort in things they hate, than in things they like. Like you, bothering to comment on soccer. If you hate it so much, get on with your life, and don't try to ruin stuff for everyone else. "World Cup" were the fourth and fifth word in that paragraph; you could have bypassed it easily.

Wombat
Wombat

@GraemeSimpson You know, one could get very tired of the whole "USA vs World" when it comes to soccer. Face it folks it has been decades since soccer became the Sport of the Future in the US and yet it still hasn't caught on as a top three pro sport. It may someday but as of now it hasn't... get over it folks...

Mike26
Mike26

@Orange Crush Without any WR talent, it's unlikely that EITHER QB will have much success in Cleveland this year - at least until they send 2 #1's and 2 #2's to Houston for Andre Johnson....

Mike26
Mike26

@CobyPreimesberger Thanks for bringing in complaints about a writer for a completely different site here to SI - your semi-coherent ranting should be on Bookface back over at TWWL.

BushidoBrownsRevenge
BushidoBrownsRevenge

@CobyPreimesberger Well it is somewhat true. The main reason is Gordon is a professional athlete and we hold them to higher standards than just about anybody in America for some weird reason. Race is probably a factor in this. Both he and Irsay seem to struggle with addiction but Irsay seems to get a lot more sympathy. Irsay probably should have been charge with the far more serious felony intend to distribute. 

BushidoBrownsRevenge
BushidoBrownsRevenge

@number18 The media does love him. He does get drunk and possibly does drugs. I would say being involved in bar fights is much worse than a frothing at the mouth sideline interview.

Wombat
Wombat

@number18 All Johnny Football has to do is survive more than a year as a Browns QB! Better men than he have been shown the door.  I don't mind him drinking... I think it's probably a good idea in his position. 

Mike26
Mike26

@IHeartMotelCoffee I suppose you're trying to be witty, but you failed miserably.  Go back to winning comment sections on CNN.

ruggerrick9
ruggerrick9

@pirate He all but admits that in item 10 on his list.  The trick to writing pieces like this is the ability to think and write in an abridged manner- keeping things short an incisive rather than long and rambling.  I will take some issue with dismissing him as being simply a "talker".  If he's like most anchors, he probably writes alot of the stuff he reads on air.  But it's not easy and we shouldn't expect someone accustomed to writing short news items to air on live TV to be able to adjust effortlessly to the format.   

Wombat
Wombat

@pirate I agree on the style difference but you have to admit that there was nothing to write about this week. Gordon - old news. Manziel - yawn! That's why PK vacations this time every year. This way he doesn't have to produce 2500 words on nothing. Eisen is a rambling kind of guy be he pulled these pages OTA.

BrentStorrs
BrentStorrs

@Wombat @GraemeSimpson Soccer has been around 2 decades maybe 3. In another 2-3 decades we could see it challenging baseball and basketball and even overtaking it. Either way, soccer is a very young sport in the good ol USA and its only going to grow.

usameos6
usameos6

@Mike26 @Orange Crush I don't think the Browns would give up much for Johnson as there would be concerns that he wouldn't show up since he wants to play for a contender and they're still a few years away (maybe more depending on how the QB situation shakes out).  That being said - they are the Browns.

Orange Crush
Orange Crush

@BushidoBrownsRevenge @CobyPreimesberger Wrong. Gordon came into the league with question marks. He has already failed numerous tests and faced suspensions because of them. He is now facing another suspension and then gets a DUI on top of it. Now Irsay doesn't face the same testing as a player does, but this was his first legal offense. If he continues to spiral downward and get into trouble like Gordon has then he should face the same scrutiny, but we are not even close to there yet. When you hear of all the players getting first offenses for DUI's/possession they face far less scrutiny than Irsay has regardless of color. That is why it is not the same.

IHeartMotelCoffee
IHeartMotelCoffee

Ok, I think I think I will. This place is just too intellectual for me. CNN, here I come!

Buck2185
Buck2185

@Wombat @pirate  As opposed to PK's 2500 word ramblings on his political beliefs, opinions, anything Patriot, beer, coffee and hotel amenities??......

Mike26
Mike26

@BrentStorrs @Wombat @GraemeSimpson Brent:  It's NOT young in the USA and the same mantra has been repeated for over 30 years, yet there's little movement at all at raising its profile or consciousness in American sports.

Mike26
Mike26

@usameos6  I agree completely.  I threw it out there to stay consistent with my previous comments about Johnson and what it would take to move him at this point of the NFL calendar.  But hey, we should just let Cleveland be Cleveland and see what happens....    ;)

Wombat
Wombat

@Buck2185 @Wombat @pirate Yes, but imagine what PK would have brought up in his stead... that's right, all of the topics that provide fodder for this forum! Admit it Buck, you wouldn't have half the fun on Mondays that you do now if PK stuck to sports.

Wombat
Wombat

@jordanN @Buck2185 @Wombat @pirate Really? I found is a consistent response to my comment. His comprehension appeared adequate. What are you basing your judgement on sir?

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