Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think I’d like my four Guest MMQB writers to take a collective bow. Thanks, Marc Trestman, for education us heathens about the CFL. Thanks, Vernon Davis, for taking us into the world of a holdout. Thanks, Khalil Mack, for telling us how you got from unknown high school player to being a high first-round pick. And thank you, Rich Eisen, for educating us about the Silly Season. I couldn’t have said it better, because there is so, so, so much wasted time and energy spent on the month off from football, which should be a month off from football because nothing at all happens in the month before camps open. Well, some things happen, as our own Andrew Brandt pointed out. But not many. And certainly not enough to jam all our Twitter feeds day after day after day of the dead month.
2. I think it’s smart to move the draft to a new site each year. Other than marketing, there’s no good reason for New York City to hog it. Let Chicago or L.A. pay through the nose for it. Give it to Jerry Jones one year and Bob Kraft the next.
3. I think the Giants did a smart thing over the past 15 months in stocking up on the offensive line. They had to know this Chris Snee news could be coming, and they had been weak on the line anyway. (Snee, the former Pro Bowl guard, will announce his retirement today, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.) In signing both John Jerry (Miami) and Geoff Schwartz (Kansas City), the Giants could have two new free-agent starting guards, with a rookie center, second-rounder Weston Richburg from Colorado State, and a second-year right tackle, Justin Pugh. Richburg will have to hold off another free-agent newbie, J.D. Walton, but the smart money is on the rookie winning the center spot. That’s a lot of change for a short time, but the Giants needed it. As for Snee, he’ll always be a highly regarded player in Giant annals. He was a bulldog as a player, and what I always admired about him is the tough spot he stepped into as a Giant—he is married to Tom Coughlin’s daughter—and yet there was never a whiff of favoritism around the Coughlin-Snee relationship.
4. I think one of the most interesting teams this preseason will be Carolina. Lots of moving pieces there. An NFC South alumni team at safety (former Saint Roman Harper, former Falcon Thomas DeCoud). A grab-bag of discarded vets (Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood, Jason Avant) plus rookie Kelvin Benjamin forming an all-new receiving corps. Cam Newton trying to do two important things in the next seven weeks: get his surgically repaired ankle in football shape and bonding with a bunch of guys not names Steve Smith. And finding a new left tackle. That’s a lot of work for one training camp.
5. I think I was always interested to chat up tackle Jordan Gross when he played for Carolina, because he was a good translator of complicated football to understandable English. Now he’ll be the sideline reporter on Panthers’ radio. Hope it’ll be good training for a media career, because the media can use smart people like Gross talking about the game.
6. I think because I was away when Chuck Noll died in mid-June, I never got a chance to say something about his impact on the game—and his was, as most of you know, a great football life, and a pure one. The first time I ever talked to him, I was a slightly nervous Cincinnati beat writer visiting summer camp four years after the last Super Bowl win. I tried to make small talk about his love of wine (the man loved wine) and he told me he had no idea what I was talking about. In other words, sonny, let’s get to the questions; I’ve got a team to run. That’s the way Noll was: Anything that interfered with his team he didn’t like much.
7. I think the Washington franchise will have a new team name by 2016.
8. I think the NFL needs to copy one thing from the Canadian Football League, and the NFL will hate adopting it, but it is only a matter of time: allowing coaches to challenge pass-interference calls—and calls that should be pass-interference. So many people have beefed about expansion of replay, saying it would make the game so much longer. Think of this, though: Coaches will not have their number of challenges per game increased, only the categories of plays that possibly can be challenged. The smart coaches are not going to waste a challenge on a first-quarter borderline interference call. The league should allow horrible calls and non-calls to be challenged.
9. I think Jay Glazer will be great at introducing Michael Strahan for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in two weeks, because no one on this earth knows Strahan better than Glazer. It’s cool to see a media person named for this honor.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I miss the World Cup.
b. The World Cup should happen every two years, not four.
c. I agree with Rich Eisen: Ian Darke needs to do an NFL game on TV, for somebody.
d. Best story I read on my vaca: The New York Times’ Walt Bogdanich on a woman from Hobart and William Smith (N.Y.) College who reported being raped by some football players and the wringer she went through in the month following the attack—which was deemed by the school to not have been a sexual assault.
e. The piece is terrific reporting and a sad, sad story about what happens on our college campuses today, a story of excessive drinking and freshman pressure and what appears to be (and I stress the words “appears”) athletic privilege. You need to read it.
f. Reminded me of “The Accused.’’ Fair or unfair. I don’t know Walt Bogdanich, but I have great admiration for him after reading this story.
g. Second-best story from the past five weeks—and I would hate to call this story second-best at anything, because it is an awesome story about the relationship between fathers and sons. You are really good, Mike Sielski.
h. And a strong story by Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News on the Manning Passing Academy.
i. So Tony Gwynn died early on my vacation, and I just wanted to throw in my two cents about what a memorable person he was. I was assigned, back in the multiple-sport days at Sports Illustrated, a story on Gwynn and the Padres’ offensive attack a couple of decades ago, and I showed up around 2 on a Friday afternoon in the Pads’ locker room … and Gwynn gave me a bunch of time, and then told me to come back the next day—and he gave me, a total stranger, 90 minutes. Before I left town, he bumped into me and gave me advice on coaching my youth softball team in New Jersey. I’ll never forget him.
j. Hey Ed Bouchette: Congrats on winning the McCann Award, emblematic of great writing and great contributions to football journalism, given by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You are one of the best people in our business, and I know scores echo my sentiments. So pleased for you, and I hope all who have learned so much about the Steelers from your writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette take a moment to thank you in the coming weeks.
k. Still in mourning over another June death: Jim McDonald, one of the best youth coaches I have ever come across. He was one of my daughter Mary Beth’s softball pitching coaches in high school in New Jersey. A more empathetic man I have never met.
l. Dustin Pedroia’s just not the same as he was. Either he overachieved when he first came up (I am not a big “overachieving’’ and “underachieving’’ person, because how are you significantly better or worse than the norm over 1,000 at-bats) but, really, the numbers don’t lie. He’s an excellent fielder and absolutely average hitter. Daniel Murphy is better. Brian Dozier might be better. Sad, but real.
m. And after watching the World Series last year, in which David Ortiz was un-retireable, how is he hitting .250-ish and getting waylaid by the Danny Duffys of the world? Baseball is a funny game.
n. One of my vacation highlights, surprisingly, was seeing “Kinky Boots” on Broadway. A very good play, and the music made it transcendent. Cyndi Lauper’s music was so good, so memorable. Highly recommended.
o. Coffeenerdness: I’m not very good at keeping my Macchiato agreement, drinking three a week. Now that I’m going on this camp trip, I see more Macchiatos and fewer iced coffees in my next month.
p. Beernerdness: My three favorite beers from vacation: Starr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Va.) Northern Lights IPA, one of the most flavorful IPAs I have ever tasted. Had it with a turkey burger at Boylan’s in Charlottesville, Va., on a warm June day, my first-ever trip to the Virginia campus … Centennial IPA, from Founders Brewing (Grand Rapids, Mich.), which I loved because of its distinctive taste and memorably hoppy taste … Big Hop IPA from East End Brewing (Pittsburgh), a very drinkable and tasty IPA. Big fan in the hotel bar in Pittsburgh too.
q. If we don’t act against the Russian separatists for the downing of the Malaysian airliner full of innocents, when exactly would we act against anyone for anything?
r. You were cool, James Garner. Rest in peace.
s. Very hard to stop conjuring up this theme song.
t. Good to be back. You’ll have me for the next 47 weeks, and I hope I can give you more than 10 things to think about this season.
The Adieu Haiku
NFL camp time.
So optimistic out here.
League of hopes and dreams.