Johnny Preseason

NFL executive Dean Blandino was named vice president of officiating in February 2013. (John Raoux/AP)
NFL executive Dean Blandino was named vice president of officiating in February 2013. (John Raoux/AP)

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think the eye-opening story of the week was CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora reporting several team officials were upset that NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino was captured by TMZ getting off a Dallas Cowboys luxury bus in Los Angeles recently while the Cowboys were in Southern California for training camp. The problem, LaCanfora reported, is that Blandino, who is obviously supposed to be wholly impartial, should not be on a Cowboys party bus. I am told this is the story Blandino (whose honor I’ve never heard questioned inside the league or by any club officials) was telling in the wake of the TMZ footage: He met Stephen Jones, a member of the league’s Competition Committee, for dinner in Los Angeles. After dinner, Jones suggested they get a drink. Blandino accepted. They went to a bar and had a drink. From there, Blandino parted ways with Jones and others in his party. TMZ got some shots of several people, including women, through the windows of the Cowboys bus, but Blandino was not among the group at that time. He was gone. On Friday morning Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported the league had received no complaints from any club officials about the alleged impropriety. On Saturday afternoon I checked with two league officials, who confirmed Florio’s report and said in the day-and-a-half since it appeared there were still no complaints about Blandino’s behavior. 

I’m fine with Blandino dining (and wining, to some degree) with key team officials; it’s part of the job. But I’d draw the line at late-night beering or club-hopping. This doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it does these anonymous people quoted by LaCanfora, because officiating czars are going to pal around with significant league and team officials. But if I’m Roger Goodell, I’m telling Blandino: Dinner fine, revelry beyond that not so fine.

2. I think these three things struck me about the Washington-New England joint practices last week:

  • Crowds of more than 20,000 two days in a row? In Richmond, Va.? That’s the power of the NFL, and of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the Washington brand in Virginia. Startling still, though.
  • Some great observations by my buddy Don Banks of SI.com from the scene: “Nothing prepared me for the frenzied scene at Washington’s Bon Secours Training Center early last Monday morning. The Patriots were in town for the first of their three days of joint workouts with Washington, and to say the presence of Bill Belichick and his perennial AFC powerhouse had created a bit of a buzz qualified as massive understatement. The front page of Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch had heralded the impending arrival of Tom Brady and the Patriots like visiting royalty, and thousands of fans lined up hours before the 8:35 a.m. workout started. Everywhere you looked there were cars circling the area and vying for parking spaces that now seemed non-existent. Washington’s burgundy and gold was in no short supply, but you could say the same thing about the sea of Patriots’ red, white and blue, with maybe four of out every 10 fans sporting the enemy colors of the visiting New Englanders. Through five-plus hours of practices Monday and Tuesday, a gaggle of media members from New England, Washington, Richmond and plenty of national outlets were there to cover every last snap of it, and I’ve never seen a training camp setting where the reporters had to fight for space like it was Super Bowl media day. My favorite snapshot? The sight of about 50 reporters/cameramen huddled tightly in a horseshoe configuration around one goal post, waiting for Brady to climb into the middle of all that for his post-practice press conference on Tuesday. I watched Brady survey the mob scene as he approached, then slowly shake his head and laugh … I’ve been to dozens of preseason games, and even some meaningless regular season affairs, that lacked the excitement and energy of these joint workouts. The Patriots consistently got the better of Washington during the workouts, with Brady slicing up Jim Haslett’s defense in the two-minute drills, and New England’s much-improved cornerback tandem of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner keeping Robert Griffin III and Washington’s receivers largely under wraps. But that’s about what you’d expect from the teams that finished first in the AFC East and last in the NFC East. The real winners seemed to be the city of Richmond and all those people who were more than ready for some football.”
  • The Redskins and Patriots culminated three days of joint practices with a preseason game on Thursday. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
    The Redskins and Patriots culminated three days of joint practices with a preseason game on Thursday. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston isn’t just good on the Patriots. He’s strong on the ancillary things. Such as this, after the Patriots’ trip to Richmond: “One of my biggest takeaways from Patriots-Redskins joint practices was surprise that Robert Griffin III didn’t look like the best quarterback on his own team. In fact, I thought Kirk Cousins was better than him, from the perspective of running the offense, fine-tuned mechanics and how decisively the ball came out of his hand. I wondered if I was alone, and then heard the same sentiment echoed by some others in the Patriots organization.”

  • To me, Cousins is worth a second-round pick from a quarterback-needy team.

3. I think you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard the Scott Mitchell news the other day. NBC announced that the former Dan Marino backup and free-agent millionaire (five years, $25 million) Detroit quarterback Scott Mitchell will be a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” show. Mitchell is 6-foot-6. He weighed 238 pounds as a player. He weighs 366 now. That’s a 128-pound inflation. Twenty years ago this season, Mitchell signed a five-year, $25-million contract with the Lions. I covered his free-agent search for Sports Illustrated, and I remember he was the hot guy in free agency that year. And look at this season he had in 1995 with the Lions:

Team W-L Pct. Yards TD Int Rating
Detroit 10-6 .593 4,338 32 12 92.3
 

That year, Mitchell outdueled Steve Young on a Monday night in the Silverdome. He threw three touchdown passes to beat Brett Favre and the Packers. He beat Warren Moon and the Vikings with a 410-yard, four-touchdown afternoon. Two years later, in the midst of Green Bay’s 13-3 NFC Championship season, Mitchell and the Lions were one of the three blips on the Packer record, with a 26-15 win. In a dramatic Sunday-nighter in Miami, Mitchell had a memorable duel with his Miami mentor, Marino. The situation: With five minutes left, Miami had a 30-22 lead. Detroit was backed up on its four-yard line. Mitchell led Detroit on a 13-play, 96-yard drive, finishing with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Herman Moore with 1:14 left. Then he threw a two-point conversion pass to Moore to tie. Marino came right back and led a winning field goal drive. The final: Miami 33, Detroit 30. I mean, for a while, Scott Mitchell was a player. Thus the triple-take when you hear, “Scott Mitchell weighs 366 and will be on ‘The Biggest Loser’ this season.”

4. I think it’s early (about three months early) to start talking about 2015 head-coaching candidates, but I hope Kansas City special-teams coordinator Dave Toub gets a legitimate chance next year. You never know if a special-teams guy can follow in John Harbaugh’s footsteps, but Toub’s such an impressive coach and person. In the first quarter of a new preseason Thursday night, his kick-return team had a 65-yard return, and his punt-return unit had an 80-yard touchdown return. Not surprising that Toub would have his guys ready, even after just two weeks of the preseason. And that De’Anthony Thomas, the rookie from Oregon … that was his 80-yarder, and it was a thing of return beauty. He bounced off one tackler immediately, and used a ridiculous burst to the outside to run past Cincinnati’s entire team.

5. I think I learned one thing on this trip that’s yet another reason why so many football people are against a permanent team in London. Last year, when the Jaguars were in London, GM David Caldwell was looking at the waiver wire and saw a linebacker, Martez Wilson, he liked on waivers. It was Thursday of a game week. Caldwell, number one, didn’t want to cut a player on his roster in London and unceremoniously ship him home from Europe before the game. Number two, he didn’t know what kind of game shape or mental shape with the Jags’ playbook Wilson would be in if he arrived, let’s say, on Friday evening in London. So Caldwell passed on the waiver claim (and because the Jags had waiver priority with the worst record in football, they would have gotten Wilson). Wilson was then claimed by the Raiders. Wasted chance. So I wonder how often a competitive issue like that would come into play if a London team was trying to do business in competition with the other NFL teams on this side of the Atlantic.

Michael Vick is competing for the starting quarterback job in Jets camp. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Michael Vick is competing for the starting quarterback job in Jets camp. (Elsa/Getty Images)

6. I think this is what I was talking about all along with the Jets’ quarterback situation: We’ll see what happens in the preseason. That’s the only way you’ll tell who is better, and who wins the job. And in Mike Vick’s only drive with the first team, he led a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Geno Smith didn’t hurt his case Thursday. But Vick excelled.

7. I think I’m not sure which quote I hear more from players of these two:

  • “I am in the best shape of my life at this training camp.”
  • “I learned that a supplement I took caused the positive test. I deeply regret not investigating the supplement.” (Miami safety Reshad Jones said that Friday afternoon, when the league suspended him for the first four games of the season for a positive PED test.)

8. I think I’m long past questioning the intelligence—or the honesty—of these players who test positive for banned substances. I question the intelligence of someone who innocently says, “I want to take this over-the-counter product to get me in better shape even thought I’m not sure if it will trigger a positive PED test.” I question the honesty of players who want us to believe it was an innocent mistake. Sometimes, clearly, it was an honest mistake. But not every time.

9. I think I won’t be shocked if the Patriots cut Ryan Mallett … or get a seventh-round pick for him from someone.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Good for federal judge Claudia Wilken, for ruling major-college football and basketball players should get at least $5,000 per year in compensation for the millions of dollars the players earn for lucrative college sports teams. In my opinion, it’s not enough to give semi-pro players full scholarships to school, not when they’re raising the amounts of money they are for the schools.

b. Get to know Indians pitcher Corey Kluber.

c. Clayton Kershaw’s last nine starts: 8.0 innings per start, nine earned runs allowed.

d. Corey Kluber’s last nine starts: 7.2 innings per start, nine earned runs allowed.

e. Felix Hernandez’s last nine starts: 7.2 innings per start, 10 earned runs allowed.

f. I screened “When the Game Stands Tall,” the movie about California high school football coach Bob Ladouceur and his impact on the players he coached, based on the book by Neil Hayes. I liked it. Really good lessons in it for players and coaches in team sports, and for their parents. If I’m a high school coach of any sport, I’d take my team to it.

g. Coffeenerdness: Raise your coffee game, Marriott Towne Place Suites.

h. Beernerdness: Good to see so many parts of this country we’d never see if we flew over it. Case in point: The Bell’s Brewery restaurant and garden in Kalamazoo, Mich., where we had lunch on our way to see the Lions-Browns Saturday. If there’s a better brew on draft than Bell’s Oberon, I haven’t tasted it—at least this summer. Great place and food and beer in the town where Derek Jeter spent his youth.

i. Went to my first funeral with full military honors, for my uncle, Andy Keir, an Army veteran, in Enfield, Conn., last week. Hadn’t heard the Star-Spangled Banner in a church before, and had never seen the flag being handed to the widow, and had never heard graveside taps at a funeral. I have to say, I loved it all. Very moving, particularly the taps. Uncle Andy would have loved it.

j. A note on the discourse in this country, and on social media, in the wake of my Cam Newton column last week. I accept the fact that some people won’t agree with what I write, or find ulterior motives about why I wrote about an olive branch Newton offered to me. But can we disagree and be critical without telling me to go bleep myself 19 different ways?

k. Finally, here’s the good of social media: Donations to ALS research have jumped significantly with the Ice Bucket Challenge, thanks to stars like Andrew Luck, Sidney Crosby, Matt Lauer, much of the Boston Bruins team and, seemingly, half of New England dumping ice water over their heads and challenging three friends/peers to do the same; if the friends/peers do or do not, it’s strongly suggested they donate to ALS research.

l. So, prodded by buddy Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, I did it Sunday at Vikings camp. It was cold, and it was not pretty.

The Adieu Haiku

Strongest candidate
to lose QB job pre-Sept?
Money’s on Matt Schaub.

mmqb-end-slug-square

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255 comments
JRoy_20
JRoy_20

With these practice squad increases across the league, this could be big for bubble players. I'm hoping to see rookie QB Brock Jensen of NDSU picked up somewhere and put on PS. His potential is something many people want to see in this league. The kid is a winner and has proved that. Also very talented and developed. He played in the FCS like Romo, but proved to win big against teams in the Big 12 (youtube NDSU/Kansas St final drive) Would really like to see him get a shot. 

pricklypearcycler
pricklypearcycler

Look at all of the white guys in the Fox broadcast booth for the Chief's/Panthers game.

JoeMoon
JoeMoon

Judge Wilken ruled five thousand dollars 'max", not minimum. 

Far different implications.

wwrightmcdonald
wwrightmcdonald

"When he finished showering and dressing (white button-down Oxford shirt, dress jeans) after the game, he stood at his locker and quietly talked on his phone or talked to a couple of the team PR guys softly."


This is the kind of journalism that wins you the Red Smith Award! But seriously Peter, how big is your pants-tent for Johnny Manziel on this day in mid-August? Inevitably with the Browns, Hoyer will lose the job, Manziel might be lucky to win 6 games while learning the coverages and check-downs and progressions, and the Browns will be slightly better come next off-season. Next story please!

VoodooPeoples
VoodooPeoples

I cant not imagine someone telling you to go bleep yourself 19 times, 18 should have been enough. lol 

Ciscos
Ciscos

I said this the other day about Johnny Football. Marketing will say he needs to be the starter.  Logic says Hoyer. I lean toward Hoyer cause marketing has never won a football game.


Hoyer, limited experience (as some like to point out) or not, he has game experience.  That game experience counts for a lot when the season comes.  Manziel, obviously doesn't.  And once NFL defenses start scheming for him that wild ride at the amusement park is going to come to a screeching halt.


Manziel will have his day and his time.  It's just not right now.  That is unless Hoyer gets hurt or stinks up the place.

tmadz
tmadz

RE: fan disagreeing with Kain Colter about student compensation/union organizing


If you're going to disagree with a Northwestern graduate and hope to have any credibility, don't say "Bro".

JTsportsguy
JTsportsguy

Does anyone seriously NOT think Johnny Football will have any success in the NFL?  We have him ranked right now and are BUMPING up his rankings - his first week was impressive, he ran effectively and threw efficiently.  http://www.fantasyfballchamps.com

BillyBobRoberts
BillyBobRoberts

The Brownies might be clueless, but they know Hoyer is not a franchise QB. He's just ok. Johnny should and will be the starter. This year is wasted anyways because they can only score FGs, especially if Gordon is suspended. So why not start the rookie?

Nuadormrac
Nuadormrac

"As far as football goes, I’m seeing him put the ball on the money like a veteran. Sometimes the receiver drops it. Sometimes the receiver isn’t even looking for the ball and it bounces off him. He’s got the confidence a quarterback has to have.” "


This, would be why a QB can be inclined to run the ball, especially if they are able to both scramble AND throw.  Confidence includes not only confidence in one's self, but in one's receivers, which also needs to be demonstrated.  Even top QBs, if they had receivers who have a case of the dropsies can either end up getting a look of frustration (look at Tom Brady's face during many games last season before Gronkowski returned for a time), or can be inclined to pass on a possible receiver if there are a lot of drops.  Case in point, when Jermichael Finley kept dropping the ball, and Aaron Rodgers went to throw to other targets (who were also more likely to catch the thing).  Finley balked, and talked about QB chemistry, while complaining that Rodgers seemed to be ignoring him, but the fact is Rodgers had to make a judgment call, on what would most likely to be a successful play.


These are some of the known top QBs, who can be in this position.  If Brady was likely to pick Wes Welker (when he played for the Pats), or Gronk, if Rodgers were to pass more often to some receivers then others (though Rodgers has arguably passed it around a fair bit), it isn't simply a personal matter.  If someone wants the QBs attention, they also need the QBs confidence, that they're good on making the play.  Passing involves 2 players, not just one.  There's the one throwing it, but also the one catching it.  For the play to be successful, both players have to be on their game.


If he isn't sure who he can count on to catch, when he sees someone who doesn't have his head in the game, and the ball just bounces off the player who isn't even looking for a pass, as QB he has to make a judgment call, on how likely that guy is going to catch the ball when the game counts on it.  If running the ball is more likely to get a successful play, that can weigh in on the decision.  And without sounding like Finley here, chemistry, and developing chemistry as the players play with each other can be a part of it.  But this isn't all on the QB either, unlike what Finley suggested, because the receiver is part of the equation and does need to actually try to catch the ball (which Finley had not).  Receivers not even looking for the ball, and getting hit by the thing as it bounces off them, is none too good, itself...

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

yeah the biggest problem for the browns, is one player they have now gordon, will likely be out the entire season, i mean this is one of the dumbest things of the cba where a player can play in the pre-season, i mean anyone understand the reasoning behind that.


as for sam, he'll likely end-up on the practice squad and pk putting out there that katie couric and anderson cooper weren't granted interviews tells you all you need to know, again if this guy were any other 254th pick in the draft, he would be ignored

eddie767
eddie767

P.K.

     20+ K had nothing to do with Pats/Brady in town, Rich.VA. That's everyday for the 3 wks they are here. What changed was there were Pats jerseys mixed with some CBoys ones. We, the fans, support daily. Now, the question should be do these ppl have jobs. Just joking. Glad you came to town.

SentryVirginia
SentryVirginia

Give him 1.5 years, then its "RGIII time" in the hospital watching football on TV.

KBowen7097
KBowen7097

7 of 11. One incompletion was caught barely out of bounds. One was dropped. One would have been completed if a more veteran receiver had slid of gone to ground. That could easily have been 10 for 11.

Knute
Knute

Johnny Football is Lightening in a bottle, do not stopper him up, the other guy, well just the other guy!

Aggie81
Aggie81

I guess the fact that all of the Cleveland players standing on the side line watching (instead of sitting on the bench), and a few making the "Manziel money" gesture after he completed the scramble up the middle of of the field for a first down eluded this reporter.  Or how the stands emptied after Johnny was done playing for the evening....


Johnny "Cash", "Football", "Heisman", Manziel  teased everyone just enough to tune in next Monday Night for a little more of what's to come...


magicvilas
magicvilas

Dan-O stunk, but Kellen Moore looked great.

I know it was against scrubs, but it was WITH scrubs too...

He put every pass on target.

BushidoBrownsRevenge
BushidoBrownsRevenge

I try not to dislike a player due to media hype (Its not Jadeveon Clowney's fault that ESPN showed his play vs Michigan 900 times a day) but they getting to me with Manziel. I want to see him do well but I am tired of hearing about him.

LucilleBluth
LucilleBluth

What a stupid blurbed that Martez Wilson bit is. If you like a player enough you sign him and send someone home, simple as that. The NFL has proven time after time to be a heartless business(watch Hard Knocks in the coming weeks) yet is to soft to send a guy home because they were overseas?? Really!?!?


I don't think there should be a team in London but not because of that ridiculous anecdote. 

metalhead65
metalhead65

hey Peter you should also check out Johnny Cueto and his stats playing for a offensively challenged reds ball club. kershaw's numbers are impressive but so are Cueto's.

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

Why doesn't that logic apply to Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, or John Elway - to name a few?

Nuadormrac
Nuadormrac

@KBowen7097 

The receiver is just as important a part to the passing game, as is the QB...  Just look at Tom Brady's facial expression in the games from last season (himself a proven veteran QB), after he was down Welker (went to a different team), down Hernandez (went and killed someone and got himself in jail), and down Gronkowski (due to injury)...  Did it effect the game?  Quite arguably, looking at the earlier games last season, but that it wasn't him simply losing it, when Gronk was back, you could see how the games went for the Pats both before and after Gronk's return.


One shouldn't underestimate the importance the receiver plays, even though people typically focus in on the QB.  The QB does depend on his receivers, to have a successful passing game.  This isn't just a Manziel thing either; it applies to just about any QB.  To successfully throw, one also needs the receiver, if that's out, what remains?  The running game, or?


Needless to say, and just to demonstrate also how being able to scramble or run isn't really a bad thing, look at what happens when the Packers (very effective passing attack), goes up against the 49ers.  They've arguably gotten better at addressing more physical teams like the 9ers, but we do see the same thing again and again.


But to have an effective passing attack, there has to also be receivers, that well, do catch the ball.  When the coaches are saying that the receivers aren't always looking for it, and it sometimes bounces off the receiver, when the pass was (the coaches words) "on the money"; does suggest an issue at the receiving end, itself.

Wombat
Wombat

@KBowen7097 I know but almost just doesn't count. He didn't do badly he just hasn't shown anyone enough to get the job or deserve the hype... yet. Give him time. I'm pretty sure he'll be the starter sometime this year and probably sooner than later... but the game this weekend wasn't enough.

Corey9
Corey9

@Knute so much talk about a team that will be lucky to win 5 games

Corey9
Corey9

@Aggie81 maybe against a first team defense too instead of a bunch of guys destined for the practice squad!

Wombat
Wombat

@Aggie81 Really? Even the local sportscasters in Ohio are saying he didn't do much. He may go on to be great but this weekend's game didn't show anything. It's much too early to tell.

Mike D2
Mike D2

@BushidoBrownsRevenge It's only just begun...the kid hasn't even played a snap in a regular season game yet. Blame the media for their obsession with him. He's doing and saying the right things, being a good teammate, and a humble rookie. If you are already tired of hearing of him part of that falls on you for continually exposing yourself to the media, reading this article on SI.com, watching an ESPN segment on the depth chart at Browns camp, etc. Not saying you can totally avoid Manziel talk if you watch ESPN, NFL network, or SI...but it seems like a lot of people rooting against him are all over the media coverage but then use that coverage as the reason they hate him.

Wombat
Wombat

@metalhead65 Very true. If Cueto played for a team that could actually hit he'd be in the running for a Cy Young award... as it is he won't get much attention.

Mike26
Mike26

@BillRobinson Those QB's you mention were all more prepared physically and mentally to take over and learn at faster rates.  John Manziel, if he continues upon his current path, will be so beaten up over the next two years may not make it to three years in the league.  He just doesn't have the history of being the film guy that he'll need to be to improve from playing; the others learned from the field and the film.  Just my opinion...

SandersonKramer
SandersonKramer

@Wombat @KBowen7097 And Hoyer's 6 for 14 has and his 4 starts in the pros has, his one good performance in 2013 has, his being undrafted and released by 2 teams, has?

Mike26
Mike26

@Wombat @Aggie81 You'll have to excuse the Manzealots...those Aggies lose much of their reasoning and rationale when it comes to John Manziel.

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