The Tim Tebow Trial
Monday Morning Quarterback

The Tim Tebow Trial

The Eagles are giving a chance to the lightning-rod QB who hasn’t played a meaningful down since 2012. Here’s why it’s a smart move by Philly. Plus, two HOF GMs on Winston vs. Mariota, a new look at the Malcolm Butler Super Bowl play and more

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Timeline of Sunday night:

6:34 p.m. ET: FOX’s Jay Glazer reports the Eagles will sign quarterback Tim Tebow, unemployed by any NFL team for the past 20 months, on Monday.

7:46 p.m.: ESPN’s Darren Rovell tweets, “98,000 Tweets on Tim Tebow in last hour.”

9:02 p.m.: Assistant coach in the NFL who knows Kelly but does not work with him says to me, “This is not a prayer. There’s a chance here. If there’s one coach in the NFL who could figure a way to use Tebow, it’s Chip. Maybe not every week, but in spots.”

10:22 p.m.: College friend of Tebow tells me Tebow “is very excited, but also very low-key. He just wants to go in [Monday, to the start of the Eagles’ offseason program] and fit in and say nothing.”

* * *

Tebow signing with most teams in the NFL today might not lead this column, especially because I've got two other items I really like. Tebow signing with the Eagles leads the column because, as my anonymous coach says, Kelly will give Tebow a legitimate chance to be one of his three quarterbacks this season. I say “chance,” because that is what this is. NFL teams have 90 offseason roster spots. Quarterback is clearly the most important starting position. The Eagles now have presumptive starter Sam Bradford, presumptive number two Mark Sanchez and presumptive fighting-for-a-roster-spot backup Matt Barkley behind them. Now it’s Tebow versus Barkley and free-agent camp arm G.J. Kinne.

This morning, Kelly has five quarterbacks on his roster, which will expand to 90 players in the next two weeks, once the draft and the signing of free agents is done. Kinne might be gone then. Who knows? Barkley might be gone then, traded or released. But Chip Kelly wants to get a good look for himself at Tim Tebow in the offseason program and presumably at training camp for at least a while.

An Assessment of Chip Kelly
 
 
Former Browns and Eagles president Joe Banner assesses the flurry of roster-overhauling moves made by Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly and points out the importance of Kelly’s sports science work.
 
FULL STORY
 

I don’t blame him. I applaud him. You’ve got 90 spots on your roster. If you think a player has a chance to help your team win a game somewhere down the road this season, wouldn’t you want to take a look at him for a few months—for free? Because the Tebow trial will cost Kelly essentially nothing. Tebow won’t be paid any significant money until he makes the team, if he does, in September. In 2010 he was a first-round pick. He has a skill set that fits in Kelly’s spread scheme with an emphasis on quarterback runs (at times). I still think Kelly wants to have a mashing-type running game, with a physical back (he has that now, in DeMarco Murray) and a quarterback who, at least occasionally, can be a running threat.

Let’s be real about what this is: It’s a trial. It's a chance. It’s a coach who doesn’t care about the distraction of having Tim Tebow in his camp, because he thinks Tebow might help his team. And about that distraction thing: Did you ever hear Bill Belichick or Robert Kraft or Tom Brady talk about Tebow being a distraction in Foxboro in 2013, when Tebow was on that team for the whole of training camp? No. That’s because he wasn’t one. He was cut by the Patriots because he’s not an accurate passer and didn’t fit their exacting scheme. Cutting Tebow was justified. Tebow didn’t deserve to be on that team. He might deserve to be a cog in the wheel in Philadelphia. We’ll see.

Tebow getting signed by the Eagles is not the decline of western sporting civilization. It is a coach running an offensive system that’s a good fit for a mobile quarterback just looking into whether one of the best mobile quarterbacks in college football history—and one, by the way, who beat the Dick LeBeau-led Steelers defense in an NFL playoff game—can be That Guy. No harm, no foul.

* * *

Hall of Fame GMs on Winston vs. Mariota

The slog continues, endlessly. The NFL places the draft an arduously, ridiculously long 123 days after the regular season, and so we are left to be bored silly for 10 more days. I’m at the if-you-can’t-beat-’em, join-’em stage this week.

Before we learn the real story behind the Malcolm Butler interception, and why I think Big Ben is bound for the season-opener, and finally someone going on the record in San Francisco on L’Affair Harbaugh, two voices of sanity on the great quarterback debate of 2015.

In August, Ron Wolf and Bill Polian will become the first general managers since 1995 enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Both are still active in the game. Wolf has been a consultant to several teams in recent years, most recently the Jets in a scouting and coach-and-GM-advisory capacity. Polian works for ESPN as an NFL analyst, and has been watching tape of college players preparing to work the draft.

“Both guys have a chance to be successful [but] the bottom line is ... adversity will come," Bill Polian says. “I’ve got to go with the more sure thing in my mind—Mariota.”

Polian had to choose between Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf in 1998 as general manager of the Colts, and between Kerry Collins and Steve McNair for the Panthers in 1995. Wolf, as Al Davis’ chief scout with the Raiders two generations ago, was a key man in the drafting of Ken Stabler. As Green Bay’s GM in 1992, Wolf traded with Atlanta for a third-string quarterback named Brett Favre.

I asked both Hall of Fame GMs over the weekend: If you had to choose between quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota in this draft, who would you take?

In fairness, both answered with asterisks, which I’ll explain.

“I’d probably lean toward Mariota,” Polian said.

“If I had to pick, based strictly on what I know now, I’d pick Winston,” said Wolf.

The provisos: Polian said it’s unfair to make a definitive choice without knowing everything your organization would know about the mental makeup and off-the-field behavior of the players. Wolf said “it isn’t fair” for him to judge Mariota with finality because he’s done much more work on Winston, even seeing him on the field in warmups before the Florida State-Miami game last fall.

As draft day gets closer, expert opinions remain split on whether Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston will be the better NFL QB. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images) As draft day gets closer, expert opinions remain split on whether Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston will be the better NFL QB. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

With those “yeah buts” out of the way, it was clear in talking to both men they have strong opinions on these players.

“I’ve seen Mariota on tape—I’d have to see a lot more of him—and I’ve seen Winston in-person and on tape,’’ said Wolf. “I’ve been exposed to Winston more. I watched Winston versus Miami before the game, down on the field, and then will his team back from a 16-point deficit. He’s an imposing guy. He has everything you’d want in a quarterback. I thought he was superb. What I know about Winston I like a lot. I’d take him in a heartbeat.”

Polian: “My answer has to be equivocal, because what I don’t have is the psychological reports on the players. Particularly on Winston, it’s beyond important. Combined with Winston’s 18 interceptions this year, I’d have to go Mariota.”

I asked: “If the psychological report on Winston was clean, would it still be Mariota?”

On Players We Donu2019t Know
 
 
A former front office exec and player agent, The MMQB’s Andrew Brandt shares his thoughts on Jameis Winston, Darren Sharper and Aaron Hernandez.
 
FULL STORY
 

Polian: “Very, very close. But I’d probably lean toward Mariota, as I said. It’s closer than Manning-Leaf was. Way closer. More like Collins-McNair in ’95. With Mariota, I don’t think playing from the pocket will be an issue; he did a lot of that in the eight or nine games I saw. And he didn’t throw 18 interceptions either. On 14 of those 18 interceptions, Winston didn’t see linebackers underneath or he zeroed in on the receiver regardless of coverage.

“But look, both guys have a chance to be successful. They’re both gifted. Both have superior tools. The bottom line is, I know you’ve got to be totally dedicated to the job, to go through the learning curve and all the tough days you’re going to have early. Adversity will come. And I’ve got to go with the more sure thing in my mind—Mariota.”

Wolf sounded like he saw some Favre in Winston. In 1991, when Wolf worked the draft for the Jets as their personnel director, he had Favre the number one player on his personal draft list. The Jets, who didn't have a first-round pick that year, were about to take Favre in the second when Atlanta swooped in to choose him. When Wolf got hired by Green Bay as GM late in 1991, Favre stayed on his mind, even though in Atlanta he had a crummy, party-filled rookie season.

“You have to have a conviction in that job, as general manager,” Wolf said. “I had one about Favre. I thought he was the best player in the draft the previous year, so one year later, what am I going to do if I can get him for our first-round pick? At the time, our quarterbacks in Green Bay were Don Majkowski, Blair Kiel and Mike Tomczak—a 10th and an 11th-round pick, and a free agent. You look around the league, and some teams have first-rounders backing up first-rounders. My attitude was you gotta keep going after it. If you have a conviction on a guy, you better go with that.”

Memo to Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht: The moral of this story, this year, is there isn’t a 100-percent sure thing, for a variety of reasons. You’d better go with your gut. The gut sounds like it’ll be Winston as we sit here, 10 days before D-Day.

The MMQB Extra: Who will open 2015?
The MMQB's Peter King discusses the possible matchups for the kickoff game of the 2015 NFL season.

 

* * *

Malcolm Butler's interception in the final minute sealed the Patriots' Super Bowl 49 win over the Seahawks. (John Iacono/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB) Malcolm Butler's interception in the final minute sealed the Patriots' Super Bowl 49 win over the Seahawks. (John Iacono/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB)

The inside story of how Malcolm Butler made that interception.

Because of New England owner Robert Kraft’s love of football history—particularly Patriots football history—and some smart video work by an in-house Patriots video producer, we’re able to see a big reason the Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl of the century.

The still-stunning play that decided Super Bowl 49, of course, was little-used nickelback Malcolm Butler’s interception of a Russell Wilson pass with 23 seconds left in the game at the Patriots’ goal line, preserving New England’s 28-24 victory. On a soon-to-be released video series, a part of which I recently got to watch, you’ll be able to see the rest of the story. Namely, why Butler made the play, and how the Patriots’ coaches made sure an error in Thursday’s practice by Butler would not be repeated.

Super Bowl 49, According to Tom Brady
 
 
Seattle’s infamous interception overshadowed a career-defining game by the Patriots quarterback, who explains from his perspective what went down in the final quarter.
 
FULL STORY
 

Who knew the Thursday error—and the work to correct it by coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer—would lead to one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history. Just goes to show that sometimes what looks like the littlest thing can be the biggest thing in the biggest game.

During Thursday’s pre-Super Bowl practice at the Arizona Cardinals’ facility in Tempe, the Patriots’ scout team offense—with Jimmy Garoppolo playing Russell Wilson—lined up at the New England seven-yard line, with a back offset and two receivers to the right. The receivers were split about six yards apart, not stacked the way they would be on the fateful play three days later in the Super Bowl. But the result was the same. The scout team receivers were supposed to show precisely what the Seattle receivers often do, which is to run legal pick plays. At the snap of the ball, Butler, on scout team wideout Josh Boyce, hesitated momentarily while Boyce used the inside receiver (I can’t tell who it is on the video) to set a screen. Garoppolo saw Boyce flash open, trailed by Butler, and hit Boyce for an easy touchdown.

“We were anticipating a bunch of pick routes, rub routes [by Seattle]," Boyer says on the video. “We didn’t do a very good job at the point … Malcolm kind of gave some ground there. Garoppolo ended up hitting Josh Boyce for a touchdown. Obviously, as a coach, that doesn’t make you feel good. Coach Belichick, Coach Patricia, they’re like, ‘Malcolm, you’ve got to play this a little better  … You’ve got to stick your foot in the ground and go and not give any ground and beat him to the junction point and make a play on the ball.’ ”

In the Super Bowl, of course, Butler went around the attempted pick by the first man in the stack—Jermaine Kearse, who was being blocked by cornerback Brandon Browner—and powered into position for the interception. Butler blasted Ricardo Lockette and caught the Wilson pass simultaneously. The coaches' point hit home.

“Malcolm did a great job,” Boyer said. “He did exactly like what we talked about. He stuck his foot in the ground, and there was nothing to impede his progress at all because Brandon had done such a good job, really, in holding Kearse at the line. It was the same play we had in practice that he’d saw. It’s really … you know, as a coach when you’re looking at it, and I saw the break from up in the box and said, ‘Okay, they’re not getting in. This’ll be a pass breakup. Okay, let’s get ready. It’ll be third-and-one. What do we want to do here?’

“At the time, I didn’t realize it. But that’s one of the best plays in Super Bowl history.”

The play is part of “3 Games To Glory IV,” (NFL Films/Kraft Sports Group, $39.95). This the fourth time the Patriots have put out a video series during the Kraft ownership regime—one after each Super Bowl victory. This three-Blu-ray/DVD set is seven hours, a collaborative effort of NFL Films and the Kraft Sports Group, and includes every play of the three playoff games from NFL Films cameras, plus interviews and footage shot by the Patriots and not seen before. Such as the Thursday practice play, which is the most enlightening piece of video I’ve seen in the wake of one of the best Super Bowls ever.

A Herou2019s Welcome for Mr. Butler
 
 
An undrafted free agent who once worked at Popeyes for $7.25 an hour became the unlikely star of Super Bowl XLIX. The MMQB followed him back home to Vicksburg, Miss., where everyone already knew his name.
 
FULL STORY
 

Kraft used to sit in Boston and then Foxboro as a Patriots fan before buying the team and says he would wonder what the coaches and players were saying to each other on the sideline and in the huddle. “I always used to think of what I’d want to see and hear as a fan,” he said Saturday, “and so when we got the team, and we went to the Super Bowl for the first time, it seemed like a good idea for the fans that if we won it, we’d be able to show them some of the inside stuff they would appreciate. What does Bill [Belichick] say to Tom [Brady]? What are the meetings like behind the scenes? For us, it’s not about selling DVDs. It’s about building a brand, serving our fans, and preserving history. Knowing we can bring this to our fans is pretty special for us.”

The team’s senior executive producer of broadcast production, Matt Smith, saw video of the practice play and went to the coaching staff to get clearer views of it.

“That is the pièce de résistance of the segment,” said Smith. “As we were going through the tape, our shot wasn’t great. I went [to the coaches] and made the point that this was something all fans would want to see. It was exciting to know that we had the footage and the back story.”

NFL Films producer Ken Rodgers, who collaborated with Smith on the series, said, “It’s exciting for me as a producer who thrives on access to know something like this exists and can be brought to fans to see. As a historian, I heard about it, and I said, ‘You mean you have the footage? Holy crap! I have to see that.’ ”

The Patriots will debut the series in Foxboro on April 29, then release it to the public on May 5 through their website and Amazon.

* * *

The more I think of it, the more I think this is the 2015 Opening Game.

Pittsburgh at New England, Sept. 10.

I’ll tell you why: Ben Roethlisberger.

Brady's Patriots beat Roethlisberger's Steelers the last time they met in November 2013. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Brady's Patriots beat Roethlisberger's Steelers the last time they met in November 2013. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Last year, when NFL schedule overseer Howard Katz and his staff finished making the 2014 schedule, I talked with them about the ins and outs of it. And what was important for the opener of the season was a competitive game—more than anything else. So what do we have as candidates in a relatively weak New England home schedule? Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, along with the refurbished Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. Tom Brady will be on one side, and the Patriots will be favored against any team on the other sideline that first night. But the one thing the NFL can’t have is a 24-3 game at halftime. Pittsburgh is the best insurance against that risk. The four quarterbacks on the contending teams for the first game:

  • Philadelphia, likely with new quarterback Sam Bradford, who has missed 25 of his last 32 games with back-to-back ACL surgeries in 2013 and 2014. What if he gets hurt again, or is rusty coming back to the game?
  • The Jets, with Ryan Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith. Could be a debacle by halftime.
  • Buffalo, with Matt Cassel or EJ Manuel. Less of a chance to be a debacle at halftime, but there’s still that chance.
  • Pittsburgh, with two-time Super Bowl champ Roethlisberger at the controls, a gunslinger capable of playing a four-quarter shootout with Brady.

One interesting point about the opener, if it’s Steelers-Patriots: Each team would be without a suspended running back from the same pot-smoking incident in August 2014—Le’Veon Bell for Pittsburgh and LeGarrette Blount for New England.

Quarterback quality is pretty important in these openers, judging by the NFL’s track record. Look at the past five: Aaron-Rodgers-Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco-Peyton Manning, Tony Romo-Eli Manning, Drew Brees-Rodgers, Brett Favre-Brees.

The schedule will be announced sometime this week. I’ve been wrong before, many times on many things. But Pittsburgh-New England makes the most sense to me.

* * *

Alex Boone says he became weary of Jim Harbaugh's motivational methods in San Francisco. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Alex Boone says he and other players grew weary of Jim Harbaugh's motivational methods in San Francisco. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Some details behind the whispers in San Francisco, finally.

Andrea Kremer has an insightful story Tuesday night on “HBO Real Sports” on Jim Harbaugh, who wore out his welcome in San Francisco and is now the University of Michigan coach. The piece has detailed quotes from Niners guard Alex Boone, who says Harbaugh gave the team a great initial spark when he got there in a time of major malaise for the franchise in 2011.

“But after awhile,” Boone tells Kremer, “you just want to kick his ass.”

Continues Boone: “He just keeps pushing you. And you're like, ‘Dude, we got over the mountain. Stop. Let go.’ He kinda wore out his welcome. I think he just pushed guys too far. You know, he wanted too much, demanded too much, expected too much … And you'd be like, ‘This guy just might be clinically insane. He’s crazy.’ ”

There’s no question San Francisco owner Jed York wanted a little more of a kumbaya attitude with the front office out of Harbaugh that wasn’t forthcoming. And now we see that some of the players—at least one, and I’ve heard reliably it isn’t just one—didn’t like Harbaugh as time went on in San Francisco either. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be gone. I covered the Giants in the eighties, and Bill Parcells was hardly a players’ favorite in all corners of the locker room, even after the Giants won a Super Bowl. But clearly, the front office tired of Harbaugh, and Boone gives evidence that this spread to the locker room too.

“The players have nothing to do with him getting fired,” Boone says to Kremer. “I think that if you're stuck in your ways enough, eventually people are just gonna say, ‘Listen, we can't work with this.’ ”

Good work by Kremer getting a player to go on the record about his feelings for Harbaugh.

* * *

In memoriam: Leland John Remmel.

Imagine the breadth of your football career if:

  • The first NFL regular-season game you ever worked was Packer legend Don Hutson scoring four touchdowns in a 1945 game against the Detroit Lions.
  • The second-to-last NFL regular-season game you ever worked was Packer legend Brett Favre throwing for four touchdowns in a 2003 game against the Oakland Raiders, the day after Favre’s father died.
For the Love of the Game
 
 
Brett Favre has never been one to ride off into the sunset, but the gunslinger still found his happily-ever-after coaching high school football in Mississippi.
 
FULL STORY
 

That was the life of Lee Remmel, who died at 90 on Thursday. And it’s just the life he wanted, first as a reporter covering the Packers of the Curly Lambeau through Dan Devine years, then as a longtime PR man managing head coaches through the Mike Sherman era. In my 31 years covering the NFL, I’ve never met a team employee who loved his team and his state and its people more than Lee Remmel loved the Packers, Wisconsin and the people who lived there. Covering the Packers over the years has been fun for the stories, to be sure, but also because of the long talks and education from a very nice man who loved everything about his life. The first time I covered a game in Green Bay, I found a gigantic cheddar cheese wheel up in the press box. Seems Lee wanted people who came to Green Bay to get to know the local fare. He told me that to get a real local experience, I had to eat at the Union Hotel in DePere. And the dining room at the Union Hotel, which can’t have changed much since Lombardi ate there, became a regular stop for me.

“Remarkable, remarkable man,” said Ron Wolf, the GM in the Favre days. “A rare person to work with, such a lover of the Packers and a lover of history of everything about the Packers. So many times he’d tell me a vivid memory about something he experienced, whether as a writer or our PR guy.”

Most often, players have business relationships with the men who manage their media obligations. Remmel and Brett Favre were different. Remmel called Favre “Brett Lorenzo Favre” (his full name) often in print, and so Favre took to calling Remmel “Leland John Remmel,” imitating Remmel’s deep baritone voice when he used the name. “Our humor connected right away,” Favre said Saturday, “and I am a historian too, sort of.” Favre liked toying with Remmel too, and this is one of my favorite stories since I’ve covered the game:

One year, the Packers played in Chicago on a Monday night. Favre procured a remote-control fart machine at Spencer Gifts, and when the team bus was getting ready to leave, Favre jumped on and put the machine under Remmel’s seat in row two of the bus. Remmel sat directly behind coach Mike Holmgren. And Favre always sat near the back of the bus. He did so this time in an aisle seat, with a clear shot for the remote control at the fart machine. “What was great about the fart machine,” Favre said, “was it had four different kinds of farts. They weren’t all the same.”

The bus ride was quiet, players and coaches in concentration about the game. Seemingly. Favre pressed the button with one kind of fart, then waited a while, then pressed the button for another kind, and on he went, maybe 10 or 12 times. Holmgren steamed. He wasn’t sure if Remmel had gas, or if it was some sort of prank. And when the bus emptied out, Remmel knew who was responsible for the shenanigans. He shot a look at Favre and said nothing. “Typical Lee,” Favre said. “That made it even funnier.”

Quotes of the Week

I

“Why did Pete Carroll throw that ball? Seattle's at the half-yard line. If anybody in the league can get a half-yard, it's Beast Mode [Marshawn Lynch].”

—Spike Lee, speaking at the premiere of “The Greatest Catch Ever,” his half-hour documentary on the David Tyree catch in Super Bowl 42 that helped the Giants end the Patriots' dream of a 19-0 season.

I was at the documentary premeire Sunday in New York, and three things occurred to me:

1. Lee kept coming back to this in a post-doc Q&A on stage. He was legitimately angry, confused and befuddled by the Carroll call, and no one in the theater could give him a smart answer on it.

2. The star of the doc was Rodney Harrison, and I don't say that just because I work with him. Harrison's emotion at the crushing disappointment shone through in his interview with Lee. He was, well, just so moved, in a bad way, by the failure to dislodge the ball from Tyree. So moved, in fact, that when he went back to his hotel after the game, he said he holed himself up in the bathroom of his room and cried.

3. Lee and a panel of former Giants spoke after the documentary aired. One Giant, guard Chris Snee, had this to say when Lee asked him what would have happened in the huddle if a pass play came in the way it did on the final Seattle offensive play, when the Seahawks called for a quick post route at the goal line—the play that was picked off by Malcolm Butler. Said Snee: “We would have gone absolutely berserk. ... There would have been some choice words thrown out.”

II 

“I never want to kill the dream of playing two sports. I would honestly play two sports … I may push the envelope one of these days … I know I can play in the big leagues. With the work ethic and all that, I think I definitely could, for sure. And that’s why the Texas Rangers, you know, got my rights. And they want me to play. You know, Jon Daniels, the GM, wants me to play [baseball]. We were talking about it the other day.”

—Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, in an interview with Bryant Gumbel for Tuesday’s “HBO Real Sports” show.

Very interesting. This quote will make the bulletin board of Seattle GM John Schneider, who is trying to get Wilson signed long-term. The two-time NFC champion quarterback’s contract expires at the end of this season, and the two sides are eligible to sign a new deal now, though no agreement is close.

III

“We got justice. I can finally say my son is resting in peace.”

—Ursula Ward, mother of the slain Odin Lloyd, after former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2013 death of Lloyd.

IV

“Extreme atrocity or cruelty.”

—Words from the jury in Massachusetts, describing the crime Hernandez committed.

At least six shots were fired at Odin Lloyd. Five were accounted for with certainty. One penetrated Lloyd’s back, one his right forearm, one his abdomen, one his breast. And one bullet was shot through Lloyd’s heart. 

V

“I owe private apologies to a lot of people that I disappointed but a very public one to the Browns organization and the fans that I let down. I take full responsibility for my actions and it's my intention to work very hard to regain everyone's trust and respect. I understand that will take time and will only happen through what I do and not what I say.’’

—Part of a statement attributed to Johnny Manziel and released through the Cleveland Browns on Friday, after his three-month stay in a rehab facility for treatment of substance abuse.

The last part is most important: Manziel said a lot between February 2014 and December 2014 about his devotion to football and his maturity and—well, all the good stuff he had to say to convince everyone in the NFL he was worth a first-round pick, and then all the stuff he had to say after the Browns drafted him to be convincing that he really wasn’t more interested in parties than football. Well, let’s see if he can stick the words of this statement—whoever wrote it—and earn some trust back through his actions and not his words.

Stat of the Week

The top offensive line prospect in the draft, Iowa guard/tackle Brandon Scherff, played 919 offensive snaps in 13 Hawkeyes games last year. He allowed 2.5 sacks, which is good. But the problem with that stat standing alone is this: Scherff didn’t face Nebraska first-round rush prospect Randy Gregory last year, and the Big Ten was overall crummy in pass-rush prospects last season, the best being late-round Purdue rusher Ryan Russell. So when you hear this stat on draft night, have a little perspective.

• THE PROSPECTS: Jenny Vrentas on Brandon Scherff, the Paul Bunyan of the 2015 draft.

Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me

For the Why Would Philip Rivers Ever Favor A Trade To Tennessee crowd:

  1. Rivers is a homebody.
  2. He and wife Tiffany, both from northern Alabama, have their strongest family ties to the Deep South.
  3. Rivers was born in Decatur, Ala., 114 miles south of Nashville.
  4. Rivers was a high school football star in Athens, Ala., 97 miles south of Nashville.
  5. The closest NFL franchise to Athens, Ala., by far, is Tennessee. The Atlanta Falcons are twice as far away.
  6. In his most accurate season as an NFL quarterback, 2013, Rivers' offensive coordinator was Ken Whisenhunt, now the Titans coach and a fervent Rivers fan.

Let me make it clear that I am not saying Rivers would rather play anywhere else but San Diego. But too many people wonder why he’d ever want to play for Tennessee. Those are a few clues.

• PETER KING: The dots are being connected on a potential Titans-Chargers trade

Tweets of the Week

I

II

The former NFL player and scout, now an analyst for NFL digital media, makes a great point about this manic pre-draft time of year that way too many of us forget. 

III

Nelson was a college teammate of Aaron Hernandez at Florida. 

IV

 

Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of murder and will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole. (Boston Globe/Getty Images) Former Patriot Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of murder and will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole. (Boston Globe/Getty Images)

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think there are two points about Aaron Hernandez that can’t be forgotten. One, if a player has strong ties to a sordid past—either gang-related or simply sordid in some other way—it’s not very smart for that player to be playing in the backyard of his youth. Hernandez’s hometown of Bristol, Conn., is 115 miles from Foxboro. As Greg Bedard reported last month, Hernandez went to the combine in 2013, ostensibly to ask Bill Belichick for a trade to distance himself from some dangerous friends back home. Bedard couldn't nail down the details of the story. Was Hernandez trying to start a new life and just couldn’t get out of his current one? That seems dubious based on the conviction for one murder and the upcoming trial for two more. But no one outside a minuscule circle—maybe a circle of one—really knows. Two: The Patriots can, and should, be faulted for their private-eye work, or lack of it, before giving Hernandez a rich contract in 2012. It’s true that teams can’t know everything about their players, but I’d think it’d be reasonable to expect that if you’re going to commit $40 million to a player on your team with a history of some transgressions off the field (and Hernandez did have them at Florida), you’d do more investigating than the Patriots did before signing him to the rich extension.

Whatu2019d They Know? Whatu2019d They Learn?
 
 
Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction will absolutely not change the way teams assess players with off-the-field problems. But there is one lesson teams can take away.
 
FULL STORY
 

2. I think the story of the week belongs to Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News, for his richly detailed work on the case and the trial and the conviction of Hernandez.

3. I think I’m starting to have my mind changed. I’ve thought all along that Adrian Peterson has likely played his last game for Minnesota, because he obviously doesn’t want to be there. But the question is: What team out there wants to commit $13 million in cash to a 30-year-old running back—albeit a great one—with salaries of $15 million in 2016 and $17 million in 2017 on the horizon? I don’t see Arizona doing it. I’m less sure of Dallas, but even with a contract extension to soothe the cap hit this year and next, I’d be surprised if the Cowboys pull the trigger. Is there a surprise team out there with cap room, like a Jacksonville? Could be, but does it make sense for a team not close to Super Bowl contention to pay a high pick or picks plus gigantic money for Peterson? I don’t believe Vikings GM Rick Spielman will be pressured into a deal. And I don’t believe Peterson will choose to forfeit the weekly paychecks of $765,000 this season. So though it may get ugly, I think there’s an increasing chance the Vikings are not going to bend to Peterson by draft weekend unless the offer for him is a high pick or picks. By the way, I’d be surprised if Peterson showed up for the start of the Vikings’ offseason program today. I think the Vikings would be surprised too.

4. I think for someone who says he doesn’t regard Jace Amaro as an important figure in the Jets-Bills rivalry, Rex Ryan seems to be spending an awful lot of media time on Jace Amaro.

• THE REX EFFECT: Rex Ryan on his turbulent Jets reign and fresh start in Buffalo

5. I think if I were the Giants at No. 9, I’d take Trae Waynes over Brandon Scherff. Rare cornerbacks—and the 6-1, sub-4.4-in-the-40 Waynes is potentially quite rare—are harder to find than very good offensive line prospects. Pro Football Focus has Waynes with problems on change of direction, which would be a issue with a cornerback, so it’ll be interesting to see how teams factor that in—if they agree—as the first round approaches.

6. I think the Seahawks players did a smart thing, both in inviting new tight end Jimmy Graham along on a training/fun trip to Hawaii last week, and in poking public fun at the feud they had from the 2013 season with Graham. Before a playoff game, Bruce Irvin and Graham jawed at each other on the field, and last week Irvin sent out a photo on Instagram of Graham having to be restrained from fighting Irvin. They were play-acting. No matter how the players feel about their new teammate, Graham is going to be a big piece in helping the team try to get to its third straight Super Bowl, so it’s smart of them to at least work at being close.

 

7. I think Jacksonville got a bargain (one year, $2.5 million) with an established center, Stefen Wisniewski, who was downgraded because of questions about an injured shoulder. It’s a risk, but if it works, the Jags will have a top 10 center.

8. I think Georgia running back Todd Gurley, five months after ACL surgery, got some good news the other day at the combine medical re-check in Indianapolis. So good, in fact, that one team interested in Gurley now thinks it’s legitimately possible he wouldn’t have to start the year on the physically unable to perform list; he could well be active. Seems little doubt Gurley will be a first-round pick.

9. I think one name stands above others on the Mysteries of the 2015 Draft list: wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Boom or bust. Very big boom or very big bust. A GM who takes Green-Beckham in the first round is a GM who feels very secure in his job.

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

a. Love this story on the game (and quality upbringing) of Masters champ Jordan Spieth by NBCSports.com’s Joe Posnanski.

b. Posnanski, after the final round of the Spieth victory: “Jordan Spieth took 2,593 words to go over his round. To give you a comparison, the Gettysburg Address is 272 words.”

c. I love Posnanski. He thinks of such cool things when he writes.

d. Excellent job, too, by the Washington Post’s Rick Maese on a widower coping with grief, and baseball and the Baltimore Orioles helping.

e. I’m not much of an NBA fan (in fact, I’m not one at all), but did anyone notice the Celtics finished the year on a 17-7 run and ended 40-42? Brad Stevens must be pretty good.

f. Paul Blart. One of the great, and most apt, names in film history.

Talk Back
Have a question or comment for Peter King? Email him at talkback@themmqb.com and it might be included in this week’s mailbag.
 

g. Never thought of this until I read the spate of incredible stories about the 150-year anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln: There were people, quite a few of them, alive on my birth date in 1957 who were alive the day Lincoln was murdered in 1865.

h. The Edmonton Oilers won the lottery to pick number one in the 2015 NHL draft. Okay. Shouldn’t sports leagues have some sort of rule how many times you can have the top picks in an X-year span? Since 2010, and including this year, Edmonton has picked (in order) first, first, first, seventh, third and first. This year they’re bound to take an incredible prospect, Connor McDavid. Edmonton must have taken some other incredible players the past five drafts, and the Oilers still stink. Why reward this?

i. The Buffalo Sabres are just as hapless as the Oilers. Times picking number one over the past six drafts: zero.

j. Maybe I’m wrong about this. Tell me if I am. But to continue to reward a team that simply can’t turn it around … It just seems wrong to me.

k. Coffeenerdness: It’s okay on a warm afternoon to stray from coffee. You can have the occasional unsweetened iced green tea, and you’ll get the desired jolt. And the quenching of the thirst at the same time.

l. Beernerdness: This is not about a specific beer, but rather about one of the best beer menus I’ve ever seen, at Eastern Standard, the fine Boston restaurant around the corner from Fenway Park. Had the pleasure of a late lunch there prior to the Red Sox opener last Monday. The staff is incredibly helpful (right down to advice where to find the rarest of beer gems, Heady Topper, the next time I’m shopping in Vermont), and the list has nothing but quality. Well, I’ll mention the one I had that I loved: Citrennial IPA from Foley Brothers Brewing (Brandon, Vt.).

m. One of the great opening-day ceremonies I’ve seen happened at the Boston home opener last week. Four Patriots—Robert Kraft, Jonathan Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady—emerged from the Green Monster clutching Super Bowl trophies and walking to the infield. Brady threw out the first pitch, a one-hopper, to David Ortiz. Then a choir, led by Jane Richard, the sister of the murdered Boston Marathon victim, Martin Richard, sang the National Anthem. Then Pete Frates, the ALS-suffering founder of the Ice Bucket Challenge and former Boston College baseball player, was wheeled to the pitcher’s mound, and with the help of Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and Pedro Martinez, was signed to a contract with the Red Sox. Then a line of the Boston players filed by Frates’ wheelchair to greet him.  Great job by the Red Sox—all of it.

n. Man, that Britt McHenry video is tough to watch.

o. This must have been weird: The Giants, riding an eight-game losing streak, got their World Series rings Saturday night. 

The Adieu Haiku

Draft’s 10 days away.

Still. Explain that. I beg you.

Thing should be in March.


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