When last we left Kinglandia royal flyer, Peter King, he forecast a LEGIT 76-ish percent chance of Colts flurries, with the possibility of a wintry mix of other nuggets. Was he right? Well, look no further than LaRon Landry and Gosder Cherilus. Name five free agent signings splashier than that. You can’t. And let us not forget Erik Walden, Lawrence Sidbury, and Ricky Jean-Francois. That is less a flurry and an TRIPLE BLIZZARD Nor’easter of Colts nuggets. Never again will we doubt a PK prognostication.
But what about this week? What interesting thing did Peter King notice while attending 800 minor league baseball games this week? Did you know Brandon Stokley is a bestest good egg there is and talks about poor people with the Pope? Finally, PK got Mike Florio to leave his troll van behind and join the Kinglandia city in the clouds. READ ON.
Lord, the NFC West is going to be a bear of a division in 2013.
That was my first thought as Sunday night turned into Monday morning here at the NFL Meetings, after Jake Long — 27 years old, beat up the last two years, but two years removed from being the game’s premier left tackle — agreed to a four-year contract to be the Rams’ left tackle.
Forget the Niners getting Anquan Boldin or the Seahawks landing Percy Harvin and a small army of impressive, underpriced pass rushers. It didn’t dawn on Peter King that the already good NFC West is going to be competitive until his buddy Jeff Fisher got a hold of one decent lineman for the Rams.
It’s a signing fraught with uncertainty. We — most of us in the media, and fans, and teams — overrate free agency as a tool to improve teams.
Oh fuck. Here comes the lecture again.
How many times (including recently, in 2009) has Washington won free agency, then stunk the joint up when real football began?
A lot, which is why no one needs to be reminded that the balance of power in the league hasn’t shifted dramatically over the past few weeks. Seriously, who is arguing that the Dolphins are the team to beat now because they threw money around in free agency? No one. Peter doesn’t even bother to come up with a straw man. He just starts condescending as a matter of course.
We yell at the Giants, Steelers and Packers for doing nothing in the free market except bleed players — more about that in my Tuesday column, with some startlingly honest admissions from Packers GM Ted Thompson — but tell me: How can you be critical of Thompson or Jerry Reese of the Giants or Kevin Colbert of the Steelers right now?
YOU DARE QUESTION THE DOIN’ THE RIGHT WAY BRIGADE!?
There’s plenty to find fault with among those teams – two of which missed the playoffs last year. The Giants just signed Ryan Mundy, who is fucking awful, to possibly start in their already questionable secondary. The Steelers are in disarray. Unless the team has a tremendous draft this year, they’re gonna struggle to be competitive in 2013. Should the Patriots sign Manny Sanders, Pittsburgh might have to start Plaxico fucking Burress at receiver next season. Not to mention that they lost their best pass rusher and their best corner.
Back to the (sometimes false) hope of free agency. For a franchise that had been trying to compete with one competent tackle, Rodger Saffold, and a Ringling Brothers arrangement on the other side, the Rams getting Long is a big add. Very big.
“Uber big! Remember how I said free agency is utterly pointless and for dummies? Of course you don’t. Hey, call me crazy, but I think this NFC West is gonna be all right next season.”
I’ve mentioned this before, but don’t go handing the division to the Niners or Seahawks yet. St. Louis was 4-1-1 in the division last year. .
Because apparently the NFL works like the NCAA, where your division record overrules your shitty overall record. The Rams also lead the league in having a coach with the same agent as Peter King.
What if the Rams can keep Sam Bradford (sacked 71 times in his last 26 games) significantly cleaner? And what if Arians can invent a quarterback?
What if earthquakes swallow Seattle and San Francisco whole? What if the U.S. outlaws tattoos and Colin Kaepernick actually does go to San Quentin? What if Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll gnaw each other’s faces off BEFORE next season?
That’s a huge what-if, and it’s doubtful, but this is March. We major in what-ifs in March.
We take spring semester classes in first-grade what-if-ology 101 so we can up our mindless bullshit game by the time the next season starts,
Ten Good Ones
The best signings in the first six days of NFL free agency:
“Free agency is overhyped and stupid. Except for a double-digit amount of shrewd, possibly league-altering moves.”
1. Denver: WR Wes Welker, two years, $12 million. I’ve heard all the stories about Welker
Those times he caught passes 100 times out of 100, except when he didn’t.
and the anger and bitterness about his departure from New England. That will fade in time. But the Broncos are getting a man who, while missing three regular season games in the last six years, averaged 112 catches a season for New England over that time. That’s tremendous. And he’ll be used by a quarterback, Peyton Manning, who absolutely loves the slot receiver. If Welker breaks down, which he’s shown no sign of doing, the grade will have to be revised here. But if Welker plays 16 games and doesn’t catch 100 balls, my name’s Joe Don Looney.
/files that away for future mocking
2. Philadelphia: TE James Casey, three years, $14.6 million. “With coach [Chip] Kelly coming in here, I thought it was a great fit for me,” Casey said upon signing. Truest words of the week.
Very true. The truthiest. Every other player who thinks he works in the system of his new team is lying through his fucking teeth.
Recruited to Rice as a quarterback, Casey became an all-purpose back and tight end, and played numerous special teams for Houston. The way Kelly will use Casey (52 catches, 11.3 yards per catch in 969 snaps in Houston over the past two years) is the way the Patriots use their tight ends, and the way San Francisco used Delanie Walker last year: everywhere.
James Casey will lead the league in everywhereness. The Eagles will line him in places never before thought possible. In one formation, he stands on top of another tight ends shoulders.
8. San Diego: RB/returner Danny Woodhead: two years, undisclosed. OK, I don’t know the dough, so I can’t pass judgment on the wisdom.
BUT WHO CARES? IT’S LITTLE FACKIN’ WOODHEAD. HOW CAN’T IT BE SMAHHHHT!
But I’m sure it’s not a huge deal, and Woodhead, in the running, receiving and return game, didn’t lose a fumble over the past two seasons in 233 New England touches. Great insurance for the disappointing Ryan Mathews.
Sure, he fumbled last year, but the other team didn’t get it. He willed it away from them with mind ball control. Total game-changer.
Class Guy of the Week.
Brandon Stokley, slot receiver, Denver.
Holy shit, no one told me it was White Boy day.
Think of those last three words — “slot receiver, Denver” — and what do you think of? Wes Welker, obviously.
But think of Stokley for a moment.
Oh no, stop taking my thoughts in strange and dangerous new directions. This is not my beautiful house.
A year ago tomorrow, Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos. During his brief free-agent fling, Manning used the home of one of his best friends, Stokley, as a refuge. Stokley lives in the Denver suburb of Castle Pines. A year ago, he was unsigned. Maybe he’d be signed by the Broncos, maybe he wouldn’t.
Let me stop you right there. Stokley wasn’t getting any fucking job last year without Pey-Pey.
But he helped his buddy, Manning, hide out — and decide what to do.
“I don’t know, Peyton, taking that $96 million might be an okay move. Can I get you anything? A drink? A trusty white receiver you’ve played with before?”
Manning slept at his good pal Stokley’s house the day he got to Denver. The next day, Manning and Stokley got up early because Manning wanted to get a good throwing session in. In secrecy. Off to the park they went — but there was an early-morning lacrosse game in progress. So Manning and Stokley moved to a community park with a 40-yard-square field. When a jogger would approach, Stokley would yell, “Jogger!” And he or Manning would hide the football and wait until the jogger, or maybe bicyclist, passed.
Stokley knew the routes Manning wanted to throw, and he ran them. And when Manning signed, Stokley, 36, eventually got signed too — with no promises about whether he’d make the team.
No inside track at all. No reason the Broncos wanted to appease Manning by signing every former Colts player they could.
He made the team and played 60 percent of the snaps in the slot, catching 45 passes. The last pass of Manning’s season, in fact, was to Stokley, and Baltimore’s Corey Graham picked it off.
So when it came time to sign Welker to a two-year, $12 million deal last week, a decision that took the Broncos about 10 seconds to make because Welker’s the most productive slot man in football, coach John Fox picked up the phone to inform Stokley. “Heartbreaking,” Fox said here Sunday, “because Stokley’d been such a great guy and important player for us.”
And Stokley said to Fox, basically, that if he was running the team, he’d go after Welker too.
That’s why Brandon Stokley, who may have had his career ended by the acquisition of Welker, is the Class Guy of the Week.
He only wrangled one extra year of playing in the NFL out of his buddy. WHAT A GUY!
Stat of the Week
If the Players Association or league ever wants to drive home the point about why the NFL truly should stand for “Not For Long,” go back to the 2008 draft for vivid proof.
Jake Long’s departure from Miami to St. Louis in free agency Sunday night means 42 of the top 64 players in the 2008 draft — not quite five years ago — are no longer on the teams that drafted them.
That’s 66 percent of the drafted players gone from their original teams … 19 of the first 32, 23 of the next 32.
Or you could save time and cite the fact that the average length of an NFL player’s career is 3.2 years?
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Before the football, there was a little baseball in Kinglandia over the weekend.
Ah, Kinglandia, whose chief imports are nuggets and citrus and whose chief export is citrus beer farts.
On Friday afternoon, I went to Rangers-Giants in Scottsdale, at San Francisco’s home field. Sat on a metal bench seat a little bit past the first-base bag, high in the grandstand. Price for the seat: $56.
On Saturday afternoon, I went to Reds-Brewers in Maryvale, at Milwaukee’s home field. Sat on precisely the same kind of metal bench seat just past the first-base bag, high in the grandstand. Price for the seat: $16.
The Brewers experience was better. Better beer, less packed, kids getting Racing Sausage autographs, more of a spring training feel. But I kept thinking: The stadium in Scottsdale was teeming with people, all seeming to have fun. To pay $56 for a spring training game seems the height of insanity, but then again, I did it. So check me into the asylum.
One more point: You can buy four season tickets for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers right now in the upper deck, on the 45-yard line, for a package price of $2,254. That’s 40 tickets — four tickets per game to 10 games (eight regular season, two preseason). Do the math. The per-ticket cost: $56.35.
Thus, it costs the same to sit high in the stands at a San Francisco Giants exhibition game as it does to sit high in the stands at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers regular season game.
Seeing the defending World Series champions in a location that is not terribly inconvenient for its fan base is expensive? ZOMG, it’s like Joe Don Looney is running the asylum. It’s barely worth the price to steal foul balls from children at those games.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
So Mr. Pro Football Talk, Mike Florio of Bridgeport, W. Va., had gone 15 1/2 years without flying until Sunday. For him, it wasn’t a fear of flying so much as a loss of control. When he drove, or was being driven, he could see the road and the other drivers if he wasn’t the one driving, and he felt secure knowing that whatever the statistics about the relative safety of flying versus driving said, to him, driving just felt safer.
Also, because it’s a popular belief in West Virginia that airline travel is only made possible by homosexual aborted fetus witchcraft.
Florio’s usual mode of transportation is a van to and from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport train station, then a train to New York or Stamford, Conn., for his NBC appearances. But nothing in the air since he began to do the smash-hit web stuff on PFT. If a league meeting was too far away, he just wouldn’t go. If the Super Bowl was within 20 hours or so in a vehicle, he’d go by van.
It sounds rough but EvoShield can furnish those things nice. No worries, Floors, PK knows a guy.
All the while, his bosses at NBC were working on Florio to join the human, non-Madden race.
Leave the troll race behind, Florio, and join us, the Elite Flyers, in our kingdom of the clouds.
“[NBC Sports executive producer] Sam Flood kept working on me,” said Florio. “He kept sending me links to stories about how safe it was to fly. The one that really got me was the New York Times story that said you’d have to fly every day for something like 112,000 years to be in a fatal plane incident.”
Absolutely. Everyone who has ever died in a plane crash racked up exactly that many frequent flyer miles.
Florio wanted to go to this week’s league meetings, and Phoenix was going to be too far to drive. So he finally decided to get back on a plane, flying here nonstop Sunday afternoon from Pittsburgh with his wife, Jill.
“It was uneventful,” he said once in the Valley of the Sun. “I wish I could tell you some great story about getting all claustrophobic once they closed the door, or something like that. But I can’t.
“A shame, because I would have tasked RGIII with fixing what’s wrong with the airline industry. HE EITHER ACCEPTS THAT RESPONSIBILITY OR HE’S A COWARD!”
I was hoping for a better story. The only thing I can tell you is when we were turning the corner to get out on the runway, my wife said to me, ‘Does someone know where our wills are?’ And I said, ‘I really don’t want to think about that right now.’ ”
“PIPE DOWN, HARPY, I ALREADY LEFT OUR MOBILE HOME TO THAT NUGMET-LOVING LARD-ASS”
What has changed since he last flew: the fact that visitors can’t go to the gate with flyers. “The whole security thing is so different,” he said. “First, you practically disrobe going through security — your shoes, your belt, your jacket, and then all your electronics in different bins. Then you get through security, and it’s like a ghost town in there.”
Maybe on a March Sunday in an airport with increasingly declining traffic, like Pittsburgh’s. But I don’t go through many ghost towns when I travel.
Pfft. Only if you travel through airline backwaters like Yinzburgh. That’s okay, Florio. Get your air legs under you through those pissant stops and before long you’ll travel like a true lofty man of the skies.
Welcome back to the aerial race, Florio.
“HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF BECOMING BI-COASTAL? TOM BRADY RAVES ABOUT IT!”
Tweet of the Week II
“I care as much about your bracket as I do about your fantasy football team.”
— @bylindsayhjones, the USA Today football writer.
Funny, I care more about any given person’s bracket than whatever drivel USA Today is pumping out.
Tweet of the Week IV
“Elvis Dumervil’s ex-agent just faxed me to wish me Happy Valentine’s Day…”
— @EricStangel, executive producer and writer for The Late Show With David Letterman, on Sunday, after the Dumervil-Broncos-faxing fiasco of Friday afternoon.
It’s funny because that holiday was a while ago. Another Stangel gem.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is the coldest name of them all here at the NFL Meetings: James Harrison. Cannot find anyone admitting to being interested in the former Steeler. It seems if he wants to play this year, he’ll have to do it for less than half of what he was supposed to make for the Steelers. He should have taken the cut the Steelers were offering.
No one wants an old, surly, expensive linebacker? What gives?
5. I think the cutest thing I saw on the weekend before the NFL Meetings began here at the Arizona Biltmore hotel is the Harbaugh brothers, and families, playing with kids in the hotel pool. Number two: The Harbaugh brothers, out for a 6 a.m. walk together on the jogging path outside the hotel.
Stopping at each of the workout stations along the trail, growling and kicking each other while racing to be the first one to do 45 pull-ups.
9. I think it was nice to speak to you again Sunday night, Sean Payton.
Oh ho ho, is that right? Is there an easing of tensions between the Saints and Kinglandia? Dammit, I hope not.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Strangest postseason college basketball matchup I have ever heard: Kentucky at Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.
A mid-major school and a national powerhouse having a down year meeting in the NIT? THAT’S CRIZ-AZAZY! AMAZEAWEIRD!
b. Ohio at Denver in the NIT Tuesday night. Bobcat fever, baby.
Fuck off. No one boasts about their school playing in the NIT.
f. My bracket philosophy? Simple — since the days when I followed the game. I pick the favorite in every game, put my $20 in the mail to my good buddy Ron Fisch in Montclair, N.J., and hope for the best. I never have won a dime in Ron’s pool, so he loves to see my $20 arrive in the mail.
Jesus Christ. I’ve seen 8-year-olds with a more sophisticated approach to filling out brackets.
g. Great to meet you the other day, Cara McDonough. Your old man would be proud of you.
Because her dad didn’t want her to get an e-mail account? Why else would be included this meesage in your column?
h. Hey Pope Francis: The more you talk, the more I love hearing you talk about the poor. Keep it up.
i. The pope, of course, reads MMQB voraciously.
“I love hearing you talk about the poor, especially when I read about it on my iPad in the Acela quiet car when jaunting to another city for health care, because who can trust the quacks they have in Manhattan these days?”
j. Coffeenerdness: Yes, the Arizona Biltmore is fabulously overpriced. But it has the best hotel coffee I’ve had in forever.
THIS LUXURY HOTEL I CAN EASILY AFFORD IS DREADFULLY EXPENSIVE BUT THE COFFEE IS JUST SO SCRUMPTIOUS. BY THE WAY, I LOVE HEARING THE POPE TELL ME WHAT KIND OF GUTTER COFFEE THE POORS HAVE TO CHOKE DOWN. DEAR LORD, CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE!?
k. Beernerdness: Hey Dan Patrick! Had your Redhook Audible Ale the other day at the Giants’ game. Really good stuff — hoppy and rich. Is the next one on you?
Hey fellow rich person I am friends with: got a chance to sample the beer a major brewery made for you. You should give me some for free, but also don’t sell it to poor people because they shouldn’t have it. The Pope tells me alcoholism is a problem for the poors.
l. If I did the 4.2-mile Pat’s Run back here in Arizona in a month, could we figure out a fun way to raise money for the Tillman Military Scholar Program? The Tillman Foundation has given scholarships to 230 military service members, or their spouses, for college educations. What better way to pay tribute to the late Tillman than to raise money to educate veterans and their spouses, seeing that education was such a cornerstone to Tillman’s life?
m. Maybe we can have an event in Phoenix the night before the race, a Tweetup with a Cardinal or two, with the proceeds going to the Tillman Foundation. I’m open to doing what you think would be best. Send me your best ideas about how we can raise the money, and I’ll print them next week, and we’ll figure something out.
I’ll donate $20 for every poor person who gets to kick Peter King in the dick.
The Adieu Haiku
Belichick. Smart coach.
That doesn’t mean he can’t err.
Wes Welker: E-Bill.
Two gritsters long gone!
Belichick lost his fastball?
Said Joe Don Looney