When last we left 10K DNFer, Peter King, he was telling us that free agency finally works after 20 years of existence because reserves get a chance to sign with other teams and start, which is something that happened regularly everywhere but Peter King’s mind. PK also marveled at the fact that the NFL dominated a “Mike and Mike” show three days into free agency, as opposed to fencing coverage, usually a forte for ESPN radio. Finally, Peter chugged enough coffee in the span of a day and a half to pay for his reusable coffee cup, which earns his 10 cents of savings at a time. So expect regular ulcernerdness any week now.
But what about this week? Good news, everyone. Peter isn’t intent on boring you with all the messy details about how the sport you love is changing how rules are enforced. There are Starbucks drink rulings to get to. That’s what you’re here for! Now, READ ON.
ORLANDO, Fla. — The news here this week at the annual NFL meetings at a ritzy Ritz in central Florida?
In a just world the news is you’ve been fired for using the phrase “ritzy Ritz”.
Officiating and an effort to create a more virtuous culture.
Looks like we’re about to get a big ol’ virtue injection. Usually that’s code for the NFL cracking down on celebrations, but it could also mean Goodell mandated brainwashing to remove thoughts disrespectful of the the shield.
That’s what you’ll be reading and hearing about from the meetings. Not expanding the playoffs from 12 teams to 14, which won’t happen till at least 2015. Not the push by the Patriots and some others to move the PAT from the 2-yard line to the 25.
That’s interesting, since PK just last week cited both of those things as subjects that would be discussed thoroughly during the meetings.
At the risk of writing too much about officiating, I’m going to do it again this week.
Yeah, you’d hate to commit so much space to an integral part of the sport when there’s 800 words on your fantasy baseball roster to cram in. That’s the real meat and potatoes of football writing.
In a 30-minute conversation with Dean Blandino on Sunday night, he told me that members of the league’s 17 officiating crews will be able to talk to each other on the field during games.
“We’re going to implement an official-to-official communications system, so all seven officials can communicate wirelessly,” Blandino said. “Each official will have an earpiece, a microphone, and just a little radio pack where they can communicate in a closed system, encrypted.
“Also, we’re making referees communicate on the field using Snapchat.”
“We’ve tested this the last two years, and we feel it gives us better communication, more efficient communication pre-snap—when you’re talking about coverages, especially downfield when you have three downfield officials. Who’s covering what receiver? Now they read the formation, they decide which receiver they’re going to cover, but there’s no check and balance. They’re 30, 40 yards away from the other officials they might need to talk to. Now they can communicate. I’ve got the widest guy, I’ve got the second guy inside.”
No longer will Peyton Manning be able to manipulate referee coverage at the line of scrimmage.
The benefit after the play, Blandino said, is that a back judge who see pass interference from behind the line of scrimmage will no longer have to run 25 or 30 yards to tell the referee whom the flag is on. The system is not an open mike (that proved chaotic during preseason trials) but rather a push-to-talk system. In my example, the back judge would push his button and say to the ref, “I’ve got a DPI [defensive pass interference] on 24 Baltimore,” and save a few seconds. Said Blandino, “It’s just a natural progression in communications improvement.”
We’ve a season away from the NFL dictating that refs wear Google Glass. I just know it.
That’s an inside-football change most fans won’t notice. The league hopes the major replay proposal gets passed—and that fans won’t notice this one either. Most often, fans only notice replay when it is administered differently by different crews. If the replay tweak that the Competition Committee hopes to see passed is indeed approved—allowing the NFL officiating department to have a hand in replay decisions—consistency should improve in 2014.
That’s right, no way that football fans would ever notice rules no longer being enforced haphazardly, as they have been for years in NFL. Fans only notice officiating errors when media members kick and scream about them. Fans don’t notice Peter King’s utter disdain for them, unless they do. MAYBE.
The replay proposal would work this way: Once the game referee announces on the field that he will be reviewing a play, a communications line from the league office will go live in the ref’s ear. On the other end he’ll either have Blandino or the NFL’s senior director of officiating, Alberto Riveron, a former ref. (In the case of simultaneous replays, Blandino can talk to one ref and Riveron the other. Blandino said there was never an instance in 2013 of three replays happening simultaneously without the benefit of a TV timeout enabling at least one of them to be put on hold for a few seconds while the other two could be properly adjudicated.)
I’m rooting so hard for there to be three simultaneous replays at some point in the 2014 season. I hope the stadium PA goes, “Please hold. The next available replay representative will be with this game momentarily. Your football game is important to us.”
The issue came to the fore with a bad replay decision by ref Jeff Triplette last year in Cincinnati on a close play at the goal line. “That call obviously was a mistake,’’ said Blandino. “We have 17 referees and obviously we have a standard that’s consistent with visual evidence. But maybe all of our 17 referees … they’re not going to be 100 percent consistent. We know that some people may interpret certain plays a certain way. We feel from a standardization point and a consistency point, there’s a handful of people in New York that can oversee the process. We’re going to make more consistent decisions. In every review we will be part of the conversation.”
At some point, doesn’t “fire incompetent shithead Jeff Triplette” become part of the solution as well? No? Okay, just checking.
The worst-kept secret around the NFL is no long under wraps: If he passes his physical and his background check, Shawn Hochuli, son of Ed “Biceps of Stone” Hochuli, will make his NFL officiating debut this fall. That’s what Blandino told me Sunday night.
Such an open secret that the NFL’s most connected reporter never bothered to mention it before it was confirmed by the league’s head of officiating.
“We’ve hired or extended offers to some of the officials in our advanced development program,’’ said Blandino. “But it is contingent on a physical exam and then we take it to the next level with the background check. But once that clears, yes, we have offered Shawn a position.”
Hochuli not getting the job because of a failed physical would be tremendous irony, though.
“Will he be on his dad’s crew?’’ I asked.
“The Xerox of Fate demands it!”
“That remains to be seen,’’ Blandino said. “I’m leaning in one direction, but we’ll see.”
“It would be in our best interest to discourage the father-son connection since the NFL has more than enough examples of nepotism. So the answer to your question is a resounding yes.”
The league’s coaches and general managers will hear about team-building and sportsmanship this morning from a man named Dov Seidman, an ethicist and author of HOW: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything. That’s in line with the initiative Goodell and others in the league are working on, to improve the locker-room culture and ensure that no Incognito-Martin scandals will ever happen again.
Obtuse motivational speakers solve everything! That’s just the first stage of the NFL giving lip service to a scandal they fully intend on doing nothing meaningful about. I bet Week 10 is Take a Stand Against Bullying week.
There’s no doubt the league will soon hand down whatever discipline is coming from the Miami bullying case, and I’m told it’s going to be instructive and treatment-based rather than punishing.
All Miami players will be forced to spend an hour each day during training camp fingerpainting with teammates and reading “The Berenstain Bears Learn to Share”.
We’re really in a fascinating time, 45 days out from the first day of the draft. We’ve gone from feeling it’s a sure thing that the top three quarterbacks—Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Manziel—are locks to be picked in the top eight to wondering if one or more of them could plummet to late in the first round, or out of it. Bridgewater’s workout was surprising last week because the ball didn’t come out of his hand with the kind of velocity NFL teams hoped to see. Bortles did well in his workout, but his deep balls weren’t accurate. Manziel goes third, in front of some skeptical NFL coaches and scouts, with a drumbeat of negativity growing louder in the backdrop. Last week, respected ESPN tapehead Merril Hoge said Manziel “has absolutely no instinct or feel for pocket awareness. When traffic comes around him, he runs, and that’s dangerous in the NFL.”
Peter’s been using every excuse to badmouth Manziel for about a year now, but I didn’t realize just how desperate PK is to take Johnny Football down until he cited one inane comment by droolwit Merril Hoge as representative of a “drumbeat of negativity”.
Oh and Hoge being described as a tapehead is appropriate as Hoge’s head is literally taped together and secured to his neck with a comically large tie.
Someone Smarter Than I Must Explain This
Blaine Gabbert was traded on March 11 from the Jags to the 49ers for a sixth-round pick.
Matt Schaub was traded on Friday from Houston to Oakland for a sixth-round pick.
Their career stat lines:
[Hard to believe, but Schaub’s are noticeably better than Gabbert’s]
I’d be worried about Schaub, a lot, because last season it looked like he had Steve Sax disease—it appeared he was aiming many of his throws, and his decision-making was way off compared to his history.
Gripe all you want about another typically lazy PK comparison, but I think it’s fair to say Matt Schaub played quarterback in 2013 like a baseball player who’s been retired for 20 years.
But the stunner in this comparison is not really the sixth-round pick the Texans got for a quarterback who hit a wall so smashingly in 2013. It’s that Jacksonville GM David Caldwell got anything at all for Gabbert. Lucky for him, San Francisco sees something in Gabbert that GM Trent Baalke thinks his coaching staff can salvage.
Yeah, it’s surprising that Jacksonville even got a pick for Gabbert. Is it all that shocking that a once-competent starter who is now 32 and looks washed up is valued similarly to a 1st round bust who is still 24? That the Raiders think Schaub is still possibly a Week 1 starter is more hilarious to me than the Niners willing to let Gabbert sit on the bench.
Quotes of the Week
“His skill-set does not transition to the National Football League, and it is a big, big risk. In fact, I see bust written all over him, especially if he’s drafted in the first round.”
— ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Important to note that Hoge wasn’t on the air when he made this comment. Just something he said while his head was caught in a car door.
“My past is irrelevant.”
— Michael Vick, upon signing with the Jets on Friday night.
The headline writers at the New York Post and Daily News will be the judges of that, Michael.
Solid point. Hacky tabloid headline writers are often said to be the definitive authors of history. Their pithy one-liners are something Michael Vick should definitely keep at the forefront of his mind as he continues his career as a football player.
Tweets of the Week
“@DHoyt77 if mercer beats duke I will give you season tickets 50 yard line first row.”
— @roddywhiteTV, the Atlanta wide receiver, to football fan Dylan Hoyt, after Hoyt proclaimed on Twitter that Mercer would beat Duke in the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Well, Mercer beat Duke. And White didn’t keep his word. When the upset was official, Hoyt tweeted at White that he owed him some tickets. And White tweeted back: “I lost a bet and I will give him tickets to the bears game since he is a bears fan done with this bet.”
Hoyt doesn’t look like a Bears fan. His Twitter photo is a Falcons picture with team slogan “Rise Up” on it, and he is from Georgia.
White has some explaining to do. On Sunday, he claimed he would not pay up, saying, “Y’all people are crazy’’ for thinking he’s going to honor his words against a Twitter follower who had nothing to lose in the bet. If you’re going to break on a promise, you should explain why instead of blaming the guy you made a deal with.
If Aaron Rodgers has taught us nothing, it’s that football players are all horrible welchers and you should never trust them.
“We can land a man on the moon but can’t find this plane on earth… smh”
— @DougBaldwinJr, the Seattle wide receiver on the Malaysian jet that has been missing for 17 days and is presumed lost in the Indian Ocean.
That really is just an incredible tweet. I plan to use that for every officiating miscue during the season.
“We can land a man on the moon but we can’t determine possession after the whistle? SMH.”
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Tweeted from the Orlando International Airport on Sunday afternoon by free agent safety Ryan Clark: “Why do people who are in Zone 4 line up in front the gate when they announce they are getting ready to start the boarding process?”
That, friends, is not the travel question of the week. It is the travel question of the millennium.
A travel quandary for the ages…
We can land a man on the moon but we can’t get a bunch of bored people waiting at an airport gate to sit still for a few minutes while the first-class passengers board? SMH.
I look forward to the day when PK abandons the writing game to become an airport gate vigilante. It’s the career he should have had all along.
Ten Things I Think I Think
2. I’d want to see one more season of proof out of Andy Dalton before paying him close to Matt Ryan or Jay Cutler money. If he leads Cincinnati deep into the playoffs this year and it costs me a few million extra, so be it. But what I’ve seen so far doesn’t convince me he should be paid $15 million a year. If you’re going to cast your lot with a young quarterback, he has to be the man you believe will lead you to a Super Bowl. Watching Dalton, I like what I see, and I’ve liked his toughness in winning some big games. But he hasn’t shown me yet that he’s a January quarterback.
Not only is Andy Dalton getting hammered with the hacky old postseason clownfraud narrative, but he is somehow unworthy of getting the same type of money as quarterbacks who either don’t have a ton of postseason success themselves or, in the case of Ryan, only just got his first and only playoff victory two years ago. So basically, he just needs to win one playoff game, and you’re supposedly cool with him leading your team the rest of his career.
5. I think you can talk about Mark Sanchez getting jobbed by the Jets if you’d like
Wait, who the fuck is making that argument?
and I agree that holding him off the market for the first 11 days of free agency because the Jets wanted an insurance policy in case they couldn’t sign Mike Vick was wrong
OH, THE RICHES NACHO WOULD HAVE COMMANDED AT THE START OF FREE AGENCY!
8. I think this is a pretty good postscript to the short piece I wrote on the incredible fall of Josh Freeman last week. He’s gone, in six months, from a solid starting quarterback to a man who, at best, will struggle to be a backup or even a third quarterback this year. Gil Brandt of NFL.com checked in with his opinion the other day: “When Freeman was jettisoned by the Bucs, ending a rocky relationship, I thought he still had a chance to do something in the NFL, because he did have some talent. But I think I was wrong about him. I’m not sure if he has the desire to get better. At this point, I think Vince Young, who is out of football altogether, is better than him. I’m not sure if Freeman will get another chance in the league, though I could see someone bringing him into camp on a minimum salary.” Consider that a good season last year in Freeman’s walk year could have netted him a $15 million-a-year deal this offseason, and you see what a crazy story this is.
Oh man, good thing PK kept the discussion of officiating to a minimum so we could get the weekly gloating over how Josh Freeman’s career has fallen apart. “HE WAS THE UNDOING OF THE SCHIANO FACTOR. YOU CAN’T BRING DOWN A SURE-FIRE DYNASTY AND THINK YOU WON’T PAY!”
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
b. For someone who cares little about basketball, I, like so many Americans, am entranced by the NCAA Tournament.
Well, that’s good. With the support of clueless old guys, this March Madness thing just might hang around.
c. I actually used Harvard, North Dakota State and Dayton to win my Montclair pool’s first weekend. Thanks, Pete Thamel and Jay Bilas.
Peter must’ve been so, so crushed by Wichita State going out. How could they lose on a neutral site? HOW!?
h. I love North Dakota State’s coach, Saul Phillips. Talk about a guy who loves his players and whose players look like they love playing for him. Cool stuff.
Wow. Cool. Wow. Once again, real grateful you kept the NFL news talk to a minimum so you could enrich our lives with that priceless nugget.
i. Nice hospitality by the city of Holyoke, Mass., for Saturday’s 39th annual 10K St. Patrick’s Day Road Race. (I had to drop out after a mile with a bum hamstring.)
That you injured passing out as a result of being in terrible shape and already drunk when the race started?
But it was a great event and there was good community spirit. Any race with bagpipes serenading runners at the start is my kind of race.
Because it only happens once a year, which means it fulfills your annual requirement of exercise?
j. Coffeenerdness: Sorry, Starbucks. The vanilla macchiato doesn’t make it. Too sugary. My tip for your R&D people: When in doubt, give it more of an intense espresso flavor and less a sweet one.
Emperor Fatty gives the thumbs down, Seattle. Time to drown the flavorologist and his family in a vat of the stuff as an example to others.
k. Beernerdness: Thanks to the Broad Brook Brewing Company for the cool experience at your brewpub in East Windsor, Conn., on Saturday. I vote yes on Chet’s Pale Ale (bold, hoppy) and no on your new Pink Dragon Wit Belgian white ale (a little too sweetish). Actually, I vote yes on many of your terrific offerings. Good to see my old stomping grounds in northern Connecticut with a strong brewery and brewpub.
Broad Brook sounds like every boring planned community in Connecticut so, yes, fitting name for a brewery there as well.
l. Tragically, Mick Jagger’s longtime girlfriend, L’Wren Scott, committed suicide a week ago. The New York Post quoted a “source” as saying, “The strange thing is that she had a small dinner party at her home Sunday night with a few friends, but nobody knew that she planned to take her own life the next day.” Strange. I thought it was customary for a person planning to kill herself to tell all of her friends the night before she did it.
How gauche. She didn’t even have the consideration to follow the standard suicidal social protocol before killing herself. What nerve. PK consigns her to rude person’s hell along with the airline gate crashers.
Also, I imagine most people who actually do kill themselves don’t just announce it to their close ones a day in advance and then go through with it without objection. “Hey y’all, bad news – gonna be offing myself tomorrow. Jenny, I know this means I’ll be missing your wedding. I bet it would’ve been fun.” “Oh, no, L’Wren, I get it. That’s just something you gotta do. Will miss ya, though.”
[UPDATE: Several commenters pointed out that PK was probably being sarcastic here. Looks like I misconstrued his tone while slogging through the end of his weekly off-topic nugget dump. My apologies for misinterpreting Peter’s oddly detached comment on the nature of suicide.]
p. Starting Rotisserie lineup in my 12-team Jersey league:
I’ll spare you his lineup. I hadn’t even read this far in the column when I predicted fantasy baseball (stop fucking calling it rotisserie) bullshit from PK. I would be proud of this foresight, except it depresses the shit out of me.
q. Headline after two games of the Dodgers’ season (and they’re 2-0, mind you): “Mattingly miffed at Puig.” Store that headline. You’ll be able to use it every couple of weeks.
Especially if you’re a football writer.
The Adieu Haiku
DeSean on market.
Something’s rotten in Denmark.
Chip weary of him?
DeSean for Hamlet
Straight up, right now, who says no?