When last we left coffee drink arbiter, Peter King, he pointed out the UBER interesting fact that the Ravens signing Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark is WEIRD because both of those players have won a game against Baltimore at some point in their career. Peter made sure to tell us that his new site is a smashing success. Some dude at a gas station in Tennessee said so! PK also wanted to pronounce that something dire is occurring in American society because Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for less money than what is contained in the entirety of Albert Pujols contract, only Peter lacks the insight to pinpoint what, if anything, is wrong with that.
But what about this week? I only got through the first six chapters of Peter’s weekly nugget novella. You’ll have to tell me how the rest turned out. READ ON.
ANDERSON, Ind. — Much to do this morning, winding up the 20-camp, two-game, 11,969-mile tour of NFL training camps, and covering another costly injury (Dustin Keller’s knee in Miami), but we start with the inspirational story and unlikeliest playoff team from 2012, and what the Colts are going to do for an encore.
That’s right, a return to last year’s box office champion, the Hollywood movie that is the Indianapolis Colts! Anybody who knows “the biz” (insider term) knows that every successful movie eventually gets a sequel. So what will the Colts do with theirs? Ample Rob Lowe celebrity cameos? You bet!
First off, an acknowledgement of the real world in the NFL—even on good teams, change is constant. When Chuck Pagano stared out at his team on the first night of training camp here, he saw 47 percent new faces from 2012 (42 of the 90 players were first-year Colts), and, on the coaching staff, he saw a new offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton) and special teams coordinator (Tom McMahon).
Isn’t that something? Well, if you’re leading off your column with that nugget, it must be especially unique or interesting.
Par for the course in today’s NFL.
Goodie! My time isn’t being wasted at all!
When Pagano watches practice, he sees so many new things.
Which is to say, roughly the same amount of new things any other head coach sees.
Such as first-round pass rusher Bjoern Werner working with free-agent Kenyan rugby player Daniel Adongo, teaching him about the game he just took up two weeks earlier. “We’ve got a German National teaching a Kenyan rugby player the art of the pass rush,” said GM Ryan Grigson. “Humanity at its finest! Our sport at its finest! That’s the new world of the NFL right there.”
Oh, Ryan Grigson, you are tremendously full of shit. You didn’t sign these players as part of some humanitarian mission in underprivileged countries or that you could introduce a cosmopolitan atmosphere to the fat humps in Indianapolis. They are the same disposable commodities that you consider all athletes, they just happen to have been scouted from somewhere that is not America.
Pagano lords over it all. Sitting in a golf cart on the practice fields at Anderson University one day last week, he couldn’t stop smiling about it. A year ago, Pagano felt worn down, run down, just plain lousy, in this training camp. He thought he was just working too hard. But his energy was down, even after a good night’s sleep. He was diagnosed with leukemia, cancer of the blood, in late September. You know the rest.
Sure do. I saw the movie, so you won’t need to recap –
The team, inspired by Pagano’s fight and by late-game heroics by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, went 9-3 in his absence and earned a wild-card playoff berth.
Of course. Thanks for that, Peter. I didn’t already feel stupid enough for reading this week.
By the way, a new feature in this week’s MMQB (on The MMQB): A table of contents!
Even considering his superhuman ability to be obtuse, there’s no way that Peter King doesn’t know his column is a bloated, meandering mess. Instead of doing anything to remedy that, perhaps by nixing some of the more unnecessary regular headaches, such as shoehorned-in baseball commentary or travel bitching, or even relegated things like “tweets of the week” to its own standalone feature, because, you know, YOU HAVE AN ENTIRE WEBSITE AT YOUR DISPOSAL NOW, Peter King just added a table of contents to his column. After all, there’s no point having a shitty novel-length feature without also having the fancy accoutrements of a novel.
Motivation’s a tricky thing. We in the media probably overrate it.
But I find it hard to believe there wasn’t something a little extra around this team last year when, 10 times a day, Pagano would text or phone from his hospital room or recovery bedroom at home to urge players on, with the littlest things.
Worth remembering that Peter King attributed all 30 points the Colts scored in their upset of the Packers last season to Chuck Pagano’s cancer. But, yeah, totally sucks when “the media” overrates nebulous things that motivation and inspiration.
Like the time Pagano phoned Grigson one night at dinner to remind him to make sure he got a ball painted for castoff cornerback Darius Butler earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Or the time Pagano, at the first game he attended while still sick, got up on a swivel chair in the GM’s box to rap on the window between that booth and the assistant coaches and scream at them to look up at the replay because they might want to challenge a play. “I’m like, ‘Chuck! GET DOWN!’ ” said Grigson. “I mean, here’s this weak, sick guy, teetering up on a swivel chair, and if he falls …”
“We might be held legally liable for his death! Someone tie him to that thing before Goodell shuts us down!”
This year is going to be more football than made-for-TV movie.
A reasonable prediction. The Colts did release their gaffers and key grips over the off-season. Hard to maintain Hollywood-level production with the kind of crew they have around.
Memories from the road.
One point from every camp/game I attended:
Lovely, a NUGGET DUMP! It’s like he’s required to get his word count to 10,000 every week. Some of these points are just repeats from the last several weeks. But perhaps I underestimate the world’s demand for a best-of of PK’s summer of love, drunk RV-style tour 2013.
Dallas (Oxnard, Calif.). I got there on July 19th, in the afternoon. The team arrived around 6 p.m. But Tony Romo, who didn’t need to travel with the team because he was already in California, was there at 10 a.m., throwing on an empty field to a few Cowboys staffers who arrived early. Who knows how his season will turn out, but Romo was pretty anxious to get this camp started.
“Tony Romo might very well do all the hilarious, buffoonish Tony Romo things he always does, but never let it be said he wasn’t fully prepared to do them.”
Seattle (Renton, Wash.). Music washes over the field, for the entire practice. This is the first camp on the trail to be alive with the sound of music. The reason: Pete Carroll wants players to get used to playing with constant noise as their companion, because that’s the way it’ll be during games.
One of the recycled nuggets from past weeks. A nugget so nice I hardly cared about it twice.
Buffalo (Pittsford, N.Y.). First meeting I’ve had with new GM Doug Whaley, who was heavily influenced by his Pittsburgh years—and by meeting vital Steelers scout Bill Nunn. “Bill taught me, ‘Be careful of guys who don’t love football, who aren’t smart, and who don’t have the heart for football,’ ” Whaley said. So that’s why E.J. Manuel’s here.
Lofty advice. If I may add another, don’t sign players who are dead or currently incarcerated. You can thank me later.
Baltimore (Owings Mills, Md.). No Ray Lewis. No Ed Reed. And I will be very surprised if this defense isn’t better.
Well, the Ravens were the 19th ranked defense in DVOA last year, so it’s not like they were actually good in the first place. But, yes, getting rid of a guy who can’t cover people and another one who doesn’t tackle anymore probably can’t hurt too much.
Kansas City (St. Joseph, Mo.). Funny set-up in the end zone after practice. Ball machines are set up next to each other, one throwing tennis balls, the other footballs, both at high speed to receivers. It’s part of Andy Reid’s receiver drills. He figures you work on your eyes with the tennis balls, and your hands with the football. And your concentration with both.
Also a solid way of getting your dog and human receivers work at the same time. Impressive logistics, Andy.
Green Bay (Green Bay). The offense is sluggish in practice, and coach Mike McCarthy, colorfully and loudly, tells his offense to start the period over. Underrated part of McCarthy’s coaching game: getting his players to play hard, and not having players roll their eyes even now, entering his eighth season as coach.
Pretty damning indictment of Mike McCarthy that the best thing Peter King can produce in the way of praise for him is that players don’t just openly roll their eyes at him. We call that the Norv Standard.
“I’d like to semi-disappear. The game’s been incredible to me. But disappearing’s good too. Disappearing to me is not being on TV, not being on the radio. I’d like to coach somewhere at a high school, trying to help the next generation, trying to help the next kid overcome the odds and be the best he can be.”
—Aaron Rodgers, to me, Thursday.
Semi-disappear? That’s quasi-lofty-esque phrasing, Rodgers. You’re be a wonderful translucent quarterback who sounds an awful lot like Favre in that quote.
Stat of the Week
Maybe it’s me. I find this amazing:
“This restaurant has ketchup dispensers at every table! What a country!”
The Rams have 46 offensive players under contract at training camp this summer in Earth City, Mo. Sam Bradford, 25, drafted in the first round in 2010, is the longest-tenured St. Louis offensive player.
We’re still three weeks away from the season, but here’s the way the neophyte Rams could line up in 2013 at the offensive skill positions:
Peter is amazed that the average age of the Rams offense is 24 years, five months. Certainly that’s on the young side, but hardly unheard of, and not all that surprising that a unit that has been shitty for a while would want to inject a new wave of talent into its ranks.
Haha, just kidding, Jeff Fisher and Les Snead are riding a youth movement to glory*
*Totally not via Peter King’s agent
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
When Minnesota sporting couple Christian Ponder (Vikings QB) and Samantha Steele Ponder (ESPN sideline reporter) snuck away to get married last fall in Hudson, Wis., they had their wedding lunch at Arby’s.
Good for them to experience a traditional Wisconsin wedding.
The first-round pitching matchup in the Little League World Series featured 6-4 Grant Holman of Chula Vista, Calif., versus 6-3 Chad Lorkowski of Grosse Point Shores, Mich. Each is 13 years old.
Some young athletes participating in the Little League World Series are abnormally large compared to others their age? WEIRD!
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
I traveled almost 12,000 miles and saw some fun sights and lots of highways and backroads and good cities and towns over 26 days of touring NFL camps. And my best sight of the week came five miles from my home in Manhattan—at the 9/11 Memorial on Saturday afternoon.
So… not a travel note at all.
I hadn’t been to the Memorial, which honors the 2,977 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001, since it opened almost two years ago. I strongly recommend it (visit 911memorial.org for tourist information).
9/11 Memorial? Thanks for the tip on obscure New York treasures, Pete.
Two notable things for me: I bet a quarter of the visitors Saturday afternoon when I was there were 16 or younger—meaning they’d have little or no memory of the day of the attacks. They’d have heard about the tragedy, from family or history books.
Or countless other places, since the effects of the event have been numerous and wide-ranging. You could even say they have pervaded our culture like no other event in the last 20 years.
But the attacks seem so recent that it’s strange to fathom so many young people wouldn’t remember them.
BREAKING: People are being born all the time. Even right this instant, as I continue to burn a hole in my cerebral cortex going through another agonizing Peter King column. These newborns won’t experience things the exact same way that you did. For you to expect them to is solipsistic. Also, eventually you’re going to die and these people won’t give a shit.
Tweets of the Week
“Everybody pray 4 dustin keller….i pray you have a speedy recovery bro…and kill it when you get back…. DEFINITELY wasnt intentional.”
—@JungleBoi_Swagg, rookie safety D.J. Swearinger of the Houston Texans, after diving into the planted right knee of Miami tight end Dustin Keller in a preseason game Saturday night. No doubt the knee is severely damaged, and it’s likely Keller will be lost for the season.
Swearinger’s Twitter profile says, “If I DON’T #HUNT I DON’T #EAT.” (BIZARRE USE OF ALL-CAPS HASHTAGS.) But the hit was not dirty. It’s the way scores of players are tackled every week in the NFL.
Because the NFL has decided that crippling players through knee injuries is preferable to sustaining massive head shots, which aren’t even necessarily the true cause of CTE.
“The NFL needs to protect defenseless receivers from low hits. To me that is way more important than helmet to helmet. #nfl”
—@KellenWinslowJr, Jets tight end, on the Swearinger hit.
Sorry. Defensive players have to be able to tackle somewhere. If you allow defenders to hits ballcarriers only between the shoulders and waist, penalties would skyrocket and you’d see a lot of 47-36 scores.
Ha ha, Winslow, fuck your knees! It’s enough that we have to care for your precious heads, am I right? That is, unless there players file a massive lawsuit about knee injuries and then such changes won’t be a hindrance, but in fact a positive change for the game. #HeadsUpFootballProgram
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my takeaways from the second full weekend of preseason football:
Joy. Another subset of bullet points to turn 10 half-thoughts into 40.
c. Passer rating by Seahawk quarterbacks Saturday: Tarvaris Jackson 141.4, Russell Wilson 141.3.
I could write a Peter King-length explanation of how pointless and stupid this juxtaposition is, but who has the time or the alcohol?
f. Brian Cushing looked like Brian Cushing against Miami.
Name five things that look more like Brian Cushing. You can’t.
i. Can’t make the team throwing like that, Tim Tebow.
Pretty sure his entire career to date is proof that that is wrong.
j. Matt Flynn got sacked five times in the first half Friday night in a 20-minute span at New Orleans. Amazing thing is, he still found time and passing lanes to complete 12 of 16 passes in the half.
Since getting sacked doesn’t count toward passing attempts, I’m not sure what the point is here. A quarterback could conceivably complete all 30 attempts and get sacked 10 times in a game. Whether that’s finding a lot of time or getting destroyed by the defense comes down to whether you want to say something nice about him.
3. I think this will be Jon Gruden’s last year in the ESPN booth—assuming there is significant interest in him as an NFL head coach. And there will be.
Good. I look forward to him trading a first-round pick for Kirk Cousins.
Jon Gruden on ESPN: "If I were a coach, I'd offer a first-round pick to the Redskins to get Kirk Cousins on my team."
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 19, 2013
4. I think there are only so many games a coach who still is a coach can do in the booth, and only so many times driving to an office to watch tape without a team to boss around, before Gruden says No mas, and takes the reins somewhere next year. Dallas, Carolina, Detroit, Tennessee, Jets. Who knows? Oakland … not so fast. Gruden turned 50 Saturday. I think he’s got at least one six-year reign in him.
Bill Cowher has been out of coaching even longer, and he seems like he’s doing all right with it. But I’m not arguing against anything concrete. It’s just PK’s squishy suppositions of what might happen, so let’s move on.
8. I think my least favorite assignment of the year is nigh:
The one week a year where Sports Illustrated makes you edit yourself?
By Friday, I’ve got to pick my Super Bowl matchup and every team’s record for Sports Illustrated. I’ve started sketching out my picks, and I can reveal this exclusively: I won’t be picking a San Diego-Atlanta Super Bowl for the second straight year.
San Diego-Carolina it is!
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Anyone who had Max Scherzer to have 18 wins by Aug. 18, you win the Baseball Genius Pool.
Starting pitcher wins in baseball are a flawed, problematic stat, so an actual baseball genius wouldn’t be focusing on them. Gahhhh! How am I correcting you on baseball? I don’t even like the sport.
h. The MMQB has its one-month anniversary on Thursday. I hope we get more sleep in the second month.
I have no doubt you will. Especially when the “This Week In Sleepovers At Roger Goodell’s House” debuts.
i. Coffeenerdness: Macchiato beats latte. The espresso sitting on the foam does it.
Oh hey, I didn’t know the Coffeelympics were going on. Nice win by Macchiato. Gonna be tough taking down PK’s triple venti lardacchino in the gold medal match, though.
j. Beernerdness: Glad to see Alaskan White sold in Mankato. Haven’t had one of those in a couple of years, and it didn’t disappoint.
It’s the Allagash White for cold people!
The Adieu Haiku
No Champ, DRC?
No Pitta or Anquan B?
One scarred opener.
I hate you Peter
I hate you so goddamn much
Table your content