When we last left the Uber Nugget Baron he was shaming Bill Simmons for saying Goodell was a liar without any proof without remorse for all the times his theories and anonymous sources were completely wrong. What does he have in store for this week? No idea, as I couldn’t even bear to skim the article as to prepare myself for what’s to come. When we get to the ’72 Dolphins reference, that’s the cue to open a beer, smoke what you’re going to smoke, freebase, whatever you need to keep going.
“I want to play till I’m 41. And if I get to that point and still feel good, I’ll keep playing. I mean, what the hell else am I going to do? I don’t like anything else. It’s so hard to think of anything that would match what I do. Fly to the moon? Jump out of planes? Bungee-jump off cliffs? None of that s— matters to me.”
—Tom Brady, sitting on the roof deck of his Boston Back Bay apartment, May 2009.
* * *
Elite athletes have a hard time giving up the game. That’s what we’re starting off with this week. Glad to see it’s timely as we’re more than a quarter of the way through the season and no one is going anywhere at the moment.
So, how many more days of the grand masters will there be? How many more Sundays of Tom Brady, 37, shaking his finger at reality and saying, “Not yet,” and going out and running an uptempo offense in a game the Patriots had to have—and in this case, beating the last unbeaten team in football and throwing for his 50,000th yard?
How many stars are in the sky? How many “PK+TB 4VER” hearts are on his notebook? How can such beauty exist in such a cold, rotten ruined world?
How many more Sundays of Peyton Manning, 38, controlling fields full of players 10 and 15 years younger? How many more days like Sunday in Denver, where he set a career mark for passing yards in a game (479) and threw his 500th touchdown pass—and 501st, and 502nd and 503rd—against the only other unbeaten team in football before Sunday?
How does such light exist in the universe? How does one golden hair from Peyton’s head manage to be strong as steel but light as air? How one tear from his eye can cure leprosy for an entire village?
Sunday was a highlight day in the NFL’s 95th season. It may turn out to be the year’s most scintillating set of games. The Bills shocked the Lions 17-14 at Ford Field in the last game of the 55-season Wilson ownership era, just a few miles from where Michigan native Ralph Wilson is buried.
Calvin Johnson went out early and the Lions missed three kicks, including one that would have won the game, not entirely sure if that was a shock. What was shocking was Matt Stafford didn’t actually rip Alex Henery’s leg out and beat him with it, because Stafford sure looked like that’s what he wanted to do in overtime.
Dallas beat Houston in overtime, in a rivalry contested (stupidly) as often as presidents are elected in America.
PLAY MORE TEXAS FOOTBALL. I guess I can get behind this as there are no victims on Texas-on-Texas crime in my book.
The Saints had no business losing at home to Tampa Bay, and they almost did, surviving 37-31 in overtime. Cleveland overcame the biggest deficit to win of any road team in history, nudging collapsing Tennessee. With the free world wondering if Jim Harbaugh would still be the coach of the 49ers by halftime, San Francisco beat old friend Alex Smith and ensured Harbaugh would keep his job for at least a couple of days. And aside from the record set by Manning, there was more drama at Peyton’s Place Sunday. Arizona coach Bruce Arians called a block by Denver’s Julius Thomas, which left Cardinals pass-rusher Calais Campbell with an MCL injury that could shelve him for a month, “the dirtiest play I’ve seen in my 37 years [in football].”
Last night during Sunday Night Football, I marveled NBC has managed to shrink the halftime highlight package for the entire day into about a two-minute reel. The above paragraph is the print equivalent, one mention and move on.
The drama was best in Foxboro. It often is.
TNT is considering moving their headquarters there since they know drama.
What was notable about the Patriots last Monday night was their inability to protect Brady, his inability to develop new targets while the old ones (Rob Gronkowski most notably) were either returning from injury or struggling to get open before the pass rush crushed the quarterback, and how utterly feeble the Brady-led offense looked. On Sunday night, the Patriots forced the issue from the first snap with a no-huddle look that attacked Cincinnati—a look a couple of Bengals said later they were ill-prepared for. He opened with a 20-yard strike up the seam to Brandon LaFell, then nine- and seven-yard smash runs by Stevan Ridley, then another throw up the seam to the man acquired for Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, tight end Tim Wright. Brady, on fourth-and-one from the Bengals’ 5, snuck for four yards, and Ridley finished the first drive with a pile-drive one-yard TD. The second drive was more of the same, and it was 14-0 just 12 minutes into it, and that’s when I heard the chant loudly over the TV: “BRA-dy, BRA-dy, BRA-dy …”
Hometown fans are happy and cheering for the man who has won a bunch of Super Bowls for them. What are they supposed to be cheer? They’re certainly not yelling, “Or-tiz! Or-tiz!” this October.
No one could have figured 43-17, but you could have figured a win, with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels enabling Wright—who showed some Aaron Hernandez football tendencies
with his strength and athleticism—to be featured for the first time, with Gronkowski playing more than the 52% of the snaps he’d played in the first month, and with Ridley catching the Bengals off-guard (no excuse for it) with a collection of quick runs. The two tight ends, like the old days, combined for 11 catches, 185 yards and two touchdowns.
You know what else they call tight end touchdowns? Gritty.
This is the way offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wants to play football now. In Wright, the Patriots finally have a tight end who knows the offense well enough to play significant time and become a downfield receiving threat. From the first series of the game, the Patriots used Gronkowski, Wright and blocking tight end Michael Hoomanawanui in two- and three-tight end sets. Collectively, they played 134 snaps, with Gronkowski finally looking like he was recovered from last winter’s ACL surgery. As for Wright, think of how difficult it must have been for him, coming to New England a little over a month ago. He had to learn his third offensive system in 16 months, and part of learning a new system is forgetting a former system. On Sunday, you could tell the Bengals respected his athleticism and speed because they sometimes used cornerback Leon Hall to cover him. He could certainly be the invaluable piece to the offensive puzzle that the Patriots have been lacking, if this one game is any indication.
If this one game is a small sample size and MAYBE we’ll see this again against the upcoming Bills and Jets. MAYBE if this one game told us anything.
New England’s offensive plan entering the game was very much like the old days: rely on the run, particularly getting Ridley on the edge, and get the athletic tight ends down the field. It was no coincidence, to me, that Gronkowski and Wright each had long gains on the first series. Expect more of that. Much more.
“As a matter of fact, I dare you to name four wide receivers on the Pats. I dare you. They’re all tight ends and grit.”
It was clear that the goal in this game, from those who play alongside Brady and those who sit in the stands, was as much support group for Brady as it was to get a win to retain AFC East supremacy. “We wanted to make Tom Brady look like Tom Brady tonight,” Gronkowski said forcefully later.
That’s good, because this is all Tom wants to do, play football and not go to the moon. As a matter of fact, this might be a good time to start the rumor that Tom Brady doesn’t believe humans have landed on the moon, he thinks it’s that stupid. Someone slip a copy of CAPRICORN ONE into his locker and get this myth started. Think the Uggs are stupid? Wait until it comes out that he’s a moon landing conspiracy theorist.
Brady was detached, alone and adrift Monday night.
LIKE SOMEONE ON THE MOON.
Last night he was pugnacious, uber-involved, and as into a game as I’ve ever seen him. Late in the game, he and Vince Wilfork, the longest-tenured Patriots, were captured by the NBC cameras having a smiling, animated conversation. Early this morning, I asked Wilfork what it was about. “We were basically saying what a great team win it was,” Wilfork said. “A great team win. Forget all the other stuff. We came to work, ignored the noise. We said were so proud of how we played, and our teammates. Look: Tom’s the best quarterback in the game. You can have your opinion, everyone can have their opinion about how he’s washed up, whatever. I knew he would come through and play like this tonight.”
“Such a great quarterback, I could dance.”
“What? Moon landings? I don’t know anything about no damn moon landings. Let’s dance.”
In Denver, Manning has more weapons and a better line than Brady, and Sunday was what we’ve come to expect from Manning: ridiculous production for a 38-year-old playing after four neck procedures. There is something so metronomic about Manning’s play. It’s like you’re going to have to drag him out of the game because he’s so good at it and because you can’t quite picture him doing anything else. He split his four touchdowns between Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas, and he didn’t seem particularly emotional about the 500-touchdown milestone, though he got a jab in at a teammate — My guess? Julius Thomas — in the process. “So any touchdown passes that I’ve thrown usually resulted in helping our team try to win the game or win the game,’’ Manning said. “I think about it that way―that it helped the team. But yeah, somebody asked me if for my first [touchdown pass], ‘Did we wear leather helmets?’ So, that was a nice free cheap shot there. I wouldn’t start that guy on your fantasy team next week. He’s not going to get a lot of balls next week. I’ll leave him nameless.”
UGH, Manning just said he was leaving the player nameless and Peter King outed him to fantasy owners with a guess — no proof, just a guess so it’s Simmons-esque according to PK — as to the player who dared question Manning’s age.
“Denver-Asked restaurant host: “God, did you hear about Peyton Manning’s age?”
Me: “He’s pretty old. Going to die someday.”
Thought he would cry.
What’s the end game for Manning? How far will he set the records into the stratosphere? How many more days will there be like this one, when two of the best quarterbacks of this, or any, generation, put their team on their backs and dominate an unbeaten?
Well Peter, not to diminish Manning and Brady as they are impressive quarterbacks, but I’m going to imagine there are going to be lots of days like yesterday. That’s why they’re quarterbacks of a generation, the next generation will have their record breakers — maybe Bortles and Bridgewater! — but we’re just a few years away from seeing them dominate like we Brady and Manning right now. Sort of how generational cycles work, everyone gets their own heroes.
For a clue, recall my summer conversation with Manning. He’s not looking years into the future, as Brady has been. He’s taking it a year at a time. “I’ve heard Drew Brees and Tom Brady say that they have this target, like, ‘I’m gonna play until I’m 45.’” Manning said in training camp. “I’m not in that position, I think because of my neck injury. But I think the smart way to handle it is, every March, I do this physical and we take a look at it. It’s the perfect time, because it says, ‘Hey, everything looks good.’ And also kind of allows me to go, I still want to go through a lifting, off-season schedule again. I do my neck check, but I do my heart check as well, my desire check. I like it when my heart says, Hey, let’s keep this going. I’ve been encouraged.”
“I also do a check check to see what the last thing Ashley bought. Sometimes I want to be sure I’m bringing in enough income to pay for sixteen Tahitian islands she bought from the Neiman Marcus catalog last month”
That’s good. Watching what we watched Sunday can’t get old.
Unless you’re a fan of a team that plays against either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, because losing to them sure gets old pretty quick if you ask me.
Now for the rest of the news…
You mean there is more important news than the passage of time? Hardly seems possible there is actual news buried under the “HUMANS AGING” top story.
The Niners have their version of Brady/Manning.
Oh, “HUMANS AGING” has related stories. If King plans on tellings us the aging tale for all 7.125 billion people on the planet, we’re going to be here for a very long while. Long enough Peyton will probably have stopped playing football by now and we’ll have to start this column all over again.
His name is Frank Gore. And with the team in crisis mode over the last eight days, he’s come on strong. Over the first three weeks of the season, offensive coordinator Greg Roman seemed to be veering away from Gore (35 total carries in the team’s 1-2 start) and toward rookie Carlos Hyde and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (40 carries between them) on the ground, and a heavy dose of Kaepernick in the air. Returning to Levi’s Stadium for two vital games against teams playing well — Philadelphia and Kansas City — embattled coach Jim Harbaugh (I’m just going to permanently affix that adjective in front of Harbaugh from now on) and Roman decided to go back to the 31-year-old running back with no expiration date.
Do you have facts to back up the rumor that Jim Harbaugh is embattled or just the word of Deion Sanders? Just curious, PK.
“So how do you think I’ve looked?” Gore asked from the Niners’ locker room after his second straight 100-yard game keyed San Francisco’s second straight win Sunday.
Like you’re carrying an anvil in each shoulder pad.
Ohhhh. Like he has a chip on his shoulder. At first reading I thought PK was saying Gore was slow and weighed down.
The Niners have won two tight games, 26-21 over Philadelphia and 22-17 over Kansas City. Gore had 100-yard games both weeks—and his value has been felt in the late stages. In the second halves of those games, Gore had 25 of his 42 total carries, for 130 yards. Hyde had 10 carries in each game, so Roman’s not forgetting about him. It’s just that, now, when the going is the toughest, the Niners realize they’re not ready to put Gore out to pasture yet.
“I still feel like I can do it at the highest level,” said Gore. “All offseason I kept hearing what I can’t do. That motivated me. I worked out in Miami with [young NFL backs] Lamar Miller and Gio Bernard, and competing with the young guys kept me young. I loved it. Now I feel great, and I feel I can carry the same load I always have.’’
Is it possible King is having a midlife crisis of his own? Strike that, is it possible King — considering his age — is having a second midlife crisis of his own? All this talk about wanting to work forever, keeping up with the young guys. He sounds like the demographic still upset over the demise of “Men of a Certain Age” on TNT.
I asked Gore about the controversy swirling around Harbaugh. FOX’s Jay Glazer reported Sunday that no matter the outcome of this season, it would be Harbaugh’s last with the team. That follows the reports coming from Deion Sanders and Trent Dilfer that multiple players on the Niners don’t like playing for Harbaugh.
“Are there guys in the locker room who have a problem with Jim Harbaugh?’’ I asked Gore.
“Ixnay noay hetay Arbaughhay alktay, ehay siay ightray veroay ouryay houldersay.”
“We don’t think that way,” Gore said. “As a football player I feel coach loves me. He’s a winner. He loves the game. We love the game. We’re a family, and we’re all football.’’
“We don’t have to love coach, coach just has to love us and we’ll win. Didn’t you see WILDCATS?”
My feeling: Harbaugh thrives in turmoil, in dysfunction, in us-against-the-world. It gets tiresome to deal with that, and it’s difficult to try to plan for the long term when you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to deal with the moods of your coach. On the Niners’ side, they don’t want to make Harbaugh the highest-paid coach in football, or close, shy of his winning a Super Bowl. So if he does that this year, who knows? Maybe CEO Jed York and GM Trent Baalke can swallow hard and make a long-term deal and make it work. But the odds are stacked against that now. And an alternative such as Roman or defensive-line coach Jim Tomsula (who led a 38-7 win over Arizona as interim coach in the final game of 2010) would make for a peaceful life around the Niners’ facility.
But be careful what you wish for. Harbaugh has been the Niners’ coach for 53 regular-season games, and San Francisco has never had a three-game losing streak during that time. I covered Bill Parcells with the Giants, and he and GM George Young never got along famously. But they won. Owner Wellington Mara knew about the dysfunction, and he didn’t like it, but he liked Parcells, and he liked winning. That’s going to be the big test in San Francisco. Management might roll its eyes at the mercurial Harbaugh. But winning’s not easy. Harbaugh just makes it look that way.
And think about it this way, Harbaugh too is aging and you never know when some stress monkey like him is going to keel over and have a heart-attack. Christ, he’s 50. He should be dead by now.
* * *
Oh man, the separation break asterisks. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I get when I see these in the PK column. It means no one had to bother with a transition AND that we’re getting to a section we may completely skip, like the section we’re going to ignore about the Cardinals and “lure” chop blocks. Reprinting the rule book is not a column.
Around the league …
Sammy Watkins and Buffalo’s legacy game. How does Kyle Orton walk onto a new team with a new offense he hasn’t run, start a game six weeks later against a hot defense, and find a way to win on the road? With some help from his friends. With the game in Detroit tied at 14 and less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, Orton needed about 25 yards to put the Bills in field-goal range. He threw a crossing route to Sammy Watkins, but the throw was behind the streaking rookie. Watkins reached back, flipped the ball into the air and toward himself, and hauled it in. What a catch. Gain of 20. That would have to be enough, and it was. Dan Carpenter’s 58-yard field goal won the game.
Friends? We learned this week that Kyle Orton couldn’t stand being around Tony Romo, which would lead me to guess means he’s not one for making friends with a rookie he’s just met.
“I could get one hand on the ball,” Watkins said from Detroit, “and I knew it was a catch we needed. Kyle put the ball where I could get it all day. In the huddle before that last drive, we were all like, ‘The defense has been playing so great, let’s go out and win this game ourselves.’ ”
Watkins, playing his fifth NFL game, already gets the Buffalo thing. He said the win was for the family of the late Ralph Wilson; the team will be officially sold on Wednesday at a league meeting in New York, and so this game was the last one in a 55-season ownership run for the Wilson family. “This game was for what Mr. Wilson stood for, and for his legacy,” said Watkins.
Sounds like Watkins is more onto the PR thing than the Bills thing, but I’m jaded like that.
A significant gathering Wednesday. Coming up at the NFL fall meeting Wednesday in lower Manhattan: The sale of the Bills to Terry and Kim Pegula for $1.4-billion will be approved … Owners and prominent club officials will be the first team personnel to take the one-hour Domestic Violence training class that all NFL employees will be required to take this fall … Lots of discussion on the new personal-conduct policy will occur, including a debate over whether a leave with pay (Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson) should bring any cap relief to teams wanting to replace a player out for several weeks or longer … Roger Goodell is due to brief owners on the status of the league’s progress on the domestic-violence front … Owners will also hear updates on international games and the real money involved in the DirecTV deal made last week.
Not sure why this need to be a gathering other than the domestic violence class. The sale is going to be approved, Lord Rog already sent a memo last week to the owners on what he was doing to become the leader in the domestic violence space and cap space fights will happen in the offseason. Seems like any other ordinary gathering.
The news of the week that got lost.
The Broncos cut—arguably—the best kicker in football. Last year Matt Prater kicked a 64-yard field goal.
Fairly certain this was not news that got lost. A few thousand articles say otherwise.
It broke a 43-year-old record for the longest field goal in NFL history (set by Tom Dempsey in 1970 and matched three times since). Prater led the league with 81 touchbacks and converted 100 of 101 kicks (75 extra points, and all field goals but a 52-yarder wide left on Nov. 17). But then he was suspended for violating the league’s alcohol policy; he had a DUI in 2011 and had an unspecified violation this offseason, leading to the four-game ban. The Broncos’ kicker now will be Brandon McManus, acquired from the Giants for a 2015 seventh-round pick before this season. Gutsy move by John Elway. Though McManus has a great leg—of his first 16 kickoffs, 14 went for touchbacks—he’s totally unproven on field goals. At the time Elway made the move on Friday, McManus’s longest NFL field goal was 24 yards. (Against the Cardinals on Sunday, McManus went 2-for-3, connecting on two 40-plus-yarders and missing one from 53). Two major reasons for the move: 1) The Broncos lost trust in Prater, who had to fight to get his suspension reduced to four games at the start of the season; the Broncos didn’t want to be left in the lurch if Prater had another alcohol violation and got suspended for a full year. 2) He was due to make $2.3 million for the final 12 games of the season; McManus’s salary as an undrafted rookie is $420,000—a key factor with some big contracts coming due (Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Pot Roast Knighton) for Denver in 2015. The Broncos save $3.25 million next season with Prater off the books now. Still, Elway is taking a risk, and he knows it.
Just ask the Lions how they feel about kickers these days. No wait, a few thousand of those lost Prater stories all mention he could find a home in Detroit. If only we had a blog about football news in our own name to make sure the big stories were being covered and not lost to the ether. A vertical, just for us and the writers who would stay on top of such important news.
The Rams gave the quarterback job “for the remainder of the season” to Austin Davis. I suppose it’s not a “wow” that Shaun Hill had the job taken from him after about 15 minutes, but Davis has played better than anyone in St. Louis thought he would (completion percentages in his three games: 70, 76, 71), and during the Rams’ bye week Jeff Fisher, who hates quarterback controversies and thinks they distract a team, decided to not make this a temporary thing. “We’re going to go ahead and start Austin for the remainder of the season. It’s not that Shaun lost the job, it’s that Austin earned an opportunity to keep it … Yes, I did say that Shaun was our quarterback. My job is to make the right decisions. Austin deserves it, and I’m not going to have a short hook.” To me this says Fisher and the Rams were tepid believers in Hill in the first place, and chose the other quarterback from Southern Mississippi (there has not been a long line of them since Brett Favre)
as their guy for the rest of the year. Or until he stinks for two or three weeks. Fisher’s right: He won’t have a quick hook with Davis, but by giving the job to Hill then snatching it back when Hill was healthy, Fisher showed he will be ruled by how Davis plays.
Not for nothing, but if these are the quarterbacks the league is hoping gets LA excited for football, they’re pretty fucked.
Quietly, every franchise in the NFL just improved its bottom line by $24.2 million a year, without any effort whatsoever. The new deal the NFL signed Wednesday with DirecTV, an eight-year contract worth a minimum of $12 billion (I hear it’s slightly more than that) beginning in 2015, is an increase in rights fees for satellite TV from $1 billion to $1.5 billion per year. That $500-million-per-year increase nets out to $15.6 million per team. Add to that the new $275 million this year from CBS for doing the Thursday night package ($8.6 million per team) and you’ve got $24.2 million a year more in found money for NFL teams from TV revenue alone. (To be clear, the DirecTV contract starts in 2015, and the $275 million will certainly be the floor that the NFL accepts from whichever network does the Thursday night package in 2015.)
Looking forward to my NFL Sunday Ticket fee going up to $217 a month next season.
By Wednesday, the long-term future of the Bills (and maybe a new downtown stadium) will be assured. Terry Pegula, 63, who has made his fortune in the natural gas and fracking businesses, and wife Kim are likely to be approved in a landslide by the NFL’s 31 owners at the annual fall meeting in New York City. He’s buying the Bills for $1.4 billion, almost $500 million more than their appraised value, and word on the NFL street is he’d like to oversee construction of a new stadium in downtown Buffalo, near the hockey arena where his Sabres—he owns them too—play. Think of the inflation of franchises in less than a generation. In 2000 the Jets were sold to Woody Johnson for $635 million. New York is the biggest city in the country. Buffalo is 73rd-biggest, behind Henderson, Nev., and Plano, Texas. If you rank by TV markets, Buffalo is 52nd (because it then surrounding counties). But if the NFL franchise in Buffalo is worth $1.4 billion, what are the franchises in New York worth? What would the Cowboys sell for?
Jokes aside though, why would you give Cowboy fans the false hope of ever being free of Jerry, even if they do run the risk of making the playoffs this season. (I HEARD YOU KOMMENTARIAT MAD ABOUT THE COWBOYS PLAYOFF STATEMENT BUT YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE.)
It’s only 38 months late, but who’s counting?
Apparently you are, narc.
Testing on NFL players for human growth hormone will begin today, more than three years after the owners and players agreed to a 10-year collective bargaining agreement with provisions for such testing. The details had them bogged down for years and got Roger Goodell and De Smith hauled in front of Congress to explain the foot-dragging. But on Friday, NFL Players Association president Eric Winston sent a letter to all players explaining that beginning today, five players on eight teams per week will be tested randomly. So each team can expect to have five players per month, in essence, tested going forward. “Our goals during the long and hard process of collective bargaining were fairness, transparency, and safety,” Winston wrote. “We are proud to say that as a result of our new agreements, the game is cleaner, but also that players’ rights have been significantly advanced.”
Having to pee in a cup and give blood, all in the name of rights. It’s almost like no one around this here league took a civics lesson.
* * *
Sweet release, asterisks.
And now a Rahm Emanuel sighting in MMQB.
Talked to three people well-informed about the draft’s move from New York City to Chicago next spring, and all three said the same thing: Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was the driving force behind Chicago’s bid. “He and the Chicago group were incredibly passionate,” said the league’s senior vice president of events, Peter O’Reilly. “He was huge in helping us re-imagine the event as not only the draft but a fan festival serving the entire Midwest. There are eight franchises within driving distance of Chicago.” I talked to Emanuel on Friday about why he was so intent on getting the draft for his city:
So I’m trying to come up with the eight teams. Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Colts, Browns, Bengals, Chiefs… Steelers? You can drive to Chicago in an afternoon from Pittsburgh. Really it should be nine teams. Unless they’re saying no one from Cincinnati would drive for football which I would also believe.
The MMQB: How often did you meet with Roger Goodell, and what was your message to him?
Emanuel: I met, well, three to five times, most recently on Sunday [in Chicago]. I called him quite a bit. I think Roger’s going to change his cell number, he’s heard from me so much. I just told him, Roger, you got my cell number, you bet on this city and I promise I will answer every question. And when the event is on, stuff happens, right? Stuff’s gonna happen. Here’s my cell, office number, my email. There is only one thing you have to do: Contact me, and it will be fixed.
“Fixing” things in Chicago politics. Even the cornball stuff in this column is playing-the-Catskills-level of corny.
The MMQB: Why did you want the draft so much for Chicago?
Emanuel: The draft is a big deal, a really big deal. Sports are great for a city and a region. I strained my shoulder banging on the glass at a Blackhawks game. I knew this would be a great event for Chicago and for the heartland of the country. What better way to showcase our great city in front of 50 million TV viewers at the end of April, when nothing else is really going on?
Because Chicago is still covered in snow in April?
And we’re used to big events. We put on the largest NATO conference in the country—62 heads of state—and a huge Lollapalooza music vent. I told Roger, “You want the draft in a place that’s great at putting on big events.”
“Have you even been to the Taste of Chicago, Rog? There are at least sixty, seventy types of chicken on a stick.”
The MMQB: Are you concerned with the recent spate of domestic violence incidents in the NFL?
Emanuel: No, and here’s why: I am building the first new domestic violence shelter in the city in the last 10 years—100 beds. My whole career I have fought domestic violence, and we need to take it out of the darkness. The NFL is addressing it head-on, and we’re going to continue to do that too.
Wait, he’s not worried about domestic violence because he’s building more facilities to handle domestic violence? Should he be worried he needs the shelter in the first place?
The Fine Fifteen
At this point I might as well just pick this thing out of a hat. I mean, what do you do with New England? Dallas? San Francisco? Detroit? Here goes.
I refuse to believe this hasn’t been sorting hat-based from the get go.
1. Seattle (2-1). Those who study the Fine Fifteen closely will find it interesting that this is the third consecutive Monday that Seattle has been number one with a 2-1 record. That happens when you play your third game on a Sunday, have a bye the next week, and play on Monday night the following week.
If I cared about schedule-bias, I’d watch college football.
2. Denver (3-1). Best offensive day in history for the Broncos—by a yard. And it happened against the previously unbeaten Cards.
“By a nose” would have been better.
4. Dallas (4-1). All those who had the Cowboys on a four-game winning streak after losing their opener, raise your hands. Okay, the two of you out there in Abilene with hands raised, just stop. You’re lying.
Oh, Abilene. Will your name ever not sound funny?
6. Cincinnati (3-1). No Bengals jokes this morning, just this bit of reality that coach Marvin Lewis and coordinators Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther must pass on to the players this week: We went to New England, a desperate team. We never matched their aggressiveness. We never fought them. We let them dictate to us. Championship teams don’t do that, and that’s why we’re not a championship team right now.
And pretty much never will be, but sort of motivation has to come from the top.
From a man who looks like he’s never seen a football before.
7. San Francisco (3-2). Somehow I think Jim Harbaugh loves all the mayhem around his job. Because Jim Harbaugh loves mayhem.
What happened to the new rule always add “embattled coach” in front of Jim Harbaugh? We couldn’t even make it through one column — the same column in which the rule was born — without breaking the new Jim Harbaugh rule. Lame.
9. New England (3-2). Maybe the craziest bookend week of the Belichick Era. It began with a 41-14 loss at Kansas City that may not have been that close, and wound its way through a week of press-conference mayhem, went “on to Cincinnati” and the Patriots dominated the last unbeaten team in football Sunday night, 43-17. Football is a funny game.
Not really, what with all the beatings, CTE, DUIs and all, but here we are running a dick joke blog anyway. Football is just “funny” to PK when he doesn’t want to bother to explain how the Patriots were able to prepare coming off a short week.
11. Arizona (3-1). Cards won with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, and were competitive Sunday at Denver with Logan Thomas. Credit to coaching, and to the passers. And as Alex Flanagan reported on NBC, Palmer is finally getting some regeneration on the nerve that’s been bothering him and kept him from throwing the ball well for the past three weeks. He could be ready to play Sunday at home against Washington. “Could” being the operative word, because nerve regeneration is an unpredictable business.
Sort of like how football is a funny business. Unpredictable, funny; all words used when depth takes a holiday (thank you Sandra Tsing Loh).
12. Indianapolis (3-2). Great defensive performance in the 20-13 shutdown of the Ravens. And now it gets hard in the next quarter of the season: at Houston Thursday, then Cincinnati at home, then roadies at Pittsburgh and the Giants.
Are they really such hard games? I’ve watched a lot of Steelers, Giants, Texans and surprisingly, Bengals games this season and none of those teams are so dominating the Colts should be worried. If anything, the should be feeling pretty good about going into an easy stretch of the year.
13. Green Bay (3-2). Welcome back to dominance, Eddie Lacy.
That’s it? That’s all we get for number 13?
15. Buffalo (3-2). I just love the fact that the Bills have been owned by the Wilson family of suburban Detroit for 55 seasons, and in the last game of the Wilson reign, the Bills played in Detroit for the fifth time ever and won a thriller on a 58-yard field goal in the final seconds. Perfect. Oh, and the Bills host the Patriots on Sunday, with the winner holding sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
Did you know Jerome Bettis was from Detroit?
The Award Section
Offensive Player of the Week
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver. Manning had played 266 games in his storied career before Sunday and had lots of notable statistical days. On Sunday, in the 41-20 win over previously unbeaten Arizona, he threw for a career-high 479 yards (previous high: 472), and his four touchdown passes put him over 500 for his career. Now with 503 touchdowns, he trails Brett Favre
by five for the NFL’s all-time mark … and his next outing is Sunday, just off Broadway—at the Meadowlands against the Jets. More likely he’ll break the mark at home, either against the 49ers in two weeks or in the game after that, against San Diego, on a short-week Thursday game.
This is like predicting when Bonds would hit his record breaking home run ball, isn’t it? Except with only King and Manning interested.
Side note because this column is so boring and we all need something to break up the nuggets of trivia here. Peyton Manning is scheduled to be the keynote speaker to a real estate agents convention next spring. What sort of advice do you think he gives realtors? Always be closing? You can sell absolutely anything, even pizza served with a side of garlic-flavored oil? Make sure to have a goofy younger brother so you don’t look silly?
Coach of the Week
Brad Seely, assistant head coach/special teams coordinator, San Francisco. San Francisco ball, fourth and four feet at the Niners’ 29, 13 minutes to play, Kansas City up 17-16. Seely put the punt team on the field, with upback and safety Craig Dahl as the personal protector. Think of the risk of a missed fake here—Kansas City would get at least a field goal and a four-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Seely called the fake, and the ball was snapped perfectly to Dahl, who bulled forward for three yards and the first down. Five minutes later, the Niners kicked the go-ahead field goal. They’d go on to win, 22-17.
Coach Jim Harbaugh had to approve the fake, but Harbaugh trusts his coaches most often in situations like this. If Seely felt good about the call, Harbaugh would too. So he signed off on it.
Look at that “embattled coach” Harbaugh just relying on his assistant coaches. THAT IS THE TYPE OF MAYHEM I AM TALKING ABOUT, PK.
Quotes of the Week
“I think our fans are excited. Hopefully none of them are in the ER.”
—Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer, after the Browns, who trailed 28-3 with a minute left in the first half, rallied for a 29-28 win at Tennessee.
“Because the Factory of Sadness does not offer disability pay.”
“I apologize to our fans, those that are left. We could have had Joe Namath and it wouldn’t have been any different today.”
—Jets coach Rex Ryan, after the 31-0 loss to the Chargers in San Diego.
“I don’t blame them for hating me now.”
—New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was the toast of the French Quarter last fall and whose unit has been regularly booed this year.
Back-to-back Ryan Brother slights, even if they’re their own quotes. I know of two twins not answering a certain journalist’s texts.
“You want Joe Buck and Troy Aikman doing your games. Nothing against David Diehl. He’s a helluva kid.”
—Arizona coach Bruce Arians on Buck and Aikman calling his game Sunday against Denver. The Cardinals might have to get used to the number one FOX crew doing some of their games now, instead of lesser ones.
You don’t have to tell me twice Arians has bad taste:
“I quit trusting my gut a long time ago. Son of a b—- has been lying to me forever.’’
—Arians, asked early in the week if his gut feel was that Carson Palmer would play on Sunday.
When does Arians stop listening to his gut on suits and hats?
Many of you have asked: Why doesn’t the league schedule teams coming off byes to play all the Thursday night games? It’s a valid question, but the solution isn’t that easy, for these reasons:
What would the league do in Weeks 2 and 3, when playing off a bye would mean two teams would have a bye in Week 1 and two teams would have a bye in Week 2?
Easy: Let’s stop having Thursday night games all damn season.
The NFL now mandates the teams that play in London have their byes the following week. That would have to change, or the league would have to have two additional teams on byes every time a game is played in London.
Easy: Get rid of the London games.
I doubt the Thursday night routs will continue. But the time to judge this concept is not after one month.
Even when they are good games though, how many people really love the Thursday night games? What would really be lost (aside of money) by moving some of them back to Sunday afternoons when there are only two or three games in the later slot?
Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me
No road team in the 95-season history of the NFL had ever come back from a deficit of 25 points or more until Cleveland did it at Tennessee on Sunday.
Alas, it was the Browns against the Titans though, so the only people who really care about this stat are people studying for “Jeopardy” exams.
The NFL has had four meetings with former players giving their input to Roger Goodell and NFL VP Troy Vincent on the domestic-violence issue. Last Monday a group of 10 NFL alums convened inside the NFL office with Goodell and Vincent, including former defensive tackle Christian Peter. He was drafted by New England in 1996 only to have his rights relinquished by the team a week after the draft for his history of misdeeds with women—including two accusations of rape while a player at Nebraska, groping a woman in a Nebraska bar, and grabbing a woman’s throat in a Nebraska bar in a separate incident. He has since undergone treatment and therapy for alcohol abuse and anger management. Why did the league invite Peter? I’m told it’s because league officials want to hear testimony from those who have been involved in abuse of women and then, theoretically, have turned their behavior around.
One should never forget that those Tom Osbourne years in Nebraska were filled with Florida colligate-levels of bad behavior. No mention however that Peter later went on to catch on with the Giants, so ¯_(ツ)_/¯.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Stayed at a Connecticut hotel Saturday night. Checked in around 6 and turned on the TV to watch the end of Alabama-Ole Miss. During a commercial, I flipped through the 50 channels to see how Nats-Giants was progressing. The TV didn’t have FOX Sports 1. No Nats-Giants then.
That sucks but I’m pretty sure you can get the internet in your room, Peter. You didn’t try to stream the game since most hotel rooms really only have the basic networks?
After dinner I came back to the room. I didn’t want to miss Cards-Dodgers — not if it was going to be anything like the Friday night masterpiece, one of the best baseball games of the year. I flipped through the channels again. No MLB Network. There was HGTV, SyFy, OWN, WE TV, the Hallmark Movie Channel. But no baseball.
UGH, NOTHING BUT CHICK-SHOWS.
Neither baseball playoff game was on my TV Saturday night. How can Major League Baseball put its showcase games on channels that don’t make the cut on a 50-channel cable system at a hotel?
Shouldn’t PK be using his Starwood status to demand more channels be added to their offerings? A letter like,
As a frequent business traveller (I have a column about football and coffee, perhaps you may have heard of it), it’s of great disappointment when I cannot get all the sports channels I need. Have you looked into adding more to your service?
Peter King, Starwood Preferred Member #1820273-192.”
Tweets of the WeekIII
— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) October 4, 2014
The Washington Post columnist after Angels superstar Mike Trout started the American League playoffs 0-for-8, including a game-ending strikeout Friday night in a 4-1 loss to the Royals.
Ahahahaha, so clever no wonder he’s “Mike Wiseguy” on Twitter. That’s a GOAT Tweet.
.@Shinman116 I’m scared of cats -DJ
— The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune) October 1, 2014
Players Tribune is a new website started by Derek Jeter that he says will enable players from all sports to talk directly to fans without a media filter (hmmmmm … that is not the first time I have heard of such a wonderful concept!).
I like how Peter King is subtly saying MMQB already does this with players as if they they were the first website to do it. Somewhere there is a Usenet user saying, “NO WE WERE FIRST! We had Donnie Edwards on our list serve for three years!”
Jim is my coach. We are trying to win a SB, not a personality or popularity contest. Any more questions?
— Jed York (@JedYork) October 5, 2014
That’s “embattled coach” Jim to you, Jed.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 5:
a. This story about Jim Harbaugh by Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com.
EMBATTLED – DAMMIT TO HELL ALREADY.
c. Kyle Orton.
Well, what do you think about Kyle Orton? Was he good? Inspiring? Lucky? YOU CANNOT JUST TYPE ‘KYLE ORTON’ AND CALL IT A DAY. IF I DID THAT I WOULD BE FIRED. APE WOULD BE FIRED. EVERYONE WOULD BE FIRED IF WE CALLED A PLAYER’S NAME ANALYSIS.
e. Jay Glazer’s unequivocal report that Jim Harbaugh absolutely will not return as Niners coach in 2015.
WHAT DO YOU THINK. THIS IS WHERE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO LIST WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THINGS, NOT THAT YOU KNOW WORLDS LIKE “REPORT” AND “ORTON” AND CAN TYPE THEM OUT.
f. Alshon Jeffery’s one-handed catch on the sideline. Again. What hands on Jeffery.
g. Incredible throw by Nick Foles, completing a pass to Zach Ertz while parallel to the ground.
h. Indianapolis defensive tackle Cory Redding, who was in Joe Flacco’s face for much of the first half. Great penetration.
*Weeps* Why did I volunteer for ‘Fun with PK’ duty this week? So Ape could have a break? Should isolate the disease with him.
r. Philip Rivers, who somehow gets better as he gets older.
But not so old we have to worry about him being one of the aged-greats like Brady and Manning.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 5:
c. Jake Locker’s durability. Or lack thereof.
d. Same Jay Cutler, next week.
Locker going to Locker, Catler going to Catler.
i. Every time I see the Bucs’ numbers, I wonder: Who signed off on those unintelligible digits?
Now King is back to sounding like he’s in his midlife crisis. FANCY FONTS ARE RUINING THIS GAME.
k. That pool in Jacksonville. A fan with a Terrible Towel Sunday. Myron Cope would not approve.
Says who? He would have said, “HEM-HA IT LOOKS LIKE THEY’RE ALL WET UP THERE, THEM FANS.”
q. The Jets, who lead the league is disappointment after five weeks.
False. Anyone who started this season with any hope for the Jets is a liar.
Baffling Death of Rob Bironas
3. I think we began to piece together the strange death and final hour of Rob Bironas. The medical examiner in Nashville disclosed that a blood test on Bironas determined his blood-alcohol content to be more than two-and-a-half times the legal limit when he crashed his SUV in Nashville and died in a one-car accident Sept. 20. The limit is .08, and Rob Bironas’s level was .218. “He didn’t take anybody with him, so I am thankful for that,” his father, Larry Bironas, told Jim Wyatt of The Tennesseean. Robert Klemko of The MMQB wrote an insightful piece about Rob Bironas’s death last week. In it, Klemko quotes former teammate Matt Hasselbeck on Bironas’s lifestyle when he knew him on the Titans. “When I was there, Rob liked to have a good time,” Hasselbeck told Klemko. “Alcohol was part of his regular weekend routine, and that can be a dangerous thing. But I heard through mutual friends that he really cleaned up that part of his life. He got married. This is a guy who I knew to live on the edge, was over-caffeinated all the time, pushed the limit on weekends.” We may never know why he drank to extreme excess that night, and why he allegedly threatened people in two cars in the hour before his death, but now at least we know a reason for his reckless driving that night.
Including this part for a later part of the PK column.
4. I think college football got great in Mississippi in my lifetime. Now that’s unusual, but I love it. Mississippi State has beaten two top 10 teams in its past two games, LSU and Texas A&M. Ole Miss beat nemesis Nick Saban and Alabama on Saturday in Oxford. The sports world is better when the Kansas City Royals are winning playoff games and the bottom-feeders in college football rise up.
Ole Miss won something like six or seven SEC titles in the ’50s and ’60s, which I’m pretty sure were in Midlife Crisis PK’s lifetime.
5. I think the Lions should sign Matt Prater this morning. Hurry up, Martin Mayhew, before the Saints beat you to it. I get the risk. I get the moralizing, and it’s legitimate. But you take the risk when your team is close, and the Lions are close to NFC North supremacy.
“Be moral, but when it comes to winning, we can put morals aside.”
6. I think Russell Wilson did a nice job in his story for Derek Jeter’s new website, The Players Tribune, writing about domestic violence, admitting he was once a bully (evidently a pretty serious one) and asking fans/readers to contribute $2 to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I like when players sign their names to important causes; so many of them (Michael Jordan and the aforementioned Jeter most notably) never did. Wrote Wilson: “Domestic violence isn’t going to disappear tomorrow or the next day. But the more that we choose not to talk about it, the more we shy away from the issue, the more we lose.”
“Jeter never spoke up on anything except that he put Russell Wilson’s opinion on his new website which isn’t the same thing because whatever, Yankees.”
7. I think I can counter one story that was out there in New England during the week: I am told New England wide receiver Aaron Dobson did not challenge offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels about playing time or his role, and has never raised his voice to McDaniels. Dobson had March foot surgery, and the recovery was slow, and he’s played only one game this season so far. The reason he missed three of the first four games is rust, not insubordination.
Do you have facts to back that up or just rumors, Mr. Simmons According to PK?
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Happy 59th birthday, Tony Dungy.
b. And happy 80th (Saturday), Sam Huff.
“Other old guys who cannot give up the game like Brady and Manning.”
c. Loved this headline from a site called TheBusinesswomanMedia.com: “Internationally acclaimed barrister Amal Alamuddin marries an actor.”
d. We see what you did there, TheBusinesswomanMedia.com.
“Oh woman, you’re hilarious. That’s cute thinking she’s as important as Clooney. Let me pet you on the head for being clever.”
e. I wonder if, in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the headline was, “Nick Clooney’s Son Gets Married.”
“See, because an old TV newsman is just as unimportant as a bunch a broads… Hey wait a second here, I’m an old TV newsman here…”
g. My lord: Kent Tekulve threw out the first pitch at the Pirates’ wild-card game 26 days after undergoing a heart transplant.
Too bad he didn’t start instead of Edinson Volquez.
h. Madison Bumgarner looks like the next Jon Lester to me—the next power-pitching, big-game lefty. What a game he threw in Pittsburgh.
Not everything comes back to old Sox, PK.
i. How about Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland, he of nine major-league appearances, walking into the opening game of the National League Division Series at Washington, bases loaded, Giants up 2-0, bottom of the sixth, two outs, and facing one of the best-hitting second basemen in the game, Ian Desmond. Fastball, 99-mph, ball one. Then 98-, 99- and 100-mph strikes, consecutively, with the crowd going nuts. Then he gave up two bombs. Baseball’s a funny game.
Wait, earlier he thought football was a funny game. Funny as in fortunes change? That’s not really funny either.
[REDACTED: ABOUT TEN MORE POINTS THAT WERE ONLY ABOUT BASEBALL IN WEEK FIVE OF A FOOTBALL COLUMN.]
r. Whoa: The Islanders got Johnny Boychuk, one of the best defensemen in the NHL, from the Bruins, in a Saturday trade for two and maybe three draft picks. Of course, he will toil invisibly for the rest of his career now—or as long as he plays for the Isles. I think it’s a rule the Islanders never play a game that America notices.
“I am throwing in one hockey nugget so you don’t get mad about all the baseball talk.”
Also, that Islanders crack is completely nonsense. Of all the teams that could fall off the face of the earth and no one would notice, the Islanders are not on the list. Blue Jackets, Texans, Arizona Cardinals, Marlins, Raptors; sure. But not the Islanders.
s. Coffeenerdness: I was doing so well in the off-season, controlling the coffee intake. But now I’m back to the equivalent of five cups of a day. The demon is the mid-afternoon cup, which I always feel with the 3:45 a.m. wakeup. Shouldn’t I be smarter than an afternoon cup of high-test by now?
Rob Bironas was over-caffeinated according to your earlier quote, PK. Maybe you should think on that for awhile.
t. Beernerdness: Tried another pumpkin brew the other day: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. I wasn’t crazy about it, mostly because it was vague pumpkin flavor, almost like Dogfish Head—which is a fantastic brewer—was afraid of being too bold with the pumpkin and spices. The search for the great pumpkin (beer) continues through the best month for it, October.
Actually a good pumpkin beer doesn’t hit you over the head with spices, but that’s just me.
u. Please change your college football music, CBS. It’s maddening.
This is what bothers you? Not:
Not all theme songs need John Williams blasting French Horns and announcing the Empire is coming.
Who I Like Tonight
Seattle 30, Washington 26. I like the rested Seahawks with the multitude of offensive weapons. I don’t think Washington has an answer for Percy Harvin’s speed (who does?), particularly on the play that’s sweeping the league right now, the Jet Sweep.
26 points for Washington? BOLD.
Interesting subplot to the game: the Russell Wilson-versus-Kirk Cousins quarterback duel. Three years ago, Wilson transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin to play one final year of college football. He faced off against Cousins and Michigan State twice that year, in East Lansing during the regular season (Cousins won that one on a tipped Hail Mary, 37-31), and in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship (Wilson won that won with a late touchdown drive capped by a Montee Ball touchdown run, 42-39). Seattle GM John Schneider was in Indianapolis scouting Wilson that December night—which ended with Schneider meeting the Wilson family at the Wisconsin team hotel after the game—and came away convinced that Wilson should be the Seahawks’ quarterback of the future. When he returned to Seattle the next week, he told Pete Carroll he believed in Wilson, and Carroll, after watching some Wilson tape, became a believer too. And the rest is Seattle sports history.
It’s notable that both quarterbacks were so good in those two high-pressure games in 2011, Wilson for Wisconsin and Cousins for Michigan State. Collectively, their numbers in those two matchups:
Cousins: 44 of 61 (72.1%), 571 yards, six TDs, one interception, 127.2 NFL rating.
Wilson: 31 of 45 (68.9%), 410 yards, five touchdowns, two interceptions, 116.0 rating.
What does that mean tonight? Not a lot—except I do believe this will be a shootout.
So wait, you really don’t think all the information you just typed out matters to the game? This quarterback rivalry not-in-the-making is meaningless piffle? It’s like the entire column of feather-weight factoids and nuggets just hit him all at once with the gentlest of slaps; this is all meaningless.
The Adieu Haiku
The Patriots live.
Those reports of their demise?
Why do I ever say
“I’ll read PK this week, Mike”
When I hate him so?