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NFL is Playing Politics of the Worst Kind

| June 1st, 2018

“Stick to sports.”

Every sports journalist or athlete who has ever expressed a political opinion has probably had this insipid phrase thrown their way. It’s become quite a common refrain, particularly after the media took note that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t standing for the national anthem a couple years ago.

Like most snarky retorts it’s not meant to be particularly clever or thoughtful. It’s meant to shut down conversation and put someone in their place.

It’s also bullshit.

Not only is it ridiculous to expect a person, let alone a public figure with a large platform, to solely talk about their profession and nothing else 24/7, it’s also disingenuous because often the person saying “stick to sports” doesn’t mean they don’t want someone talking about politics. They just don’t want someone expressing a political viewpoint opposing their own.

Last week’s decision by the NFL to amend their national anthem policy was not made in an effort to “stick to sports”, or appear nonpartisan, as some have claimed. The decision was explicitly political. They implemented this rule in the hopes it would appeal to the political and social leanings of those they view as their core audience: namely, conservative white people.

Let me get two things out of the way before I go any further.

  1. Yes, I am aware not all people who are against the protests are white and/or conservative, and that many conservative-leaning white people are fine with or supportive of players protesting. But in general, white conservatives have been much more disapproving of the protests than liberals and people of color.
  2. This is not a First Amendment issue. Let me repeat that, just so we’re all clear. This is not a First Amendment issue. Private organizations have the right to restrict what their employees say and do during company time. I am well aware of this, so no need to point that out in the comments.

Moving on…..

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Across The Middle: 2018 NFL Mock Draft

| April 25th, 2018

I don’t remember ever being so confused before a draft.

It used to be — back when men were men and beat writers smoked four packs a day — that we’d have some sort of idea at least how the top five would go. We’d have a few surprises but they’d be minor. This year, the Cleveland Browns could blow everything up by taking the quarterback nobody thinks they should. If that happens, the Giants could take another quarterback, then the Jets another and, who knows what could happen with the fourth pick?

The only thing we do know is to expect the unexpected. Everything is on the table. Here’s how I think it might play out, Warning: I didn’t spend too much time on it.

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB,  USC

I think Darnold has been the guy for months, but the NFL wants them to keep everyone guessing up until draft day.

2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St.

Pretty much every old school scout says Barkley is the best player in the draft. The Giants are run by an old school scout. I think they’d take Darnold if he were available but aren’t enamored with the rest of the quarterbacks.

3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

This has been the buzz for about a month. In my opinion, Mayfield is the best quarterback in the draft this year and they’ll sell him as the second coming of Broadway Joe.

4. Cleveland Browns: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St.

The first big surprise, I guess, but their interest in Ward was rumored a couple of months ago before everything went quiet. Ward really is a top-level cornerback prospect and those guys tend to go very high.

5. Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb, Edge, NC State

Chubb is going to be a good player from Day One. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a premier pass rusher, but I do think he’s going to be terrific against the run and at least adequate at taking down quarterbacks. Don’t be surprised if the Bears moved up to this spot if the draft falls this way.

6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

There is a lot of buzz about Roquan Smith being the pick here, but I think that’s Chris Ballard intentionally leaking information. I think Nelson is their guy but they don’t want to risk a team moving ahead of them to take him. They have to protect Andrew Luck at some point, right?

7. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

I think this is the first prime trade-up spot for teams. The Bills can move from 12 to 7 without giving up their second first round pick. The other teams possibly pondering a quarterback would have a hard time getting the ammunition to move much higher than this.

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How The Masters is Like the NFL (And a Few Other Thoughts)

| April 5th, 2018

Here are a bunch of Around the League thoughts for this random April Thursday.

  • I love the Masters. But I don’t care for the people who run the tournament, Augusta National Golf Club. I love professional football. I can’t stand the people who operate the league, it’s thirty-two owners and league office. These are by-and-large shitty, old, racist white guys shepherding a great product.
  • This “lowering the head” penalty has been universally panned by players and the NFL’s attempt to rule change brain injuries out of the game (see: kickoff removal) reminds me of golf’s debate over the ball going too far. You can’t legislate strength and speed out of sports. There are more head injuries in the league now, and the ball goes further off the driver face, because the players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before in human history. In the NFL they are hitting each other at 25 MPH.
  • Don’t look now but the Panthers are going to sell for north of $2.5 billion. The Bears, should the McCaskey family ever show interest in selling, would fetch $4 billion, even without owning a lucrative piece of real estate.
  • Has there ever been a team attack the NFL off-season like this Rams club? And does anybody really think it’s going to work? One lesson the NFL should learn from this approach: the key to modern success is winning on a good QB’s rookie deal. Once that QB gets his $100 million, the chances of winning consistently drop precipitously.
  • What’s been almost as amazing is the Seahawks embracing a down year, referring to 2018 as a “reset”. With Jimmy G. exciting the Bay Area, not hard to imagine Seattle trafficking down the bottom of the NFC West this year.
  • Derwin James is a special player and he was profiled here on DBB during this college football season.
  • An NFL GM texted me this week: “Everything coming out of the Giants right now is bullshit. Don’t believe any of it.” He’s right.
  • When asked if the Redskins were better with Alex Smith than Kirk Cousins, Jay Gruden responded, “Without a doubt.” One day there will be a 30-for-30 on Cousins’ time with Washington. And I will watch the hell out of it because I simply don’t understand his tenure with that team.
  • Saw an ESPN segment debating whether Mitch Trubisky will throw 20 TDs this season. He’s going to fly by that number is he stays healthy.

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Everything Wrong With the NFL, In One Play

| November 3rd, 2017

There were audible screams in the basement bar on Waverly Place. Zach Miller had caught a perfect Trubisky toss in the end zone but nobody seemed to notice anything but his leg. My God, his leg. On replay it was even worse. Maybe it was shown a third time on television, maybe it wasn’t. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t watching. I went to the toilet, disgusted.

When I came out of the bathroom, Miller’s season was over and somehow the NFL had determined they had enough visual data to overturn the touchdown. Not sure which of the two sickened me more.



The Zach Miller Touchdown illuminated everything currently dragging down this great sport and formerly great league.

Forget about anthem protests. They’ll be a thing of memory in a few months. Forget about declining ratings. Television ratings are plummeting everywhere, and will continue to as cable companies lose their monopolistic grip on home entertainment. Forget about head injuries and CTE. People will always play this game and people will always watch.

What will bring the league down?


Injuries & Greed

Aaron Rodgers. Andrew Luck. Deshaun Watson. David Johnson. Dalvin Cook. Odell Beckham Jr. Julian Edelman. Joe Thomas. Jason Peters. JJ Watt. Eric Berry.

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Brandon Marshall Fine Continuing NFL’s Disgraceful Treatment of Mental Illness

| December 1st, 2016

The following piece originally ran on DBB on May 19, 2014. Two years later the NFL is finally allowing players to showcase their personal causes on the field. It’s probably the best thing ever published in this space, non-game related.


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Josh Marks liked to cook. He was good enough at cooking and handsome enough to land a spot on the television program MasterChef. He finished second. At twenty-six years old and with a seemingly limitless future before him, Marks took his own life Friday. In a CNN article Marks’ family recount the young man’s struggles with mental health issues, with the family lawyer going so far as to say “It is overwhelming to think that with proper, intensive treatment, Joshua may still be with us.”

He was found dead by his mother in an alleyway on Chicago’s south side.

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Across The Middle: Post-Combine Mock Draft

| March 2nd, 2016

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Mock drafts are a mostly useless practice, but people like them and they’re fun to do. So here is my first attempt at a 2016 mock draft. Keep a few things in mind:

• I’m not a scout. I don’t pretend to be a scout. I’ll never pretend to be a scout. But I do read a lot and listen to a lot of scouts. I have about five people whose opinions I trust more than others. I typically lean toward people who were once in the league.

• Don’t say anyone “won’t” go anywhere. Nobody knows who is going where. Even if a team directly came out and said who they were going to take, we couldn’t believe it because they lie more times than not.

• In a First Draft Podcast with Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, Adam Schefter was adamant that three quarterbacks were going in the top 10. I’ve never heard Schefty more certain of anything so I believe him.

• A lot of these are going to be wrong. Of course they are, we haven’t even hit free agency yet. Even after free agency, mock drafts are going to be wrong. But, here goes…

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Thoughts From Across the League on the Bears Bye

| October 26th, 2015

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The benefit of the Bears bye week? I get to see more football than any other Sunday of the season. Here are a bunch of thoughts from around the league.

(1) Text from my buddy, a Bills fan, during the Yahoo! streaming of Buffalo vs. Jacksonville: “If this is the future of the NFL, they need to rethink it.” Stream was choppy and inconsistent across the country. Football on television is the perfect sports commodity. If NFL wants to adapt to a world moving beyond the traditional cable packages they’ll need to partner with existing streaming systems.

(2) Don’t want to hear the Eagles complain about dropped passes. Crap players drop passes. Philadelphia HAD good players. They got rid of them all. Now they have crap ones.

(3) Watching the NFC East & AFC South makes one thing clear: we will be having the old “should we reseed the playoffs” debate again in a few months.

(4) Shocked to see a gentlemen like Greg Hardy behave poorly on the sideline. It’s almost like he’s the type of man to throw his girlfriend on a futon stacked with guns while she cried and begged for her life. Almost.

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What To Watch For In The Most Meaningless Game

| September 3rd, 2015

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Remember last year when David Fales hit Santonio Holmes and Holmes made a move before scoring a 32-yard touchdown? Holmes looked like an NFL wide receiver when, in reality, he was just a veteran playing with a bunch of young players. It didn’t translate, just as nothing from the fourth preseason game does. Veterans usually look good because they’re going against rookies and we can’t tell if one group of rookies stinks or if the other is good.

But here is some stuff to watch for:

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