On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Sunday Dead-of-Night Football
Robert Mays: Of all the things to get used to about the West Coast, watching sports comes last. The first time you roll out of bed at 9 a.m. on a Sunday and kickoff is only an hour away, it’s hard to not wonder why everyone doesn’t live here. But six months later, when playoff basketball tips at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, that question is answered pretty quickly. I’m not sure if that part will ever feel right. It hasn’t yet.
When the news came out that the Raiders and Chargers would be kicking off at 11:30 ET last night, part of me was a little disappointed that I’d get to watch it three hours earlier. We love novelty in our sports watching. Think of how many times an extra-inning baseball broadcast has flashed the shot of the clock hitting midnight. There’s something about staying up past our bedtime that will never go away, no matter how old we get. Watching live football until 3 a.m. is almost like playing hooky for Opening Day. Knowing you shouldn’t be doing it is most of the fun.
What I got instead, right around when we hit our 13th hour of football, was the discomforting feeling that I knew I was going to watch this game until it ended. Philip Rivers had done just enough to keep the Chargers close, and it didn’t matter how long I’d be in front of the TV, or that the Chargers were playing the Raiders on a baseball field. Terrelle Pryor had made at least five “holy shit” plays, Rivers was once again completing about 75 percent of his passes, and Danny Woodhead continued to defy every bit of logic or sanity by playing professional football. I was in.
Part of me was happy about all that. As someone who writes about football, it’s a nice reminder that a game under the worst of circumstances still has at least something worth watching. There was another feeling, though, that I’m part of the problem. Earlier this week on Twitter, someone (I can’t remember who — my apologies) wrote that if this game rated well enough, we’d be in line for a weekly 11:30 p.m. kickoff. Given the NFL’s scheduling habits over the past few seasons, I’m not sure how much of a joke that really is. Maybe this is an instance of my job and habits skewing how I understand the rest of the sports-watching public. Maybe the only 30 people who watched that game last night were the people in my Twitter feed. All I know is that I watched that game from start to finish. I guess I can blame Pryor — who’s quickly become great TV whenever he’s on — but I won’t. The guilt is my own. Fourteen hours of football yesterday barely felt like too much, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
Knowshon sucks RT @RealSkipBayless: Peyton is doing what Peyton always does. But Knowshon is KILLING the Cowboys.
— Lesean McCoy (@CutonDime25) October 6, 2013
The Default Division
Katie Baker: The New York Giants are 0-5 and historically dreadful. Everything they've done is the worst since whenever. Sorry not to be more specific, but I've started the long process of tuning out the stats and not rewatching the replays and just letting a soothing apathy settle over me like a protective force field or the Vaseline they smear on camera lenses to make older ladies glow. You can't hurt me anymore, Giants. I don't know where my Jason Pierre-Paul jersey even is. But I also can't start doing things like Googling Teddy Bridgewater for kicks just yet. The NFC East remains such a little shop of horrors that there still remains a creepy, loitering chance.
The Eagles' big win yesterday came in the most Eagles fashion possible, which is to stay that by the end of it the words "quarterback controversy" were cheerfully being thrown around by the announcers. The Cowboys … I had a really weird moment yesterday where I woke up from a quick Giants-induced snooze just in time to see a quarterback in blue and white drop back, almost get tackled, wriggle his way out, then throw an unlikely bullet of a completion. It was awesome. In my haze, I thought it was Andrew Luck, and the world's newest Colts fan was born — until I realized with rising Finkle/Einhorn style horror that it was actually Tony Romo. Still shaken.
It helped make me feel normal again that Romo later wound up throwing — to put it politely, because an Eli fan is certainly not one to talk — an ill-timed interception. I could just feel Internet commenters licking their chops and pounding out "more like NFC LEAST!" and being completely, unassailably right. The Washington Redskins won by virtue of having a bye week; they were like hospital patients missing the apocalypse thanks to a trippy coma. All these teams are ridiculous enough that they could somehow win the division. The weirdest part is that one of them actually has to.
All Good Things
Two Important Football Stories From This Week
Andrew Sharp: 1. The phrase "unadulterated stank" was coined by Brian Dawkins.
Ain't gonna lie. I love the way @DonteWhitner plays. He adjusting to the rules but still delivering that unadulterated stank on folks.
— Brian Dawkins (@BrianDawkins) October 7, 2013
2. This TMZ article from last week:
By now you know, Whitner's vowed to legally change his name to Hitner after the NFL fined him $21k for an illegal hit on a St. Louis Rams player earlier this season. But it's not gonna happen for AT LEAST another month, because the NFL requires players to legally change their name before they can change their jersey. And in Donte's home state of Ohio … an applicant has to publish a notice of the name change in a widely circulated publication at least 30 days before a judge will even consider signing off on the move.
… Then, there's the Nike factor — an NFL rep tells TMZ before the league will allow a player to change the name on his jersey, he has to purchase any remaining Nike inventory featuring his old name.
One day in 50 years when football has been outlawed and we're all bored every Sunday, I'll probably grab my grandson and try to explain why football was great. We could talk about Super Bowls, fantasy drafts, the RedZone channel, Ed Reed, whatever. Anything other than Roger Goodell or NFL pregame shows could work here.
But I'll just keep it simple: There was once a sport that inspired the phrase #UnadulteratedStank to describe a football player who was fined by the NFL for an illegal hit and then decided to work with Nike and the state of Ohio to legally change his name from Whitner to Hitner as a statement of protest.
And my grandson will understand instantly. Then we'll go watch HD Quidditch or something, and we'll both pine for the days of Brian Dawkins and Donte Hitner and STANK.
All by Myself
Cousin Sal: It's been an exhausting Sunday, and I would love to not have to comment on my beloved/cursed Cowboys' latest heart-stopping collapse. But I must — because times like these beg for us to play the blame game. There are so many ways you can go with the blame game. You can always blame poor coaching. You can easily blame poor defense. You can send some blame to the lousy corporate crowd that displays so little enthusiasm you may think every home game is played in the Library of Congress. And if you've recently been dropped on your head or experiment with LSD regularly, you might even blame Tony Romo (506 yards, five TDs) for yesterday's brutal loss. But there's one person who seems to get a pass every time the Cowboys blow a winnable game. And that person is Guillermo Rodriguez.
Most people know Guillermo Rodriguez simply as Guillermo — my cousin Jimmy Kimmel's reliable pudgeball sidekick. Like me, Guillermo is a tortured Cowboys fan. Beyond that, he is a great guy. He's funny. He's fun to be around. He's got more charisma in three mustache hairs than the rest of our security guards combined. I'm proud to call him a friend. He really is one of the few people in the world who doesn't annoy me — except when it comes to our Cowboys, in which case he's the ultimate mush.
I checked with Elias Sports Bureau — the Cowboys are 0-63 when Guillermo sends me a congratulatory text after they're winning by a touchdown or more.
I've told Guillermo many, many times in many many different languages that no matter how many hundreds of points we have and no matter how much he thinks we're going to win, he is not to text me during the games.
I thought we had an understanding. So what happens Sunday night? Like clockwork, Guillermo waits until the Cowboys build a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter to send this text to me and Cleto (Jimmy Kimmel Live! bandleader).
Sure enough, soon after receiving this message, it all falls apart. Every time Guillermo sends a "we're gonna win" text, Romo's right arm gets electrocuted. When it comes to cursing the Cowboys, Guillermo is as consistent and devastating as Montezuma's revenge.
I don't know what to do with this guy. I think my next step is sneaking ricin into his pre-show tequila shot.
I don't want to have to do that. So on behalf of me and the millions of other die-hard followers of America's team … no mas Guillermo! No mas!
The Five Stages of Cowboys
Remember When Ryan Fitzpatrick Got $59 Million?
Matt Borcas: There have been many horrendous contracts in recent NFL history. Albert Haynesworth’s seven-year, $100 million deal remains the standard by which all others are measured. JaMarcus Russell’s six-year, $68 million rookie deal wasn’t settled until July, though it doesn’t even qualify as the most Raiders contract of the last decade. That honor belongs to DeAngelo Hall’s seven-year, $70 million monstrosity, which was signed in March 2008, just eight months before he was hilariously cut. Meanwhile, Mark Sanchez is an albatross with a hairnet.
While those contracts seem outlandishly stupid in retrospect, I can at least see the rationale behind them. Haynesworth was absolutely dominant in 2008. Russell was a physical specimen at LSU, and the idea of a Hall/Nnamdi Asomugha duo probably looked really, really good on paper. Eventually I’ll think of a solid reason for Sanchez’s $40.5 million extension. But the six-year, $59 million deal Ryan Fitzpatrick inked with the Bills two years ago remains extremely perplexing, especially after yesterday’s debacle against the Chiefs. (For those who weren’t watching, his nominal 49-yard “touchdown pass” was essentially a Chris Johnson run, and Fitzpatrick managed to finish the game with fewer yards per attempt than noted checkdown god Alex Smith.)
Fitzpatrick signed his contract between Weeks 7 and 8 of the 2011 season, when Buffalo was 4-2 and still riding high off their 34-31 defeat of New England. Afterward, then-GM Buddy Nix — yes, the same guy who fell for this ridiculous prank — proclaimed that Fitzpatrick would be the Bills’ quarterback “for a long time.” Of course, Fitzpatrick was unceremoniously released in March, freeing him up to take his talents to Tennessee, where we’ll get to bear witness to his special brand of football for at least a few more weeks. What a privilege!
1. Why didn’t Nix just wait until the season was over to extend Fitzpatrick? I realize he was in the final year of his deal, but would any team have actually topped six years for $59 million if Fitzpatrick hit the open market? Almost certainly not. For comparison’s sake, Matt Flynn — who was considered the quarterback prize of the 2012 free-agent class — fetched a mere three years for $26 million from Seattle. The risk incurred by letting Fitzpatrick become an unrestricted free agent was minimal, and well worth it considering Fitzpatrick’s dubious history. Fitzpatrick’s hot start to 2011 had fluke written all over it.
2. Did you know Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard?
Chris Ryan: Michael Phelps swimming the butterfly; Yasiel Puig throwing someone out at the plate from right field; Djokovic and Nadal having a kaiju rally; Lionel Messi carving up a defense. These are some of the greatest sights in sports. I, not so humbly, would like to submit one more thing to the contemporary pantheon of greatness: the semi-annual occasion when DeSean Jackson really, really disrespects the hosting Giants.
No athlete quite treats an away field like an I-95 rest room quite like Jackson treats wherever the Giants call home. There's just something about playing in New Jersey that gets this California-born Philadelphia player in the zone. A few seasons ago, he took one back:
And then yesterday, at the end of an ugly Giants-Eagles slap-boxing match that saw injuries and turnovers galore, Jackson made sure we remembered what this game is really about: mocking the other team.
I wish Jon Gruden had been there to say, "Boy, I like this guy, DeSean Jackson." That's ether right there. You'd think the Eagles, who lost eight straight at one point last season, would know better than to literally dance on another team's grave, but this is the NFL, and respect, despite what they may say in NFL Films documentaries, has nothing to do with it. Division matchups should be about total and complete hatred for the opposite team, its fans, and its history.
To paraphrase Fast Eddie Felson in The Color of Money, football excellence is not really about excellent football. Sure, you want to see your teams play well. And nobody would really say that any of the teams in the NFC East are playing excellent football. But as long as the Skins, Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles continue to play NFC East football (mean, scrappy, full of acrimony), then people will watch. I know I will.
A lot of things have changed about the Eagles this season, but some things? Some things never change. Thank god.