Mays and Barnwell try to figure out who can beat Seattle at home and how the top of the 2014 draft will shake out in Wednesday's NFL podcast.
Mays and Barnwell try to figure out who can beat Seattle at home and how the top of the 2014 draft will shake out in Wednesday's NFL podcast.
Believe it or not, we're already three-quarters of the way through the NFL season. As we approach Week 14, each team has 12 games in the books and four games left to go, which means that it's time to take stock of the league at the quarter pole. Today, that means our scheduled look at the candidates likeliest to win the various league- and media-sponsored awards that'll come out at the end of the NFL campaign.
We've been tracking each of the league's key races, four games at a time, and it's been surprising to see how different things can look with only a month of change. Award winners who seemed like competitors after the first four games of the year or even at the halfway point are now jokes, and at least one candidate who seemed like a lock as recently as Week 9 might be usurped for his award by the time things are said and done. Nobody is having a truly dominant season the way that J.J. Watt and Adrian Peterson did a year ago, and the only guy coming close to that stratosphere has won this award so many times that the voters might very well be sick of him.
So let's go through the league's seven most notable awards and see where they stand with four games to go, starting with the one that actually appears to be locked up. Keep in mind that my picks here aren't necessarily my choices for who should win the award, but instead the person who I think is most likely to win, given the historical preferences of the electorate.
Thank You for Not Coaching is celebrating a lot of very reasonable decisions by coaches this week! Sure, there's still the occasional questionable call that we'll get to at the very end, but the bad coaching choices this week were mostly good processes with bad outcomes. That's preferable to the alternative.
As always, let's start with the best. Let's thank these coaches for actually coaching with my picks for the three best decisions of Week 7.
3. Cleveland's David strategies against the Packers. I was fond of Jacksonville's high-variance strategies against Denver one week ago, and Rob Chudzinski came into Green Bay with Brandon Weeden knowing he needed to create a few extra opportunities to come away with a victory. I like to think that's why he went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 37-yard line and went for a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from his own 43-yard line before the end of the first quarter. The former failed, as Weeden was intercepted by Davon House on a desperate throw. The fake punt narrowly worked, as a Chris Ogbonnaya run moved the chains despite a challenge from Mike McCarthy suggesting that Ogbonnaya came up short.
Of course, the Browns did later punt on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 49-yard line in the third quarter before trying to convert on fourth-and-15 from the 31-yard line early in the fourth. Sometimes David gets beat up and just resorts to throwing jabs at Goliath before launching a wild haymaker, but I think Chudzinski had a good plan early on.
During Monday Night Football, Jon Gruden noted that every one of the coaches he knows (which is presumably a lot of coaches) breaks up the season into four quarters. It's their way of breaking down the season into manageable chunks; if you can go 2-2 in each quarter, you're doing a decent job. That logic is good enough for me, mainly because it allows me to get away with doing one of my favorite columns: short-term awards! I would do an awards ballot every week if I could get away with it. Once every four weeks is actually pretty good, since it strikes a reasonable balance between putting things in perspective and updating the bigger picture with a meaningful amount of new information.
So, here are my picks for the major award winners through the first four weeks of the season. Obviously, things are still very premature, so consider these selections to be my choices for who has been the best through Week 4, not who will win the award(s) at the end of the season. But if the person I pick now ends up winning the award(s) at the end of the season, please give me credit for mentioning them here. Thanks.
The Grantland NFL Podcast break down the Chiefs-Eagles game, Men in Blazers award Bob Ley the Golden Jacket, and Jonah Keri talks Oakland A's with Susan Slusser.
Did you listen to my opening advice last week? I sure hope not. I told you all to stop trying to be so sexy, but now the Browns are showing us why that's a terrible message. Career third-stringer Brian Hoyer is now the starting quarterback, franchise running back Trent Richardson is now an Indianapolis Colt, and Maurice Clarett is requesting a tryout via Twitter. The really scary part? Giving Clarett a crack might not be a half-bad idea.
This week’s lead advice that you should absolutely, positively, under no circumstances abide comes from our greatest sage, Yogi Berra: “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” Keep this in mind when considering the implications of the Richardson trade, fantasy running backs in general, and making deals of your own.
Ponder that. Revel in it. Then read about this week's games.
Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays continue their NFL Preview Podcast Series with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.
Before we rank the new NFL head coaching hires on the basis of fantasy-friendliness, it’s important to note that each coach’s ranking largely depends on the situation that preceded him. For example, if the Chiefs had hired, say, Charlie Weis to replace Romeo Crennel, Weis would’ve earned high marks here solely because Romeo was so breathtakingly terrible. (Seriously, with the ungodly QB platoon of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn, why didn’t Jamaal Charles crack 300 rushing attempts last year?) But if the Patriots randomly decided to can Bill Belichick and name Weis his successor, Weis would almost definitely finish dead last in these rankings, barring Lane Kiffin being hired by the Cowboys, which would cause the universe to collapse on itself. With that in mind, here’s 2013’s freshman class of NFL head coaches (plus Andy Reid), ranked from least to most fantasy-friendly.
The All-22 All-Star Team is an attempt to provide some insight on the NFL's 22 most underappreciated players. Some will be All-Pros who haven't fully gotten their due; some will be names few casual fans have ever heard. All will, for one reason or another, have been overlooked.
The crumbling of last year’s Eagles started at the foundation. There were problems throughout Philadelphia’s roster, but if teams really are made from the lines out, Andy Reid’s offense never had much on which to build. Weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters tore it again after the walker he was using broke. He missed the entire season (and just recouped $2 million from the walker company). Second-year center Jason Kelce tore both his ACL and MCL in Week 2. Former first-round pick Danny Watkins started just six games. In all, injury and ineffectiveness led to nine different starters along the Eagles’ offensive line. Only one of Philadelphia’s offensive linemen started all 16 games, and he just happened to be its best one.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next two months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
Today, our requisite Chiefs excitement comes fully stocked with a sit-down between Jamaal Charles and me, during which we discuss his underrated career stats, the Arrowhead experience, and the outlook for Andy Reid at the helm of the 2013 Chiefs.
In some ways, last year’s Chiefs were like a lot of NFL teams that hit bottom. A 2-14 season cost the team’s head coach (Romeo Crennel), general manager (Scott Pioli), and quarterback(s) (the amalgam of awful that was Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel) their jobs. That’s about where the similarities between Kansas City and the typically terrible end, though.
• Pairs of Slip-on Shoes Being Worn: 17
• Level of Tension Between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll: 6 out of 10
• Number of Coaches Who've Spoken to Marc Trestman: 0
• Number of Coors Banquets Jeff Fisher Had at Last Night's Bob Seger Show: 4
It’s not too often that a 2-14 team is eager to retain its core, but that seems to be what’s happening in Kansas City. On the final day to give potential free agents the franchise tag, new Chiefs GM John Dorsey and new head coach Andy Reid made a series of big decisions that both give some insight into their expectations about this season and create more questions about the top of April’s draft.
We might as well start with the exciting part. According to Adam Schefter, Dustin Colquitt’s five-year, $18.75 million contract (with $8.9 million guaranteed) makes him the highest-paid punter in football. With the high level of variance in special-teams performance from year to year, and the lack of difference among most punters (the first- and 16th-ranked punters in net average were separated by just 3.3 yards), there’s always an argument against shelling out more money than necessary for one. Where Colquitt separated himself last year was in his ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory. No punter dropped a higher percentage of his kicks inside the 20 than Colquitt.
The real news is in the Chiefs’ decision to make Dwayne Bowe the third-highest-paid wide receiver in football. Bowe’s deal really says two things: (1) Reid thinks Matt Cassel was an abomination last year, and (2) he and Dorsey see this Chiefs offense as a group that can do some things in 2013 — mostly because Matt Cassel was an abomination last year.
This is the kind of winter it’s been for Kansas City sports fans: The Chiefs just traded Wil Myers for Alex Smith.
At least it feels that way. It was barely two months ago that the Royals traded away half their farm system to the Tampa Bay Rays, including one of the best prospects in baseball in Myers, for a pair of established starting pitchers in James Shields and Wade Davis. Now comes the news that the Chiefs have acquired Smith from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for their second-round pick — the second pick of the round — and a conditional mid-round pick in 2014.
Both teams had a glaring hole at a key position to fill, and to fill it, each paid a desperation surtax while daring to take on one of the shrewdest organizations in their respective sports. The Royals needlessly gave up the crown jewel of their farm system and nearly caused me a nervous breakdown.
I probably should be having the same reaction to the Alex Smith trade. I mean, he’s Alex Smith. The guy who was a historic mistake as the no. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, given that the next quarterback taken in that draft was Aaron Rodgers. The guy who, as a rookie, threw one touchdown and 11 interceptions. The guy who, due to injuries and ineffectiveness, has started more than 10 games just twice in his eight-year career. The guy who held a clipboard while Colin Kaepernick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
The NFL offseason is fundamentally about one thing: hope. The mantra of "Any Given Sunday" is expanded to "Any Given Season," and the new — new rookies, new facilities, new schemes, new management — is the stuff those dreams are made of. But the most powerful offseason story lines, both in depth and on-field potential, are ones of redemption. Alex Smith's impending trade to the Kansas City Chiefs to play for Andy Reid offers that chance for both men.
Smith's story is, by now, well known. A former no. 1 overall pick by the 49ers, he, like the rest of the organization, stumbled around for several years until Jim Harbaugh became the head coach before the 2011 season. That year, Smith flourished in a game-manager role as the 49ers won 13 games and were a few special teams miscues away from playing in the Super Bowl. In 2012, Smith was better in almost every statistical category — completion percentage, yards per pass attempt, an impressive 104.1 passer rating — until he got hurt … and never regained his job, as the young, fleet-footed, strong-armed Colin Kaepernick took over and led the team to the Super Bowl.
Smith isn't yet 30, and a marriage with new Chiefs coach Andy Reid's offense seems — on the surface, at least — like it has the potential for sustained success. Reid is a stalwart of the old West Coast offense, the one developed by Bill Walsh and then carried throughout the NFL by protégés like Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, and, of course, Reid, who spent the last 14 seasons as head coach of the Eagles. Smith seems like the model West Coast offense quarterback — smart, accurate on underneath throws, with good feet and quickness. The scouting report on Smith sounds a lot like one for another great West Coast offense quarterback — Joe Montana.
Four years ago, Andre Smith got off a plane in Indianapolis as the best left tackle at that year’s NFL combine. The previous season, he was awarded the Outland Trophy, given to college football’s best interior lineman. He’d been named an All-American by every outlet with a printing press or an Internet presence. And come draft time, it was expected that Smith would be one of the first five players off the board.
Then he left.
Before completing any of his workouts, Smith was back on a plane to Alabama, without telling anyone. Later, his explanation was that in switching his representation, he’d lost some time to prepare for the drills. He didn’t feel ready.
This excuse was hardly enough for those involved. He was skewered — for a lack of maturity and a lack of attention to detail. Smith’s pro day in Tuscaloosa didn’t help much, either. The video of his jiggle during the 40-yard dash is still Internet legend. A tumble down hypothetical draft boards began. Smith went from the best tackle in the draft to the consensus no. 3. By March, Mel Kiper had him clear out of the top 10. In botching the “pre-draft process,” Smith had done himself in.