On Friday, Greg Jennings accepted an offer from the Minnesota Vikings that could pay him as much as $47.5 million over the next five years, with $18 million in guaranteed money. As a Packers fan, I feel 20 percent sad and 80 percent indifferent about this. I’ll always remember Greg Jennings as the best receiver of Aaron Rodgers’s early years. He was to no. 12 what Sterling Sharpe was to Brett Favre — or (for you non-Packers fans) what David Caruso was to NYPD Blue or Paul Di’Anno was to Iron Maiden. In seven seasons, Jennings caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. The bulk of that production occurred from 2007 to 2010, the period when the Packers transitioned from Favre to Rodgers and ended up winning their fourth Super Bowl. Jennings was a pivotal player in that process; as Ted Thompson put it over the weekend with typical samurai terseness, Jennings was a “Good man. Good player.”
Alas, I come not to praise the Packer Greg Jennings was but to bury the Viking he is now. He was arguably the fourth-best guy in a stacked receiving squad last season, behind Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and the ascendant Randall Cobb. He hasn’t been healthy lately, missing 11 out of his past 22 games. And it was widely assumed that he’d been leaving anyway; Rodgers was already reminiscing back in September about the favorite deep balls thrown to his onetime go-to big-play threat. The most important contribution Jennings made to the Packers lately was not re-signing before the 2012 season, when he could’ve reportedly made $11 million per year, and instead milking the desperate Vikings, the league’s second-worst passing team (just ahead of the Chiefs) last year. Jennings freed up cap space for the Packers and forced a hated divisional opponent to overpay. What a generous parting gift!
With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the first in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
There's higher-profile news in Minnesota at the moment, but amid all the Percy Harvin drama is a lingering question that threatens the Vikings’ very foundation. There’s no actual proof that Adrian Peterson can be killed by conventional weapons, but his post-human season is at least partially (partially!) a result of running behind of the league’s best offensive lines.
Gabe’s still in Vegas and I’m here at the back of the World Famous Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. Adam Eget is hovering around me, his tremulous right hand running through hair four days unshowered, his left hand steadying itself on my shoulder, his rheumy eyes looking somewhere at my shirt. There’s a guy up onstage and I think he’s saying some pretty important things because people are clapping a lot while exchanging sad and knowing nods.
“Why don’t you do a set?” Adam asks.
“Do a set. People will get a kick out of it. It’s a good crowd tonight.”
“Nobody wants to see me do a set.”
“Sure they do. Everybody loves you. You’re a legend here at the Comedy Store.”
“Tell your waitress. Maybe she’ll stop charging me four and a quarter for a Coca-Cola.”
“You’re still thinking about Vegas, aren’t you?”
“The hell I am!”
I stagger up from the table while thinking about slugging Eget one. Right in his big squidbilly head. A few years ago I woulda too, back when I was young. But now the world is young and I’m a fat old man. So instead, I shamble up to the stage and do my surefire bit about my answering machine. Nobody gets a kick out of it. The whole time I’m thinking about last Friday, when I was happy in the middle of the night, somewhere in the desert.
The BQBL got dark this week. Pointing and laughing at the Jets and Cardinals last week was a hoot. Their mutual ineptitude gave the game a humorous, whimsical vibe — like watching tee-ball infielders turn a ground ball to second base into an inside-the-park home run. This week against Seattle, watching the Cardinals was not like watching a tee-ball game. It was like driving behind a car that runs over an adorable bunny rabbit — that you’re then forced to watch die. Slowly.
You may have noticed that we at Grantland take bad quarterback play very seriously. While Grantland's finest in the Los Angeles office take part in the BQBL each season, my basis for bad quarterback knowledge dates back to a childhood during which the starting quarterbacks for my favorite team were universally terrible. You try suffering through Dave Brown, Kent Graham, and Danny Kanell for a five-year stretch and see how much you enjoy it. Those mid-'90s Giants teams even gave away Tommy Maddox, who would eventually become a starter in Pittsburgh after winning an XFL Championship, but he delivered one of the worst backup performances in a single year I've ever seen: 6-for-23 for 49 yards with three interceptions and a fumble is probably deserving of professional excommunication.
With my esteemed qualifications, then, I was skeptical this Sunday when people started referring to Philip Rivers's bizarre pick-six against the Buccaneers as the worst pass of the year. Sure, it essentially turned a game that was about to be tied in the fourth quarter into one where the Chargers had an 11 percent chance of winning, but swings like that happen every day. A truly bad pass is more than just an ill-timed poor decision. It has to have panache. It needs to make you rewind with equal parts disgust and confusion. If possible, the cheery ex-quarterback doing color commentary should audibly groan or say something like "Oh no" as the pass is traveling in the air. It shouldn't look anything like a normal football play. Those are the truly terrible passes. And after I watched Rivers's pass, I realized that it did truly deserve to be in the running for worst pass of the year.
With all the rookie quarterbacks going from dorm rooms to film rooms this season, there was so much potential for the marvelous missteps we have come to expect and celebrate here at BQBL headquarters. If you told me during the preseason that in Week 9, Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill would face off and combine for 723 passing yards, I would have corrected you: “I think you mean BQBL points.” The idea that neither of these men threw an interception baffles me to the point that I still have to check the box score even though I already know it as fact. With all these rookies playing unpredictably well (I have a spot waiting for you on the BQBL Summer Jam Screen, Brandon Weeden), it is nice to know that you can always rely on guys like Matt Cassel to turn the game over in the fourth quarter. Matt Cassel is the Kraft Mac and Cheese of BQBL quarterbacks — consistently horrible yet undeniably enjoyable.
Chiefs (Matt Cassel), 66 points: Cassel really filled the BQBL box score in Week 9. He threw for under 200 yards, he fumbled, he TAINTed, and he FARTed. Don’t worry, I’ll explain. Cassel’s day turned on two key plays in the fourth quarter separated by just two minutes of time on the clock. In those two minutes, Cassel went from “Hey they’re only down 11, maybe he can bring them back to win it” to “Hey, if he gets benched here, he will break 100 BQBL points.” Let’s take a closer look at these two plays:
The scores weren’t high on the BQBL leaderboard this week, but the outstanding individuals occupying it performed acts displaying a level of ineptitude that we had yet to see in the BQBL.
Ravens (Joe Flacco), 79 points: With both teams coming into the game at 5-1, the buildup to the Ravens-Texans tilt on Sunday had an air of insincerity considering all the supposed eliteness and contenderism at stake. Regardless, at the outset, this was by far the most intriguing of the early slate, mostly in a “I might see the next AFC champion establish itself” sort of way. After the first half, it was the most intriguing in a “I might see Joe Flacco score 1,000 points today” sort of way.
Waka Flacco Flame’s Sunday started pretty well. His first drive of scripted plays was an effective mix of a few runs with a couple passes that moved the ball from his own 22 to the Texans' 33, eventually ending with a field goal. At that point you felt like Waka Flacco had what it took to move the ball against a Texans D that was ranked in the top five in total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards. He did not. To appropriately capture the glorious disaster that was the rest of Waka Flacco’s first half, let’s have a look, dreadful drive by dreadful drive:
This week, "Is This Real?" moves onto the rapidly expanding bandwagon of the 3-1 Minnesota Vikings, who are improbably tied for the division lead in the NFC North with the Bears. For a team whose biggest signing this offseason after a 3-13 season was backup tight end John Carlson, the Vikings have basically stood pat with their core of talent and emerged as an impressive team during the first quarter of the NFL season. But are they for real?
“SERIOUS TRADE WINDS”! Hurricane-worthy gusts of draft picks, toppling the edifices housing general managers' offices across this fair football league! Nail down your left tackles, bungee-cord your strong safeties, and make sure your punt protectors have plenty of bottled water because Nor’easter Irsay comin’!
Don’t buy into the hype. Week 15 wasn’t shocking. It wasn’t crazy. It wasn’t weird. It was normal. It is completely modus operandi in the NFL for good teams to lose (Green Bay Packers), bad teams to win (Indianapolis Colts), and the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL (Joe Webb) to not even get a chance to engineer a miraculous comeback. Do you know what was strange Sunday? The fact that Caleb Hanie started at quarterback in the National Football League. It wasn’t just bad quarterbacking from Hanie, it was performance art, it was interpretive dancing, it was desperation, it was emotion, it was terrible. Hanie’s start against the Seattle Seahawks was like an SNL sketch with the same punch line over and over. The punch line was “interception.”
Despite their best efforts, T.J. Yates, Tyler Palko, and Kevin Kolb all won NFL games this week. Not BQBL games — actual professional American football games. Yates won because a defensive hold negated his pick-six, Palko won because he was up against Caleb Hanie, and Kolb won because, well, there’s only one way to put this: Dallas coach Jason Garrett iced his own kicker. Oh yeah, you know who else won? The greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL: Timothy Richard Tebow.
Timothy Richard Tebow’s success has gone from shocking to flukey to confusing, and has finally landed on expected. I watched the Broncos-Vikings game in a bar Sunday, and as it entered the fourth quarter, every completed pass, positive run, and cutaway to Timothy Richard on the sideline was met with screams and chants of “Teeeeeebooooooooow!” There was not a single soul in the place watching another game or rooting against Timothy Richard. Now that Timothy Richard has a hold on the division lead, there is only one man, one bad quarterback on the planet who could loosen his hold on the zeitgeist — The Gunslinger, Brett Lorenzo Favre. Please, please, please return, Gunslinger. Please, Gunslinger. The Bears need you, the BQBL needs you. Besides, we all know you’re jealous of the attention Tebow is getting. We all know how much you love to see your face on ESPN.com. Just think about how good it would look on the BQBL Summer Jam Screen.
This week there was no Gunslinger, but let’s have a look at the BQBs who turned in some truly pick-tastic gunslingeryish performances:
The following is a list of adult men who threw passes on Sunday in the National Football League: John Beck, Christian Ponder, Kyle Boller, and wait for it Vince Young. And if that wasn’t enough to have fans of repulsive quarterbacking Harbaugh handshaking each other, with Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell out with a broken collarbone, the Raiders are reportedly close to acquiring Carson Palmer. If the deal does happen, there is little doubt that at some point this season, he will be joining the above list of esteemed field generals. Good news for Raiders fans, bad news for those of us who couldn't wait to see Terrelle Pryor make a run at scoring quadruple-digit BQBL points in a single week.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. This week there was plenty for fans of failure.