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 three and a half months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
I’ll tell you what I see. I see the purest of friendships, an unbreakable bond, forged by hundreds of millions of after-practice route-running sessions and a joint chiponmyshoulderness born of lives defined by slights. It just isn’t right, what happened. If we can’t believe in Tom and Wes, what’s left to believe in?
The fallout between Welker and Belichick (who clearly hates love in all its forms), along with Brady’s unhappiness and the whole situation’s ugly turn, deserved the attention it received. But underplayed in all this, somehow, was not only that Welker was leaving — he was running straight into the arms of Brady’s greatest rival. It could’ve been anyone. But no, it had to be Peyton Manning.
In this loyal-free era of sports, we see defections like this all the time, but with Welker, I want to believe it was about more than business. I want to believe that what happened with New England was a personal affront, that he chose Denver to stick it to Belichick, and that all this talk about feeling like a rookie again is an effort to make Brady jealous. Until I hear otherwise, that’s what I’m going with. And I can’t wait for Wes Welker to be the Adam Banks of the NFL.
By the way, the Broncos visit Foxboro in Week 12, when I can only assume those teams are going to be a combined 17-3 and battling it out for home-field advantage. I've got to assume that all this comes up that week. Just a hunch, though.
In case you just saw the trailer for Upside Down and found yourself suddenly back to square-one on your big screenplay idea, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Wide receiver Wes Welker has left the New England Patriots, signing a two-year contract with the Denver Broncos. "I always hated Welker," said Northeastern sophomore and Patriots superfan Aaron Sullivan. "Just like I always hated Clemens, Vinatieri, Damon, Beckett, Ray Ray, Manny B, and Tom Brady." When asked why he hated Tom Brady, who never has left a Boston-based team to play for a rival, Sullivan responded, "Oh, guy thinks he's so great because he never left the Pats. Real Pats leave. Period."
The Miami Heat won their 20th consecutive game, beating the Philadelphia 76ers, 98-94, on the road. "Twenty in a row, that's a perfect game in Magic: The Gathering, am I right?" asked Heat forward Shane Battier after the game. "If only someone on this team would play with me. I have a sweet black/blue deck I want to try out. I tried to teach Chris Andersen how to play, but he kept folding up the cards and throwing them at me while yelling, 'Cacaw!' It was disappointing."
Kobe Bryant suffered an ankle injury while landing awkwardly on a late field goal attempt defended by Dahntay Jones, as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Hawks in Atlanta, 96-92. Bryant has been ruled out indefinitely with the injury, saying after the game, "Revenge isn't the sort of thing that has a timetable. Except for a 30-minute head start." When told of Bryant's statement half an hour later, Jones asked, "Wait, when did he say that?" before slipping on a loose piece of linoleum and bruising his knee.
Reminder: These pieces are written from the perspective of an agent trying to hype up his client as he's about to hit free agency. My goal in writing these isn't to be accurate (or to lie), but instead to employ whatever arguments I can to make the player in question look as valuable as possible. For more background, see Wednesday's piece on Reggie Bush and last year's introductory piece to the series on Mike Wallace. Today's free-agent target: Danny Amendola.
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 latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
The AFC Championship Game featured a pair of offenses that for most of the season could not have been more different. As was brought up countless times during the playoffs, Joe Flacco was the best deep-ball thrower in football in 2012, but the Ravens struggled in their intermediate passing game and in manufacturing first downs. For the Pats, manufacturing first downs is all they do. They had 444 in all, 62 more than any other team.
Much of this middle-of-the-field dominance was — and has been — a product of Wes Welker. The 31-year-old receiver has caught 627 passes in his six seasons as a Patriot, and as every other piece of New England’s backfield and receiving corps has turned over, Welker has remained a constant for Tom Brady. Welker had another typically outstanding season in 2012, catching 118 passes for 1,354 yards while Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski missed significant time with injuries, and Brandon Lloyd, well ... didn’t do anything.
This steady production is what’s made Welker’s treatment by the Patriots and Bill Belichick a bit puzzling. Before the 2011 season, Welker, coming off his worst year as a Patriot, was offered a two-year, $16 million contract. He turned down that deal before getting the franchise tag that spring. Last offseason, coming off his best season as a Patriot, Welker was given a lesser offer, which he again turned down before getting the franchise tag. In total, Welker brought home more than he would’ve by signing the original sheet, but what had become clear was that to the Pats, Welker’s value had been defined. In New England, that usually means a line in the sand. When it came time this week for the Pats to decide whether to again use the franchise tag on Welker, they declined, meaning that Welker will likely become a free agent when the league year begins.
This week on The Trenches, I decided to take full advantage of Ephraim Salaam's 13 years as an NFL offensive tackle and drag out the Jay Cutler shoving-his-lineman controversy another day. Then, of course, Ephraim made sure we didn't leave that conversation without me feeling properly horrible about the Bears' performance at Lambeau.
Speaking of horrible performances! Ephraim and I discussed the real issue with the NFL replacement referees, the Ravens' offensive identity crisis, the Patriots' shameless Wes Welker contract ploy, and more on the run-up to Week 3 of the NFL season.
We are so close, degenerates. Just a few short days from now, pro football and — more important — pro football wagering will be back for a glorious 21 weeks. Actually, I’m not sure what I’m so excited about as my Cowboys open up the Wednesday-night game against the Giants. Almost certainly a loss. (I’ll try this reverse-jinx thing one more time — then when it doesn’t work I’ll abandon it for good.)
If you listened to the two-part over/under NFL wins podcast with Simmons and me you may already be familiar with some of these props. Sorry about the redundancy — but it's a small price to pay considering I’m going to make you upwards of a million dollars. Here we go ...
Patriots shell out more money to pass catchers, continue blatant taunting of Wes Welker
Every bit of this Karen Guregian blog post for the Boston Herald is so perfectly Bill Belichick that I don’t think anything could make me happier. It starts with the news of Aaron Hernandez’s new $40 million extension, which comes on the heels of Wes Welker’s very public griping about his own contract situation. It’s no secret that Belichick’s Pats have never let loyalty get in the way of business matters, but an apparent willingness to jettison Welker is a far cry from dealing Deion Branch. Welker has caught at least 110 passes in four of his five seasons in New England, including a 122-catch, 1,500-yard 2011 campaign. Allowing Welker to walk would take the Patriot Way to an entirely different place — the place where we might finally be able to conclude that Belichick has lost his mind.
Take a long, hard look at Wes Welker in the above picture, posing with some random dude at the Kentucky Derby while wearing a really dashing Haberdashery by Jeremy Piven hat. Apparently, this is going to be one of the last shots of Welker with Jude Law–length locks. According to CSNNE.com, the New England wide receiver has undergone hair transplant surgery. You know what? Using the word "surgery" in this case is kind of insulting to people who have surgery. Let's go with procedure. Welker had a hair transplant procedure.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
According to sources, Saints owner Tom Benson is backing head coach Sean Payton despite accusations that he maintained a bounty program to injure opponents. "I think Sean Payton is great! Beep-Beep-Beeeeeeeep! No problems here! Beeeeeeeeep-Beep-Beep" he said loudly. It took code-breakers all night, but they finally realized Benson was using Morse code to deliver a hidden message: "Bounty on me, please help, they have my wife."
Redskins players came out in support of former assistant Gregg Williams, insisting that while he gave money for big hits and good plays, there was never a bounty system to reward anyone for injuring an opponent. "He would also pay us $1,000 if we threw water in his face and called him 'Little Linda' until he cried," said one former player. "But I'm pretty sure that was unrelated."
This was a very odd game — with a very dramatic finish.
Early in Sunday's Super Bowl, the New York Giants — aided by New England quarterback Tom Brady's safety — looked unstoppable. The Giants had a huge advantage in both momentum and yards, but despite all this, they only scored nine points. Then Tom Brady and the Patriots became, well, Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Brady went 16-for-16 with two touchdown passes sandwiched around the halftime show, and New England looked like it might simply run away with the game. And then I'm not even sure.
The Giants kicked a couple field goals, Brady roughed his shoulder up on the turf, and then — with about four minutes left in the game — the Patriots had one of the most heartbreaking sequences in franchise history: Brady and Wes Welker, who know a thing about throwing and catching, failed to connect on a throw up the seam, where Welker was essentially uncovered. Then New York quarterback Eli Manning hit Mario Manningham on a nearly impossible throw down the sideline for a huge 38-yard gain. By now, you know the rest. The Giants scored the game-winning touchdown after Patriots coach Bill Belichick smartly let them, and Brady failed to make good on his desperation drive with a late Hail Mary. Giants win, 21-17.
Let's compare those two game-changing pass plays: the failed pass from Brady to Welker and the play of the game, Manning's fantastic throw to Manningham down the sideline.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI. And that's after viewers were inundated with patriotic propaganda, from the national anthem to a crazy Clint Eastwood ad, without ever seeing one commercial featuring actual giants. Not one!
Eli Manning, who threw for 296 yards and led the game-winning drive, was named the game's MVP for the second time in his career. "GEE WHIZ AND JEEZUM CROW!" he shouted, waving his hat around in excitement. "GOLLLLLY, THAT'S SWELL!" He then stared at the Chevrolet Corvette he won, and wondered when Peyton would take him for a ride to the dairy for some iced cream.
Is Week 8 too early to start breaking down the NFL Most Valuable Player race? Heck no. We'd start handicapping the 2014 MVP race now if we could. (Andrew Luck won't be ready yet. Just throwing a name out there: Tyrod Taylor. Why'd you throw it back?) The 2011 season is just about at its halfway point, but there's an obvious candidate left as the favorite and several interesting options waiting in the wings for him to slip.
In 2008, I wrote a story for ESPN the Magazine that used history to set three "rules" for the MVP vote. Ironically, nobody qualified under the rules that year. This season, though, has given us a handful of candidates who qualify under our three MVP rules:
Your team must win a division title.
You've got to lead your position in fantasy points.
If you're not a quarterback, you have to set a statistical record or have an otherwise transcendent season.