Suck it NFL, Brady is a FREE MAN!

I don’t even know where to start. Talk about an emotional rollercoaster for the last 8 months (which is absurd that it took this long), but we finally have some closure and boy is it oh so sweet justice.  Before I go any further, you should probably have this song running in the background while you read this post…

Seeing this news break through on Twitter was just amazing…

Get the duck boats ready, because everyone in Massachusetts feels like we just won the Super Bowl again.  Hell, this news probably warrants a parade with all of the drama and media coverage it has gotten.  I know it’s not officially over – the NFL has already announced they’re appealing the decision, but still…I want to climb to the top of my office building at work and scream at the top of my lungs:  “F**k you Roger Goodell!!  Tom Brady!!! WOOOO!!”

And for all those Patriot haters out there who are condemning Patriots fans right now, just suck it up and deal with it.  We took plenty of shit from fans of the other 31 teams ever since the initial report.  So if you want to cry and pout because ‘Brady and the Patriots got away with another scandal’…you can join Goodell and the NFL in their pity part.  I’ll use those tears as sustenance – I’ll eat that shit up.

Speaking of the NFL, they could not possibly look any worse right now.  They were so confident throughout this whole process that it quickly turned into obnoxious arrogance and ultimately was part of their downfall.  People keep saying that Roger Goodell has egg on his face.  That’s putting it way too nicely.  It’s more like Goodell took a dump in a brown paper bag, lit it on fire at 1 Patriots Place, and then forgot what was in the bag and put out the fire himself…and then rubbed the shit all over his face afterwards.  That seems more accurate.

Frankly, I think they felt compelled to appeal the decision but their odds at the next level of court have to be slim to none based on the way the judge tore into them in his official ruling (the entire report is 40 pages, but if you want some highlights check out this link to ESPN Boston).  So they’re just dragging this out further and wasting more money and time because it’s the only possibility (even if it’s essentially zero) to save face.  Personally, I would have just chalked it up to the colossal failure it’s been and moved on entirely – that includes from Goodell.  But that’s for another day.  For today all we care about is that the truth has set Tom free.  No more worrying about the week 1 opener…no more speculating about how this is effecting his marriage…it’s time for Brady and the Pats to defend their Super Bowl title.

Meanwhile, this just in to TOSG (through my various league sources)…Bill Belichick is taking the news as we all expected…

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But in Belichick fashion, I’ll say that on behalf of Patriots fans everywhere, we’re ready for some football.  I don’t ever want to hear the word ‘Deflategate’ again. It’s over. Tommy Boy won and…WE’RE ON TO PITTSBURGH.

Let’s raise that banner baby!!

Houston, we have a problem

Didn’t Bob McNair’s momma teach him to stay out of other people’s business? Seriously dude, what is the matter with you?

In case you missed it, McNair – who owns the Houston Texans – decided to give the media this wonderful nugget yesterday regarding ‘Deflategate’ (and I honestly have no idea how the hell it came up, nor do I care):

“If it was J.J. Watt, I think he would have been cooperative, and it wouldn’t be a question… I don’t think J.J. would destroy his cellphone.”

I don’t fully blame McNair, because I’m sure the reporter was trolling him a bit…just trying to get a headline and it worked.  But if you’re the owner of another NFL franchise, why are you getting involved whatsoever in the absurd mess and chaos that has been the ‘Deflategate Saga’.  Just stay out of it bro, it’s not your fight.  The real result is what I like to call bulletin board material…and the Pats get to play the Texans this season, so thanks for the extra motivation Bobby boy. As if the Patriots wouldn’t be motivated enough to beat Bill O’Brien for bragging rights, they will want to drop a nice 40 or 50 burger on your squad when they meet up.  So remember that you brought this on yourself old man when Timmy Brady and Belichick cram it down your throats that Sunday.

On a slightly unrelated note – still on the Texans though – if you haven’t caught this season of Hard Knocks, you’ve missed some good stuff. That includes footage of J.J. Watt catching passes with one hand…his left hand, footage of cornerback Charles James III facing Odell Beckham Jr. in Madden 16 (who just constantly threw passes to himself…which by the way, must be SO AWESOME), and the highlight of the season so far from last nights’ episode…

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Everything is bigger in Texas, even BIG VINCE (Photo Courtesy: Grantland)
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Love the cowboy boots…I already miss you Vince (Photo Courtesy: Grantland)

Water Cooler Shorts – 8/24/2015

What you need to know from the weekend (and last week) in the NFL:

Injury News

The big news from this weekend is coming out of Green Bay, where the Packers lost star wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Initial reports are a torn ACL and he’s lost for the season. He’ll have an MRI today to confirm the prognosis, but it’s a tough pill to swallow. If any team is equipped to handle this kind of injury though, it’s the Packers. They seem to constantly churn out productive receivers from every draft and Davante Adams will slide right in to fill Nelson’ s role on the outside. Plus, they still have that guy named Rodgers at QB, so they’ll be okay. The other big injury happened earlier in the week when the Panthers lost their young stud receiver – Kelvin Benjamin. He went down in practice, also with a torn ACL and is officially done for the year. Any time a guy goes down without contact, you know it’s not good and in both of these situations it appears to be worst case scenarios.

One other injury nugget – not as flashy, but still worth noting, is that the Steeler’s Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey injured his ankle yesterday and was carted off. He will require surgery and the timetable for his return is still unknown at this point. Either way, it’s a big loss for a team that wants to establish the run and needs to protect Big Ben.

Jimmy G Update

For all those Pats fans who were on the ledge after week 1 of the preseason, you can step down and relax. Yes, I understand that Garoppolo was facing 2nd and 3rd stringers on the Saints. But he was also playing with 2nd and 3rd stringers on his side of the ball and did what you would expect from a capable quarterback…he led the offense on 5 scoring drives and was efficient doing so: 28/33 for 269 yards and 1 TD (also 1 INT), which I consider impressive considering his top receiving threat was undrafted rookie Chris Harper. Assuming that Brady is out for the first 4 weeks, as I said last week…I think the Pats will be just fine.

No other major news. Week 3 of the preseason will be the ‘dress rehearsal’ for most teams, so expect the starters to get lots of action in preparation for week 1. Knock on wood if you’ve already had your fantasy football draft and pray that your guys make it through in one piece.

Conspiracy Theory Time

As if dealing with the endless saga of Deflategate wasn’t enough for Patriots fans, now they’ve had to listen to other nonsense like Peyton Manning believing the visitor’s locker room at Gillette is bugged. The suspicion dates back to his time with the Colts, but resurfaced this week when Dan Patrick interviewed Tony Dungy on his radio show. It’s just a ridiculous notion…but even as a Patriots fan I have to admit that I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. Either way, it’s obvious that Belichick had (and probably still does have) a good chunk of real estate in Peyton’s head.

Anyway, it got me to thinking…The Office Sports Guy can do conspiracy theories too! So here it is, my first conspiracy theory of the 2015 NFL season:

Jay Gruden hates RGIII and secretly wanted him to get hurt

Honestly, after watching last night’s preseason game between the Redskins and Lions I feel pretty good about this theory. Even if you just caught the highlights on ESPN, it was blatantly obvious that the Redskins offensive line played horrendously and left RGIII constantly running for his life. He took some huge shots…stuff that would have been primed for the ‘Jacked Up’ segment on NFL Countdown (if ESPN hadn’t pulled it once they finally realized they should be more sensitive to player safety and concussions).

It’s week 2 of the preseason and you’ve got your starting quarterback, arguably the face of your franchise (although there’s obviously some questions on that now) out there taking shot after shot because your offensive line can’t protect him. Any head coach who gave a crap about their “franchise QB” would protect him by either: (a) making more conservative play-calls – i.e. more run plays, max protection, etc. or (b) just pull him from the game because IT’S PRESEASON!!. Get that shit figured out in practice when there aren’t 250-300 pound defensive lineman from an opposing team trying to obliterate him.

But instead, Jay Gruden left him in the game to take a beating. The end result: RGIII left the game with what has now been diagnosed as a concussion, creating questions about his availability for the rest of the preseason and going into week 1.

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So the only conclusion that I can draw is that this is exactly what Jay Gruden wanted. Maybe he secretly loves Kirk Cousins and wants him to be the starter. Maybe he’s upset that RGIII did Subway commercials with Jared back in the day.  But Gruden definitely doesn’t want him to be his starting QB week 1 or moving forward. Gruden is on a mission to destroy what little faith the Redskins fanbase and locker room has in RGIII (and probably his self-confidence at the same time). If I were RGIII, I’d hire some extra muscle and definitely look both ways when I walk out of the Redskins facility…Jay Gruden might he lurking around the corner, ready to “accidentally” hit him with his car.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance – NFC North

Continuing my series of divisional previews; if you missed the first two you can check out the NFC East and NFC West. Next up…the NFC North:

Chicago Bears

Why they should be optimistic: They’ve still got Matt Forte, who is arguably the most versatile running back in the entire NFL. You look at his rushing stats from last year and it’s nothing that makes you giddy…just over 1,000 yards at 3.9 YPC and 6 TDs. Good, but nothing special – until you factor in what he did as a receiver out of the backfield: 102 receptions for over 800 yards and 4 TDs. Sum it up and you’ve got over 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs, which is why he’s still one of the best in the league.

The only other reasons for optimism are that you’ve got some other weapons on offense too. Alshon Jeffrey has proven to be a playmaker in his first three seasons and should step right in to the WR1 role vacated by Brandon Marshall (although he’s already dealing with a nagging calf injury). You’ve also got Martellus Bennett still lurking at tight end, and you added one of Jay Cutler’s favorite security blankets from back in the day…Eddie Royal…to man the slot. If Cutler can get his head out of his own ass, the offense should be just fine.

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Why they should be concerned: Da Bears should be concerned because they’re still stuck with Jay Cutler as their quarterback, and the dude is total muff-garbage. That’s why they couldn’t find any takers this offseason when they were reportedly “shopping him”…he’s not a good quarterback AND he’s had issues with prior coaches and teammates. As long as he’s your QB, the ceiling on this team will be pretty limited. Frankly, the only thing Cutler has in his ‘Win’ column is his wife.

Kristin Cavallari  Photo By Gilbert Flores Fontainebleau Miami Beach Grand Opening at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach November 14, 2008 - Miami Beach, Florida CelebrityPhoto.com P.O. Box 1560 Beverly Hills, CA 90213-1560 TEL 310 786-7700  FAX 310 777-5455
Not sure how you pulled it off Jay, but kudos

The Bears also traded away Brandon Marshall this offseason. I know he’s got a screw loose, but the dude has boatloads of talent. And the kid they drafted in the 1st round to replace him – Kevin White – is already out with a shin injury. He’ll go on the PUP list and best case miss the first 6 weeks; still a chance he misses the entire season…so that’s a good start after 1 week of the preseason.

What are their chances:  As long as Cutler is their QB, their chances are about as good as the odds of me watching the next Fast and the Furious movie (what are they up to, #7 now? – who still watches that shit?). They have some talent around him on offense, but the offensive line is shaky and the defense looks poised for another down year. I think John Fox will be able to right the ship, but not this quickly. They’ll take their licks in 2015 in a difficult division, and with a tough out of division schedule. My official prediction = they finish last in the division at 6-10.

so then they said let's sign cutler for 7 more years
Yeah, I thought that shit was hilarious too

Minnesota Vikings

Why they should be optimistic: Adrian Peterson is back!! That’s all you really need to keep in mind if you’re a Vikings fan. The Purple Jesus is back and Viking fans everywhere will get to see the big 2-8 steam-rolling over poor defensive backs on his way to endzone, and all will be right with the world again. You can put me down as being in the camp that AP is going to come back with a vengeance and punish the league this year.  Struggling to remember just what this dude is capable of, enjoy…

You’ve also got a young, promising QB leading your team in Teddy Bridgewater. He made strides at the end of 2014 and definitely has more weapons around him in 2015 (the aforementioned AP is just a minor upgrade over Matt Asiata) and the Vikings traded for Mike Wallace this offseason to pair him with the emerging Charles Johnson on the outside and tight end Kyle Rudolph. If that group can stay healthy and if Teddy can keep progressing, the offense should be rock solid. His growth should definitely be eased by the return of AP, as teams will stack the box to slow him down – leaving 1 on 1 matchups on the outside.

Why they should be concerned: Personally, I’m a believer in Teddy Bridge, but he’s young and doesn’t even have a full season under his belt yet. So there’s the very real possibility that he has more growing pains and this season doesn’t go real well for the Vikes as he still develops.

There’s also the issue of their defense, which showed signs of improvement last year but didn’t make enough big plays to be a difference-maker. They had 41 sacks as a team last season, but didn’t generate enough turnovers (only 13 INTs and 6 fumble recoveries; 19 turnovers in 16 games just won’t cut it) to help create opportunities for their offense.

Lastly, the offensive line was a huge problem last year as Vikings QBs were sacked 51 times. That’s over 3 times per game. We’ll assume that improves with AP back in the fold, but reports are that the Vikings already lost starting right tackle Phil Loadholt to a season-ending Achilles injury in their first preseason game…that won’t help the cause.

What are their chances:  I think the Vikings are the dark horses in this division. They were better than people realized last season, and I think the return of AP is going to have a massive impact on their offense – I honestly can’t overstate how important I think he is to this team. Their defense isn’t great, but I think they’ll be good enough. They don’t have enough to overtake the Packers this season…but they’re building in the right direction. My official prediction = 10-6, fighting for a wildcard spot.

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Detroit Lions

Why they should be optimistic: They still have the man known best as Megatron. He’s struggled with some injuries the last two seasons, but when healthy he’s still the most unstoppable receiver in the NFL.  They finally found a Robin for Megatron last season, as Golden Tate had a tremendous season and stepped up huge when Calvin went down with his injury. Plus, there have been rave reviews coming out of camp so far about the young back they drafted…Ameer Abdullah. And for once the hype might actually be worthwhile because there is at least one Jets defensive player in the trainer’s room with broken ankles after their preseason game. Kid can cut on a dime – now the early comparisons to Barry Sanders are just insane…but he did immediately remind me of Shady McCoy, which ain’t too shabby.  In case you missed it…

Why they should be concerned: For starters, they haven’t gotten consistent play from Matthew Stafford. He’s got all the physical tools, but has regressed the past few years and his mechanics are just terrible. He reminds me of Nomar Garciaparra with his side-armed throws…and they’re both equally inaccurate. He’s got to be better for the team to have any real success, and he hasn’t shown any signs of taking that step into the upper echelon of QBs.

The larger concern is that it took the Lions over a decade to build any semblance of a defense. They finally had some success, culminating with last seasons’ top-5 defensive unit and right on cue…say goodbye to Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh.  They brought in veteran Haloti Ngata to fill the gap, but it’s not enough, and the trickle-down effect should hamper their secondary in a big way.

What are their chances:  They’ll be competitive, so they’ve got a chance to keep things interesting heading into December. But that’s all I expect from them – and it’ll be a definite step backwards from last season’s playoff appearance. I don’t expect Dan Orlovsky bad from them again…but with their lousy defense it’ll be more like the days of old with Stafford chucking all day. Keep your arm loose homie. My official prediction = 8-8 record.

Green Bay Packers

Why they should be optimistic: For starters, they have the best quarterback on the planet (right now) leading their team. Aaron Rodgers is in his prime, and the Pack can ride his golden arm as they chase another Super Bowl title. They’re also stocked with one of the best receiving corps in all of football – Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams; and they’ve got the human bowling ball at running back in “I’m not fat, I’m big-boned” Eddie Lacy. Simply put, assuming health, offense will not be an issue for the cheeseheads this season. They’ll continue to be one of the top offenses in the league and put up points at a high clip.

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Why they should be concerned: Their pass rush couldn’t generate any consistent pressure on the quarterback last season outside of Clay Matthews and occasionally Julius Peppers. They need more consistent play up front and are hoping a healthy B.J. Raji can be part of the solution.

They should also be terrified if a game comes down to recovering an onside kick again, because that botched play has to be terrorizing the minds of every Packers player, coach and fan. My guess is that they’re spending some time with the “hands team” this training camp.

What are their chances:  As far as I’m concerned, you can lock up this division now for the Pack. As long as Aaron Rodger’s arm doesn’t fall off, they’re winning the NFC North going away. I did give the Vikings some love, and they could stay within arm’s reach of Green Bay, but at the end of the day it’s their division to lose. My official prediction = they steam-roll through the regular season schedule and finish 13-3, get a top seed and first round bye in the playoffs. They end up facing Seattle in a rematch of last season’s devastating loss in the NFC title game.

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Water Cooler Shorts – 8/14/15 Edition

First post in a new segment here, as all football season I’ll be sharing my quick-hit thoughts on the NFL. I’m calling it Water Cooler Shorts, because it’ll be dedicated to giving you all the key news you need to know to carry a conversation when you run into Bob from Accounting at the water cooler in the morning. So with the first major preseason action last night, let’s get to it.

Tell Patriots fans to CHILL OUT

Jimmy Garoppolo got extended action in last night’s preseason game (as expected) and to be fair, he looked pretty terrible. But tell Patriots fans to turn off ESPN and relax. Remember that those are the same guys that overreacted and said Tom Brady was “done” after the Chiefs game last season (how’d that turn out by the way dipshits?); so don’t fall into their trap. I know it feels like the sky is falling down…the Pats are going to be 0-4 if Brady’s suspension is upheld, AND all of our favorite comedians are going to sucked into a giant hole in the ground.

But try to keep it in perspective…Jimmy G was playing with a second-string offensive line and his best receiver option was Josh Boyce – a guy who has maybe a 2% chance of making the final roster. No Edelman, no Gronk, no LaFell, no Amendola. If, and it’s a huge IF at this point, Brady is suspended at all, Belichick will come up with a game plan to maximize the skills that Garoppolo does have and they’ll be just fine. Remember that they went 11-5 with Matt Cassell at the helm, and I firmly believe that Jimmy G has more talent.

Jets fans should be doing cartwheels

We all got a good laugh when news came out earlier this week that Geno Smith was missing 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw, courtesy of getting popped in the face by his own teammate. Only the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. The truth is, Jets fans should be thrilled right now. Geno might have been their “starter” and maybe you can argue that he has untapped potential. But he’s not the best quarterback on their roster and definitely doesn’t give the team it’s best chance to win right now. Plus, he’s a giant tool, as evidenced by him getting popped in the face by a teammate and witnesses saying that he totally deserved it. I haven’t heard a single person defend Geno in all this…not a good sign.

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The simple fact is that Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a more than serviceable quarterback in his time with Buffalo, Tennessee and Houston, and is good enough to keep this team in games. They’ll need to rely on their defense, which should be one of the best in the NFL with the addition of Revis, Cromartie and Skrine to their secondary, but Fitzy won’t lose them games.  Which cannot be said for Geno. So don’t shed any tears Gang Green, you’ll be better off with the Harvard grad.

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Plus look at that beard…that’s instant credibility
Ameer Abdullah was impressive

Last night we saw the debut of Melvin Gordon, but it was another rookie running back that caught my attention: Ameer Abdullah was the most impressive player on the field in the Lions-Jets game. The cuts he made would make Shady McCoy proud – 7 carries for 67 yards. He’s getting rave reviews so far in camp, especially for his receiving skills. So if he can be productive in the run game too, then he could be a major weapon for the Lions to go with Golden Tate, Joique Bell and of course Megatron.

Health was the most important objective

The common theme throughout all of the preseason, but especially week 1, is just to keep your key guys healthy. That’s why you saw the Patriots resting Edelman, Gronk and Jerod Mayo. That’s why Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Joseph Randle didn’t play at all for the Cowboys, and why Drew Brees was standing on the sideline all night for the Saints. The simple truth is that 4 preseason games are way too many – these key veterans don’t need that much time to get up to speed, especially with the reps they get in practice. So there’s nothing they can gain from 4 preseason games, but a lot they can lose. Not worth the risk, so the theme over the next few weeks will be: KEEP THE STUDS HEALTHY.

So You’re Saying There’s a Chance…NFC West Preview

Continuing my series with my divisional previews for this upcoming season where I’ll outline why each team and fan base should be optimistic, whey they should be concerned, and ultimately what their odds are for this season.  Some dumb fans will undoubtedly take my predictions of a “one in a million” chance as well as this guy did…

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In case you missed my first preview, here’s the link to the NFC East Preview.

Next up in my divisional previews is the NFC West…thought that was fitting given how active the Seahawks have been this week, and with the Niners in the news today. So let’s get right to it.

St. Louis Rams

Why they should be optimistic: After a disappointing start to the season last year, the Rams finished pretty strongly in a very tough division and seem to be well-stocked with young talent. So there’s plenty to be excited about if you’re hanging out by the Gateway Arch. Their defense started to show signs of the promise that had Rams fans giddy before 2014 started, and going into 2015 their defensive line is absolutely stacked: Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald and Nick Fairley. That makes five 1st rounders in their D-line rotation, which is unheard of (especially given the actual talent level of these guys). Gregg Williams should have fun with his defensive play-calling given the pressure they should generate up front this year.

On offense, they traded for Nick Foles in the offseason so his transition to a more traditional offense (coming from Chip Kelly’s scheme) will certainly take time. But at least he has talented running backs to share the backfield with. Tre Mason showed his explosive ability in a huge performances late in 2014 (164 all-purpose yards and 3 TDs vs Oakland), and the Rams added Todd Gurley with the 10th pick in the 2015 NFL draft – a guy who’s been compared to AP. Gurley is coming off a torn ACL and will be eased back in slowly, but Rams fans have got to be salivating at the thought of a Gurley-Mason 1-2 punch.

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Just imagine how fast he’ll be when someone isn’t holding him back, literally
Why they should be concerned: Their offensive line was in shambles last year, so they invested 5 draft picks this offseason on offensive line prospects. They’re clearly committed to improving in that area, but all of the youth would certainly be a concern for me (especially considered none of those prospects were taken in round 1). Nick Foles’ entire right side of the o-line is projected to be filled by rookies…and I’d expect them to have a learning curve early on this season.

Speaking of learning curves…Nick Foles himself will have to learn a brand new offensive system and playbook. Not to mention that he wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire before his injury in Philadelphia. So once he learns the system, he’s still got to deliver and perform up to the abilities some people see in him. Personally, I’m not a believer. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid after his ridiculous finish to 2013…so I knew he’d come crashing back to Earth. I think the Foles we saw last year is the real Nick Foles, and that won’t be enough to carry this offense.

It’s particularly true given the lack of proven receivers on the Ram’s roster. They’ve got guys with speed and talent – see Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, and Kenny Britt. But none of them have lived up to their potential, and none can be counted on to deliver in a big game. So it’s a complete crapshoot in the passing game this season…roll the dice and hope it doesn’t come up snake eyes.

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What are their chances:  They’re in a really tough division, so it’s an uphill battle out of the basement that they’ve occupied for so long. But I think this is finally the year the Rams get back above .500 and at least sniff the playoffs. They’ve got a defense that could be top-5 in the NFL, a capable starting QB and a great RB tandem.  Ultimately, I think they come up just short as their offense lacks the firepower to pick up the slack on days when the D doesn’t show up big and force turnovers. My official prediction = 9-7 record, on the outside looking in for the playoffs but building momentum and excitement going into next offseason.

San Francisco 49ers

Why they should be optimistic: The hope should center around their offense and the guy who thinks he can be “the Man”, Colin Kaepernick. He’s shown the flashes in the past and obviously has the talent. He’s a dual-threat that has torched defenses with his legs or his arm, so there’s got to be hope of a rebound from him. Plus, the Niners did a solid job of replacing the talent they lost this offseason on the offensive side of the ball, as Carlos Hyde should step right in for Frank Gore and Torrey Smith provides a much more dynamic threat downfield than the departing Michael Crabtree. They also added Reggie Bush – a curious fit to be fair – but Kap needs all the weapons he can get.

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Keep those headphone handy bruh…you’ll be hearing more boos this season
Why they should be concerned: This doesn’t have the look of the Niners that we’ve becomes accustomed to over the past few years. It was clear last season that the players had completely tuned out Jim Harbaugh and they fell apart down the stretch. Preseason Super Bowl aspirations became an 8-8 finish, so a change was desperately needed there. But this once vaunted defense has so many question marks now that it looks like something left behind by the Riddler. Patrick Wills, Justin Smith and Chris Borland all retired this offseason. (Starting OT Anthony Davis also retired – making it 4 starters they lost to retirement…most of whom were unexpected given their age) They also lost starting corners Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver in free agency.

Plus, reports have come out today that Aldon Smith was arrested AGAIN last night on DUI, vandalism and hit and run charges. This coming after he missed 5 games in 2013 for a DUI (and he voluntarily entered rehab) and was suspended 9 games last season. The Niners were smart enough to restructure his contract so that Aldon is only paid if he’s on the field, but I have to assume they’re going to think real hard about cutting bait right now (they’ve actually already cut him since I drafted this post earlier today). The kid has boatloads of talent and can definitely rush the passer, but his decision-making ability makes Josh Gordon look responsible. At least he didn’t pull a Ricky Jarrett and punch a dude in the club right? (seriously, if you don’t get the reference…here is why you should be embarrassed and get caught up on Ballers real fast)

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I know…I can’t believe these fools aren’t watching either
The offense isn’t without questions either…they lost starting offensive lineman Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, and watched Crabtree and Gore leave for greener pastures. Now, as I said above, I think they’ve done a good job of replacing those offensive skill players…but the o-line would be a concern. During their heyday that was a major strength of the team and it allowed them to ground and pound, letting Kap utilize his strengths to get outside the pocket and destroy defenses with play-action looks downfield. That all backfired last season when the line couldn’t block and Kap was running for his life, rather than for first downs. He took more hits, and took 13 more sacks last season than he did in 2013. Protecting their franchise QB will be a key for the Niners in 2015.

What are their chances: They’ll be competitive, but this is one of the toughest divisions in football in my opinion. I think the defense is really going to struggle and don’t think the offense has enough firepower to carry the lunch pail. So, I think this is the start of a rebuilding process in San Fran. My official prediction = 6-10 record, good for last place in the division.

Arizona Cardinals

Why they should be optimistic: The Cardinals finished 11-5 last season and made the playoffs, despite losing Carson Palmer AND then Drew Stanton – leaving them with Ryan Lindley at quarterback by season’s end. They were 9-1 before the wheels fell off the wagon, and frankly they were serious contenders to make a run at a Super Bowl before all of the injuries derailed their season.

Going into this season Carson Palmer is healthy again, and they have good weapons surrounding him in an aging Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Josh Brown and Andre Ellington. They also had one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, and return the core of their secondary with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.  Had a couple of losses on D (to be discussed later) but they did bring in Sean Weatherspoon and LaMarr Woodley to help solidify their pass rush.

Why they should be concerned: While the core of the defense is mostly intact, they did lose some key pieces in Darnell Dockett and Antonio Cromartie. That consistent production won’t be easy to replace, so the defense could take a slight step back. Which in this division, any step back leaves them leaps and bounds behind the Seahawks and fighting for a wildcard spot.

They’re also banking on health from two guys who couldn’t stay healthy last season…Carson Palmer and Andre Ellington. People assume that Ellington is young because he’s only spent 2 years in the NFL, but the dude is already 26 years old. Not saying that’s old…because conveniently enough that’s also the age of The Office Sports Guy…but he’s got less tread left on the tires than most people assume. And Carson Palmer has had issues staying healthy dating back to his days in Cincinnati. Not saying it’s impossible for him to make it through 16 games, but pardon my French when I say this…if he goes down, they’re royally fucked.

What are their chances:  I love Bruce Arians as a coach, and think he’s done an amazing job with this franchise just as he did when he stepped in for Chuck Pagano back in Indy. Even with the injuries they went through last season he guided them to double-figure wins and I think this season will be the same. Everyone talks about the home field advantage Seattle has at the Link, but the Cardinals have a great run going at home too. My official prediction = 10-6 finish and they make the playoffs as a wildcard, but lose in the 1st round on the road. Come up just a little short on the defensive side of the ball.

I wouldn't take fashion tips from Bruce Arians, but I'd trust him with my football team
I wouldn’t take fashion tips from Bruce Arians, but I’d trust him with my football team

Seattle Seahawks

Why they should be optimistic: Well, they’ve been to back-to-back Super Bowls…so there’s plenty to be optimistic about if you’re a Seahawks fan. You just locked up Russell Wilson long-term, and one of your only weakness last season was a lack of offensive weapons around him (outside of Marshawn)…well here comes Jimmy Graham to fix that. So now you’ve got the best dual threat quarterback in the league, a ferocious running back that has deservingly coined the nickname Beast Mode, coming off another 1,000+ yard season, AND the second best tight-end in the entire league (sorry gotta give the edge to my boy Gronk on that one). Almost seems unfair.

Plus, you’ve still got the core of what has been one of the best defenses in the NFL the last 2 years. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor form the Legion of Boom – doesn’t matter who that other corner is because their job is cake with the other three guys around. Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin are creating havoc up front, and Bobby Wagner is running the show at middle linebacker. Enjoy this run while it lasts Seahawks fans, because the core you’ve got in place right now is special…and it doesn’t last forever (speaking as a truly spoiled Patriots fan who just assumes this based on what I hear from fans of other franchises).

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Why they should be concerned:  Well, if I’m a Seahawks fan…I’m pretty sure the first time the Seahawks have the ball on the 1-yard line, 2nd down and goal to go, I would have a serious case of PTSD and lose my shit. “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, RUN THE BALL!!!!” is what the entire 12th Man will be shouting at their TVs across the pacific northwest. So I guess their biggest concern is Pete Carroll continuing to be an utter moron and make decisions like throwing a slant from the 1-yard line in the waning seconds of the Super Bowl. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist taking one last shot at that…by the way, I don’t think I’ve thanked Pete Carroll enough for that decision…I love you bro. You keep doin’ you Pete. 

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Okay, one more and I’m done…

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I lied, but this is the last one, I swear…

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What are their chances:  Short answer is…pretty damn good. There’s a reason why they’ve been to back-to-back Super Bowls. BREAKING NEWS: they’re one of the best teams in the NFL. That won’t change this year. They’re almost impossible to beat at the Link and even if they go .500 on the road (which won’t happen), that’s a 12-4 record which would be enough to win their division. My official prediction = 13-3, will win the division and have the best record in the NFC meaning the road to the Super Bowl will go through Seattle and that means a 3rd straight trip for Russell Wilson and the gang. Book your tickets now.

It's cute that you really thought I was done before
It’s cute that you really thought I was done before

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She looks pissed, I’d listen to her Pete

The Brady Saga Continues

This article will be a cathartic release. My frustration was only intensified by spending over 6 hours in a car driving back to Boston from Maryland when the Brady news was released. I had to pull over in Connecticut and have my wife drive the rest of the way just so I could start writing this and get it out of my system.  I apologize in advance if my passion for this subject raises concerns that I’m developing Tourette’s syndrome (I’ll try to avoid the spontaneous F-bomb if possible).

What does this decision say about the NFL? 

It again demonstrates that they’re flying by the seat of their pants. They have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Every ruling is made with total disregard for any past precedent because they’re making up the rules as they go along. There’s no consistency across the proceedings, or handling of appeals, and they only care about making money…not the players or the reputation of the league.

Let’s consider that in the weeks leading up to this decision on Brady, the NFL announced that they reduced Greg Hardy’s suspension for domestic violence from 10 games to 4 games. Yes, that’s right – to the same number of games as Brady. So beating your wife is equal to being “generally aware” of a team official breaking rules that weren’t properly documented or enforced in the first place AND for not cooperating with a third-party investigator who was basically out on a witch hunt. Makes sense.

Brady tried to reach a settlement, but was met with “silence”. But simultaneously reports were surfacing that the NFL was close to settling with Le’Veon Bell to reduce his 3 game suspension for marijuana possession and DUI to 2 games. The only offer from the NFL was apparently to cut Brady’s suspension to 2 games as well, but IF and ONLY IF he admitted to his guilt and involvement directly with the deflation of footballs. To which Brady obviously told Goodell and the NFL to F**K OFF.

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Well, why did Brady destroy his phone?

I’ll be the first to admit, that definitely isn’t a good look for Tommy boy. Certainly makes it look like he was hiding something. Maybe he had some tasty pics of Giselle on there that he didn’t want Ted Wells’ perverted eyes to see. Maybe he was just being a normal human being and didn’t want to hand over his personal property to a complete stranger. Either way, I get that the headline creates a large shadow of doubt over his self-proclaimed innocence on this matter. But, with that said, it’s a headline that Brady and the Patriots (along with his attorney) have claimed is just another attempt by the NFL to divert attention from the facts of the situation. Brady’s attorney stated that Tom turned over all information to the commissioner during the appeal process to identify any text messages to the parties involved. So it seems like one of the two sides is full of crap on this topic. I’d assume the truth will come to light in the coming months.

Even if he did physically destroy his phone, that doesn’t mean he’s guilty of anything other than what the NFL has claimed all along…of not cooperating fully with the Wells investigation. The unfortunate part for the NFL though, is that the Wells report actually made no reference whatsoever to any lack of cooperation from Brady. It’s yet another inconsistency and contradiction from an organization that is penalizing Brady for not being transparent, when they’ve been anything but throughout this entire process. Plus any prior cases of a player “failing to cooperate” has resulted in a fine. So how does this failure now translate to a 4-game suspension for Brady?

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What is Roger Goodell thinking?

That’s an impossible question to answer, to be fair, because you’ll never get a straight answer from that guy. All Patriots fans are wondering how he could possibly keep the suspension at 4 games after dragging out this process for so long. Simply put, I think Goodell and the rest of the league’s front office decided that there was no turning back. They’ve looked like complete idiots for the better part of the last year as they botched one sensitive situation after another: Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy. They just reached a point at which they refused to admit that in this case they handled anything incorrectly, so they dug in their heels.

Plus, once the NFLPA announced that Brady would be taking the case to court if he was suspended for even a single game, what incentive did Goodell have to reduce the suspension at all? If they’re going to court either way, then he might as well stick to his guns. That way if the ruling is going to be overturned, it’ll have to come from a Federal Court and then he can point the finger at the court system when the other 31 owners complain about Brady and the Patriots “getting away” with another scandal. He can say, “Hey, I did everything I could. I gave them the harshest penalty in the history of the league and upheld Brady’s suspension. The court overturned me, nothing I can do about it.”

In some ways, Brady has the NFLPA to blame for how things have transpired. The PA jumped the gun and even released their complete defense strategy against the NFL. It gave Goodell’s office plenty of time to sit on this announcement and come up with a strategy that benefited them. Plus, in holding onto this announcement as long as possible it makes it that much more difficult for Brady to get an injunction processed in time for the regular season. In doing so, the NFL was also able to beat Brady to the punch and preemptively filed the lawsuit in the state of New York. A court system that provides no benefit to Brady or the NFLPA, contrary to Minnesota (where the Adrian Peterson appeal was heard) and Massachusetts – both of which would have been at least a slight advantage to Brady.

At the end of the day, Goodell is more two-faced than the Batman character. He doesn’t have the best interest of the “shield” at heart. All he cares about is maintaining his cushy position as commissioner so he can continue to cash an absolutely absurd paycheck (he made over $44M in 2012 and it’s only increased since). To do that, he’s got to play the politics of it and appease the other owners. That’s what he’s doing here more than anything else…protecting himself.  (By the way, Fun Fact:  Goodell’s house is currently under constant police surveillance because he’s been receiving threats since he made the announcement to uphold Brady’s suspension.  I SWEAR I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY OF THOSE THREATS.  I was with you from 5-9pm last night…tell’em).

What now?

Well, within hours it was announced that Brady has authorized the NFL Players Association to file an appeal on his behalf in Federal Court. That was the logical next step that everyone saw coming. Basically, Brady and his attorney will try to get an injunction to have him immediately reinstated while the case works its way through the court process. Essentially, they’re going to try to defer his suspension so that he’s eligible to play this upcoming season and it ultimately gets resolved in the offseason. If the end result is the upholding of his 4-game suspension, then he’d serve it next season. Best case scenario, the suspension gets overturned and Brady never has to miss any regular season game action.

The hope is that they’ll know soon enough, so the team can plan accordingly during training camp and preseason. Either way, you can expect to see a lot of Jimmy Garoppolo this preseason as the team looks to prepare him for the first 4 weeks (in the event that Brady cannot suit up).

Legal analysts on ESPN have said that Brady doesn’t stand a chance in court. I find it extremely hard to believe that Brady would go down this road and continue to drag this process on, if he didn’t have a good case.

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What I wish would happen

I’m honestly torn at the moment. A huge part of me is just sick and tired of hearing about this story. I can’t stand watching baseball right now, so I’ve been dying for training camp to start so I could focus entirely on football. But with every day that this whole debacle drags on, it takes the attention away from what matters…the Patriots defense of their Super Bowl title. That’s frustrating as a fan, so I can only imagine how the players feel.

The other side of the coin though is filled with deep-seeded rage because I want Brady to be fully exonerated. I want his reputation to be salvaged and for Roger Goodell and Ted Wells to be forced into an awkward and painful press conference where they have to admit they botched this whole situation and were dead wrong. I want to hear them apologize to Brady and Patriots nation for dragging them through the mud and trying to taint their 4th Super Bowl victory.

The reality is, that I’d give that pretty slim odds…but I can dream right? I never thought Robert Kraft was going to pull a 180 and attack the league after he took Goodell’s obscene penalty lying down. But he left me pleasantly surprised this afternoon when he FINALLY came to Brady’s defense and ripped the NFL a new asshole. About damn time Robert! It’s not enough to completely redeem yourself to Pats fans…but at least it’s a start. I wish he had shown some cojones when Goodell bitch-slapped him with a $1M penalty and took away a 1st and 4th round draft pick…but I believe Kraft when he says he regrets that decision now. Understatement of the century Robert.

So now it’s time for the real battle. Brady v. Goodell in court; Kraft v. the NFL in the court of public opinion. Pardon my French, but I hope that Brady and Kraft fuck Goodell sideways.

Don't think we'll see anymore exchanges like this between these two
Don’t think we’ll see anymore exchanges like this between these two

The 5 Stages of Grief: Deflategate Style

With the release of the Wells report by the NFL today, my otherwise normal afternoon has now become one of ridicule and harassment from my friends (non Patriots fans that is).  So with that in mind, it’s time for some reflection on this matter.  No comedy this time…just the 5 stages of grief:

(1) Denial   (2) Anger   (3) Bargaining   (4) Depression and   (5) Acceptance (honestly not promising that there will be a step #5 at any point in my life, let alone this blog post).  Let’s get to it…

(1) Denial

This can’t be happening.  The NFL doesn’t have any concrete evidence to go off and that’s why all they can say is that the Patriots “probably” tampered with the footballs after they were inspected by the referees.   After all these months that’s all you can come up with?  What’s the burden of proof here? I know this isn’t a criminal proceeding, but you are talking about the result of this report causing public humiliation, potential fines and/or suspensions and irreparably tarnishing legacies.  To me, that should then require the highest burden of proof:  ’beyond a reasonable doubt’.  The NFL clearly doesn’t have any evidence to reach that type of decision.  If they did, they wouldn’t have released a report with a finding that is so wishy-washy it makes the handling of the Adrian Peterson situation look decisive.  Just ridiculous.

More importantly…Tom Brady would never, NEVER, do something like this.  C’mon…have you seen those baby blues?  He’s not capable of breaking our hearts like this.  It can’t be true; he had nothing to do with anything shady that went on with those footballs.  All Tommy boy does is throw missiles to Gronk with that golden arm of his and then go home to make sweet love to that gorgeous supermodel wife.  Plus, I’m pretty sure if he was involved in the Pats cheating and G found out, she would kick his ass.  Let’s be serious, she obviously runs shit in that house and there’s no way he’d risk getting on her bad side (just image how much being blue-balled by her would suck).  No way he’s risking that. Say what you want about that sketchy locker room attendant…throw him and the equipment manager under the bus.  But Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. (never knew his full name before) aka Tom Terrific, is INNOCENT!

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Look at those eyes…he can’t let us down like that
(2) Anger

This is bullshit!!!  My anger here is split in two directions:  1) at the NFL; 2) at the Patriots (if this is all true – my first instance of even considering that they could be culprits here).

The NFLWHAT THE FUCK?!? Without hard evidence you’re going to drag down arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time? I cannot fathom how that is good for the sport. Tom Brady will be enshrined in Canton someday and belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of greatest NFL quarterbacks, yet you’re ready to drag his reputation through the mud without any proof that he altered those footballs or specifically instructed the attendants to do so. There are major holes in that report, including a lack of any testimony from Brady himself.  Seems like the NFL knew what they wanted the findings to be and conveniently left out anything that didn’t help their agenda.

The Patriots – this can be sub-divided as well but almost all of my anger is directly at Belichick. If, and I say IF, the Patriots intentionally deflated those footballs, there is NO WAY that Belichick didn’t know about it. You’re telling me that the same coach who one week prior had utilized a major loophole in the NFL rulebook to trick the Ravens defense with a 4-man offensive line and barely legal formations, had NO IDEA what the rules or procedures were for the footballs? Nice try…not buying it. He might not have been standing over their shoulders while they deflated those bad boys, but you bet your ass he knew what was going on IF this was does intentionally. The other frustrating part of this is how Belichick through Brady under the bus here. It’s as if he said “You know what Tom, I took the hit for SpyGate and now it’s your turn. Good luck”. How do you leave him out to dry like that? And IF this is all true, then WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?? You don’t need deflated footballs to beat the Colts. You had more talent, a better defense and a better quarterback. You beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl with footballs that were obviously within the NFL guidelines.  So you embarrassed yourselves, the franchise and your entire fan base. Left a giant stain on your legacy and asterisk by your Super Bowl Title.  Why? So you could prove that you’re smarter than everyone else? Because you thought you would get away with it? WOW, maybe that’s why the Pats loved Aaron Hernandez so much…in the end they might have had the same moral compass.

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(3) Bargaining

Simply put, I would do just about anything to make this story go away.   You know that Family Guy episode where Peter buys the footy pajamas and hands the guy a blank check?

That’s where I’m at right now.  If I could hand Roger Goodell or Ted Wells a blank check, I would.  I think a blank check from Robert Kraft would ultimately be more effective…but I’d be more than willing to empty my savings account to make this all go away.  Name your price.  Want the naming rights to my first born child?  No problem – we all saw how that turned out in ‘The League’ and Chalupa Batman is an AWESOME name.  Seriously Roger, Ted, let’s talk.  We’re all somewhat reasonable men here, we can find an arrangement that works for everyone.

This also got me thinking…the only reason the Colts were able to make the accusation about the footballs is because they got their hands on one of them when D’Qwell Jackson intercepted Brady.  So maybe this IS all Brady’s fault.  DAMN IT!  If you hadn’t thrown that stupid INT none of this would have happened!  We would have gotten away with it!

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Damn you D’Qwell Jackson…you started all this
(4) Depression

This is the most accurate portrayal of my current emotional state.  I should be riding high.  I was counting on that Super Bowl victory carrying me through the summer.  Who cares if the Red Sox pitching is terrible?  Not this guy.  The Patriots are reigning Super Bowl champions and all is good in the world.  That’s how it SHOULD be.  I should be able to wear my Patriots jersey with pride and flaunt it in everyone’s face.

Hell, I sent two of my friends (a Giants and Cowboys fan respectively) pictures of the Malcolm Butler interception when I paid them their winnings for our NFL Pick’em pool.  Couldn’t pass up an opportunity to throw it in their faces.  And that was supposed to only be the beginning.  I was going to enjoy every minute of this offseason knowing full well that when I saw all my buddies for our fantasy football draft in late August, that I could stroll in with my Brady jersey and talk all I wanted.  I mean what’s the point of winning if you can’t gloat about it, right?

Well that’s all for naught now.  Instead I’m considering changing my cell phone number so I can avoid the constant text message barrage from that same group of guys.  I’m already tired of the “Deflatriot” jokes and jabs at another tainted title.  My summer of reveling in victory has instantaneously transformed into embarrassment.  I’m depressed to once again have to defend my team…after they just won a championship no less.  They achieved greatness, in what was one of the best Super Bowl games, and I can’t even enjoy it.  Don’t be surprised if you find me curled up in the fetal position crying myself to sleep.

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Possibly the biggest play in Super Bowl history and I can’t even brag about it now
(5) Acceptance

I warned you that this wasn’t likely to happen before I finished this post, and I wasn’t lying.  I’m still leaving the window slightly open for the remote possibility that this is premature and the Patriots will be exonerated.  Or the possibility that in the end they’ll at least say that Brady wasn’t involved, it was just the two equipment guys and they’re both canned and never working in the NFL again.

But in all likelihood the report is true and the Patriots did in fact alter those footballs to gain a competitive advantage.  In which case, I’m utterly embarrassed as a Patriots fan that this is what the organization is known for.  For being those sneaky bastards who always bend the rules and have to cheat to win a championship.  More than anything I hate that people have every right to say it because for most of my lifetime I’ve been blessed to watch arguably the best quarterback of all-time and arguably the best coach of all-time lead my favorite team.  It’s been an honor and a privilege to watch them on the field for the last 15 years, and in turn I should feel lucky to call myself a Patriots fan.  Instead, I feel ashamed.  I defended the Patriots with every ounce of energy ever since the SpyGate allegations came out.  The irrational fan in me will still defend them now.  But honestly, it’ll be less adamant, less steadfast.  I feel betrayed.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice and well…I feel like a dumb jackass.  I want an apology from the Patriots…one I’m sure the fan base will never genuinely get.  I just feel like Patriots nation deserved better, which if you had asked me this morning I would have said was impossible.

Chip Kelly: Mad Genius or Just Mad?

For all the buzz that preceded round 1 of the NFL draft last night, it was a rather uneventful night.  But that wasn’t for lack of trying from Chip Kelly and the Eagles.  After offseason moves that left many in Philadelphia calling for Kelly’s head on a stake, and those across the nation thinking “WTF is this guy doing?” everyone was waiting for that last shoe to drop.  For Kelly to trade up and draft his golden boy…Marcus Mariota.  He denied it; we never believed him.  Secretly we all sort of wanted it to happen.  At least then he wouldn’t have any excuses if his “system” failed at the NFL level.

So after reports surfaced today about what Kelly offered to the Titans for the #2 pick, one can only be left thinking, “WTF was Tennessee thinking?” and “Wow, Ken Whisenhunt may have just saved Chip Kelly’s job“.

Now, let me start by disclosing my own personal bias.  I don’t believe in Mariota as an NFL quarterback.  I think he was a phenomenal collegiate athlete, is a tremendous young man and fantastic role model.  Unfortunately, none of that will help him run a traditional NFL offense or identify the correct hot read when the defense is showing A-gap pressure.  He’s a system quarterback who ran a gimmick offense; that works in the Pac-12, but ask Nick Foles and company how well that offense faired anytime they played a real NFL defense last season (spoiler – the answer is NOT VERY WELL).  Their flaws were hugely masked in 2014 by big play TDs from special teams and defense; plays that are not sustainable, but I digress.

The point is, the Eagles may have been the only landing spot for Mariota that actually fit his strengths.  So why then would the Titans turn down an offer that reportedly included:

Fletcher Cox (a 24-year old stud DE/DT), Mychal Kendricks (a solid starting ILB – also 24 years old), Brandon Boykin (a solid nickel/slot corner), Sam Bradford (former #1 overall pick with obvious injury history and upside), 2015 1st round pick, 2015 third round pick and 2016 1st round pick.

That’s a HUGE offer for a rookie QB coming out of a program that has zero history of QB success at the NFL-level.  Tennessee could have walked away with 3 of Philly’s best defensive players to add to a defensive group that yielded the third most points in the league during 2014, and is in desperate need for more playmakers (only 39 sacks and 12 INTs as a team last season). A starting QB to compete with Zack Mettenberger AND 3 DRAFT PICKS!!!  Hell, at 20 the Eagles took USC WR Nelson Agholor.  You know who else could use a big-play WR with speed, size and return ability….

Promise you it’s not a trick question – answer:  TENNESSEE TITANS

Maybe Marcus Mariota becomes a pro-bowl QB; a legit franchise signal-caller.  Maybe he fails miserably in an offense that’s best suited for a pocket-passer (feel like we’re watching the RGIII/Redskins experiment all over again).  Only time will tell.  But for now it seems like the Titans had Chip Kelly caught with his pants down, bent over a barrel and decided “Nah, we’re good.  Thanks anyway.” My guess is they’ll be playing the “what if” game in a few years while they’re on the clock ready to draft their next “Franchise Quarterback”.