1a. Final week, within the first hours after Antonio Brown left the stadium mid-game towards the Jets, Tom Brady made a plea for compassion and empathy for Brown. He was proper. Everybody needs to be afforded compassion and empathy in troublesome instances, and Brown’s previous doesn’t exclude him. However it’s essential to observe that, over the previous two years, Brady has not provided that very same compassion and empathy for those who have been mistreated by Brown. They’re human beings who have been relegated to footnote standing in their very own traumatic tales as the best participant within the historical past of the NFL, somebody with unbelievable energy due solely to his athletic accomplishments, advocated for Brown’s return to the NFL.
At no level ought to Brown have been subjected to any form of lifetime and even indefinite ban from the NFL, however he—like anybody with a sample of damaging and abhorrent habits—ought to have to earn a path again. That usually begins with some acknowledgement of what they’ve carried out. Brown, for essentially the most half, skipped that.
He apologized to “the NFL” and his household. However concerning mistreatment of ladies that has been chronicled in our unbiased reporting, police studies, and his own social media accounts, Brown had this to say in an ESPN interview: “I really feel like I by no means actually received in a battle with no lady. I simply really feel like I’m a goal so, anyone can come towards me and say something and I’m going to have to face it. There’s no assist, there’s no egos, there’s no guidelines in it, anybody can come after me for something. No proof or no matter. ‘He mentioned, she’s saying.’ The media will run with it, so even when I’m not responsible, I already responsible as a result of they already wrote it, put it on TV and put that in folks minds. So for me to have to sit right here and listen to those the allegations of me is simply unfair to me each time.”
Accountability is a phrase I’ve used typically in reference to Brown. No matter what his points are, we’re properly previous the purpose the place he’s accountable for getting any assist he wants to appropriate his habits, particularly with the sources out there to him as an expert athlete.
Those that have been mistreated by Brown don’t know Brady personally and (maybe extra pertinent) weren’t going to assist him win soccer video games, although it makes them no much less human. Sports activities stars have super affect over society at giant. Brady is unquestionably conscious of that—a restaurant chain he’d by no means patronize handed him what’s certainly an outrageous sum of money to promote their meals, he’s possible receiving related compensation to promote cryptocurrency regardless that his grasp on it appears tenuous at finest, he can cost upwards of $100 for magic pajama… sorry, “restoration sleepwear.” Brady’s phrases and actions matter, and with regard to Brown they have been to decrease his mistreatment of others, at the same time as Brown confirmed little curiosity in redeeming himself.
There was a stage of hubris at play on this group, and Brady himself, pondering they’d be those to change Brown’s habits. Self-improvement doesn’t transfer in an uninterrupted upward trajectory, and Brady and the Bucs have been persistently keen to volunteer that Brown was enhancing. However they have been by no means keen to present particulars about why, particularly, they felt he was enhancing, apart from emphasizing that he hadn’t been an issue within the locker room (which was clearly their foremost concern). And there’s little we’ve seen publicly to recommend Brown’s habits was getting higher.
The Bucs reduce ties with Brown over habits a lot much less problematic than what received him reduce from the Patriots two seasons in the past; he’s gone from Tampa as a result of he prompted embarrassment for a soccer group. The star quarterback and group that enabled him would do properly to take a look at their very own position within the now years-long Antonio Brown drama.
1b. The Bucs group, in fact, has not coated itself in glory over the previous week (or, when it comes to Brown, the previous 12 months). Bruce Arians, particularly, continues to reveal himself as a less-than-skilled communicator.
On this case, Arians’s public statements, the official damage report, after which his subsequent clarification don’t appear to match up concerning the coach’s data of Brown’s ankle damage, which Brown cited as the explanation he refused to re-enter the sport towards the Jets. Arians mentioned Brown basically didn’t undergo correct protocols by alerting the coaching employees that his ankle was an issue, however Arians additionally had to know the ankle damage was a potential problem, and even acknowledged on Thursday that Brown and teammate Mike Evans have been “on pitch counts.” Brown is a less-than-reliable narrator of what transpired on the sideline final week, however Arians isn’t inspiring confidence both.
In the meantime, GM Jason Licht tried to bolster the Bucs’ facet of the story by reaching out to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (maybe not the bastion of journalistic integrity you’d hunt down in such a state of affairs, however perhaps that’s why I’m not an NFL common supervisor). Licht informed Schefter that Brown’s camp had requested for sure contract incentives to be transformed to ensures, and the Bucs had refused. Licht and his colleagues can run their operation as they see match, however it’s a reminder of how dopey contract incentives primarily based on particular person statistics are. It goes past the truth that soccer is the last word group sport and particular person statistical accomplishments don’t essentially correlate with group success. From the participant’s standpoint, Brown realistically may have felt pressured to play by means of an damage so as to hit those numbers and/or was understandably pissed off when the ball wasn’t coming his manner, an element that’s largely out of his management. And from the group’s standpoint, if “targets” was certainly was the impetus for Brown’s unhappiness final week, then they only enraged and misplaced their finest receiver—a man all the group debased themselves to herald within the first place—as a result of they insisted on linking his compensation to a bunch of arbitrary statistical accomplishments.
1c. Concerning Brown’s previous seven days, his insistence on airing every thing on social media with an entire lack of a filter is ridiculous. He might need a reliable grievance towards the group in the event that they reduce him with out an damage settlement, but when so he ought to let his agent, lawyer, and the NFLPA work on his behalf.
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2. Your miniaturized Sunday FreakOut, Saturday Version, takeaways from the underwhelming and largely meaningless doubleheader:
Yeah, Vic Fangio Had to Go For It: It in all probability wasn’t going to matter, however dealing with a fourth-and-9 within the purple zone and down 4 with lower than 5 minutes left, you may’t assume you’re going to get a greater alternative to drive for a landing. (And I couldn’t assist however bear in mind the same Vance Joseph late-season, Saturday-night, fourth-down administration gaffe that had everybody up in arms and helped lead to his ouster in Denver.)
Chiefs Can Execute… Principally: It was a sloppy discipline and an overeager officiating crew in Denver. Tyreek Hill was not himself, taking away the big-play menace. So placing collectively 4 scoring drives of 9 performs or extra, with no turnovers alongside the way in which, is an effective signal for the Chiefs. It’s an enormous distinction from what they have been doing throughout their midseason droop, after they have been affected by drops. However it wasn’t a clear sheet. Mahomes nearly threw an interception on a miscommunication with Mecole Hardman, and almost threw one other on a second-reaction play when Hill had, basically, given up on the play.
What Ought to Actually Concern the Chiefs: Other than Hill wanting far lower than 100% wholesome, and Travis Kelce limping off the sector after the ultimate play of consequence in Denver, the largest concern for the Chiefs was the variety of protection busts. It seemed an excessive amount of like what went on in September in October with that protection, and it is the form of factor that should not be popping again up in January. (As for the slim escape? They have been persistently on the opposite finish of those fluky turnovers within the first half of the season, and on Saturday they received one going their manner.)
Discipline Situations: Add that to the listing of points with the 17-game season.
Drew Lock’s Final Gasp: In all chance Lock goes to settle in as a pleasant, mid-level backup quarterback for the following few years. I’d nonetheless be curious to see him in an offense far more just like the Shanahan-style system he ran for Wealthy Scangarello as a rookie. However on Saturday, Lock flashed a contact of the athleticism and arm expertise that made him a top-50 decide. If Vic Fangio goes to keep put in Denver, he has to discover somebody—quarterback, offensive coordinator or each—who will open this offense up.
Preseason in January: It’s the brand new Christmas in July. Jason Kelce snapping the ball on the primary play from scrimmage after which leaving the sector was becoming as the sport’s finest spotlight. (Additionally, poor J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, making his very unhappy return to primetime.)
3. The Raiders can play themselves into the postseason on Sunday evening, which might be a becoming end result for one of the crucial overachieving groups in current reminiscence. The avalanche of off-field points for this group has been unfathomable, and those left may have understandably packed it in. But in addition, this group can also be not notably proficient, and so they’ve been with out their second-most helpful offensive participant, Darren Waller, since Thanksgiving.
Often when a group like that hangs across the playoff image, they’ve both caught an extremely mushy portion of the schedule towards injury-plagued opponents, or benefitted from distinctive—and exceptionally fortunate—output in issues like turnover differential or red-zone effectivity. The Raiders, nevertheless, have been one of many NFL’s worst red-zone groups on either side of the ball. And solely the Jets and Jaguars have worse turnover differentials—the Raiders received the previous two weeks regardless of being -2 in each video games. It is a group that isn’t getting the bounces. They’re simply, regardless of all of it, good.
4. Between the mangled left shoulder and foot, knee and groin accidents, Baker Mayfield in 2021 was principally the soccer equal of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (“It’s only a flesh wound!”). And his receivers and tight ends are from the Ministry of Foolish Walks. And the coaches are just like the “No person expects the Spanish Inquisition!” guys. And that’s about all of the Monty Python bits I can recall in the meanwhile, however the level is all the Browns offense is a conglomerate of Monty Python sketches.
As for Mayfield, a lot to the chagrin of the Progressive Insurance coverage people, he’s been hinting towards a breakup. It’s possible his manner of greedy for some semblance of management over his destiny, however he is likely to be proper. It’s clear the Browns are going to make a run at any star quarterback who turns into out there this offseason (that possible contains Deshaun Watson), even when they’d like to have Mayfield-in-contract-year as their Plan B—he’s a much better guess than any prospect on this 12 months’s draft class.
Mayfield would and will draw loads of curiosity if out there. This isn’t a Sam Darnold scenario—Darnold by no means had an prolonged run with the Jets (or, now, with the Panthers) throughout which he performed like an NFL beginning quarterback. The little curiosity he generated final offseason was due to a mix of bodily traits, fame due to his draft slot three years earlier, desperation, and the truth that everybody was keen to pile blame on the earlier coach as a result of that earlier coach didn’t look good-looking at his introductory press convention. Mayfield, alternatively, seemed like a high quality starter in 2020, one thing of a Kirk Cousins-plus within the making, lifted largely by scheme, play-calling and supporting solid, however able to guaranteeing it could work and sprinkling within the occasional out-of-structure play. Mayfield has his points working from the pocket, however he can transfer round, has plus arm energy, and has proven for lengthy stretches that he can get it carried out. There’s an excellent probability that this season’s disappointment was the product of the accidents and the shortage of playmakers among the many receivers and tight ends.
Contemplating the shaky draft class and, for any group that fails to hook Watson, Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, the dearth of veteran options (Jimmy Garoppolo? Perhaps Cousins?), Mayfield would completely be value a short-term second contract (if he doesn’t need to play a prove-it 12 months) and a draft package deal constructed round Day 2 picks.
5. It was all organising properly for Joe Decide. He had been freed of Jason Garrett—who appeared to have been foisted on him within the first place—he obtained a public pledge that he’d come again in 2022, and the Giants have been set to end up the season with a visit to Soldier Discipline after which a house date with the Taylor Heinicke-led anonymous Washington group, two matchups so abominable that placing them on a tv with a second particular person within the room would qualify as a warfare crime below the phrases of the Geneva Conference.
Decide and this group will quickly have a contemporary begin at offensive coordinator, with Daniel Jones again and nonetheless a probable franchise quarterback, loads of weapons and an opportunity to tackle the roster’s shortcomings with what needs to be two top-10 picks subsequent draft. All Decide had to do was preserve his head low and never draw any unfavorable consideration to himself.
After which got here final week’s weird, fantastical post-game media session after a loss to the Bears, throughout which he:
• Dipped into an alternate universe: Invoice Belichick and/or his employees, in 2018, when the Patriots began 7–2 and finally received the Tremendous Bowl, on the recent seat that season?
• Delivered a Billy Mays-style testimonial about, properly, himself: “We received extra gamers right here who’re going to be free brokers subsequent 12 months who’re in my workplace day by day begging to come again … There are gamers who we coached final 12 months that also calling me twice every week speaking about how a lot they need they have been nonetheless right here and so they’re getting paid extra some other place.”
• Took a flip into what I’m guessing is Joseph Heller-inspired absurdist humor. On their 39-to-16 run/cross ratio in a recreation they trailed all through and misplaced by 26 factors: “There was a variety of instances with loaded bins. And we mentioned, Hey, look we’re working you both manner. We knew going into the sport in some unspecified time in the future they have been going to acknowledge the sport plan was to run, run, run … They clearly loaded the field, put their greater personnel in. We have been nonetheless going to be productive within the run recreation. That was it.”
I’ll generously put Decide within the “jury’s nonetheless out” class due to the offensive coordinator scenario that wasn’t actually his doing. And I really like to see coaches get a little bit carried away in feedback to the media. However, sheesh, man, simply preserve a low profile for the following couple weeks and get out of this season.
6a. My buddy, SI colleague and podcast co-host Jenny Vrentas is not the second two issues. I’m going to maintain off for a little bit bit earlier than I write about her in full (perhaps Tremendous Bowl week?). I do not need it to be taken as, merely, “I like my buddy.” Although I do like my buddy.
For now, I need to clarify how essential Jenny is to the current and way forward for sports activities media. In the intervening time there are so few investigative/enterprise reporters throughout the business, as league-run media, team-run media and rightsholders put overwhelming sources into their information operations. And most of those reporters have grow to be little greater than megaphones for the sports activities world’s strongest folks and pursuits (and their attorneys and publicists, or as too many reporters name them, “sources”). I additionally need to emphasize how properly the New York Instances did in deciding on her to be one of many headliners for what’s, apparently, now the biggest unbiased sports activities journalism operation on the planet.
6b. Additionally, we’re nonetheless doing investigative reporting right here and it’s going to proceed to be superb! In the event you ever need to attain out, electronic mail our tips inbox, my personal inbox, or Sign/WhatsApp +1-646-306-3983.
7. Girls and gents . . . The English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir, directed by John Eliot Gardiner, performing the work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!
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