1a. Final week, within the first hours after Antonio Brown left the stadium mid-game in opposition to the Jets, Tom Brady made a plea for compassion and empathy for Brown. He was proper. Everybody ought to be afforded compassion and empathy in troublesome occasions, and Brown’s previous doesn’t exclude him. Nevertheless it’s vital to notice that, over the previous two years, Brady has not provided that very same compassion and empathy for those who had been mistreated by Brown. They’re human beings who had been relegated to footnote standing in their very own traumatic tales as the best participant within the historical past of the NFL, somebody with unimaginable 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 conduct—ought to have to earn a path again. That usually begins with some acknowledgement of what they’ve executed. Brown, for probably the most half, skipped that.
He apologized to “the NFL” and his household. However concerning mistreatment of girls that has been chronicled in our impartial 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 bought in a battle with no lady. I simply really feel like I’m a goal so, anyone can come in opposition to me and say something and I’m going to have to face it. There’s no help, 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 individuals 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 usually in reference to Brown. No matter what his points are, we’re nicely previous the purpose the place he’s accountable for getting any assist he wants to right his conduct, particularly with the sources obtainable to him as knowledgeable athlete.
Those that had 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 large affect over society at giant. Brady is definitely conscious of that—a restaurant chain he’d by no means patronize handed him what’s certainly an outrageous amount of cash to promote their meals, he’s doubtless receiving comparable compensation to promote cryptocurrency despite the fact that his grasp on it appears tenuous at greatest, he can cost upwards of $100 for magic pajama… sorry, “restoration sleepwear.” Brady’s phrases and actions matter, and with reference to Brown they had been to reduce his mistreatment of others, at the same time as Brown confirmed little curiosity in redeeming himself.
There was a degree of hubris at play on this group, and Brady himself, pondering they’d be those to change Brown’s conduct. Self-improvement doesn’t transfer in an uninterrupted upward trajectory, and Brady and the Bucs had been persistently keen to volunteer that Brown was bettering. However they had been by no means keen to present particulars about why, particularly, they felt he was bettering, aside from emphasizing that he hadn’t been an issue within the locker room (which was clearly their principal concern). And there’s little we’ve seen publicly to recommend Brown’s conduct was getting higher.
The Bucs minimize ties with Brown over conduct a lot much less problematic than what bought him minimize from the Patriots two seasons in the past; he’s gone from Tampa as a result of he precipitated embarrassment for a soccer workforce. The star quarterback and group that enabled him would do nicely to have a look at their very own function within the now years-long Antonio Brown drama.
1b. The Bucs group, in fact, has not lined 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 information of Brown’s ankle damage, which Brown cited as the explanation he refused to re-enter the sport in opposition to 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 doable difficulty, and even acknowledged on Thursday that Brown and teammate Mike Evans had 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’ aspect of the story by reaching out to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (maybe not the bastion of journalistic integrity you’d search out in such a state of affairs, however possibly that’s why I’m not an NFL basic supervisor). Licht instructed 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 based mostly on particular person statistics are. It goes past the truth that soccer is the last word workforce sport and particular person statistical accomplishments don’t essentially correlate with workforce success. From the participant’s standpoint, Brown realistically might have felt compelled to play by way of an damage so as to hit those numbers and/or was understandably annoyed when the ball wasn’t coming his manner, an element that’s largely out of his management. And from the workforce’s standpoint, if “targets” was certainly was the impetus for Brown’s unhappiness final week, then they simply enraged and misplaced their greatest receiver—a man the whole group debased themselves to usher in within the first place—as a result of they insisted on linking his compensation to a bunch of arbitrary statistical accomplishments.
1c. Relating to Brown’s previous seven days, his insistence on airing every part on social media with a whole lack of a filter is ridiculous. He might need a official grievance in opposition to the workforce in the event that they minimize him with out an damage settlement, but when so he ought to let his agent, lawyer, and the NFLPA work on his behalf.
2. Your miniaturized Sunday FreakOut, Saturday Version, takeaways from the underwhelming and largely meaningless doubleheader:
Yeah, Vic Fangio Had to Go For It: It most likely wasn’t going to matter, however going through a fourth-and-9 within the crimson zone and down 4 with lower than 5 minutes left, you possibly can’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 area 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 best way, is an effective signal for the Chiefs. It’s an enormous distinction from what they had been doing throughout their midseason droop, once they had been suffering from drops. Nevertheless it wasn’t a clear sheet. Mahomes nearly threw an interception on a miscommunication with Mecole Hardman, and practically threw one other on a second-reaction play when Hill had, basically, given up on the play.
What Ought to Actually Concern the Chiefs: Except for Hill trying far lower than 100% wholesome, and Travis Kelce limping off the sphere after the ultimate play of consequence in Denver, the most important concern for the Chiefs was the variety of protection busts. It appeared 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 had been persistently on the opposite finish of those fluky turnovers within the first half of the season, and on Saturday they bought one going their manner.)
Subject Circumstances: 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 rather 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 sphere was becoming as the sport’s greatest 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 night time, which might be a becoming outcome for one of the vital overachieving groups in latest reminiscence. The avalanche of off-field points for this workforce has been unfathomable, and those left might have understandably packed it in. But in addition, this workforce can also be not notably proficient, and so they’ve been with out their second-most useful offensive participant, Darren Waller, since Thanksgiving.
Often when a workforce like that hangs across the playoff image, they’ve both caught an extremely comfortable portion of the schedule in opposition to 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 each 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. This can be a workforce 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 mainly 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 mean time, however the level is the whole 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 doubtless 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 obtainable this offseason (that doubtless 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 obtainable. This isn’t a Sam Darnold state of affairs—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 mixture of bodily traits, popularity 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, however, appeared 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 forged, however able to guaranteeing it will 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 power, and has proven for lengthy stretches that he can get it executed. There’s an excellent probability that this season’s disappointment was the product of the accidents and the dearth of playmakers among the many receivers and tight ends.
Contemplating the shaky draft class and, for any workforce that fails to hook Watson, Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, the dearth of veteran alternate options (Jimmy Garoppolo? Possibly Cousins?), Mayfield would completely be price 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 establishing 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 had been set to end up the season with a visit to Soldier Subject after which a house date with the Taylor Heinicke-led anonymous Washington workforce, two matchups so abominable that placing them on a tv with a second individual within the room would qualify as a conflict crime beneath the phrases of the Geneva Conference.
Decide and this workforce will quickly have a recent begin at offensive coordinator, with Daniel Jones again and nonetheless a possible franchise quarterback, loads of weapons and an opportunity to deal with the roster’s shortcomings with what ought to be two top-10 picks subsequent draft. All Decide had to do was maintain his head low and never draw any unfavourable 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 ultimately received the Tremendous Bowl, on the recent seat that season?
• Delivered a Billy Mays-style testimonial about, nicely, himself: “We bought extra gamers right here who’re going to be free brokers subsequent 12 months who’re in my workplace on daily basis begging to come again … There are gamers who we coached final 12 months that also calling me twice per week speaking about how a lot they want they had been nonetheless right here and so they’re getting paid extra someplace else.”
• Took a flip into what I’m guessing is Joseph Heller-inspired absurdist humor. On their 39-to-16 run/move ratio in a recreation they trailed all through and misplaced by 26 factors: “There was plenty of occasions with loaded containers. 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 had been going to acknowledge the sport plan was to run, run, run … They clearly loaded the field, put their larger personnel in. We had 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 state of affairs that wasn’t actually his doing. And I like to see coaches get a bit of carried away in feedback to the media. However, sheesh, man, simply maintain 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 now not the second two issues. I’m going to maintain off for a bit of bit earlier than I write about her in full (possibly 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 vital Jenny is to the current and way forward for sports activities media. In the mean time there are so few investigative/enterprise reporters throughout the trade, 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 individuals and pursuits (and their legal professionals and publicists, or as too many reporters name them, “sources”). I additionally need to emphasize how nicely the New York Instances did in choosing her to be one of many headliners for what’s, apparently, now the biggest impartial 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 excellent! If you happen to ever need to attain out, e-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!
• Query or remark? Email us.