Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the story of August in Miami might well be second-round pick Pat White (taken, by the way, with the choice the Dolphins got from Washington in the Jason Taylor trade last year) passing Chad Henne on the depth chart ... with an asterisk.
Henne's the quarterback of the future in Miami; I'm fairly certain of that. Henne's learning at the feet of Chad Pennington, and I'm told he's been a classic student of the game. But it's possible that the quarterback depth chart in September could read Pennington one, White two and Henne three -- even though Henne would be the clear No. 2.
This is because the Dolphins could have more use for White to play every week in odd formations like the Wildcat than they'd have for Henne. In the NFL, as you know, a third quarterback can dress as the 46th active player, but if the third quarterback plays before the fourth quarter, neither of the first two quarterbacks are eligible to play. So it makes sense to have White be the second if the Dolphins have him in the game plan every week to take three or four change-of-pace snaps. Given that White rushed for more than 4,400 yards and completed 65 percent of his collegiate throws, it's ridiculous to NOT use him somehow in pro games.
2. I think there is no good reason why Michael Vick, who's scheduled to be released to a halfway house in Virginia this week, should not be reinstated to play in the NFL this fall. None.
3. I think, however, that I would do one thing as a final wrist-slap to Vick if I were Roger Goodell: I'd suspend him for the first four games of the 2009 season for lying on at least three occasions to his employer (Arthur Blank and other club executives) and Goodell about his involvement in dog-fighting. His serial lying and coverups should not be forgotten. I'd whack him four games. By the way, Tony Dungy, who visited Vick in jail in Kansas earlier this month, has an interesting take in this week's Sports Illustrated on Vick's release and his future. Smart stuff.
4. I think the biggest two things I take from the Comcast/CBS/Fox triple play Sunday are that fans won, and the way ought to be smoothed for a deal with the players association now -- assuming both sides don't get too greedy about having to win it. Read what I wrote last night about it just to get the parameters of the meaning of the deal. But the gist is that the league is on the verge of making a deal with the biggest cable company, Comcast (in 24 million American homes), that should serve as a template for other cable deals.
Expect to see NFL network on Comcast digital cable, not the Comcast pay sports tier. Assuming the other cable deals fall into place, all fans with a digital cable package should see the nightly NFL Network news show at 7 (well worth it if you need your football fix in the middle of the offseason, or in-season) as well as the other programming (some meaningful, some filler) and the eight games each fall.
In addition, the cables that make a deal before the start of the season should also be able to show the Red Zone Channel on cable and not just on DirectTV. This channel bounces fans from game to game, depending on which team is closest to the goal line and the biggest threat to score. By the start of the season, I expect all the networks -- CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN -- to be aligned in their TV contracts, all with expiration dates of 2013. And there should be no excuse for the league or the players to stage any sort of work stoppage once the last year of the current CBA, 2011, expires.
The pie is huge and recession-less. There's no excuse for a deal not to be made so football goes on uninterrupted.
5. I think, as I made my calls on the TV story Sunday, one name kept coming up as the man with the white hat: Roger Goodell. He got personally involved with the Comcast negotiations, forged a strong personal relationship with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, and said to his TV people, in essence: Five years is too long for this stupid war with big cable to go on, and we've got to solve it now. That's what a good leader does.
6. I think these are the things I expect to be on the minds of the league owners as they meet in south Florida this week:
a. The 2013 Super Bowl. New Orleans is the favorite to get its 10th Super Bowl because the team recently made a deal with the state to stay in the city through 2025. But the underdogs, Arizona and South Florida, could argue the Louisiana legislature hasn't officially rubber-stamped the deal, and so one of those venues should be picked for 2013 and New Orleans could get the following year's.
b. A rookie wage scale. Just talk, no action. Owners want to see the players association chip in to rein in powerful agents who keep pushing high first-round picks to astronomical salary heights. The new PA boss, DeMaurice Smith, says it's not his job. It's going to be up to owners to police themselves, and there's not enough sentiment among them to get disciplined.
c. Expanding the schedule. There likely won't be a vote in Florida, but it's only a matter of time before one is taken. Expansion of the schedule is coming, folks, much to my chagrin. It's a freight train roaring down the tracks. The overwhelming majority of football people want 17 games (with three preseason games) because it won't cause massive disruption in the way they do business. Some owners -- and I don't know if it's the majority, but I think it probably is -- want 18 (with two preseason games) because they can make more money than with 17.
I shed tears for the game because of this stupid decision, whenever it happens. I wish you could go into an NFL locker room in December and see how beat up the average team is. It's easy for owners to say, "Oh, just throw another game or two on them! They'll be fine.'' I guarantee this: Some owners -- not all, but some -- will rue the day they go to 18 games if it happens, and I think 17 still is too much. Too many injuries. And for what? Because a $40-million profit is too little and owners want $50 million?
d. Allowing teams to talk to free agents before free agency. The biggest open secret in the league is that teams and agents talk at will in the weeks before free agency begins, contrary to league rules. The league is proposing giving each team a window of maybe a week to talk to players and agents (but not sign contracts) before the market opens in early March. Probably a good idea. If 23 teams tamper, why not just make it legal to tamper, and allow 32 to do it?
7. I think this is one last thought about a 17- or an 18-game schedule: What about the stats? Do you realize in an 18-game slate a running back would have to average 55.6 yards a game to gain 1,000 rushing yards? What a milestone! Wow! A thousand yards! In an 18-game season, a starting back should get cut for gaining ONLY 1,000 yards.
8. I think there shouldn't be much of an impact to the league with the salary cap $5 million higher than originally forecast. The cap is due to be $128 million in 2009, not $123 million. The reasons it won't be much of a factor is that, from the looks of the cap sheets, there's only one team -- Kansas City -- that will have to spend more than it wanted to this year in order to get to the 86.4-percent-of-the-cap salary floor. The Chiefs are $31.1-million under the cap now, without any incumbent veterans to spend the money on because none have proven themselves to the new administration. They probably need to spend about $15 million in cap dollars to get to the floor.
9. I think it's a pretty weird world when sportswriters are quoting agents in news stories ... with quotes not from the agents themselves, but from Twitter. Drew Rosenhaus has cornered the market on it. One day last week, I counted six mentions of Rosenhaus quotes about his clients in papers around the country. The quotes allow the agents to control the flow of information, obviously, by not returning phone calls (assuming calls to them have been made) and forcing writers to use the quotes the agents themselves can control. I'd like to see the Columbia School of Journalism get hold of that one.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week (Spoiler Alert: On The Office season finale in item G)
a. David Ortiz had to have made a deal with the devil in 2004. Give me two World Series titles and then you can have your way with me. You can embarrass me and turn me into the worst hitter since Rafael Belliard. I don't care. Two Series. Then whatever.
I take you to Thursday in Anaheim.
First inning: Tied, 0-0. Runner on first, one out. Ortiz strikes out looking.
Third inning: Tied, 1-1. Runner on second, no out. Ortiz flies to right.
Fourth inning: Tied, 3-3. Bases loaded, two out. Ortiz strikes out swinging.
Sixth inning: Tied, 3-3. Runner on second, two out. Ortiz strikes out looking.
Eighth inning: Tied, 4-4. Runners on first and third, two out. Ortiz flies to left.
10th inning: Tied, 4-4. Runner on second, two out. Ortiz flies to left.
12th inning: Tied, 4-4. Bases loaded, two out. Ortiz dribbles a nubber in front of home plate and is thrown out at first.
Twelve runners stranded. Oh-for-seven. Six straight times Ortiz came to the plate needed a single to give the Red Sox a lead. Six straight times he flailed. Has a batter in the three hole ever come up six straight times in one game with runners in scoring position and failed to deliver any of the eight? Ortiz is batting .208. He last hit a home run 144 at-bats ago.
b. I'll be at Fenway on Tuesday night. Plan to give Ortiz a standing O in his first at-bat.
c. Hey NESN: I like Dave Roberts over the weekend as a sub for Jerry Remy. Amiable. Informative. Needs to sharpen his analysis a bit, but I liked listening to him.
d. I'm sure the Red Sox are sad to be missing Roy Halladay in the rotation this week.
e. Johnny Damon won't make the Hall of Fame, but he is one heck of a baseball player.
f. Media Note of the Week: From Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, on a story from Brett Favre's agent saying there's no truth to reports that he's returning to football: "According to the Hattiesburg American [as opposed to its primary competition, the Hattiesburg Frenchman], agent Bus Cook says that 'there's absolutely no substance to all the speculation regarding quarterback Brett Favre.''
g. Can't believe Pam's pregnant. What a way to end The Office season. At least it's more believable than Pam the volleyball star.
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