ROFFL Podcast — The Champ is Here!


LOS ANGELES — We are hours away from the 14th ROFFL Draft Weekend heading into our 15th year and this time our crew makes its way to Denver for three days of football, brews and whatever other fun we can find. The podcast is back for episode two this season, which I think eclipses last year’s total, and I’m lucky to have The Champ pay me a visit. Three-time Gregg Moore Trophy winner Parker Deay stopped by to chat about another title win, the upcoming weekend and why he hates Nick. It was truly breaking news to my ears but I just let him talk and talk. He couldn’t control himself.

Enjoy and safe travels to all coming to Colorado.

ROFFL Podcast — Pre-Denver Draft Weekend w/Navid Sadri

Navid ROFFL Draft Boston window

LOS ANGELES — We’re back! It’s OK, I know you missed me. It’s been a long time, trust me, I’m aware. So much has changed, too. Cleveland is a winner, Peyton Manning is gone (though not from my television commercials) and Bill Belichick is giving in-depth press conferences. Whoa, I just got carried away. But the ROFFL Podcast has returned and I couldn’t be happier and more excited as we embark on our 15th season in which we rest our entire Fall’s happiness on the real performance of our very fake roster of NFL players. Once again, Parker is our defending champion (insert disparaging remarks) and Josh is our Toilet Bowl “winner” (insert disparaging remarks about Baltimore) and everyone else is left in between wondering what went wrong (Antonio Gates and the entire San Diego offensive line got injured).

We’ll be in Denver in less than a week for another ROFFL Draft and tensions and expectations are high. Can it top last year in Boston? Will Marc try and draft J.J. Watt? Will Jarrett’s cell phone have service? Just how smelly will it be in there? All valid questions and all will have answers on August 27 around midnight when the last pick will be made, give or take.

My guest for the kickoff to the 2016 season podcast is a two-time champion and the man with the best facial hair in the game, Navid Sadri. We hit on everything in the hour-long episode from the Draft Book to having another kid to watching the Olympics. Hope you enjoy it and can’t wait to see you guys in a week!

2014 NFL You’re The Man Power Rankings — Week 3

Peyton Manning

LOS ANGELES — Last week in the NFL was one everyone would like to forget. Unless, of course, you’re one of the handful of teams who improved to 2-0 and thus greatly increased your chance of eventually advancing to the playoffs. If you’re winless as we enter Week 3, then what a pity because in the last five seasons just one team – the 2013 Panthers – has advanced to the tournament after beginning the year as such (you’ll probably read that again soon). If the season ended today, who would be your MVP? Good question, glad I asked it. Peyton Manning? C.J. Spiller? Andy Dalton? J.J. Watt? What about Coach of the Year? Bill O’Brien? Bruce Arians? Ah yes, that’s why they play a full 16 games in the National. Football. League.

Let’s find out who’s the man, shall we?

32.) New York Giants (2014 record: 0-2; last week: 31) It’s a little too early to determine the top college prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft, but I hope he’ll enjoy living in Manhattan because it’s going to be that kinda year for the G-Men.

31.) Oakland Raiders (0-2; 29) I’ll let future hall of famer Charles Woodson handle this one: “We’re not very good … We suck. I am embarrassed.” OK, then.

30.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2; 30) According to ESPN’s made up QBR that puts a quantitive score on how well an NFL quarterback performs, Chad Henne got a 4.1 this week. Four-point-one. If you’re scoring at home. We are officially on Blake Bortles watch.

29.) St. Louis Rams (1-1; 32) Get blasted at home to the Vikings and win on the road against the Bucs; I’m certainly not going to try and figure out this team just two weeks in, but anything’s possible at this point. I’m ready for anything.

Kirk Cousins, Jay Gruden

28.) Washington Redskins (1-1; 26) Look, I love Robert as much as anyone. We are forever linked in basic cable television lore but his time as the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins is over. This is Kirk Cousins’ team.

27.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1; 27) It’s amazing what happens when the Cowboys stick to running the football and don’t let Tony Romo freelance behind the line of scrimmage to basically get himself beat to a pulp. What team shows up this week, however, is up in the air.

26.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-2; 24) If Jamaal Charles is out for a considerable amount of time this team is in trouble, especially after its best defensive player tore his achilles.

25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2; 23) First you lose to Derek Anderson, then you lose to Austin Davis. Oh, and both games were at home. And you’re supposed to be a playoff team. Something ain’t right down in Tampa Bay.

24.) Cleveland Browns (1-1; 28) Did anyone give the Browns any kind of chance to beat the Saints last weekend? Nope. Turns out these aren’t your brother’s Browns. Tough. Hard-nosed. Brian Hoyer has moxie. Johnny sure looked good those two snaps, right?

23.) Tennessee Titans (1-1; 16) How do you go from lambasting a playoff team on the road to getting thrashed at home by an inept pretender? Jake Locker looked great and then horrid. Can’t figure out this Titans squad so far.

22.) Minnesota Vikings (1-1; 14) Umm, yeah, I don’t know what’s going on there as much as you do but one thing is for certain after the Vikings drubbing at the hand of New England last week: Teddy Bridgewater’s time is coming. Soon.

Rex Ryan

21.) New York Jets (1-1; 19) Only the Jets could lose because their offensive coordinator called a time out just a split second before their second-year quarterback who may or may not be any good throws the greatest pass of his short NFL career to a young receiver who makes a leaping grab in the end zone to tie the game but it didn’t count and they go on to lose because of it.

20.) Houston Texans (2-0; 20) Houston has beat the Redskins and Raiders, so not exactly world beaters, but starting the year 2-0 is impressive and J.J. Watt is on a mission to take over the world. I’m afraid just typing his name.

19.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1; 22) Disaster week in Baltimore last week and considering what was swirling around that football team, what they were able to do on a short week against a good Steelers team; impressive to say the least.

18.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1; 13) So the Falcons, after showing us their 2012 selves in Week 1, went and showed us their 2013 edition in Week 2. I’m not riding this roller coaster this season. Pick one and be done with it!

17.) Miami Dolphins (1-1; 9) I was ready to be a believer in the Dolphins, I really was. But they got dominated by the Bills, even more so after Knowshon Moreno went out with an elbow injury.

16.) Detroit Lions (1-1; 12) Everyone was saying, myself included, that the Lions needed to show us they could beat a tough team on the road before we would start taking them seriously; and we wait another week.

15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1; 4) It was pretty shocking this team let Cleveland get back in the game in Week 1 and then got completely outclassed last Thursday night against a Ravens team fighting controversy.

14.) Buffalo Bills (2-0; 25) Buffalo has been the most surprisingly impressive team this far, defeating good teams on the road and at home, showing a knack for the big play and coming up with the defense when needed. Gotta see it consistently before I believe though.

Brandon Marshall, Jimmie Ward, Eric Reid

13.) Chicago Bears (1-1; 21) So the Bears, in eight quarters of football this season, have laid an absolute egg in six of them, and absolutely dominant in two. Lucky for them it’s the last two that’s been the most dominant.

12.) Arizona Cardinals (2-0; 18) Narrowly edging the Chargers at home is sort of impressive, escaping against the Giants is not whatsoever. Not sure what to make of this team so far, but it’s nice that Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 500 times. Quiet his dad for a week.

11.) Indianapolis Colts (0-2; 6) Why Chuck Pagano doesn’t just turn Andrew Luck loose is beyond me and probably most every Colts fan. But hey, at least Trent Richardson looked like a real life human functioning running back this week, right?

10.) New Orleans Saints (0-2; 7) The Saints are a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and I know many out there picked them to be as such, but this stat is a very real one: only one team in the last 5 seasons has started the year 0-2 and made the playoffs.

9.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0; 11) The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to be trailing by 14-or-more points in their first two games and come back to win them both. Soooo maybe they should work on their starts, ya think?

8.) Green Bay Packers (1-1; 8) How is it possible that Jordy Nelson doesn’t have the respect of defensive coordinators across the league just yet? All he goes out and does is dominate week-in and week-out. Great fortitude to bounce back after looking like a mess in falling behind 18 against the Jets.

7.) New England Patriots (1-1; 10) Tom Brady is still pissed the offense isn’t clicking like it should but be honest, I wasn’t the only one panicking after the Vikings went up 7-0 Sunday very easily. What followed was the defensive performance we were all expecting from the Patriots.

6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1; 3) Talk about a tale of two halves in the opening game at Levi’s Stadium. Colin Kaepernick shows flashes of being one of the best players in the league, then he slips back down to looking like someone still struggling to pick it all up.

Philip Rivers, Malcolm Smith

5.) San Diego Chargers (1-1; 15) Boy, the Super Chargers sure showed the rest of the league something last Sunday, huh? Did they expose the Seahawks? I won’t go that far, but San Diego will be there come season’s end.

4.) Carolina Panthers (2-0; 17) The Panthers win on the road in Week 1 without their starting quarterback and then do it again in Week 2 against one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL without their best defensive player.

3.) Seattle Seahawks (1-1; 1) Seattle isn’t going undefeated and the big story is how all-world mouth team defensive back Richard Sherman got “exposed.” Well, he’s still wearing the ring so let’s all just calm down about that for a week or two.

2.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0; 5) The Bengals have been the most consistently balanced and impressive team in the league through the first two weeks. Let’s see it continue or maybe even in January.

1.) Denver Broncos (2-0; 2) Peyton Manning threw three more TD passes, blah, blah, blah. Wake me when something legitimate happens in Denver.

2014 NFL You’re The Man Power Rankings — Week 2

Matt Cassel, Kendall Langford

LOS ANGELES — An exciting and thrilling Week 1 in the National Football league with lots of expectedly surprising results has been overshadowed this week by the Ray Rice domestic violence situation, including Monday’s video release by TMZ, Rice’s termination from the Ravens and suspension from the league, and multiple reports that the league office had seen the video months ago before levying a verdict on Rice’s playing future. None of that has anything to do with the first installment of my season-long You’re The Man Power Rankings, except the football part. I don’t know what’s going to come of this independent investigation either, but one thing I do know, is that Week 2 begins tonight. And we need to find out who’s the man. Let’s get to it.

32.) St. Louis Rams (2014 record: 0-1; last week ranking: 26) It wasn’t bad enough that Sam Bradford was lost for the year with a preseason injury, but Shaun Hill goes down in Week 1 and his status is up in the air for this Sunday.

31.) New York Giants (0-1; 30) — Eli Manning lead the league in interceptions in 2013 and after one week he’s tied for the lead this season. I’m guessing he’ll finish in the top 3 in picks again when it’s all said and done in 2014; should be a long year in the Meadowlands.

30.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1; 32) The Jaguars have proven after one week that they’re good enough to build a 17-point lead against a tough opponent on the road, and just Jacksonville enough to blow said lead and lose by double digits.

29.) Oakland Raiders (0-1; 29) Derek Carr proved that he has the goods to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, it’s just too bad he plays for the Raiders and has to endure what should be a long season.

28.) Cleveland Browns (0-1; 28) Only the Browns could fall behind by 24 points, climb back into the game and make you think they’d pull off the win only to lose in the most Cleveland way; but hey, at least Brian Hoyer finished the game in one piece.

Tony Romo

27.) Dallas Cowboys (0-1; 21) Wait, yeah, Tony Romo just threw another interception. Awesome. It’s bad in Dallas right now but at least Jerry Jones didn’t get slapped with a sexual assault lawsuit this week … oh. You can’t spell disaster without a Big D.

26.) Washington Redskins (0-1; 20) Robert Griffin III could be amazing in Jay Gruden’s offense, except it’s probably maybe not really a good quarterback, most likely potentially.

25.) Buffalo Bills (1-0; 31) I don’t know if Buffalo’s win last week says more about them or their opponent’s lackluster home performance, but E.J. Manuel and others looked completely opposite than they showed in the preseason and that’s a good thing.

24.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-1; 7) Of all the Week 1 teams that laid an egg, none bigger was the one laid in Kansas City and by their newly minted quarterback Alex Smith making most question whether 2013 was a fluke.

23.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1; 14) The Bucs bandwagon is a little less crowded as we head into Week 2 than it was a few days ago and Josh McCown looked every bit his age and showed why he’s been a career backup.

22.) Baltimore Ravens (0-1; 17) It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better for the Ravens. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Jay Cutler

21.) Chicago Bears (0-1; 12) There were reports that earlier this summer in Las Vegas the Bears were 6:1 to win the Super Bowl; guessing that is climbing by the minute after an embarrassing showing in the opener against Buffalo.

20.) Houston Texans (1-0; 25) Top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney is lost for upward to 6 weeks with a knee injury but J.J. Watt more than made up for his absence and Ryan Fitzpatrick was competent in a season-opening win.

19.) New York Jets (1-0; 23) Expectations are low with the Jets and it doesn’t help that they struggled to beat the Raiders at home, but at least Geno Smith looked like an actual starting quarterback.

18.) Arizona Cardinals (1-0; 19) If someone can explain to me why Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted by Carson Palmer until the fourth quarter then I’ll put the Cards higher up on this list.

17.) Carolina Panthers (1-0; 15) Derek Anderson hadn’t started a game in the NFL since 2010 and went out and posted a 108.7 passer rating and led the Panthers to victory; no one thought that was happening Week 1.

16.) Tennessee Titans (1-0; 27) A strong season’s start by the Titans, who went on the road and dominated the Chiefs in all facets of the game, giving credo to those pundits who said Tennessee could be a surprise playoff team.

15.) San Diego Chargers (0-1; 11)  It was nice of the Chargers to go all Chargers on Monday night and play great for three quarters and then remember they were on national television and disappear in the fourth.

14.) Minnesota Vikings (1-0; 24) Probably the surprise team of Week 1, the Vikings showed a renewed sense of competitiveness in a loaded NFC North; new head coach Mike Zimmer has the defense opportunistic and flying around.

13.) Atlanta Falcons (1-0; 22) Atlanta is looking to buck the Hard Knocks jinx and showed a glimpse of its 2012 self with a strong division win to start the year; Matty Ice set a career high in passing yards and his dynamic receiving duo backed up that claim.

Calvin Johnson

12.) Detroit Lions (1-0; 18) Calvin Johnson is good. Like really good. Like good enough to render Matthew Stafford’s terrible mechanics and backwards hat wearing moot.

11.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0; 10) Nick Foles Philadelphia honeymoon is officially over after his three-turnover performance in the first half Sunday, but thankfully for him, he got it together and pulled out the victory or it would’ve been a rough week on the Philly sports talk show circuit.

10.) New England Patriots (0-1; 3) Great for one half, absolute dung storm for the second is no way to begin the season, so much so that Tom F’n Brady shaved his beard immediately after the game. He means business.

9.) Miami Dolphins (1-0; 16) Look out, your first place Miami Dolphins! Great fortitude in the second half, the defense looked strong, offensive line was solid and Ryan Tannehill made enough plays to get it done. Strong run game also helped.

8.) Green Bay Packers (0-1; 5) Look, the ’85 Bears could’ve played the Seahawks on Thursday night and gotten boatraced, so I’m not judging Aaron Rodgers and the Packers too harshly.

7.) New Orleans Saints (0-1; 4) Drew Brees led the Saints offense to a floatload of points but the defense couldn’t stop the Falcons and looked like the Saints D of old.

6.) Indianapolis Colts (0-1; 6) Andrew Luck needed to wait until his team was down a couple of scores before he started playing, that’s just what he does, and he nearly pulled the Sunday night upset.

5.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-0; 9) Bengals fans were calling for Andy Dalton’s job over the summer and then he goes out on the road and beats a division rival while throwing for 300 yards; good start.

4.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0; 8) Everyone was waiting to see how this new up-tempo offense was going to work for Ben Roethlisberger & Co. and boy did it work, to the tune of 365 passing yards and a TD; there’s more to come here.

3.) San Francisco 49ers (1-0; 13) Dallas is a wreck, so I won’t give the 49ers too much credit, but Colin Kaepernick looked good throwing the ball and operating the offense, which was a concern after a shaky preseason.

2.) Denver Broncos (1-0; 2) Peyton Manning was on his game. Julius Thomas caught a bunch of touchdowns. The Broncos defense looked formidable in the face of another Andrew Luck comeback. Par for the course.

Russell Wilson

1.) Seattle Seahawks (1-0; 1) The Champs looked like The Champs in the opener and forced a lot of people to change their Super Bowl pick. I still have them going. They’re that good.

2014 NFL You’re The Man Burning Questions

Russell Wilson

LOS ANGELES — It’s hard to believe seven months have passed since confetti fell on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks after their resounding Super Bowl XLVIII victory over Peyton Manning and the Broncos but it’s gone quickly. A brief rundown of what’s transpired since: Michael Sam had a press conference, Johnny Manziel wore pads for his pro day, Jadeveon Clowney was the top pick, Manziel partied… a lot, so did Jim Irsay, some 49ers got in trouble, Ray Rice and Josh Gordon were suspended, some guys got a whole lotta money, others got hurt and Hard Knocks disapppointed. Of course, other football things happened in between but those were the stories dominating the NFL offseason, which has become appropriately titled the Non-Playing Season because it seems not a day goes by without some kind of important pigskin news. But now all the mumbo jumbo is behind us and it’s time to put foot to ball, shoulders to pads and end zone to dances. Football is back and it’s not going anywhere for the next five months, so strap in, stay hydrated and make sure your fantasy roster is set. Most of all, enjoy.

As I’ve done the last couple years, here are the pre-Week 1 You’re The Man Power Rankings in the form of Burning Questions for each team, based on nothing except what I want to know about each franchise as we begin another glorious season. My playoff predictions and Super Bowl pick are also at column’s end.

Let’s do this.


32.) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-12, missed playoffs) — The only question I have about this team is why isn’t Blake Bortles starting from the get-go?

31.) BUFFALO BILLS (6-10, missed playoffs) — Based on the preseason it appears the Bills are in trouble this year, but will Doug Marone be around come Week 17?

30.) NEW YORK GIANTS (7-9, missed playoffs) — Tom Coughlin has already fined me for finishing this so late, but if Eli Manning struggles mightily again will the 2-time Super Bowl winning coach have his QB on a short leash?

29.) OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12, missed playoffs) — Oakland signed several veterans this offseason but it’s going to be rookie quarterback Derek Carr who determines how far this team goes this season, but who’ll be catching the ball from his talented right arm?

Johnny Manziel

28.) CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12, missed playoffs) — We all know what’s coming with the Browns this season, the questions is how long will the revolution take to be televised?

27.) TENNESSEE TITANS (7-9, missed playoffs) — Ken Whisenhunt will coach ’em up, there’s no doubt about that, and with some picking the Titans as a potential sleeper, can Jake Locker make it happen in a make-or-break year?

26.) ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-9, missed playoffs) — This season was already going to be the biggest of Sam Bradford’s career before he was lost with an ACL tear, now that Shuan Hill is leading the charge can he pull a Kurt Warner and take the Rams back to the playoffs?

25.) HOUSTON TEXANS (2-14, missed playoffs) — The Brinks truck was backed up for J.J. Watt, and while he deserves it, all the questions marks surrounding this team are on the offensive side of the ball, such as who is throwing the ball and will Arian Foster stay healthy for an entire season?

24.) MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-10-1, missed playoffs) — Any team with Adrian Peterson and one of the best young tight ends in the game will have the offense to compete, but will the secondary toughen up to defend the aerial assault it’ll see on a weekly basis in division play?

23.) NEW YORK JETS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Everyone wants to make the Jets 2014 success about Geno Smith and his improvements between last year and this, but I’m more curious if the defense, specifically the secondary can match the artillery of its opponents?

22.) ATLANTA FALCONS (4-12, missed playoffs) — One play from the Super Bowl in 2012 to four wins a year later, Atlanta is a curious crew but the question is who are the real Falcons: the team that frightened opponents or the division doormat?

Tony Romo

21.) DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Yes, Tony Romo is still recovering from offseason back surgery and the offense is poised to put up crazy fantasy numbers but just how bad is the Cowboys defense going to be?

20.) WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-13, missed playoffs) — With a new head coach in Jay Gruden, the Redskins are going to live and die with the right arm and two feet of Robert Griffin III and if he chooses to play smart and remain the reckless headache who can’t stay healthy?

19.) ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6, missed playoffs) — Patrick Peterson is finally paid but Darnell Dockett is out for the season for a Cardinals team on the verge of returning to the playoffs; can they really contend in the best division in football?

18.) DETROIT LIONS (7-9, missed playoffs) — The defense is always a curious case up in the D but I wanna know if new head coach Jim Caldwell can take all that talent Matthew Stafford has and mold him into one of the game’s best QBs?

17.) BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8, missed playoffs) — These aren’t your daddy’s Ravens, which means there’s a lot of new faces and the defense isn’t as good as year’s past; can it do enough to make up for what was lost following their improbabe Super Bowl win?

16.) MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8, missed playoffs) — A sneaky 2014 playoff contender, will Miami play spoiler in a division owned by the Patriots for the last dozen years?

15.) CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4, lost in NFC Divisional Round) — It’s possible I’ll be getting a few snaps at wide receiver this season in Carolina, but with the corps already thin can Kelvin Benjamin put it all together and be the monster he showed this preseason?

Josh McCown

14.) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12, missed playoffs) — We know Lovie Smith is going to have the Bucs flying around the ball on defense, but one stat I enjoyed was Josh McCown is one of four QBs 35+ starting the season across the league; will he make it through his first season as The Man?

13.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-4, lost in NFC Championship) — It was not the best offseason in the Bay Area to say the least, the events played out like a soap opera, so the only question is are the 49ers set up for a monumental 2014 fall?

12.) CHICAGO BEARS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Defense is not the name of the game in Chicago anymore, and we saw how good the Bears offense could be WITHOUT Jay Cutler last year, but is No. 6 the man still or does the offense begin and end with Matt Forte?

11.) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7, lost in AFC Divisional Round) — Philip Rivers basically willed his team to a playoff win a year ago, but does the Chargers defense have anything in its tank to back him up?

10.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6, lost in NFC Wild Card) — It was a wild 2013 in Philadelphia, between Nick Foles 27-and-2 run and LeSean McCoy running wild, what does Chip Kelly have tucked deep in the playbill for an encore?

9.) CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-5, lost in AFC Wild Card) — For this team it’s seemed to come down to Andy Dalton, so now that he’s paid like an elite NFL quarterback, will he start playing like one when it matters most?

8.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8, missed playoffs) — You know Dick LeBeau is going to coach up the defense, what I’m curious about is how this new high-tempo Steelers offense is going to look and how Ben Roethlisberger is going to perform in it?

7.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5, lost in AFC Wild Card) — I know the Chiefs just extended Alex Smith for 4 years and $45M but how far can he really take them with his game managing style of play?

6.) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-5, lost in AFC Divisional Round) — I’ve seen some NFL experts picking the Colts to win the whole thing and while that’s bold, is anyone going to step up and win a game so Andrew Luck doesn’t have to do everything himself?

Aaron Rodgers

5.) GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-7-1, lost in NFC Wild Card) — When you have Aaron Rodgers I know it’s tempting to throw the ball like it’s backyard football, but will Mike McCarthy use Eddie Lacy like he’s one of the best backs in the NFL (which he is)?

4.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5, lost in NFC Divisional Round) — Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger but all of his offensive weapons return and they look poised for another huge season, but is Rob Ryan’s defense ready to prove last year’s vast improvements weren’t a fluke?

3.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4, lost in AFC Championship game) — It’s always Super Bowl or bust in New England, but is age finally catching up with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?

2.) DENVER BRONCOS (13-3, lost in Super Bowl) — Once again, for me, it’s all about Peyton Manning’s health; if #18 is on his 2013 game then there’s no stopping Denver, but if he takes a few big hits, will the 5-time MVP get up?

Richard Sherman

1.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (13-3, Super Bowl Champions) More than any defending champions in recent years, the Seahawks are set up for a repeat run, will they stay hungry enough for 17 weeks to keep that dream alive?


NFC Playoff Predictions:
Division winners:
Packers, Seahawks, Redskins & Saints
Wild Cards: Bears & Eagles
NFC Title Game: Seahawks over Saints

AFC Playoff Predictions:
Division winners:
Patriots, Colts, Broncos & Steelers
Wild Cards: Chiefs & Bengals
AFC Title Game: Patriots over Broncos

Super Bowl Prediction:
PATRIOTS over Seahawks

Falcons Get Tough on Ep. 1 of ‘Hard Knocks’


LOS ANGELES — Sports fans today are more informed than they’ve ever been. Information about your favorite team is everywhere: legit league and team websites, fan blogs, Twitter, you name it. If you want to know what your favorite player is eating or doing at a given moment, check their Instagram or wait for TMZ to have a report later that night. It’s a blessing and a curse, living in this know-it-all-the-second-it-happens time that we do. But there is once place that exists, a lone Fortress of Information Solitude where everything walks in but nothing seeps its way out, where what happens there, truly stays there: the NFL locker room.

Save for once a year when one team volunteers to allow HBO’s hidden and very public cameras to film every punching player, coaching quarrel and ridiculously resilient rookie for its duration of training camp. The result is annually the best show on television. It’s the access today’s sports fan can’t get anywhere. It can scour the internet and follow every beat writer on Twitter until there is nothing left to click and scan, but it won’t ever know the details of a very real conversation Falcons head coach Mike Smith had with five-year defensive tackle Piera Jerry, who up and announced his retirement near the end of the first week and didn’t have a clue of what he was going to do next.


Yes, the Atlanta Falcons are the featured team on this year’s “Hard Knocks,” and if it wasn’t clear right from the opening video montage of Smith screaming over guys popping each other in a fully padded Day 1 practice, then over the course of the entire 60 minutes you figured out the coaching staff wants the Falcons players to put to bed the notion their physicality is how you say, lacking.

“You’re tough if you play this game,” Smith said in the coaches meeting room, as if trying to convince himself his players have what it takes to stand up and be physical this season, “and we got tough guys.”

This theme of being tough and smart and physical played throughout the entire episode with repeated clips of guys battling at the line of scrimmage for the play and then immediately head-slapping each other and talking tons of trash well after the whistle and usually until they had to be separated by teammates. It got rather old relatively quickly for my taste as it seemed ramped up for the show. Whenever a team featuring Osi Umenyiora claims to be tough, you know it’s B.S. And I know this because last year during the first NFL GameDay Morning meeting I mentioned the two-time Super Bowl winning defensive end’s name as a reason the Falcons defense might be improved and Warren Sapp immediately looked at me, his eyes got very wide and he said, “WHAT!?!” like I insulted the very spirit of the game. “Ain’t so soft tissue in this room, boy,” he said. It was then I realized you never, and I mean ever, bring up Osi’s name in front of Warren Sapp.

Inevitably what happens each year on “Hard Knocks” is you head into the season not really caring about the team in focus, but after a couple episodes find yourself cheering for a particular rookie or enamored with a foul-mouthed assistant coach. Last season on the Bengals it was Giovani Bernard and Mike Zimmer who fit the bill, this time around it appears Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman, and offensive line coach Mike Tice and linebackers coach Bryan Cox who’ll be in the spotlight in that regard. One of the most amusing segments of this first episode was a cut-up of Freeman looking for an apartment somewhere in Atlanta and safety William Moore telling us about, and playing with his kids, inside his mansion, which featured not only an indoor pool with a waterfall but a palm tree. Also indoors. While Freeman was marveling in what appeared to be a relatively pedestrian 4×6-foot walk-in closet, Moore, who signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract a year ago, was showing the world his shoe closet which contained every Air Jordan sneaker ever made. Ever. Of Air Jordans.

Freeman, in what was probably the greatest single scene in the history of “Hard Knocks,” then rode in a golf cart back to his car saying how blessed he was while taking a sip from a Capri Sun.


Do I think this is going to be an interesting season of the Emmy-award winning show? Good question. It was a rather uninspiring first episode. I was pleasantly surprised with how much Matt Ryan was shown, as well as Roddy White, who will probably come away as the biggest TV star when it’s all said and done. If you’ve followed him at all on social media or seen him on NFL Network’s Top 100 show any of the last two years, that’ll come as no surprise. He has a big mouth and it was clearly on display this first go-around. I particularly enjoyed him dropping a line I’m going to now use: that’s the difference between eating steak and still eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Other episode highlites:

– Flowerly Branch, where the Falcons team headquarters is located, is the name of a city that could only be located in The South.

– Rookie linebacker Tyler Starr’s fiance Megan Wheeler may have overtaken Lauren Tannehill has the hottest WAG in the history of “Hard Knocks,” and overall it was a fantastic episode for player’s better halves. Harry Douglas’s wife, a Miss Georgia International (whatever that means) and tight end Bear Pascoe’s wife were both getting it done. Also, respect for getting calf roping and hay farming in this episode, HBO. Mad respect.

– Speaking of Harry Douglas (I never miss an opportunity to write out his full name), what a strange dude. The women’s deodorant didn’t bother me as much as him being really anal and clean about packing. And that giant white teddy bear in his room. Bizarre.

– Devin Hester is on the Falcons? Who knew.

– Steven Jackson opened an art gallery in Los Angeles and I didn’t get the invite? My Hollywood swag is wearing off. Anyway, some of the pieces looked pretty cool, I’ll admit. Though let me ask you all this, which was more surprising: Terrell Owens finding a way to get himself back on camera for a few seconds or Jackson getting hurt during the first week of practice? Tougher answer than you think.

– Why is Jacques Smith messing with Jake Matthews? That just seems like a terrible idea.

– I think we should do the before/after photos with NFL Network employees. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t.

– It’s safe to say we all could have learned a thing or two if we just played high school football with Byran Cox.


– Am I the only one who had no idea Kroy Biermann’s wife is that chick from Real Housewives? Also, no surprise it was low-cut shirt night in the Biermann household this week. Can’t wait to see what she wears for episode 2. And how on earth does he meet this broad to begin with? He’s some hick from Montana.

– The TV producer in me loved the end credits payoff of the earlier shot of Steven Jackson being pissed that someone had “taken” his room only to be revealed it was Matt Ryan, who unknowingly threw is stuff in there because he was first to show up.

– Thomas Dimitroff might have the best hair in football. He definitely is in a neck-and-neck running for Best Wearer of a Visor with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.

– First audio cut of the show was Atlanta rapper T.I.’s “Go Get It.” I’m really curious to see how they’ll use the bountiful music choices during this season. No doubt Ludacris makes an appearance. Also hoping for a Magic City segment. (look it up if unfamiliar)

8 Things To Look For: NFL Preseason Week 1

Mark Wahlberg

LOS ANGELES — Unless you’re still in the theater watching Transformers 4 because that movie is 1800 hours long, or worse yet got traded by the Red Sox, you’re aware that NFL Training Camps started last weekend across the league in Cortland, New York, Oxnard, California and everywhere in between. Rookies are learning playbooks and carrying pads, while veterans are sharpening skills and honing in on what they hope is an upcoming season filled with good health and victorious Sundays. New coaches are finally realizing their dreams of sleeping less than four hours a night and never seeing their families, and us the fans are beginning the early stages of scouting for our upcoming eight fantasy football leagues. Ah, yes, football is back and not a moment too soon. This Sunday marks the officially opening of the 2014 NFL season with the festivities at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. This year’s class is another star-studded affair with Michael Strahan and Andre Reed highlighting the honorees, and of course, the game between the Giants and Bills Sunday night kicks off football every Sunday from now until February.

So with all that in mind, here’s the latest 8 Things To Look For: NFL Preseason Week 1:

Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel

1.) Get Ready For JFFTV  If you’ve noticed a theme in your football programing in the last week, you’re not alone. The Browns haven’t got this much coverage since Jim Brown’s days and why not, between Josh Gordon and Brian Hoyer, they’re actually interesting. Though I’ll be the first to admit, a quarterback battle on a team coming off a 4-12 season isn’t exactly the most appetizing meal, but when one of those quarterbacks is Johnny Manziel all bets are off. Johnny makes headlines whenever he speaks or leaves his house. First it was saying he’s not going to change, then it was his biggest challenge is the playbook, then he threw a couple interceptions in practice, then he got spotted on his off day at a bar. He can’t win. His coach and owner have gone out of their way to praise Brian Hoyer which leads you to believe JFF will start the year holding the clipboard. But why then did the Browns draft him? There was the story about the team being shocked his partying was as ramped up as it was between draft day and camp kickoff. Do none of them have Twitter or Instagram accounts? Look, my position on the kid is well known, but I’ll be excited when actual football is actually being played and we all can judge the kid on what really counts: what goes on between the lines on game day. Until then, hope you got your popcorn ready because we’re going to have a front row seat to EVERYTHING he does for the foreseeable future.

Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall

2.) Don’t Listen To Anything Anyone Says  If you’ve heard all the player and coach interviews recently a theme has probably been observed: everyone is awesome, we are going to the Super Bowl. Brandon Marshall told Michael Irvin at Bears camp this week that Jay Cutler could win the 2014 NFL MVP. Now Irvin probably believed this because he was the one who said last year Dez Bryant would be MVP, but that aside, Marshall has seen Jay Cutler play football, right? Cutler is the man who’s thrown at least 14 interceptions in a year five times, including a league-leading 26 in 2009. I know he’s Marshall’s boy but take step back, 15. Do you trust Cutler to win a big game for you? Fourth quarter, two minutes to go, down by six? Didn’t think so. The Bears have seriously high expectations this season predicated on their explosive offense. They are a chic Super Bowl pick. I’ve heard that Las Vegas types are putting serious cashola on them as well. But it all hinges on Cutler. All of it. That should make Bears fans very nervous.

3.) Vampire Injury Biting Back  Sure, “True Blood” is going off the air soon, but vampires are still cool, right? OK, forget it … Regardless, in consecutive days the league lost running backs Vick Ballard (Colts) and Kendall Hunter (49ers) to season-ending Achilles’ and ACL tears, and Giants back David Wilson got concussed again. Texans receiver Andre Johnson strained his hamstring this week and on and on. No quarterbacks have gone down yet, thanks goodness, and while injuries are part of the game, every year a handful of stars go down and the domino effect is palpable. You hate to see anyone go down this time of year, especially, but it makes you appreciate how hard everyone works and just how precious our time in this game is.

Julio Jones

4.)  Hard Knocks with the Atlanta Falcons  Yearly, it’s the best show on television, and “Hard Knocks” returns next week down in Flowery Branch as the Falcons will be this summer’s featured team. What’s funny is that owner Arthur Blank and head coach Mike Smith volunteered for the gig. Atlanta didn’t fall under the new league-mandated guidelines with having made the playoffs in the last two seasons, but I’m guessing Blank wanted to ramp up the team’s profile and put a little pressure on his talented group of veterans in wake of a disastrous 4-12 2013 campaign. I think this will be a fun season of “Hard Knocks.” There are players we all know and are familiar with in Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Steven Jackson, and inevitably a few with personalities we never knew existed will emerge. That’s the beauty of the show; you go in not caring and come out invested in a whole new group of guys.

Marshawn Lynch

5.) How Will Holdout Affect Beast Mode  Marshawn Lynch proved last week he’s not only ’bout that action, boss, but he’s also ’bout that paper, boss. The Seahawks running back phoned into NFL Network to announce his hold out and returned Thursday with little bustle. Michael Silver reported Seattle tacked on a few more Skittles onto his existing contract for this season, $1.5 million to be exact, which is always nice. And while Money Lynch was the biggest name who held out this Training Camp others such as Lions all-world DT Ndamukong Suh and Chiefs QB Alex Smith want a new deals before the season kicks of in early September. Many thought Andre Johnson was going to skip Texans training camp but he showed and promptly injured his hammy. How will surrounding contract issues affect these guys? That’s always the question when it appears their main offseason focus has been their wallet and not their body. I’m guessing it’ll be minimal but you never know.

6.) Who’s Awesome/Who’s Trash  Did you hear the one on Monday where Nick Foles is garbage because he came from a rich family and neighborhood and doesn’t scream at his teammates like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Look, I like Buzz Bissinger as much as the next “Friday Night Lights” fan but seriously, Buzz, I think your leather pants are too tight on this one. It’s amazing to me a guy coming off one of the greatest statistical seasons in some time (8-2, 2,981 yards, 27 TD, 2 INT) could be criticized for not being a leader or having what it takes to be an elite quarterback in this league, but all it takes is a keyboard to take someone down, and that’s what Buzz did this week. This also plays into a larger preseason theme of declaring a player a superstar or on the cut list when no games have been played.

Tavon Wilson, Darrelle Revis

7.) Revis Island Taking Reservations for Weekend Getaways The first English settlement of Martha’s Vineyard came in 1642 by Thomas Mayhew and since then the island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts has become a playground for the affluent. This fall, however, a new inhabitant will take over the 87.5 square mile paradise island and plant his flag: Darrelle Revis. By all accounts, the Patriots new defensive back has been terrorizing New England practices this July. He even had the gall to intercept Tom Brady not once but twice! In one day! How dare he?! Revis has proven thus far to be the real deal, which is good news for a Patriots secondary that couldn’t stop me and three friends in recent years. If he is locking down half the field this fall, coupled with a healthy Vince Wilfork and Jarod Mayo, New England will be back to being a force defensively.

8.) I Still Have No Idea Who I’m Keeping In Fantasy  I know my fantasy team is always on your mind, but it’s a serious problem I’m having right now and I know I’m not alone. Surely I can’t be the only one who is pacing like Scrooge McDuck trying to decide on two keepers among six legit possibilities, and then after having done a fantasy mock draft factoring in who I think everyone else in my league is going to keep, pacing even more because I can’t decide if I should take Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall or Jimmy Graham or Julio Jones with the third overall pick?! Right? Bueller? OK, fine. Screw you guys. Never mind. I got this. (no, I don’t. help.)

2nd Annual Birthday Burger Draft Results


MARINA DEL RAY, CALIF. — When people first heard I was doing a Burger Draft with my buddies, they were more confused than Tom Brady looking for a high five. “So you’re drafting hamburgers? That sounds dumb.”

“Well, yes, no, it’s not really that simple. It’s fun. There’s strategy involved. You might not even get to eat the burger you chose! Depends where you pick.”

“What? Why would you do that?”

It’s at this point I realized the people I was explaining this to either a) don’t understand how the NFL or NBA Drafts work or b) aren’t the type of freaks to seek out competition, to wager on things like whose bags come out first at the airport or who the person three lanes down at the bowling alley calls their favorite football team. Or they just don’t have a sick crew of friends who can accelerate a Wednesday night from zero-to-Ferrari like I do.

So be it.

Last year, at the inaugural Burger Draft, we had six guys; this year, 10, which meant FOUR MORE BURGERS. We decided to stick with 26 Beach as the host venue, which is known for its exotic burger choices with names like New York Mile High, UFO and Viking; 28 burgers in all on the menu and each one it’s own special kind of delicious.

Upon our arrival we were escorted through the restaurant and into this private back room away from the rest of the regular patrons; like the “Goodfellas” Copacabana scene except the opposite. It’s almost as if they knew what kind of morons were showing up to destroy some Grade A beef. The room was straight out of Wayne Manor with the lighting (which we had control of with a dimmer), tree benches, and these white royal-looking chairs at the head of the table. The perfect combination of space and separation from society.

Matt kicked off the burger selection process with Yuki’s Spicy Tuna. Law followed from there with PB&J and we were off and running. Here’s the final eight chosen: Soft Shell Crab (Parker), ABC (Phil), Mori Eel (Eric), New York Mile High (me), Salsita (Hall), Cattleman (Cahill), King Kobe (Brad) and Texas (Shawn).

(for complete 26 Beach burger menu including description, CLICK HERE)

We then drew for draft position. Each burger was cut in half, which meant TWO ROUNDS. We did standard fantasy football snake draft for selecting and when all the burgers were delivered in front of us we got started. There were some surprises.

1.) Eric — New York Mile High
2.) Law — Soft Shell Crab
3.) Phil — New York Mile High
4.) Brad — Soft Shell Crab
5.) Hall — Salsita
6.) Brockman — Texas
7.) Parker — Yuki’s Spicy Tuna
8.) Shawn — Cattleman
9.) Matt — Yuki’s Spicy Tuna (traded 1/4 to Brad for 1/4 of Soft Shell Crab)
10.) Cahill — Cattleman

11.) Cahill — King Kobe (traded 1/4 to Eric for 1/4 PB&J + a beer)
12.) Matt — Mori Eel
13.) Shawn — ABC
14.) Parker — PB&J
15.) Brockman — King Kobe
16.) Hall — ABC
17.) Brad — Salsita (traded 1/4 to Brad for 1/4 of Soft Shell Crab)
18.) Phil — Mori Eel
19.) Law — Texas (traded 1/4 to Cahill for 1/4 of PB&J)
20.) Eric — PB&J (traded 1/4 to Cahill for 1/4 of King Kobe + a beer)

What really took the draft to the next level was the amount of trades that went on in the minutes after. Cahill started the wheelin’ and dealin’ and the frenetic pace snowballed from there. For a minute I thought we might need a second set with Daniel Jeremiah and Ian Rapoport breaking them all down. I even tweeted as much.

All in all, I’d say everyone was pleased with their selections. Even the PB&J burger sounded like a hit. Things got out of hand at the end, however, when Law challenged Eric to eat another whole New York Mile High with anchovy salad in 20 minutes for his share of the bill. Remember that scene in “The Great Outdoors” where Chet eats the Ole ’96er? Picture that. It wasn’t pretty though he came pretty damn close to finishing.

Great night.


The Only Stat That Matters

Tom Brady

LOS ANGELES — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was recently the subject of some poor television producing when the topic of his spot in the NFL’s Top 5 QB Elite was discussed. Now, I didn’t pay this one ounce of attention because, well, duh, of course he’s still in there. But for a June conversation, it moved the dial and media outlets deprived of content this time of year ran with it and I’m sure their ratings reflected such discussion involving NFL royalty. Tim Tebow he is not, however.

Fantasy geeks who care only about on-field statistics have their theories as to what qualifies one as NFL Elite and where Brady currently ranks in today’s game. I have my own list but that’s not the point of his article. But to satisfy the stat-heads, let’s just look at basic quarterback measurables over the last three seasons to get an idea: Brady has 1,182 completions, thrown for 14,405 yards and 98 TDs, and just 31 INTs.

In my fantasy league with the scoring as follows – .25pts/comp, 40yds/pt, 6pts/TD and -2pts/INT – that calculates out to 1,181.63 points. There are 14 other QBs who have started a majority of their teams games in the last three seasons – I’ll throw Peyton Manning in there with his 2010 stats as well – so let’s see how they performed purely on a statistical basis:

  1. Drew Brees:  1,436 comp, 15,815 yards, 128 TD, 45 INT –> 1,432.38 pts
  2. Peyton Manning:  1,300 comp, 14,836 yards, 125 TD, 38 INT –> 1,369.9 pts
  3. Tom Brady:  1,182 comp, 14,405 yards, 98 TDs, 31 INT –> 1,181.63 pts
  4. Matthew Stafford:  1,227 comp, 14,655 yards, 90 TD, 52 INT –> 1,109.13 pts
  5. Aaron Rodgers:  907 comp, 11,444 yards, 101 TD, 20 INT –> 1,086.85 pts
  6. Matt Ryan:  1,208 comp, 13,411 yards, 87 TD, 43 INT –> 1,073.28 pts
  7. Tony Romo:  1,123 comp, 12,915 yards, 90 TD, 39 INT –> 1,065.63 pts
  8. Philip Rivers:  1,082 comp, 12,708 yards, 85 TD, 46 INT –> 1,006.2 pts
  9. Andy Dalton:  992 comp, 11,360 yards, 80 TD, 49 INT –> 914 pts
  10. Ben Roethlisberger:  983 comp, 11,601 yards, 75 TD, 36 INT –> 913.78 pts
  11. Eli Manning:  997 comp, 12,699 yards, 73 TD, 58 INT –> 888.73 pts
  12. Joe Flacco:  991 comp, 11,339 yards, 61 TD, 44 INT –> 809.23 pts
  13. Cam Newton:  882 comp, 11,299 yards, 64 TD, 42 INT –> 802.98 pts (does not include rushing stats/points)
  14. Alex Smith:  734 comp, 8,194 yards, 53 TD, 17 INT –> 672.35 pts
  15. Jay Cutler:  661 comp, 7,973 yards, 51 TD, 33 INT –> 604.58 pts

This last Monday, Brady, in so many words, said he didn’t care about those stats fantasy nerds get hard over, that wins and the final score are the only stats that matter to him. This fits with Brady’s Patriotsification over the years. Team first. Winning is all that matters. Get better each game. It is what it is. Of course, his quotes got me thinking about stats vs. wins so I looked them all up and wouldn’t you know the quarterback with the most wins in the last three seasons: Tom Brady.

Tom Terrific is 37-11 in the regular season since 2011, one ahead of Manning for the most in the league. Look at how the rest of the above fantasy studs compare when it comes down to straight wins and losses:

  1. Tom Brady 37-11
  2. Peyton Manning 36-12+
  3. Aaron Rodgers 31-9*
  4. Drew Brees 31-17
  5. Alex Smith 30-9-1++
  6. Andy Dalton 30-18
  7. Joe Flacco 30-18
  8. Matt Ryan 27-21
  9. Ben Roethlisberger 26-18^
  10. Cam Newton 25-23
  11. Eli Manning 25-23
  12. Tony Romo 24-23 **
  13. Philip Rivers 24-24
  14. Jay Cutler 22-14^^
  15. Matthew Stafford 21-27

* missed 7 games in 2013
+ includes 2010 season as Manning missed all of 2011
^ missed 4 games between 2010 & 2011
** missed 1 game in 2013
++ missed 8 games in 2012 & 2013
^^ missed 12 games in 2011, 2012 & 2013

Interesting how they line up, don’t you think? So, yeah, when Brady says he only cares about wins and the final score, he really knows what he’s talking about.

The 2014 Graduation Speech I’ll Never Give


LOS ANGELES — Sixteen years ago, I and 198 of my Thornton Academy classmates did what thousands upon thousands of half-wits do every year: graduate high school. It rained all morning in Saco, Maine on that first Sunday in June but had basically cleared up by the time the scheduled 1pm start rolled around, however the decision to hold the ceremony indoors at Lynnell Gymnasium had already been made. Disappointed, and because I was such a big deal, I tried to talk our Headmaster and Assistant out of it with my go-to line of, “you can’t do this to me;” – it didn’t work. Even at 17, I thought I had Tywin Lannister’s heavy hand of influence.

Inside the gym where I became a local schoolboy hoops legend (in my own mind) it was rainforest damp, and while the nearly one thousand friends and family in attendance were packed in like Black Friday Wal-Mart shoppers, the festivities went off without a hitch. All I recall about our valedictorian Matthew McGinnis’ speech is that he wore a “Star Wars” pin or ribbon on his gown, and student speaker Jason Grantham did a bit that included a Webster’s definition of a word that’s now slipped my mind. I recollect a few other small details about that day: my cousin, Bridget, from Colorado, made an unexpected visit that week and joined us; I knew the first and last name of everyone I graduated with as we went down annual the Hug Line, despite not having regular interaction with probably half of them; our gowns were more fuchsia and purple than maroon; and we had dinner at the Olive Garden (hey, it’s Maine).

The one thing I can’t recall is who the other keynote speaker was on that day. Usually it’s a faculty member but the identity of this mystery person escapes me, to much frustration. I’m fascinated by speeches. Their tempo, content, and tone all intrigue me. Rudy Giuliani spoke at my college graduation and I can’t tell you a thing he said but it was heavy on 9/11. Billy Joel orated at my brother’s four years later and went on and on about doing what you love and loving what you do before forgetting what he was saying and busting out a song number. (He was probably inebriated.) Regardless, I figured it was my time to throw my hat in the graduation speech ring.

So, despite not being asked for the 16th consecutive year, I’m going to print below the speech I would’ve given this coming Sunday, June 8 to the 304th graduating class of the great Thornton Academy.



Greetings, friends and fellow Golden Trojans. It’s an honor to be speaking before you. I can remember sitting where you are some time ago and feeling both nerves at the upcoming next chapter of my life and relief that this part of my book is over.

Before I get started, if any of you out there have your phones on you and feel like live-tweeting my speech, have at it, just use the hashtag #BrockmanTAGradSpeech. I doubt I’ll do anything too crazy that’ll end up going viral, but you never know. Plus, I wanna be able to go back and see who exactly talked shit about my speech. Totally kidding. Sort of.

OK, graduates, congratulations on making it this far. I know it wasn’t easy. I don’t mean that facetiously either. Actually go ahead and give yourselves a hand … [starts clapping … raucous applause ensues] … Good, yeah, that was great. Now don’t get me wrong, being young is awesome, good job by you guys, but I would never want to be a kid these days. Never. Y’all got too much going on. I could never keep up. I can’t even read everything in my Twitter timeline. And while your unknown futures are exciting, your upcoming adventures filled with mystery and intrigue, I’m happy to let you live them and critique your mistakes on my blog from the cheap seats. The very cheap seats.

Now, while I could write a book about the things 33-year old me would tell a 17- and 18-year old me … actually, that’s a good idea, hold on a second … [pulls out iPhone … “Hey, Siri, yeah, no, I’m good, thanks for asking. Look, got a good idea for a book here … Things I would tell 17-year old me … oh, that’s sweet of you to say, glad you like it too … Remind me start working on this when I get back to LA tomorrow. Thanks. Love you, Siri.” … puts iPhone back in pocket] …

Sorry about that. So yeah, I would never want to be a kid these days. The pressure on you to be successful is immense, not to mention the rising cost of college tuition in an uncertain future job market, growing national debt and global warming, that type of crap. But with technological advances becoming what they are, you’ve also been robbed of so many of life’s simple pleasures. For example: sending and opening an actual hand-written letter from someone … when was the last time any of you did this with a classmate or even had a pen pal? When I was a kind I had pen pals. Now you just blindly text shorthand to one another or someone you meet online … How ’bout this: because of the easy access to internet porn, you’ll never know what’s it like to watch the scrambled XXX channel hoping to see an unfiltered nipple and the joy that ensues from that moment. It really was glorious; now you just SnapChat dick and boob pics to each other, probably in class!; … and finally, you’ll never know what it’s like to be so lost on a road trip that you have no choice but to ask the hillbilly-looking dude behind the counter at the barely functional gas station in the middle of the woods for directions back to the highway, and feel the stress of not knowing whether or not you might be reenacting a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre; now there’s Google Maps on your phone for that.

It’s cool, though, you’ll have new, more badass experiences and someday you’ll be in my shoes reminiscing about these simpler times. And so here I am, where past speakers, I know, have stood on similar gorgeous spring days here in Sunny Saco … by the way, how awesome is this stadium? Quick straw poll: Raise your hand if some of your favorite memories as a Thornton Academy student have taken place right here on the turf of Hill Stadium? [raises own hand] … my hand is raised … yeah, I’m right there with you guys … so awesome … So past speakers have come up here and given generic speeches that have included famous quotes and cliches, some got slightly original and rattled off Top 10 lists. I know others have sung with a guitar and played songs over the loud speaker, and even dressed up.

I’m not going to do any of those things. No, I’m not. What I am going to do is name drop. Because if I’ve learned anything living in Los Angeles the last five years it’s that this generation, your generation, loves celebrity news and taking what these chemically-enhanced narcissists say as gospel.

Before I do that, however, I’m going to post a selfie on Instagram. Who wants to be in my selfie? … [runs into front row and gathers as many kids as humanly possible for a graduation selfie … walks back to podium and posts picture] … OK, I’m sure you all have your phones on you right now, so retweet and like that bitch. @ChrisBrockman. Get on it.

Now, my job as a sports television and podcast producer has given me the opportunity to rub elbows with some of Hollywood’s more accomplished members. I’ve listened to stories and even asked a question or two, so I’ve heard tales I would have otherwise not been privy to. I’ve walked Red Carpets, and been to movie and TV premieres, and even had a cameo on a cable sitcom. I even got high with Snoop Dogg once … well, I didn’t actually smoke with him, but when we shook hands the contact high was so strong I felt like I was floating, so I imagine that’s what smoking with Snoop Dogg would be like … Such, I think I’ve gained a little perspective and peeked a tad behind the curtain of this celebrity world and have a sense of what it takes to be successful in their business. The lessons behind these stories are applicable for all professions, whether you want to be a teacher or doctor, lawyer or retail store manager. So from those conversations I want to share some of what I’ve learned.

From acclaimed film director Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Bull Durham” and “Tin Cup,” among other hits … he said you have to change the energy in the room. Shelton was telling a story about how Susan Sarandon came to him and other studio executives to audition for a key role in “Bull Durham,” and when she walked into the room the energy shifted. She controlled everything about that meeting from the get-go and it was all because she came in confident, looked smashing yet professional, and in turn she got the part which helped rejuvenate her career.

I sat four feet away from Academy Award winner Kevin Costner as he told a story about one afternoon when he was on his way leaving the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. A young woman was screaming his name as he walked to his car. He was well ahead of her and tried to play it off like he didn’t hear her shouting, “Mr. Costner! Mr. Costner!” He kept walking towards as if she was a bird singing in the trees, but she didn’t relent. “Mr. Costner! Mr. Costner!’ Until finally, he stopped and turned around and asked her how he could help her. See, “Dances With Wolves” had just been released and was being recognized as this great cinematic achievement and if you haven’t seen it, there’s this scene where Kevin and his wife in the film are reunited and they share this epic kiss. A real movie kiss. You know what those are, right? Where you just… uh! … go for it, and you leave it all out there and roll around in the dirt and don’t care because she’s your woman and you’re her man and your love is one that cannot be contained by rational measures… so this young woman tells Costner that her husband is a soldier overseas and he’s been missing and she doesn’t know if she’ll ever see him again, and all she thinks about is that scene because she dreams of the day when he’ll return and she can have that movie scene kiss and reunion with him… and Costner is floored. And he gets her information and has the actual film from that scene clipped off and framed and sent to her as a gift as a reminder to never give up hope. And from that I learned that sometimes you need to stop and listen to people you aren’t familiar, and maybe you don’t want to listen to, because you never know if what they might say could change your life. And clearly Coster’s life was changed at that moment because nearly 25 years later he remembers every last detail of that story.

Jerry Ferrara … you may know him as Turtle from “Entourage” … he’s become a regular on our show and from our conversations with him you can feel his ambition and drive as a kid from a small neighborhood in Brooklyn. A kid with big dreams who struggled for a long while, like most do who move to Los Angeles to become actors, before getting the break of a lifetime on one of the trend-setting shows of the last decade. Now he’s starring in Kevin Hart movies and owns a chain of sandwich shops in Southern California. And every time we talk I think about his journey and how he’s always thinking about his goals for tomorrow, remembering and honoring the past, all the while being completely present in the moment which he’s living. Keep your future in mind, respect your past, but always be present in the now because what you do now affects tomorrow and becomes your past.

Here’s a bigger name for you … Billy Bob Thornton … how many out there are watching “Fargo?” Intense ass show, right? So Billy Bob came in a few years ago and was wearing the most ridiculous pair of snakeskin cowboy boots I’ve ever seen. Right off a movie set probably. So when he sat down and I was checking the cameras, I told him, “good thing I didn’t wear my boots today, that would’ve been pretty embarrassing for you,” like a wiseass. Seriously, who did I think I was talking to Billy Bob Thornton like that? But lucky for me he laughed or else that would’ve been a mighty uncomfortable interview … so anyway, he’s telling us about this small independent film he was working on and what he was in to promote, a film he wrote and directed, and after the interview was over, off camera, he told us that to get films like that made he had to say “yes” to bigger, commercial films he wouldn’t normally have any interest in like “Armageddon.” One for them, one for him. Saying “yes” to things you normally wouldn’t do or have interest in doing is important, it takes out of your comfort zone and expands your senses and skills in all arenas. Don’t take it to extremes like Jim Carrey in that terrible movie “Yes Man,” you remember that? But allow yourself to step outside your skin from time to time and try something new. It was very LA of me, but I dated an actress once who was into vegan food and all that healthy LA bullshit and every time we’d go someplace new I’d look at the menu and not understand what was on it, and I’d say to her, “what am I supposed to order here?” That was really outside my northeast eating habits but it made me think about what I ate and how I consumed specific foods and in the last 5 years since I’ve moved there from Maine, I’ve lost 30 pounds and more importantly, kept it off. So say YES and expand your horizons.

Finally, hop hop legend Nas came in and told of his life growing up in the rap game in New York, and how he had to overcome the bevy of obstacles in his way to become one of the most successful artists of his generation. He also had a funny story about playing street football with his friends. He had wanted to play pro football but one of this boys, this kid named Mo Rooney, hit him so hard up against a parked car, and knocked him out. He then realized he would never have the size or strength to make it as an NFLer, so he turned his efforts 100-percent to music and the rest, as they say, is history. The lesson I took away from his tales was simple: no matter the circumstances, always believe in yourself and you will survive … no matter how bleak things look, tomorrow the sun will come up and you get a fresh start to make it how you wish.

And if any of this advice didn’t resonate, you could always do what Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen told me, and that’s get yourself cast in a music video and seduce the artist until he becomes your husband.

The future is yours, new graduates, and whether you choose to extend your education immediately or become a sucker like the rest of us and join the work force, go forth and strive for greatness. But remember, your happiness in this world isn’t guaranteed, just your pursuit of it is. And I have no doubt you’ll post all the details for the world to see on some social media app that hasn’t even been invented yet.

Lastly, lemme pull out my phone real quick and see what you guys had to say about the speech … [scrolls Twitter] … OK, nothing too bad. You’ll be all right in this world after all.

Thank you.

[raucous applause … followed by standing ovation and me posing for pictures and signing autographs as I walk off stage …]