LOS ANGELES — This essay I penned for NFL Network’s GameDay Morning Saturday pregame show is my fun take on how Tom Brady and Andrew Luck, who face off Saturday at Foxobrough in what should be a thrilling AFC Divisional matchup, have created their own blueprint to winning football games. Brady, in his long, celebrated career has done it more often than not in the coolest way possible; while Luck, in his short but thrilling campaign, is a little rough around the edges, so to speak.
The final produced television product is fantastic. Hope you check it out during our coverage beginning at Noon EST on Saturday on NFL Network.
The blueprint for championship quarterbacks is ever-changing.
For every free-wheeler there is the precisionist.
Gunslingers and game managers have all hoisted Lombardi.
But rarely will we see a pair of contrasting signal callers like we’ll see tonight in Foxborough.
Tom Brady and Andrew Luck couldn’t be more opposite except when it comes to orchestrating thrilling victories.
One looks like a Senator from a Ben Affleck movie.
Appears on magazine covers.
And shows up at red carpet events with his supermodel wife.
The other uses a flip phone, and could guest star on Deadliest Catch.
Tom Brady sells Uggs and wears Stetson.
Andrew Luck has a beard only a paper towel pitchman would love.
On the field, it’s also day and night.
One is Michelangelo in the pocket, with perfect hair and a pristine jersey.
Firing downfield darts and head butting teammates with the fire of a 6th round pick.
The other is a top overall selection with a permanent smile.
Happy-go-lucky with a linebacker’s build and a rocket arm.
Regularly leading his team back from historic deficits.
Tom Brady and Andrew Luck.
Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks proving the only blueprint that matters, is winning.
LOS ANGELES — With apologies to Don Draper and Walter White, an argument could be made the two most popular television programs in the country right now are anything involving the National Football League and “Game of Thrones.” So, logically, we here at The Chris Brockman Website decided to combine the two, matching our favorite backstabbers, schemers, and philanderers of Westeros with their respective NFL counterparts. You don’t need to be a loyal book reader of the George R.R. Martin series to appreciate these footballers are who we say they are. (some spoilers ahead)
TYWIN LANNISTER — Bill Belichick, Patriots: Leader of a dynasty and the self-proclaimed “smartest guy in the room,” the similarities between Belichick and the eldest Lannister are endless. Watching Tywin talk down to his Small Council, you can almost hear his Belichikian tone. All that’s missing is cutoff armor and hooded chainmail. There’s no question these two weathered veterans are winners, leaders, and probably not as smart as they or everyone thinks they are. But any time they’re on camera, you can’t look away.
TYRION LANNISTER — Steve Smith, Panthers: Both the undersized Carolina receiver and the Imp have been counted out their whole adult lives because of their physical stature, and while Tyrion has used his brain to get ahead, Smith has used his giant heart and fierce determination. The pair are extremely crafty despite being overlooked from most. Additionally, and this is a point we can’t harp on enough, each are equally despised by their own family as evidenced by Joffrey trying to have Tyrion killed at the Battle of Blackwater, and Smith getting in multiple fights with teammates and his alleged feud with Cam Newton.
BRONN — Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Money and winning are the only pure motivators for Bronn, who is fearless, reckless, and doesn’t play by anybody’s rules. Sounds a lot like the newly-minted, richest-man-in-the-NFL Rodgers if you ask me. Bronn is also funny – have you seen a Rodgers post-game press conference? – and petty – Rodgers got miffed at “60 Minutes” for suggesting he was short for a quarterback. Just not sure if the evil notions in Green Bay come free.
PODRICK PAYNE THE SQUIRE — Josh Scobee, Jaguars: Podrick has proved to have a way with the ladies, to the amazement of Tyrion and Bronn, and the same can be said for Scobee, who has one of the hotter wives in the NFL. Like the young squire, Scobee, as a kicker, knows his role on the team and when to speak up. And like Podrick saved his Lord’s life at the Battle of Blackwater, Scobee on occasion has lifted his teammates to victory in the closing seconds with a game-winning kick.
JAIME LANNISTER — Eli Manning, Giants: By virtue of being a Manning, Eli was automatically enshrined into NFL royalty, and like the one-handed Lannister, Eli has shown his prowess for taking what he wants. You could easily pass on the moniker “Kingslayer” to No. 10 for taking down the league’s Golden Boy not once, but twice in the Super Bowl, thusly denying Tom Brady championships 4 and 5.
WALDER FREY — Al Davis, Raiders: Old, crotchety, respected and always one to hold a grudge, there may not be a better Game of Thrones / NFL match that these two, especially after what took place at the Red Wedding. Davis is renowned for suing the league he helped create and living by his “Just Win, Baby” mantra, and well, we all know how Lord Frey likes to party.
BRIENNE OF TARTH — Joe Thomas, Browns: It takes someone lacking fear to defend a blindside, and no one does that better than Joe Thomas, even though whichever QB the Browns trot out any given Sunday is likely worthless. And like Brienne, a left tackle has to be big, bullheaded, and full of duty and honor. Often overlooked in the stat line, like the lady of Tarth, Thomas often has an impact when his master is unscathed.
DAENERYS TARGARYEN — Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Like the Mother of Dragons emerged from a hopeless girl to dominate across the Narrow Sea, Wilson came out of nowhere to be a real NFL power player after a breakout 2012 season. And while Khaleesi now has a trio of new weapons in her dragons, Wilson now has Percy Harvin’s plethora of talents at his disposal. Both are now major contenders to wear the crown after being unknowns when the season (and show) began.
JORAH MORMONT — Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Jorah was disgraced and booted out of Westeros, which is not unlike Carroll’s tail-between-his-legs exit from Southern Cal following the Reggie Bush scandal. Now, both are fortunate to have fallen into backing big-time winners. Loyal, slick, wise, and cheerleaders, Jorah and Carroll are cut from the same mold and seem to have positioned themselves for long-term success.
BARRISTAN SELMY — Dick LeBeau, Steelers: It’s not often that a battle-tested warrior lives to become an old man in the Seven Kingdoms, much like the NFL translates to “Not For Long.” So it makes sense that Barristan and LeBeau are counterparts. A pair of grizzly veterans of the game, they’ve seen it all, done it all, and have survived to pass on their defensive genius to a new crop of players.
ROBB STARK — Tom Brady, Patriots: Brady is the unquestioned leader of the North, untouchable, and received this tutelage from the best; very similar to Robb, who trained under his well-respected father, Ned. And like Robb, Brady has had moments of resounding brilliance (multiple Super Bowl championships & MVPs) and ones of shake-your-head foolishness (dancing in Brazil, water sliding, ridiculous haircuts). Brady’s big-game performance of late has also matched well with the eldest Stark son, whose actions have left his men wondering if he’s fit to be King.
TALISA STARK — Gisele Bundchen: Like Talisa, Gisele stole the heart of the King of the North, and an argument could be made both Robb Stark and Tom Brady haven’t won anything since. Brady has come up short in two Super Bowls since hooking up for the former Victoria’s Secret model. Stark, meanwhile, has upset his own men, soiled the faith of an ally, and been blundering away strategic position since shacking up with the battlefield Volantis nurse.
EDDARD STARK — Brett Favre: One of only two deceased GOT characters to make the list is a fitting match for Favre. Both Ned Stark and the Ole’ Gunslinger were honorable statesmen, loyal to their homeland for many, many years before abandoning what they knew for the perils of the Big City. Favre jettisoned Green Bay for New York and then Minnesota, figuring his built-up good faith would carry over into this new surroundings, not realizing he was out of his element. And while Ned showed he could hang briefly at King’s Landing – like Favre’s career year with the Vikings – he ultimately ended up backstabbed and without his head; Favre’s magical journey ended on the sideline, consecutive games-played streak history, and after he retired, he’s barely been heard from.
JON SNOW — Wes Welker, Broncos: You could say undrafted players are the bastard children of the NFL, which would make Welker much more than Jon Snow given his success. And whether it was by his own doing or not, Welker left the safe haven of the North and joined up with the enemy on the other side of The Wall, or on his case, the Rocky Mountains. If Welker is still working for his new team’s enemy or knows more than nothing, a la Snow, has yet to be seen.
BRAN STARK — Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Both heirs of the North, Bran was thrown from a tree and lost the use of his legs, while Peterson was chopped down and needed reconstructive knee surgery. Bran has since been running like the wind in his dreams, while Peterson went out and nearly broke the NFL single-season rushing record in 2012. You almost get the feeling that Bran is destined for great things and likewise Peterson is only scratching the surface of what he could accomplish, especially after his recent 2,500-yard pronouncement.
ROOSE BOLTON — Bill Parcells: So let’s say you’ve worked your entire career for one team, had a lot of success with that team and grown really close to that team. Now let’s say, a little later on you went to work for that team’s most hated rival because they paid you a lot of money and it’s gotten to the point so much that your other team doesn’t even know you anymore. Maybe you died your hair blond, I don’t know. That would make you kind of a traitor, huh? Thought so.
HODOR — Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Could you imagine if Gronkowski had a press conference and just said, “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor” every time someone asked him a question? It would be the greatest YouTube moment in sports. Just a big, lovable galoof is what Hodor is, and you could make a serious argument that’s exactly what Gronk is, only with more alcohol. Now if we can just get GOT’s writers to work in “Yo Soy Fiesta” as a battle cry.
THEON GREYJOY — Mark Sanchez, Jets: No one has taken public abuse and been the brunt of more media scrutiny (warranted or otherwise) and sports radio rants than Sanchez, who like Theon, can’t seem to get out of his own way. Seemingly the toast of the New York only a few years ago when he had the Jets in the AFC Championship, Sanchez is practically in shackles after the drafting of Geno Smith. Theon tried to make a bold move in taking Winterfell only to have it backfire into this weird torture play that’s hashing out slowly in Season 3. Neither is a bad guy on the surface, and unfortunately not a winners either, and I suspect both will have an unhappy ending.
STANNIS BARATHEON — Jay Cutler, Bears: When coming up with words to describe Stannis a few immediately came to mind: dull, boring, and pussy-whipped. That led me to only one NFL counterpart: Jay Cutler. Who else embodies Stannis’ spirit of being at times awesome at his position while being an enormous d-bag? Stannis had his best friend, Davos, thrown in jail! Doesn’t that remind you of Cutler screaming at his offensive line for getting sacked all the time? Literally all that’s missing is a Smokin’ Stannis Baratheon Tumblr page and we have Internet perfection.
DAVOS — Ronde Barber, Buccaneers: Davos stood by his King, Stannis, until the bitter end at the Battle of Blackwater, and you could say the same for Ronde, who remained a faithful Buccaneer following their Super Bowl title in 2003, when he no doubt had opportunities to just ship and play for a contender. While he didn’t get made to walk the plank by ownership, he might have well been, as Tampa Bay went 69-91 over the next decade.
JOFFREY BARATHEON — Tim Tebow: The most hated man in the Seven Kingdoms easily could be the most talked about, over-hyped, and dare I say, hated man in the NFL in Tim Tebow. Both Joffrey and Tebow were unfairly placed in their position of power (one by his scheming mother, the other by the scheming media machine and Josh McDaniels) and seemingly have no idea what to do. Joffrey can’t lead his men at the Battle of Blackwater, and while leading seems to be only what Tebow can do, his elsewhere skills so limited at the pro level, as evidenced by his current ouster from the league all together. Joffrey, meanwhile, doesn’t seem likely to sit on the Iron Throne for much longer.
ROBERT BARATHEON — Rex Ryan, Jets:Robert was a terrible king, but by all accounts, a great guy to be around, and he was a helluva warrior. Rex really isn’t that great of a head coach, but he sure looks like he’d be a fun guy to go to the Old Country Buffet with, and he used to scheme a good defense. Robert really liked fathering bastards and Rex, well, he liked to, well, make weird videos with his wife. Both were blubbering idiots who were mostly all show and no go. We know what happened to Robert, so I’m guessing Rex’s days are numbered.
GENDRY — Andrew Luck, Colts: Whether he knows it or not, Gendry is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and by virtue of Peyton Manning’s bum neck, Luck is the future of NFL quarterbacking. The best prospect at the position since the man he replaced, Luck’s upside is exponential, especially after his record-breaking rookie campaign. And the best thing about him, is there’s no ego. Much like Gendry, who just wants to be a part of SOMEthing, Luck is happy to be here and help his team win. The future is bright for both these young, goofy men.
SANDOR CLEGANE — Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Natural counterparts, The Hound and Roethlisberger are both larger than life, fierce warriors, and survivors of life-altering facial injuries – Big Ben’s after his June 2006 motorcycle accident and The Hound’s after his brother shoved him in a fire. Both like to party (though Ben’s days appear to be over) and never back down from a challenge. Ben is known for always playing through pain and keeping plays alive by being nearly impossible to take down, and The Hound is lauded whooping serious ass and being loyal to those he has a soft spot for.
PETYR BAELISH — Jerry Jones, Cowboys: No other owner can truly stake claim to being the NFL’s Lord of Coin like Jerry Jones, who out of his own pocket practically built the world’s greatest sports stadium. Like Baelish, Jones is extremely crafty and always scheming (how else do you explain the multitude of Draft-day trades?), likens himself as the smartest guy in the room (what other owner is also his team’s General Manager?) and commands an audience. Though you get the feeling others in Westeros laugh at Littlefinger behind his back, as I suspect those across the NFL do as the Cowboys blunder away season after season.
VARYS — Mike Shanahan, Redskins: Not similar in stature but definitely in mind, Varys and Shanahan are without a doubt the ultimate backroom deviants who know who they are and are completely comfortable in their own skin. Varys waited his whole lifetime to get his revenge on the mad scientist who crippled him while Shanahan lived through all the Raiders madness before achieving success with the Broncos. Now, he has the ear of Robert Griffin III and knows good things are on the horizon.
BERIC DONDARRION — Peyton Manning, Broncos: Manning being able to come back and have the kind of MVP 2012 season that he did after four, count ’em four, neck surgeries is damn near the equivalent of Beric coming back from the dead a half dozen times after suffering fatal battle wounds. You could also make the argument now Manning is closer to the Lord of Light given Denver’s mile-high altitude, but you’d need to check with Thoros first, since he’s the one who actually returns Beric from the other side, which we know is dark. Speaking of.
THOROS OF MYR — John Elway, Broncos: If it wasn’t for Elway and his belief in Manning returning to his Colts championship and MVP form, then the Broncos No. 18 jersey wouldn’t be flying off shelves at ludicrous speed in the 303 and 720. It’s well known The Duke likes to throw ’em back, too, and that fits well with the Brotherhood Without Banners’ red priest’s mantra of getting drunk and searching for ways to swindle gold. Thoros was a renowned warrior who now is an adviser of sort to Beric, which fits well with Elway, who is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history and is doing a mighty fine job thus far as an executive.
MANCE RAYDER — Clay Matthews, Packers: Maniacs, defensive leaders who don’t play by anyone’s rules but their own, and strong men of the North, Matthews and Mance are quite the pair. While Mance doesn’t quite have Clay’s hair, they are both giant, rugged figures, who elicit loyalty from their men and fear in their opponents.
TORMUND GIANTSBANE — Brett Keisel, Steelers: The man with the best beard north of The Wall and the man with not only the best beard in the AFC North, but the entire NFL, are a match made in facial hair heaven.
— thanks to James Wright for his contributions to this column.
LOS ANGELES — The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is always the most exciting. The final eight teams. The truly best eight of a long, arduous season left standing. And if you break down who’s remaining as we enter Week 19 there’s no question these are the elite eight: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Ravens in the AFC, and Falcons, Seahawks, Packers and 49ers in the NFC. My preseason Super Bowl pick is still alive and we’ll see if Green Bay and New England make it through the weekend. I know I’m pretty excited after a lackluster Wild Card Weekend.
With the end of the season comes the end-of-the-year awards. Here are my picks:
MVP — Adrian Peterson: carried Vikings to the playoffs and averaged more yards per carry than Christian Ponder averaged per pass. Oh yeah, he blew out his knee just over a year ago and didn’t miss a single snap due to injury this season.
Comeback Player of the Year — Peyton Manning: missed the entire 2011 season and made most who said he should have retired or wouldn’t be the same eat crow with a remarkable 2012.
Offensive Rookie of the Year — Russell Wilson: didn’t get injured or turn the ball over as much as the other rookie candidates, and led the Seahawks to 11 wins and a playoff triumph. Good enough for me.
Defensive Player of the Year — J. J. Watt: 20.5 sacks and another 15 pass deflections. A must-double team on every play or risk him blowing up your whole offensive game plan.
Coach of the Year — Pete Carroll: with all due respect to Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, the Colts got some fortunate in-game luck this season (no pun intended) while Seattle played in a tough division, went with a rookie QB and finished undefeated at home. Always compete.
This will double as my end-of-the-regular season You’re The Man Rankings column as well as recapping my preseason Burning Questions for each of the 32 teams. Check that out here to see how I did.
Been an awesome season and it’s only gonna get better the next 3 weeks. Enjoy and thanks for coming along for the ride with me.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (final record: 2-14) (preseason YTM rank: 28) – Back before the season started, one of the cornerstones of my fantasy team was Maurice Jones-Drew and one of my questions was what week do I start him in fantasy after his offseason holdout? Well the answer should’ve been NEVER. Like never start him ever. Or trade him immediately. Or how about this: don’t keep him AT ALL. Don’t even consider keeping him. He ruined my fantasy season. Also, me not executing a trade the same week he got injured forced me into scramble mode the entire second half of the year; 418 yards and a TD from my keeper!!?! Sigh. And as for Justin Blackmon, he thrived with Chad Henne at QB and finished the season strong with 38 grabs and 5 TDs in the last 7 games. Certainly something to build on heading into 2013 and on his way to living up to my Anquan Boldin comparison.
31.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) (17) – Clearly, I missed pretty bad on my preseason prognostication of the Chiefs; like 14 spots bad. Though, I wasn’t alone. The Chiefs had all the tools to be a contending team this season and it just never got together. And it started with the quarterback. Matt Cassel was atrocious. Like got-his-coach-fired atrocious. I asked if Cassel was the man like people thought he was, well those who thought that are clearly idiots. He turned the ball over at Sanchezian rates – 12 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles – before he was benched in Week 10 and it appears his career as a starting QB are over. Hope he invested his large signing bonus wisely. I’m not sure where Cassel ends up next season, but wherever it is, it’ll be as a handsome backup.
30.) Oakland Raiders (4-12) (22) – Could the Raiders defense carry its weight; that is what I asked to start the season, guessing the offense would be in good shape. Well, let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we. Oakland finished 18th in total offense (8th in passing yards, 28th in rushing), 26th in points scored and 27th in 1st downs. Defensively, the Raiders were 15th in total yards (13th in passing yards allowed, 15th in rushing) and 28th in points allowed. So, in a way, you could say the the defense out-performed the offense but it just gave up too many points, which translated to only 4 wins. Oh, and Darren McFadden getting hurt AGAIN didn’t help anything. Wait, Carson Palmer just threw another interception.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) (16) – Debacle. Disaster. Deserving. An overrated player didn’t use any of these D-words to describe the Eagles but they would’ve fit pretty much from Week 1 through their Week 17. This year didn’t just cost Andy Reid his job but it might’ve cost him his sanity. He had LeSean McCoy but barely used him. He benched Michael Vick for Nick Foles. And he thinks he can coach up the Chiefs into a playoff contender. After what Reid went through in the preseason he probably should’ve sat out this season. Then again, I said Peyton Manning should’ve retired. What do I know?
28.) Arizona Cardinals (5-11) (30) — I nailed this one right on the head this preseason. I wondered if I was up next on the Cardinals QB Carousel and as it turned out, they trotted out four different jamokes. FOUR!!?! Kurt Warner changed his phone number at least that many times this year ducking Ken Whisenhunt’s calls. Poor Wiz got canned, too. That was a theme this offseason.
27.) New York Jets (6-10) (26) – So as it turned out, Tim Tebow got used as much by the Jets as much as I did. I wondered how bad their offense was going to be this year and let’s find out: 30th in total offense; 30th in passing yards per game; 12th in rushing yards per game. Mark Sanchez was 31st in passer rating, ahead of only Matt Cassel, 26th in passing yards, 2nd in interceptions and 1st in turnovers. Yup, that’s pretty terrible.
26.) Cleveland Browns (5-11) (32) — So, the running game ended up being pretty decent in Cleveland, this fall. Trent Richardson ran for 950 yards and the 5th most rushing TDs in the league with 11. I may have cut Greg Little from my fantasy team in Week 4 or 5 (I’ve really tried to forget this season already) but Brandon Weeden (3,385 yds, 14 TD, 17 INT) wasn’t as bad as Mark Sanchez, so that’s a win. Sort of. The Browns were 30th in First Down Percentage, and whatever that means, I’m guessing it’s not good.
25.) Tennessee Titans (6-10) (24) – I figured the Titans would go as far as Chris Johnson took him, what with Jake Locker being the consistent starter for the first time, and I wasn’t exactly wrong. Surely, they expected more than 6 wins, but after a disappointing 2011 campaign, CJ bounced back with 1,243 yards and 6 TDs this season. Locker was again hurt and questions should be asked about his durability.
24.) Detroit Lions (4-12) (11) – Matthew Stafford finished 2nd in the NFL in passing yards this season, which we all kind of figured; he just missed a second straight 5,000-yard season by 33 yards. But 2012’s 4-win effort was definitely a disappointment especially after being a playoff team in 2011. I wondered if the secondary would let them down and it wasn’t terrible. Their unit allowed the 19th most passing yards per game but the 13th most touchdown passes. Still, how do you go from the playoffs to 4 wins in just one year?
23.) Buffalo Bills (6-10) (18) – Mario Williams did his part this year, registering 10.5 sacks and the Bills defense gave up the 23rd most passing yards per game. However, the offense was mediocre at best: 19th in total yards and you could argue C.J. Spiller was underutilized. Either way, it’s now former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s problem. Rumored to be replacing Chan Gailey on Sunday, Marrone led my beloved Orange to its second bowl win in 4 years.
22.) San Diego Chargers (7-9) (19) – Again, I nailed this one. There’s no way the Chargers weren’t finishing out of the playoffs and there’s no way Norv Turner and A.J. Smith weren’t getting fired and there’s no way I’m speaking proper English right now. Regardless, the Chargers were a disaster from the second half of the Denver game, on. Why? Who knows. Was Philp Rivers the problem? Beats me. Is Ryan Mathews a bust? I mean, it looks that way. Who’s gonna be the coach? Can they catch the Broncos next season? Should they just wear the powder blues all year? Probably.
21.) St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) (27) – I was really at a loss when it came to words for this Rams team in 2012, but back in the preseason I wondered who would emerge as a legitimate pass-catcher for Sam Bradford. This no-name group of receivers needed someone to emerge and that man appeared to be Danny Amendola, who despite missing 5 games and parts of two others, had 63 receptions. As a team, the Rams had 7 guys catch TD passes so we’ll see if anyone steps up next season. As for Steven Jackson, he did take a pounding this year but managed to gain 1,000 yards for the 8th consecutive season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (7-9) (31) — At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you thought, watching Hard Knocks, the Dolphins were going to win 7 games, you’re the big winner at the casino tonight, Mikey. I was hoping Mrs. Tannehill would suit up at WR this year, but the Dolphins’ band of no-names led by Brian Hartline wasn’t terrible catching the ball. Sure, Reggie Bush didn’t lead the league in rushing or even 1,000 yards (he was 14 short), but this team was one of the surprises in the league and will contend for a playoff spot next year. Oh, and Mrs. Tannehill will be around A LOT.
19.) New Orleans Saints (7-9) (7) – Turns out the head coach is pretty darn important. Turns out the interim coach is pretty important, too. Turns out you can’t start the first 4 weeks winless and expect to have it be in the Super Bowl game being played in your stadium. The Bounty Gate situation was a black cloud over the team, city and league for what seemed like the entire season. New Orleans would love nothing more than to put 2012 behind it. Sure, Drew Brees signed a bajillion dollar contract, his coach did, too, and he threw for more than 5,000 yards (again), but he surely would’ve given it all up (and those terrible Pepsi commercials) to have made the playoffs. Next year.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (8-8) (21) – One of the big Cowboys stories heading into this season was Jerry Jones giving Dez Bryant his own set of bodyguards. Well those guys did their job as Dez had one of the more memorable receiver seasons by someone not named Calvin or Johnson. All Dez went out and do was haul in 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 10 scores in the last 8 weeks and doing it with a broken finger. He balled out. No question about it and really answered the bell when many were questioning him throughout the year. He’s an elite receiver. Wish the Patriots had him.
17.) Carolina Panthers (7-9) (15) – If you have a younger sibling, you remember what it was like when they were born and suddenly you weren’t the toast of the town anymore. I get the feeling Cam Newton’s feelings were hurt by all the buzz around Andrew Luck and My Good Friend Robert. Look at the season splits; in the first 10 weeks the Panthers were 2-7 and came had 10 INTs and only 8 TDs. Down the stretch, Cam lit it up as Carolina saved not only its miserable season but Ron Rivera’s job, throwing for 11 TDs and only 2 INTs. Sophomore slump? Sure. But I’d be back on that Camwagon next season, if I was you.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) (13) – I thought this Bucs team was going to make the playoffs; even said so when they started 2-4. I believed. And was looking even better after rattled off 4-straight wins to get to 6-4 and were in the drivers seat for the Wild Card. Josh Freeman was in shape, making plays and Doug Martin was running rampant. Then … yeah, I don’t know. Then the wheels came off and the Bucs lost 5 in a row and Freeman threw 10 picks. It was brutal. 6 and 4 became 7 and 9 with lots of questions heading into the offseason.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) (12) – Nailed this one, too, and I don’t feel good about it. Mike Wallace couldn’t have been more terrible; don’t know the exact number but he had to have led the league in drops while killing my fantasy team in the process. Ben Roethlisberger nearly got himself killed by playing with fractured ribs and Rashard Mendenhall probably won’t even be on the team next year. Oh, and Todd Haley is talking to the Cardinals about their coaching vacancy. Yup, a season to forget in Pittsburgh.
14.) New York Giants (9-7) (1) – Normally it’s the Super Bowl loser who struggles the following season but the Giants gave Tom Coughlin little to smile about this season. I’m not sure if it was the 3-5 collapse after a 6-2 start or if it was watching the hated Redskins win the division for the first time in 13 years or if it was just he constantly has a sour puss look on his face. Actually, his A Football Life was one of the more enjoyable this year and gave some insight as to why Coughlin is who he is. Check it out if you haven’t had the pleasure.
13.) Chicago Bears (10-6) – Brandon Marshall was tied for 2nd in targets (195) with Reggie Wayne and receptions (118) with Wes Welker, trailing only Calvin Johnson in both. Marshall was 3rd in receiving yards (1,508) behind Megatron and Andre Johnson. BM15 also scored 11 touchdowns. So, yeah, I’d say he and Jay Cutler made sweet music this season on the Midway and should be a great combo moving forward. Though we’ll see who the Bears new coach is what he has to say about it.
12.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) (29) — Remember all those ones I said I nailed earlier? Well I definitely screwed the pooch on this one. Here’s exactly what I said again about Mr. Adrian Peterson before the season: “If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota.” Yeesh. So 2,097 yards later, how’s that taste, Brockman? But my real preseason question was about the Vikings defense, so a quick statistical analysis tells me that it was it gave up the 9th most passing yards in the league, and worst in the NFC North.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) (8) – The 2011 Bengals went 9-7 and were the AFC Wild Card. Andy Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 TD and 13 INT and made the Pro Bowl, while rookie wide receiver A.J. Green caught 65 balls for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs. But they ultimately lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Texans. The 2012 Bengals went 10-6 and were the AFC Wild Card, Dalton threw for 3,669 yards, 27 TDs and 16 INTs, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs but lost to the Texans in the AFC Wild Card. So yeah, I’d say they equaled last year.
10.) Washington Redskins (10-6) (20) – What went on in the NFC Wild Card aside, there’s no question that My Good Friend Robert (as he’s been known as this season in this very column) was one of the chief stories of the 2012 NFL Season. What he did to shock to life the football-crazed DC area was nothing short of a miracle and to call him a Cam Newton-lite, like I tried to do in the preseason was a vast understatement. Here’s Cam’s 2011 season numbers: 4,051 passing yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs, 706 rushing yards, 15 TDs. Here’s Robert’s 2012 season stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 815 rushing yards, 7 TDs, AND he was 3rd in the league in passer rating behind two guys named Rodgers and Manning. Ho hum. Unreal. And Mike Shanahan went the other direction used just one main running back this year, another rookie, who only rushed for 1,600 yards in Alfred Morris. Football is back in Washington.
9.) Indianapolis Colts (11-5) (25) – What an amazing season in Indianapolis from the play of their rookies, a rejuvenated Reggie Wayne and the story of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, who deserve to share Coach of the Year honors. I had the Colts 25 in the preseason and predicted that would be their lowest ranking of the year. Turns out I was more than correct. I didn’t envision a playoff team, but thanks to Luck’s astounding rookie season (4,374 passing yards, 23 TDs, 17 INTs, 5 rushing TDs) and some timely big plays, the Colts won 11 games and should be again contenders for the next decade or so.
8.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (4) – The Ravens began this year with an undrafted, 22-year-old rookie kicker from Texans named Justin Tucker, who replaced Billy Cundiff, who if you remember, missed from 32 yards in last year’s AFC Championship game and cost Baltimore a trip to the Super Bowl. So I wondered if its new kicker could indeed make a 32-yard field goal. And while Tucker had a fine 2012 season in which he only missed 3 field goals the entire year, he did not make one from 32 yards out. He was 8-for-8 on kicks between 30 and 39 yards, including three each from 38 and 39 yards, but not from 32. Tucker was perfect from 50-plus yards, but none from 32. So we’ll see this weekend and beyond if he is called upon can he deliver from that distance.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) (5) – Maybe the real question I should’ve asked was whether or not someone OTHER than Alex Smith will make everyone forget Jim Harbaugh tried to woo Peyton Manning last offseason. Man. Poor Alex Smith. Who saw his benching coming? Guy was leading the league in passer rating, got knocked out, and then Wally Pipp’ed. Colin Kaepernick has come in and gone 5-2-1 as a starter and looks explosive and unguardable at times. He has a cannon and runs like a gazelle. He beat the Saints and Patriots on the road and the Bears at home. Battle tested? Not exactly. We’ll find out very, very soon against Green Bay. But remember, Smith got them to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl last year, anything less is a disappointment out of CK1.
6.) Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (23) – This will be my shortest response of the column. I asked if Russell Wilson could make the Seahawks a contender when the games counted for real: YES. YES. YES. I’m a believer. He did it. And he kills it on this week’s Eisen Podcast, listen for yourself and tell me you’re not all-in on this kid.
5.) Houston Texans (12-4) (6) – Arian Foster continues to dominate NFL defenses and the Twitterverse, while the bow is catching on as a favorite end zone celebration. He bowed a total of 17 times this season and led the league with 351 rushing attempts, so clearly Gary Kubiak was a fan of the bow, as well.
4.) Green Bay Packers (11-5) (3) – Well, as it turned out, Cedric Benson wasn’t the answer for the Packers running game, and in reality, there have been a few answers to that question this season. In all, the Packers used 6 different running backs (including fullback John Kuhn) with Benson being the go-to guy before his Week 5 injury. From there, James Starks picked up on his 2011 postseason run, then Alex Green and now DuJuan Harris appears to be the featured back. Still, when you have Aaron Rodgers, you’re offense is in good shape.
3.) New England Patriots (12-4) (2) – Lost in the amazingness that was Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson’s 2012 seasons was the once again masterful season-long campaign of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. A strong case could be made Brady should win this third MVP award. All he did was lead the Patriots to another ho-hum 12-4 season by throwing for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and only 8 INTs; his third career season of single-digit interceptions. I wondered preseason if Brady could get better looking and the answer is, duh. Look at him. Whenever I see his Uggs billboards I scream “TOMMY!!” at them. People look at me like I’m nuts. They’re not wrong. I also asked if the dreadful 2011 Patriots defense could be better than 31st and they improved slightly to 25th. Hey, offense (and being attractive) wins games, right? (reminded of Super Bowl 42 and 46) Sigh.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (9) – For the first few weeks of the regular season, probably up until he threw 5 picks against the Cardinals, Matt Ryan was a legitimate MVP contender. The Falcons were rolling everyone in their path and while they stumbled going 2-2 the last month of the year, they still finished 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC. Ryan, my fantasy QB I might add, accumulated 4,719 passing yards, 32 TDs and 14 INTs; all career highs. Still, if they don’t beat the Seahawks this weekend it’ll be considered an unmitigated disaster year and both Mike Smith and Ryan will take an enormous amount of offseason heat for failing, once again, to win a playoff game. Not to mention, Tony Gonzalez will retire winless in the playoffs.
1.) Denver Broncos (13-3) (14) – In a way, it’s fitting that my biggest whiff of the preseason predictions would go on to become the top team the NFL as we enter the Divisional Playoff Round. Peyton Manning had a throwback season for the ages after missing 2011 in its entirety following four neck surgeries, and most think he’s at least a 50/50 shot at winning his record 5th MVP. Hard to say he transformed the Broncos since they were a playoff team (and winner) a year ago, but he gave them a true identity and a definitely attitude and swagger they haven’t had since John Elway roamed the backfield. Riding an 11-game winning streak, I wouldn’t want to come anywhere near them in the playoffs. That’s good enough to earn you billing as The Man.
Stay tuned for my final 2012 NFL Season You’re The Man rankings which will come after the Super Bowl, where I’ll focus on the one thing each team has to look forward to or be concerned with heading into the 2013 offseason.
LOS ANGELES — Riding the tidal wave of last year’s rousing success, I decided to bring back my NFL Burning Questions column, only this time with a twist. Instead of doing one question for each number of Super Bowls, I’m going to borrow an idea I’ve seen elsewhere in the sports blogosphere and do an inquiry for all 32 teams and put them in a pre-Week 1 “You’re The Man” power ranking. (I mean, I have to be somewhat original, right?) Perhaps each week I’ll revisit the previous week’s question to see if an answer as been reached and re-rank accordingly. Hmm… (hamster gets off couch and peers at the wheel…)
So without any more adieu, let’s boast about other people’s football manhood!!
32.) Cleveland Browns — I have Greg Little on my main fantasy team this year, but will there be enough of a run game to allow Brandon Weeden time to throw him the ball and focus on something else other than all the 2nd- and 3rd-and-longs the Browns will eventually be in all season?
31.) Miami Dolphins — The only way Miami’s going to be able to score is if Ryan Tannehill’s wife lines up at WR and distracts the defense, thus allowing Reggie Bush to run rampant. So the question is, can Mrs. Tannehill play WR? I mean, no one else can on that team.
30.) Arizona Cardinals — At this rate, I’m next up in the QB Carousel down in Arizona. Seriously, does Kurt Warner really not want to play anymore? I’ve seen him in the hallways at NFL Network and I’m willing to bet he can still sling it better than Skelton/Kolb.
29.) Minnesota Vikings — If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota. However, with the aerial assassins in that division – Packers, Lions, Bears – can the Vikings defense be able to stop anyone?
28.) Jacksonville Jaguars — PHEW! Maurice Jones-Drew is back. Now, what week do I start him in fantasy? Can Justin Blackmon keep himself out of trouble long enough to become the next Anquan Boldin?
27.) St. Louis Rams — Can Jeff Fisher’s mustache play WR? Who is Sam Bradford supposed to throw it to? I feel for Steven Jackson because I’m guessing he’s going to take another pounding this season.
26.) New York Jets — If Tim Tebow comes in the game and scores a touchdown, would you take him out? What if the defense scores; can you send them out on offense? That’s how bad their offense is.
25.) Indianapolis Colts — I’m guessing this is the lowest the Colts will be all season. Just a hunch and my faith in Luck’s talent. He’s that good. Put it this way: would you rather have the Jets defense and their mess at QB or Andrew Luck? Yup, me too.
24.) Tennessee Titans — Jake Locker officially has the reigns of the Titans offense, having won them from my brother Matt Hasselbeck this preseason, but can Chris Johnson regain his 2010 form?
23.) Seattle Seahawks — I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong about Russell Wilson, but remember: he dominated the PRE-season. Different beast when the games count for real. Can he legitimately make the Seahawks a challenger to the 49ers in the NFC West?
22.) Oakland Raiders — The good news for Rolando McClain is the Black Hole is probably the only place were shooting off your guns in public is considered tame behavior. I’m guessing the Raiders offense is going to be fine; can the defense carry its weight with Peyton, the explosive Chiefs and potentially deadly Chargers in the way?
21.) Dallas Cowboys — Will Dez Bryant’s “bodyguards” be with him on the sideline to let him know when to go out in the huddle? More importantly, and for Tony Romo’s sake, will they actually suit up and play offensive line?
20.) Washington Redskins — I’m among those who think Robert Griffin III has the potential to have a Cam Newton-Lite type of season but will Mike Shanahan’s penchant for using 18 running backs during the season screw with Robert’s mojo?
19.) San Diego Chargers — The only question is will the Chargers start out hot and then fizzle to finish 8-8 or fizzle and get hot down the stretch to finish 8-8? Either way, they’ll be watching the playoffs from their over-priced recliners.
18.) Buffalo Bills — The offense started hot in 2011 as the Bills were the league’s darling. Now the defense is better with the addition of Mario Williams. Who will lead them this season?
17.) Kansas City Chiefs — Now that the Chiefs have a coach they like and a young defense said likable coach, who has a few Super Bowl rings, is creating schemes for, is Matt Cassel the man everyone in Arrowhead thinks he can be?
16.) Philadelphia Eagles — Dream Team. Dynasty. Is there another D-word an overrated player on the Eagles can throw out describing their underachieving ball club?
15.) Carolina Panthers — I’m not sure how many of you know this, but Cam Newton is not liked but a certain Southern California native wide receiver who happens to be his teammate. That said, can the offense stay as surprisingly explosive in Year 2?
14.) Denver Broncos — Peyton Manning is one of my favorite players. I have an autographed 8×10 he sent me when he was in college after I wrote him a letter as a high school junior. I think he should have retired after last year. I don’t think he’ll make it through this year unscathed. I hope I’m wrong. If he’s healthy, how will he make those around him better?
13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — This is not the same Bucs team that lost 10 straight last year. I think. Can Greg Schiano inject some new life into the organization and can Josh Freeman bounce back from his disaster 2011 campaign to lead this young, potentially dangerous team?
12.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Ben Roethlisberger said during a sideline, preseason interview that he called his own plays. Hmm. So why was Todd Haley brought in again? Will Mike Wallace feel the effects of his hold out? And who’s the running back again? Get the feeling the trend of the last few years of this not being my daddy’s smashmouth Steelers will continue.
11.) Detroit Lions — You wanna talk about a team that throws it all over the school yard; your Detroit Lions, everybody! But can their secondary stop anyone? We know Ndamukong Suh has the front seven on lockdown, but can the back four prevent Matthew Stafford of having to engineer 4th Quarter comebacks all season?
10.) Chicago Bears — The Cutler & Marshall band is back together at Soldier Field this season, but will they make the same sweet Denver music?
9.) Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons are running out of excuses as to why they haven’t won a playoff game. Is Matty really Ice or is he the Cooler?
8.) Cincinnati Bengals — No one saw the 2011 Bengals coming, not even themselves. Can they equal last year’s surprising season or will a sophomore slump bite Andy Dalton and A.J. Green?
7.) New Orleans Saints — We’re going to find out in a hurry just how important a head coach is to a professional football team. Hell, we’re going to find out in a hurry just how important an INTERIM head coach is to a football team. Can Drew Brees be both AND the greatest passer this side of a 10-year-old Chris Brockman with a Nerf ball?
6.) Houston Texans — Arian Foster likes to bow after scoring touchdowns. I like to watch him bow after scoring touchdowns because that means 6+ points for my fantasy team. With Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson healthy, and Ben Tate the best backup RB in the game, how often does Gary Kubiak like watching Foster bow after scoring TDs?
5.) San Francisco 49ers — Can Alex Smith come out and make everyone forget his coach tried to woo Peyton Manning and then lied about it by showing how he nearly got the 9ers to the Super Bowl last year?
4.) Baltimore Ravens — Can the Ravens new kicker make a 32-yard field goal?
3.) Green Bay Packers — Quick Aaron Rodgers story: I was at the same ESPY’s after-after party earlier this summer as the 2011 NFL MVP, and he walked around like James freakin’ Bond. It was uncanny the control of the room (or rooftop in this case) he had. I ended up exiting the party with him, the Hasselbecks (all 3), Sage Steele, among others, and Rodgers made fun of us for all being bald. I said something inconsequential back and the night ended. Just thought I’d share. Oh, and is Cedric Benson really the answer for the Pack’s running woes?
2.) New England Patriots — I think we all know what to expect from the Patriots offense, but what about the defense? They can’t get much much worse than 31st in total defense, as they were in 2011. Oh, I thought of an offensive question: can Tom Brady get better looking this year? Like physically. He’s so dreamy. Seriously, look at those eyes.
1.) New York Giants — You all remember the Giants, don’t you? They’re the OTHER team that plays in New York (or New Jersey, but who cares about geography). You may know them as the ones who actually win in that town. You probably haven’t heard much from them since the Jets have dominated the back pages. Oh, right, a question … hmm … Will Tom Coughlin smile at all this season?
LOS ANGELES — The day is finally here: the First Round of the 2012 NFL Draft. We’ve been talking about this day since the season ended back on February 5 when Tom Brady’s hail mary landed just by the outstretched arms of Rob Gronkowski. It was then speculation began on who would go No. 1 overall, even though we all assumed (correctly, it turned out) that it would be Andrew Luck of Stanford. Last year, it was Cam Newton who dominated our pre-Draft chatter; this year it’s Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III who’ve high-jacked the Draft talk in the months leading up to Roger Goodell taking the podium at Radio. City. Music. Hall. As always, I couldn’t be more excited for this year’s First Round. And as always, I’ll be documenting all the action live all night with NFL Network as my guide (#duh) with its team of Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin and Mike Mayock. I’m expecting hilarity, ridiculousness, insight and lots of references to watching tape, being a beast and scout jargon Mayock likes to use to confuse the viewers. I laid out my First Round Predictions earlier this week so we’ll see how I do, but above all, I’m expecting a fun several hours. The festivities don’t officially kickoff until 8pmET but I’m tuning in for the pre-game show just in case. We’ll see if anything good happens. Enjoy!
4:03pm – Robert Griffin III on the red carpet with Melissa Stark and wow, does he look just like Andre 3000’s kid brother; pretty much dressed like him, too, with a baby blue suit and purple tie and a checkered shirt. Camera pans down to his socks, which say “Go Catch Your Dreams” and are Redskins colors. Very sick. He had them custom made; no kidding. This guy is going to be a huge, huge star in the D.C. area. Ya know, until he clashes with Mike Shannahan and Jared Allen separates his shoulder in Week 6.
4:08pm – WOW!! An hour to go before the draft and we already have a trade. Michael Lombardi and Jason LaCanfora are reporting the Browns have traded up to No. 3 to presumedly take Trent Richardson. Unreal. The Greatest Player Of All-Time, also known as Jim Brown, called Richardson “ordinary” earlier today. I guess we’re going to find out just how ordinary he is in Cleveland. Colt McCoy is smiling big right now.
4:13pm – So the Browns give up, reportedly, a 4th, 5th and 7th, as well as swapping No. 1s for Richardson. Well, I guess Cleveland had the picks after last year’s coup with the Falcons for Julio Jones. NFLN has Richardson video on, it’s ridiculous how good he is. The Vikings should’ve just traded Adrian Peterson and taken Richardson.
4:15pm – Bill Belichick coming up on Patriots Cam! I love that Bill always wears a suit for these things. He’s amazing. Man I hope the Pats trade up and take Chandler Jones or Mark Barron or Luke Kuechly.
4:24pm – Bill has said “we’ll see what happens tonight” three times already. Good to see he’s in midseason form in late April.
4:27 – hilarious tweet from Tom E. Curran re: Belichick: “Perhaps the finest coach in NFL history just sucked the life out of the NFL Network predraft broadcast. #belibuster”
4:42pm – “The Ones” feature is very tight. Love the Jon Hamm voice over. Some good names on that list and some busts. Interesting to see if both Luck and Griffin (I refuse to call him that other moniker) can become superstars as usually one is and one isn’t when two QBs go that high. I would bet both make the Pro Bowl in 4 years.
4:45pm – Eisen kicks it to Deion Sanders, who’s on the stage walking across a gigantic “PRIMETIME” which is embroidered on the carpet. That wasn’t an accident, I assure you.
4:51pm – and we have an early candidate for Most Annoying Commercial: you guessed it, “The Avengers” trailer. I think this movie is going to be so terrible and unwatchable not even Robert Downey Jr. will be able to save it but it’s not going to matter because it’ll still rake in boatloads of cash thanks to the fanboys, who are going to come out in full force for it. Who am I kidding, I’ll probably end up donating my 30 bucks to cause.
4:54pm – Ryan Tannehill standing with Melissa Stark says he’s excited about 14 times. Yeah, I would be too if I was about to be the 8th pick in the draft when any other year I wouldn’t go in the first 3 rounds. Oh, and his wife is a model. He’s winning the draft so far tonight.
5:00pm – NFL Draft open for NFLN narrated by Jon Hamm. I’m getting flashbacks to Don Draper’s Kodak pitch from season one of “Mad Men.” If you’re not watching that show, you’re missing out.
5:02pm – and there it is! Our first Radio. City. Music. Hall. from Eisen. Only 56 more to go! What a scene out there in New York. Someday I need to attend the Draft as a fan. I gotta think it’s either one of the coolest, most fun days ever or akin to sitting outside Best Buy in the freezing rain on Black Friday because your girl wants a new blender.
5:03pm – and here’s Goodell to the dais to a chorus of boos from the Radio City crowd. New York is seriously the best. They’d boo their moms if they hadn’t made the playoffs in three years. “The 2012 NFL Draft is officially open” actually gets cheers from the crowd and Goodell announces the Colts are on the clock. How is this taking any time whatsoever?!? Jim Irsay, you’ve known you were taking Luck since October!!?!
5:04pm – Luck is on the phone as Eisen tells us since we’ve known this was the pick since 2009, NFLN is gonna show it, which won’t be the case throughout the night. No doubt they’ll show Griffin on the phone, too. The pick is in, so let’s get this party started.
5:06pm – It’s official. Luck is the first pick and his mom pinning him with the Colts horseshoe on his lapel. Very cool moment. Handshakes all around in the Colts war room. So Luck doesn’t exactly look like a Mad Men extra. Looks like I’m already 0-fer on my predictions. Thought that one would be a lock.
5:08pm – Mayock just compared Luck’s athleticism to Cam Newton’s. Umm, really? If Luck rushes for 14 touchdowns this season I’ll run the LA Marathon buck-ass naked.
5:10pm – Luck with Deion on the stage and he’s excited and NOT sporting a neckbeard. Definitely the upset of the day thus far. And the Redskins have their pick in and of course it’s going to be Robert Griffin III. Can’t believe he’s still rocking the braids. It’s 2012. Come on, bro.
5:13pm – Griffin has his named called and as he’s hugging his family and entourage in the green room he picks up his daughter who’s holding an iPhone. Don’t know why, but this is hilarious to me.
5:14pm – apparently the Browns have made their pick already and the Vikings are on the clock. They should without a doubt move down and compile picks. Deion calls Griffin the savoir of the Redskins. I wonder what VA and Scotty Wat think about that. I’ve posted it on our GroupMe, we’ll see who gets back. Deion says you “have to have swag” to wear those socks. I’m already over Deion.
5:20pm – Browns make it official and take Richardson. This guy is… wait for it… a beast. Too bad he’s stuck in Cleveland, which means he’ll probably be out for the season with a knee injury in Week 4.
5:21pm – these guys are taking FOREVER to get on stage to the Commish. They are literally shaking hands and man-hugging with 30 people before getting up there. There is a wicked logjam right now, as the Vikings and Bucs have already turned in their cards. IN other news, I think my Triscuits are stale but that won’t stop me from eating the rest of the box.
5:24pm – and it appears the Jaguars have traded up to No. 5 to take who Lombardi is guessing is Justin Blackmon. OK, that’s fine and dandy, but who’s gonna throw him the ball!? Is Maurice Jones-Drew playing quarterback now? Richardson on the stage with Deion with his two daughters who are rocking Browns hats. Pretty cool moment.
5:26pm – Mayock says it’s either Morris Claiborne or Matt Kalil for the Vikings here and the Rams will be taking whomever they don’t. Here’s Goodell … Vikings take Kalil, smart pick. 10-year pro. He’s the biggest lock in the Draft. And good because no one has to lose their job, as I bluntly stated earlier today.
5:28pm – a Lane Kiffin sighting! Wow. And Kalil rocking a serious beard. He also becomes the 476th player from USC chosen. That’s ridiculous, nine more than Notre Dame.
5:31pm – OH SNAP. First big shocker of the first round. Cowboys trade up to No. 6!!?! Jerry Jones has done it again. Who is he taking there? Mark Barron? Here’s the Jags’ pick … Justin Blackmon it is. “That’s a great pick” says Mayock. Yeah, it is, but still. Blaine Gabbert is still your quarterback.
5:33pm – first GroupMe update from my buddy Dave, a Giants fan: “not looking forwad to playing RG3 twice.” There you have it.
5:37pm – Mayock says reason Cowboys hasn’t made a Super Bowl in recent years is because of their secondary, as Goodell comes out and announces Dallas taking Morris Claiborne. “best ball skills of any corner coming out in recent years.” And is that Claiborne with his kid? So that’s 6 picks and four kids among the draftees. That HAS to be a record.
5:39pm – really like Claiborne’s suit. I tell ya what, Cowboys fans can’t ever complain about Jones not doing what it takes to compile players. He goes out and makes things happen. They don’t always work, but he’s got that Steinbrenner in him in that regard.
5:43pm – so every selection except the top pick has been via a trade, which is a new record and now the Bucs pick is in… Mark Barron from Alabama, who people thought might go in the teens. Nice purple checkered shirt and tie and damn, an enormous gold watch. Mayock all but guarantees he’s a Pro Bowler.
5:47pm – this is a great pick for the Bucs when you think about it, with all those receivers and explosive offenses in the NFC South. Now we have the Dolphins on the clock, so who knows what they’re doing. Ryan Tannehill? Jesus, that’s going to be a disaster. Good thing I’m not a Dolphins fan. Let’s see what Marc says.
5:49pm – and it’s Tannehill to the Dolphins. Man oh man. I thought last year teams panicked with taking quarterbacks early with Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Gabbert. This guy might be worse than all of them. And poor Chad Henne, I actually thought he might be a decent pro. What do I know, though, Tannehill could be a legit starter. But I wouldn’t bet an apple on that.
5:53pm – the Panthers pick is in and I’m guessing it’s Melvin Ingram though Mayock disagrees, but we agree it’s a defensive player. And the Bills pick is in, too. This first round is flying!
5:54pm – Panthers take Luke Kuechly from Boston College, the stud linebacker. This guy is going to be ridiculous. He’ll make the Pro Bowl this year, count on it. Shot of him at home in Cincinnati with a huge party going on. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that’s the way to go. Big party at your house. No need for the hoopla of being in New York.
5:56pm – another “Avengers” spot. I’m telling you, major flop. Followed by an Outback ad. Kinda makes me wanna go fight some crime and eat a bloomin’ onion. These stale Triscuits aren’t cutting it.
5:58pm – Bills dial up Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina. More defense for Bills after last year’s selection of Marcel Dareus. Let’s see what Owl says about this pick: “I know very little about him. He’s fast. I like taking a corner though, so I’m happy with that part of it.”
6:00pm – lot of conservative suits from these guys so far in the top 10. Only Robert Griffin went for something a little offbeat. Even Michael Irvin has a generally conservative (for him) look with pin stripes. Mayock did call him Nucky Thompson, which was pretty funny. Chances Irvin knows that reference? 5%?
6:03pm – Chiefs take Dontari Poe to the surprise to most. Poe becomes literally the 10th of 11 picks to have dredlocks, I think, which is ridiculous. And we may have another trade, Eagles move up to 12 to take what people think is Fletcher Cox.
6:06pm – Poe has the top hair in the Draft. Hands down. Also amusing is how he’s wearing his hat now. And JESUS that’s a big watch. “think Haloti Ngata” says Mayock. Damn, that’s some comparison. Irvin wonders why he was so average in college, which is a good question. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he didn’t work hard enough and took his dumptruck size shape for granted.
6:11pm – let’s see how Eagles fans respond to this pick, always interesting … Fletcher Cox it is and moderate cheers/boos. This is a big boy. OK, I’m all for congratulations backstage, but there needs to be a time limit on getting to the stage. This is getting out of hand. Actually, Cox was one of the quicker guys… wow, what a bear hug he just laid on Goodell. The commish needs to go through his own combine/training before the Draft to deal with these blows he’s taking from guys. I thought this would be a one-year thing, but nope. People love hugging Roger.
6:15pm – Cardinals on the clock. So are they going to take Michael Floyd here or what? Still not sure they’re sold on Kevin Kolb, especially after admittingly going after Peyton Manning earlier this offseason, so we’ll see what happens here. They must feel like they can win their division but are missing what? Defensive line, Offensive line. Who knows.
6:18pm – Cards go with Floyd to team up with Larry Fitzgerald and whomever Ken Whisenhunt decides to march out there at QB. First Notre Dame receiver taken in first round since Tim Brown in 1988. We all know how that worked out (hint: very well.)
6:20pm – Irvin saying Floyd reminds of him Anquan Boldin. I’m buying that. Fitz hasn’t been as good since Boldin left, and well, since Kurt Warner retired. I also buy into the notion of having two stud receivers; balances out the defense so it can’t take away one. Look at the Patriots; who in the hell do you focus your coverage on on that team?
6:23pm – update on Tannehill from Epstein, our resident Dolphins fan: “Don’t know much about him. (Owner Stephen) Ross loves him, which isn’t a good thing to me. Guess we’ll see. Who knows what the Dolphins are doing.” So they have that going for them, which is nice.
6:26pm – apparently Seahawks owner Paul Allen is calling out every other teams picks on his Twitter account before it’s broadcast. Hilarious… Rams take Michael Brockers, the defensive tackle from LSU. Ooh, really liking his suit, too, three-piece with a purple pocket square.
6:30pm – love the war room shots as we see Seattle and Pete Carroll just chillin. Very cool cat. Almost literally ran into him rounding a corner at the Senior Bowl in Mobile this year, and he just laughed it off. Then again, it was kinda late, so who knows where he was coming/going. “I like the drama, I like not knowing the picks,” Mayock says in reference to not showing the kids on the phone before hand. It does add some intrigue, I’ll admit… Seahawks take Bruce Irivin, who can be kind of a wild card but is possibly the best rusher in the draft and wears #11, which is pretty cool for a defensive player. If I was a badass linebacker in college I’d definitely wear a single digit number or something low. Makes you look cooler.
6:31pm – Jets on the clock, who knows what would happen here but they’re definitely taking a defensive player. Really hope it’s not my boy Chandler Jones from Syracuse, that would be disappointing.
6:35pm – not sure if this is a good sign for the Seahawks or not, but the last 1st round pick out of West Virginia: Pacman Jones! Your Seattle Seahawks, everybody!
6:36pm – look at the names available for the Jets here: Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Quinton Coples, Chandler Jones. Damn. Tom Brady can’t be loving that. Ryan Tannehill is too busy staring into the eyes of his new bride to care. Ryan Fitzpatrick is off grooming his beard somewhere.
6:39pm – ok, Jets fans, let’s hear it … Quinton Coples is the pick and we get some claps and jumping around from the gallery. Well we have another bust candidate. I question how much this guy likes playing football. We’ll see. “Julius peppers-like ability” says Mayock. I mean, come on, Mike. I was at the Senior Bowl, too, and the most impressive thing about Coples there were the fraternity brands on both his upper arms.
6:42pm – from Dave: “Coples and Goodell are hugging like they’ve known each other for 15 years.” Yeah, the hugging has gotten a little creepy at this point.
6:46pm – With the first of their two 1st Round picks, the Bengals take Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, and man am I loving the red sweater under the suit the gray suit. And look at that polkadot tie he’s got there. But seriously, what’s with the dreds?! I really thought guys were going away from that look.
6:53pm – Melvin Ingram finally goes off the board to the Chargers. Surprised he fell as far as he did. Goes to show if you’re a player without a true position or teams aren’t sure where you can play it will affect your stock. It’s too bad, he had a fantastic Senior Bowl and could be one of the best defensive players to come out of this draft when it’s all said and done. Good value for San Diego here. WOW, he and Goodell just did a choreographed handshake like they were Victor Martinez and Manny Ramirez. That was pretty fly, can’t front there.
6:56pm – This might be the first selection of someone I’ve never heard of: Shea McClellin from Boise St. Good to see Parker’s Broncos getting some love in the first round.
7:01pm – Patriots move UP in the draft, just like I predicted, and will take Chandler Jones per Adam Schefter. LOVING that pick. I guess that’s why Bill was being so coy earlier in the afternoon.
7:06pm – another logjam of picks with three in the hopper. Here’s Goodell with the Titans at No. 20 … Kendall Wright, the receiver from Baylor. Good move for them especially with Kenny Britt’s uncertainty following ACL surgery.
7:09pm – did Irvin just compare Wright to Santonio Holmes? That can’t be a good thing, can it? And the Steelers are on the clock at 24 even though we have yet to hear who the Patriots are taking at 21, even though we think it’s going to be Chandler Jones, or maybe Courtney Upshaw. Bill loves SEC players and is friends with Nick Saban.
7:10pm – here’s Goodell with the Patirots pick … boos from the Jets fan, haha, haters… CHANDLER JONES!!! YES!!! Mayock’s no. 9 player falls to 21. This is fantastic. Haven’t been this excited about a Syracuse player coming out since Dwight Freeney and that seemed to work out just fine. Also, how stupid athletic is this family. I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but Chandler’s brother is UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones and his other brother, Arthur, plays defensive line for the Ravens. Three professional athletes, not bad. The Brockmans need to step up their game.
7:12pm – second first round pick for the Browns, let’s see how they screw this up … wow, Brandon Weeden! Unreal. Nice knowing ya, Colt McCoy. “He can make all the throws” says Mayock. I really like this kid, had a great Senior Bowl and a great season at Oklahoma St., which I thought should’ve been playing for the national championship. Should be a good pro. Ha, just realized how ridiculous calling him “kid” looks, he’s 28 and married for Pete’s sake.
7:13pm – VA, a Redskins season ticket holder, has weighed in on Robert Griffin via GroupMe: “he appears to be off the charts in any category you’d want in a franchise QB. Having said that, he’s coming to the sports Bermuda triangle of Washington, dc and I’ve assumed nothing but the worst for/from him.” And there you have it. Good luck, Mr. Griffin.
7:17pm – Lions pick about to be announced as we learn that the Patriots traded up AGAIN. Wow, I really nailed that one. This time up to 25, swapping out with the Broncos.
7:19pm – Calvin Johnson, your new Madden 2013 cover boy, is out to announce the Lions pick. Let’s see how this works out for him. I guess if anyone can break the “Madden Curse” it’s Megatron. Oh, and they take Iowa tackle Riley Reiff. Sure, why not, need to protect the injury prone Matthew Stafford somehow.
7:21pm – big Stanford guard David DeCastro goes to the Steelers at 24. Blue collar pick for a blue collar team. Pittsburgh rarely misses on guys, so this is will probably work out for them. Let’s see what the Patriots do here, probably Courtney Upshaw, I’m guessing. Eisen says Pats traded out all their lower picks, so they have two 2nd round picks tomorrow and that’s it for the draft. Interesting move by Bill there. I’d guess they’d trade down on one of those 2nd rounders for more picks on Day 3, but that’s just a guess.
7:22pm – Patriots take Dont’a Hightower from Alabama. The 4th Crimson Tide player to go so far tonight. “two of the most explosive defensive players in this year’s draft,” Mayock says about the Pats draft so far. Really solid. Pats were 31st in the league last year in defense, so there’s only one way to go in that regard. Both players with start and play a TON next season.
7:28pm – and we have another “WHO?!?” pick of the first round. Whitney Mercilus from Illinois for the Texans at No. 26. Guess you have to try and replace Mario Williams somehow.
7:32pm – Eisen and Marshall do their Goodell/Ingram handshake impression. Eisen’s too white to pull that off, which he immediately acknowledges, so that’s good. Mayock just wants Charlie Yook to stop telling him what to do in his ear. Good luck with that, as well.
7:34pm – Bengals take Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin to play guard. Zzzzzzzzzzzz… Maycok saying if your’e a Bengals fan you should be happy. Um, OK.
7:36pm – OK, new commercial I’m sick of, the Top 100 promo that NFLN is running. I’m only half kidding because I really like that show having worked on it last season. I think this year’s list will be more indicative of who the players actually think are the best 100 players in the league. Last year it appeared if the voting was skewed because a) not a lot actually voted and b) no one really knew what this list was and how it was constructed. Really curious to see if Tebow makes the list. I’m guessing no. Cam Newton will be in the top 25 and maybe higher than Eli Manning, who continues to get no respect. Rob Gronkowski will also be very high. Aaron Rodgers will be your new No. 1. I have no inside info, just speculating. Probably do a full post about this next week or further along in the list, which kicks off this weekend.
7:39pm – packers take Nick Perry from USC, who is a BEAST. He can play some serious ball. Last time the Packers picked a Trojan his name was Clay Matthews, seems to have worked out so far.
7:42pm – Courtney Upshaw looks like he’s about to rip that table off and throw it across the green room. I’ve stood next to that guy. He’s straight up the scariest dude I’ve ever seen. Shocked he’s still on the board.
7:45pm – Ravens trade out of the first round to the Vikings, who take Harrison Smith, a defensive back from Notre Dame. Shocking, Mayock loves this pick, wonder if it’s that because he’s the Irish broadcaster? Haha, Mayock just called Darren Sharper “what’s his name” that’s hilarious. First time since 1994 that Notre Dame had multiple first round picks. So that must’ve been Jerome Bettis and who? Chris Zorich? No. Hmm… Ok, looking it up.
7:47pm – So I was way off there. Bryant Young, Aaron Taylor and Jeff Burris were taken in the first round that year from Notre Dame. In case anyone was wondering, the first overall pick that year was Big Daddy Dan Wilkinson. The 3rd pick was Heath Shuler. NFLN’s own Marshall Faulk went 2nd and Willie McGinest 4th. Respect.
7:49pm – in doing the Verizon phone promo, with a closeup of his hand and the phone, Eisen says “sorry ladies, I’m married.” Classic.
7:50pm – 49ers take A.J. Jenkins, the receiver from Illinois. Mayock had him as a 2nd rounder and 8th best WR. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Why would they take him, anyway? They signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss this offseason in order to bolster that passing offense for Alex Smith. Really odd move unless you think this kid can play right away, which I seriously doubt.
7:53pm – Interesting tweet just now from Deadspin, noting that ESPN has said the word “Tebow” 14 times, while NFLN has said it only once. Not sure what that means but it’s not nothing that’s for sure.
7:54pm – Josh, my resident Ravens fan chimes in after they trade out of the first round; “waste of 3 hours.”
7:56pm – Bucs trade up to take running back Doug Martin from Boise St. Hmm, LaGarrette Blount can’t be happy right about now.
7:57pm – and we’re minutes away from the end for the first round with the Giants on the clock. Amazing how fast this has gone, roughly less than the average time of an NFL game. That is the real upset/surprise of the night, especially given all the trades.
8:04pm – here we go, let’s wrap this up: “the world champion New York Giants” take David Wilson, running back from Virginia Tech. Wow, 3 running backs in the first round, also an upset, though not to Marshall Faulk. “He’s a football player”, um, yeah, they all are, Mike. Astute observation.
8:06pm – that was exciting and fast. What a fantastic first round. Really shocking no players drafted from the usual powerhouses Ohio St., Penn St., Miami, Florida or Florida St., among others. One thing that kind of annoyed me, aside from the all the man love with the Commissioner, is that everyone seemed to “love” every pick. I really like when the analysts kill picks on these types of things. Bruce Irvin and AJ Jenkins really shouldn’t have been picked where they were but yet there was no real criticism. Best picks, in my opinion: Morris Claiborne, Melvin Ingram and Chandler Jones. Didn’t really like any of the offensive players, aside from the obvious guys at the top. I think Weeden can play in this league but he’ll need some help on Days 2 and 3 from the Browns personnel department. Had a really fun time, once again, so thanks for taking the time to re-live all the 1st Round action with me. It was fast-paced and really exciting. Already can’t wait for my fantasy draft to see which of these rookies my buddies overvalue and the Sept. 5 kickoff. Happy offseason!
LOS ANGELES — In news first broke here, it’s NFL Draft week, Major League Baseball has begun, the NBA Playoffs are starting and there are movies out people want to see. With those facts floating in the stratosphere, I had to dial up Evan Bretzman and get his thoughts for another fantastic episode of The Crossover (click here to listen).
Throughout the course of the show, we break down what we think could happen in this weekend’s NFL Draft (hint: he likes Robert Griffin III over Andrew Luck); we wonder what is going on with the Red Sox a mere three weeks into the MLB season (hint: I do a flip-flop on my preseason prediction); we question if this is the year LeBron James finally wins an NBA title (hint: one of us thinks so, the other does not); and breakdown the similarities between “Taken” and the new film “Lockout” (no hint, just listen).
Among the other topics broached: Twitter handling big scandal moments, a Minneapolis “celebrity” sighting, birthday boat parties, Flo Rida and much, much more. You seriously don’t wanna miss this episode.
As always, check me out on Twitter (@chris_brockman), explore the site and thanks for listening and spread the word!
LOS ANGELES — The annual National Football League college entry draft is on Thursday in New York City and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be selected first overall by the Indianapolis Colts. These are the facts of the case. It’s been assumed Luck would be the first name commissioner Roger Goodell speaks since about October of last year; right around the time it became undoubtedly obvious Peyton Manning’s surgically repaired neck wasn’t going to allow him to signal call in 2011 and the Colts were in for a historically bad season. Then, last month, the Redskins mortgaged their future to trade up to the No. 2 hole for the right to select Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
After these two 22-year olds are chosen what will happen with the next 30 picks is anybody’s guess. It’s what makes the NFL Draft my favorite sporting event of the year. (click here and here for my running diaries of the 2010 and 2011 NFL Drafts) The Awkward interviews, outrageous suits, head shaking over bad picks and Jets fans booing are only the tip of the football iceberg for what’s to come over the course of the 5-hour extravaganza. With that, and because everyone seems to do the same NFL Draft columns each year (“Biggest Busts,” “Best Late-Round Picks,” etc.), I decided to offer up some Round 1 Predictions. I’m shooting for a 12.5% success rate, or roughly the exact percentage of 2011 First Rounders to make the Pro Bowl last season (Cam Newton, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green).
1.) Someone is going to compare Robert Griffin III to Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Troy Smith and other African-American running quarterbacks who came before him.
2.) NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin is going to a) say something so ridiculous I’ll wish I had a “Mute Irvin” button my remote, and b) look ridiculous doing it.
3.) Some team will pull a Vikings and completely whiff on turning in their draft card causing a chain reaction of quick picks.
4.) One of the draftees will spend his entire bonus check, which he hasn’t received yet, on a bracelet, watch, earrings or all of the above.
5.) Commissioner Roger Goodell will get lots of hugs from the draftees and all of them will be awkward.
6.) At least three of the draftees will look like “Mad Men” extras and Andrew Luck will definitely be one of them.
7.) New Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will be mentioned so often we’ll think it’s The Decision: Part 2.
8.) There will be less Pro Bowlers drafted in the First Round than last year.
9.) Neither Luck nor Alabama running back Trent Richardson will win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012.
10.) NFL Network host Rich Eisen will say “Radio City Music Hall” roughly 57 times during the 5-hour broadcast.
11.) Colts Owner Jim Irsay will be interviewed looking like he just spent the night with Roger Sterling.
12.) Oklahoma St. quarterback Brandon Weeden will be this year’s Andy Dalton.
13.) The Patriots will trade UP in this year’s draft rather than their traditional downward movement.
14.) Now that Al Davis is no longer with us, the Raiders will make a rational selection based on team needs… who am I kidding.
15.) Someone will get picked that none of “experts” had in their Top 50.
16.) An analyst will totally kill the mood of the broadcast by bringing up last year’s lockout.
17.) There will be roughly 2-3 commercials that will get played over and over and over again making me literally hate those companies.
18.) At least two of the draftees will be wearing bow ties.
19.) Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones will get drafted.
20.) We will see video of JaMarcus Russell doing SOMEthing (playing football well won’t be it, either.)
21.) Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill will get drafted far too high and spark comparisons to Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert.
22.) In three years, teams are going to wish they drafted linebackers Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) and Luke Kuechly (Boston College) higher.
23.) The Colts will try and trade up into the end of the First Round to draft Luck’s favorite target of the last few seasons: Stanford tight end Coby Fleener.
24.) Someone will talk about the Madden video game curse.
25.) A team that didn’t make the playoffs last year, is going to complete a trade so terrible it’ll seem make the Falcons 5-pick swap with Cleveland last year look like a steal.
26.) NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock will say the phrase “when I looked at the tape” no less than 487 times.
27.) During a crowd shot there will be someone wearing a jersey so dated I’ll have to rewind and watch it at least 3 times to figure out who it is and/or laugh.
28.) At least 7 players who played in this year’s BCS National Championship game (LSU vs. Alabama) will get drafted.
29.) Someone will trip either walking out to shake hands with the Commissioner or heading to a network interview.
30.) Despite the networks vowing not to show draftees on the phone before they’re selected, somehow we’ll know who’s going where before Goodell says a name.
31.) The point will be hammered home in full force that Nike is the new maker of NFL uniforms.
32.) At least one of the draftees girlfriends will become a Twitter star before the night is over, kind of like Jets backup quarterback Greg McElroy’s sister did a year ago.