Some players and coaches treat a Super Bowl loss like it never happened and figuratively bury the result like a dead body. Others try to confront the setback at every turn, making it a talking point that they won’t avoid the past.
Jared Goff, in the aftermath of Super Bowl LIII, did neither.
The Rams scored three points in the game. Goff threw a devastating fourth-quarter interception, saw half his throws fall incomplete and posted a 57.9 rating. And the offense that 33-year-old coach Sean McVay had turned into the NFL’s most dangerous over the last two years in L.A. was rendered a speed bump on Bill Belichick’s path to a sixth title.
So how did Goff process the Super Bowl? How did he deal with it in the aftermath?
By treating it like any other loss. Or win, for that matter.
“Oh yeah. I went back and watched it the day after,” Goff said on Friday, after wrapping up the Rams’ third week of OTAs. “Postgame, tried to treat it like any other game where you’re evaluating yourself. Obviously, there were much bigger implications, but you just go through it like you would, and evaluate what you think you did well and what you didn’t do well, and move on.
“And yeah, it took longer than a regular game to move on from, because there wasn’t a game after it to fix what you’d done in the previous game. But it’s part of the process. Every year there’s a team that goes through this. This year it’s us.”
Goff then pointed out that losing the Super Bowl isn’t the curse it used to be.
He’s right, too. Eight of nine teams this decade to fall on the biggest stage made the playoffs the next year, six of those got through to the divisional round, five won at least one playoff game, and the last team in that spot, last year’s Patriots, bounced back to win it all the following season.
“It’s something we’re able to look forward to—you’ve seen teams come off losing it and win it the following year,” Goff said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s not going to happen just because the Patriots did it—it’s not like, ‘OK, they lost two years ago and last year they beat us, so that’s our track.’ That’s not how it works, and we understand that.”
But, he continued, if the Rams follow the road that they have for the last 29 months or so, there’s no reason he, and the team, can’t bounce back quickly. For the quarterback, the first steps were taken that next day at the team facility, confronting what stood between him and the Lombardi Trophy.
In this week’s MMQB, we’re moving into the final phase of the NFL’s offseason program, with mandatory minicamps starting. And along the way, we’re going to look at:
• The Senior Bowl’s push to engage former players and give them another option for their post-playing lives.
• How Bengals QB Andy Dalton is handling the first coaching change of his professional career.
• Why Odell Beckham missing voluntary stuff does matter.
• The NFLPA still gearing up for a lockout.
• Packers coach Matt LaFleur’s predicament.
We’ll also hook you up with some of what to look for this week from the nine teams that will have their minicamps—which serve as a sort of unofficial send-off for NFL people before the late June/early July break in leaguewide business. But we’re starting with Goff, and the Rams, and where they go next.
Sean McVay has been pretty vocal about how disappointed he was in himself in the Super Bowl—and rest assured, Goff felt the loss same as his coach. He hasn’t been as outward about it, but he did beat himself up over how a stellar 18-game body of work to get the Rams to Atlanta somehow didn’t carry over once they got there.
And as he saw, it wasn’t just the opportunity that felt wasted in the aftermath. Moreso, it was a defensive effort against Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and the Patriots offense that probably would’ve stood up as historic if he and the offense had played even an average game.
“The fact that our defense played the game they did, and Wade [Phillips] coached the way he did, all the plays we made—we got an interception on the first play of the game—and offensively, and me personally, we weren’t able to hold up our end, that’s what really bothered me,” Goff said. “At this point, late May, early June, I’m able to move past that, and you’re on to the next step of your career and your life.
“But for a while there, that was the big sticking point in my head.”
What he wasn’t going to waste was the experience, and the lessons that playing against a Belichick defense presented him. It was all there for him when he fired up the tape the next day.
Back in February, we detailed the Patriots’ defensive game plan in both the day-after and week-after MMQBs, first from the locker room and then with the McCourty twins. In each case, the overriding theme was New England not wanting to give McVay, Goff or anyone on the Rams roster any sort of tell into what they were doing—which meant playing differently than they had, and disguising everything.
It worked, and Goff concedes now that the Super Bowl experience illuminates where the L.A.’s high-powered attack still has room to grow.
“They’re so unique in that they change weekly in what they’re doing,” Goff said of the Patriots. “I think for me personally, if we were play them again, or any team that’s similar to them that can do that, you have to be able to adjust on the fly a little bit quicker.
“As opposed to waiting for something to happen, you have to actively adjust to what they’re doing, and adjust to what a team is trying to present to you, whether it’s something they showed on film or not.”
So the Rams are attacking that now, Goff explained, by trying to mimic game conditions in practice. For two seasons the Rams have for the most part been able to dictate the tenor of games to their opponents. What they’re preparing for now are the occasions where the opponent is capable of dictating the rules of engagement to them.
“We know the three or four defenses that’ll be 75 percent of the stuff we play this year, 80 percent of the stuff we play,” Goff said. “There’s that 20 percent that you don’t often get much work on, that we’re trying to actively work on, actively prepare for. And then when the game comes and those situations arise, we will be prepared.”
The Rams also drilled down this spring on third-down conversions (they ranked fifth in that category in 2018 but went 3-of-13 in the Super Bowl) and red-zone situations (they were 18th last year, the only category in which they were middling on offense). It’s a good example of the offense zeroing in on details, with the big picture in good shape.
Which, of course, is a reminder that despite how last year ended, there’s a lot to look forward to in L.A. With that in mind, a few other nuggets from my talk with Goff …
Goff’s work with his throwing coaches has consumed a lot of his offseason. Like more than half of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks, Goff does his personal work at 3DQB in Orange County. Tom House’s partner, Adam Dedeaux, has focused Goff on consistency in his stroke this offseason (House’s star pupil, Tom Brady, is off the charts in that area), and Goff has the advantage of being a drive away, making him a daily visitor at points this offseason.
“Everything he’s done, and I work with him daily, is about being repeatable, being able to repeat the same stroke,” Goff said. “When people ask me about it, I equate it to a swing coach in golf, or if you’re a tennis player, your personal coach, somebody who’s able to teach you how to be consistent. And seeing my mechanics my rookie year, which I’d thought were good, and even my second year, which I thought were really good, to where I am now, and how much more consistent and accurate and on top of it I am, is all a credit to them. They’ve been tremendous for me.”
Goff’s belief is that consistency in the skill position should help too. Two years ago the Rams imported Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, and drafted Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds. Last year it was Brandin Cooks and Gerald Everett. This year, for the first time in his career, the skill group around Goff will be much the same, which has facilitated the offense’s ability to focus on the smaller stuff.
“That’s definitely part of it, especially with a short offseason,” said Goff. “You feel like you pick up where you left off, and more literally than other teams can say that. We finished in February and picked up in April with the same 11 guys, besides our center and left guard, and it’s been pretty seamless. We continue to run what we run through this spring stuff and OTAs, and we’ve worked on different wrinkles.
“To be able to continue that chemistry with the receivers and the offensive line has been tremendous.”
This year is different from last year. And for really good reasons.
“Way different. Way different,” Goff said. “Last year, being in that first round of the playoffs, playing the Falcons, the previous season we were 4-12, so you’re thinking, ‘OK, this is kind of fun, I like the playoffs, this is cool.’ And you go through it and you lose, and you’re like, ‘Wait, wait, I want to go back to that. That was fun, I shouldn’t have taken that for granted.’ This past season, you’re like, ‘OK, we belong.’”
Which brings us to the question of sustainability. Goff is 24, Todd Gurley is 24 (even with questions on his health), Cooks is 25, Aaron Donald is 28, and the Rams have become the kind of place where veterans (Ndamukong Suh last year, Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews this year) come to make a run at a ring. And it’s through those guys that Goff has gotten an appreciation for what’s going on.
“For me, personally, the best example is when we sign free agents, and we’ll talk to them about where they been, and the culture [in those places], and they’re like, ‘Dude, it’s nothing like this. It’s not even close,’” Goff said. “That’s where we sort of take a step back and try not to take it for granted. I understand I’m in a very fortunate situation, and I’m going to try and take full advantage of it.”
The Rams broke through in 2017, and took a major leap forward last year. Now, how they process the memory of Feb. 3 will play a big part in whether they take the next major step. “When you have that last game and you don’t get a chance to redeem yourself, there’s not a next week’s storyline. It’s like, ‘Alright, this is the story of the whole offseason.’ And now you have to deal with it.”
That’s what this spring has been about in L.A.
EX-PLAYERS LEARN HOW TO SCOUT
This week, Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, now heading into Year 2 in charge of the college all-star game, is pushing the scout school that his predecessor Phil Savage ran over the last few years into a new realm.
For the first time, the entire group of students coming in will be made up of ex-players. It’s the result of Nagy noticing over the years a lack of former players and minorities on the scouting side of NFL teams. Now he’s in a position to do something about it.
“I truly felt like there was a need for it,” Nagy said. “And the more I talked to former players, it’s interesting, they’d think when they were done playing there were really two opportunities to stay in the game—coaching and broadcasting. A lot of guys never thought about scouting. Well, they should. It should be a viable option for them.
“Hopefully this will help increase even just the awareness of it. I told some of the guys, this might just help you cross it off the list.”
Among the 15 or so participants this week are ex-Bills linebacker Daryl Talley and ex-Michigan and Cowboys quarterback Drew Henson. The latter, in fact, is working as a baseball scout now, but always wanted to explore working on the football side, and this will give him the chance to do it.
To make the experience relatable, Nagy has enlisted NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks and Chiefs pro scouting director Tim Terry to lead discussions on the college and pro sides of scouting, respectively. Brooks played six NFL seasons, then worked for the Seahawks and Panthers as a college scout before joining the media. Terry played six years as a pro linebacker, then became a scout.
Nagy’s hope is those two, and Dan Hatman of the Scouting Academy, can help encourage others to give it a shot.
“They’ll get an understanding of the entire scouting operation from both sides, and how it plays into the big picture,” said Nagy. On the college side, how it works on daily basis, what it’s like making a school call, going through the fall, doing visits, how you approach all-star games, the combine. We’ll go over a grading scale, and how you go about building a draft board.
“On the pro side, how you attack free agency throughout the year, how you keep up with the free-agent class, the cut to 53, advance scouting during the fall. Overall, I want them to get a big-picture understanding of the profession. And on both college and pro, because those are two different disciplines, they’re so different. I hope we can show guys who played that it’s a viable option for them as a career.”
This first class, for which participants are responsible for a $500 enrollment fee, plus their travel expenses, is small-scale, but if it goes as planned, you can bet it getting bigger in 2020.
ANDY DALTON STARTS FRESH
Andy Dalton is going through the first head-coaching change of his career. The Bengals kicked the tires on the top quarterbacks in the draft. He’s got two years, and not a guaranteed dollar, left on the deal he did in 2014, coming off three straight trips to the playoffs. He turns 32 in October. And he couldn’t be more excited about where the Bengals are with spring winding down.
“Marvin [Lewis] had a great 16 years here,” Dalton told me on Thursday. “I think if you talk to any coach, and you say you could have 16 years in one place, anyone would sign up for that. So we lot of success with Marvin. But with Zac [Taylor], obviously, he’s younger, and you can feel the energy level in the building. It’s been a lot of fun, from the meetings to the practice field, to everything.
“That’s not to say it wasn’t fun before, but that’s just the vibe we have right now. It’s been good. Guys are competing.”
So what specifically has Dalton juiced for 2019? Here are three things:
Dalton has watched every offensive snap taken last year by the Rams (Taylor was L.A.’s quarterbacks coach in 2018), and the proficiency of the play-action game stuck out to most to the Bengals QB. That’s a product of McVay and company marrying the run game to the passing game, which creates time and opportunity for Jared Goff to strike. As Dalton says of his Rams counterpart, “With everything kind of looking the same, he had time back there, and he was able to get the ball down the field.”
Recreating that in Cincinnati is going to mean one pretty significant change that Dalton can already see coming. “We’ve been a big shotgun team in the past. So there’ll be more stuff under center,” he said.
The teaching of the offense has been key. Every player, not just the quarterback, is getting the “why?” part of the equation, rather than just being told what to do. And seeing through two months of that now—which necessitates more meetings with the full offense together, rather than being broken out by position—has convinced Dalton that it’s going to make a big difference in the fall.
“A lot of times the quarterbacks get all that information, you know why you’re calling it, you know what you want it in,” Dalton says. “But now everyone’s getting that information. It makes it easier for guys to be on the same page, because they know why [a play] is called. That’s why it’s been really good.”
It’s an example of Taylor importing a core piece of McVay’s philosophy: Make it simple on the offensive players, and tough on the defense.
“The easiest way to play your best is to not have to think out there, know exactly what you’re doing, and just react and play,” Dalton said. “I think with this system—that’s how you want to play in general—but how we have this thing established is very much like Sean was saying. You make easier on all the guys to make sure that you can play fast. But the way you do it makes it look different for the defense.”
It’s not the Rams offense. Because the Rams offense, very specifically, was built around Goff—who’s best playing off play-action and getting rid of the ball quickly. The Bengals offense will share foundational tenets, of course, but be built out to accommodate Dalton, and also A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon and everyone else.
“Obviously, I’m not Jared and their receivers aren’t our guys,” Dalton said. “We do feel like we’ve got a really talented back like Todd Gurley, with Joe, and a guy that can spill ’em like Gio. It’s going to be tailored to fit us. The system’s not just the system. The system is built around our players, around our guys. It’s all set up for us to play fast and go score.”
Of course, the flip side for Dalton is having to earn his stripes under a new staff. And things could change in that department in a year or two. For now, though, Dalton likes where he’s at—and doesn’t want to go anywhere for a while.
“I don’t feel like there’s any pressure,” Dalton said. “I expect to play well. I expect the team to do well, and that’s just the feeling we have in the building. We see what we’re doing out here in practice. I don’t think a ton of people are giving us much of a chance in our division. But we’re confident in our building. Everyone has high expectations.
“This system and the way we’re going to be playing fits me really well, fits our guys, and we expect to score a lot of points.”
It’s pretty simple. If the Bengals get back to where they were in the first five years of Dalton’s career, he probably won’t have a whole lot to worry about.
1. Video surfaced last week of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throwing the ball under the watch of trainers in Charlotte. So here’s what I know: Newton is on a throwing program, and the target is for him to be able to cut it loose at the start of training camp in late July. For now, and because it’s June, the Panthers are being conservative and deliberate with Newton. In the meantime, rookie Will Grier hasn’t wasted any time making an impression—with his confidence and natural stroke as a passer standing out right away. He has the look of a player who could, with time, develop into a legit NFL starter.
2. Packers coach Matt LaFleur’s popped Achilles is a pretty bad stroke of luck. Bright side? Two things. One, because it’s his left leg, he’ll still be able to drive. Two, the timing isn’t terrible. He’s got two weeks left in his first offseason program as head coach. Then he gets about a month’s break in the calendar. And we’re a little under two months from the start of training camp. The plan is for LaFleur to ride a cart the next two weeks and be back on his feet at the start of camp. When I touched base with him post-surgery on Sunday, he texted, “I’m good. Not going to affect anything.”
3. My read on Freddie Kitchens’ curt reaction last week to questions about Odell Beckham missing OTAs is that he’s sick of being asked. And I don’t think Beckham has crossed any lines yet. But do I believe it’s mildly annoying to the team that he’s not there? Sure. Beckham’s the highest-paid player on the roster, the highest-profile player on the roster, and he’s going into a new system with a first-year coach who’s working to establish his program. To me, those circumstances make this a little different from a veteran with a long-time coach in place (like Tom Brady) skipping out. Will it affect Beckham’s production in the fall? Maybe not. But it’s certainly not ideal for Kitchens, who’s trying to match pieces together around a second-year quarterback.
4. That said, the Browns’ spring has yielded a couple of dark horses in running back Dontrell Hillard (a 2018 college free agent out of Tulane) and safety Jermaine Whitehead, both of whom will get a shot at making an impression at minicamp this week, and both of whom highlight the importance of having a deep, resourceful scouting department. Whitehead was with GM John Dorsey’s top lieutenants, Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith, in Green Bay.
5. Two positions of interest at the Lions minicamp—tight end and linebacker. Both were issues a couple years back, both have been bolstered with first-round picks (Jarrad Davis, T.J. Hockenson), and both could wind up being strengths for Detroit. It’s also worth mentioning here that both GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia are from a place New England that values those positions more than most places do.
6. Here’s the full text of the email (reported on by Sports Business Journal’s Liz Mullen) that went from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to player agents last week: “Recently, I had the opportunity to meet in Los Angeles with a group of agents who had clients invited to the NFLPA’s Rookie Premiere event. The meeting focused on putting in place a savings plan for rookies in the league now that nearly 75% of the draftees have signed their contracts and many have already received their signing bonus or at least a large portion of their bonus. With a possible work stoppage less than two years away, this is the opportune time to set up a structured and organized savings and budgeting plan with your clients. I can’t stress enough the importance of having our player members in a sound financial situation should a work stoppage occur. We are advising players to plan for a work stoppage of at least a year in length. We are also encouraging all players to save 50% of their salary and bonuses and to save the entirety of their Performance Based Pay amounts they should earn over the next two regular seasons. Having a membership that is financially stable will only increase the chances of NFLPA player leadership getting a new CBA that will benefit not only players currently in the NFL but also the players that come after them and the ones that came before them. Thank you.” My translation? A New York Times story just before this was sent bled with optimism on a new CBA getting done—even though the league and union are only at the stage where they’re identifying issues (without knowing how long it’ll take to actually, y’know, solve them). Back in 2011, the union would see stories like this as an effort by the league to put pressure on the players to get something done. Taken that way, it would make sense that Smith would take the opportunity to reinforce a message that the union’s been carrying all along.
7. The Jets GM search is in full swing now, with the fourth interview—Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly is in—taking place Monday in Florham Park, N.J. Seattle’s Scott Fitterer (Friday), New Orleans’ Terry Fontenot (Saturday), and presumptive favorite Joe Douglas of Philadelphia (Sunday) have all been through. And as we’ve said in this space before, coach Adam Gase and general counsel Hymie Elhai are leading the process, along with owner Christopher Johnson. Those two, along with the new G.M, will be the three people involved in football ops who will report directly to Christopher Johnson, and eventually Woody Johnson.
8. Tom Brady will get a lot of attention at this week’s minicamp, but maybe most interesting to me in New England will be Michael Bennett, a Swiss army knife of a defensive lineman who could be tasked with replacing a lot of the production that Trey Flowers (another versatile inside/outside type) gave the Patriots the last couple years. Having spent the offseason in Hawaii, as he has the last few years, Bennett will debut on the Foxboro practice fields this week. One thing that should help him is the way Bill Belichick and his staff deploy their defensive linemen—Flowers (who played 70.2 percent of the snaps) was the only D-lineman on the roster who played more than 50 percent of the team’s snaps. While the Patriots will have to spread Bennett’s workload out, it’s a good bet that they’ll work to preserve the 33-year-old Bennett.
9. Another one that I’m personally excited to ask around about after this week is Broncos rookie tight end Noah Fant. Rich Scangarello’s offense is the same one that featured Jordan Reed in Washington, and helped George Kittle transition quickly into the NFL more recently—and both those guys are athletic types who, like Fant, can play all over the formation.
10. Among the nine teams in minicamp this week (Browns, Broncos, Lions, Dolphins, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Bucs, Redskins), we’ll get three of the top five quarterbacks taken in April’s draft: Washington’s Dwayne Haskins, Denver’s Drew Lock and the Giants’ Daniel Jones. For now, Haskins is the only one who’ll be in an open competition over the next two months. He’s been splitting starter reps with Case Keenum and is positioned well there heading into summer.
… OF THE WEEK
“I think it’s funny to be up for a lot of jobs, but I don’t really get to confirm or get asked about it. I like listening. I talked to the MNF folks. I had a great conversation. It wasn’t the right time. Maybe it will never be.”
—Peyton Manning to the Denver media at Broncos OTAs.
Manning also confirmed what Adam Gase told me last weekend—that the Jets haven’t reached out to him on their GM job. So I don’t think he’s going there. But I do believe he’ll be in a John Elway/John Lynch-type of role at some point down the line, running a team. Maybe it’s in post-Sean Payton New Orleans. Maybe it’s in post-Elway Denver. After he retired, it seemed a safe assumption that it would have happened by now. My feeling is it probably hasn’t because he really has enjoyed retirement in Colorado with his family, thus slamming the brakes on any rush to jump back in. But I think eventually, he’ll get the itch—and he spent a lot of time doing groundwork for that kind of position.
On Sunday, the last full day of Bill Buckner's life, 16 major leaguers struck out at least three times. Buckner played 22 seasons and never did it once.— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) May 27, 2019
Everyone my age—I was born in 1980—from Boston has a pretty complicated history with Bill Buckner. Game 6 of the ’86 World Series is one of my first sports memories, and the events of that night hung over not just everything the Sox did for 18 years, but pretty much all sports in that city for more than a decade. The Celtics won a championship four months previous, and no Boston team would win another title until 15 years after.
So I’ll say that I’m glad stuff like this, from the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner, is surfacing in the wake of Buckner’s death. Sports is a double-edged sword in that great moments can elevate players (Robert Horry, David Tyree) and bad ones can destroy players. That’s why it’s important to recall the totality of what someone like Buckner accomplished over his career.
The truth? Well, the truth is that the reason Buckner’s death got so much attention was because of that one play. The good news is that for at least some people, it actually wound up working to illuminate what he accomplished in 22 major-league seasons.
This is one heck of an artifact from our guy Andrew Brandt, coming from a time when the Packers were on the ropes and their legendary quarterback was head coach. And this, delivered from Bart Starr to “Mr. Dan Clumper” would qualify as a burn at a time when that term didn’t exist: “We are sorry to lose you as a fan of course, but what is sadder is the example you are setting for your own sons.” Ouch.
That’s a little ridiculous by Antonio Brown, and it reminds me of my first week on the Cowboys beat. We were going to lunch, and I asked my buddy/co-worker Tim McMahon (now at ESPN) to drive me by the White House (look it up, if you don’t know what it is) on the way. I just wanted to see it, even if it was no longer used for the, uh, extracurriculars it had been in the ’90s. And with every other one around it carefully manicured, the yard looked just like that.
This right here is vintage Jay Gruden. And I’m sure the brother of the Redskins coach appreciated the suggestion.
This is a good compilation. Ike Taylor, I think said he’s “swagging,” And he wasn’t as good as Antwaan Randle El and Tony Gonzalez (who both get an A-plus for delivery) anyway.
Dwyane Wade’s getting all the way after it—and on a speedboat, no big deal.
If you can get kids that age do anything all at once, that’s a pretty momentous accomplishment. So Lil Nas X did good here.
So here’s one thing Mitch Trubisky has over Aaron Rodgers—basically in a dead heat on this with his stud lineman, Kyle Long, a week after Packers tackle David Bakhtiari obiliterated Rodgers.
Not bad, even if I’m not sure Stanford would’ve stayed within 50 of Manning’s Tennessee teams back then.
S/O to …
Cowboys C Travis Frederick, perhaps the NFL’s best at his position before Guillain-Barre Syndrome forced him to miss the 2018 season. He’s back on the practice field now, with hopes to be in team drills at training camp, and to restart his career in September. Frederick lost a lot of weight last year, and has gotten himself back into fighting shape. And regardless of how good he’ll wind up being, just making it out there in three months would be a big-time accomplishment for a guy who feared his career was over. “I feel good where I am in the weight room. I’ve come a really long way,” Frederick told the Dallas media. “It’s interesting because there’s three things holding me back now. There’s the return from Guillain-Barré. I had a umbilical hernia repair, so that kind of knocked out my lowers for a while, and I had the shoulder repair, so it knocked out my uppers for a while. So I’m still coming back. I’m a little bit behind in the offseason lifting program compared to everybody else because they started a few weeks before I did, but I do feel really good in both areas of where I am at this point.” Good luck to him.
SIX FROM THE SIDELINES
1. Here’s a college quarterback who came across my desk to watch this week—Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Nick Tiano. A Mississippi State transfer, Tiano is listed at 6’5”, 240 pounds, and has all the tools. Scouts will be keeping a close eye on the fifth year senior come September.
2. The NFL’s explosion of offensive ingenuity seems to be trickling down, in how the hot offensive coaches at the college level are recruiting. And Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Ohio State’s Ryan Day are the beneficiaries, seen as it guys for quarterbacks and skill players. Both have landed top-ranked QB prospects (Spencer Rattler at OU, Justin Fields at OSU), and multiple five-star receiver recruits over the last few months, which is a good indication that players are prioritizing innovation in their coaches. And it’s probably no coincidence that it’s happening in the aftermath of NFL games like Rams-Chiefs, which are widely seen as signals of where the league is headed.
3. I’m no hockey expert, but the Bruins, when they’re rolling, look way too fast for the Blues to keep up with over a best-of-seven series. We’ll see if St. Louis can make things interesting on Monday night.
4. Seeing what we’ve seen, should the Warriors be all that concerned about losing Kevin Durant this summer? Sounds crazy that you could lose a top-three player in a sport where superstars are paramount, but it’s the truth, and a testament to how strong the foundation is there in the Bay Area.
5. I gave the Champions League final a shot on Saturday. It was alright. What’s pretty clear to me is why everyone says you have a pick a team to really appreciate it. I’d imagine the whole thing would be pretty edge-of-your-seat if you cared who won.
6. And while we’re there, the NCAA lacrosse final four continues to be an awesome take. I don’t know if lax ever makes it mainstream as a spectator sport. But it’s entertaining as hell, and if what I see in my town and our region is any indication—just looking at kids playing lacrosse, compared to baseball—it’s hard not to see viewership growing along with participation down the line.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
I’ve heard a lot on Odell Beckham and Le’Veon Bell, and how these offseason programs are strictly voluntary. All true. But I figured it’d be interesting to take a look at just what kind of time commitment these things are. So here’s what we’ve got :
• Phases I and II cover the first five weeks of the offseason. During that time players can’t be at team facilities for more than four hours a day or more than four days a week (so a max of 16 hours per week).
• Phase III is the last four weeks of the program. For that, players can be in the building no more than six hours a day, and four days a week (a max of 24 hours a week). The one exception is the mandatory three-day minicamp, during which guys can be at work for 10 hours a day.
• New coaches get an extra two weeks—one is an extra Phase I week, the other is with an additional three-day voluntary minicamp as part of it.
Before those nine to 11 weeks, players have two and a half to three and a half months off (depending on when their team is eliminated), and then they get about six weeks off after the program is complete, ahead of training camp.
None of this is to shame anyone. The players fought to have these rules, and should be able to take advantage of them as they see fit.
Conversely, in most cases, it shouldn’t be treated like it takes an act of God to get these guys to show up in the spring. It’s their choice, and the choices they make, one way or another, can certainly affect their own fortunes, and their teams’ fortunes, when things start to count.
Which is the same as it is with anything that may be labeled as voluntary in any other line of work.
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