Monthly Archives: October 2016

Deadspin parsed online NFL draft scouting reports

“‘Grit’ is a catch-all term for any baseball action writers deem ‘hard-nosed,’ or physical, or dogged,” Schur observed in an email. “Grit is crashing into walls, sliding hard, hustling on an infield grounder, diving for a line drive. Grit is Aaron Rowand breaking his nose on the wall, or Dustin Pedroia’s always-dirty uniform, or Paul O’Neill smashing a water cooler after a strikeout. Which reminds me — grit is also nearly always a term used to describe white players.”

In 2014, Deadspin parsed online NFL draft scouting reports, allowing readers to look up how frequently different terms were applied to white and black prospects. “Grit” or “gritty” appears nearly twice as frequently in scouting reports for white players (1.9 times per 10,000 words) as black players (1.1 per 10,000).

In the NBA, there may not always be the same element of racial coding. After all, African-American Tony Allen coined the “grit ‘n’ grind” moniker that has come to define the Grizzlies’ run of contention in the Western Conference, as well as their relationship with a diverse Memphis fan base. Still, even “grit ‘n’ grind” reinforces the notion that grit is the domain of less-talented athletes.

“I think Steph is gritty,” Redick concurs. “I would put him in that category. As many superlatives as you can talk about with him, he’s definitely gritty.”

Rene Van Hulle is 88 years old, in hospice, and watching the Cubs play in their third World Series of his lifetime. Courtesy of Wright Thompson
Rene grew up on the corner of Racine and Waveland, a block from the ballpark. His dad was a janitor, and he became one, too. As a boy, he’d climb the fence and sneak into Wrigley Field. He spent four years in the Navy, repairing submarines; she waited three years, 11 months and 26 days for him to do his time and come home to get married. During that time apart, he’d mail her Easter corsages to match her outfit. The boy she met all those years ago is still in there; he loves roller coasters, stamp collecting and Wile E. Coyote. Sometimes he still holds a book above his head, with his arms locked, a kind of muscle memory from laying on his back with a wrench. Tonight, he’s wearing a T-shirt from his ship, the USS Orion. There’s a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label in the other room.

Theo Epstein walks to and from Wrigley, eats lunch in the empty bleachers and wants Chicago to see the ivy turn red in October. The Cubs president may be nearing middle age, but his love of the game is shining through more than ever.

Welcome to Game 3 of the World Series, to be played for the first time in 71 years in the shadow of the reddening ivy in the Friendly Confines.
“If we win,” his daughter Christine says, “we’ll have a shot out of your bottle.”

“We’ll do that,” he says.

He closes his eyes for the national anthem, gripping the oxygen tubes with both hands, tapping his left foot, mouthing the words. Soon he’s tapping both feet. When he nods off a few minutes later, his daughter touches his knee gently. He wakes up as the game begins, and everyone is telling stories, about the trouble the girls got into and about how Rene sent great gifts home to Helene while they were dating — the key piece of his strategy to win her over.

“It’s still working,” she says, smiling. “I still love him.”

The Onside Kick Family Hour: Everyone’s on the PUP list and the Jets should’ve given Geno Smith a chance

Howdy friends. Pull up a stool, a stump, a stone or some other kind of sitting device and get your volume adjusted for this week’s edition of the Onside Kick Family Hour. As usual, Stephen White and myself have a great show on tap for y’all, so get ready for some football talk with your old friends, no, your football family.

This week on the show we’re talking …

My favorite Denver Broncos player is Jordan “Sunshine” Taylor.

You might be asking yourself, “Who is Jordan Taylor?” (other than the guy with the most beautiful hair in the NFL, that is). Okay, you are almost certainly asking yourself that question. Well, please allow me to introduce you to Jordan Taylor.

The Broncos certainly recognize Taylor’s full potential.

The Giants responded almost immediately, and okay, fine, Giants. We know there’s only one Odell Beckham Jr.

But he’s no Jordan Taylor. And I’m not the only one who’s a huge Jordan Taylor fan. Mark Sanchez, who threw the pass Taylor hauled in seemingly effortlessly with one hand, was pretty impressed also.

How could anyone not be impressed by that catch? Look at this. Taylor’s using every inch of his 6’5 frame to leap up and pull in this ball with just one hand. It’s incredible.

And it seems Turner has made some of the same off-color “jokes” about the principles of line play at clinics similar to the one run by Texas A&M this week, with Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News reporting Turner had worked in the same vein during a previous stint at Texas A&M that ran from 2008 to 2011.

Debi Fincher, a Wheelock resident, said she attended the event in previous years and saw Turner’s presentation during his first stint in College Station. The past president of the Brazos County Aggie Moms’ Club said Turner’s presentation was very similar to a prior one and drew laughs from older women and didn’t cause a stir that evening.
“It’s never been an issue,” Fincher said. “I was surprised at the backlash.”
The proportion of fans in attendance to the greater college football community genuinely dismayed by the presentation by Turner — and any attendant comments from similarly suspended tight ends coach Jeff Banks — will likely become a sticking point for many fans on social media as this story develops.

But A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin — and, by extension, new Aggies athletic director Scott Woodward — took great pains to say in their Friday statement that Turner’s conduct was antithetical to what the school and its program want to be.

Sumlin hired Turner earlier this year, well after he was fired for similar issues in Miami. A&M was apparently okay with this specific sort of sexually suggestive humor from him at a women’s clinic within the last decade. Perhaps it was really just public knowledge that A&M truly wanted to avoid.

Goff taking first-team reps, ‘ready to go’ if called upon

The Jared Goff watch is in full bloom in Los Angeles.

One week after NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reported that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft would begin seeing increased practice reps, the Los Angeles Rams provided a strong hint that Goff will soon displace Case Keenum in the starting lineup.

Goff took first-team practice reps in the Rams’ final practice of the bye week Wednesday, per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.

“I feel tremendously more comfortable than I’ve ever felt,” Goff said, via Klein. “I feel confident that if my number’s called, I’ll be ready to go.”

Coach Jeff Fisher was content to stick with Keenum when he was averaging a surprisingly effective 9.2 yards yard per attempt over a three-week stretch entering the Week 7 London showcase.

While the coaching staff has made it a point to get Devontae Booker more involved in the offense, the plan was for the rookie to work in tandem with the veteran, keeping a fresh back in the game at all times. Booker’s 4.8 yards per carry leads the team, but he can’t replicate Anderson’s prowess in pass protection or route running.

Expect Booker to start this week’s AFC West showdown versus the San Diego Chargers, with third-year pro Kapri Bibbs in a supporting role.

Josh McCown is on track to return from a collarbone injury that kept him out the past five weeks.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.

McCown told reporters he was “moving in the right direction” to be able to play Sunday versus the New York Jets. Browns coach Hue Jackson didn’t announce a starter Wednesday.

Appearing on Wednesday’s edition of Up to the Minute Live, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that there are no Jeffery trade talks between the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

Colts add Antonio Cromartie to secondary with 1-year deal

The next stop for cornerback Antonio Cromartie will be with the Indianapolis Colts. The veteran cornerback worked out for the Colts on Monday and the team announced a one-year deal later in the day.

Cromartie, who turned 32 in April, is set to enter his 11th season in the NFL and has been a durable and full-time starter for almost all of it. A first-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Cromartie didn’t take over as a starter until his second season with the San Diego Chargers, but made a Pro Bowl despite starting only half of the team’s games.

Multiple teams were reportedly eyeing Josh Gordon for a trade. It apparently was shot down pretty fast, particularly from head coach Hue Jackson who understands the value of a wide receiver like Gordon.

CLOWNEY COMIN’! Jadeveon Clowney is mauling guys and looks like a No. 1 pick. The Texans’ defensive end is doing some damage out there against the Saints.

SECOND COMING: Don’t get carried away by the Dak Prescott hype train just yet. It has been an amazing start for the Cowboys rookie, but try to remember that it is just a start.

DR. FEELGOOD: Shad Khan is lip syncing to Motley Crue in this NFL commercial.

EAGLES SIGN TULLOCH: Stephen Tulloch, Eagles agree to terms on contract. The Birds have a new linebacker.

PATRIOT CASUALTIES: Dion Lewis needs another knee surgery. The Patriots running back reportedly had a complication from his ACL surgery and needs a follow-up procedure. There’s no timetable for his return. Sebastian Vollmer is headed for the injured reserve with an undisclosed injury. Right guard Shaq Mason has a broken hand.

PRESEASON ACTION: The 49ers and Broncos fumbled 3 times in less than a minute. Mark Sanchez and Mike Davis collectively fumbled three times to end the first half.

It might be awhile before we see Rob Gronkowski on the field

DA GRONK: Rob Gronkowski could miss a few more weeks. Adam Schefter thinks it could be awhile before we see Gronk on the field. That means we might only see Gronk on daily fantasy commercials for a week or two. Noooooooooooo!

CAN’T MISS PICKS: Expert picks for Week 2: Can the Cardinals and Cowboys get their first wins? Our panel of experts is unanimous in its faith that the Cardinals will get back in the win column this week. They’re more divided over the Cowboys and a few others.

PLACE YOUR BETS: Odds and lines for Week 2: Steelers, Patriots home betting favorites vs. rivals. The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots both host division rivals as betting favorites on the Week 2 NFL card at the sportsbooks.

TOP ROOKIES: Carson Wentz leads Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 10 rookies this week. I didn’t see Jared Goff’s name on this list, hmmmmm.

Last year, Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams was fined for wearing “Fine the Cure” eye black for breast cancer, Steelers cornerback William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats for domestic violence awareness and Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward was fined for wearing eye black to pay tribute to his father, who died of bone cancer.

Given the NFL’s history of inflexibility, the players wearing the cleats on Sunday all seemed fully aware of the fact that it could cost them:

Colts punter, Pat McAfee’s cleats today. He told me “I know I’m gonna get fined and I don’t care!Worth every penny!”

— Ian Fitzsimmons (@Ianfitzespn) September 11, 2016
The NFL’s full rules for shoes under the uniform policy mandate that “each team must designate a dominant base color for its shoes, either black or white (with shoelace color conforming to the dominant base color of the tongue area of the shoe).”

The NFL is expected to ease up on its rigid rules governing shoes, at least to an extent, during Week 13 of the 2016 season, according to Jonathan Jones of Sports Illustrated. Players will be permitted to show support for a charity or a cause on their cleats. The catch is that the league has to approve the charity or cause, and the cleats have to be auctioned off after use, with all of the proceeds going directly to that charity.

Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin demands national review of police training and policies

In the wake of two more officer-involved shootings of black men in Tulsa and Charlotte this week, Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin used his time at the podium to issue a call to action to attorneys general from all 50 states.

“As an American black male in this country, I’m suggesting calling — I’m demanding — that all 50 state attorney generals call for a review of their policies and training policies for police and law enforcement,” Baldwin said, “to eliminate militaristic cultures while putting a higher emphasis on de-escalation tactics and crisis-management measures.”

Baldwin pointed to the tragic shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland in 2014 as an example.

VIKINGS WITHOUT PETERSON: Adrian Peterson will likely be out months with torn meniscus. The Vikings will turn to Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata to carry their running game now. How much will the Vikings offense change without Adrian Peterson? Don’t think just because Peterson is out that defenses will start leaving six or seven players in the box.

FACTORY OF SADNESS: Corey Coleman suffers broken hand during practice. Just when you think things couldn’t get worse for the Browns, they do. Terrelle Pryor is willing to cut off a finger or die on the field to get the Browns a win. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that because the Browns can’t really afford any more injuries!

JUSTICE SERVED: Rams must provide season tickets or refunds on deposits for St. Louis PSLs, judge rules. A little bit of justice for St. Louis fans.

WHAT YOU SHOULD PANIC ABOUT THIS WEEK: NFL panic index, Week 3: Remember when the Packers were good? The Packers are struggling, the Browns have yet another starting QB, the Seahawks can’t beat the Rams … these are things that NFL fans are panicking about this week. We’re going to tell you whether it’s justified.

MARSHAWN SPEAKS: Marshawn Lynch would rather see Colin Kaepernick kneel than “stand up, put his hands up, and get murdered.” Lynch was candid about his support for Kaepernick while speaking with Conan O’Brien on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON TROUBLES: Kirk Cousins could be playing his way out of a future in Washington. After two games, Cousins has a long way to go to live up to expectations from 2015.

REMATCH: Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. are suddenly playing nice after months of trash talk. The two players seem to have a subdued attitude heading into Sunday’s rematch.

Bench Ryan Fitzpatrick? It doesn’t matter — Jets are a mess

The New York Jets don’t have a Ryan Fitzpatrick problem. They have an everything problem, but all eyes will be on Todd Bowles to see how he handles his quarterback situation in the coming weeks. For now, he’s sticking with Fitzpatrick. The coach made that clear Monday night after an ugly 28-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

“Fitz will be back next week,” said Bowles, claiming his decision to insert Geno Smith in the fourth quarter was strictly a mop-up move.

Fitzpatrick doesn’t deserve another shot based on his recent performances, but it’s the right call. Give him one last chance. The season is over, so what difference does it make? It’s too soon to play the kids, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, so let Fitzpatrick start against the Baltimore Ravens on a short leash.

“It definitely wasn’t Fitz’s fault,” Bowles said.

The Jets, losers of four straight, have become a dumpster fire. They’ve been outscored 110-36 in the past four games, having managed only three touchdowns in that span — and one of them was a fluke fumble recovery. They were an absolute mess in this game, committing 10 penalties and managing only two of 13 third-down conversions.

Bold words, indeed.

Second, as I’ve written before, penalty frequency can vary widely among NFL officiating crews. As it turns out, the Jets and Cardinals drew the league’s most flag-happy crew Monday night. Referee Jerome Boger entered Monday night leading the NFL in penalties per game, at 20.2. Let’s just say he matched his profile.

As the ESPN Stats & Information chart shows, there is a 70 percent disparity between the most and least frequent flag-throwers in the NFL. Referee Walt Coleman’s crew currently calls the fewest, at 12.2 per game.

At the top, understand that Romo has never been a great quarterback. People throw around that word — great — way too easily now. He has been a good-to-very-good quarterback for a long time, this much is true.

But he has never carried his team to a Super Bowl, never mind to a Super Bowl victory, and he has won only two playoff games since taking the job a decade ago. Two. That number is great only in Romo’s second-favorite sport, golf, when trying to navigate a perilous par-3.

In other words, Romo hasn’t earned untouchable status. He doesn’t deserve to be treated as though he’s Tom Brady, whose 22 postseason victories and four rings rightfully indemnified him against the possibility that Jimmy Garoppolo might go on the kind of ungodly tear during Brady’s suspension that inspired fans and commentators to start asking questions.