When last we left embedded Amtrak writer, Peter King, he was asking all the vital questions about the pig in the GEICO commercials. HOW DOES HE USE THAT PHONE WITH HIS HOOVES? It’s a good thing we have the Fourth Estate to get to the bottom of those sort of pressing matters. But what about this week? Well, he tries to inflate Mike Florio’s story about the Jim Harbaugh trade without actually knowing anything about what happened because that’s journalism for you. Oh, and Johnny Manziel gave Peter an exclusive interview. Shockingly, that helped improve PK’s impression of the kid. Incredible, I know. Now READ ON.
INDIANAPOLIS — The offseason. That’s a good one.
Good joke! Because there aren’t any games scheduled, people can be forgiven for just assuming that the most popular sports league in the country and a multi-billion dollar enterprise with a host of media that rely on it for their existence wouldn’t generate any news between February and September. Those rubes! Ha ha!
Browns chase Jim Harbaugh. Lose.
I begin my week by reading Peter King. Lose.
Michael Sam meets the press. Wins. Then he lifts weights. Loses.
Did I click on some condensed version of Peter King’s column? MMQB: JUST THE HOT TAKES. ALL ACTIONS WILL EITHER BE ASSIGNED A WIN OR A LOSS REGARDLESS OF HOW SEEMINGLY NUANCED THE SITUATION.
Johnny Manziel undergoes radical image-ectomy. Early returns: good.
It was just last summer that Peter was basically calling Manziel the next Ryan Leaf. But it’s amazing how he’s suddenly starting to look better once Dr. Peter King performs his patented image-narrative-ectomy on Johnny Football. The advanced procedure, in case you weren’t aware, is PK watching Manziel glad-hand a bunch of front office people then, more importantly, PK getting a one-on-one sitdown with the quarterback. If you give PK the interview he wants, it’s amazing how well that image-ectomy works.
Ray Rice undergoes radical image-destruction. Early returns: awful.
The worst elective surgery! Also, sad that we’ve abandoned the win-lose binary for this very complex one-word description of news events. Janary Palmer gets dragged out of an elevator: Lose.
Players might get flagged in games for using the n-word. Tremendous.
I swear the NFL did this only as a means to generate easy positive press after a few terrible weeks of the league looking like a retrograde organization full of bigots. So of course PK loves it. I’m sort of curious how much refs actually hear slurs on the field and can identify who exactly is saying it on the field. With so players mic’d up, how much is it going on? None of these things are answered or even questioned because Peter King is too busy being a cooperative cheerleader for the league. WOOOOO GOOD JOB GUISE! WE ENDED RACISM!
Though I will enjoy white referees enforcing this penalty, if they ever get a chance.
“UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT, DEFENSE, USING THAT WORD, Y’KNOW, THAT ONE. 15 YARDS. AUTOMATIC FIRST DOWN.”
The NFL scouting combine’s halfway over. Overrated (as always).
So don’t go, you fucking asshole. Your entire column this week is filled with material that you got from going to the combine, as you do every year while bitching about it. If it’s such a waste of time and resources, spare us the talk of how it’s such a huge imposition on you. Ah, but why miss out on the handful of expensed dinners?
One point before we get to my Johnny Manziel Experience and everything else: Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Friday that the Browns “nearly pulled off a trade” for boffo 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. That set the combine on its ear, and set off a flurry of denials and non-denial denials. Cleveland officials wouldn’t deny the story, lending it added credence, and then, on Sunday, owner Jimmy Haslam told USA Today, “There was an opportunity there, and it didn’t materialize.” Harbaugh denied the story, and the Niners organization mostly kept quiet except for a tweet from CEO Jed York Friday night denying the story.
Yes, the Niners kept mostly quiet except for the flat denial made by the team’s owner to the asshole media troll who swore that no one would go on the record.
That was until Sunday night, when York told me he would not rehash the entire story but did say: “The Browns reached out to me, and we had no interest in pursuing it.”
That confirms this story was more than the Browns spitballing an impossible dream, as the Harbaugh quotes and early Niners denial would make it seem.
No, actually, it doesn’t confirm anything. In fact, it supports the idea that it was just a desperation move by the Browns that the Niners didn’t give any time to. No one “nearly pulled a trade off”. An idea was floated and immediately shot down.
If I called the 49ers and asked to be their head coach and they told me to fuck off, I suppose it’s then accurate for me to say that I nearly became the head coach of the 49ers, according to the Florio/PK story manufacturing template.
But as I first heard Friday night, I don’t believe terms were discussed back and forth between the Browns and Niners. I believe that, as York said, the 49ers decided not to engage the Browns on any substantive negotiations for Harbaugh.
SO HOW THE FUCK DO IT CONFIRM FLORIO’S BULLSHIT? HOW DO YOU CONTRADICT YOURSELF IN CONSECUTIVE PARAGRAPHS?
On Friday night at the combine, the Jacksonville Jaguars had a 15-minute session with Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback. Manziel hadn’t met anyone in the room. When he walked in, all the Jaguars coaches and officials stood.
Looks like Manziel already got elected president and pope. The image-ectomy works!
Manziel wanted to address all the Johnny Nightlife questions—the ejection from the Manning Passing Academy last summer for turning up late for his job as a camp quarterback counselor, the tweeted photos at all hours at all sorts of bars. Some teams won’t like that; Houston’s buttoned-up owner, Bob McNair, certainly will frown at the prospect of having a playboy quarterback, if that’s what the owners of the top pick, the Texans, judge Manziel to be. An executive of one team who met with Manziel over the weekend said, “Has there been one killer incident for him? If there is, we haven’t found it.”
It’s almost as though not giving some stupid camp that the Mannings run his full attention doesn’t actually mean shit to teams interested in winning football games.
[Manziel and his agent, Erik Burkhardt, declined to discuss how many teams he met with this weekend or which they were, and the executive of the team I just referred to didn’t want to identify his team because it has an established quarterback and didn’t want to drum up controversy in that market.
At least this anonymous source isn’t bashing gay people? That’s progress, I guess?
On the other hand, PK basically gives Florio another half dozen speculation posts here. WHAT TEAM WITH AN ESTABLISHED QUARTERBACK IS SNIFFING AROUND MANZIEL!? OUR SOURCE SAYS THE NINERS UNTIL JED YORK APOLOGIZES!
It all seems like a smart approach. Manziel is a unique prospect who will require significant research. Even though 5-10 ½ Russell Wilson just won the Super Bowl, being 5-11 ¾ (Manziel’s height) is a detriment to being great in the NFL.
That’s just a tremendous sentence. “Even though a shorter quarterback just won the Super Bowl, being short is the kiss of death for NFL quarterbacks.”
But he’s also unique in this regard: How many prospects get less famous going from college to the NFL? Manziel might be the one.
Not unless he’s a bust. Is that what you’re trying to say is going to happen to him? Otherwise, I have no idea how a college quarterback expected to go in the top five somehow becomes less famous when he enters the NFL as a presumed starter for a team.
I met Manziel in the back of the restaurant at the Holiday Inn where the players are housed at the combine. He didn’t want to come to his agent’s place, the Omni, because he’d have been hounded by autograph seekers. It’s late at night, but he’s still on. As with what he says to the teams, he knows the words he says will be parsed and read by those who might pick him … and he’ll be damned if he’s going to have a repeat of last week, when he told the Houston Chronicle that if the Texans passed on him with the No. 1 pick, “It would be the worst decision they’ve ever made.” (Even though—funny—it’s become part of Peyton Manning folklore that Manning did precisely the same thing with the Colts in 1998 when they were choosing between him and Ryan Leaf to be the top pick in the draft. Manning said to GM Bill Polian’s face, “If you pass on me, I will come back and kick your a– for years.” So let’s go easy with the idea of Manziel’s brashness ruining his chances in Houston.)
Luckily there’s a precedence of Peyton giving a similar quote or no doubt PK kills Manziel for this.
This is what Manziel was asked, to be sure, in his meetings here. Some of them, at least. And he was prepared to answer the questions about his partying. “I’ve tried to be completely honest with the teams,” he said. “I was in college. I did some college things with my friends. I had fun, and the thing that I told some team tonight is, my Mom always told me, ‘There’s a time and a place for everything.’ There were points throughout the last year maybe I was a little bit out of that saying. I did things too much and maybe overly aggressive. At the same time, things progressed fast for me. A lot of things were thrown on my plate and pushed into my life, and I really ran with those. To get back to that saying, there’s a time and a place for everything. There’s a time to have fun, there’s a time to work.”
“Say there, football writer, I notice you happen to drink a lot. In fact, you even have a section in your weekly football column dedicated to drinking, so is it possible that you haven’t grown up and are mentally unprepared to run a stupid boutique website for a renowned media company?”
He says he doesn’t feel he’s in direct competition with Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater, though certainly he is. “I’m going to go be extremely honest with these teams, let them see a side of me that some people don’t get to see,” Manziel says. “Talk football, which is something we all love to do. And from there, it’s their decision. I’m going to put myself in the best situation possible, but at the end of the day, I can only control what I can control.”
“Manziel is trying to be mature and mentally frame the rigorous personal assessment he’s being put through in a healthy way by tuning out things he cannot control, but I’m here to tell him he’s dumb and wrong.”
Then he begins talking about Russell Wilson. Though they’re different as people, their size and competitiveness are very close.
And their charm? WHAT OF THEIR CHARM?
Manziel is not the warmest guy, nor the fuzziest.
Sounds like there was some after-dinner fun.
Nor, obviously, the tallest.
But he is the guy Nick Saban cannot solve. Manziel’s numbers in two games against Alabama: 71 points, 717 passing yards, one gigantic upset. If there’s no incident under a rock that will doom Manziel, this is all going to come down to football, and playmaking, and determination. Manziel will take his chances against anyone in those categories.
And yet you asked him nothing about football.
I’m not convinced how far down the road Cleveland really got. Did Jed York get an offer of a draft pick or picks from Cleveland for coach Jim Harbaugh, mull it over, talk to his inner circle and decide not to accept it? Did he ask Harbaugh if this was something he really wanted? Or did York simply decide, “We’re not trading our coach?” We might never know, though my guess is the only way York would have agreed to consider a deal is if Harbaugh told him flatly he wanted to take the Cleveland job. But what would trouble me about the story is how far down the road it got.
WHICH YOU DON’T FUCKING KNOW. THIS IS ALL SPECULATION. HOW DOES THIS MOTHERFUCKER WIN SPORTSWRITER AWARDS!?
Harbaugh clearly hasn’t gotten the money he thinks he deserves for leading the Niners to three straight playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl—for making the Niners a star franchise again. He’s entering year four of a five-year deal, which pays him $5 million a year. The Niners and Harbaugh have tried to do an extension but failed. And now you have to think his future beyond this year is murky at best. The Niners are unlikely to break the bank for a coach who hasn’t won a Super Bowl, and even if they win the Super Bowl next season and make Harbaugh an $8-million-a-year coach, is there any guarantee he’ll be happy with that contract for an extended period? The one thing the Pro Football Talk report leaves in its wake is the impression this story, and Harbaugh’s wanderlust, is not over.
The only thing this story proves is that Florio and PK have no shame about tag teaming a half-formed nugget and trying to turn it into a huge story solely through conjecture.
Not only do you not know how far the negotiations went, but you’re projecting Jim Harbaugh’s feelings a year from now with the hypothetical that he has a Super Bowl title and a new contract. This isn’t journalism. This might as well be NFL front office fan fic.
Greg Schiano is here, meeting with some of his friends in the coaching business, trying to figure out his next move
I’d go to Indy just to follow him around with a boombox playing the Charlie Brown Christmas music.
Quotes of the Week
“I think it’s widely known that every locker room has a number of gay individuals. Quite honestly, it speaks to the evolution of acceptance in our society. I really believe the NFL is quite evolved. It continues to be very progressive and out on the front end of the curve in many ways.”
—Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff
I did not know that.
Tell that to the denizens of Nuke Island.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
I am on record as being opposed to the absurdity of having the NFL draft in May.
Oooh, on the record. That’s when whining is official.
Teams do not need 95 days after the Super Bowl to scout the players they’ve already been scouting through an entire college football season. But you can’t fight city hall. The NFL buys two more weeks of free hype by pushing back the combine, and the draft now fills some of the spring dead time that the NFL wants to control on the sporting calendar. As it is now, there’s the Super Bowl … and the combine three weeks later … and the start of free agency two weeks after that … and then three weeks of heavy free agency coverage at the same time as pro days at colleges coast to coast … and then six weeks of draft hype … and then the draft … and then offseason workout camps for much of May and early June. Good deal for the NFL. There’s only a month of down time on the calendar—approximately June 20 to July 20.
But I digress. Here’s the Factoid:
Factoid of the Week: Peter King uses 200 words to introduce his Factoid of the Week.
The Buffalo Bills are doing something very nice, and smart, for their scouts and officials who work the draft: They’re giving them Easter week (the week before April 20) off. “We want our guys to be fresh,” GM Doug Whaley told me. “There’s only so long you can study guys.”
That’s how Peter defends his bellyaching about the draft – which is really about him not being able to fuck off and start focusing on minor league baseball until May – by making it seem like he really gives a shit about team staff. “OH THOSE POOR SCOUTS. HOW WILL THEY GET A CHANCE TO SEE THE RIVER CATS PLAY A LATE APRIL DOUBLEHEADER WITH THIS DRAFT MADNESS!?”
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Checking in at the downtown Marriott the other day for the combine, and a woman next to me was doing the same with another front-desk person. She asked the woman checking her in: “What is the scouting combine?” The Marriott attendant said it was the NFL bringing college players in for workouts and interviews with teams, and it comes to Indianapolis every February.
“I don’t get the name,” the Marriott guest said. “The combine … it’s a combination of something?”
Yes. Fat old slobbering asswipes and smokescreens.
Tweets of the Week
—@TonyGrossi of ESPNCleveland, after vaunted Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash and limped off Sunday, saying he strained a hamstring.
More like CarLOL Hyde! Ha, epic burn, bros! Up top!
“Ha Ha Clinton Dix just said the worst thing about his nickname is ‘the whole Clinton/Lewinsky’ thing.’
—@NFLCharean, Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, reporting from the combine about the Alabama safety prospect.
He should stop wearing blue dresses, then.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think the difference between this year and many recent ones is that we know which players to place at the top of the draft, but we have no idea whom to match where. I’ll take this shot at the top 10, though the Rams certainly will have a chance to trade the second pick, and will be very interested in doing so:
Houston: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida.
St. Louis: Greg Robinson, T, Auburn.
Jacksonville: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina.
Cleveland: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville.
Oakland: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M.
Atlanta: Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M.
Tampa Bay: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo.
Minnesota: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA.
Buffalo: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson.
Detroit: Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan.
I hate mock drafts but I’ll hang onto this just to laugh about how wrong PK is later. Also, the idea of the Texans being dumb enough to take Bortles no. 1 amuses me.
3. I think this was the line of the weekend, from one GM to me when I asked about the value he got from his six days in Indianapolis: “I look at it as the combine and the ‘con-bine.’ So many agents are telling you what your players are worth, and what their players are worth.”
More like comb-ine as you gotta comb through acres of Peter King bullshit and still find nothing of use.
8. I think this is all I could think to say when I ran into Rob Chudzinski quite late Saturday night here at the combine: “Whoa! Rob! How the heck are you doing?” Or words close to that.
Chudzinski, now a Colts offensive assistant, has been invisible to the public since suffering the most ignominious job fate in recent NFL history—he learned he likely was getting whacked after 50 weeks as Browns head coach (his dream job) while on a bus ride back from Pittsburgh after the final game of his rookie season. It was just a sight I didn’t expect to see, sitting there having a drink with good friend Terry Robiskie at the JW Marriott. We spoke for a few minutes, and all I can say is this: In words and facial expression, he is not over the Cleveland nightmare.
Wow, you find a Colts coach hanging around in Indy. WEIRD!
Also, how’s about actually publishing what he had to say about the Cleveland firing? Facial expression journalism is what wins awards, apparently.
9. I think the league’s a more fun place with Mike Tice in it.
NFL really dropping the ball by not putting Mike Tice front and center in all promotional campaigns.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
c. Saw 12 Years a Slave. Then I cried for 12 years.
There aren’t enough dismissive hand wank GIFs on the Internet for that one.
d. Tremendous movie. Riveting, painful, memorable. I haven’t seen all the Best Picture nominees, but it will take an epic film to beat that one in the Oscars for me.
Yes, it’s a shame you’re not an Academy voter because I could really use another 800 words about how you allowed yourself to be convinced to come around on Captain Phillips. SUCH GRITTY BAHHSTON LEADERSHIP! QUASI-EDELMAN-ESQUE!
e. Really liked the Kerrigan/Harding show Sunday night on NBC. I’d forgotten how nutty the whole thing was.
Really? Because you told your readers to Google (or BING!) the incident a couple months ago like they’re a bunch of idiots.
f. Coffeenerdness: Patachou, the great breakfast spot and NFL personnel hangout in downtown Indy, could use one darker roast coffee, but the Simon Blend, with a medium bite, is so much better than coffee you get in restaurants almost anywhere.
Note to self: travel to Indy early next February before the combine starts and make sure to piss in all the coffee makers in Patachou.
g. Beernerdness: Two selections from a weekend of fine beer-drinking in the fine city of Indianapolis. One: Osiris Pale Ale, by Sun King Brewing of Indianapolis. A delicious and perfectly hoppy pale ale served in a tall can. That beer needs to get to New York, and fast. Two: Rail Splitter IPA, of Triton Brewing, also of Indy. (Great craft beer town by the way. I’d be hospitalized if I tried them all.) Not many IPAs give off a citrus scent, but this one does. I really liked it.
No way Peter didn’t show up drunk for Manziel interview.
“Say, kid, what do you have to say about your out of control [hicc] partying ways.”
/chugs entire bottle before Manziel can respond
h. One last Indy reference: I strongly recommend a pizza shop there, Napolese Pizzeria, downtown. The crust is a bit thicker than my wafer-thin crust preference, but the taste of the crust, and the fresh ingredients, make it a great meal. Looking forward to going there in the summer, because locally grown stuff will make up all the salads and pizza ingredients then. Very good wine list too.
So is the combine overrated because it interferes with your non-stop drinking and eating for a few hours?
i. You tell ’em, Bob Costas. Of the home country’s government as the Sochi Olympics wound down, Costas said: “This is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria—and that’s just a partial list.”
Will you cry for another 12 years or did you double down on the tears already going? The Russians must know that you give their plight a passing mention before downing another sixer.
j. Pleasure to see you and spend time with you at the combine, Matthew Berry.
k. Speaking of Mr. Berry, I am 15 days out from my Rotisserie League draft, and I
l. We keep three players in our league. Mine: Dustin Pedroia, Jay Bruce, Ian Desmond. Had Ellsbury, but didn’t protect him as one of my three keepers. Because, well, you know.
‘CAUSE HE STABBED GRIT SAXW NATION IN THE HAHHHHHHT WHEN HE WENT TO THE FACKIN YANKEES! WE WILL NEVAH FAHGIVE HIM AND WE WILL SHOW IT IN DEEP MEANINGFUL WAYS LIKE KICKING HIM AWK OWWWW-AH FANTASY TEAMS! ONLY THEN WILL HE KNOW HIS TREACH-AH-REE!
The Adieu Haiku
Indy in winter.
Autograph guys chase Manziel.
But they don’t catch him.
Ryan Leaf Part Two
That’s what PK called Manziel
Say it to his face
I want more like this!
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