1. I think not only does Detroit deserve nothing but immense credit this morning for a season like none other, but when the pain goes away, the city and the franchise and the players will realize what a great run these Lions had—and, especially, how this team so often imposed its will on excellent teams. I am thinking of the first half in the title game, especially. That offensive line, with the massive Penei Sewell in motion across the formation, for goodness sake, mashed the Niners with 148 rushing yards at 7 yards a clip. So, so much to build on for this young, energetic and innovative team.
2. I think I have a quibble with the NFL’s policy on rewarding teams for developing minority coaches and GMs. As it stands now, teams that lose a minority coach or GM get two third-round Compensatory Picks in return. So, the Bucs are rewarded with picks at the end of Round 3 in the 2024 and 2025 drafts. I like the concept of this, but what I don’t like is this: Dave Canales has worked in the NFL for 14 seasons. The first 13 came in Seattle, working under Pete Carroll as wide-receiver coach, quarterback coach and passing-game coordinator. The last one came in Tampa Bay, working as offensive coordinator. It’s simply not equitable to award two third-round picks for the development of Canales to the place where he worked for one year, and none to the place where he worked for his entire previous NFL life of 13 years. The league needs to fix that somehow, to make it more equitable.
3. I think Buffalo GM Brandon Beane has some big decisions to make, maybe none bigger than what to do with Stefon Diggs. Diggs is 30. He’s due for a cap number of $27.9 million next year, which, for a player who didn’t have a 100-yard receiving day in the Bills’ last 13 games, is quite excessive. In fact, in the last 10 weeks of the season, Khalil Shakir had more receiving yards and touchdowns than Diggs—and it was Shakir who Josh Allen targeted on the biggest play of the season, Allen’s overthrow of him in the end zone near the end of the Kansas City playoff game. I expect the Bills to want to do major surgery on Diggs’ deal, and I expect Diggs to not be happy about it.
4. I think the one interesting thing about the coordinator searches you’re seeing happen now is that sometimes the best candidates have roadblocks put in their way. Some of these coaches could take interviews, but they don’t, because they fear the damage to their relationship with their existing head coach. Some are told by coaches they know that the head man’s not going to let them leave. Actually, the head man can’t stand in the way of a position coach interviewing for a coordinator job. But unless the assistant coach is fairly sure he’ll get the coordinator gig elsewhere, sometimes he’ll turn down the chance to interview. You might ask, why? It’s because the assistant who eschews the chance to move wants to show loyalty and hopes it could result in a promotion or raise, or both.
5. I think condolences are due for Boston Herald Patriots beat writer Doug Kyed and his wife, Jen, on the death of their 2-year-old daughter, Hallie. Hallie died of Leukemia last week, with her parents holding her hand as she passed. It’s unimaginable what the family must be going through. Please join me in sending love to the Kyeds. The family requests donations to the Boston-based cancer charity, the Jimmy Fund.
6. I think it’s such a punch in the gut, reading those stories about Hallie. Hard to know what to say, other than I’m so, so sorry.
7. I think, for those (and I’ve seen some re-writers of recent Patriots draft history claiming Bill Belichick’s recent drafts weren’t so bad), I’ll remind you of his first-round picks in the last 10 drafts, keeping in mind the Pats didn’t have a first-rounder in 2016, 2017 and 2020:
- 2014: DT Dominique Easley. Three starts, three sacks before being cut loose after two seasons.
- 2015: DT Malcom Brown. Marginal starter for four years. Never ranked among top 25 defensive tackles by PFF.
- 2018: OL Isaiah Wynn. Forty starts in five years. Average starter at best.
- 2019: WR N’Keal Harry. Three years, 57 catches for New England before being traded to Chicago for a seventh-round pick.
- 2021: QB Mac Jones. Nice rookie year, shaky second year, disastrous third year. Pats likely looking to replace him in 2024 draft.
- 2022: G Cole Strange. Ranked 35th and 50th among guards by PFF in his two seasons (minimum 300 snaps). Teams were stunned the Pats picked him in first round.
- 2023: CB Christian Gonzalez. Off to strong start as rookie before suffering torn labrum in fourth game and missing remainder of season.
8. I think I’m dying to hear a real answer—not that it’s wrong—from Arthur Blank on why he chose Raheem Morris over the field, including Bill Belichick, after interviewing Belichick twice. There’s a story here.
King: Morris is ‘definition of a leader of men’
Mike Florio and Peter King unpack the news Raheem Morris has been hired as the Falcons head coach and analyze what makes him so influential with players.
9. I think I loved this story by Richard Deitsch of The Athletic on how stat crews for NFL telecasts do their jobs. There’s good play-by-play of how the sausage gets made, resulting in the graphics you see on your TV screen during the game—in this case from the CBS crew at the Kansas City-Buffalo game. Such as this, from the meetings leading up to the game: “One graphic that had everyone excited showed the most playoff wins by a quarterback-coach duo, which included Tom Brady and Bill Belichick (30), Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll (14) and Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes (now 13). It never made air on Sunday … Maybe 15 percent of all the graphics created in a given week will make the broadcast. [CBS broadcast associate Brooke] Weiss said the best stuff often gets made on the fly during games.” Learned a lot from this.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. I thought I did the dumbest thing in the entertainment sphere this season by projecting the Bucs to be the 31st team in the NFL. Then the Oscar nominations came out.
b. No Best Actress nod among the five picks for Margot Robbie. No Best Director nom for Greta Gerwig. A Best Actor nom for Ryan Gosling. I mean, who watched that movie and thought Gosling was more deserving than Robbie?
c. Want to own Christian McCaffrey’s estate on Lake Norman outside of Charlotte? It’s yours, for the tidy sum of $12.5 million. Cool story on McCaffrey selling the place in the Wall Street Journal.
d. McCaffrey had this 12,000-square-foot pad, plus a Charlotte condo he’s already sold. Sounds like he’ll miss them, from what he told Libertina Brandt of the Journal: “It pains me letting them go, but that’s life, I guess,” he said.
e. When we talk about the great announcer pairings in TV sports, we should talk about Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who combine to do figure skating for NBC. My wife and I watched the women’s short program Thursday night, and Lipinski and Weir are quick with criticism, praise and cogent analysis. About one of the skaters looking powerful and athletic, Weir said: “Starr Andrews out there looking like every superhero I ever wanted to be.” Really fun to listen to.
f. Kudos to Baseball Hall of Fame Class of Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton and Joe Mauer. (Well played, Mauer.) I have a factoid I’d like to share. On Sept. 10, 1994, the Tennessee football team played Georgia on a lovely 82-degree evening in Athens. The dueling quarterbacks that night: Todd Helton for Tennessee, Eric Zeier for Georgia. The notable backup for the Vols: true freshman Peyton Manning. Helton passed and ran for 147 yards in a 41-23 Tennessee victory, including a 9-yard TD pass to future second-round NFL pick Joey Kent. For Georgia, Hines Ward and Terrell Davis combined for 58 scrimmage yards. Two weeks later, Helton got hurt, and Manning Wally Pip’d him, remaining the starter for the last three-and-a-half years of his college career.
g. In the words of Paul Harvey … and now you know the rest of the story.
h. Do you even have a conscience, Vince McMahon?
i. I didn’t think so.
j. Cool Story of the Week: Steve Christie, the former Bills and Bucs kicker, made the Wall Street Journal the other day.
k. A.J. Baime of the newspaper found Christie and wife Kelly and dog Madigan living the fun life, traveling the country in their 2015 Jeep Wrangler with a lime green VW trailer, with a hand-held outdoor shower and appliances that make the road life comfy.
l. Per Baime, Kelly Christie did the leg work to find the van.
KELLY CHRISTIE: I Googled “VW Westfalia” and “camper van.” I found Dub Box USA, a company building trailers modeled on VW vans, outside Portland, Ore. You could customize the color and some other things. We bought our trailer and they shipped it to us, delivering it at a friend’s warehouse in St. Petersburg, Fla. We “dubbed” the Dub Box the “Green Machine,” because it’s one of those bright green, vintage colors, and it looks like The Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo.
We have been taking the Green Machine to music festivals all over Florida for 10 years. We also towed it from Florida all the way to Canada, to Prince Edward Island. We saw Dead & Company in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. We stayed in Acadia National Park in Maine, went to Bar Harbor and hiked Cadillac Mountain. We went to the Glenora Distillery on Cape Breton Island in Canada.
m. Fun to see the Christies, with the means to take control of their own lives, live it exactly the way they want.
n. Enlightening But Sad Story of the Week: Jon Kamp of the Wall Street Journal with a tale that emphasizes the need to address mental-health issues: “She talked like a millionaire, slept in a parking garage and fooled nearly everybody:”
o. Amazing and frightening, the power of lie after lie after lie by a person who just couldn’t stop doing it, who could not confront the reality of life.
p. Wrote Kamp:
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.—University of Florida officials went back and forth with documentary filmmaker Jo Franklin over details for a planned gala in Franklin’s honor at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Franklin had pledged $2 million to her alma mater, and requested her guest list for the party include the entire staff of the PBS NewsHour. A day before the gala, school officials learned her seven-figure check had bounced. They boarded their flight to Washington, hoping to straighten everything out. The next day, they found out Franklin hadn’t arrived at the Four Seasons, and the credit card number she gave the hotel wasn’t working. A person who identified as Franklin’s assistant emailed to say Franklin had broken her foot and couldn’t make it to Washington. University workers began phoning guests to say the gala was canceled.
The school’s esteemed graduate, once a journalist and documentary filmmaker specializing in the Middle East, emerged as a troubled and gifted fabulist. The $2 million gift was an illusion, one in a yearslong string of fantasies concocted by Franklin, who tumbled from a life of apparent success to homelessness. For years, she persuaded many around her that she was living the high life. Her family knew better.
“She is very ill and we need to have her put into a medical treatment facility of some type before she harms other people and herself,” her younger brother, George Franklin, wrote to family members days after they learned of the 2014 gala fiasco.
In the years that followed, Franklin sometimes spent nights in a South Florida hotel parking garage. She was arrested a few times, once for allegedly stealing $11.98 worth of wine.
q. So, I’ve had a cough since late November. Nothing else but a cough. Tested negative for COVID three times. No fever. Just these annoying coughing jags, particularly at night, which has hijacked my sleep, obviously. Had a chest X-ray, which showed no spots or any sign of pneumonia. I simply have a cough. When you travel a lot—which I’ve done for football and for the holidays, in and out of airports and packed planes—you’re exposed to viruses and bugs. And there are some that lead to long periods of coughing. I’m on an inhaler and am using a spirometer, a sort of exerciser for lung function.
r. My wife, who is the best wife in the world, has been Googling things for me, trying to get to the bottom of this. And she found this story by Teddy Amenabar of the Washington Post:
s. Wrote Amenabar:
Michael Stephen, a pulmonary physician at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, said his practice “has basically been taken over” by patients who have persistent coughs.
“It’s basically hijacked my whole practice,” said Stephen, who’s also the author of “Breath Taking: The Power, Fragility and Future of Our Extraordinary Lungs.” Stephen said his patients have been coughing for one or two months at a time, which can strain chest muscles.
“It’s beating them up,” he said. “These people are coming in with baggy eyes, not sleeping and pulled muscles. By the time they get to me, they’re not doing well.”
t. Amenabar talked to several doctors who don’t seem to think this is particularly serious, and, as one said, it’s mostly because we’re paying more attention to any persistent cough because of a fear of COVID or RSV. I’m dubious. Never have I had a cough for nine weeks. Anyway, we soldier on.
u. Want to feel old? Andre Reed turns 60 today.
v. Want to feel older? Bill Parcells’ third-down back, Tony Galbreath, turns 70 today.
w. Want to feel oldest? Wednesday is Nolan Ryan’s 77th birthday.
x. RIP, Melanie. “Brand New Key” got stuck in America’s head for weeks in the winter of 1971-72, my ninth-grade year at John F. Kennedy Junior High in Enfield, Conn. Now it will get stuck in yours:
y. Melanie said she wrote it after coming off a fast and then binging at McDonald’s. How very ‘70s.