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Thoughts and Jots: From Deshaun Watson to the USFL to Stephen A.

Things on the mind

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has designed each calendar month to have some sort of epic event. May-June must have been labeled as Deshaun Watson’s life.

But there are other things in the world of pro football that are going on. Which gets me to thinking.

1. Did you catch Stephen A. Smith talking about the Rams could one of the greatest teams ever? Then the subject was switched to the 1962 Green Bay Packers that went 13-1 which featured five future Hall of Fame defensive players. The Pack won yet another NFL title that year, their first under head coach Vince Lombardi. Stephen A. was not impressed. “I wasn’t even born then” was his take. Really? That is what makes teams great or not, is if you remember them? Geez.

The 1942 Chicago Bears went 11-0 during the regular season and only allowed 84 points all year. Eight games their opponents scored seven or fewer points which includes four shutouts. They lost in the NFL Championship Game 14-6. The 1948 Cleveland Browns went 14-0-0. Have to mention Miami’s 17-0-0 season in 1972.

One of the greatest ever rosters was the 1950 Cleveland Browns. This was their first season in the NFL after winning all four years of the AAFC. The shtick was that the Browns could certainly dominate a “minor league” but would be bullied when faced with the big boys. Instead, they went 5-0 in the preseason, then their first game was an encounter with the reigning NFL champs, the Eagles. That game was a set-up to convince everyone right out of the gate that Cleveland were just posers and wasn’t so great. The Browns won convincingly 35-10. They finished 10-2, both losses to their division foe Giants who also finished 10-2. In the American Conference one-game playoff, Cleveland barely beat the Giants 8-3. This placed them in the NFL Championship Game against the Rams who had scored a whooping 466 points This was a 38.8 per game average which was unheard of back then and 100 total offensive points higher than the next club. Cleveland won the title by a score of 30-28. This made five league championships in a row, and solidified the Browns as a major league team. Too bad Stephen A. missed it.

2. The USFL keeps plugging along. I suppose when all of their clubs go home and play in their own stadiums that fans will begin to trickle in. Right now, the only real crowds is when Birmingham plays which is currently undefeated. The television audience has steadily declined as well as much as 57%. And the hometown Stallions seem to be getting the best game days and time slots, such as Saturday nights. Right now the main competition is the NBA playoffs, but there is also PGA tournaments, pro baseball, NHL playoffs, Premiere League games on NBC, and the auto racing circuits are just revving up. Birmingham even has a AA baseball team to compete with. We’ll see where it goes from here.

New York Giants Mel Triplett, 1958 NFL Championship
Gino Marchetti (#89)
SetNumber: X5605

3. Everyone knew Aaron Donald was not going to retire and the Rams would eventually give him the keys to the kingdom. $30 million a year is a huge amount for a non-quarterback. But he is certainly worth it. Where would I place him on the greatest defensive linemen of all time? Top-5? Not likely, but a Top-10 nod is about right. My Top-5 would have to be Reggie White, Alan Page, Mean Joe, Bruce Smith and Gino Marchetti. Donald would round out my Top-10.

4. Why is Raiders QB Derek Carr so enthusiast about the possibility of having Colin Kapernick signed? I can see WR Hunter Renfroe saying stuff like this, but Kap would be a competitor for Carr’s job. Just makes no sense. For years, Kap had stated he only wanted to go to a team that he could compete for the starting position. Well, now he is aware that the clipboard position is the first step to stepping back on the field.

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC at AFC
Justin Herbert
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

5. Speaking of the AFC West – wow. If the NFL would seed teams by records only, would all four clubs make the post-season in 2022? Where is the weak team? Fingers might be pointed to Denver or maybe the Raiders, but both will have 10 win seasons. This division is like the SEC where all their member teams knock each other off and decimate each other’s win-loss records. Justin Herbert, Carr, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Where is the weak link to these offenses?

6. Every other day, something new comes out about Deshaun. And it ain’t pretty. I have seen comments about folks saying that the Browns should have avoided this PR mess. Well, they knew it was coming. In fact, they agreed to it.

While in negotiations with the Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Dolphins and Browns, Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin made it perfectly clear that the civil lawsuits would need to play out. On a podcast, Hardin stated, “Now, if you were the owner of the Browns, or Carolina, would you like all of them settled and over by July when camp opens? Sure they would. But they understood that we wanted the freedom to make these kind of decisions that we thought were in the best interest of Deshaun.”

In other words, we will sign with you, but this is ongoing and stay out of our way. There is absolutely no way Deshaun does not get the book tossed at him by the NFL. Two grand juries in Texas declined to bring criminal charges, and the outcome of the 24 civil cases is still pending, but the NFL and their personal conduct policy can do what they want. And what they want is to protect their entertainment machine. If that means pushing one star player to the side for a spell, then so be it. My thoughts? Instead of the potential six games once suggested, how about one game per lawsuit?

If you haven’t read Chris Pokorny’s take along with the New York Times piece, you should. Both are very enlightening. Now you know why the Browns haven’t moved Baker. They need him.

7. Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf is an absolute stud, but would not fit in Cleveland unless the offense becomes more geared to throwing the ball – a lot. Which would make zero sense because every single Browns offensive lineman was carefully selected or signed because of their run blocking prowess. Metcalf wants more money as does any player that had one good year. But if he forces his way out of Seattle wanting his rookie contract extended for bank, the best fit to me would seem to Indy.

8. Which goes into another issue. Clubs sign guys to rookie contracts, then when they have a stellar year (such as Cooper Kupp), those young guys instantly want to cash in. Not successive stellar years, but one. Why even sign athletes to contracts? What happened to the second contract? Isn’t that where they would be paid more, but not necessarily bank? To me, it began with Jerry Jones and RB Ezekiel Elliott and that massive $95 million deal just two years in his rookie deal.

If this is going to be a constant in the league, then perhaps they should “scale” contracts that move up and down on a yearly basis. When a player exceeds their expectations, their money goes up to here. The others who regressed, their salary lowers to there. Seems like a fair situation. Yes, the NFLPA would birth a donkey with an agreement that volunteers to lower player salaries. Otherwise, just tell rookies, “Hey, you signed this, you honor it - tough.”

NCAA Football: Oklahoma Spring Game Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

9. Baker missing mandatory minicamp this week was no surprise. Apparently the decision was mutual. I get this for Baker. He is obviously hurt and maybe even embarrassed. But with that $18.838 million salary he is slated to make, give me a broom and I would sweep the parking lot. The minute Deshaun is given his suspension, and it is apparent the Browns need him, expect to see Baker on the next plane in top shape. I would love to see “2020 second half Baker” come to camp and wow everyone, take the Browns to the post-season and make his first Pro Bowl. And who knows, after all those civil suits get going beginning March 2023, Baker may just be the starter for a while.

10. So Walmart is now a part of the NFL? Had to happen to some league, guess it might as well be ours. Maybe their new commercials could be like Baker and Progressive Insurance where Russell Wilson believes he lives in a Walmart. He could eat in their deli, see him scrubbing a row of about 10 commodes, cleaning the self-help registers where it constantly beeps to which he finally realizes the tag is still on the dish towel he was using, and maybe riding a bike down the aisles with a GPS that tells him “turn right, next aisle.”

Get this: the sale is the largest of any team in the history of North American sports at $4.65 billion. Owner Pat Bowlen paid $78 million in 1984. The Broncos owners had been squabbling ever since their dad, Bowlen, passed away in June of 2019. Bowlen never declared a successor to his majority (78%) ownership among his children, so they bickered and argued and pushed and shoved and pulled pony tails for years.

I did an interview with former new Browns co-founder Carmen Policy and while on the phone he talked about how the NFL brought him in for an arbitration effort to help settle the dispute of sole ownership between the trustees who ran the club – attorneys Mary Kelly and Rich Slivka plus CEO Joe Ellis, and Bowlen’s daughters Beth Wallace and Amie Klemmer. The daughters had filed a lawsuit which charged the trust was never a valid entity since Bowlen appointed them only during his progression with Alzheimer’s. No word yet on whether John Elway will remain in his position of President, but Walmart has issued a statement that no pony tail pulling will be tolerated.