NFL

Mandel’s Musings: NFL Is In Big Trouble As Al Sharpton Enters the Fray. Billions of Dollars At Stake for the League and its Owners

by Scott Mandel

Al Sharpton is getting involved with Brian Flores’ NFL lawsuit. The NFL should be afraid, very afraid.

Especially the owners.

Al Sharpton - Personal Life, Age & Facts - Biography
Al Sharpton will be assisting Brian Flores in his case against the NFL

Sharpton and other top civil rights leaders have requested a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class-action suit against the league alleging racial discrimination.

“In light of the recent lawsuit filed by Brian Flores, it has brought this attention back to the forefront of our community, and it is important that you have an immediate open dialogue with Civil Rights leadership,” the letter read. “We are being asked to do everything within our power, including direct action at next week’s Super Bowl, as well as appealing to local municipalities that underwrite and give special considerations to stadiums to pressure the NFL and its owners to get more serious about enforcing the ruling law.”

Also, if it can be proven Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, indeed encouraged Flores, his head coach to “tank” the season to gain a higher draft pick for the Dolphins by offering Flores $100,000 in cold hard cash for each loss they suffer, Ross will be removed from the sport.

I’m just not sure how Brian Flores can prove all of these accusations or racism in the NFL’s hiring practices and tanking a season. Evidently, there’s nothing in writing.

The latest news today comes after Ross had more than 24 hours to think about it, Ross issued a fiery response to the claims made against him by Flores.

“With regards to the allegations being made by Brian Flores, I am a man of honor and integrity and cannot let them stand without responding,” Ross wrote. “I take great personal exception to these malicious attacks, and the truth must be known. His allegations are false, malicious and defamatory.

“We understand that there are media reports stating that the NFL intends to investigate his claims, and we will cooperate fully. I welcome that investigation and I am eager to defend my personal integrity, and the integrity and values of the entire Miami Dolphins organization from these baseless, unfair and disparaging claims.”

Flores was fired in January after three seasons, the last two of which produced winning records. He claims that the team conducted a smear campaign in media and in league circles after his dismissal in an effort to paint him as “an angry Black man.”

The NFL. The “Not For Long” league, but, only if you get caught. Maybe the league should be re-named, DGCL. The Don’t Get Caught League.

Mandel’s Musings: As Tom Brady Decides to Retire From the NFL, Is it Even Debatable Who the Greatest Quarterback of All Time Is?

By Scott Mandel

In the sports business, fans and media alike often get into debates about which team or player is the greatest of all time or, certainly, of a particular era. It’s a viable debate, unlike a discussion of the greatest scientist or politician of all time. Too many variables in those areas!!

But, in sports, other than it being difficult to compare eras, mostly because of advancements in training conditions, the human body, coaching techniques, etc., it’s easy to compare players and teams, intra-era.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a shoe room for his 180 pairs
Is Mahomes the heir apparent to Brady as the NFL’s best QB?

That’s why the statement, “Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of his era, and possibly, of all time” is as real and accurate as “Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of his generation, or other generations.”

Or, “Thurman Munson was better than Johnny Bench.” Or, “the New York football Giants suck.”

All of these statements have more than a degree of truth. The fun part of these debates begins when you compare the greatest players or teams from other eras:

Who was better? The ’27 Yankees or the 1976 Big Red Machine? That would take us through a steak dinner and dessert, at least.

Don’t get me started on the greatest presidents. I can just imagine someone in a bar, after way too many imbibed alcoholic beverages saying, “Trump would have wiped out the Cold War before it even started. That Truman dude didn’t have a clue!! Get me another beer!!”

Former Giants Busts, DeAndre Baker and Eli Apple, May Hold the Key to Bengals or Chiefs Super Bowl Chances

by Scott Mandel

Next week, two former NY Giants cornerbacks, both drafted in the first round by Big Blue, will be playing in the American Football Conference championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals, with the winner going on to play in the Super Bowl, that game with all that great halftime entertainment and great football food, like pigs in a blanket.

For DeAndre Baker of Kansas City, the Giants 1st round pick in 2019 from the great University of Georgia program and Eli Apple of Cincinnati, whom the Giants chose with the 10th overall pick in 2016 as the first cornerback in that draft class out of Ohio State University, it’s been a long hard road to get to this pinnacle of their sport.

From gun and robbery charges and serious injuries for Baker to mental health accusations thrown in Apple’s direction, both young men were considered busts as NFL players.

Now, Eli Apple and DeAndre Baker will each be facing two of the greatest young quarterbacks in the history of the sport. How they perform can very well be the difference between their teams going home or going to the Super Bowl to play for the championship of the sport and the most-watched sporting event in the country.

Apple and Baker, as cornerbacks, will be charged with the sole responsibility of preventing Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow from doing what these two outstanding QBs do better than almost any other quarterback has ever done, particularly at such young ages (under 25), in the history of professional football. They complete passes, throw multiple touchdowns and, embarrass opposing cornerbacks at an alarming rate. Over and over again.

We will be paying close attention to these two young star quarterbacks this entire week but it is DeAndre Baker and Eli Apple, the former college All-Americans who turned into NFL busts who will be given a chance at redemption this Sunday, in the biggest game of their lives. Baker and Apple will try to recover their soiled and sordid reputations, back to the time they entered the league as college stars.

Urban Meyer on Eli Apple's NFL issues: 'He was fantastic for us' -  cleveland.com
Eli Apple in his Ohio State days in 2016

Both players may well hold the result of this game in their hands, either by allowing a touchdown to be scored against them as they lose track of the opposing teams’ great receivers or, by picking off a pass and taking it to the house, sending their team to the Super Bowl, with the crowd going crazy in the stadium and more than 100 million viewers watching on television.

We know both of these kids are dreaming big dreams of being heroes, which is exactly what they used to be on campus. The alternative is, of course, nightmarish, something both Mahomes and Burrow are used to inflicting on opposing cornerbacks. They can light up the sky with passes and points.

Former Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker facing armed robbery, aggravated  assault charges | Georgia Sports | redandblack.com
DeAndre Baker – University of Georgia, 2018

DeAndre Baker and Eli Apple are playing for much more than a Super Bowl berth. They are playing to turn their lives around.

Legend of Mike White, NFL Quarterback, Continues on Thursday for Jets. Could He Be THE ANSWER?

By SCOTT MANDEL

After yesterday’s phenomenonal performance by the Jets fill-in quarterback, one Mike White, we wonder if the J-E-T-S are thinking about putting their prized number one draft pick, Zach Wilson, who was gifted the starting job immediately after signing his rookie contract, on the trade market to try to pick up a few chips for upcoming drafts? After all, White, the 26-year old journeyman has become a national story since yesterday, when he replaced the injured Wilson in the first start of his three-year career, leading the lowly Jets to a stunning come-from-behind upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

If MIke White is the real deal, in effect, THE ANSWER for the Jets at the quarterback position, it opens up a plethora of opportunities for Joe Douglas, the Jets general manager. But we are getting far in front of ourselves.

We are cognizant of the potential, if not the likelihood White may be a one hit wonder, despite his hellacious debut in the NFL against a Bengal team many see as a contender to get to the AFC championship game. After being a three-year benchwarmer, White completed 37 of 45 passes, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns in the thrilling 34-31 win, the kind of victory that has been few and far between for the Jets for many decades.

But, this kid has skills. He can throw the ball accurately and with velocity. Given enough time in the pocket, this 6’5″, 220 pound kid seems to have the poise, the boys (guys know what that means), the vision to check down, the foot work, the arm strength, the quick release, and the accuracy to complete NFL-type passes. And that is something Jets fans have not seen consistently from their quarterbacks since Joe Namath, in 1968. And, that includes Zach Wilson, who has not unexpectedly been an erratic performer, at best, in his rookie season.

Yesterday, Mike White was able to make average or unproven receivers, both downfield and those coming out of the backfield, look better than their individual talents. He also made a disheveled, less than talented offensive line look much better than they have played this entire season. A quick release will do that for you.

Some quarterbacks raise the level of play for their team through inspiration and talent while other quarterbacks need to be surrounded by great players to play well (like Eli Manning, for instance). Mike White made the 1-5 Jets look like a confident, physical football team for the first time this season. That’s a fact.

Will White be a one-hit wonder? Could be. He played at South Florida University before transferring to Western Kentucky, being drafted in the fifth round in 2018 by the Cowboys. Dallas cut him despite needing a backup quarterback and the Jets cut him this year, bringing him back when they needed a third practice quarterback so the legend of Mike White may just be a temporary interregnum in another depressing Jets season in search of a good story.

Jets Mike White Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson, Jets #1 draft pick and starting QB since his first game, is not assured of holding onto his job

On the other hand, the legendary Hall of Famer, John Unitas was once cut by the Steelers before breaking every passing record in the sport as a Baltimore Colt. And, Kurt Warner was cut a few times before he became a Hall of Famer, beginning in his late 20s. Sometimes, the light just clicks on for some people later in life than it does for others. And, sometimes, it’s a bummer when Cinderella, with her back story of the glass slippers and the horse-drawn carriage turning into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 12, has her one shining moment before reality kicks in.

Either way, it’s a great story and this moment has captivated New Yorkers as well as football fans all over the country. It has also captured the fancy of Jets head coach, Robert Saleh, who said yesterday, in his post-game comments when asked if Zach Wilson will retain the starting job when he is healthy to play, “anything’s possible” about White getting an extended run as the starter.

Now it’s on to game two, in three short days, for the Mike White saga. It says here, Mike White will get to wear his shiny glass slippers/cleats for a third consecutive game, after this Thursday, when Wilson, the golden boy #1 draft choice, is expected to return from his knee injury.

We will find out, week by week, whether Mike White is THE ANSWER or, just another passing fancy.

Mandel’s Musings: Giants Start Out Fifth Straight Season 0-2 After Loss to WFT

By SCOTT MANDEL

The New York Giants stink. Again.

You know that old cliche and ongoing excuse losing teams always invoke – We lost a game tonight we should have won? The Giants have been using that old saw for almost a decade, now, and 2021 looks like more of the same. Other excuses/detachments from reality are also expressed as:

  1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  2. I saw some good things out there.
  3. We have a lot to build on.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…..

The Giants don’t have a pass rush. They don’t have an aggressive defensive secondary, they lost their best offensive lineman and captain for the season with a gruesome broken leg from a unit considered by many as the worst in the National Football League.

When does basketball season start?

New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton drops would-be 43-yard  touchdown from quarterback Daniel Jones
Darius Slayton drops TD pass in the end zone against WFT tonight

The Redskins, eh, I mean, the WTF’s or is, WFT’s, controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The backup quarterback for the “Team,” Taylor Heineke, shredded the Giants for 325 yards passing, with the gift of all the time he had in the pocket to play pitch and catch with his receivers.

The final score was 30-29 on a field goal with zero seconds on the clock but who cares. The football season is over for the Giants and Giants fans. The pressure cooker in New York is going to be turned up on Giants head coach, Joe Judge, whose teams have shown more than a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot with the kinds of mistakes professsionals are not supposed to be making. Dropped touchdown passes in the end zone, offsides penalties with seconds to go and the Giants up by two points moving the Team five yards closer to field goal range.

It’s terrible to have any hopes or dreams if you are a Giants fan. Pretty soon, John Mara will call Giants general manager, Dave Gettleman to send him into his retirement. Gettleman has had three seasons to improve the offensive line and, the team’s record. He hasn’t been successful at either objective.

NY Giants Arriving for 2020 Training Camp. Masks and Everything

By Scott Mandel

It’s game on—or more accurately, training camp on, for the NFL after the league and the NFL Players Association finally resolved their remaining differences regarding operational and financial matters that had threatened to end the season before it had a chance to get off the ground. 

The Giants rookies have already reported for camp. By Sunday, they will have completed the mandatory five-day testing period in which they were to have taken a COVID-19 test on reporting day (July 23) and again on July 26.

Both tests must be negative if they are to be allowed to begin training within the sterile environment the team has set up to be based out of MetLife Stadium.

The veterans are due to report for their five-day testing period on July 28. There will be an established schedule (as laid out by SI.com’s Albert Breer), who also reports that walk-through practices will be permitted during the strength and conditioning part of the schedule.

Schedules aside, the Giants will have no shortage of storylines this summer, ranging from what new head coach Joe Judge’s practices and command of the team will look like to how the new offensive and defensive schemes will take shape.

Buccaneers’ Donovan Smith raises concerns about playing 2020 season: ‘I’m not a lab rat or a guinea pig to test theories on’

By Ryan Gaydos

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Donovan Smith will have the job of protecting new quarterback Tom Brady in 2020.

But Smith is unsure whether playing in the midst of a global pandemic is worth it.

“With the start of the 2020 season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I’m sure it does for many of my co-workers across the league,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one.

“To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in three weeks, I can’t help but think about how I will be able to go work and take proper precautions around 80+ people every day, then go home to be with my newborn daughter.”

He wondered how players are going to be able to practice safe social-distancing measures when every play requires contact.

“How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferal of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? Yes, we can get tested every day, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I’m not spreading the virus or contracting it. The recurring issue here is how? There are too many ‘hows’ that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself but also my family. I can’t imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times.”

Smith said playing this season would, at the very least, call for a pay raise.

“I’m not a lab rat or a guinea pig to test theories on. I’m a man, a son, brother, soon to be a father, and I deserve to be safe at work.”

Some of the NFL’s health and safety guidelines were reported this week. Some of the rules include no jersey swapping or postgame congregating.

Smith is entering his sixth season with Tampa Bay. He’s played in 79 out of 80 games in his first five seasons.

Scene from Super Bowl I – Len Dawson In Chief’s Locker Room at Halftime

By Scott Mandel

Photo taken at halftime of Super Bowl I, between the Chiefs and the Lombardi Packers. This is legendary Chiefs QB, Len Dawson, getting a smoke, and drinking a bottle of Fresca in the locker room before going out for the second half, which the Packers dominated on their way to a 35-10 win. The famous and hungover Max McGee caught two touchdown passes from Bart Starr.

We wonder if times have changed, all that drastically. Maybe, these days, the cigarette smoke has been replaced by other kinds of smoke, including marijuana. Instead of a sugary soft drink like Fresca, perhaps it is a sugary soft drink like Gatorade.

Matt Rhule, Born and Raised New Yorker, Cancels Giants Interview to Take Carolina HC Job

By Scott Mandel

In a shocking development, Matt Rhule, the 44-year old Baylor head coach, former Giants offensive line coach, and born and raised New Yorker, has rejected the Giants, who were scheduled to interview him today for their once-prestigious head coaching position.

Instead, Rhule, who was the Giants clear first choice to be their next coach, never got on the airplane after his interview yesterday with Carolina, who reportedly will name him their next HC later today.

Giants owner John Mara and G.M. Dave Gettleman have some soul-searching to do. There was nobody who didn’t expect Matt Rhule to jump at the chance to coach his childhood team.

Carolina could not have out-spent the Giants for Rhule’s services. For the young coach to not even give the Giants an interview may speak loudly about how far the Giants organization has fallen in esteem in the eyes of the league.

Mike McCarthy interviewed with the Giants last week and took the the Cowboys job, instead.

Tomorrow, the Giants interview Josh McDaniel, the offensive coordinator for the Patriots.

Maybe, McDaniel’s boss, Bill Belichick will become available as well, over the next couple of weeks. He can see the writing on the wall for his Patriots organization, with coaching staff and player personnel undergoing massive changes. At age 67, the only job Belichick has told friends he would leave New England for is the Giants job, with the organization that gave him his professional start as an assistant coach under Bill Parcells.

The allure of the Giants organization and tradition has taken a huge hit, today, for sure, but this may turn out okay for the Giants if McDaniels or his boss still see the job as the apple of their eyes.

Can you imagine McDaniels and Belichick coming to the Giants as a package?

Giants Fire Shurmur, Retain Gettleman. Can Belichick be in the Mix?

by Scott Mandel

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today announced they have dismissed head coach Pat Shurmur after two seasons of a five-year contract.

Mark this down as another bad deal for the Giants.

The team also confirmed that general manager Dave Gettleman will remain in his position.

Mark that down as a win for John Mara, whose loyalty to Giants personnel is legendary, and a loss for co-owner, Steve Tisch, who reportedly wanted to sweep out the entire hierarchy of football decision-makers.

Looming over the Giants, a franchise that many feel is developing a young core of of talent along with a franchise quarterback in rookie Daniel Jones, could be the imposing figure of the winningest coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick, currently trying to get to his tenth Super Bowl in the past 15 years with the New England Patriots.

Since becoming the Patriots head coach in 2000, Belichick has led them to 16 AFC East division titles, 13 appearances in the AFC Championship Game, and nine Super Bowl appearances, with a record six wins. Belichick has participated in 11 Super Bowls, including two as Bill Parcells’ defensive coordinator in 1986 and 1991, has won eight Super Bowl championships in total from his combined time as an assistant and head coach. And, he’s never gotten rid of his soft spot for the Giants.

No one outside Foxborough knows for sure what his contract status is and there is speculation he could be available in 2020. Whenever given the chance, Belichick waxes poetic about the start of his NFL coaching career with the Giants. It is very likely that the Giants are the only team he would leave New England to take over. He could bring his offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, with him — with McDaniels taking on the challenge of continuing the development of Daniel Jones. This would make sense if the rumblings that Tom Brady’s time with the Patriots is nearing an end.

The Giants were 9-23 in 2018-19 and have not won more than five games in any of the last three seasons.

“Steve and I have had many extensive discussions about the state of the Giants,” Mara said. “This morning, we made the very difficult decision that it would be in the best interest of the franchise that we relieve Pat of his duties. The last three seasons have been extremely disappointing for the organization and our fans. Pat has been a successful and highly-respected NFL coach for 21 years and he is not solely responsible for our record. But we came to the conclusion it is best to have a fresh start with the coaching staff. We very much appreciate how much Pat has done for this franchise. He is a man of character and integrity and the team has conducted itself with pride and professionalism.

“As owners, we take full responsibility for our recent poor record. It is our goal to consistently deliver high-quality football and we will do everything in our power to see that there is a rapid and substantial turnaround.”

Added Tisch, “The last two seasons have been a continuation of what has been a very difficult and disappointing period for our franchise. It is never easy to part with someone the caliber of Pat. But John and I came to the conclusion that we need a new voice in the coach’s office and made the decision to bring in new leadership.

“We understand how frustrated our fans are. They expect more from us and we expect more from ourselves. Our focus now is on developing and improving our football team so that our fans can enjoy the winning team they expect and deserve.”

Mara and Tisch believe that Gettleman is the best general manager for the team. His first draft class included running back Barkley, the No. 2 overall selection who set numerous records in his debut season and was selected the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In addition, his 2018 draft choices included Will Hernandez, who has started all 32 games in his two seasons at left guard, linebacker Lorenzo Carter and defensive tackle B.J. Hill.

This year, the Giants drafted 10 players, including Jones, who started 12 games and established numerous franchise rookie records, including 24 touchdown passes. Jones is expected to be a fixture at the game’s most important position for many years.

The 2019 draft class also included Darius Slayton, a fifth-round selection whose eight touchdown receptions tied him for first among NFL rookie wideouts; Dexter Lawrence, who started all 16 games; linebackers Oshane Ximines and Ryan Connelly; and defensive backs DeAndre Baker, Julian Love and Corey Ballentine.

“Dave Gettleman is our general manager in 2020 and hopefully for many years after that,” Mara said. “We believe he is the right person to lead us going forward. Dave has a long record of success. We think he’s capable of putting a great team together and he’s going to get that opportunity. To the extent we need to make changes in personnel or the way we do things, we’re going to discuss that.”

“Although our record didn’t reflect it this season, we believe Dave has assembled a strong nucleus of young players that will help us compete for championships in the future,” Tisch said.

Shurmur was named the 18th head coach in Giants history on Jan. 22, 2018.

The Giants finished their first season under Shurmur with a 5-11 record, a two-game improvement over their 2017 record.

Twelve of the Giants’ 16 games that season were decided by seven or fewer points, tying them with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for the most in the NFL. The Giants were 4-8 in games decided by seven or fewer points. The eight losses in such games were an NFL high. The Giants held a fourth-quarter lead in four of those games.

The Giants began the 2019 season 2-2, with the two victories coming in Jones’ initial starts after Shurmur decided the rookie would replace 16-year veteran Eli Manning as the team’s starting quarterback. But after defeating Washington on Sept. 29, the Giants tied a franchise record by losing nine consecutive games and falling to 2-11. They did not win again until Dec. 15, when they beat the Miami Dolphins. That was the second of two games in which Manning substituted for Jones, who was sidelined by a sprained ankle.

Mara and Tisch said they will immediately begin their search for a new coach. They did not identify any candidates.

“The search will be extensive,” Mara said. “We understand this a very big decision for our franchise. We’ve had three losing years in a row and, quite frankly, we have lost some standing as an organization. When you have three losing years in a row as we have, you face a lot of criticism. A lot of it is deserved. It’s up to us now to turn that around and get back to where I think we should be.”