The Combine – – And More…

The NFL Combine proceeds apace.  The league has turned the Combine into an annual reality TV show and it has generated a cult-like following of “Combine junkies” who track the players’ results in the various physical tests.  I suspect that it would not take me long to convince readers here that I am not one of the “Combine junkies”.  However, I have a generic observation about those ‘junkies”.

The physical tests at the Combine seek to measure fundamental athletic skills that – presumably – are vital to success as an NFL player.  If you buy that premise, then all of them have a degree of relevance.  However, the “junkies” seem to put tenfold importance on a single test – – the time in the 40-yard dash.  Speed is important in football; there is no argument there.  You can see the importance of speed every time a defensive back intercepts a pass and there is an offensive lineman trying to run him down.  That rarely happens…

Having said that, it seems that the “junkies” find significance in the fact that one player ran 4.35 in the 40-yard dash while another ran 4.41.  Personally, I find such a difference meaningless; this is not an Olympic sprint where the difference would be definitive.  There is some debate about how fast Jerry Rice ran the 40-yard dash when he was coming out of college.  Some say it was 4.71 seconds; Bill Walsh said it was 4.59.  “Junkies” today would call that slow and drop Jerry Rice’s draft stock to the lower rounds based on his lack of speed.  Question:

  • How many times do you recall Jerry Rice being caught from behind by all of those other players who timed out so much faster than he did?

I am sure it happened a few times.  I am certain that Jerry Rice also found a way to get open and behind those faster players enough to amass 22895 yards receiving and 197 TDs.

This year the timing of the Combine has coincided with the time when teams make their decisions on things like franchise tags and releasing veteran players.  Three of the veterans who are now free agents are interesting to me.

First, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings have parted company primarily because his contract with the Vikings would have called for him to make $18M next year.  Peterson is an excellent RB – even if his recent injury history and the pounding he has taken over his career leaves him at something like 80% of what he used to be.  However, $18M is way over what his contribution to a team in 2017 is likely to be given that he has been healthy enough to play in 20 games over the past 3 seasons.  There is a saying around the NFL:

  • The most important “ability” is avail-“ability”.

Perhaps Adrian Peterson will provide some symmetry for the universe with his free agency.  Consider:

  • Brett Favre played most of his Hall of Fame career for the Packers and ended up with the Vikes.
  • Perhaps Adrian Peterson, who has played most of his Hall of Fame career with the Vikes, will sign on with the Packers and finish his career there?  The Packers could use a running back…

The Niners released Colin Kaepernick.  Like Peterson, his contract called for him to make far too much money in 2017 than one could rationalize.  Unlike Peterson, Kaepernick does not have a Hall of Fame résumé in his back pocket.  The thing that makes Kaepernick’s free agency interesting is that he announced right away that he would no longer be kneeling during the National Anthem.  He said that he believed that his protest had achieved its goal(s) and he would stand for the anthem in the future.

Recall when Kaepernick began his protest that I said I supported his right to protest and had sympathy with the issue he was protesting – – police violence.  I also said that I would have preferred that he chose a different means to make that protest but that it was his issue and therefore his choice for the “protest vehicle”.  I maintain that position.

HOW-EVAH [/Stephen A. Smith] my inner cynicism is awakened here.  The juxtaposed timing of Kaepernick’s free agency and his calling off his protest and his declaration of success for the protest seems awfully convenient.  I do not read minds but if I were a GM thinking about signing him to a contract this year, I would want to sit down with Kaepernick alone – – no agents or handlers in the room – – and talk about all of this in depth.

The Jets released Darrelle Revis who still had 3 years to go on a 5-year $70M contract.  Jets’ coach Todd Bowles emphasized that the Jets’ decision was an economic one and that makes plenty of sense to folks who watched Jets’ games last year.  Darrelle Revis was arguably the best CB in the NFL a few years ago; he was far from that last year; the remaining 3 years on his contract would have paid him as if he were still one of the best CBs in the NFL.

Over and above Revis’ deteriorated performance last year, recall that he was arrested and charged with a variety of things as a result of a fight outside a club in the Pittsburgh area recently.  That matter is not nearly resolved and while I believe Todd Bowles when he says that the arrest played no part in the decision to release Revis, it is an issue that any team seeking to sign him up should consider.

The Niners and the Jets are teams in need of significant makeovers.  The situation with the Niners is obvious; they won only 2 games last year; they fired just about everyone in the Front Office and on the coaching staff; they do not have a QB on their roster.  The Jets’ situation is a tad less obvious; remember the Jets missed the playoffs on the last game of the year in 2015; then things unraveled last year.

Here is a thumbnail sketch for the Jets:

  1. Releasing Revis saved the team $6M in cap space.
  2. They also released nick Mangold who has been the glue of their OL for about 10 years.
  3. They released Ryan Fitzpatrick and none of the 3 QBs left on the roster has shown the ability to be a solid NFL QB.
  4. says this morning that the Jets will release WR, Brandon Marshall today.

It appears to me that the Jets are committed to a “youth movement” starting in 2017.  If they have some other strategy in mind, it is surely not self-evident.  This team has lots of holes to plug in this off-season and at some point, they are going to have to find a QB.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was dismal last year; that is why they released him.  However, their current “QB-status” is probably best described as “QB-purgatory”.  Good luck to Jets’ GM, Mike Maccagnan, and coach, Todd Bowles, on the rebuild. I hope they are given more than a single season to accomplish it.

Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times found this comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle.  Somehow, I missed that column by Scott Ostler so thanks to Dwight Perry for alerting me:

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, after new 49ers GM John Lynch said he’ll be in the market for fast, physical players with character: “There was concern that Lynch would say, “We’ll be looking for slow, weak guys with no respect for the law.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………