The staff cuts at ESPN have not been too severe; someone there has plenty of time oh his/her hands. On one of the myriad ESPN studio shows yesterday, the talking head intoned that yesterday was “NFL Hump Day”. Yesterday was the exact middle of the “barren stretch” between the Super Bowl in February and the start of the new NFL season in early September. Inconveniently, “NFL Hump Day” fell on a Tuesday this year and not a Wednesday…
Nonetheless, the NFL is producing news on its “Hump Day” that is on a different vector heading from things like free agent signings and/or the promise of the NFL Draft. This week marks the start of “practice” for the upcoming NFL season as teams hold the first of their OTAs – Organized Team Activities. The teams organize these things in accordance with the terms of the current CBA but they are not mandatory for players who are under contract. That fact alone creates news like this item:
- Odell Beckham Jr. did not show up for the first day of the NY Giants’ OTA. Oh, the horror … The world of social media has more than sufficient reason to explode over this news.
These sorts of stories are nothing more than sensationalized filler. If the NY Giants’ 2017 season is going to be doomed by the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. on the first day of non-mandatory OTAs, then the whole organization should just take the season off and forfeit their games. At best, this is a non-story – – or “fake news” to use the argot of the day.
The other thing that comes out of hiding as teams head into the start of their OTAs is the early pronouncements about “Teams That Have An Eye On The Super Bowl In February 2018”. These sorts of articles pick up on stories about teams that made splashy free agent signing and/or teams that good immediate grades for their talent haul in the recent NFL Draft. All looks positive for the teams mentioned in these articles – – for the moment.
Here in Curmudgeon Central, the standard practice is to look at the sports world through the other end of the telescope. So, I want to take this horribly too early point in history to project the teams that just may be the WORST team in the NFL – the one that will be on-the-clock with the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft as of 1 January 2018. I believe there are 5 teams among the 32 teams in the NFL who might wind up in that position. Let me list them here alphabetically since it is still far too early to make a pronouncement:
- Chicago Bears: I seriously believe the Bears will be a bad team again in 2018 no matter who they play at QB and that Coach John Fox will be fired in early 2018 if he actually makes it to the end of the 2017 season. The Bears’ have no offense and the Bears’ defense is not nearly good enough to be sufficiently dominant as to carry the team to a break-even record. Looking at the Bears’ schedule, they begin the season with games against the Falcons, Bucs, Steelers and Packers – – all four teams should have realistic hopes of making the playoffs. If the Bears start out 0-4, which is a very real possibility, this team could easily hang up the jockstraps for the season and mail it in for the rest of 2017.
- Cleveland Browns: Some folks have been just short of orgasmic in their praise of the Browns’ draft haul and the “Moneyball-style” mindset of the Browns’ front office. I will be much more confident in pronouncing the Browns’ Front Office as “geniuses” after a few years. However, even if I think they were great in their drafting this year and added 4 quality players to the roster, that leaves the Browns in the “talent-deficient” category of the NFL because the rest of the roster has – at most – 3 quality players.
- LA Rams: Football is a team game and it is axiomatic that QBs get too much of the credit for successful teams and too much blame for bad teams. Notwithstanding what I just said, the Rams’ problem has been for the last several years that they have not had a quality QB. Truth be told, they have not had a QB who is better than a journeyman. They spent an overall #1 pick on Jared Goff but did not put him on the field until late in the 2016 season and when Goff was out there he looked “less than awesome”. Now we hear that the Rams at their OTAs are trying to work with Goff on his “leadership skills”. The Rams are not going to be a good team, but if Goff flunks his QB tests and his leadership tests, the Rams could be awful.
- NY Jets: Is there a player on their roster who can even pretend to be a functional NFL QB? If so, the Jets can dodge the ignominy of the overall #1 pick in the 2018 draft. If there is such a player on the roster, he has been keeping a VERY low profile to date. The Jets are loaded with defensive linemen who can be difference-makers; that is not enough to make the team a difference-maker in 2018. I suspect the Jets will be awful and that coach Todd Bowles will take the fall for a team whose roster would not be competitive under any head coach that could not cast hypnotic spells on the entire opposing squad every Sunday. This is an early call but look at the NFL schedule for Week 5 and you will see that the Jets play the Browns. That may be the Toilet Bowl game for the NFL season and it may have a significant role in determining the draft order in the Top 5 for the 2018 NFL Draft.
- SF 49ers: Once again, the draftniks have proclaimed that the Niners – – under the firm hand at the tiller of GM, John Lynch – – aced the draft. Even if they did – and that diagnosis would be at least 24 months too soon – the Niners’ roster is talent deficient. The top two QBs on their depth chart as of this morning are two of the castoffs from the 2016 Chicago Bears – a team that won a total of 3 games.
Finally, since I mentioned the role that projections of the 2017 NFL draft may or may not have on the fortunes of some NFL teams, let me present some comments about “the draft” in two other sports from sports commentators around the country:
“Ping and pong: The NBA draft lottery couldn’t have gone much better for the L.A. Lakers if the drawing were rigged. Did I say rigged?” [Bob Molinaro – Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot]
“The MLB draft is less than four weeks away. I’m working on my mock draft. Right now I’m stuck on the 22nd pick in round 113.” [Brad Dickson – Omaha World-Herald]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………