The Incomplete Tale of Matt Ryan

Nate Silver Explains How Analytics Affect Sports

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The Year of Living Cautiously

The 2012 NFL season will be memorialized as the season football changed, but not necessarily for the better — plus Week 13 picks

We will remember the 2012 NFL season for Peyton Manning’s astonishing comeback; the bumbling replacement refs (and the ensuing furor about the bumbling replacement refs); Golden Tate’s “Fail Mary”; San Francisco’s ballsy quarterback switch; the dueling Andy Reid/Norv Turner collapses; Atlanta shattering the record for “How the hell did they win that game?” victories; a truly bizarre Saints season that’s playing out like the worst sports movie ever made; ChuckStrong; a slew of sloppy Thursday-night football games; Adrian Peterson’s comeback; the Ass-to-Sanchez fumble; the magic of RG3 and the anti-magic of Blaine Gabbert; Houston winning two overtime games in less than 100 hours; Adderall’s emergence as the NFL’s new drug of choice (or handy excuse for a four-game suspension, or both); too many Aaron Rodgers commercials; God’s blistering hatred of Cleveland and Kansas City; and, of course, Roger Goodell turning into Warden Norton from Shawshank, botching a variety of high-profile situations, contradicting himself in the most basic ways and making a legitimate run at Gary Bettman’s “Most Inept Commissioner” crown.1 Somehow, we’re not going to remember Tim Tebow even a little — he’s about three years away from appearing on Survivor with a scruffy beard and pretending he’s an insurance agent from Tampa.

Just know that we’ll remember the lingering effect of concussions — and how it affects the way we watch football — over everything else that happened this season. The sport changed, and it continues to change, and really, I don’t know where we’re going anymore.

What’s acceptable? Where are the lines? Last Sunday, the Seahawks-Dolphins game swung on a seemingly ludicrous call: Ryan Tannehill throwing the ball up for grabs in the end zone right as Seattle’s Earl Thomas (running full-speed) jumped toward him with his arms outstretched, trying to deflect what ended up being a truly rancid pass that Seattle picked off easily. Only one problem: As Thomas was following through with his deflecting motion, Tannehill moved and one of Thomas’s hands struck him in the head. Accidental, unintentional contact that only Bruce Lee or one of the Matrix characters could have avoided. What happened? They whistled Thomas with a penalty and gave the ball back to the Dolphins, who immediately tied the game and went on to win by three.

As the only person who picked the Seahawks to make the Super Bowl, as well as someone who would have wagered on Seattle (laying three points) if gambling were legal, the call left me more outraged than Alton’s whiny, pathetic, legacy-altering, mail-in-of-a-performance in The Challenge did three days later. I even wondered in a tweet why the league didn’t make helmet-to-helmet and inadvertently-hit-someone-because-they-were-in-midair-when-the-target-moved-and-couldn’t-stop-because-it’s-effing-impossible-to-change-what-your-brain-already-told-your-body-in-less-than-a-split-second penalties reviewable. If the goal of the instant-replay process is “getting game-turning calls correct,” then shouldn’t coaches be able to challenge massively important 15-yard penalties that may have been interpreted incorrectly? In the moment, I genuinely believed that Thomas’s penalty (a) was the wrong call, and (b) altered the course of that Seahawks-Dolphins game.

Here’s the funny part: Two days later, I learned that the NFL penalized Thomas for the play. Fifteen thousand dollars!!!! My man Mike Florio even defended the league and said it was the right call! And you know what else? IT PROBABLY WAS THE RIGHT CALL! You’re not allowed to intentionally hurt quarterbacks, mistakenly hurt quarterbacks or even hurt their feelings anymore. It’s a zero-tolerance policy for anything involving the words “quarterbacks” and “hurt.” Same goes for defenseless receivers over the middle. Same goes for punters as they’re kicking the football. Same goes for defenseless kick returners or defensive players getting annihilated by blind-side blocks … well, except for you, Eric Weddle.

So it’s been something of an adjustment season — players recalibrating how they compete in a violent sport that only occurs at warp speed, a game they’ve been playing their entire lives a certain way, only now someone is telling them, “No, no, no, you have to play it THIS way now.” Are we giving them enough credit for the difficulty of that task? Whenever I play pickup basketball, I invariably make a few spur-of-the-moment decisions that, even before they unfold into a play, my brain is realizing, “No! Don’t do it!” after my body had already decided, “This is a great idea! I’m doing this!” and suddenly, I’m throwing a half-court pass to someone who isn’t even remotely open. That’s the biggest problem with getting old, and the biggest reason why I’m probably going to stop playing basketball soon: The mind-to-body delay between “This is a great idea! I’m doing this!” and “No! Don’t do it!” has become a little too long for me. Well, unless I start doing HGH and chugging Adderall like Pez. And don’t think I’m not thinking about it.

But isn’t the length of that delay, as well as how it’s handled, one of the things that defines any athletic performance? When Drew Brees threw those two terrible picks last night against Atlanta (I know he had five, but there were two especially egregious ones), I guarantee his brain was telling his right arm “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” even as his right arm was following through with a suddenly hopeless pass. You have hundreds of these moments every single football game, many of them happening with players traveling 20 miles an hour. Now we’re attempting to govern them? No wonder it’s been so bumpy.

And yet, every time someone gets decked, or someone is lying there twitching on the ground, you feel an entirely different emotion watching them reenter the game a few plays later. Was that too soon? Are we sure? And you hope they didn’t tell a lie to their coaches so they could get back in there. Think about how much THAT changed compared to the old days — when we celebrated monster hits, poked fun at Troy Aikman’s Concussion Face (a comedy staple in this column once upon a time), listened to meathead announcers yelp delightedly “He got … JACKED … UP!!!!!!!!!!!” and celebrated the Ronnie Lotts and Steve Atwaters for patrolling the middle and leaving a trail of limp bodies.

So it isn’t just football that’s changing. We’re changing. I never really thought about it until a Middlebury, Vermont, reader named Patrick e-mailed me, “While also being absolute masterpieces, the ‘Madden’ 2000 and 2002 intros show how much softer the NFL has gotten over the years. Both of them thrive off the helmet to helmet hits that the league is trying to distance itself from now.”

He didn’t provide YouTube links, so I went and found them myself. They’re amazing. Here’s the cartoonishly violent 2000 intro …

And here’s the nearly-as-violent 2002 intro …

That 2002 game was released one month before 9/11. Not that long ago, right? You watch it now and think, Yeeeessh. Where were we? Why didn’t we know? Why didn’t we care? At some point, the NFL will figure out the right leeway for players — a middle ground that allows them to play football under a safer set of rules without compromising them or becoming the TFL (Touch Football League). Just know that we aren’t there yet. I thought the Seahawks got screwed last week. Maybe you realize it, maybe you don’t, but we’re witnessing a historic football season — the year football changed and we changed, and everyone agreed that it needed to happen, only there were more than a few sizable bumps along the way. I believe we’re headed for a playoff game, or even a Super Bowl, that hinges on an officiating decision lurking in that nebulous, work-in-progress zone between that innocuous Thomas-Tannehill penalty (15 yards) and Anquan Boldin’s game-saving, bone-crushing, probably-not-legal-and-definitely-dangerous block on Ray Rice’s incredible fourth-and-29 reception (no call) that left Eric Weddle twitching on the field like a headless walker in The Walking Dead.

Maybe that’s how this crazy 2012 season should be decided — by an in-the-moment play that falls in the complicated vortex of player safety, officiating, mixed messages, evolving rules, hypocrisy and lousy leadership. The NFL doesn’t know what it is anymore. For whatever reason, I still love watching it every week. We will get through this. I think.

On to the Week 13 picks …


Saints (+3.5) over FALCONS
How did I pick this game wrong while nailing it at the same time? That’s the magic of the Skunk of the Week! Every week, the Falcons deal themselves a 4 or a 5, grind out a winning hand and take my chips as I’m thinking, Lucky bastard — next hand, I’m beating you! But a Wantagh, New York, reader named Kevin had an interesting post-Skunk take that I might steal from a handicapping standpoint:

“This might be one of your lazier skunk of the week picks. You aren’t seeing the whole NFL landscape right now. Everyone is saying the Falcons haven’t beat anybody, and everybody is saying that the Giants have righted the ship after the bye week. So let me tell you exactly what is going to happen the next 3 weeks: (1) the Falcons will beat the Saints and finally be considered the NFC’s undisputed best team; (2) RG3 is going to make the Giants look silly, and everyone will be questioning the Giants and people will start jumping on the ‘Redskins can still win the division’ bandwagon; (3) next week the Giants lose to the Saints at home, and the Falcons crush the Panthers, only reinforcing the narratives; (4) in Week 15, the Giants go to Atlanta to play the Falcons in a game that has ‘nobody believes in the Giants anymore’ written all over it! That’s when the Giants retake control of their own destiny using the exact same narrative they always use. It’s all here, and it starts with Atlanta winning tonight, you of all people should see this.”

(Let’s just say I wish I had gotten that e-mail on Tuesday.)

CHIEFS (+3) over Panthers
Celebrating this epic Ron Rivera/Romeo Crennel checkers match by breaking in a new gambling rule: “Always pick the Chiefs as a home dog during any week when someone from Missouri won half of a $587.5 million Powerball jackpot by possibly picking numbers of his favorite Royals players.”

Can you think of a better tipping point for a sports city than this one? By 2020, the Chiefs will have three Super Bowl titles and counting, Wil Myers will be talked about as the best baseball player of his generation, the Kings will have moved back to Kansas City, George Brett will be running for reelection as the President of the United States, the Jayhawks will be a college basketball dynasty, and Mystery Royals Fan/Powerball Winner X will be considered Kansas City’s greatest hero. It all starts now. And just for the record, I have never filled out a lottery ticket or a Keno card in my entire life that didn’t consist entirely of uniform numbers of my favorite Boston athletes. As Lloyd Christmas would say , “So you’re telling me there’s a chance … ”

(Even if it turned out the numbers were picked at total random and it was just a coincidence that it matched the Royals stars, I don’t care — it’s still the highlight of the sports year in Kansas City. I’m riding the Chiefs +3! Feel the coincidental momentum!)

Jaguars (+6) over BILLS
True story: This week, I picked up Chad Henne in my East Coast fantasy league AND I’m starting him. And it’s not like I’m out of it — I’m 10-2 and totally dominating this league. I just handed the wheels of a fantasy juggernaut to Chad Henne! And I feel great about it! WHAT THE F IS GOING ON?!?!?!?!?!?

BEARS (-4) over Seahawks
I have some sad news: I’m breaking up with the Seahawks. After watching them blow a winnable road game in the fourth quarter for the FIFTH time, enough was enough. Next time I pick a Pete Carroll team as my Super Bowl sleeper, you have permission to hit me with a 12-inch Subway sub. Seriously. It can even be a meatball and cheese. Print out this column, show it to the police, do whatever you need to do. You’re off the hook for attemped assault. I told you to do it. Don’t let me pick Pete Carroll again. Save me from myself. Meanwhile, a reader named Jerry in Baltimore writes in …

“Reading your Thanksgiving Day picks column gave me an idea for a Sports Guy/SportsCenter commercial: You are giving Russell Wilson a tour of the NBA Countdown studio talking yourself up as all guys do on a first date. As you leave the studio you casually ask Russell if he wants to grab some dinner at a place Magic Johnson recommended to you. Just then ‘Baby come back’ starts blaring and the camera pans to skinny Josh Freeman holding a boom box and a dozen roses. Then you and Russell awkwardly begin to walk away as Josh is left, sad and alone. Please tell me these types of commercials are already in the works!”

(My readers are insane. Just in case you forgot.)

Colts (+4.5) over LIONS
Brian from San Mateo brings up a great point: “At what point do you tweak your Gambling Manifesto to account for betting on teams whose coach is going through cancer treatment? I know it is a touchy subject and I wish Chuck Pagano a speedy recovery, but the Colts this year are completely unbettable. On any given Sunday you don’t know if Pagano is going to show up in the locker room for a pep talk, wave to the fans from the owner’s box or not show up at all. It is often a seven point swing in one direction or the other. So what do we do?”

Allow me to echo Brian’s thoughts: I own a ChuckStrong T-shirt and would love to see the Colts make the playoffs. It never feels good to pick against them even if the goal of this column is, “Throw out all biases and predict every game as coldly/clinically/intelligently as you possibly can.” Last Sunday, I had the Bills getting 3½ in Indy, but as soon as I saw Pagano in the luxury box and those two cheerleaders who shaved their heads, I hated myself for picking Buffalo (and also knew I was going to lose). That makes the Colts off-limits — they defy the traditional measures used to make these picks. So I’m picking the Colts for these last five regular-season weeks, rooting for them and that’s that. Buy a ChuckStrong T-shirt already.

Vikings (+8) over PACKERS
TITANS (+6.5) over Texans
RAMS (+7.5) over 49ers

Boy, those are pretty big spreads for three division-rivalry games. I’m grabbing the points and hoping to go 2-1 at worst. Let’s break out the mailbag format for some impromptu Niners e-mails.

Q: Is it just me or does this 49ers QB reek of the Patriots situation when Bledsoe was injured and eventually replaced by Brady on a permanent basis?
— Matt, San Francisco

SG: Couldn’t agree more. And that was even more polarizing at the time — people mistakenly thought Bledsoe was better than he was (I wasn’t one of them), and they just couldn’t accept that Brady was a better fit for the specific offense the Patriots had in 2001 (more precision, more dink-and-dunk, more sleight of hand). We never knew Brady was going to become TOM BRADY, but we knew there was something special about him, and that it was probably worth exploring (especially since Bledsoe wasn’t really DREW BLEDSOE anymore).

Feels like the same thing is happening here with the Niners. Kaepernick fits the 2012 Niners better because he can throw downfield and make a couple of “WOW!!!!!!” plays every game that they weren’t getting with Smith. Long-term, he has a chance to be special — the way he responded in those first two starts certainly allows for that possibility. I thought Harbaugh needlessly risked a possible Super Bowl trip last week by starting Kaepernick again — if only because (as I wrote) you can’t juggle QBs just like you can’t juggle girlfriends — but clearly, Harbaugh had already determined that Kaepernick was his guy (and Smith was a goner). I look at it this way: If I’m a Falcons/Packers/Giants/Bears fan, I’m a little frightened of Kaepernick in January. And I wasn’t frightened of Alex Smith. Same for Brady and Bledsoe 11 years ago. So yeah, I see the parallels.

Q: Whats all this faux-arguing FOR Alex Smith garbage I’m seeing? At different points the guy has lost his job to the likes of Shaun Hill, Troy Smith, and J.T. O’Sullivan. The 49ers are good, but if they get down 2 scores and Alex Smith is playing, the game is f-ing over. Is there anything else that even needs to be said?
— Sea Bass, Atherton, Seoul

SG: Not really. You nailed it. Just remember, if we’re following the Brady-Bledsoe playbook, that means Alex Smith will be heard from one more time this season. Bledsoe came off the bench to help the Patriots win the AFC title game in Pittsburgh, something I actually predicted a month earlier right down to the location and the game (one of my creepiest predictions)? That’s going to happen with Smith at some point in the playoffs. Has to. It’s just the way this stuff works.

Q: Imagine if you were in the theater in 2005 watching Mr. and Ms. Smith and in the corner of the screen during the entire film you saw Jennifer Aniston looking sullen and angry at what had clearly happened between Brad and Angelina during filming. That’s what Sunday’s 49ers-Saints game felt like. Has there ever been a better celebrity/athlete doppelganger than Alex Smith/Jim Harbaugh and Jennifer Aniston/Brad Pitt? It’s intriguing to view Kaepernick as the home-wrecker to Harbaugh and Smith’s beloved on-the-field relationship.
— Bob, Dayton, OH

SG: So if Brad and Angelina became Brangelina, then what are Kaepernick and Harbaugh? Kaeperbaugh? Harbernick? Kaepharbaughnick? There’s a better pop culture parallel for Alex Smith’s demeanor on Sunday — he had the exact same look on his face that every female Bachelor contestant has during the final three episode right after they get voted off. There’s no scorned look quite like “I slept with you on the overnight date and now you’re voting me off? Really? You realize this show is televised, right?” That’s how Alex Smith looked last Sunday.

Patriots (-9) over DOLPHINS
This line seemed a little high until I remembered the whole “New England has scored 190 points in the past four games” thing. Biggest red flag: After Miami, the Pats play home games against Houston (Monday night) and San Francisco … leaving the door open for Belichick to go vanilla in Miami, win the ugliest and most boring game possible (a.k.a. the Milton Berle “pulling out just enough to win” strategy) and save the good stuff for the next two games. Proceed with caution. In other news, I thought this e-mail from Eric in Boston was interesting:

“Two months from now, it’s very possible Tom Brady will have 3 NFL MVPs, 6 Super Bowl appearances and 4 rings. Wouldn’t that clinch him as the greatest QB of all time? It’s just as possible that two months from now, Peyton Manning will have 5 NFL MVPs, 3 Super Bowl appearances, 2 rings (and may have even just beaten his brother in the long-awaited Manning Bowl). That would pretty much lock Peyton up as the greatest QB of all time, wouldn’t it? Has there ever been another season where the Greatest of All Time title was up for grabs like this? For any position? In any sport?”

For one thing, it’s neat that we’re even here after what Manning went through these past 18 months. When I wrote about the Manning-Brady rivalry in January of 2011, right before the playoffs, their unofficial championship belt was seemingly hinging on the events of that month … and within a year, suddenly it seemed like Brady had a chance to grab the belt without any resistance from Manning. Now it’s an argument again. I’d disagree with Eric on one point: We’re not even close to resolving it. Quarterbacks are like NBA players — we don’t have any idea how long their careers will last anymore (especially now that all these rules are in place to protect their safety). Could Brady play until he’s … 42? Forty-three? Who knows? Could Kobe Bryant score 40,000 points? Who knows? I’m prepared for anything this decade.

Anyway, I don’t think Brady or Manning can clinch anything yet other than the “Who did the best job of antagonizing his loyal fans by wearing hats of hated baseball teams and appearing in commercials that would have earned real scorn had it been anyone else?” (Brady clinched this years ago) and “Whose forehead can turn the reddest when he wears his helmet too long?” battle (Manning clinched this during this first game).

JETS (-4.5) over Cardinals
Try to pick this game simply working off these two e-mails.

E-mail no. 1: Whatever the line is, bet the Jets this week. Here’s Arizona left guard Daryn Colledge talking about the injury to starting center Lyle Sendlein: “Without him,” Colledge said, “the wheels just might come off.” The wheels might come off? They’ve been off for weeks. This offensive line, already starting rookies at both tackle spots, can get worse? Oh no.
— Solon, India

E-mail no. 2: It’s the day after Thanksgiving, pretty quiet in the office, so our secretary decided to bring her 6-year-old daughter in for the day. A bunch of us are gathered around one of the guys’ desk watching the highlights from last night’s Pats-Jets game, and her daughter sneaks up next to us to see what’s going on. She instantly recognizes what we are watching, her eyes light up, and excitedly she says, “Oh yeah, I saw this! The guy who ran into the butt!” Amazing. As a Boston sports fan, I don’t know what makes me happier: That a 6-year-old, in the earliest stages of her exposure to football, now knows the quarterback of the New York Jets as ‘The Guy Who Ran Into The Butt;’ or the fact that I now have a great new way to refer to Mark Sanchez.
— Kevin A., Boston

Pete Morelli

See, even SportsCenter knows what it’s called.

(Thinking … )

(Still thinking … )

(Can you really pick Ryan Lindley Playing With His Normal Ribs or Kevin Kolb With Injured Ribs, on the road, when they’re playing without both starting tackles and their starting center? I say no.)

Bucs (+7) over BRONCOS
Bengals (-1.5) over CHARGERS

I still believe in the Bucs … and whatever the opposite of the word “believe” is, that’s how I feel about Norv Turner’s Chargers. (Disbelieve? Unbelieve? Debelieve?) Speaking of San Diego, I enjoyed this e-mail from a Chargers fan named Rob:

“I get so tired of all the ‘God Hates Cleveland’ whining. Please, just take a look at the history of San Diego sports: Our only championship since 1962 is by something called the “Sockers” … Norv Turner … two World Series trips that happened to be against two all-time great teams (the ’84 Tigers and the ’98 Yankees) … lost the Rockets AND Clippers … best NFL team in 1979 (then Bum Phillips figured out the semaphore system for calling plays in to Fouts) … best NFL team in 1981 (then they went to Cincy where it was like 55 below) … Norv Turner … finally scrape into the Super Bowl in 1994 (the ’94 Niners were waiting, really?) … Tony Gwynn stays loyal, never gets a ring, then gets cancer … Norv Turner … the weather … (Oh, right. Maybe God does hate Cleveland more.)”

Browns (+2.5) over RAIDERS
Things are looking up for Browns fans! Brandon Weeden has the two worst QBR performances of the season by a winning QB. They’re undefeated anytime they can force eight turnovers against a team that’s also starting a 38-year-old third-string QB. They get to play an imploding Raiders team that’s lost its last four games by 100 combined points. Pat Shurmur went a whole week without pooping in the fridge or eating a wheel of cheese. And as a Clifton Park reader named Evan Lipinski points out, “Wouldn’t you agree that Cleveland’s greatest sports accomplishment since the Jim Brown era was losing their NHL franchise after just two years in the late ’70s? A city with such dismal sports luck somehow managed to avoid the worst era in professional sports: The Gary Bettman Era.” See, it could have been worse, Cleveland.

RAVENS (-4) over Steelers
In honor of Nate Silver’s B.S. Report appearance this week, here’s some simple math for you:

• The Ravens are 33-5 at home (including playoffs) since John Harbaugh became their head coach.

• The Ravens are 4-9 against Pittsburgh in Ben Roethisberger starts.

• The Ravens are 5-0 against Pittsburgh if an injured Roethlisberger is watching from the sideline.

• I don’t know what the Ravens’ record will be in games when a clearly injured Roethlisberger tries to play two weeks earlier than doctors recommended while wearing a giant flak jacket to cover the dislocated rib that nearly punctured his aorta, but my guess is that we’re headed for 1-0. With that said, we can’t take the Ravens off the hook here. St. Louis reader Matt Chick explains:

“The Ravens have somehow been ‘out-sucked’ this year by the following: Tony Romo/Jason Garrett; Norv Turner; Pat Shurmur/the entire history of the Browns and the city of Cleveland (twice!); Romeo Crennel/Matt Cassel; Byron Leftwich (with broken ribs no less); and this week, they’re about to be out-sucked by Charlie Batch — who sucked when he was 27, but is somehow still in the league sucking at 37. There’s no one in the league with more fraudulent wins this year. It’s really unbelievable. Who drew up this schedule? They have literally every terrible coach in the NFL on it: Garrett, Reid, Shurmur, Turner, Crennel, Shanahan. They should complain to the league office about not getting a game against Ron Rivera’s Panthers.”

That got me thinking … how crazy would an Atlanta-Baltimore Super Bowl be? And what would happen in that game? How could both teams execute the “I’m going to let you hang around and eventually cobble together just enough decent football to eke out a victory that leaves our fans simultaneously excited and unimpressed” game plan to perfection when they’re playing each other? Would we be headed for multiple overtimes? Would the game just keep going indefinitely while one team waited for the other team to screw up and gift-wrap them a win? Would we be sitting there for two or three days? If we get a Falcons-Ravens Super Bowl, I’m changing my travel plans to leave on the Wednesday after the game just to be safe.

Eagles (+10) over COWBOYS
The Cowboys shouldn’t be favored by seven points over anyone; 10 points is so idiotic that I can’t even see straight. Ten points? Have you watched the Cowboys???? Plus, the Eagles are 1-9-1 against the spread right now … you really think they’re going 1-14-1? Come on. Grab the 10 and thank me later.

Speaking of the Eagles, roughly 10,000 readers e-mailed me during last week’s Packers-Giants game wondering if a now-mustachioed and seemingly heavier Mike McCarthy had finally completed his transformation into Andy Reid, pointing to their physical similarities, Green Bay’s lack of a running game and shoddy offensive line, Green Bay’s erratic season and the clock management issues that plagued Reid over the years. There’s a scene in The World According to Garp (on my all-time “most underrated movie” list) when Garp tells his mother (played by Glenn Close) that they’re naming his new child “Jenny” after her, and she smiles and blesses it by saying, “I’ve been Jenny long enough.” That’s where we are during the final days of Andy Reid, right? He’s been Andy Reid long enough. We needed a new one. I fully support McCarthy’s creepy transformation into Andy.

REDSKINS (+3) over Giants
Four points on Robert Griffin III and then we’re done …

1. I never liked St. Louis’s decision to trade the no. 2 pick for two more first-rounders and a second-rounder, if only because “It would be harder cap-wise to trade Sam Bradford” just wasn’t an acceptable enough reason for me. They owed Bradford $48 million over the next four years; Griffin’s no. 2 draft spot yielded $21.1 million over four years (a bargain), so even if Bradford’s $14 million cap hold counted against them this season, add everything up and it’s still a bargain to have Griffin because of that new rookie salary cap (especially if he became a star, which he did). Besides, the Rams weren’t going anywhere this season — it’s not like they needed that extra cap room to contend. And it’s hard for me to believe that Kansas City or Cleveland wouldn’t have ponied up a pick for Bradford. I’m just not buying the spin. I think the Rams liked Bradford, they wanted to rebuild around Griffin’s trade package, and they never expected him to be this good. So they basically dealt him for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and a late first-round pick. Congratulations. You missed out on someone with a chance to become the league’s most exciting player who got there by Thanksgiving of his rookie season. But at least you got two extra first-rounders and a second-rounder out of it!

2. A New Orleans reader named Hass wonders, “At what point in the season does Kim Kardashian ask around for RG3’s cell phone number?” You’re looking at it. We’re here.

3. This is a strong statement, but screw it, I’m making it: Chicago fans love Derrick Rose more than any other city loves any player. They hold the title and it’s not changing. Just know that RG3 has an excellent chance to grab the no. 2 spot on that totem pole, and that it could happen sooner than you think. The Washington fans are out of their minds about this guy — it’s the perfect blend of “right guy,” “right city,” “right point he’s hitting the city,” and, of course, “right level of holyshitness” from week to week. For years and years and years, Washington sports fans desperately needed their guy. And now? They have their guy. I can’t think of a better city for Griffin. I really can’t.

4. I realized during RG3’s Thanksgiving Day massacre in Dallas that he’s already reached Barry Sanders Memorial “Don’t Bet Against Me Under Any Circumstances” status. He’s just terrifying. And in a wholly different way than, say, Manning, Rodgers or Brady. Those guys beat you methodically. You can’t rest during any Griffin play, not even when he’s on his own 20. And when he takes off, it’s a five-second heart attack. He’s just more fun to have on YOUR side. Those are the guys we always end up remembering. And that’s why wild horses couldn’t drag me away from the TV on Monday night.

This Week: 0-1
Last Week: 9-6-1
Season: 92-81-4

Filed Under: NFL, Series, Sports, The Sports Guy

Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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