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NFL fails with Washington, Aaron Rodgers trade talk and more

On Thursday, the Washington Football Team was fined $10 million for workplace infractions. What’s more important, though, is what didn’t happen.

The NFL made an example of Dan Snyder. In all the wrong ways.

On Thursday, the league levied a $10 million fine on Snyder’s Washington Football Team for a myriad of issues within the organization.

Snyder, who has an estimated worth of $2.6 billion, likely had a personal assistant write and stamp his signature on the check. After all, what’s 0.38 percent of your bank account?

For perspective, if your net worth is $250,000, it’s the equivalent of paying $970.

Independent counsel Beth Wilkinson found rampant workplace violations towards women which included multiple sexual harassment allegations. This comes as no shock for anybody paying attention in recent years after a variety of horror stories coming out of Washington.

Of course, Snyder produced a statement on the fine, which includes the phrases “I feel great remorse” and “I have learned a lot in the past few months.”

Somehow, there is no written report from Wilkinson detailing her findings. It’s a horrendous, horrific look for a league that produced 243 pages on DeflateGate.

Sometimes, the message means even more than the punishment. While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should have come down heavy-handed and publicly — and strongly — against Snyder as a continuing owner in the league, not requiring a lengthy, painstaking written document is flooring.

Washington Football Team: Roger Goodell failed on all levels

Goodell had a chance to make a thunderous warning to the rest of the NFL owners: create or allow a toxic culture, and there will be hell to pay.

While a large sum to most, $10 million is chump change to these men.

By fining Snyder an easily affordable sum, Goodell sets a horrid precedent. Any owner who either doesn’t pay attention to the day-to-day operations and/or concerns within their building doesn’t have to worry about anything which would cause a loss of sleep. If anything, Goodell’s discipline for Snyder will have other heads hitting the pillows easy.

While Wilkinson’s findings, and previous reports of women dealing with abhorrent behavior in Washington, don’t find Snyder as a direct culprit, he’s in charge. He owns the team. He needs to know what’s going on within the building. Predictably, he immediately shunned all future responsibility by naming his wife, Tanya, a co-CEO while a release said Dan will focus on getting a new stadium and “other matters,” whatever that is.

For women working for and around the Washington Football Team, why should they feel any safer? If the answer is Tanya Snyder taking over, that’s a good step (mostly because it means Dan is less involved), but it could also be seen as the proverbial rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

Last summer, I penned a long piece in this space about the dysfunction emanating from Washington on a football level and its failures to deal with people in a professional manner. Below are two quotes that sum it up:

“It’s incompetence at the highest level,” said one prominent agent. “The Washington (Football Team) are run like the Trump Administration. They hire people who are allegedly the best of the best and they are the worst of the worst. They f**k over good people on a regular basis.”

“…It’s obvious owners can improve, but he hasn’t improved,” said another longtime agent. “He’s the same dud owner he was 20 years ago. It’s crazy. Who’s been in the league 20 years and doesn’t improve? …Has Dan Snyder grown one day in 20 years on his job?”

A $10 million fine, Snyder ceding daily responsibility — as though he ever took any — and an investigation not taken seriously enough by the league to demand the written word.

A collective failure from the top down. Just like Snyder and his team.

Power rankings

Top 10 defensive players to never participate in a Super Bowl (1966-present)

1. Dick Butkus, MLB, Chicago Bears (HOFer, 5x All-Pro, 8x Pro Bowler, All-Decade ’60s, ’70s)
2. Deacon Jones, DE, Los Angeles Rams (HOFer, 5x All-Pro, 8x Pro Bowler, All-Decade ’60s)
3. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans (101 sacks, 3x DPOY, 5x All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl, HOF ’10s Team)
4. Merlin Olsen, DT, Los Angeles Rams (HOFer, 5x All-Pro, 14x Pro Bowl, All-Decade ’60s, ’70s)
5. John Randle, DT, Minnesota Vikings (HOFer, 137.5 sacks, 6x All-Pro, 7x Pro Bowl)
6. Derrick Thomas, EDGE, Kansas City Chiefs (HOFer, 126.5 sacks, 2x All-Pro, 9x Pro Bowl)
7. Jason Taylor, DE, Miami Dolphins (HOFer, ’06 DPOY, 139.5 sacks, 3x All-Pro, 6x Pro Bowl)
8. Larry Wilson, S, St. Louis Cardinals (HOFer, 5x All-Pro, 8x Pro Bowl, safety blitz)
9. Kenny Easley, S, Seattle Seahawks (HOFer, 3x All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl, 32 INT)
10. Clay Matthews, OLB, Cleveland Browns (69.5 sacks, 4x Pro Bowl, 16 INT)

Quotable

“The 1-15 season is somewhere that we don’t want to go back. Everyone that’s here understands that. The guys that came in came from a lot of winning programs so we’re trying to develop that winning culture and just that comradery here and I think we’re going to do really good. I think we’re gonna shock a lot of people.”

– Jacksonville Jaguars receiver D.J. Chark on his expectations for his upstart team in 2021

Chark might not be wildly optimistic here. Now, the Jaguars aren’t winning 10 games, but in a weak division with a phenomenal talent under center in Trevor Lawrence, the upside is there. However, Jacksonville may need to overcome new head coach Urban Meyer, who has never coached in the NFL at every level and already incurred a $100,000 fine for his OTA practices.

Podcast

Random stat

After Herschel Walker was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in the infamous deal, he rushed for 4,837 yards and 30 touchdowns across seven years with the Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys (his second stint).

Emmitt Smith, drafted with one of the many picks recouped in the Walker trade, notched 11,224 rushing yards and 112 touchdowns over said span.

Info learned this week

1. Aaron Rodgers sees chances of trade dwindling by hour

There’s reportedly no trade market for Aaron Rodgers. Who would have guessed?

Well, this space for starters, which has been writing for months that the Green Bay Packers, not Rodgers, are in the power seat.

Team president and CEO Mark Murphy was never going to deal Rodgers to the Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders or anybody else for that matter once the draft passed. Why? Because the Packers will have a lot more leverage at the outset of next offseason, when every team has the chance to use or create cap space to acquire him. The market for his services will be far larger, and Green Bay can pit one offer against all the others.

Rodgers can fight this. He can sit out through the summer and even miss regular-season games. He can make the year very uncomfortable for the Packers through media sessions and his social accounts. He can simply be miserable, and make everyone else miserable through his attitude.

But, ultimately, he can’t force his way out of town, and Green Bay knows it.

2. Cowboys will be headlining team on ’21 Hard Knocks

The Cowboys will be America’s Team this summer, in more than one way.

It was announced last week the Cowboys will be on HBO’s annual series Hard Knocks, which takes a look at various storylines and subplots throughout training camp and the preseason. This is the 20th season of the show, which was groundbreaking when it first arose in 2001.

Of course, the series will focus heavily on team owner Jerry Jones, as it has the first two times it featured the Cowboys. We will also get a close look at quarterback Dak Prescott and his recovery, while a few longshot rookies are showcased throughout their road to the roster.

Frankly, HBO needs to step up this year. The show has lacked punch the past two seasons, last year chronicling the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, and the Raiders before that. With the buzz which always surrounds the Cowboys, this should be easy TV to make.

3. Do Bengals have recipe for surprise in Burrow’s second season?

Zac Taylor begins feeling pressure once the pads crack in July.

After two years where Taylor essentially had a grace period, the expectations are now starting. In 2019, Taylor inherited a terrible team without a long-term answer at quarterback. In 2020, Joe Burrow got his first crack at the league, but behind a terrible offensive line and with no defensive support.

Now, the Bengals appear primed for significant improvement.

Burrow is healthy after tearing his ACL last November, while the weapons around him are considerable. The Bengals have first-round receiver and former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase alongside Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. In the backfield, Joe Mixon is an elite runner and both he and Burrow are behind a much-improved offensive line, a group that sees Riley Reiff and Jonah Williams at the tackle spots.

The defense remains a major concern, with coordinator Lou Anarumo at the helm. The unit lost corner William Jackson III and edge rusher Carl Lawson, replacing them with Chidobe Awuzie and Trey Hendrickson, respectively. One could argue both are downgrades.

While no reasonable pundit would peg the Bengals for a playoff spot, perhaps they challenge the Pittsburgh Steelers for third place? If Burrow has the offense humming, Cincy could be the classic race-to-30 team. Could they shock and win a game or two against the Baltimore Ravens or Cleveland Browns?

The Bengals have a long road ahead, but this could be the start of their journey.

4. Josh Gordon making another comeback bid

It’s impossible not to root for a person trying to improve. In this case, it’s Josh Gordon.

Gordon, 30, has once again applied for reinstatement to the NFL following his latest suspension. The talented wide receiver has been suspended a half-dozen times since entering the league in 2012, limiting him to only 63 career games. We last saw Gordon in 2019, splitting time with the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Hopefully Gordon can get past his prior issues and play the game he loves before his immense gifts are lost to history. Luckily for him, teams are always willing to take gambles on such talents, especially when they come at a low cost such as Gordon will.

5. Enjoy the 4th? Sure hope so

Yes, this is a cop-out for the fifth thing we learned this week. It’s a dead period in the NFL, I’m on vacation and I’m writing this on the 4th, looking out at a lake and waiting for the fireworks tonight. Hopefully you’ll indulge me a bit.

This past weekend, our country celebrated its 245th birthday. Amazing to think what a short span that is in the grand scheme. Literally, less than two and a half centuries ago, a bunch of commoners rose up against the most powerful nation on earth and defeated its military over the upcoming five years, giving us the United States.

Anybody with eyes and sense understands how long we have to go to fulfill our potential on a variety of fronts. However, we can all acknowledge how far we’ve come, going from taxation without representation to being the most powerful nation on the globe. We’re a melting pot, and when we apply ourselves, the greatest country the planet offers.

Happy 4th of July, hope you enjoyed a great one.

Two cents

The Detroit Lions have a single playoff win since 1957. I think that changes in the next few years.

It’s a long climb for Detroit, which is coming off another last-place finish in the NFC North. Under the guidance of first-time general manager Brad Holmes, assistant GM Ray Agnew and phenomenal personnel man John Dorsey, the rebuild is on. Matthew Stafford was traded, and Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay left in free agency.

In the process, Holmes gained a litany of future cap space, a bridge quarterback with upside in Jared Goff, and a pair of first-round picks. The Lions also have head coach Dan Campbell on a six-year deal, allowing him to grow with a revamped, youthful roster.

Furthermore, Detroit has been widely panned for hiring Campbell. I disagree. Here’s why:

Forget the biting kneecaps nonsense. The forgotten storyline is the staff he’s assembled. The Lions have a top-notch offensive coordinator in Anthony Lynn and an excellent defensive counterpart in Aaron Glenn. One is a former head coach, and both are likely head coaches in the future.

Other highly-regarded assistants include Duce Staley (asst. head/running backs) and Mark Brunell (quarterbacks). Campbell also has a veteran sounding board in Dom Capers, brought aboard as a senior defensive assistant.

So much of the story around Campbell has been the soundbites and devil-may-care attitude. What really matters is the men surrounding him, the front office’s plan and patience from a new voice in ownership, as Sheila Ford Hamp takes over.

It’s been a long, torturous wait for Lions fans. I believe their fortunes are about to change.

Inside the league

There’s a good bit of conjecture in league circles about how the preseason will be handled this year.

After decades of the same format, we now have three games instead of four for coaches and personnel men to figure out their 53-man rosters and practice squads. In the past, most teams would play starters for a series or two in the first game, into the second quarter the following week, a series or so into the third quarter in the third game, and then little-to-none in the fourth.

How it plays out in 2021 is anybody’s guess. We could see starters either getting extended minutes in the first game, especially for younger clubs trying to gel. However, for the older, veteran teams, do we see the starters for more than a few series throughout August, knowing a 17-game grind awaits?

The thought here: you will almost exclusively see backups and UDFAs in the preseason, while the starters save their energy for the elongated campaign.

History lesson

How bad were the 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Two all-time great coaches were fired for losing to them.

After suffering 26 consecutive losses between 1976-77, the Bucs won their final two games of the campaign, beating Hank Stram’s New Orleans Saints and the Cardinals, helmed by Don Coryell. Both were canned, with the Hall-of-Famer Stram going to the broadcast booth and Coryell enjoying his biggest success with the San Diego Chargers in the upcoming years.

Parting shot

Every year, we have a few quarterback battles playing out across training camps. This summer is no different.

There are a quartet of duels to watch, spreading across the nation. In New England, the Patriots see whether first-round pick Mac Jones proves superior to Cam Newton. Out in Chicago, does Andy Dalton hold off Bears rookie Justin Fields? The Broncos have the least-inspiring of the battles with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, while the San Francisco 49ers provide us with Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo.

On the surface, the Bears are the most intriguing. Fields is universally seen as one of the draft’s biggest steals. Dalton is a 10-year vet who is capable but provides little upside. Can the former Ohio State star usurp Dalton over the course of camp and three preseason games?

While the 49ers are almost certain to go with Garoppolo if healthy, considering the following scenarios:

A) Garoppolo sustains an unfortunate injury — he has a long history of doing so — and Lance looks ready to play.

B) Garoppolo is healthy, but Lance plays lights out. Would general manager John Lynch then shop Garoppolo to a team with either talent or injury issues, a la the Sam Bradford trade of 2016?

Last year, we saw four quarterbacks chosen in the first round. Only Joe Burrow started Week 1. The rest either sat part or all of the season, with Justin Herbert being forced into action with Tyrod Taylor’s injury.

However, those quarterbacks didn’t have OTAs, minicamps and preseason games due to COVID. This crop doesn’t have that problem. How much difference does it make?

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