Bad beats in gambling the new lifeline for the NFL


Bad beats in gambling the new lifeline for the NFL

This is why we drink.

Washington is at Kansas City. Dying moments of a game the Chiefs have clearly won, 23-20. Washington has the ball at its own 25 with four seconds left – time for one desperate gimmick.

In other words, if you bet Washington to cover the 6 1/2 point spread, or if you bet the under on the 47 1/2 point total, you’ve won your bet. And if you bet both, you’re a genius.

Except that Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a ball toward the sideline to Jamison Crowder, who throws it backward from whence it came to Cousins. He promptly fumbles it, and after failed attempts by Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson to regain possession, the ball is collected by Kansas City’s Justin Houston and run into the end zone for a meaningless touchdown that only made everyone who bet Washington and the under bitter losers.

It’s a bad beat to match the worst of them, and it’s a great story you can tell your grandchildren when they ask you why you don’t watch sports any more.

And yet it is the new lifeline for a sport which is coming to grips with slowly shrinking ratings and public relations agonies at every turn. The NFL cannot acknowledge this, of course, given its stance that gambling is wrong wink-wink-nudge-nudge.

But it is sending the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas because there is new money to be made there from people who watched Monday’s game and will remember the bad beat a lot more readily than the game itself. It is why the next innovation in the league will be separate standings for games straight-up and games against the line. It is how you keep people interested in bad teams who lose close games.

It may even be how the league saves the Los Angeles Chargers, as long as the bookmakers don’t keep making the Chargers favorites, as they did Sunday. The Chargers are the undisputed masters of the close loss, and they might be far less repellent if they could make the playoffs via the gambling standings.

(Right now, they stink across the board, but you never know when that can turn around. Betting is funny that way).

That day is coming, though, and games like Washington-Kansas City would be instant classics that would fill the NFL Network on slow summer weekdays forever.

That is, unless you had Washington and the under. In that case, you hate football forever – until Friday, when you start to drink again.

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?


Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders


Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”