NFL

Marcus Mariota was a consummate professional until the end with Titans

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Marcus Mariota was a consummate professional until the end with Titans

The Titans season ended and so, too, has Marcus Mariota's time in Tennessee. 

After the Titans 35-24 loss to the Chiefs, the Heisman Trophy winner was confronted with the reality that he'll be an unrestricted free agent heading into next season.  

Benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill midway through the season, Mariota remained a consummate professional. He accepted head coach Mike Vrabel's decision, even if he might not have agreed with it.

And rather than try to force his way out or become a disruptive teammate, Mariota took the high road. He stuck with it.

Now, it's time to move on.

[RELATED: Teams that could most likely land quarterback Marcus Mariota]

Here was the scene in the locker room postgame.

Always classy, indeed. 

Reflecting on this past season, Mariota said, "It’s been a true pleasure. The organization took a chance on me and I felt like I gave them everything I’ve got. We’re not sure what’s gonna happen but I know when it’s all said and done that I gave this organization everything I could."

Mariota threw for over 13,000 passing yards with 76 passing touchdowns. Add another 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. 

In the process, here are some of the franchise records he holds:

  • Most passing touchdowns in a season by a rookie: 19
  • Most completions in a season by a rookie since moving to Tennessee: 230
  • Most passing yards in a season by a rookie since moving to Tennessee: 2,818
  • Most passing attempts in a season by a rookie since moving to Tennessee: 370
  • Most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback: 112
  • Longest run by a quarterback: 87 yards
  • Youngest quarterback in franchise history to throw for over 300 yards in a game since moving to Tennessee: (21 years, 332 days) September 27, 2015
  • First quarterback to catch a touchdown reception
  • First player to throw a touchdown pass to himself
  • First rookie to start at quarterback in Week 1
  • Highest single game completion percentage (95.7)

Despite all of that, the Titans moved away from Mariota. The Titans made the playoffs and advanced to the AFC Championship Game and became an integral part in the team's preparation for Lamar Jackson. 

Until the end, Mariota showed how a professional is supposed to act. 

It's been a gift, it's been a true pleasure," Mariota said. "The organization took a chance on me... Obviously, we're not sure what's going to happen, but when it's all said and done, I gave this organization everything I got. "

So, what has Mariota learned throughout his career and this most recent experience of getting benched?

"Faith," he said. "Having faith in things you can’t really see. No matter what happens, I know I gave it everything I got and we’ll see what happens next."

NFL fans, would you like fake crowd noise added to your TV games?

NFL fans, would you like fake crowd noise added to your TV games?

Joe Buck has been quoted as saying that when or if the NFL plays games without fans in the stadium, it’s “pretty much a done deal” that fake crowd noise will be used by Fox and other networks.

He also indicated that “virtual fans” might be used to give the impression of a packed stadium, which is going too far, I think.

I wouldn’t mind the crowd noise, if people need that, because I usually tune it out, anyway. And I’ve also had some thoughts that a few stadiums and arenas pipe in extra crowd noise, anyway -- just to give their venue a better atmosphere, even though there are rules against that.

I have watched MMA and Korean baseball without fans in the seats and I do think that unless you are very interested in one of the teams or competitors, it's a rather dull experience without the crowd noise.

But the fake noise would require an astute audio person with a good sound board who could manipulate sound as quickly as the course of the game can change with an interception, fumble or bad call by an official.

It’s going to be a new world when sports resumes and we are all going to have to adjust. But I’m curious -- what do YOU think? Leave your comments here or on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Schedule is out, but NFL will have more trouble playing than other leagues

Schedule is out, but NFL will have more trouble playing than other leagues

The 2020 NFL schedule was released Thursday and it was written almost as if there are no concerns for COVID-19 problems. It’s a full schedule with fans in the stands.

But don’t get too excited about those early season games. They are very likely to be casualties of the virus.

And remember, of all the major professional sports leagues, the NFL could prove to be the most challenged to find a way to play in this environment.

A closer look at the schedule reveals that there is a plan to shorten the season, if necessary. Weeks three and four of the schedule feature no divisional games. They would apparently be the first games canceled. Then weeks one and four could be shoehorned into bye weeks later in the season.

That could allow for a 14-game season with a month’s delay. And it could be played with the Super Bowl pushed back just one week. I would assume the league would then, if it must, continue to push the schedule and Super Bowl back a week or two at a time until able to play.

I would also assume there are many more contingency plans that have not yet been revealed. There have to be -- because what was released Thursday just doesn’t seem possible.

The league took the approach of scheduling its season in very much a normal fashion, but a statement from Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear his league will attempt to adjust as needed:

"We are prepared to make adjustments as necessary, as we have during this offseason in safely and efficiently conducting key activities such as free agency, the virtual offseason program, and the 2020 NFL draft."

If virus concerns continue through the summer, which appears more than likely, the NFL faces more logistical problems than the other pro leagues, simply because of the number of participants in its games.

First of all, this game features a tremendous amount of physical contact between participants, meaning the virus could spread quickly through a team or even an entire league.

You can reasonably talk about being able to quarantine a 15-player NBA roster, but NFL rosters feature 55 players, along with a 12-player practice squad. In addition, NFL teams have a multitude of coaches and support personnel.

While NBA and Major League Baseball are considering scenarios featuring putting their entire leagues in a "bubble" to keep them safe, possibly playing out a season in one location without fans, the NFL would seemingly have an impossible task of trying to do the same thing.

And it’s also questionable that even traveling to all NFL cities by September will be possible.

States are opening up at different times. It’s likely that a team in Florida or Georgia could begin practice sooner than the one in Washington, for example. Would the league allow that or would all teams have to begin at the same time? Could all the teams be ready to play in time for the season to start as scheduled?

The NFL schedule reflects a great degree of optimism and the league is going to have to be very nimble in order to make it work in some fashion.

But that’s a league not necessarily known for its flexibility. I would say this is not a schedule, it’s a wish.

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston hitting reset button -- who will be better?

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston hitting reset button -- who will be better?

It appears that Jameis Winston is signing a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints.

And now that Marcus Mariota has signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, it leads me to think that perhaps, after five seasons in the NFL, we still don’t know which of those guys is the best quarterback.

They were drafted in 2015, Winston No. 1 out of Florida State by Tampa Bay and Mariota No. 2 from Oregon by Tennessee, in a year when the draft wasn’t exactly loaded with blue-chip quarterbacks. Both players had previously won a Heisman Trophy.

And it’s certainly time to ask the question, are either of these players going to emerge as a high-quality NFL quarterback?

Of course, regional bias in these parts will always say that Mariota is a star in waiting. The storyline has always been that he hasn’t been used properly, the offense hasn’t been tailored to fit his skill set, he hasn’t had quality receivers, hasn't had a good offensive coordinator, too many coaching changes, etc., etc.

I’m not going to bury you with statistics, you can find Mariota’s stats here and Winston’s here. Just see for yourself and cherry-pick the ones that bolster your argument.

But in summary, I would state the obvious: that Mariota is the steadier of the two, less prone to mistakes. More careful. But Winston, who has been in a Pro Bowl, can be more spectacular, more likely to take chances.

Everyone talks about Winston’s 30 interceptions last season, but he also had 33 touchdown passes, a figure Mariota has never approached. Mariota’s all-time high in picks is 15 and he has only 44 in 63 career games. Winston has thrown 88 interceptions in 72 games. On the other hand, Winston has tossed 121 TD passes while Mariota has thrown just 76.

Both quarterbacks get to hit the reset button -- Winston for a team that resurrected Teddy Bridgewater’s career and Mariota with a coach who seems to love him.

I don’t think I’d be betting on either of them becoming a breakout star with their new franchise, but anything is possible with a fresh start.

At this point, though, I think it’s probably fair to say that neither man has lived up to expectations.

Former Patriots RB Kenjon Barner reveals what being on the team was really like

Former Patriots RB Kenjon Barner reveals what being on the team was really like

What is the New England Patriots locker room really like?

That is the question that has plagued mankind for centuries, or at least since 2000 when Bill Belichick became head coach and changed the franchise's fate forever. 

20 years later, Belichick is still going strong and the Patriots have won six Super Bowls during his tenure. 

It helped that he had Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time under center, but Belichick was the man that called the shots.

On Monday, former Oregon Ducks running back Kejon Barner joined The Brian Noe Show to talk about his time in New England. 

Barner played for the Patriots in 2018 and he used his first-hand experience to give host Brain Noe a glimpse of what Patriot life is like. 

The former Oregon Duck admitted he was nervous to enter the Patriots locker room based on what he had heard. 

But, when he arrived, his eyes were opened.

"It's a special place," said Barner. "There's a standard of excellence that they have and you're either gonna live up to it or you're not, and if you're not, you won't be there for too long."

That standard of excellence has made the Patriots one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports. 

It's that success, coupled with Coach Belichick's constant grumpy face, that leads outsiders to believe that the Patriots locker room is all business, all the time. Barner says that couldn't be further from the truth. 

I had a ton of fun. That was something that was obviously a concern. I wanna have fun playing this game. I wanna enjoy it. I wanna laugh. I wanna be goofy. I wanna be who I am. I wanna be the goofy guy that I am. It wasn't like this is strictly business, you're not gonna have fun. That was just as fun as any other locker room I've been in. When we worked, we worked. There is a time for work and there is a time for play. But when you worked you were gonna work. But outside of that, it's no different than any other locker room. Same goofy guys laughing, joking around, playing around. It's a locker room, no different than any other place. It's just, when it's time to work, you are going to work... and you're going to work."

If you noticed, Barner put some emphasis on work. That is what set the Patriots apart. When it was time to work, it was time to put the joking aside to get the job done. 

"That's what a learned there. If you walked into that organization, you did the things you were supposed to do, carried yourself as a professional athlete, you came to work every day, grinded hard, did the things that were required of you, you don't have a problem at all," said Barner. "But for the guys that come in and they aren't accustomed to that type of locker room environment where when it's time to work you actually have to work, there's gonna be a problem for you."

Barner spent just five games with the Patriots, and spent last season with the Atlanta Falcons where he was the team's primary punt returner. Barner h 35 punt returns for 267 yards and a single touchdown. He also had 17 kick returns for 406 yards.

Barner is currently a free agent and is continuing to train while waiting for his phone to ring. 

Nickelodeon to air NFL Wild Card games in 2021

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Nickelodeon to air NFL Wild Card games in 2021

NFL clubs announced Tuesday plans to expand the postseason by two teams beginning with the 2020 season. The expansion had recently been voted on and passed in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Now official, there will be seven playoff teams from each conference, including three Wild Card teams. The No. 2 team will no longer receive a bye and will instead host the No. 7 team. 

But buried in the announcement is the launch of a kid-friendly broadcast on Nickelodeon, which will attract a younger crowd.  

Yes, the NFL will be on Nickelodeon.  

The league announced NBC and CBS would broadcast the additional wild card games. NFL Wild Card Weekend will include three games Saturday, Jan. 9 and another three games Sunday, Jan. 10. In addition to CBS’ extra broadcast on Jan. 9 — which also will be carried via a livestream on CBS All Access — the NFL noted a separately produced telecast of the game will air on Nickelodeon, tailored for a younger audience.

The Nickelodeon broadcast could quite possibly be the most watch-worthy event of them all. Just imagine: SpongeBob on the sidelines doing player interviews, or a superstar slime down during halftime. 

NFL Twitter seems into it, honestly. 

You’ll have to wait until January 10, 2021 to catch the kid-friendly telecast, but it is happening. 

Report: NFL Draft to be held in TV studio, leaving the Las Vegas Strip

Report: NFL Draft to be held in TV studio, leaving the Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas had grand plans for the 2020 NFL Draft. 

From the stage floating on the water in front of the Bellagio, to players being brought to the stage via boat. It was going to be a spectacle only Sin City could pull off. 

Unfortunately, that spectacular show will have to wait. 

Earlier this week, the Las Vegas Strip shut down to help contain the spread of COVID-19. That decision will impact next month's NFL Draft.

According to reports, the NFL Draft will no longer be held in Las Vegas and the league has plans to hold the draft in a TV studio, while cutting into live looks of the team war rooms. 

According to a memo obtained by the LA Times, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote: “Planning for the Draft is a good example of how we need to think differently, embrace technology and collaborate. We will also use the Draft to help support fans and those people impacted in our communities.”

Following the NFL's announcement, the Las Vegas Raiders and owner Mark Davis issued a statement of their own. "After careful consideration, the Las Vegas Raiders, the NFL, the NFLPA and the LVCVA have decided to cancel the 2020 Las Vegas NFL Draft celebration... Health and safety has always been our top priority, so despite it being a major disappointment, this was the right decision."

The situations we are all dealing with due to the pandemic change by the hour, and we are all forced to adjust.

Las Vegas was supposed to put on the greatest NFL Draft imaginable. Now our imagination is all we have to picture this event. 

The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 23-25.

Will Tom Brady justify that huge deal at age 42? He already has!

Will Tom Brady justify that huge deal at age 42? He already has!

A quick look at the NFL, since it’s the only place in sports where there is actual news.

  • Momma, don’t let your kids grow up to be running backs. Todd Gurley is 25 and may be close to the end of the line. Yes, partly because of knee injuries, but running backs always get those. And unlike players at other positions, the little mobility they may lose because of it could cost them their job. Plus, the colleges keep churning out adequate replacements for them every year. Gurley signed today with Atlanta and we wish him luck -- but he better start showing some of that explosion he showed as a star at Georgia.

  • Does it really make sense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign a 42-year-old, 20-year-veteran quarterback named Tom Brady to a big-money contract? Well, the Bucs raised ticket prices by 15 percent for all but club-level seats this season and those tickets are selling like toilet paper at a Costco. This franchise is suddenly a hot property in its city, But will the team win? Actually, to a lot of NFL owners, that doesn’t matter -- and you must know that by now. The team should be better, much money will be made and that equals a GREAT signing.

  • The single best thing tight end Jimmy Graham has always been able to do is convince teams to give him large sums of money. The Chicago Bears signed him for two years and $16 million, in spite of the fact that he’s never been much of a blocker, isn’t as explosive as he once was and really, Jimmy Graham?

  • And speaking of free-agent signings, I’m not sure how well Philip Rivers will end up being for Indianapolis at $25 million for one season. Man, at this point of his career I’m not sure he’s better than last year’s QB, Jacoby Brissett. Raise your kids to be quarterbacks, momma.

  • Have the latest free-agent signings made the Seahawks better? You’re asking the wrong guy. Wish I could tell you I am an expert on line play in the NFL, but there aren’t many sports writers who really know what they’re talking about when it comes to the guys up front -- which is where Seattle has spent its money so far. They’ll say they’re better, which teams always do, but the hope would be that they could stay healthier.

Todd Gurley draws comparisons to Steven Jackson after signing with Falcons

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Todd Gurley draws comparisons to Steven Jackson after signing with Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons are preparing to sign former Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, according Jordan Schultz.

The Rams released Gurley a day before $10.5M was guaranteed.

The deal, which is reportedly a one year contract, won't be finalized until he passes a physical.

Some discussed whether or not Gurley would work as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. 

We now know that won’t come to fruition. 

The Falcons released starting running back Devonta Freeman earlier in the week and were in need of a running back. Gurley played at the University of Georgia, setting up somewhat of a homecoming.

Prior to Gurley’s release, the Falcons were reportedly making calls about a potential trade. 

Gurley is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro who was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 and the AP Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.

So, as the deal became public, people started drawing comparisons to former Falcons running back Steven Jackson. 

But, why?

At quick glance: Both are veteran running backs with a history of knee issues coming out of college and both played for the Rams before signing with the Falcons. 

Jackson, who played at Oregon State from 2001-03, was drafted in the first round by the St. Louis Rams. He spent nine seasons in St. Louis, where set a franchise record for most career rushing yards (10,138). 

His time in Atlanta did not go as many had hoped, after he failed to rush for 1,000 yards in 2013, the first time since his rookie season. He finished the year with 543 rushing yards on 157 attempts.

The key difference here is Gurley is five years younger. 

The risk for Atlanta is also lower because it is just a one-year deal. Should things not work out, then both parties can move on. 

Time will tell if Gurley can remain healthy and get back to the dual-threat numbers fantasy owners know and love.

Jon Gruden on Marcus Mariota: 'He is like Russell Wilson only he is 6-4'

Jon Gruden on Marcus Mariota: 'He is like Russell Wilson only he is 6-4'

The Oakland Raiders are apparently close to signing free-agent quarterback Marcus Mariota. And given Oakland Coach Jon Gruden's feelings about Mariota, going back to the 2015 draft, when there was controversy over whether Mariota or Jameis Winston would be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Here is what Gruden, then not coaching in the NFL and working as a commentator, said about Mariota:

I don't understand why he isn't the No. 1 player in this draft on Mel Kiper's Big Board. I don't know anybody in this draft that can do for a football team what Mariota can do. He can read the field. That whole thing about Oregon being a no-huddle, dive-option team, that is just a narrative resulting from a lack of information. The Ducks run a lot of pro-style concepts. Mariota does a lot with the protections. I've seen him throw the ball with touch and timing in tight windows.

Mariota is the same size as Jameis Winston. He runs 4.52 40, he is incredibly elusive, and man, is he a playmaker and a great competitor. I see him functioning in the pocket, out of the pocket, and if you want to run a zone-read, he'll rip the defense apart. He is like Russell Wilson, only he is 6-4.

Gruden has a reputation as a head coach who is tough on quarterbacks. Very demanding. But it appears Mariota would be heading toward a fresh start for a head man who has liked him for a long time.