The Dak Prescott Contract Conundrum

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

The Dak Prescott contract conundrum is something that I feel has been talked about for ages, and with the Coronavirus pandemic also going on, it feels like this story is only getting dragged out more and more. There are so many different contract offers being thrown around and so many different perspectives on the deal, but we are here to get you guys situated and all caught up on the latest on the Dak Prescott situation and our predictions, from everyone’s point of view.

The Dallas Cowboys’ Perspective by Rohan Krishnan:

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have been in talks for a long term contract for a while now, so what is taking so long? The problem is that the front office and Dak both have different contract numbers they are looking at. Dallas is definitely willing to make Prescott the highest paid quarterback in the league, but they want more years. Also, a recent interview with COO Stephen Jones told us that Dallas wants to make sure their salary cap is divided up in a way that helps Dallas win. “There’s all sorts of analytics out there that show if your quarterback takes up too big a percentage of your salary cap, that it decreases your chances to win. We’re just trying to figure out the right fit”, Jones said recently. The Cowboys want $35 million per year for 5 years, and Dak will do $37 million per year for 5 years according to a recent report from Mike Fisher, as he wants $45M in the fifth year because he believes that with the inflated market then, that is what he will be worth. That being said, he is only going to be 31 when the contract is over, so he will get another big contract yet again, and that seems solvable for both sides. Prediction: I believe that Prescott will stay a Cowboy and sign a long-term deal before the start of the 2020 NFL season.

Dak’s Perspective by Pranav Thiriveedhi

As previously mentioned, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have been negotiating for a while about the contract that Dak receives and how much he will get paid. Initially, Dak Prescott, who thinks he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a leading part of one the best NFL offenses, asked Dallas to pay him a lot of money for him to stay a Cowboy. From Dak’s perspective, he in some way deserves this money, based on the production he has stirred up for the Cowboys in the last few years. In the last season, Dak Prescott has thrown for a whopping 4,902 yards, along with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Even though the Cowboys missed the playoffs in a grudge match that is the NFC East, it can be very believable to see that the Dallas Cowboys will perform exceptionally with Prescott as the leading horse in the years to come. After a lot of time, the Cowboys matched his ask and offered him a 5 year, $175 Million contract, that comes to around $35 Million a year. This contract would make Dak Prescott the most paid QB in the entire league. Mike Fisher reported that Dak Prescott only wanted to be under this contract for 4 years, and this makes sense for Dak. The league is changing and players are playing under bigger contracts that last shorter amounts of time and Dak believes this should pertain to him as well. Dak Prescott and his team took this offer into thought and came back saying that if he came back for his 5th year he would need to be paid $45 Million! Obviously from Dak Prescott’s perspective, this is something he really wants and is adamant about, but in the end this money is coming from the Cowboys. Prediction: So after Dak plays all his cards and runs out, I predict that before the start of the 2020 NFL season, the Cowboys and Dak Prescott will sign a 5-year deal, but the money will be on the Cowboys terms.

The NFL’s Perspective by Saransh Sharma

The Coronavirus pandemic is going to take a hit on the NFL in terms of money, as no fans will mean they are losing all of that revenue they would have made from those people, especially season-ticket and VIP/box seat holders. Teams will need to be compensated and therefore that could lead to a salary cap reduction. But what does this have to do with Dak Prescott? Well, if there is a sense that the NFL will indeed lower the salary cap, after this season, then even paying Prescott the 4-year, $140M deal ($35M/year) would be too much, because Prescott would take up such a huge chunk of the cap space, and they just signed Amari Cooper for $22M/year, and Ezekiel Elliott is on a $15M/year deal. Over the next few years, guys like Leighton Vander Esch, Demarcus Lawrence, and Michael Gallup will all be up for extensions, and if Dak is on a long 4-5 year contract eating up lots of cap space, the Cowboys might not even be able to bring back one of those players mentioned. Now, I understand that the cap will eventually increase to even higher than what it is right now, because at some point things will go back to normal and even get better after this pandemic, but because of how the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) contract would work, this would probably last at least 3 seasons, which would not go through the entirety of Prescott’s contract. This is more of a hypothetical, but definitely something that Dallas is considering every time Prescott wants a higher number in terms of salary. Prediction: Prescott will take the 4-year deal at $140M ($35M/year), but 2-3 years in, there will be restructuring of the deal which will allow for the Cowboys to assess the market then, and allow for Dak to get paid his current market value (so he could get the $45M per year on his contract later). Either way, unless he gets traded, Dak is a Cowboy for Life.

‘The Last Dance’ Review, Recap, and Reaction

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

The 5-week, 10 episode docu-series on the greatest run by a team in a decade in the history of sports, concluded today, with the ending being capped off with the 1998 NBA Finals victory by the Chicago Bulls to win their 6th championship in 8 years, thus completing ‘The Last Dance,’ which was what coach Phil Jackson called this last year quest for the dynasty. So much happened behind the scenes and off the court that we really did not know until now, and the fact that we got the chance to capture all of that and see Michael revisit and talk about these moments was truly remarkable. There are so many big pieces to the ‘98 Championship run from so many different past seasons, whether it be playing against Dennis Rodman and losing to him and the Pistons constantly and then eventually recruiting him to the team, and also Jordan having retired for baseball, then coming back and getting back in shape, Scottie Pippen’s role, Jerry Krause’s ignorance, MJ’s winning mentality being described as ‘disrespectful,’ and so much more. Here is the big review, recap, and reaction all-in-one to all the events, details, decisions, descriptions, and much more, of how ‘The Last Dance’ turned out to be successful, both as the ‘98 season, and as the critically-acclaimed docu-series.

Saransh’s Reaction

Michael Jordan’s Competitive Nature

The competitiveness of Michael Jordan is second to none not just amongst basketball players, but amongst athletes. Whether it was an NBA Playoff game, golfing with his dad, or just a simple ‘coin toss across the room’ game with the team security guard like in Episode 6, everything was a competition to Mike. The most impressive thing about his competitive nature was what motivated him to compete at such a high level. Sometimes it was as simple as just losing, like it was for him against Detroit and Orlando, seeing them celebrate in Chicago and winning against him in a series, but sometimes it was just one action or comment by someone that was their downfall, and Michael’s rise. When Charlotte stole a game from Chicago in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference in 1996 and B.J. Armstrong talked a little trash, it was over for Charlotte. The next 4 games went to Chicago and they even swept Orlando in the Conference Finals.

Then there was the side of Jordan which I think a lot of people were surprised to see and hear about, which was the ‘not-so-nice guy’ side of him. The stories of him at practices are honestly as legendary as you can think of. He punched Steve Kerr after a practice after Kerr did not back down from him when Jordan got mad at Phil Jackson for putting Kerr on him and making fun of him. He then proceeded to apologize and talk it out on the phone with Kerr, and as they were both competitive guys, they understood why it got heated. But even as great as Michael was, there were still people that did not like his ways as a teammate. Former Bulls Point Guard John Paxson talked about how he would be scared at times, and Power Forward Horace Grant apparently could not eat after games because Jordan did not let him. But at the end of the day, this made Jordan the greatest, the tough love. It was so hard for him to talk about his teammates, that he started tearing up talking about it and hearing about how some of his teammates felt sometimes. But in the end, the hard truth was that it was his way of gaining trust of them, and making them realize what he expected of them. If he did not go so hard on Kerr, Jordan would not have trusted him to take the Finals-winning jumper, he would not have trusted Scottie Burrell to be such a great role player, or Dennis Rodman to go out and skip practices, or even let guys like Luc Longley and Bill Wennington, who got overlooked, be vital pieces of the team in every title run. What made Jordan so great was that he involved his teammates through his trust in them and instilling his mental fortitude into them, and if you did not want that, you did not have to play with Michael and enjoy the great journey.

The Legend of Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr was a man who came from a humble beginning. Kerr was born into a family of UCLA professor Malcolm Kerr, and eventual professor Ann Kerr. As they were both professors, Steve’s family had Steve and his brother very academically-minded and focused, as the only time the TV would be on from Monday through Thursday would be for big basketball games. Malcolm being at UCLA, loved basketball and got Steve into it by taking him to UCLA games, and at that time, the John Wooden coaching era was going on, and the greatest college basketball teams ever were there for Steve to witness live and in-person. Steve played all through high school as well, but did not receive offers until the very last minute, when Arizona offered him a scholarship. At this time, Malcolm had gone to American University at Beirut, along with his wife and Steve’s brother. However, the story of Malcolm being shot and killed was truly heartbreaking, and really drove Steve to be the person and competitor that he is. 

When Kerr got to Chicago, he brought that competitiveness that he gained that drove him after having lost his father, into the championship culture of Chicago. He challenged Jordan, did not back down, did not let himself get brought down by Jordan’s competitive edge at practice, which sometimes Jordan took too far, including the time he punched Steve. From that time forward, however, their trust levels and understanding of each other was like no other. It led Steve to be trusted by Jordan to hit the Finals-winning shot in ‘97, just like MJ trusted John Paxson in ‘93 to do the same thing, whom Steve learned from and mentored. He not only won his rings with Chicago, but also in San Antonio as a player in 2000 and 2002, and a coach of the Golden State Warriors dynasty from the past 5 seasons. All in all, Steve’s competitive edge and love for basketball came from his father, who instilled in him the game, life values, and a hard-working nature into Steve.

Phil Jackson’s Resilience, Even When MJ Left

I think it is taking it a bit too far to say that Phil Jackson was overlooked throughout this whole run, but the work he did definitely can get a bit lost in the shadows when your players are as good as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Jackson was asked to make the Chicago Bulls into NBA Champions after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had been asked to make them relevant. He took over as the head coach in 1989 after Doug Collins was fired in Chicago, which, given the success he brought to Chicago, where he took the team from nothing to the Eastern Conference Finals with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, the firing was a bit surprising, but Collins had been with the Bulls for a while, so therefore warranted his way out the door. Jackson took over the team when they were very close to ending the dynasty of the Detroit Pistons, and in his first year, he nearly did that. Had Game 7 been in Chicago and not Detroit, Jackson would have ended the dynasty in his first year with the Bulls, but the next year, Eastern Conference Finals rematch yet again, the Bulls swept, and won the 1991 NBA Finals over the Lakers, and then proceeded to win in ‘92 and ‘93. Then, out of nowhere, Michael Jordan retires.

Jackson did not back down or let Jordan’s retirement get in the way of him coaching this team. The team might have lost the greatest to ever play the game, but the team was pretty darn good even without Jordan. In 1994, the team won 55 games and if it were not for a blown call in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks, they could have tried for their 4th straight championship. The year after that, the Bulls struggled a bit, but getting Jordan back got them a healthy seeding in the playoffs, but Orlando stole the series thanks to Horace Grant, the former Bull. He then allowed Jordan to be able to retrain his body back into basketball form and he helped the team add talent, such as Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, and they helped go 72-10 and win the NBA Finals, and start another 3-peat. And then he did it again, going 3-peat with LA from ‘01-’03, and back-to-back in ‘09-’10. Phil Jackson is, in my mind, the greatest basketball coach of all-time, and it all started not when he won his first 3-peat with Michael, but the seasons he endured without him.

Nikhil’s Reaction

The 1992 Olympics Dream Team

For the first time, the United States sent a team of mainly NBA players to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona to compete in the Men’s Basketball tournament. This allowed the likes of Jordan, Bird, and Johnson to play on the same team, and form the inevitable Dream Team, the likes of which has gone down in history as one of the most legendary teams ever. What came as an initial shock was the exclusion of Isiah Thomas, and the sports media at the time associated Jordan’s icy relationship with him as a defining factor of this decision. Jordan, when interviewed for the filming of the documentary stated that he had no influence on the formation on the team, but did concede that had Thomas been selected, the flow and camaraderie of the team would have changed. Regardless, the cohesion of the team that did end up competing in Barcelona was second to none, and this is what elevated them above the rest. Their practices were some of the most competitive in existence, and this culminated in the infamous scrimmage in Monte Carlo. Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan captained their respective sides in an anything-goes, trash-talking, no-holds-barred grudge match. At one point Magic’s team was up 8, and he felt the need to tell Jordan that if the famous ‘Air Jordan’ didn’t show up, they were gonna blow him out. As Saransh alluded to earlier, Jordan took this personally, and instantly made Johnson eat his words. He proceeded to score around 10 unanswered points, and won the game for his team. Those within the team recollected the tension in the air during the bus ride home as suffocating, but the instant Johnson cracked a joke with Charles Barkley, the team’s camaraderie rose back to prominence, albeit with Michael Jordan firmly at the helm of the ship. 

During the Olympics, the Dream Team faced off with Croatia, and the newly drafted Bull, Toni Kukoc. There was some friction between Jordan, Pippen and Kukoc, given that Jerry Krause placed a great amount of praise on the shoulders of the Croatian, and seemingly devalued the accomplishments of the current Bulls roster at the time. In the first game against Croatia, Jordan and Pippen seemed to go after Kukoc during the game, shutting him down defensively, and thus making every effort to make Krause look bad. However, the second time around during the Gold Medal game, Kukoc surged back and showed his worth even though they lost. The Dream Team took home the gold, and Jordan’s legacy started to take meaningful shape.

I found it very interesting to hear Kukoc’s side of this story, especially given the context of his situation before arriving in the league. Having hailed from Croatia, at the time a war-torn state of Yugoslavia, he, along with his teammates during the Olympics, all had an amazing amount of strength and focus that Team USA simply didn’t account for. To trash-talk, abuse, and target Kukoc doesn’t really faze him, simply because it isn’t comparable to the fight for his literal will to live. It just goes to show that no one’s story can be understood from a distance, and that everyone has certain traits that make them unbreakable, no matter what the circumstances are.

Jordan’s Stint in the MLB

The tragic death of Michael Jordan’s father in many ways defined Jordan’s career path, starting with his first retirement from basketball. At the time, Jordan’s reasoning was that he had produced 3 championships, and had given everything he had to the city of Chicago, so he figured that since he had no more challenges and no more motivation to play basketball, he should call it quits. The drama escalated and peaked during a White Sox playoff game, during which Jordan was present. The information of Jordan’s retirement leaked during the game, and the swarm of reporters and fans ensued. The media ran rampant with headlines up until the official press conference the next morning, in which Jordan stated that he was at peace with his decision, and also left the door open for anything down the road. What ensued was a list of allegations seemingly connecting the death of Jordan’s father, the presence of his gambling problem, and the progression of his career to his retirement. Some outlets even told a narrative that David Stern, the NBA commissioner at the time, veiled this retirement as a secret ban from the NBA due to his gambling. This is beyond absurd given that Jordan was the best thing to happen to the NBA financially, socially, and internationally. What is certain however, is that the retirement was of his own accord.

Jordan transitioned to baseball during his retirement period, and signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. This was one of his dreams that he had as a kid, and in many ways it follows his father’s dream to play in the MLB. The issue was that since Michael Jordan was such a polarizing figure all over the country, the facilities apparent in the lower levels of the MLB league system simply could not accommodate the amount of hype that he drew in. Due to this he was placed in the minor leagues Double A league, where the sufficient amount of fans could be accounted for. Couple this with the fact that Jordan had not played baseball properly since he was 17, and it was a seemingly disastrous fate. What no one expected however was how good he was. He started out with a 13-game hitting streak, and after a while opposing pitchers started to throw breaking balls rather than fastballs, the latter of which was never thrown for nearly a month. Jordan’s dry spell resulted in a media sandstorm, calling him out on his poor play, and labeling his decision as faulty. The most striking of these was the Sports Illustrated magazine cover of him missing a pitch, and labeled him as an embarrassment. As we all know, this lit the fire in Jordan’s mind, and he kept getting better and better as the season went on, to the point where it was speculated that he could’ve made it to the major leagues. The MLB had a strike that year, so that element of his career was cut short, and thus he returned to Bulls. What can be said however, is that he made a lasting impact in his reputation as the greatest ever.

Krause’s demolition of the Bulls: Good or Bad?

Jerry Krause has been documented throughout the course of the Bulls dynasty as a dictator type of general manager that would put prospective over his current players and even his own family to an extent. When the Bulls won their 6th championship, there was already huge speculation about what the Bulls would do and whether or not the team would get blown up. Jerry Reinsdorf, the team owner, states that he asked Phil Jackson to come back for the next year, which he turned down. He also states, that it would be suicide to keep the players they had due to injury, egos, etc. Jordan retorted that any player and coach would’ve been happy to sign the one-year contract to chase that 7th championship, and states that it’s “maddening” because it definitely could’ve happened. Following the 6th ring, Jackson, Pippen, Rodman, Kerr, and Jordan all left the Bulls organization, and the Bulls embraced a rebuild that can be argued to have progressed to the current-day.

I know that the immediate gut reaction to this is to have let Jordan and the team chase the 7th ring. But just to play devil’s advocate in this scenario, let’s look at the benefits of how things played out. Given that Jordan himself stated that he was physically drained following the season’s end, and that Pippen had struggled with injuries during the Finals run itself, it is almost a guarantee that someone essential to the teams success would sustain a lengthy injury during the season, jeopardizing a Finals run. This along with the fact that some players would inevitably ask for more money, and some key pieces would get moved around due to the nature of the business, all equates to a significantly lesser change of even getting to the endgame, let alone succeeding. In my mind there isn’t anything wrong with how the Bulls dynasty ended, because they went out on top. Doing so cemented their lasting legacy as the greatest dynasty to grace the NBA, and affirms Michael Jordan’s candidacy for the “Greatest Of All Time” conversation.

 

 

NFL Best Free Agents Remaining: But Why Are They Here?

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

This year’s NFL Free Agency has been the best in NFL history, but the craziest part of all of this is that there are still elite players left as free agents right now. Players like Cam Newton, Jadeveon Clowney, and Everson Griffen still see their names on the market and not on a team. Here are the top 12 free agents, and our predictions for where they will go:

  1. Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE

This one to me is actually mind-boggling considering his production. Now, to be fair, the Coronavirus pandemic has hurt the value of guys like Clowney, because the outside linebacker position was one that had an abundance of talent in this year’s NFL Draft, so teams could bank on a younger, cheaper player to develop and become a good linebacker. He was hurt last season and only played 13 games and only had 3 sacks, but he forced 4 fumbles, had his first interception and pick-6, deflected 3 passes, and had 13 QB hits, which is an average of 1 per game, which is pretty solid. The problem is that the idea of waiting a season and going for a small contract for this upcoming season, and then cashing out after next season is not as viable an option as it used to be due to the impacts of Coronavirus. That being said, Clowney is open to waiting for the summer to roll around and sign a big deal if it comes then.

Prediction: Jets Sign Clowney on 3-year, $52.5M deal, $39M Guaranteed

  1. Cam Newton, QB

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, Cam Newton was coming off of a 15-1 MVP season, and a near Super Bowl victory. Now, Newton, having dealt with a few injuries, has been released by the Panthers and is now struggling to get a contract as even a backup for this upcoming season. Honestly, I think that Cam Newton is definitely starter material, but he just has to do his due diligence and wait it out this year and be a backup. Newton surely can still play at a starter level and play at a high level as well, I just do not see it being this season.

Prediction: Steelers Sign Newton on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal

  1. Everson Griffen, DE

Now this is a player who I understand why he is unsigned. 2 years ago, when the Vikings went to the NFC Championship Game, Griffin had 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. In the next 2 seasons combined, he has 13.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and no forced fumbles. The only number that has been near the same in 2017 is the QB hits, which he had 24 just this past season after 25 in 2017. Granted, in the 2018 season, Griffen did only play 11 games, so the stats look unusually low, but these past 2 seasons, Griffen’s low number of sacks really is costing him now come free agency time. 8.0+ sacks is something Griffen is used to doing, so seeing him now barely being able to get that is strange, and the health issues have not helped either. That being said, Griffen’s talent still warrants him getting a 1-year ‘prove-it’ deal, and then signing onto another deal of a bigger salary with the same or different team. 

Prediction: Seahawks Sign Griffen on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal to Replace Clowney

  1. Larry Warford, OG

Larry Warford was a surprise release a week ago by New Orleans, but a lot of it apparently had to do with the fact that he put on some weight and New Orleans did not like that it was happening during this offseason, so they let him go, and they also have a young, worthy replacement for him at Left Guard in Andrus Peat, who got a 5-year, $57.5M extension a few weeks back. Warford, despite the weight concerns, is still capable of being an elite left guard in the NFL.

Prediction: Warford Goes Back to Detroit, Signs with Lions on 3-Year Deal

  1. Jason Peters, OT

Jason Peters has been a monumental piece of the Philadelphia Eagles offense since 2009, protecting various NFL quarterbacks who achieved stardom through their years in Philly such as Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz. Jason Peters is a Super Bowl champion who is decorated with achievements such as being a 9x Pro Bowler, 2x First Team All-Pro, 4x Second Team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 2010’s decade team is now at an older age of 38, but still has the fire to play into his 40s. He is currently a free agent coming off an average year at a price of $3.5 million, but is still holding strong communication with the Eagles and is being eyed on by the Broncos, Jets, and Browns as well, who all would perform much better with his veteran status.

Prediction: Peters re-signs with the Eagles to a 1-Year or 2-Year Deal

  1. Logan Ryan, CB

Logan Ryan is one of the NFL’s most elusive and underrated cornerbacks coming off an amazing season with the Tennessee Titans. The 29 year old is a sharp veteran, who has the ability to force turnovers and provide pass breakups during crucial plays. In 2019, finishing his contract with $9.5 million left for the year, Logan Ryan combined for 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 4 force fumbles. Teams that would benefit from Logan Ryan include the Dolphins, Eagles and Jets. Logan Ryan has commented about the Jet’s interest in him and how signing with the team he shared practiced fields with in college would make sense for him, but he is adament that he wants to sign with a “contender.”

Prediction: The South Jersey native signs with the Eagles to a 1-year Deal

  1. Carlos Hyde, RB

Carlos Hyde is one of the best players from the 2014 NFL Draft and also one of the best running backs to play the game in his time so far. After another 1000 yard season, this time with the Houston Texans (Carlos Hyde has jumped over a lot!), the free agent running back is looking for another team to call home for the 2020 season. After rejecting the Texan’s offer, Hyde sees interest coming from the Philadelphia Eagles, who need a veteran running back to mentor Miles Sanders. I don’t really see other teams very interested in him and there is major competition between three running backs to sign with the Eagles.

Prediction: Hyde stays a FA into the start of the season or signs a small deal with a rebuilding team

  1. Markus Golden, LB

Markus Golden is one of the NFL’s most underrated 3-4 edge rushers coming off a good season with the New York Giants. Last year, playing all 16 games, Golden acquired 72 tackles, 10 sacks, a force fumble and 1 defensive touchdown. When Markus Golden is healthy, he poses as a legitimate threat to any offense and will finish every season with double-digit sacks to his name. As of now, the Giants and Lions see interest in signing the electric edge rusher. 

Prediction: Markus Golden signs a 3-year deal with the Lions, fixing up that faulty pass rush

  1. Taylor Gabriel, WR

Gabriel is seen as a speedy playmaker but did not live up to the hype in Chicago. In two seasons with the Bears, Gabriel managed just 96 catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. He also dealt with concussions and as a result Chicago released him to clear cap space. However, he is currently the top option on the WR market because he is still a talented player and has the speed to hurt defenses deep. He could be very serviceable to a team that needs a deep threat to complement their best receiver. 

Prediction: Gabriel signs a 1-year deal with the Packers to help stretch the field

  1. Cordy Glenn, OT

Cordy Glenn has been a solid player for the majority of his career. He is 30 years old and could be a great veteran presence for a team looking for a tackle. However, his 2019 season was suspect as he only played 6 games and had a tumultuous relationship with the Bengals which led to his release. He was suspended by the team at one point for “internal disciplinary reasons” and dealt with concussions which probably explains why he has not been signed yet. I can definitely see a team taking a gamble on him though because he was great when he played and is a serviceable starter. 

Prediction: Glenn signs a 1-year deal with the Vikings

  1. Mike Daniels, DT

Mike Daniels is coming off an injury-plagued season with Detroit. He played nine games due to foot and arm injuries and finished with nine tackles and just 1 sack. It is clear that he is not the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful player. Before signing with the Lions, Daniels was one of the Packers best defensive players and an emotional leader. He can help mentor younger players, provide some solid IDL depth, and help stuff the run. 

Prediction: Daniels signs a 1-year vet min deal with the Cowboys and reunites with Mike McCarthy

  1. Delanie Walker, TE

Delanie Walker is another player who has been dealing with different injuries the past few seasons and was cut by the Titans due to the rise of young tight end Jonnu Smith. Walker has had a lot of success with Tennessee however and was the greatest tight end to ever play for them. He is 36 and is entering his 15th season in the NFL but I think he still has some left in the tank. He has always been productive for Tennessee when healthy and can provide endless options as a receiver and a blocker to change an offense. He could bring some good value to a team with a young tight end group.

Prediction: Walker signs a 1-year deal with the Patriots to help mentor Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi

The Last Dance: Episodes 3 and 4 Reactions

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

Dennis Rodman just casually took a vacation for 3 days in the middle of an NBA season and went to Las Vegas, and when he came back, he went right to work to get back in shape, and no one said a word after that. I mean, can you imagine if a guy in today’s NBA just went to Vegas to vacation and party midseason and no one would care, not even his own team? Social media would have a fun time with that one. Seriously, the way the Chicago Bulls handled Dennis Rodman was what made them the great team that this documentary is based off of. In fact, he was a huge impact to the Bulls’ dynasty even before he was on the Bulls. Before the Bulls, he was on the Detroit Pistons, longtime rivals of the Bulls whom everyone in the East was trying to chase for years, until 1991 when Chicago swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was Rodman who made the team the physical, fearful, and tenacious that they were for years, but it was also Rodman whose physical play was counteracted by Chicago and helped them win them gameplan for a way to end Detroit’s run as King of the East. However, the biggest story of that series might not be the fact that Chicago was beginning to start a dynasty of their own, but more so the reaction from Detroit:

Saransh’s Reaction: No Handshakes by Detroit After Getting Swept

What if I told you, that the end of the dynasty was not marked by losing, but by the lack of sportsmanship after it? That, my friends, is the story of the ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons and how their dynasty ended. When Detroit realized they were too far behind in Game 4 to win and that the series was over, Pistons players Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas told their teammates to leave the court and not shake hands with Chicago players, and simply just go to the locker room after the loss. After not shaking hands, you can see Laimbeer smugly smiling and shaking hands with a security guard, and Thomas high-fiving fans. So, you have no regrets about the handshakes? Well, Thomas said on Monday on ESPN’s ‘Get Up’ that he does indeed regret not shaking their hands, and that he feels ‘worse’ about it today than he did back then. To be fair, he has had 29 years to think of a response to this question, so it is not like it is surprising to hear him say this. 

When Boston tried not to shake their hands after losing in the playoffs a few years back, Thomas literally pulled Celtics Forward Kevin McHale and forced him to shake his hand, and yet somehow Thomas had the audacity to do what McHale did just years later, except McHale actually did shake his hand.  Still, if you are going to dodge a handshake, do not regret it in 30 years. Bill Laimbeer did not care, straight up. He owned it, and even called Jordan a ‘whiner’ just a few days ago. Jordan, on camera, was seen live laughing at Thomas’ response, called him an a**hole, and his then-teammate Horace Grant called them ‘straight up b**ches’. The rivalry is still primetime TV even 30 years later and we love every second of it, because that hate and rage for each other is still there amongst these guys. What I love about the rivalry is that it is still a rivalry today, everyone still hates each other, and everyone is ready to play ball against each other as if it was in the ‘90s, and play just as hard as they did back then.

Going back to Isiah’s interview on ‘Get Up,’ he made a very interesting comment along the lines of ‘it cost me being on ‘The Dream Team’,’ stating that since Jordan was the main guy whom the 1992 US Basketball Olympic team was centered around. He believes that since Jordan was the centerpiece and the guy that wanted every in on ‘The Dream Team’ idea and wanted to win the Gold in the most emphatic way possible, he assembled a team that resembled such that many thought it was invincible. They were indeed invincible, winning their average game by 30+ points and getting the Gold, but again, Thomas was not a part of it, and he believes it is because of that. The Olympics were just a year after the Pistons were swept by Chicago, so by Thomas’ belief, Jordan may have already been in the process of assembling ‘The Dream Team,’ but even with that being said, it is the coaches’ decisions on which players are part of the team, and the coach of ‘The Dream Team’ was Coach Chuck Daly, who was Thomas’ coach in Detroit. All in all, Thomas is trying to rescue himself from something that he, unlike his Pistons teammates, actually regrets, but is using factors that do not help his case, as reasons for why the rest of his career went south. 

Nikhil’s Reaction: Rodman’s Effect on Chicago

The loose cannon that was Dennis Rodman stated his persona perfectly at the start of Episode 3: “I could’ve been a bomb, I could’ve been in jail, I could’ve been dead.” The antics, the media attention, even the hair are all referenced by himself to be part of the monster he created, and in many ways that monster was equally apparent on the court. However, no one from Rodman’s team seemed to complain when the game was going on; Rodman was integral to the Bulls’ championship run, and it can be said with fair confidence that the team would not have been as successful as it had been without him. He gave them the grit and grind mentality that the likes of Jordan and Pippen didn’t have in excess, and thus, he was the league’s leading rebounder even in an era with the likes of Shaq, Barkley, among others. So it’s hard to imagine such a character starting out his career in Detroit as a shy, quiet rookie that was committed to his rather humble and survival oriented upbringing, especially on a team like the Bad Boy Pistons. And it’s equally as hard to imagine such a timid character having a rebounding IQ higher than most, to the point where Jordan himself cited Rodman as the smartest teammate he’s ever had. But what’s most outlandish is how he turned into the monster referenced before. While with the Pistons, he was found in his truck with a gun at The Palace, and was soon dealt to San Antonio afterwards. 

There he started to push his boundaries, act out and subsequently the outfits, the hair, the piercings, the tattoos followed. The Bulls took him out of this bad situation, and figured that he would thrive under the leadership and respect of Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson, and they guessed right. He fit every need the team needed, and elevated them to the next level. And in the time that Scottie Pippen was out due to injury, Rodman was credited by Phil Jackson with keeping the team together, and continuing in their winning ways. However when Pippen returned, Rodman seemed to return to his rambunctious ways and started to drink and party again. His situation peaked when Rodman requested a vacation, something that NBA players just don’t do. Jackson let him go for an agreed upon 48 hours, and Rodman returned 72 hours later after having been found by Jordan, having satiated his need to let go. From there however, Rodman and the Bulls put their heads down, and never locked back. 

Personally, I never knew of Dennis Rodman’s charisma, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be this wild. His tenure in Chicago in my eyes can be described as always hanging in balance, he could either be one of the best players in the league, or he could be a deranged maniac wishing for a death sentence. In this sense, Chicago was given a national spotlight outside of Jordan, one that wasn’t characterized by greatness. It gave the media something to pick at in terms of the Bulls internal structure, and thus placed WAY more pressure on them to win. The fact that they did in spite of all this shows how legendary the Bulls coaching staff, roster, and culture was. They managed to win even with one of the most captivating characters on their team, and even with all eyes on them.

The Last Dance: Episode 1 and 2 Reactions

By Saransh Sharma and Nikhil Pradeep

ESPN aired its newest 30-for-30 Film, ‘The Last Dance,’ a 10-part docu-series going into the depths of how the Chicago Bulls completed their second 3-peat in 1998, and how the careers of guys like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Coach Phil Jackson, ended in Chicago. Sunday night, the first two episodes aired, and every Sunday for the next four Sundays, ESPN will be airing two episodes each, going behind-the-scenes of how the 1998 team had more dysfunction and uncertainty than any Michael Jordan team ever. The documentary was the most-viewed documentary in the history of ESPN, with 6.1 million viewers last night. Here is mine and Nikhil’s breakdown and reaction to the big storylines of Episodes 1 and 2:

Saransh’s Reaction: Who Did Jerry Krause Think He Was?

Throughout the entire Michael Jordan era, Jerry Krause was the General Manager of the Chicago Bulls. So, okay, sure, he gets credit for having drafted Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and assembling the 6 championship teams, but seriously, who did he think he was? To say “Players and coaches don’t win championships, organizations win championships,” before the 1997-1998 season is by far the most selfish bone-headed comment I have ever heard a front office representative of any sports team make. Now sure, he clarified to say that they alone do not win, but come on Jerry, are you seriously still defending yourself over that comment? Michael Jordan in his Hall-of-Fame speech literally roasted you for it and did not invite you for the induction. Let’s just say that as a fan of basketball and an admirer of MJ and the Bulls, hearing this was upsetting. Sure, teams need an organization to draft and sign the right players, but coaches need to put out the gameplans for the players to be able to execute and win games, and the players actually have to play to prove that the organization made the right choice in choosing them for their team, therefore being the most important factor in terms of a team winning. Krause really believed that him having Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman, and then Phil Jackson at coach, and winning 5 rings in 7 years gave him the power to end the dynasty in the most abrupt fashion, by him neglecting Phil Jackson, making him look like a soon-to-be-fired coach and giving him just a 1-year deal, ending the dynasty after 1998. Then, the whole Scottie Pippen contract situation. I mean, the fact Scottie even signed the contract simply does not make sense to me, but the disrespect from Krause was even more immense. He wanted to win for himself and make the trade for Scottie for himself. Now, I will let Nikhil elaborate more on the situation, but I must say, Krause wanted a rebuild badly and a bit too early, and it will be interesting to see how the Scottie situation panned out and how Jordan, Jackson, and the Bulls were able to win without Scottie, because of his injury in 1998.

Nikhil’s Reaction: The Scottie Pippen Contract Conundrum

Scottie Pippen was one of the elite talents during the Jordan era, and in many ways, it is a travesty that his contract did not indicate so whatsoever. To put into perspective how impactful Pippen was on the court, the documentary lists a multitude of statistics, including Pippen’s 2nd ranking on the Bulls in scoring, rebounds, minutes played, and his pole position in assists and steals. The most striking of these statistics however, is that he was ranked 6th in salary on the Bulls, and 122nd in the entire league. And to truly show how disgraceful this is, the current 122nd most paid player in the current NBA today is Andre Roberson, whose notoriety stems more from dating Rachel DeMita than actually being a decent player. Jordan himself endorses Pippen as the best teammate that he has ever played with. So how did he fall into this black hole of a contract situation? The answer lies in his humble upbringing. Having grown up in a poorer family, one also weighed down by two members in wheelchairs, Pippen valued financial security, and when a 7-year, 18 million dollar deal came across the table, he didn’t hesitate to sign. This allowed him to send money back home and take care of the people that brought him up even in the event of an injury or other circumstance, however it also caused him to be stuck in a low-paying situation for a massive amount of time. The situation reared its head when the NBA suddenly started to take off financially, and globally, which was ironically due to the meteoric rise of Michael Jordan as a basketball icon. MJ’s value in the league effectively drove Pippen’s situation into more and more worry. Thus, in 1997-98, Pippen’s last year on his contract, he decided to have surgery on a ruptured tendon in his leg in the summer leading up to the season, and use the season to recover. He did this in hopes of getting management to change his contract, but as we all know, Jerry Krause would never do that.  As a result of Pippen’s absence, the Bulls slid for the first few games of the season, but it felt as if the team was caving in. This on top of Pippen’s constant disrespecting of Krause, such as yelling, abusing, cursing, caused the storm to swell, and eventually resulted in Pippen demanding a trade from the Bulls. This is where the documentary ends, however it is also where the discussion starts. I do sympathize with Pippen for taking the safe route in order to provide for his loved ones, but there is such a thing as ‘too safe’. As with any part of contractual obligation, you are in many ways betting on yourself to get the job done. Pippen should have known his worth from the start, and listened to his agent and management to take a higher paying contract, because at the end of the day, there has to be some risk taken in order to get the warranted reward. Even with the injury he had, if the situation was played right on his half, he would’ve recovered over the summer and been ready for the next season. Thus the mess, in my opinion, was his own doing, and something that could have been avoided. It’s a shame that his legacy is blemished by such a sequence of events, but in the end it was his doing and no one else’s.

NFL Draft 2020: What to Watch For This Weekend

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFL Draft will commence Thursday, but instead of in the Fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it is online. Never thought I would be saying those words in my lifetime. Anyways, this year’s draft presents a lot of compelling storylines, such as finding quarterbacks that could be Drew Brees and Tom Brady’s successor, the Justin Herbert and Tua debate, Chase Young to the Redskins, and the plethora of veterans that could be traded for draft picks. Here are the storylines to watch out for in this year’s NFL Draft:

Saransh’s Storyline: Herbert or Tua? Who’s the First QB After Joe Burrow?

Joe Burrow being the Number 1 overall pick is something that has been established for quite a while now, but the quarterback contention after him is what really gets interesting. Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama was the obvious Number 1 overall choice until Joe Burrow and LSU beat them back in November, and then Tua’s chances were completely thrown out the window when he hurt his hip and his season was over for good. Since then, Tua has been fully recovered since February, and had been doing workouts and drills with teams, and was at the Combine. Despite that, scouts and analysts, including myself, still wonder how he will be able to prevent another major injury that could derail his career, as this one nearly did.

The other big-name quarterback heading into this year’s draft is Justin Herbert out of Oregon, whom many thought would have entered the draft last year and could have been a first-round pick. He has now upped his stock and could potentially be a top-5 pick in the draft. While he could not lead the Ducks to the College Football Playoff, he led them to a Pac-12 Championship victory, as well as a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Having had his best season yet as a college quarterback and winning so many big games after a very rough season for the team the year prior, that along with his Combine and Pro Day showings are having people put Herbert ahead of Tua in their draft boards.

In the top 6 picks of this draft, 3 teams, those being the Detroit Lions at Number 3, the Miami Dolphins at Number 5, and the LA Chargers at Number 6, they all need a quarterback, and Herbert and Tua will be the first guys looked at. While I believe the reports that the Lions are trading down and believe they will trade down, I see Herbert going first over Tua, and going to South Beach and quarterbacking the Dolphins and their young yet exciting offense for the next few years, and Tua going to LA. If the Lions do not trade, however, I expect Herbert in Detroit, Tua in Miami, and then Jordan Love in LA, although speaking of Love, the soft-spoken quarterback of Utah State is someone worth mentioning in this conversation. Love could potentially go higher than both Herbert and Tua, but he could also end up as a late first-rounder, or even early second-rounder, depending on how teams judge him, much like Josh Allen did in 2018, going to the Bills, yet many even thought he could surpass Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold and go first in the draft. Keep an eye out for Love, but Tua and Herbert will be the ones getting all the attention.

Rohan’s Storyline: Where Will Trent Williams Finally Be Traded to and What For?

Trent Williams has still yet to be traded by the Redskins despite publicly demanding a trade in late March, but it could happen in this year’s draft. NBC’s Peter King recently reported that Trent Williams is the most likely player to get traded during the draft. Even though the Trent Williams holdout saga has been going on since June of last year, the Redskins still hold all of the leverage in a potential trade. Under the new CBA, if Trent sits out another year, he will not be able to enter free agency and remain a Redskin. He can either play this upcoming season and show his worth, or sit out and incur a ton of fines. Furthermore, Trent is an All-Pro Left Tackle and is still one of the best offensive lineman in the league, so Washington can still get a decent return. Now, which teams in the league make the most sense to acquire Williams? I am going to go with the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, and the Minnesota Vikings, with Cleveland being the most likely destination. 

ESPN’s Josina Anderson tweeted this morning that Trent Williams is “still on the table” for Cleveland. If the Browns miss out on or elect to not draft one of the top tackles who include Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills and Andrew Thomas, then I think this significantly boosts the chances of a deal that sends Trent to Cleveland. Baker Mayfield took 40 sacks in 2019, and adding a top tier tackle would shore up the left side of the line for the Browns. The Browns also have offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who worked with Trent his whole career in Washington. I predict the Browns will trade for Trent since they have been the team showing interest for a while now, but as mentioned Los Angeles and Minnesota could trade for him too. I expect the Redskins to start fielding calls after the top 4 tackles in this draft are taken. JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington reported that the Redskins will only trade him for a package of comparable value, but what would that package consist of? I think they are asking for at least a 2nd-rounder, but at this point it seems at least a 3rd-round pick is more reasonable. If a trade with Cleveland were to happen, my prediction is that Washington will receive Pick #74 (3rd-rounder) and Pick #187 (6th-rounder) in this year’s draft. 

Pranav’s Storyline: Should New England Stick with Stidham, or Find a New QB?

Tom Brady leaving New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the biggest storyline of the offseason, leaving the Patriots with a huge problem: filling Brady’s shoes. After a 20 year run, Bill Belichick has to look for a new quarterback in a league with not many options. During the Brady era in New England, the coaching staff had great quarterbacks on the roster to help out when Brady was unavailable, from the 2009 season with Matt Cassel who went 10-6 (somehow missing the playoffs), to the 2016 season where Brady’s suspension from the year before came into effect, giving both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett the opportunity to perform for New England. Both quarterbacks played well under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s coaching scheme, but due to the threat that they would likely take Brady’s spot as a starter later, owner Robert Kraft shipped them out to other teams. 

The 2020 Patriots are now left with Jarrett Stidham, a young quarterback from LSU, who showed promising features through various training camp meetings, practices, and mostly during the pre season games. The Patriots also hold 12 draft picks for the 2020 NFL Draft (4 compensatory picks), including the 23rd pick. Since this draft has only a few stellar quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert), who will be taken very early, the New England Patriots would be left with quarterback picks like Jordan Love, who is an above average quarterback from Utah State. If I was Bill Belichick, I would put my money on Jarrett Stidham, giving him a year under center, and letting the first round pick in the draft go to another position in need, such as safety or defensive end. The Patriots have had a lot of success in trusting a no name quarterback to lead the team in the most difficult situations, so maybe Stidham can outperform initial expectations and prove that he was the right choice. You never know, Jarrett Stidham could be the next Tom Brady…  

 

How Would the NBA Look if it Came Back this Season?

By Saransh Sharma and Anish Dhondi

37 days ago, the NBA was the first American sports league to shut down its current regular season due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but as always, Commissioner Adam Silver is thinking one step ahead, which is figuring out how the NBA could be reopened. Many people have speculated as to if the NBA should continue the regular season upon return, go straight to the playoffs, play all games in one state or city, and even the possibility of having teams play with no fans in attendance for the next 12-18 months. The NBA also announced today that they are keeping 25% of the paychecks for every player this season after May 1st. In more player-related news, Utah Jazz players, including most publicly Donovan Mitchell, have voiced their frustrations towards teammate Rudy Gobert and how to deal with the way he handled the Coronavirus situation, and took the whole thing seemingly as a joke before eventually seeing himself and Mitchell get the virus. A lot of ideas have been thrown around, and the recent outreach by US President Donald Trump to reopen the league has people wondering how it could reopen, and which teams could thrive and which teams are ready for big changes. Here is the latest of what is being said about the NBA coming back:

The NBA Has a 25-Day Training Camp, Then Resumes the Season

With the strict quarantine in place in the US, it’s unrealistic for NBA players to continue the regular season with a couple days notice. There must be a detailed month long plan to slowly ease players back into games for their own safety. Many NBA players have had no access to gyms or basketball courts during the quarantine and with the fast-paced current NBA it’s vital that players constantly work to stay in shape for the season to avoid injuries. Although commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA is unable to make any decisions about re-opening until May, there have been proposals like the 25-day plan to be prepared. The first part of this plan consists of 11 day individual workouts so players can ease their way back into shape and prepare for games while maintaining social distancing. Then if the players are medically cleared, the individual workouts are followed by a 14 day training camp where the entire teams can practice. However, the regular season will most likely not resume as normal as a vital part of the game will be missing. The NBA is leaning towards playing the remaining games without fans in attendance. The games would most likely take place in a city with a low coronavirus count. With this proposal all teams and players would have to stay in hotels and continue to practice social distancing. NBA games would be played in a neutral court nationally televised with no home or away advantage and players would continue to be tested weekly. Another thing that is important to consider in this situation is that pushing the NBA regular season back would affect the start of next season. Adam Silver wants to make sure the next season isn’t delayed too far past November and given the current state of the pandemic, cancelling this NBA season is not preferred but it is not off the table.

President Trump and the Commissioners Working for Reopening ASAP

President Trump, like the rest of us sports fans, is missing sports quite a bit, and feels it is essential that we get sports back, as he has stated numerous times this past week about how we need sports to come back. While athletes like LeBron James and Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban would love to have fans present and would do anything in their power to come up with a scenario where fans can safely be brought back into stadiums, the odds certainly do not favor them, and they will have to have their seasons go on without the fans. 

At many press conferences, himself and White House Health Administrator, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have talked about reopening, and just yesterday morning, Dr. Fauci said that there is a very high chance that sports will return this summer, but no fans will be present. The current re-evaluation date for if the country is safe to open up certain businesses such as the NBA is May 1st, and by then, Fauci would like to answer questions such as the reopening of sports then. Fauci’s current idea is that the NBA, along with other leagues, have all the players come to one big city or area where Coronavirus is not a hotspot to avoid players having to travel, have them stay in hotels for the rest of the season, get tested every single week and be surveilled by their team medical staffers, and play the season out in neutral-site stadiums, although with no fans, whether you are playing a home or away game, it will not be noticeable. All games would also be aired to the public at home as normal regular season games would be, yet things such as commentators travelling and camera crews remain to be seen. Either way, assuming that by May 1st these questions are answered by Fauci and his team, the NBA and other sports will be coming our way this summer. 

The Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell Beef

There have been rumors about conflicts between Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. The root of conflict originates from Rudy Gobert’s careless acts of touching all of the microphones on the desk mocking the seriousness of Coronavirus. Soon after, Rudy Gobert was the first NBA player tested positive for Coronavirus shutting down the NBA indefinitely. A couple days later reports of Gobert’s carelessness in the locker room arose as he was reportedly touching other player’s stuff and not taking the situation seriously. Donovan Mitchell was later tested positive for Coronavirus, which he assumes most likely came from Gobert, causing tension between the two Jazz stars. Rudy Gobert apologized for his actions however, the two didn’t talk for days and reports called their relationship “doesn’t appear salvageable”. A couple days ago, the media asked Gobert about his relationship with Mitchell and he said “It’s true that we didn’t speak for a while after this, but we spoke a few days ago,” and he continued that they’re “both ready to go out there and try to win a championship for this team.” Gobert also talked about not all relationships being perfect but he and Mitchell have the same goal for this thriving Jazz team to win a championship. We don’t know if the media is blowing their beef out of proportion or if Gobert is downplaying the situation. However, the Jazz organization has stated that they currently don’t plan to part ways with either Gobert or Mitchell in their attempt for a championship.

How the NFC South Became the League’s Most Stacked Division in 4 Days

By Saransh Sharma & Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC South for many years was the most QB-driven division in the NFL, with the record-breaking quarterback and Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees leading the Saints, and NFL MVP’s Matt Ryan and Cam Newton leading the Falcons and Panthers, respectively (somehow Brees has never won an NFL MVP award). For years, it was a division which saw Newton and Ryan’s teams going on playoff runs, and Brees being left out to dry with no help, or having to pull a Houdini act just to get to the playoffs, and then there’s the Buccaneers, who had famed 2015 No. 1 pick and National Champion Jameis Winston at QB, and despite some up-and-down seasons from him, the team hadn’t gone to the playoffs since 2007. However, since Newton and Ryan’s Super Bowl chokes, Brees and the Saints have built themselves through the NFL Draft, Ryan and the Falcons cannot get over their 28-3 blown lead in Super Bowl LI, Newton is being scapegoated for getting injured in one of the most dangerous sports in the world, and Winston throws nearly as many interceptions as he does touchdowns. Newton and Winston are currently free agents, and have been replaced by Teddy Bridgewater, and Tom Brady, the Greatest of All-Time. So now, the ship is re-written, with the NFC South back to being elite and QB-driven, but these weren’t the only big moves in the division:

Tom Brady Chooses the Florida Beaches

Let’s start with the obvious: Tom Brady. If it wasn’t for the Coronavirus pandemic, the Buccaneer’s signing of the six-time superbowl winning quarterback would be the top headline across the United States. Tom Brady joined the NFL in the year 2000, where he won six Super Bowls, nine AFC Championships, and 17 Division Titles with the New England Patriots. But now, in the year 2020, in one of the craziest offseasons in as long as I can remember, Tom Brady is leaving the team he played on for almost half of his life. Even though it is still months before the regular season’s start, no one can tell if this move was worth it for Tom Terrific. On March 16th, when free agency opened its door, several teams were in the bidding race for Brady, including the Patriots (of course!), Titans, Chargers, Broncos, Raiders, and Buccaneers. But on March 20th, Tom Brady officially signed a 2 year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His new contract in Tampa guaranteed a $50 Million deal, also included with $9 Million in incentives. But the most interesting part of Brady’s new contract with the Bucs is the prohibited clause. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not allowed to use their franchise tag or trade Tom Brady while he is under that same contract. 

So, why did Tom Brady join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? It obviously wasn’t for the money because other teams were offering Brady $30 Million per year or more. I think, and I’m going to go on a limb here and state that Tom Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his fit on the team, and the elite group of receivers the Buccaneers possess. The Buccaneers are home to two of the most explosive, elusive wide receivers in the game today: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Last season, the previous starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, threw for an astounding 5,109 yards with those two firing on all cannons on the offense. Now imagine what would happen if you were to take a league average Jameis Winston out of the center and replace him with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. What are the odds Tom Brady and the Buccaneers don’t do something special next season? Tom Brady finally got his A grade receivers for the first time since he had prime Wes Welker, his top 10 offensive line, and a team more younger and healthier, something he never got on the Patriots. If the Buccaneers and Brady don’t make a run for the playoffs next season, I wouldn’t even know what to tell you.

Todd Gurley Goes Back to Georgia

Just two years ago, Todd Gurley was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year after having over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns. That season was the best season of his career and the Sean McVay Rams offense looked like it was going to be dominant for years to come, despite an early Wild Card loss to the Atlanta Falcons. In 2018, Gurley had over 1,800 scrimmage yards and 21 total touchdowns, and this time, led his team to the Super Bowl, where he and the offense could get nothing going, getting embarrassed and putting up just 3 points total. Going into that game, however, the big storyline was that Gurley had some knee issues which slowed him down a bit in the playoffs, but mainly in the Super Bowl, where Super Bowl 50 hero CJ Anderson took the majority of the carries at Running Back. Just a month after the Super Bowl loss, Gurley was told by doctors that he had arthritis in his right knee. Gurley got surgery, yet the ‘arthritic component’ to the knee injury still remained, meaning that the arthritis could cause him to be injured yet again. Gurley went into the 2019 season with the possibility of being benched for guys like Malcolm Brown or Darrell Henderson, and there was even trade talk during the season. Gurley finished with career lows in carries and yardage, but was still 5th in the league in touchdowns. The lack of carries and yardage played a big role in the Rams lack of success this past season, going 9-7 and missing the playoffs. 

However, despite the rough year and the arthritis issue still looming, Gurley still is amongst the top in the league in terms of carries, yards, and touchdowns for running backs since he was drafted in 2015. The part that is hard to put together about him getting released is the fact that he produced great stats even with the injury scares and such, and even in his down year, it was his team that lost faith in his ability, as he just simply did not get the ball enough. 24 hours after being released, Gurley signed with the Atlanta Falcons for a 1-year prove-it deal, but I expect this to become long-term and a lethal combination for years to come, with Gurley being the clear favorite in the backfield, and QB Matt Ryan and WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Gurley now has the best offensive line he has had since 2018, has an offense that is Super Bowl-caliber when healthy, and is very balanced. Expect Head Coach Dan Quinn to have the offense run through him early on in the season, and Gurley to just cruise to another great season from there.

Teddy Bridgewater is Officially a Starting QB Again

580 miles north of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the Panthers in Charlotte have also grabbed a new franchise quarterback, at least for the next three years. Teddy Bridgewater, star on the Minnesota Vikings (before his devastating injury), and savior on the New Orleans Saints, just signed a three year, $63 Million deal with the Carolina Panthers. The deal included a signing bonus of $15 Million and a number of incentives sprinkled in. Teddy Bridgewater just got his bag in Charlotte, but that means the exit for one the best quarterbacks in the NFC South, Cam Newton, who has been on the decline the last few years with the Panthers. I love Teddy Bridgewater’s new signing with the Carolina Panthers, but something feels wrong for me. The Carolina Panthers are not exactly the New Orleans Saints or Minnesota Vikings, both teams with one of the biggest and loudest fan bases in the country. And the way Teddy has moved throughout his NFL career, he has thrived on loving fanbases, something I feel Carolina won’t give him immediately. 

Teddy Bridgewater is also the man under center for one of the few teams in the NFL, where the fanbase believes a running back, in this case Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers, can lead their team to success. Bridgewater needs to “bridge” a great relationship with CMC off and on the field, because a great tandem of players in the backfield would really help the Panthers move ahead in an already stacked NFC South. Bridgewater also has great depth and deep threats through receivers DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and newly signed Robby Anderson (wideout who played for the Jets last season). With an offense possessing the ability to do really great next year, only time will tell for Bridgewater. A strong start to the season and no injuries will propel Teddy Bridgewater into the limelight with his new Carolina Panthers. 

Emmanuel Sanders Tries to Go for 4 Super Bowls with 4 Teams

As seen by the headline, Emmanuel Sanders has the chance to go to his 4th Super Bowl and for his 4th NFL team, something that no NFL player has ever done. Sanders’ career resume is one of the most consistent you will ever see in terms of stats, but he has not had his chance to shine ever since Peyton Manning retired from the NFL in 2016, leaving the Broncos with limited talent at the quarterback spot, hindering Sanders the most. Despite all of that, Sanders gave it his all in Denver for the next 3 seasons, before getting traded midseason this year to the San Francisco 49ers, who were 7-0 at the time, and eventually became the NFC Champions, and if Jimmy Garoppolo did not overthrow him in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, he probably would have won a Super Bowl with them, and stayed with the 49ers.

The move to go to New Orleans was a rather shocking one by Sanders. Many believed he would go to Dallas or Washington, the teams that showed lots of interest in him and needed a veteran presence at the wide receiver position, and were pass-happy offenses. But Sanders instead went to the most pass-happy offense in the NFL in New Orleans, and he has the chance to play with Drew Brees, the 3rd quarterback that will be a future-Hall of Famer throwing the ball to him. Much like in Pittsburgh and Denver, Sanders will play second fiddle behind Michael Thomas, as he was behind Mike Wallace and Demariyus Thomas in Pittsburgh and Denver. That being said, Brees now has Thomas, Sanders, Jared Cook, Tre’Quan Smith, and Alvin Kamara as his targets, which presents the scariest core of receivers in that department. With Sanders now in the mix, the Saints receivers have the edge over teams like the Buccaneers, but the big question will be, can Brees outplay Brady, and can he keep the Saints as not only NFC South favorites, but Super Bowl favorites? Sanders will play a huge role in deciding that, and consider his luck in the NFL, he will probably go to a Super Bowl as a Saint as well.

Should the NBA Pay the Players Regardless of Season’s Outcome?

By Saransh Sharma & Nikhil Pradeep

With the NBA currently suspended due to the current Coronavirus outbreak, there has been talk about whether or not the season will come back at all, as many players and owners are trying to push to come back as late as September, play with no fans, and then start the next season at Christmas (which could become a permanent change). There is even talk about going straight to the playoffs and finishing the season that way, not giving teams that are just outside the playoffs a chance to fight for their way back in. The problem with that is that most teams have only played around 65 games, and the last 17 games would give them the chance to come back, but with the problem of coming back late to finish the season, TV deals, fan and player safety, and much more, it seems as though there is still too much speculation and not enough evidence to predict a true decision. Here are the scenarios the NBA could go through, and how it would affect the players:

The NBA Enforces the ‘Force Majeure’ Rule

The ‘Force Majeure’ Rule is a rule in which the CBA of the league enforces a 1% salary loss per game cancelled during the events of a circumstance such as an epidemic or pandemic. For this to happen, the entire NBA season would have to be cancelled. The problem being right now is that the NBA does not want to have to deal with this in May or June if they still have not come to a decision about how to handle the remainder of the season. If they have not reached a resolution on cancellations of some sort, the result will be dealing with players getting restless and losing belief in the system being used to handle the situation at hand. Also, by that point in time, players would demand the option to keep their entire salary, or at least have the authority to negotiate their pay cuts in a different way. The NBA needs to find the solution soon before players get restless, and enforcing a ‘Force Majeure’ will definitely be something that Commissioner Adam Silver will want to spend more time trying to decide, as opposed to deciding to cut the regular season, which can be done as soon as right now. Also, it is important to note the impact that Adam Silver had on American sports, as him suspending the NBA season led to the near-immediate suspension of many other sports leagues in the US.

Cutting Player Paychecks

The other option the league can explore is to enforce a firm direction in their handling of the COVID-19 crisis, and create a concrete plan to cut player salaries starting on a specified date. While this would create some backlash from players, media, and even fans in a way, it makes sense on the NBA’s part in order to minimize the effect of the virus to the extent that they can control. This move also makes sense looking at the current economical impacts the virus is having on pretty much any sports league at the moment: they are losing revenue at a rate never seen before. The lack of activity shuts down any sort of sports related retail, stadium-dependent jobs, and ALL fan revenue as well, the latter of which is the real killer in this scenario. According to Shams Charania on Twitter, the NBA has proposed to the NBPA a 50% paycheck reduction starting on April 15th. As expected, the NBPA counter-argued this proposition with a 25% cut starting sometime mid-May. From the standpoint of a broke college kid like myself, NBA players already make a lot of money as is, and the more prominent figures already give up a good portion of their salaries to endeavors that aren’t hell-bent on benefiting themselves. The 50% paycheck reduction is then the best course of action, and one that in my mind the NBA should implement as soon as possible. Whichever route the NBA takes, a few things are for sure: cuts are most likely going to happen, the League is in for a fairly large monetary loss, and basketball isn’t coming back anytime soon. What matters now is how well they handle the situation, as the NBA in many ways sets the global standard in league operations, and could cause a domino effect for other leagues to follow in the same footsteps.

 

The Effect of No Wimbledon in 2020 on Tennis

By Saransh Sharma

Today, The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced that The Championships, Wimbledon, has been cancelled in 2020 due to the Coronavirus outbreak. While it was most definitely the right thing to do given the circumstances in our world today, the fans and players are still in utter shock over the announcement. The oldest and greatest tournament in the history of the game has now been cancelled for the first time since World War II. This is the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2020 year to be cancelled, and after Roland Garros announced its postponement, many people believed maybe Wimbledon would too, but there just simply is not enough time in one year to do it all. The decision will have a huge effect on the world of tennis as we see it, and may even affect players going into the 2021 tennis season:

With the Olympics now in 2021, Players Have Less Time to Train

The hardest part for tennis players and all athletes in general is definitely the fact that you cannot train. While you can always workout and stay fit, not being able to have a racquet, get coaching, and just hit tennis balls is something that hurts a player long-term. After such a huge layoff from the game, players will have to spend time getting back into a flow and rhythm of how their daily routines with training and practice goes, and then they have to prepare for tournaments, Grand Slams, and the Olympics. Many players will also be skipping more tournaments than usual in order to represent their country in the Olympics in July of 2021, and with the tennis calendar a month ahead after Australian Open (Roland Garros and Wimbledon are played a month earlier than usual in order to fit the Olympics into the schedule), expect players to be a bit more cautious with their body, while also still trying to get a lot of matches in. 2021 will prove to be the toughest year of many tennis players’ careers.

Rankings Will Change Tremendously Over Wins and Losses

The players will also have to be mindful of how winning and losing can drastically affect the rankings, with those currently being frozen right now due to the Coronavirus indefinitely suspending play for this year. While points won and lost for each win and loss will not change, what will change is how the players play after such a long layoff. Lots of younger and lower-ranked players will have their chances to shine and beat the top players in the world, so keep an eye out for major changes in rankings come 2021. We could see guys like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal lose their top-2 ranking spots due to the competition in the mens side and how the layoff could affect them, and on the women’s side, where the rankings have not been safe for anyone for years with a lack of repeat women winners in many tournaments, those rankings could be a whole lot different than a year ago.