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[Posted Tues. p.m.]
NFL Draft Quiz: 1) Name the last 10 quarterbacks to be the first overall pick in the Draft? [Hint: Eli Manning is eleventh, 2004.] 2) Who was the last running back to be selected first overall? 3) Who was the last wide receiver to be the same? Answers below.
--The story line of the draft, which begins Thursday night, is all about Tua Tagovailoa. Despite the serious hip injury he suffered last fall, Tua and his people have convinced many in the NFL he’s ready to go come training camp.
So since the Bengals are a cinch to select quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall selection, the next two teams needing a franchise QB are Miami at No. 5 and the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 6.
But with coronavirus restrictions, teams haven’t been able to see Tua up close and personal to gauge what his true physical status is, though you’d think they have seen his MRIs.
No doubt he is a huge talent, great kid, and under normal circumstances is the No. 1 pick overall.
But do you gamble a 5 or 6 on him?
If the Dolphins don’t take Tua at 5 it’s because they are opting for Oregon QB Justin Herbert instead.
Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock draft…assuming no trades…
1. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU, Cincinnati
2. Chase Young, DE, Ohio State, Washington
3. Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State, Detroit
4. Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson, New York Giants
5. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon, Miami
6. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama, Los Angeles Chargers
7. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn, Carolina
8. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa, Arizona
9. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama, Jacksonville
10. Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville, Cleveland
11. Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama, New York Jets
--Cyber security has been a focus of the preparation’s for this week’s NFL Draft as teams pivot to a “virtual” format.
Each of the 32 teams is essentially doing their own thing, and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was among the first to voice concern over cyber security, telling reporters recently that he is in frequent contact with his IT team but that he remains skeptical.
“They assure me we are doing everything humanly possible and I remind them that’s what Wells Fargo and all those places said about our private information, so I have some real concerns,” Harbaugh said. “I really wouldn’t want the opposing coaches to have our playbook or our draft meetings.”
It’s not that hackers have a monetary reason for being [jerks] on Draft Day, but it would be for the “performance art” aspect, much like the Zoom-bombing assholes of today.
Zoom, incidentally, is permitted for communication on an individual basis within clubs but not between teams and the league office.
--Separately, we note the passing of “Mad Dog,” the great middle linebacker for the Baltimore Colts, Mike Curtis, who died at age 77.
Curtis played 14 years in the NFL, selected with the 14th overall pick in the 1965 draft out of Duke (I’m embarrassed I forgot that factoid, Ken, Brad and Leah…Dookies). He was named first-team All-Pro after the 1968 and 1969 seasons and was one of the mainstays on a 1968 Colts defense – along with defensive end Bubba Smith and cornerback Bobby Boyd – that allowed the fewest points in the NFL and ranked second in yards allowed. Under coach Don Shula, the Colts went 13-1 that season before losing to the Jets in Super Bowl III.
[Jets fans, take a moment to bow before your figurine or portrait of Joe Namath, and quaff a beer.]
I loved watching Mike Curtis play, and sort of lump him together with “Mr. Falcon,” Tommy Nobis, another terrific linebacker of his era who was the No. 1 overall pick of Atlanta in 1966, their first pick as a franchise, period.
Neither, some may be surprised to learn, are in the Hall of Fame, but to be fair, Curtis was All-Pro just those two seasons and Nobis, shockingly, All-Pro only in 1967. Dick Butkus was of their same era. [Curtis went to four Pro Bowls, Nobis five.]
Curtis at least won a Super Bowl in 1970, SB V, when the Colts beat the Cowboys, 16-13, in an incredibly dull, awfully played game despite the final score, but Curtis played a key part with an interception late in the fourth quarter.
Tommy Nobis, though, being an original Falcon, played on just one winning team in his 11 seasons.
But back to “Mad Dog,” he cemented his reputation when in 1971, in a game against the Dolphins, a fan came onto the field and tried to steal the game ball, only to have Curtis level him with a crushing body tackle, which has me cracking up just writing this.
Curtis played his first 11 seasons in Baltimore before finishing off his career in Seattle and Washington.
“The Last Dance”
Congratulations to ESPN for its much-needed ratings success with the airing of the first two parts of the 10-part series on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls.
Nielsen data showed Sunday night’s audience averaged 6.1 million viewers, making for the most-watched documentary programs in the network’s history, and ESPN has done some terrific ones.
The previous record holder, “You Don’t Know Bo,” about baseball and football star Bo Jackson, was watched by 3.6 million in 2012.
I watched the ‘ESPN’ version, and didn’t know the one on ‘ESPN2’ was presented without the vulgarities used in the candid interviews with Jordan and others.
So I plugged this in my last Bar Chat and glad I did. I thought it was terrific, especially for sports-starved fans. As my brother and I commented, this was a generally terrific era for the NBA, the 90s, though to be fair we’re jaded because the Knicks were highly competitive in this timeframe and that made for some great games between Jordan’s Bulls and Patrick Ewing’s Knickerbockers.
Social media also loved the chyron attached to Barack Obama, “former Chicago resident,” and Bill Clinton, “former Arkansas resident.” Nothing about them being former presidents.
Director Jason Hehir said he only wanted to include people in the film who originally had a connection, not just to interview as many famous people as possible.
Well, with Thursday’s NFL Draft, ESPN will get another ratings boost. Good on them, as they say in the UK and Ireland.
Among the things we learned:
--There was a clip of former Indiana coach Bob Knight, who coached Jordan in the 1983 Olympics.
Knight reeled off all of Jordan’s exceptional traits and came to a grand conclusion.
“Just an absolutely great kid,” he said. “If I was going to pick the three or four best athletes I’ve ever seen play basketball, he’d be one of them. I think he’s the best athlete I’ve ever seen play basketball, bar none. If I were going to pick people with the ability I’d ever seen play the game, he’d be one.
“If I wanted to pick the best competitors I’d ever seen play, he’d be one of them. So in the categories of competitiveness and ability, skill and athletic ability, he’s the best athlete. …That, to me, makes him the best basketball player I’ve ever seen play.”
--The first episode showed Jordan’s game-winning efforts against Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA tournament final. Jordan was the second option on the play. Coach Dean Smith had James Worthy as the first.
I’ve told you I was at that game, with three friends, as part of a rather wild week in both New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., after (where we golfed and fished and got in more trouble, after almost dying about four times in New Orleans).
The problem was we were literally in like the last row of the Superdome and the players looked like ants. So I’m not sure we even knew it was Jordan taking the shot at the end of the game (before the infamous Fred Brown mistake for the Hoyas).
Anyway, so it was good seeing a detailed replay of how Smith brilliantly called it. Go to Worthy and eventually you’ll swing it over to a wide open Jordan, which is exactly what he was.
But I loved what Worthy said about his talent vs. Jordan’s at UNC. He said he was better than MJ “for about two weeks.”
--Jordan was on the NBA Draft board at No. 3 because Houston wanted Hakeem Olajuwon at No. 1. And because Portland had Clyde Drexler already at Jordan’s position, they took center Sam Bowie, who proceeded to have one of the ‘sadder’ careers in NBA history due to severe injury issues.
That left Jordan at No. 3. Bulls GM Rod Thorn said after taking him, “I wish he was 7-1, but he isn’t.”
Bowie was 7-1. The focus was on the big man back in those days.
--When Jordan arrived in Chicago, 1984, the Bulls were so lightly thought of they were being outdrawn by the indoor soccer team, the Chicago Sting, at Chicago Stadium.
A lot of the Bulls, ditto much of the NBA back then, were using cocaine and other recreational drugs. So Jordan recalled a particular moment that offered an example of how prevalent the behavior was.
“I think we were in Peoria, it was a hotel, and I was trying to find my teammates,” Jordan says. “I start knocking on doors, I get to this one door, and I could hear someone say, shhh, someone’s outside. This deep voice says, ‘who is it?’ I say, it’s MJ, and they say, ah, f—k, he’s just a rookie. Don’t worry about it.
“So they open up the door. I walk in, and practically the whole team is in there. It was things I had never seen in my life as a young kid. You got your lines over here, you got your weed smokers over here, you got your women over here.”
In the opening episode, an interviewer tells a present-day Jordan about an article that called the Bulls a “traveling cocaine circus” and he erupted in laughter. But at the time it was a shock for Jordan, after coming from the ultra-buttoned-up UNC program. So he led a life separate from his teammates.
“The first thing I said is, I’m out. Because all I can think about is if they come raid this place right now, I am just as guilty as everyone else in this room. From that point on, I was more or less on my own.”
During his early years in Chicago, Jordan didn’t go to the clubs and didn’t even drink then. He stayed at home and watched movies mostly.
“Whatever somebody else might have been doing off the court, if it was partying or whatever, that wasn’t part of what he wanted to do,” said Rod Higgins, who played with the Bulls from 1981-85. “Orange juice and 7-Up was his go-to.”
--Episode Two focused on Scottie Pippen. Every great needed a big No. 2 alongside and Pippen fit the bill. You come away really feeling for the guy. Not because he played under the shadow of Michael Jordan, they won six titles together after all, but he had a very rough childhood, growing up in Hamburg, Arkansas, and he was a raw talent at the Univ. of Central Arkansas, before he suddenly grew 6-7 inches over the span of two years and he ended up being the fifth overall pick in the 1987 draft of the Seattle Supersonics, who traded him on draft day to Chicago.
By Pippen’s third season, he was a fixture in the starting lineup and he put up amazingly consistent numbers for Chicago…19-21 points per game, about 7 rebounds and 6+ assists, while being a 10X All-Defensive team stalwart.
But Pippen, after his rookie deal ran out following season three, signed a seven-year, $18 million contract that paid him between $2.225 million and 3.425 million per season over the full term. One of the five best players in the game was being grossly underpaid, but Pippen explained he was worried about getting injured and liked the idea of financial stability and still being able to take care of his family.
Throughout it all, however, Bulls management never wanted to give him a better deal. By the seventh year, he was the 122nd highest paid player in the league!
Pippen then missed the first two-plus months of the Bulls’ last season, The Last Dance, recovering from foot surgery he could’ve undergone months earlier. “I’m not going to [blank] my summer up trying to rehab,” he said. The contract issue pissed him off. Jordan called Pippen’s decision to delay the surgery “selfish,” and the Bulls got off to a miserable start, in Bulls terms, as they were gunning for their sixth title and a second three-peat.
[Jordan also said for the documentary Pippen was the best teammate he ever had.]
But coach Phil Jackson specialized in being able to handle his players differently, if need be, and he said he gave Pippen his space. “You have to understand players’ mentality and where they’re coming from. Some guys can handle and some guys can’t,” Jackson said. “And Scottie probably needed to have this to feel like he justified what his salary was.”
Part III and IV are this coming Sunday. I’ll be watching.
--According to a leading Japanese scientist, Kentaro Iwata, professor of infectious disease at Kobe University, the Tokyo Olympics are unlikely to be held next summer.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Iwata said, “Holding the Olympics needs two conditions; one, controlling Covid-19 in Japan, and controlling Covid-19 everywhere.”
“I am very pessimistic about holding the Olympic Games next summer unless you hold the Olympic Games in a totally different structure such as no audience, or a very limited participation,” Iwata added.
Devi Sridhar, professor of Global Health at the University of Edinburgh, told the AP the other day that next year’s Olympics depend on the development of a vaccine. “And so I think if you talk to some of the scientists, they’re saying we’ll have a vaccine by the fall and we can manufacture it quickly and we can get it out to people. If we do, then I’d say, actually, we have a great chance of going ahead with the Olympics.”
But Dr. Anthony Fauci is saying the process of developing vaccine could take a year to 18 months.
“If it looks in the next few months that a vaccine is proving difficult, that actually it has massive side effects or it’s not effective or we’re not actually building immunity in individuals, then I think [the Olympics will] have to be delayed,” Sridhar said. [Matt Bonesteel / Washington Post]
--Alex Rodriguez and fiancée J-Lo are officially serious about buying the Mets. Variety magazine first reported the couple had “retained JPMorgan Chase to raise capital for a possible bid.” Variety reported a specific managing director, Eric Menell, the bank’s co-head of North American media investment banking, who declined to comment.
A-Rod and J-Lo first hit the press in February when the New York Post reported they were “kicking the tires,” and then in March when Rodriguez told Jimmy Fallon during an appearance on “The Tonight Show” he was serious.
“Here’s what it is. I love New York City, number one. A lot of people don’t know this. Growing up I was a big Mets fan and with the exception of my daughter’s birth, both of them, the best years of my life were 1986 and 2009, when we won. I will say this. If the opportunity came up, I would certainly look at it. And maybe you can buy them with me. I need a partner!”
Tonight, the New York Post is reporting the Wilpons are desperate to sell, given the impact the pandemic will have on their business, particularly real estate.
--I missed last time that legendary Arizona State baseball coach Bobby Winkles had died at age 90.
Growing up, Bobby Winkles’ name was as familiar as many Major League managers. His teams won three College World Series titles in his 13 seasons, and he was a charter member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Winkles gave up a career in minor league baseball to start his coaching career at ASU in the 1958-59 school year, just as ASU was becoming a university. He took the Sun Devils to their first College World Series in 1964, and then won the national championship in 1965, ’67 and ’69.
Among the future major leaguers Winkles coached were Rick Monday, Reggie Jackson, Gary Gentry and Paul Powell (who only had 47 big-league at bats) – all national Players of the Year – along with Sal Bando and Alan Bannister.
Winkles was 524-173 at ASU, and then in 1972, he moved on to be part of the coaching staff of the California Angels, taking over as manager in 1973 before he was fired in ‘74.
Winkles then joined the Oakland coaching staff mid-season, and the A’s won the 1974 World Series. He managed Oakland in parts of 1977 and ’78. His overall major league managing record was 170-213. He finished up with the Expos as a coach and in player development, before becoming a television analyst through 1993.
Perhaps the best-known game of Winkles’ career outside of the College World Series came in 1967, when in a Western Athletic Conference playoff win over Arizona, Gary Gentry pitched 15 innings in a contest that ended 3-2. Gentry threw 208 pitches in what Winkles called “the best performance under sustained pressure I’ve ever seen by a college pitcher,” with ASU going on to win its second CWS title.
[No wonder Gentry blew out his arm early in his career with the Mets.]
Doug Nurnberg, on the mound at the end of the CWS title game in 1965, said players called Winkles “the little Napoleon. He took young men with some talent and a lot of aggressive physical energy and got us to apply it to something positive. He got us to overachieve and believe in something past us. That’s tough to do when you don’t have tradition and history.”
--Freshman forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl of Villanova announced he was pulling out of the NBA draft process and will return for his sophomore season, keeping alive a unique streak in college basketball.
Villanova has not had a one-and-done player under Coach Jay Wright, and the program will not have one this year, either. The program’s last one was Tim Thomas, who was taken seventh in 1997, and that was before the NBA’s so-called one-and-done rule went into effect in 2006. It required players to be 19 and at least one year removed from their graduating high school class to enter the draft.
So that led to a wave of one-and-dones, especially at powerhouses Kentucky and Duke, yet none were from Villanova. ‘Nova currently is the only program with eight or more players in the NBA not to have a single player fitting that description.
What a testament to both Jay Wright and the school overall. [As opposed to Wake Forest where our players play two or three years and just drift away, aimlessly, embarrassing everyone, including themselves.]
The NBA’s early entry eligibility deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Sunday night. The deadline to withdraw is June 15. The draft is still scheduled for June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But some believe the draft will be postponed to August or September, depending on if the NBA season resumes.
--The Premier League is targeting the weekend of June 13-14 to restart the season, with the goal of finishing up, along with the Champions League, by end of August. Otherwise, a worst-case scenario is modelled on returning in October.
Meanwhile, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, despite the fact he’s under contract until 2024, has made it clear he wants to leave his boyhood club if the Spurs are not moving in the right direction, and after watching them play this season, much of it without an injured Kane, I can’t disagree with him. It’s a pathetic club today.
The thing is, Manchester United would normally be a perfect landing spot for Kane, but with the economics of the sport totally up in the air, United couldn’t afford Kane.
Remember, IF the season starts up again, there will be no fans, no paying customers. Only television revenue (which admittedly is significant).
--Noooo!!!!! Oktoberfest has been canceled! The annual festival of beer-drinking and people packed in massive tents in Munich will not take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus.
Oktoberfest has a 210-year history, but it has been canceled before during the world wars, as well the epidemics of the 19th century.
--But it’s about more than Oktoberfest. Without a vaccine, pubs in Ireland, for example, let alone throughout Europe, are in serious danger of all going out of business.
Heineken Ireland, for example, has put its staff on a four-day week for two months due to the fall off in demand for its products since the lockdown began.
I forgot Heineken Ireland not only makes Murphy’s, but also Coors Light and Fosters at its Cork brewery.
Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris said last weekend he could not see how people could return to “packed pubs” as long as the virus was still in the community and in the absence of a vaccine.
The head of Licensed Vintners Association, which represents Dublin publicans, said, “If that happens then most pubs in the country will be out of business for good.”
Tuesday, Ireland announced it was banning mass gatherings until at least August. And it will also enforce a 2km limit for residents, outside of shopping for non-essentials.
I make no jokes about this. The government needs a “support scheme” for the pubs, just like the Trump administration is doing in attempting to help small business (and failing miserably at same, it needs to be added).
Top 3 songs for the week 4/22/72: #1 “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (Roberta Flack…think Clint and Donna Mills in “Play Misty For Me,” cough cough…) #2 “Rockin’ Robin” (Michael Jackson…one of his worst…) #3 “I Gotcha” (Joe Tex)…and…#4 “A Horse With No Name” (America…incredibly stupid lyrics…) #5 “In The Rain” (Dramatics…great tune…) #6 “Betcha By Golly, Wow” (The Stylistics…ditto…) #7 “Day Dreaming” (Aretha Franklin…three in a row…one of 2 or 3 faves of hers…) #8 “Heart Of Gold” (Neil Young) #9 “A Cowboys Work Is Never Done” (Sonny & Cher) #10 “Doctor My Eyes” (Jackson Browne…#2 in particular spoils the week, but still an ‘A-‘…)
NFL Draft Quiz Answers: 1) Last ten quarterbacks taken with the first overall pick. 2019 – Kyler Murray, Oklahoma, Arizona; 2018 – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, Cleveland; 2016 – Jared Goff – California, L.A. Rams; 2015 – Jameis Winston, Florida State, Tampa Bay; 2012 – Andrew Luck, Stanford, Indianapolis; 2011 – Cam Newton, Auburn, Carolina; 2010 – Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, St. Louis Rams; 2009 – Matthew Stafford, Georgia, Detroit; 2007 – Jamarcus Russell, LSU, Oakland; 2005 – Alex Smith, Utah, San Francisco. [Not one of them has won a Super Bowl] 2) Last running back selected first overall – Ki-Jana Carter, 1995, Penn State, Cincinnati. 3) Last wide receiver selected first overall – Keyshawn Johnson, 1996, USC, New York Jets.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.