If you’re going to cover the NFL for ESPN, you better be ready to have an opinion … about everything in football. When a Giants fan is standing next to me waiting to get take-out at my favorite restaurant, The Greek Village in Northvale, N.J., and wants to get something off his or her chest, (it’s almost always about Giants GM Dave Gentleman these days), I better be ready to share some knowledge. When I’m at the airport and the flight attendant wants to know why her quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t want to play in Green Bay anymore, I better have some intel (I also add a couple of positive outlooks on the season to keep the peace in the air!).
Then you have those who want fantasy football advice, and that’s a whole other beast of a conversation at every single holiday party that I always get roped into.
Bottom line, if you cover football, you better be ready to talk about it. It’s probably why I picked the greatest sport on the planet to cover, because I don’t shut up, so it all works out.
Next week I will be back in studio for the first time in weeks with Mike Greenberg on “Get Up!” discussing the league. My main job is to report, but the last few years I’ve been sharing more opinions and views on the league on his show. Sometimes I feel like the female, New Jersey version of Stephen A. Smith. (Now that I think about it, that person already exists. Teresa Giudice from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.” In case you don’t watch, she is the one tossing the table. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWJZwM6msU4)
Anyway, once you share your opinions with the world on TV, they never get deleted. In fact, I actually believe there are people who roam sports networks and record every take given, only to patiently wait for a take to be wrong. Then the shame game can begin as it gets posted somewhere. Note: It alwaysgets posted. It must be thrilling and even rewarding to do this because I see it happen all over the internet. There is even a twitter handle @oldtakesexposed for this exact reason! Which brings me to the point of this diary entry. I’m getting ahead of it and exposing myself! Since it’s Week 9 of 18, let’s tear through the midseason muck.
My Preseason Take:
Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury is not a good coach.
I think I actually told him this to his face at an event! I’m not kidding. He has a great attitude and is fiercely competitive, but my thought was quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins were both talented enough to carry any offense, led by any coach with a whistle. The Cardinals collectively just aren’t a good team. Kingsbury is going to waste Murray’s early years because he simply doesn’t know how to make this air-raid offense work in the NFL. (10 personnel with four receivers and one running back. It’s all about tempo for this to work.)
Forgive me. The Arizona Cardinals led by Kliff Kingsbury are consistently really, really good. It’s one thing to be averaging at least 30 points per game with Murray and Hopkins, but to do that with backup QB Colt McCoy and no top receivers? Kingsbury had a great game plan and deserved so much credit as they dominated Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers last week. Kingsbury has tweaked and tailored his play-calling to find the perfect recipe. All this, yet I also find myself still asking on Sundays, “are the Cardinals for real?” Spoiler alert: They are.
If Murray can stay healthy, this is a team that we are going to see deep in the playoffs.
My Preseason Take:
The Chiefs are going back to the Super Bowl, better than ever.
After watching, in-person, the Chiefs lose to the Bucs earlier this year in Tampa Bay at the Super Bowl, I didn’t lose any confidence in coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, or even wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Kansas City made some moves in the offseason that appeared to have bolstered the weak areas that hurt the team all of the postseason. The story of their Super Bowl loss was, of course, the lack of protection for Mahomes, but with this now fixed (on paper), this Chiefs team could be the best version of itself since Mahomes took over as starting QB. This group knows how to win.
Forgive me. The Chiefs are broken. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but with their turnover issues and lack of explosive plays on offense, they just aren’t the same. They do have health on their side with their key players all in good shape, but until Mahomes can stop pressing and they find a balanced rhythm, this might be a VERY delayed Super Bowl hangover. We’ve all had those hangovers: You know when you wake up and feel awesome then at 4 p.m. it hits you like a ton of bricks. Unless this team can make some major improvements, I think we all need to wrap our heads around the idea that the Kansas City Chiefs’ season is ending Week 18 in Denver.
My Preseason Take:
The 49ers are going to win the NFC West.
The 49ers invested the 12th overall pick, two more first-round picks, and a third-round pick in quarterback Trey Lance and all I hear around the league is this is the perfect situation for the organization because San Francisco now has options. If veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo can just stay healthy, they really have a chance of being good, especially since they extended left tackle Trent Williams and signed center Alex Mack to protect him. If Garoppolo gets hurt, they have a rookie who can play right away, I’m told. If he turns out to be a better player than Jimmy G, then it’s a win-win for the Niners.
The part of my take I forgot to consider? What if Garoppolo, who is just “OK” and who can’t consistently stay healthy, is still just … OK … along with their rookie QB, who has yet to beat out his average veteran teammate. Bad quarterback play all around, and a team that should be good, isn’t. Then again, the golden rule of the NFL is: “If you don’t have a great quarterback, you can’t win”
My Preseason Take:
The Panthers traded for the right quarterback in Sam Darnold.
Before Darnold was traded, I spoke to some GMs and scouts in the league to get a gauge of Darnold’s ability. I was blown away by how many in the league still believed he just needed the right coaching staff and playbook because his skills were there. I thought a marriage of Darnold with offensive coordinator Joe Brady would result in success ...
Forgive me. Really. Darnold is worse in Carolina, and the Panthers are worse with Darnold compared to when they were with Teddy Bridgewater. We saw in New York that Darnold’s turnovers were an issue, and they’re still haunting him. I will not make a “seeing ghost” joke here. Look, Darnold’s offensive line isn’t superb either, but this test drive for Carolina is going one way. They will be shopping for a new “car” this offseason.
My Preseason Take:.
Dak Prescott is worth every cent and is the right quarterback for Dallas.
He is that good on the field, off the field, and has proved he can be the Cowboys’ future franchise QB.
I got it right! I had to throw in one take that I got correct!