And Now, Your State Of The NFL Address
2:21 PM EST on January 27, 2022
Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s new book, The Night The Lights Went Out, through here.
Championship Sunday is always a bittersweet occasion for me, and not merely because my favorite team has a penchant for losing on it once a decade. It’s because this is the weekend I realize that there are only three NFL games left in the season, after I just spent over a month gorging on back-to-back doubleheaders and shitty bowl games. It’s a forced detox that I have great difficulty abiding. I already miss Thursday Night Football. No one should miss Thursday Night Football, but brother, do I ever. God, I feel like a fucking dork.
Last weekend’s divisional round was one of the best ever, if not the best, in part because it showcased nearly every type of good football game you could want. Bengals-Titans featured a lovable underdog winning on the road despite their quarterback having his innards surgically removed by the opposed defense. Rams-Bucs was on the verge of being a historic comeback before Matty Stafford reminded the world that historic comebacks are only enjoyable if it’s an underdog staging the comeback. Niners-Packers was a 1990s-style demolition derby that ended with Aaron Rodgers sucking piss out of his own wet diaper. And the end of Bills-Chiefs was a disco on acid, where both quarterbacks decided that defenses are invisible, took out their dig ol’ bicks, and did as they pleased for a glorious two-plus minutes of wet hot action. I lapped that shit up like a dog rushing over to a puddle of spilled beer. The football, my friends, is good.
To that end, lemme put on my pretend commissioner’s badge for a moment—it’s made of real tin!—and assess the state of the NFL as it is right now. Sometimes I complain about the NFL, other times I bend over into my own asshole to apologize for it. In this space, I shall do both.
Overtime: Bills-Chiefs was a perfect football game, and yet the moment Travis Kelce iced the game the FIRST thing I had to hear was WAHHHHH IT’S NOT FAIR JOSH ALLEN DIDN’T GET THE BALL WAHHHHH. Fuck off. No one likes the “Just play better defense" guy, but that take is necessary when Buffalo can’t play defense for 13 piddlyshit seconds to prevent overtime from ever happening to begin with, and then lies down IN that overtime. Don’t blame the coin toss. The Bills deserved to lose that game. I don’t feel sorry for them.
Dan McQuade did a full history of NFL overtime here at Defector earlier this week and found that, regardless of its format, fans have pissed and moaned about it. Maybe there’s a fairer overtime format to be had, but I promise you that it would either be boring (a full extra quarter of play with no sudden death) or you’d find it too gimmicky (college OT, which I also like). The NFL changed the overtime rules in 2010 because having an OT game end with a cursory field goal on the first possession was always a horrible letdown. So they said, “You can win on your opening series, but only if you do some cool shit and score a touchdown.” If the end of that game last week left you wanting more, that’s the point. The game did its job.
The current catch rules: There was a dark period not too long ago when I pre-winced after every circus catch, because I had no clue if the refs would void that catch because the receiver was a Virgo or something. That angst no longer exists because the rules are now clear, or as clear as the NFL can make them. You catch the ball. You get two feet down. If you’re falling to the ground, you have to maintain possession after you land. If you’re on your feet, you have to do start turning/running after you’ve secured the ball (also known as a “football move”) to make the catch legit. I haven’t gotten truly angry at a catch ruling for a while now. Fumbles? Whole other story.
Big hits: Most people understand the head thing now. Fans get it. Coaches get it (Gregg Williams aside). Players get it. You can’t whack a QB in the head. You can’t launch into a defenseless receiver. You can’t lower the crown of your helmet. Those are all accepted facts of life now. I’ve had issues with roughing calls this year, but more often with shit that DIDN’T get called than did. As Jay Caspian Kang noted in the Times this week, the sport is as lethal as it's ever been. Roger Goodell, gutless stooge fuck that he is, took it upon himself to fundamentally alter NFL gameplay to make it more presentable to the viewing public, and I hate to report that he’s by and large succeeded. Football looks safer, and therefore my reptile brain takes that as evidence that it is.
To that end, if I see a big-ass hit now, and I know it’s clean, I don’t grimace in fear or disapproval. I go OH SHIT, because hits are still cool.
The current playoff format: I thought the 14-team playoff gave way too much of an advantage to the top seeds, because they’re the only teams to get a bye. But then both of the top seeds last weekend LOST, and did so in hilarious fashion. Marvelous. More important, I really do like that we can get to December and still have every team except the Giants still mathematically eligible to earn a wild card slot. Every time the NFL or college football expands its playoff field—or just adopts one—the chief argument against them doing so is that it cheapens the regular season. But lemme tell you something: they could let EVERY team into the goddamn playoffs and I’d still be Krazy-Glued to my television for the regular season. I still overeat, I still gamble, and I still enjoy yelling at my team, regardless of regular-season circumstances. Nothing about extra playoff teams deters me from treating myself.
OK, that was all the good stuff. Now for the whining.
Replay: Horrible. Takes forever. Is applied with zero consistency. Doesn’t even guarantee the right call will be made. Burn it.
Officiating in general: Full-time refs aren’t enough. We need GMO refs grown in a lab and kept in isolation cells. They are not allowed contact with the outside world except to announce a false start.
Offsetting penalties on uneven penalties: The offense commits a personal foul on the play when the center chop-blocks a dude. The defense commits a five-yard illegal contact. As always, those penalties offset and we’ll replay the down. THIS IS HORSESHIT. Move that offense back 10 yards for their malfeasance. If I were a coach, I’d have my line leg-whip every defender after an offside penalty.
Nepotism: It’s only natural for a league where many of the teams have been inherited that front offices and coaching staffs would be littered with miniature Shanahans and Belichicks and Turners. It also goes a long way toward explaining why a lot of coaching is so fucking BAD. Every staff is more inbred than a royal family, and the result are ancient methods dressed up in fresh stubble and game plans that lack imagination.
I’ve been slightly heartened by the fact that teams with head coaching vacancies this cycle have taken their time looking for the right hire. Normally, you’d have half these vacancies filled already by the Big 12’s loudest jackasses. Instead, teams appear to be doing actual diligence and casting a wide net. Then again, the first team to hire a coach, the Broncos, just hired Paul Hackett’s kid to run things, and Paul Hackett wasn’t even that good of a coach himself. Under Goodell, the NFL has tweaked its PR model more often, and more effectively, than the rules of the game itself. So I can be glad that Ryan Poles and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah got powerful general manager jobs while also knowing, in my heart, that the Raiders will give Jac Collinsworth the same job for double the salary.
The league’s ongoing penchant for burying scandals and ugly incidents if they can’t be commemorated on a jersey patch of some kind: Deshaun Watson just sat in dry dock for a year and will almost certainly be traded a few months from now, if not sooner. And you know what? Everyone involved will get away with it. Watson’ll take the field, do some cool shit, and then all of the accusations against him will, per league tradition, be reduced to “off-the-field issues” by the announcers. Roger Goodell will happily wait out any news cycle to get what he wants. This league excels at strategic memory loss. So yay.
The studio shows: We talked about this very briefly on the podcast a couple of weeks ago, but NFL studio shows are just like NFL teams themselves in terms of legacy hires, cronyism, and an aggressive hostility toward intellectual creativity. How long am I gonna have to look at Terry Bradshaw clutching that fucking briefcase? These guys are the chief ambassadors of pro football, and all of them are either braindead, clumsy apologists for the league, or both. NFL front offices were already woefully behind on the data revolution that’s flourished in every other league, so it doesn’t help when you’ve got Phil Simms sitting behind a desk and going WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH MULTIPLICATION TABLES?! anytime Brandon Staley decides not to punt.
Taunting penalties: Again, we’re going backward here. The league claims it had to crack down on taunting penalties to prevent further on-field violence from occurring, as if a player who’s been taunted is gonna whip out a fucking gun in response. Was taunting a serious problem before they cracked down? Were teams meeting in the parking lot after games to have knife fights? Fuck off. We need fewer flags, not more of them.
Uniform ennui: Alternate helmets will finally be allowed next season, but that’s not enough. Every new uniform is either a tweak or it’s the Rams adding tea stains to their original getups. I’m sick of it. If you’re gonna add a 17th game to the schedule and force me to reckon with odd numbers, at least spice up the uniforms so that I have something new to look at. You know how fucking boring the Bears’ uniforms are? Justin Fields looks 600 percent slower in that jersey. It’s criminal. Paint those unis in hideous shades of neon and add weird argyle patterns all over. I wanna have a seizure when I watch this game. Who doesn’t?
And there’s your state of the NFL. Now let’s watch some title games.
All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And for the playoffs, I also pick the games because I am never wrong about anything.
Bengals (+7) 24, Chiefs 21. Like I said, I’m gonna pick the Bengals until they lose. Ian Eagle had the call for Bengals-Titans last week, and after my son Joe Burrow got sacked for the 57th time, Eagle said, “The rush is coming in SHEETS.” I liked that turn of phrase. You never hear NFL announcers deploying vivid, literary imagery. Normally, the play-by-play guy is just rattling off phrases he may as well be reading off a crib sheet: “Let’s see what Mike Tomlin will dial up here,” “plenty of room to run on that play,” “…and they’ll be forced to punt,” etc. Meanwhile you turn on a soccer game and you got an excitable Brit behind the mic using language so florid you could put it on the inside of a book jacket. “Mbappe! His foot one end of the rainbow and the back of the net the other! ALL OF FRANCE IS RADIANT!” I’d like more fancy talk like that from American TV guys. Makes me feel civilized.
Niners (+3.5) 17, Rams 14. Now that Sean Payton has left New Orleans, Kyle Shanahan is now your top offender when it comes to getting too cute, as evidenced by this fourth-and-1 call late against Green Bay. At least Kyle didn’t force Pizza Boy to line up out of the gun, but he DID call for Laken Tomlinson to pull. Because when you need a yard, why NOT leave a tremendous sucking vacuum in the interior of your O-line for the other guys to fill in half a second?
I goof on Kyle because he’s the product of nepotism and because he looks like the guy your one true love is going out with instead of you, but the man really can coach. He hires good assistants and wins games he has no business winning. And yet, 28-3 Kyle is still lurking in there. He can pop out any time. Even if the fucker won a Super Bowl, and he may well pull it off in two weeks, I’d still never trust him.
None. Time for the random crap:
• Zac Taylor looks like cleaned-up Gruden.
• I’m still not used to Tom Rinaldi as a sideline reporter for Fox. Every time they cut down to him, I think I’m about to get a 20-minute longform segment about Kelly Stafford beating cancer and starting an artisanal hemp stationery business.
• I have no respect for Joe Judge, but after I watched him self-medicate with pizza and beer after getting fired, I had a single, lone pang of sympathy. It has to really suck to be a bad NFL coach. You work 100-hour weeks to get a top job, you finally get one, you work even harder, all the while envisioning yourself constructing a championship program. And then you lose 10-plus games a year and everyone fucking hates you. Joe Judge is too dumb to be sad, or to understand the breadth of his incompetence. But if he WERE … that’d have to sting. If I became an NFL head coach and then ate it, I’d move to Europe and never come back.
• Every time I get into my car at night, I still believe there’s a chance a killer has been hiding in the backseat, waiting for me. I look in the rearview mirror, fully expecting some maniac with a butcher knife to pop up into view. Hasn’t happened yet, but fingers crossed!
• All winter long, I’ve been watching these games tucked under a brand new sherpa fleece blanket I got for Christmas. It’s very snuggly, this blanket. I also got fleecy pants from Marshall’s from my sister, and my hoodie has a fleecy inner lining to cradle my big fat head as I recline back in my chair. The comfort level is obscene.
When I first had kids, we dressed them in soft cotton onesies and swaddled them in fleecy blankets and strolled them around in BundleMes. And I was always like, “God, they look so comfy. I wish I was that comfy.” I now am. I used to aspire to live like a baby, and now I do. I have made it. Once I start wearing diapers again, I’ll have really won. Maybe I’ll buy a Pop It to play with during the Super Bowl. GOO GOO GAGA.
• While we’re talking laziness, one thing I do in my recliner is, if I hear a song I like while I’m sitting in it, I dance. But only with my feet. I foot dance. Really jacks up the festive atmosphere of the room.
• True story: The other week, I was taking all three kids to their grandma’s house to pick up the dog, and from the backseat my 9-year-old goes, “Hey Dad, what does c-u-n-t mean? I read that word in your book.” I had forgotten I put that word in The Hike (though I have no right to be surprised that I did). I also had no idea that the boy didn’t already know it, given that he knew every other swear word already. The other two kids started laughing their asses off and I had to explain to him that the c-word was very bad and that you shouldn’t use it. And that’s the story of me inadvertently teaching my son that word. A-plus dadding right there. He likes the book so far.
• OK, I think I’m far enough down in this column to say that Josh Allen’s style of play reminds me of prime Cam Newton. Cam ran like a tank outfitted with nitro boosters and he could throw to any spot on the field. That’s Josh Allen. They’re the same kick-ass style of player. I’ve tried hating Allen for years now but I can’t do that anymore. He’s too awesome.
Last week: 2-2
Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall
“Back to the Motor League,” by Propagandhi! From Kyle!
These angry Canadians rock fucking hard. “Back to the Motor League” starts off with, “I like to party fucking hard, I like my rock n roll the same!” Every time I hear that opening line, along with those bitchin’ guitar riffs, I’m ready to fucking GO! Anytime I need to amp myself up, I blast this and it does the trick. You can’t stay tired after that. The whole song is a fast, driving force of great singing, fast drums, and shreddy guitars. The ending is a perfect, too. Man, I love this goddamn song!
And now I do as well. A band named Propagandhi is always gonna be whimsical gamble. There’s like a 10 percent chance you get something cool. But this, this is quite cool. Very shreddy indeed.
Worst Quarterback In The League Of The Week
Aaron Rodgers. HA!
Bad Local Commercial Of The Week!
King Kong Fast Food, which somehow looks even worse than it sounds. From Ben:
Commercials for the local Omaha chain "King Kong" were a staple on local TV for decades despite terrible production, despite the unspoken implication that they make their burgers out of gorillas, and despite the fact that the hubris that brings King Kong to New York is a pretty perfect analogy for the hubris that leads one to order a Triple King Kong burger (I guess your colon is New York in this analogy).
Their hook from when I moved there in '94 until I moved out in 2004 (and I assume still) is a folksie Nebraskan saying "I'm here for the gyros" (pronounced like in "gyroscope") and then a quick zoom out to reveal an entire Greek family who call out "Not gire-ros! YEEEERROs!" (See :15 of here). That and the antics of someone dressed in the world's least convincing gorilla costume.
As a city so white they had a big race riot against the Greek community, you'd think we'd be a little more considerate about how we pronounce things, but then you'd think King Kong would shoot their commercials with something more advanced than a VHS camcorder from 1994.
I’d think that, but not expect it. I got food poisoning just watching that ad.
Fire This Asshole!
Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2022 chopping block:
Jon Gruden – FIRED!!!!
Urban Meyer – FIRED!!!!
Sean Payton – RESIGNED/STEPPED AWAY/TAKING TIME WITH HIS FAMILY OR SOMETHING!
Mike Zimmer – FIRED!
Brian Flores – FIRED!
Matt Nagy – FIRED!
Joe Judge – FIRED!
David Culley – FIRED!
Vic Fangio - FIRED!
This was the week I learned that Sean Payton’s wife’s name is Skylene. Didn’t know Sean Payton was into Mormons.
Great Moments In Poop History
Reader Chris sends in this story I call FURY LOAD:
About 10 years ago, on a day off from work, I picked up my wife from her job to hit up lunch at a Chinese buffet. The meal was fine. A typical smorgasbord of mediocre egg rolls and questionable chicken dishes. As I drove my wife back to her office building, I started to detect a disturbance in the Force. I debated the option of stopping in to use the men's room in her building. She worked downtown and, of course, as I pulled closer to her office I saw no sign of any available parking spots.
After she got out of the car, I tried to judge the conflict brewing in my stomach but I opted not to double-park and run in. "I got this", I said to myself. It's only about a 10 minute drive back to our house and what man doesn't want to use his own throne? This turned out to be a miscalculation that I (and my jeans) would soon regret.
About halfway home, I felt the full-court press and pulled into a small convenience store. I asked the clerk if they had a public restroom. "No, but you can piss behind the building if it's an emergency". I didn't have the time to explain to him that I urgently needed to do more than water the weeds out back. Perhaps my look of panic gave me away and he just didn't want his plumbing ruined for all time. I charged out the door and jumped back into my car in a blur that would have made Bo Duke proud.
Now back on the road, I did my best to stay calm and keep my ass cheeks clenched while not running other vehicles off the road. Every approaching stop light became a bargaining between me and God for emerald green. Finally, I pulled into my driveway, threw it into park and jumped out of the car leaving the door open and the engine running. I fumbled with my house keys while Old Faithful was about to blow. I unlock the back door (leaving it wide open) and barreled through the kitchen and living room towards the stairs to second floor. I get to the landing on the stairs (as they turn sharply up to the right) and am about two feet from the bathroom when I crap my britches just as I'm about to unbuckle my pants. A feeling of warm projectile diarrhea-ridden despair overwhelms me yet by the grace of General Tso, my jeans and boxers contain the eruption in their final act of sacrifice. I strip them off, toss them in a garbage bag and proceed to take a shower to rid myself of the shit, which was oompa loompa orange-brown.
I never again patronized that Chinese buffet and sold the house a few years ago, vowing to never again own an abode with only one bathroom on the second floor.
Okay but I’d still go to Chinese buffets. Always worth the risk.
Anyway, here’s your reminder that next week is the annual POOPOROO, featuring all of the finest poop stories that you, the Defector readership, have to offer. So send me your tales of rectal woe and if they’re charming enough, they’ll earn a spot.
Gametime Snack Of The Week
Babka. I’m the grocery store fairy in this house. I go first thing in the morning on weekends, I bring the groceries home, and then my 9-year-old goes wide-eyed at all the delicious shit I brought back, even when it’s just yogurt. So the other day, I spotted a chocolate babka in the bakery section. Not a high-quality babka like the kind in that one Seinfeld episode. Just some mass-produced chocolate coffee cake. I figured all of my kids would be horny for it. They weren’t. The youngest said it looked “too fudgy,” which is a hell of a complaint to make about your breakfast. Thus, being the good citizen that I am, I spent the next couple of days eating that entire babka myself. Can’t recommend eating an entire coffee cake by yourself enough. You college kids out there know what I’m talking about.
Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week
Lost Lake! Because who WOULDN’T drink a beer that sounds like the name of an '80s horror movie? From David:
My dad bought this crap for some reason. That reason being that he's cheap. Also, as a fellow Vikings fan, please allow me to say Fuck Brad Childress. Fuck him right in the ass.
Another reader, Brian, also sent in it:
Worst. Shit. Ever. $8.99 for a case of 12oz cans. My dad and I got drunk off it once... he ended up hitting me in the head with the cooler lid and kicking me out of the house. Neither one of us knew what happened the next day.
I don’t think I’d like to be hit in the head with a cooler lid. Those things aren’t soft.
Dan Campbell’s Clump Dog Of The Week: Travis Kelce
“That guy never stops hustling and I’m all about that. That’s like my dog, which is also named Dan. I throw a stick, Dan SPRINTS the fuck after it. Zero hesitation. Zero fear. One time I threw a stick and it accidentally landed in this big raging river. Rapids that looked like the mouth of hell. Dan jumps right into the water and I’m going NO LITTLE DAN! YOU’LL GET HURT, BUDDY! Dan gets the stick, starts swimming back to the riverbank, sees a beaver, and drops the stick. Then he KILLS the beaver, turns around, goes down the rapids another half mile, smashes into a rock, kills a second beaver, gets the stick, and then brings it back to me. And then he’s looking at me like THROW IT AGAIN, BIG DAN! And you know what? I did. I threw that stick DIRECTLY into the river the next time around. He loved it! Dan the dog has no quit. That’s why I bring him to practice to run route trees with our guys.”
Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Jaguars Fans
The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which now joins Mission: Impossible – Fallout as the only times I’ve enjoyed watching Henry Cavill act. Cavill plays an American here, despite the fact that he’s British and despite the fact that the director here, Guy Ritchie, is the most aggressively British director who ever lived. Cavill’s Napoleon Solo (that is, indeed, his name) is just as horny as James Bond, only he hides it (often poorly) behind a straitlaced, 1950s American Man veneer. Meanwhile, Armie Hammer plays a Russian and Alicia Vikander plays a German. The accents here have some real couples-roleplaying-to-spice-things-up-in-the-bedroom energy.
Like The Gentlemen, this is another Ritchie movie featuring Hugh Grant as a charming shitbag. I now want Ritchie to make Shitbag Hugh the lead in his next movie, which I’ll title Nigel & The Chav in advance, for my own pleasure.
Gratuitous Simpsons Quote
“A Jewish entertainer? Get out of here!”
Enjoy the games, everyone.