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This Is So Stupid

I Have A Beef With Immaculate Grid, And It Is Exceptionally Petty

12:04 PM EDT on September 14, 2023

circa 1885: A couple of men playing a leisurely game of chess. The photo is in black in white. The men are dressed in suits. One of them is also petting a dog.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

My relationship with Immaculate Grid has followed almost the exact same trajectory as my relationship with Wordle. I started playing it long after the initial frenzy had passed, and it was no longer cool to post your score online anymore. And then, once I started, I made it a mandatory part of my morning routine. I get up, I do Wordle, I testily wait until 9 a.m. rolls around, and then I do the NFL grid. When I get stuck on the last one or two squares, I put down my phone and spend HOURS contemplating how to fill in the blanks. Didn’t Blaine Gabbert play for the Bears one year? I’m envisioning him in a Bears uniform and it feels so right. But am I confident in this? Dare I take a chance on Blaine? I did, and I paid for it.

In theory, this is a good exercise for my brain. In practice, it doesn’t feel that way.

Nevertheless, I take my Guy Remembering seriously, and I get an unspeakable high whenever I remember, without assistance, that Ken Dilger played for both the Colts and Bucs. Yesterday, I polished off an immaculate game with "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson as my final square. I lose the Grid more often than I win. But when I do win it, I feel like I just won a Nobel Prize. Pro Football Reference doesn’t include head shots for older players—even Joe Namath is reduced to the equivalent of an egg avatar, which feels unjust—so I didn’t get Big Daddy’s face staring back at me when I sealed my victory, but I felt exultant all the same.

But that’s enough of me saying nice shit about Immaculate Grid. Now it’s time for me to complain. If you’re unfamiliar with Immaculate Grid, it’s a simple exercise. You get three teams across and three teams down. In each square, you have to name a player who’s played for both teams on its corresponding axes. Sometimes, PFR will get frisky and swap out a team name with a career benchmark, as it did yesterday:

I aced this yesterday because I know football.

If you’re my age, it’s not hard to think of Commanders who have won a Super Bowl: Mark Rypien, Art Monk, Darrell Green, etc. If you’re much younger, it’s far from the top of your mind. To you, Washington’s Super Bowl days might as well have happened before the Industrial Revolution. But hey, plenty of Super Bowl winners have collected a paycheck from that team since its last title in 1991: Deion Sanders, Brad Johnson, Carson Wentz, etc. So you probably can just enter one of those guys, given that they played for Washington and have a ring, right?

WRONG.

The rules of Immaculate Grid mandate that the player you name has to have achieved that benchmark while playing for the matching team. This generally isn’t hard because it’s always easy to think of a player who won a title, or ran for 1,000 yards, or was named first-team All-Pro somewhere down the line. But if you’re me and you find yourself confronted one day with a square that asks you to name a 1,000-yard pass catcher for the Baltimore Ravens, you might find yourself stumped. This is because the history of Baltimore pass catchers is appalling, even Bears-like. So I went into brainlock for hours on end. Anyone scared of entering the name of a tight end there would be.

But then I remembered that the Ravens have a fun habit of employing washed-up receivers from all corners of the league: OBJ, Steve Smith, Shannon Sharpe, etc. So I entered Anquan Boldin, who has seven career 1,000-yard seasons. Did any of those come when Boldin played for the Ravens? Fuck no, but I had still found a guy who matched the assigned criteria. This was my reward for it:

Bullshit, Immaculate Grid. Bullshit. Every day, I give you my precious time and mental dexterity, and THIS is how you repay me? I don't you see you mandating that I name players who have played for the Cowboys WHILE playing for the Bengals. So how about we match my foot with your ass?

Now, some of you might think this rule is fair. That includes my editor for this post, Diana Moskovitz, who responded, “I do kinda get that though?” when I explained my beef to her. But allow me to rebut her point here on two fronts. First of all, I don’t like it when games are TOO hard, because then I feel stupid. Secondly, think of how fun it would be if it WERE legal to abandon this distinction. You could have a square that forces you to find a player who matches up with Super Bowl Champion and Cleveland Browns. Think of how challenging that would be! And think of how much it would pain Cleveland fans to encounter that square! Now that’s what I call immaculate!

Also, I should be able to name coaches for this thing. I’d be a god.

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