Some weeks, I wonder what I’m going to write about, and others, the columns almost write themselves.
You’ve no doubt seen or at least heard about the fiasco at the end of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland game on Thursday Night, a wild scene that featured lots of cheap shots—punching, kicking, blind-side hits, and, most notably, Myles Garrett pulling off Mason Rudolph’s helmet and hitting him over the head with it.
Reactions by current and former players came swiftly, via social media:
The league reacted swiftly too, suspending other players involved, and banning Garrett indefinitely, but at least for the remainder of this season, including playoffs.
Football is a violent game. The players know that, and they accept a lot of risk when they suit up and step on that field. What Garrett did transcends that, in that a helmet was used as a weapon to strike another player in the head, which could have had disastrous consequences.
I was watching the game, and I found a few things that happened in the immediate aftermath, very interesting, and I thought they bore mentioning.
First of all, was Baker Mayfield’s interview with Erin Andrews, immediately after the game. I’ve been tough on Mayfield, writing about his lack of maturity and undisciplined play, but this interview was impressive. With no time to prepare or decompress, with the game just finished, Mayfield was calm, honest, thoughtful, and mature as he discussed the Garrett incident and assessed his team’s performance in the game:
Note how he immediately calls Garrett’s act “inexcusable,” and yet, even as he truthfully discusses what happened, he does not condemn his teammate. Instead, he puts the incident in the perspective of how Cleveland’s players have hurt the team with their actions. Notice how he continually says “we.” Then, when the discussion turns to the victory, he eschews gloating, instead opting for a critical analysis of how the offence needs to get better. For a second-year player, for any player, this was a great interview. I thought is was revelatory; Mayfield, in an unguarded moment, showing that he has the poise and class to be a team leader.
Contrast that with Ben Roethlisberger. Big (Head) Ben, after a game against Cincinnati two seasons ago in which a Cincy player was concussed by a dirty hit, and Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier was paralyzed, faced a similar situation, a post-game interview with Lisa Salters, during which the then 14-year veteran had this to say:
Lisa Salters: "Ben, how would you explain just kind of the viciousness and the brutality of this game?"
Ben Roethlisberger: "AFC North football."
Salters: "That's it?"
To say that Mayfield severely outclassed Roethlisberger would be to damn Mayfield with faint praise, as Big (Head) Ben has never shown any evidence of class. To wit:
- Multiple credible accusations of sexual assault
- Suspended by the league despite never having been convicted of sexual assault
- Crashed his illegally-driven motorcycle while not wearing a helmet
- Calls teammates who hold out for better pay disloyal while himself pulling down $30 million+ per season
- Publicly criticizes teammates, whom team officials refer to as his “children.”
- Golfing buddies with President Bay Orange
As to that last item, Roethlisberger apparently tried to emulate his golfing buddy by creepily trying to get into Stormy Daniels’s hotel room. Gross.
And, because this is the NFL, Roethlisberger will be in the Hall of Fame someday.
Incidents like the one on Thursday seem to follow Pittsburgh around. Some call it divisional rivalry, or “bad blood,” but if you look at Pittsburgh, it’s not hard to think that they’re the catalyst in it all. I mean, they are, consistently, one of the biggest collection of assholes in the league, and that goes right to the top. Several years ago, Pittsburgh had a WR, Cedrick Wilson, who hit his girlfriend. The team released Wilson, a backup. Shortly afterward, star LB James Harrison, broke into his girlfriend’s bedroom, took her phone (she was calling 911) and broke it, then struck her across the face. He admitted to everything, was arrested, released from custody, but not by the team, as Wilson had been. When questioned about this, team owner Dan Rooney, a catholic, characterized Harrison’s actions as “doing something good,” because Harrison wanted to take his child to be baptized and the girlfriend, the child’s mother, did not want him to.
(This, by the way, is the same James Harrison who, after Pittsburgh won the Superb Owl in 2009, refused Barack Obama’s invitation to the White House for the totally rational reason that Obama only invited the team is because they won.)
I don’t know about Garrett, but James Harrison definitely should have been thrown in jail.
But that’s Pittsburgh for you.
Winners in Bold:
Atlanta at Carolina
Atlanta shocked everyone last week by beating New Orleans. Based on what I’ve seen of Atlanta this season, I’m calling it a fluke, and with Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman out, I think they’ll add to their loss column.
Dallas at Detroit
I was talking to a co-worker today, a Dallas fan. He agreed with me when I said that I have no idea which Dallas team will show up on a week-to-week basis. Detroit’s defence has struggled, and has been given a bad rap by some, which I think is unfair, based on the number of injuries the unit has suffered. Detroit’s D is getting a bit healthier, but it’s still banged-up, and without Matt Stafford, they’ll lose. Of course, that depends on which Dallas team shows up.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Jacoby Brissett is expected to return, providing a definite upgrade under Center. Brissett will have to face the challenge of not having TY Hilton, but he and Indy’s defence should be able to pull out a win in this important divisional matchup that features the return of Nick Foles.
Buffalo at Miami
Buffalo lost a tough one in Cleveland last week, but they should be more than capable of ending Miami’s weird and unexpected two-game winning streak.
Houston at Baltimore
This is one of the best potential games of the week, featuring two of the brightest young stars in Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson, both of whom are legitimate MVP candidates. Watson is the superior QB, but I think that Houston’s injuries on offence, coupled with Baltimore’s depth in the defensive secondary, gives the home team the edge here.
Denver at Minnesota
Minnesota is riding pretty high right now, and nothing short of a huge letdown on their part will result in their losing to Denver.
NYJ at Washington
The league should just cancel this one. 2-7 vs. 1-8, loads of injuries, the home team is essentially a hate crime. Flush.
New Orleans at Tampa
New Orleans dropped a deuce at home last week, and I do mean of the turd variety. Tampa’s offence is geared towards big plays, and with New Orleans being without Marshon Lattimore this week, there’s definitely a chance for Tampa to hit on some of those deep passes. New Orleans simply has to be better on offence than they were last week. Maybe Drew Brees coming back wasn’t such a good thing.
Arizona at San Francisco
With the exception of a few duds against good teams, Arizona has been in every game, including a three-point loss to San Fran two weeks ago. The ‘niners are coming off their first loss, and are dealing with a load of injuries right now. I’m feeling bold.
Cincinnati at Oakland
Cincy is terrible, and I’m still mad about Andy Dalton (but also a bit happy that he doesn’t have to take any more punishment playing for this putrid team).
New England at Philadelphia
Another candidate for best matchup of the week. Philly has gotten healthier on defence, and has been playing better of late, but will be without Alshon Jeffrey. New England’s offence is slowly rounding into form, and their defence will be too much for Carson Wentz. On a side note, I’m anticipating being sick of hearing about Superb Owl LII, because the NFL hype machine is nothing if not predictable.
Chicago at LAR
Two of the best teams from last season, both of which are hanging on by a thread, and are long-shots to make the playoffs. Everyone knows Chicago’s problem; anything approaching decent, consistent QB play, and this is a top team. LA seems to be suffering from a decline in OL play, plus a Head Coach who is trying too hard to be a “genius” instead of doing what it takes to win games. Last week against Pittsburgh, Todd Gurley was having one of his best games, yet, in a close game, Gurley didn’t touch the ball in the 4th quarter because Sean McVay wanted to give Malcolm Brown more carries. It’s ludicrous. McVay’s insistence on winning “my way” reminds me of another “genius” coach from the franchise’s past: Mike Martz. It was Martz who, in a close Superb Owl, eschewed giving the ball to his best player, Marshall Faulk, in the second half, en route to a loss. For those of you that don’t remember, that was the game that concluded New England’s Cinderella 2001 season.
KC at LAC (in Mexico City)
I don’t even know what to say about this one. KC’s defence is a sieve, and the team lost a shootout to TENNESSEE last week even with Patrick Mahomes back. The Bolts are another of those maddening teams that can’t seem to find any kind of consistent rhythm. LA should be a bit better this week after the extra rest that comes with playing a Thursday Night game. This game is in Mexico City which makes me think: 1) I’m sure the Bolts must be CRUSHED to give up a home game in the city that doesn’t care about them, and 2) I wonder if many KC fans will travel for the game, and how well their racist chants will go over. Stay tuned.