It was going all so well for the NFL until the other shoe began to drop.
Battling to conduct business as usual like all the other sports tried to do in the face of the pandemic, seemed to be working. Until it wasn’t.
Of course, business as usual just isn’t happening with any sport, but the NFL appeared to have a handle on things.
Until they didn’t.
This isn’t the place for a diatribe on the laundry list of events that so far have caused postponements of two games, as of this writing, but I think everyone gets the picture.
A breakout of positive test results pushed back the Titans-Steelers matchup last Sunday, and the dreaded positive test result of a starting quarterback caused the Patriots-Chiefs to be played Monday night instead of on Sunday.
Cam Newton, the new Pats quarterback, tested positive, so he can’t even play for two games.
When you consider just a few of the ramifications, you get the feeling the foundation is shaky in the world of the NFL.
Here’s just a few of the issues.
It takes a few days after a possible exposure to someone with Covid-19 for it to be known someone is affected.
So everything is on a delayed basis when it comes to what teams might discover about their players and staff.
The Patriots traveled the day of the game to Kansas City from two separate airports 60 miles apart.
Brian Hoyer was the next man up at quarterback, with Newton out, and he had to get up real fast.
They had to play Monday, otherwise the Chiefs would be forced to play three games in 10 days.
By the time you read this, there might be other events on this subject. Hopefully not.
When I saw Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on-camera opening Sunday Night Football wearing masks, I was stunned, but not surprised. California mandates the wearing of masks, and the three broadcasters working the game had to wear them throughout.
Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels
I had to chuckle, but I wasn’t laughing.
Long ago, on my broadcasts, I decided not to get specific about player suspensions for things like performance-enhancing drugs, spousal abuse, any kind of addiction, or anything that would cause a viewer to be uncomfortable.
I realize, as a journalist, you have to be thorough in your reporting, and give the facts as they are.
I pride myself as being a journalist, who does exactly that.
But I am not a “journalist’ when I announce games.
Sure, I will describe what I see, which includes poor play, or disagreements with an officials call.
I will never paint a different picture than what the fan at home is seeing. I see my role as a conduit between the action on the field and the viewer at home.
If I can enhance his or her enjoyment of the game they are watching without getting in the way, I have succeeded.
I look upon the average viewer as someone who works extremely hard all week, and on the day before he goes back to his chores, looks forward to sitting on his sofa, watching his team try to win a game, enjoying his refreshments nearby.
It’s an escape. If I make the viewer uneasy, uncomfortable, or unhappy, (other than what may be happening on the field), I am failing in my job.
I can tell you there are many if not most of my colleagues who would vehemently disagree with my approach.
That the talk of the broadcaster is to be totally factual, and specific, on every issue.
When it comes to events that take place away from the game that create a “downer”, I avoid.
That’s strictly my philosophy.
I understand the what is going on with the virus, and the fact that wearing masks is the order of the day, but when I see the announcers wearing them at the start of the game, it is simply not an upbeat look.
This is where I hear that the seriousness of the pandemic and the wearing of masks etc, goes beyond the world of sports and touches every day life.
I am aware.
What I am doing here, is simply about a reaction to what I see, including games being postponed or cancelled outright.
I am keeping my fingers crossed, in hoping things don’t get worse in regards to the NFL.
This past week I got to witness Russell Wilson lead the Seattle Seahawks to their fourth consecutive victory.
Off to a record-breaking start with 14 touchdown passes in his first three games, Wilson, other than Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs, may be the best quarterback in the league.
Yes, I am aware of Tom Brady, especially with his five-touchdown performance for the Buccaneers, but I’m talking about those under the age of 43.
Wilson, like so many of the new-fangled athletic QB’s, once was a runner first, and a passer second.
A tremendous athlete who could beat you with his feet. Until it became apparent that teams can’t win that way.
Wilson has become a master at knowing when to run, having a superb sense of extending plays and then executing a big play with his arm, that breaks the back of opposing defenses.
In this game against the outmatched Dolphins, Wilson was hardly extraordinary. But he ultimately got the job done.
No player is great every time he takes the field.
But if he does enough to win, he’s done his job.
That’s what Russell Wilson accomplished last Sunday.
On the other side, 37-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Harvard quarterback with the very long beard and cheerful demeanor, fell short of finishing drives. Miami had to settle for field goals. Five of them. But couldn’t dent the end zone until the very end, and it cost them.
The story with the Dolphins surrounds their highly-touted rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the former Alabama star who is cut from the mold of the other athletic players who can and have electrified observers and have had early success to some degree.
Tua was drafted to become Miami’s franchise quarterback, meaning, the guy who will lead the team to success for years.
Tua’s time is coming. Soon.
He will add a major ingredient to a very young squad on a definite rise, and led by a head coach I have always felt is the real deal.
Brian Flores, is in his second season. After losing his first seven games last year, he guided the Dolphins to victory in five of the last nine games.
The team is 1-3 right now. But there is something about the way a team goes about its business that gives you the unmistakable feeling that they will be winners.
A long, long time ago, I saw the Green Bay Packers lose to a powerful New York Giants team 20-3 at Yankee Stadium.
it was the first season for their new head coach Vince Lombardi.
The Packers had won only one game the year before and hired Lombardi, who was an assistant coach with the Giants.
Despite the loss, there was a definite impression that the Packers would no longer be doormats.
There was clear evidence that his was a cohesive team-in-the-making, a team that was developing a chemistry and a precision that would pay off.
I had no idea how good they would become or how much a legend Lombardi would be.
I just knew I was witnessing a stark contrast to what I had been seeing with the Packers.
The next season Green Bay played, but lost, in the championship game.
Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely, positively, unequivocally, not claiming that Brian Flores is going to be another Vince Lombardi. To put that burden on him is unconscionable.
It’s a different time. There are more games in a season, more teams in the league, a tougher road to the championship game, or the Super Bowl.
The last time I saw something similar was in Pittsburgh, when Chuck Noll came aboard.
He won his first game, lost all the rest, in his initial season.
But eventually won the first of four Super Bowls in his sixth year.
The Steelers were a joke when Noll took over, but you could see a change.
I can’t believe I did it again.
First Vince Lombardi, then Chuck Noll.
What am I doing to poor Brian Flores?
Am I out of my mind?
I don’t think so. I have no idea where Flores is headed as head coach of the Dolphins.
I just see some of the same things I saw many years earlier with two other coaches.
I will say, that I was impressed by what Kyle Van Noy said in our talk with him before the game last week.
Van Noy, is a top-notch, intelligent linebacker who played for Bill Belichick in New England, and left the Patriots to sign with the Dolphins as a free agent.
We all know money plays perhaps the biggest role in these kind of moves.
But Van Noy also was aware of Brian Flores as a defensive assistant with the Patriots a few seasons ago, and said he was enthused about playing for him in Miami.
Van Noy, in describing what he thought was a major indicator of a head coach’s value, said it was something you couldn’t describe, but you knew it.
I believe that’s the case for many coaches who have become special.
It is hard to pin down and be specific, but it’s something you just know.
This is nothing new for me in my assessment of Flores. I went on record in my column a year ago, before he coached his first game.
Just a feeling I had.
Nothing’s changed. I still feel that way.
This could prove to be an embarrassing case of going out on a limb that is eventually sawed off.
But I don’t think so.
Besides, that’s what I’m here for.