From pure definition alone, I am an adult. I spend a considerable amount of my free time reading and learning about large humans who are paid handsome sums of cash to run into each other at full speed. This morning I drank about 50 ounces of coffee before 11:00am. Donald Trump is the president of the United States for the next four years. The Seattle Mariners are 1-6. This is Earth, the only place any human has ever called home. You and I and every other person is experiencing the world completely differently. I think that’s pretty cool.
Last week, I discussed the many hypothetical situations in which Tony Romo could find himself playing for an NFL team next season. Conveniently, less than 24 hours after I published my thoughts, NFL.com reported that Tony Romo was going to retire from professional football. Romo would be released by Dallas shortly thereafter with plans to join CBS as the leading NFL broadcast analyst alongside Jim Nantz.
Tony Romo is thirty-six years old and played a total of 14 seasons in the National Football League. When he announced his retirement on Tuesday, the reaction from the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the league was palpable. Jerry Jones, owner, general manager, and full-time hype man of the Cowboys, made a public statement in regard to Romo’s retriement. “Tony has been a wonderful representative of the Cowboys organization for 14 years, and he left everything he had on the field. He will leave us with many great memories and a legacy of being, truly, one of the greatest players in Cowboys history. We are thrilled for him and his family that he will be able to continue working as a professional in the game he so dearly loves.” Dallas head coach Jason Garrett also had words on the now-retired quarterback, stating, “That relentless spirit that Tony plays with is contagious. He makes his teammates better. He makes his coaches better. He makes his team better. He has grown so much as a player and as a person over the course of his career and has made a significant impact on the lives of so many. I consider myself fortunate to be at the top of that list. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to work with Tony Romo, one of the greatest players in Dallas Cowboys history.” Additionally, there were hundreds of tweets last week from players and celebrities commending Romo on his fantastic career. Jason Witten, Dallas’ veteran #1 tight end, posted a sentimental essay on Twitter where he eloquently detailed his experience playing with Romo. It’s clear that, with the retrospect of his retirement, Romo was one of the most beloved and respected players in the entire NFL.
Romo’s success throughout his career is often misunderstood by fans and haters alike. Romo signed with Dallas in 2004 as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois University. In his first two seasons, the only real game action Romo experienced was holding kicks as the backup quarterback. On October 23rd of 2006, Cowboys’ starter Drew Bledsoe was benched and Romo was given the reigns over the Dallas offense. From that point forward, Romo was the certified starter and face of the franchise in Dallas. He was known for being exceptionally composed in the fourth quarter, where he mounted 30 game-winning drives during his career, the most in Dallas Cowboys’ history. While he was undoubtedly an elite passer for the majority of his NFL tenure, his reputation was plagued by his subpar track record in critical games, including the postseason. In six total playoff games, Romo went 2-4 and never advanced further the NFC Divisional round. Many of these late season blunders were in due in large part to Romo’s poor performances down the stretch. Simply put, the Dallas Cowboys played in many season-defining games between 2006 and 2014, and lost most of them in embarrassing fashion. Whether Romo is at fault for these painful failures is a subjective matter, but his passing statistics in elimination games are much worse than his regular season output. Despite Romo being mostly successful as the starter in Dallas, his reputation for “choking” in big games will forever impede upon his otherwise illustrious legacy in the minds of football fans.
During the last few weeks, there was a strong expectation that the Cowboys would release Tony Romo in order to allow him to pursue opportunities elsewhere in the league. The most popular prediction was for Romo to land with the Houston Texans, with other less-credible rumors that he would end up signing with Denver or even the New York Jets. Ultimately, Romo decided that he was done playing football for now, and wanted to pursue other options in the industry. Romo finished his career with the Cowboys as the franchise leader in total yards (34,183) and touchdowns (248). He was selected to the Pro-Bowl four times. It will forever remain to be seen if Romo was capable of taking the Cowboys to a Super Bowl title. He experienced a multitude of injuries during his 14-year career, but his health took a significant downturn in recent years. In 2015 and 2016, Romo played in five total games. He dealt with two collarbone fractures and a spine fracture, which undoubtedly contributed to his eventual decision to hang up his cleats. In the modern days of the NFL, players have become more conscious than ever about their long term health. It’s probably fair to say that football isn’t very good for your body, and when you’re approaching 40 with a family of your own, the bigger picture has to be considered much more seriously. On a positive note, CBS television audiences will no longer have the displeasure of listening to Phil Simms spew his stream of consciousness for three hours during NFL games. Personally, I think Romo will be a great addition to the pool of broadcasters that cover NFL games.
As he’s done so many times during his career, Richard Sherman is dominating NFL headlines, this time in regard to trade rumors. During the last couple weeks, there have been more than just whispers about the 3x All-Pro cornerback potentially being traded away from the only team he’s played for in his six-year career. The only thing different about this particular development is that Sherman isn’t the one talking up a storm. Instead, the Seattle Seahawks’ front office and coaching staff have shown an uncanny level of openness on the situation.
Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll stated in an interview last week with The Seattle Times, “We have always had to be open to every suggestion that comes along. There have been some teams that have called, and so we have talked about it.” On Brock and Salk, a local sports talk radio show in Seattle, Seahawks’ general manager John Schneider commented on the subject. “What you’ve seen lately in the news is real. That’s on both sides. It’s just open communication. He knows what’s going on. We know what’s going on. I don’t know if anything would ever happen. But like I tell people all the time, 98 percent of the deals that we’re involved with, we don’t follow through with. But at least we’ve opened that door, gone down the road and seen what’s behind door A or door B.”
What makes this situation even more interesting is Sherman’s attitude towards the rumors. Sherman sent a text to Albert Breer from MMQB on Thursday, saying “Very little chance it happens, but both sides are listening. I honestly don’t have much more to say about it than what I’ve already said. We have a great relationship. There is a lot of love and respect. There is no bad blood.” Sherman’s response became even more interesting when Adam Schefter said on SportsCenter Friday morning, “It’s been my understanding all along that Richard Sherman was the one who initiated this.” With this context in mind, it’s difficult to speculate why Sherman would want to dip his feet into the trade market. Sherman is a complex person, as can be seen through his many openly controversial statements during his career. I’m not sure if I completely buy Schefter’s stance that Sherman wants to be traded, but I’m also not discounting it as a possibility. Ambiguity at its finest. You’re welcome.
The reasons for trading a player like Sherman have to be of the utmost gravity to the Seahawks. As mentioned earlier, Sherman has earned a reputation for being loud and outspoken both on and off the field. His interview with Erin Andrews after the 2013 NFC Championship catapulted him into the upper echelon of NFL superstardom, where he stated his defensive infallibility while simultaenously expressed his distaste for San Francisco and their mediocre #1 receiver, Michael Crabtree. The Seahawks organization, under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, has been notably lenient in its policy towards its players and the way they express themselves. The team has had several star players with iconic personalities, such as Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett, and, obviously, Richard Sherman. Despite this, it seems that Sherman may have overstepped his boundaries during the 2016 campaign. In an October victory against the Atlanta Falcons, Sherman got in a heated sideline argument with Seahawks’ defensive coordinator Kris Richard and safety Kam Chancellor. In December, Sherman again erupted on the sideline where he aggressively informed Darrell Bevell that he did not enjoy his goal line play-calling (remember Super Bowl XLIX? PTSD is some shit, let me tell you). Shortly after this confrontation, Sherman declared that he would no longer speak to the media for the remainder of the season, which inevitably left a sour taste in the mouths of many local Seattle journalists. It’s undeniable, then, that Sherman’s behavior last season is a factor in the recent trade talk.
Aside from his personality, there are other reasons why Seattle would want to part ways with its All-Pro cornerback. Sherman signed a huge contract in 2014 and is scheduled to make $13.63 million in 2017, and $13.2 million in 2018. The Seahawks have recently been struggling with a dilemma that plagues many successful teams. They have been forced to pay their marquee players in the form of cap-consuming contracts throughout the last four seasons. In the NFL, it’s of the utmost importance for teams to find the right balance between star players and young talent. If a team finds itself caught up in too many large contracts, they consequently won’t have enough cap room to sign young talent to the roster. The Seahawks are in a current state where they need to get younger at several key positions, including cornerback. Sherman’s contract eats a significant percentage of the Seahawks’ total payroll. For the right price, Seattle would likely be willing to ship their star defensive back. It’s been rumored that the ‘Hawks would only relinquish Sherman for a top-tier player and a high draft pick. With the depth at cornerback in this year’s draft, however, it’s unlikely that Seattle will find an acceptable deal for Sherman. There simply aren’t many scenarios in which a team could afford Richard Sherman. Further, even if there was a team that has the assets to acquire him, it’s a completely different question as to whether they would want to absorb the cap-hit that Sherman’s contract would induce.
Richard Sherman has been selected to four Pro-Bowls since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2011. He has been an All-Pro three times, and has probably been the best press cornerback in the NFL since he started his career. His tall, spindly frame allows for him to shut down an entire side of the field. It will remain to be seen if Sherman is traded, but if anything more of this situation comes about, it’s likely going to occur in the days immediately preceding the draft. Here is a graphic that SportsCenter showed last week, which I thought was telling of Sherman’s success in Seattle.
This past weekend, Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced he would return for another season over Twitter, where he tweeted, “Informed the team I am looking forward to 14th season. Steeler Nation will get my absolute best! -Ben.” This information comes as a relief to the Steelers organization, after Roethlisberger made some ominous statements at the end of last season, including his thoughts on potentially retiring.
“Take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health and family and things like that, just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season,” was the quote given by Roethlisberger after Pittsburgh was thoroughly annihilated in the AFC Championship game against New England. This open-ended flirtation with possible retirement came as a surprise to most NFL fans. However, it doesn’t take too much football knowledge to see that the Steelers have been experiencing a bit of an identity crisis the last few years. The Pittsburgh offense has been outrageously potent in recent seasons, which has led many to believe that they are perennial title contenders. Conversely, It seems that Pittsburgh hasn’t been able to get its act together from an organizational standpoint. Steeler players, including several stars, have been getting suspended for banned substances at a perplexing consistency. Mike Tomlin, a good head coach, hasn’t necessarily been the most professional during his career. In a futile attempt to be discrete, Tomlin literally walked onto the field of play and attempted to trip Ravens’ Jacoby Jones during a kickoff return in 2013. In addition to all of this, the Steelers have been notably inconsistent despite their superior talent on the offensive side of the ball. Their entire passing offense is predicated on the deep home run threat. When that doesn’t work, Big Ben bears the brunt of the offensive lapse by having to stand up in the pocket for far too long, absorbing crushing hits by defensive pass rushers. Roethlisberger has been injured many times in his career because of the faults with this offensive philosophy. When the deep ball isn’t working, the other team can control the clock, which renders Pittsburgh’s offense helpless. The result comes in the form of ugly blowouts and unnecessary injuries. Don’t be fooled; these realities contributed largely to Roethlisberger’s frustration during the end of the season last year.
Roethlisberger has had one of the best careers of any quarterback in NFL history. He’s won two Super Bowl titles in his thirteen seasons. His 301 touchdown passes are ninth all-time, and his 46,814 passing yards rank 10th. In 14 games in 2016, Big Ben hurled for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns, and finished with a completion percentage of 64.4% and a 95.4 passer rating. Ben is still able to perform at an elite level, which I fully expect to continue in 2017. The questions surrounding his long term health, as well as his level of tolerance for Pittsburgh’s antics as an organization, are going to be of critical importance in Roethlisberger’s remaining playing days.
Thanks for reading, and remember to follow me on Twitter if you haven’t done so already, @andysweeps.