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Category: football

Free Agency Mayhem: Call it the No Figurin’ League

ROBBINS NEST

Credit Twitter

By Lenn Robbins

Now that the National Football League Players Association agreed to a deal put forth by the owners, this is the perfect time to consider a new definition for the NFL acronym.

Based on what has happened immediately after the deal was announced, how about No Figurin’ League.

Consider these transactions:

The first reaction to the DeAndre Hopkins deal was this was a scam designed to get one to read one of those “20 Worst Trades in NFL History,” which this now qualifies. 

The Texans sent DeAndre Hopkins, one of the top three wide receivers (Hopkins, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones) and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick.

Hopkins, 25, is in the prime of his career. His deal has (interrogate his agent on this one), three years and about $42 million left (about $14 million per season), which is a bargain.

Consider Amari Cooper, a fine WR but not in Hopkins’ class, signed a  five-year,  $100-million deal to remain a Cowboy on Monday. Odell Beckham Jr. earns about $18 million per season. The Giants got a 1st-round pick, a third-round pick, and Jabrill Peppers for OBJ so Dave Gettleman padded his resume on this one.

Hopkins is Deshaun Watson’s favorite target, a player who dictates defensive coverages, and has missed just one game due to injury. The man’s a warrior.

Johnson was a great all-round back – in 2016. He amassed 2,118 all-purpose yards and scored 20 touchdowns. Over the next three seasons he tallied 2,191 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns.

He missed almost all of 2017 with a wrist injury and has had knee injuries. He’s 28, close to the outer edge for running backs, and carries cap hits of $10.2 million in 2020 and $7.9 million in 2021.

 The Cardinals had essentially moved on from him after placing the franchise tag on RB Kalen Ballage. Johnson was there for the taking at maybe a conditional fifth-round pick, probably lower.

So why would Houston coach and de facto GM Bill O’Brien make such a move?

Is it that he had already traded away first round picks in 2020 and 2021 and desperately wanted to get back into the top of the draft? He craves a bell cow back in the era of quarterbacks? In a draft loaded with WRs there might be a good one available in the second round?

The Cardinals now have an elite WR for young QB Kyle Murray. They have a valuable, extra fourth-round pick. This also makes the one-year $11 million deal for Larry Fitzgerald more beneficial. The combination of Murray, Hopkins and Fitzgerald is reason to purchase Red Zone.

This deal might be remembered as O’Brien’s Alamo.

TRICK QUESTION: Yep. Ryan Tannehill, the 31-year-old, one-year wonder never posted a rating of higher than 93.5. The Dolphins had to pay $5 million of the $7 million they owed Tannehill to get the Titans to take him off their hands.

The Titans are built around the human battering ram known as Derrick Henry, which means Tannehill isn’t asked to win games, just not lose them. He did that very well for the majority of one season after replacing Marcus Mariota.

But riddle me this. Tannehill is guaranteed $62 over three years, more than some guy named Russell Wilson, who is the focal point of Seattle’s attack.

Tannehill or Wilson? Umm.

DEXTER LEONARD INTERIORS – The Giants are expected to tag DT Leonard Williams, who they acquired from the Jets for a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 conditional fifth-round pick.

The feeling here has always been that Williams is a very good interior lineup who never fulfilled the expectations that come with being the No.6 pick in 2015. We also feel compiling dominant DL depth is paramount.

The Giants now have the 25-year-old Williams alongside the 22-year-old Dexter Lawrence. It will cost $15.5 million to see if Dexter Leonard Interiors pays off.

BRADBERRY THEATER – After the Hopkins theft, no deal was going to move the needle much but the Giants signing of Carolina cornerback James Bradberry to a three-year, $45-million deal was smart. Really smart. Gettleman knows the 26-year-old from his Carolina days, where he was the Panthers best defender last season. Like this move a lot.

EXPENSIVE FLOWERS: Ereck Flowers didn’t block a daffodil with the Giants as a tackle. As a guard, he was solid for the Jaguars. This landed him a three-year, $30 million deal ($20 million guaranteed) with the Redskins, who rarely gets it right. Would have been more optimistic about this working out if offensive line coach Bill Callahan, hadn’t left Washington for Cleveland.

THE CALLAHAN EFFECT: The Browns, roommates with the Redskins in mismanagement, are taking a chance on Titans OT Jack Conklin, one of the best in the game – if healthy. He’ll benefit from Callahan and possibly by having a mobile QB in Baker Minefield, uh, Mayfield.

WINNERS – Every franchise not named Texans.

Tight end Austin Hooper leaves the downward trending Falcons for the possibly ascending Browns and gets $44 million over four years, making the third or fourth best tight end (maybe) the highest paid at his position.

The Baltimore Ravens, who just keep getting it right. They signed Mark Ingram last season. This year they acquired Jacksonville DE Calais Campbell, who we have loved since he played for The “U.” The Ravens gave up a fifth rounder for the 33-year-old Campbell, who’s coming off a 75-tackle. 6.5-sack season. They got that fifth rounder by trading backup kicker Kaare Vedvik (they felt comfortable with that Justin Tucker guy) to the Vikings. Vedik became Campbell.

Kirk Cousins gets another two years and at least $56 million to get the Vikings to the Super Bowl. He has topped the $100 million mark. It’s good to be the Kirk.

Ravens II – Baltimore traded backup TE Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round pick to Atlanta for a 2020 second and fifth-round pick. With the emergence of Mark Andrews and backup Nick Boyle, the Ravens could afford to lose Hurst. It remains to be seen what the Ravens turn those two picks into but we’re betting in their track record.

LOSERS – Bill O’Brien. With every deal he has more people wondering if he has pictures of Houston owner Janice McNair.

Janice McNair – see above.

Deshaun Watson – see above.

Jacksonville Jaguars defense – Oh how the mighty have fallen, been traded or released.

The Chicago Bears keep throwing good money after bad. The blundered horrifically by taking QB Mitch Trubisky with the 2nd pick in the 2017. Since then they’ve been throwing money at the problem, such as signing TE Jimmy Graham to a two-year deal with $9 million guaranteed.

WINNER OR LOSER? Byron Jones – In 1996 the Cowboys lost CB Larry Jones, the Super Bowl MVP, to free agency when he signed a five-year, $12.5 deal with the Raiders. He never lived up to the deal. Jones, with just two interceptions in 79 games, got a five-year $82.5 million deal from the Dolphins. The 27-year-old wins. Do the Dolphins?

J-E-T-S – anyone heard from them?

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We Are Coping Without Sports And So Is The Impact To Many

I am okay here in the Bronx and taking precaution.

Yes, we are changing routines and isolating and in due time this Coronavirus crisis will pass. So, before I head to a scheduled doctor appointment that was on the docket, here we go.

Sports are dark. My livelihood, as with others in all walks of life, has been disrupted. Sports have always been a diversion from a crisis but not now. We need to adjust, adapt, come together as a community.

You see, as the medical professionals handling this crisis say, we could be in this for the long haul. Adapting to no sports is an adjustment and you learn to do other things in the safety and comfort of your home.

Catch up on some reading. I have finished reading two books that were half way in.  Watch classic movies and relive the sports classics that are the alternative programming on various sports networks. 

 Of course, I will admit, “The Walking Dead” episode Sunday night had some shocking developments and outcomes. Though. admit. not the proper program to watch with our society in a crisis and keeping up with a television series did not change the routine. 

And reacquaint with your loved ones. We do tend  to get lost with our love and passion for sports. 

The only sports programming, and limited, bowling tournaments and NASCAR.  The NFL, the only sport in the offseason with their new labor agreement , trades, and free agency. 

Well, that is the only bit of news to talk and write about as Major League Baseball facilities are closed and the 2020 season is pushed back further into late May or June.

As Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said, “This is bigger than baseball.” Indeed, baseball and all sports is not the priority now, The specifics of schedules, not just with baseball, will be determined. The economic impact, of course, will be huge.

The sport of boxing has come to a halt, and at a time when major fights have been put off the schedule. Top Rank, Premier Boxing Champions, and Matchroom Boxing, among the big three promotions, stand to lose a significant amount of revenue and at a standstill with new subscribers to their networks. 

Talent, the fighters, many who depend on a purse, are basically at a standstill and out of work as boxing gyms have closed their doors. The streaming networks  ESPN, DAZN, have to readjust when the sport resumes. 

According to a source, FOX Sports and Showtime, a major part of the boxing schedule, will be forced to double up shows on weekends which is good for the boxing fan. But, too much saturation of the sport, at the same time, could work to a disadvantage when the sport resumes with the chaotic rescheduling of fight cards. 

According to the promoters, all ticket orders will be refunded from the original point of purchase.   And for fans, many with a economic loss due to the Coronavirus pandemic, paying for the network streams could become a financial burden. 

“The health and safety of the boxers, fans, and those working the events are of utmost importance to us,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB promotions and lead promoter of the cancelled PBC shows. 

He added, “We are all disappointed and as we get more information we will address future events.”

And this goes beyond the major sports leagues and promoters.. The little guy and personnel. They secure safety of venues, ticket sales personnel, concession workers, vendors, and more feeling the impact of a sports shutdown.

They, too, are taking a hit and realizing safety is first. Many are paid seasonal, and a six month baseball season does pay the bills. Some security personnel, on a full time basis, have been asked to stay home.

“It will be a hardship,” said a seasonal worker that is employed as one of many security personnel at Citi Field and Madison Square Garden. It is expected with federal funding they will recoup some of their losses.

Some also will be able to qualify for unemployment insurance as seasonal employees at the ballpark qualify.

Regardless, sports in the dark is having that type of impact.

Impact of sports programming also is being felt with broadcast talent and production personnel. They are employed as freelancers and sitting on the sidelines. 

They, the freelance talent, will sustain a financial loss.  So, basically the impact is all around the sports industry. We as a society are all feeling the impact and need to adjust.

In the days and weeks to come, we will try on these pages to provide readers as to how this impact of the Coronavirus is having an impact. The impact on all walks of life no matter what you do.  

You see, it’s not just about sports going dark. It’s a nation, a city, and some points of the world all in that readjustment period of time. 

We are in this together. BE SAFE!

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Sports Is Dark As We Await The Outcome Of This Coronavirus Crisis

Wednesday evening we left the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the first round of the Atlantic-10 Basketball championship tournament. I had this empty feeling with the increased cases of the Coronavirus.

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

And then it happened. Sports were shut down. Not just the NCAA conference tournaments. Not the NCAA Mens and womens basketball tournaments of March Madness, but all sports.

One-by-one. The NBA, NHL, MLS, boxing, golf. And the anticipated start of Major League Baseball has been pushed back for two weeks, but that is just an estimate.

The start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season could be on hiatus and longer than that two week time period. 

It will take time to adjust as arenas and stadiums go dark. This is a circumstance, from this perspective, worse than the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001. Worse, because it has impacted you, me, the city of New York, the world.

The difference, an impact for a long period of time as we adjust. 

It’s about the individual well being of all. We can’t fight a virus that is not under control and this comes as the sports analyst and by no means is this writer a medical authority or pretend to be. 

It’s common sense and listening to the authorities that advise how to deal with this situation. But sports is on the sidelines. We are looking in, making adjustments, hoping for the best. 

The transition to do other things is here. There always will be things to write about. Pick up a book, watch a classic movie. Check on family, friends, and neighbors.

And in due time, like all bad situations, this will pass. The Coronavirus and implications will become history, talked about for years to come, and we can resume our daily routines.  

But, New York City in that state of emergency will not have a complete shutdown. A source, within New York City Government circles informed this columnist that a shutdown will not occur unless Coronavirus cases reach the thousands .

Thankfully, we are not at that point of this crisis. And hopefully we won’t get there.

In the meantime, the world of fun and games, sports as it is called, is on hiatus.

Down in Port St. Lucie Florida, at the New York Mets spring training complex, spring training games have been suspended. The game of baseball is in suspension.

“Obviously with the sensitive information , we have to take extra precaution,” said the Mets’ J.D. Davis.

 He continues  to stay prepared with the entire Mets contingent and hopes that the crisis will pass so the 2020 season can commence.

“As a team, we will continue to get ready for the season,” Davis said. “It’s definitely different. And we have to improvise to get better everyday and be ready. We don’t know the future, however, we have to have the mindset that we are having our opening day in two weeks.”

He said, the details are still coming in to players and personnel. Meetings are ongoing to answer any concerns with questions.

“Hopefully, in the next couple of days, we will have a better understanding on where to go from here,” Davis said.

That understanding could mean  the players leaving Florida, Or, they head to their respective homes or come up north to their seasonal homes in New York. 

The Mets season opener was two weeks from yesterday. It is assumed , when MLB resumes, that the team will still have their season opener at Citi Field.

Friday afternoon, the Yankees also remained in place down at their spring training facilities in Tampa. Similar to the Mets ,they are in a holding pattern. 

The team  released a statement to update fans and the media. They were scheduled to open the season at Baltimore two weeks from yesterday.

“The Yankees fully support this decision and will continue to proactively monitor current events in conjunction with medical experts, government officials and Major League Baseball,” said the statement.

The  statement continued “We recognize that our great fans have a variety of questions. However, given the unprecedented nature and fluidity of what is taking place, we appreciate your patience as we diligently work through the many aspects and details of this continually evolving situation.”

In the meantime stadium workers are also victims of this Coronavirus pandemic. Concession workers and security personnel at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, and the Barclays Center will lose a substantial part of their income.

The players will still get paid. though reductions will come to their contracts as it pertains to a national emergency when games are suspended. According to an agreement with owners and players.

But those who secure and provide at the venues, they will be hurt in the pocket.

“Understand, but safety does come first,” said a long time concession worker who works at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium They earn from the individual vendors that have contracts with the teams.

With March Madness gone, and with sports in the dark, the waging of sports is also taking a hit. That industry, too, is in a holding pattern and this time of year the NCAA Tournament does see sports wagering at a peak.

The NCAA and with a loss of games will lose millions with the CBS and Turner television contracts that deliver these games to us. The eligibility of senior student-athletes, many who missed an opportunity to compete for a championship, reportedly will be extended. 

Boxing promoters have cancelled their shows around the nation. Two in New York City in the span of four days, promoted by Top Rank and ESPN were called off Thursday evening.

The events were scheduled in the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Initially, when the crisis in New York unfolded, fans were banned from events scheduled for Saturday night and St. Patrick’s Day evening. 

Thursday, Top Rank had a final press conference at the Garden. The fighters, officials, and personnel were there and the shows were still a go. 

Later, the New York State Athletic Commission got the call form Albany. The commission, that regulates boxing was informed to consult with Top Rank and cancel the shows for the safety of personnel and the fighters. 

The Garden is dark, could be for months, and with a state of emergency,  events with 500 people or more is a risk. The Theatre is in that category of risk. 

Millions of dollars are being lost. The estimates and figures will continue to pile as this crisis continues and when it is finally resolved.

Yes, sports are in the dark. Even media, many who depend on income to report the games and events will see cutbacks and a loss of income. 

Realize, we must stay safe. Take caution. The sports world will resume. And hope the Coronavirus, like a bad hurricane, will fly out to sea.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com/ Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

COVID-19 CAN STEAL OUR SPORTS BUT NOT OUR SOULS

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins/An editorial by The New York Extra,Editor – in- Chief

COVID-19 is a thief.

It has no conscience, no empathy. It will steal the most precious heirlooms – family and health – if we allow it.

Already it has stolen all of our spring conference tournaments, the NBA, the NHL, Spring Training, and pushed back Opening Day, soccer and tennis matches. You name a sporting event, chances are it’s gone for the foreseeable future.

New York, NY. Thursday, March 12, 2020. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman announces the cancellation of the Big East Tournament during halftime of the St. John’s-Creighton game. St. John’s vs. Creighton at Madison Square Garden.

“I’ve got to tell you, it breaks my heart,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said Thursday after canceling her conference tournament midway through the St. John’s-Creighton game. “This is the greatest college basketball tournament ever. But we respect the decision of authorities. We’re very mindful about what’s happening nationally. We do not want to be imprudent as it relates to the safety of our participants and our fans.

New York, NY. Thursday, March 12, 2020. Nick Rutherford of St. John’s drives to the basket while defended by Jett Canfield (10) and Mitchell Ballock of Creighton. St. John’s vs. Creighton at Madison Square Garden.

“And it’s terrifying, frankly, what’s evolving here as the science and the assessments of the science are progressing. And I don’t think any of us know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

We don’t.

It was disheartening to turn on the TV at 7:00 p.m. and not to choose between the ACC and Big East tournaments.

It was jarring to receive texts from my Rutgers students asking what would comprise the midterm exam now that there is no Selection Sunday to cover.

It was surreal walking into my CVS and seeing empty shelves where there had once been five brands of toilet paper.

And yet all of us can be the lucky ones.

As I passed a neighborhood schoolyard, I saw a father and his junior high school aged daughter shooting hoops. A couple of friends played ping pong. A group of grade school kids played pickup basketball. Couples and families and friends strolled to the rhythm of their own laughter.

It is not the fault of COVID-19 that we have been increasingly isolated by the greatest communication tool in history – the Smartphone.

It is not the fault of COVID-19 that streaming has replaced conversation at the dinner table.

It is not the fault of COVID-19 that texting is replacing talking as the favorite means of communication for teenagers.

COVID-19 can push us further apart or we choose to draw closer together.

We can mourn the loss of sports, or we can try to help low-wage workers whose income is dependent on taking tickets or serving hot dogs or cleaning arenas.

We can mourn a spring without NCAA and conference tournaments, or we can support all of the seniors who will miss a chance to make a priceless memorial.

We can the mourn the possibility that we might have witnessed the end of some of our favorite professional athlete’s career or we can hold on to the memory of the joy they provided.

This is what we can make sure COVID-19 doesn’t take. As social animals, we need each other. We need compassion and empathy. We might not be able to congregate in large numbers but we can offer large and open hearts.

Many around the world have lost friends and family. COVID-19 will take more lives. It will take more sports. But it can’t take our souls. That’s worth any sacrifice we have to make.

Super Bowl LIV Marks a Changing of the QB Guard

ROBBINS NEST

Credit Twitter

By Lenn Robbins.

Any 49ers fan who thought the Vince Lombardi Trophy was headed back to San Francisco with eight minutes and 33 seconds left in Super Bowl LIV and their team leading by 10 should have heeded the words of Eric Bieniemy.

The Chiefs offensive coordinator was recently asked why Patrick Mahomes is a better quarterback this year than last, when he won the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

“He’s learning how to win when things aren’t perfect,” Bieniemy said.

Mahomes was uncharacteristically imperfect or the first 51 minutes and 27 seconds Sunday night. He had thrown more interceptions (two) than touchdowns (one). He had fumbled twice.

Credit Twitter

 It looked as if a great defense was going to get the better of a great quarterback.

And then Mahomes did what the greatest do. He led the Chiefs to 21 straight points and a 31-20 victory. Mahomes was named the game’s MVP, joining Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks to win league and Super Bowl MVP honors in their first three seasons.

“I don’t know what it is,’’ Chiefs defensive end Terrell Suggs told ESPN, “but he has it.

Yes, he does. Three playoff games. Three come-from-behind victories.

Mark these words: On Sunday, February 2, 2020 in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, we saw a changing of the guard. Mahomes has surpassed Tom Brady, Drew Brees, et al as the best quarterback in the game, even when he doesn’t play his best.

Mahomes was 26-of-42 for 286 yards with two touchdowns and the two picks for a RQG of 78.1, his second worst rating of the season. Only a quarterback with the confidence of a Marino, Montana, Elway, Favre and Brady finds a way to win.

“I trust in these guys and they trust in me,’’ Mahomes told reporters.

Trust this: Mahomes, 24, isn’t close to reaching the pinnacle of his craft. Heck, he still can’t rent a car without paying a surcharge for being under 25. But by the time he retires, he’ll own every QB record there is, including most Super Bowl titles and Super Bowl MVPs.

Greg Lewis, the Chiefs receiver’s coach, played with Brady and Favre. As an assistant with the Saints, he worked with Brees. There might not be a better evaluator of Mahomes and his place in the game.

“Brady is a guy that’s a study-a-holic, as detailed as I’ve ever seen,’’ Lewis told Sports Illustrated. “Brees is like a gym rat. Favre is that wild-card type of dude. Pat is all of that in one.”

All that in one?

He has none of that for three-plus quarters. With 7:13 left from the Chiefs 35 and the 49ers having taking control of the line of scrimmage, Mahomes faced a third and 15.

“We were in a bad situation,’’ said Mahomes.

Working out of the hurry up and under heavy pressure, Mahomes found Tyreek Hill for 44 yards. That was the moment when everyone in scarlet red and metallic gold felt the fear that Mahomes instills in a defenses, franchises, fan bases.

Brady and Brees used to do it all the time.

Now? Russell Wilson did it for the first half of the season. Lamar Jackson was the regular season MVP. Deshaun Watson does it on occasion.

And Patrick Lavon Mahomes II has it done it with the AFC Championship and Super Bowl on the line. He was 10-of-13 for 136 yards and two touchdowns in that final 8:33.

This is the changing of the guard at the most important position in football.

‘Everything was about, keep firing, keep firing,’’ said Kansas City coach Andy Reid.

And why not? When you have a once-in-a-generation talent like Mahomes, you hand him the keys to the Chiefs Kingdom and let him fire away – for as long as he wishes.

“It’s incredible what (Brady) puts in to get ready for each game every week, mentally and physically, and I think Pat Mahomes is the same way,” former Patriots linebacker and NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest told the Boston Herald.

 “He wants to be perfect. I think he has that ‘it’ about him, that fire, that competitive juice where he gets super intense about the game. And when you have guys like that, it makes everyone around you better. And Pat has that.”

Just ask the 49ers.

Eli Manning and NY: One of the Great Sports Love Stories

ROBBINS NEST

Eli Manning, on his retirement day 01/24/20, Neil Miller/The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

At his last official press conference as a Giant, Eli Manning presented one side of the best love affairs New York has ever had with one of its athletes.

“It’s impossible to explain the satisfaction, and actually the joy I’ve experienced being a Giant,’’ he said Friday.

Eli Manning, on his retirement day /Neil Miller /The New York Extra

There’s no question he loved donning that red, white and blue No. 10 jersey. No doubt he felt playing quarterback was the greatest gig on Earth and this was the place to do it.

Manning made that clear prior to the 2004 when he let it be known he had no intention of playing in San Diego. He wanted New York.

This laidback son of the South, who had to navigate his way out of the shadow of his father, Archie, and his older brother, Peyton, now wanted to take on New York, not with a bullhorn or a billboard, but with himself.

“From the very first moment, I did it my way,’’ Manning said Friday at his retirement press conference. “I couldn’t be someone other than who I am.

“Undoubtedly, I would’ve made the fans, the media and even the front office more comfortable if I was a more rah-rah guy. But that’s not me. Ultimately, I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. They knew what they got was pure, unadulterated Eli.”

And wasn’t that marvelous? No ranting at an offensive coordinator on the sideline. No dodging the media. No suggesting a teammate had missed his assignment.

Elisha Nelson Manning IV.put himself out there. We took him in. Pure, unadulterated Eli.

Accountable. Predictable. Dependable.

Despite being listed as 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, Manning always seemed smaller in his high school, wide receiver-sized shoulder pads. He had seasons in which he took more pounding than a crash test dummy. Never missed a game due to injury.

Consider the circumstance in which Manning arrived in New York. He forced that trade with the Chargers, which owned the No.1 pick in the draft. The Giants sent the No.4 overall pick and a slew of other picks to San Diego in exchange for Manning.

That’s the closest Manning came to being a prima donna. And really, if you’re intent on becoming a star quarterback, what better place to do it than New York?

When one considers the enormity of that trade, the odds of it becoming a success (for both franchises) was lower than the odds of it being a colossal failure – especially in the Big Apple where everything is bigger.

Manning, with his aw-shucks persona, made it in New York because he didn’t try to be anything other than authentic, which is what hooks a New Yorker every time.

He put on no airs, demanded no special treatment, didn’t romp around the city with a flock of Victoria’s Angels – not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t Eli.

Eli Manning and family,on his retirement day, Neil Miller /The New York Extra

He married his beautiful Ole Miss college sweetheart Abby McGrew. They were married in Mexico, just a couple of months after Eli handed the Pats a stunning defeat in Super Bowl XLII. They have four children.

“When we have the whole family together, maybe bath time when I have both kids in the bathtub and they start splashing each other and making each other laugh. That usually gives me my biggest smile — when I see both my girls interacting with each other,” Manning told Parade magazine in 2014.

This is something all the Manning boys – Cooper, Eli and Peyton – got from parents Archie and Olivia: Being a good family man, a good neighbor, a good teammate is more important that being a quarterback.

But Eli did that, too. The Giants need a new quarterback section in the record book. Manning threw for 57,023 yards and 366 touchdowns in 16 seasons. He’s one of just five players to have won Super Bowl MVP honors multiple times.

Eli Manning ,on his retirement day/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

“He represented our franchise as a consummate professional with dignity and accountability,’’ Giants owner John Mara said in a statement. “It meant something to Eli to be the Giants quarterback, and it meant even more to us. We are beyond grateful for his contributions to our organization and look forward to celebrating his induction into the Giants Ring of Honor in the near future.”

Honor. So often our star athletes turn out to be less than what we built them up to be. There’s the arrest on accusations of spousal abuse, or the old Facebook post containing racist comments, or the video of a drunken fool outside of a bar at 4 a.m.

Not Eli Manning. Never Eli Manning.

He gave us his side of the story Friday – “the joy I’ve experienced being a Giant.”

The other side of the story is ours to tell: The joy we experienced watching a helluva quarterback and an authentic man give us everything he had for 16 seasons.

Mostert is the Land Shark That Could Devourer the Chiefs

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Now that the 49ers are about to transition from reveling in their demolition of the Green Bay Packers to preparing for the Super Bowl, the first thing San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan should do is confiscate Raheem Mostert’s surf board.

Super Bowl LIV will be played in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, a four-hour drive from Mostert’s home town of New Smyna Beach, Fl. New Smyna Beach is the unofficial “Shark-Bite Capital of the World.”  

According to National Geographic, anyone who has swam in the waters off New Smyna Beach has been within 10 feet of a shark. Ten.

So, of course, Mostert took up surfing.

Now let me ask you: If the possibility of getting eviscerated by a distant cousin of Jaws wasn’t going to deter Mostert from surfing, do you think getting cut from six NFL teams, including the Jets, would scare him away from making his pro football dream come true?

It was Mostert, one of the three backs that comprise San Francisco’s running game, who ran the Packers back to Green Bay on Sunday in a 37-20 NFC Championship game victory. He set a career franchise with 220 yards rushing on 29 carries. It’s also the second highest total in postseason history.

“I did have a lot of doubters and naysayers,” Mostert told reporters after making chum of the Green Bay defense. “Now I actually tell them, ‘Look where I’m at now.’ I never gave up on my dreams.”

The 49ers will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in two weeks with Mostert emerging as the best surprise of the postseason. He started the season a distant third on the depth chart behind Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, both of whom battled injuries.

Enter Dominque Raheem Mostert, who has fallen through the cracks more than a penny. He led the 49ers with 772 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He was a three-star recruit coming out of New Smyna Beach High School, choosing Purdue over several schools including Miami, Rutgers and the Naval Academy.

 He also ran track, winning many Big Ten titles. But he went undrafted and his NFL free agent tour began. The 49ers, who place a premium on speed, signed him in 2016.

Coleman suffered what has been a reportedly severe elbow/shoulder injury against Green Bay meaning Mostert is likely to be San Fran’s No.1 rusher.

Once again, he also will be playing second fiddle to someone, in this case Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill. Hill is the fastest player in the NFL. Mostert, who played at Purdue, is the second according to NFL.com.

He was clocked at running 21.87 MPH on his 36-yard touchdown run Sunday.

“He’s so fast,” tackle Joe Staley told reporters. “He’s incredibly fast. He’s fearless going through the hole.”

Of course, he’s fearless. He swam with sharks.

Thanks Pats; This Final Four is Wonderfully Flawed

Tom Brady file photo Photo by David L. Pokress/ The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

It’s time to thank the New England Patriots for becoming the first 12-4 team to possess one of the epically awful offenses of all-time.

Amen.

That offense led to the Pats getting sent home by the Tennessee Titans, 20-13, leaving us with one of the most wonderfully flawed Final Fours in NFL Playoff history. Forget the fact that we don’t have a clear-cut favorite. We have four teams that make you wonder how they’re still standing.

As of Monday morning, the Chiefs had been installed as 11-10 favorites. This is the same Chiefs team that allowed 128 rushing yards per game this season and trailed 24-0 at home in its divisional game against the Texans.

Fortunately for the Chiefs they have a 24-year-old quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, the likes of which we’ve never seen, coached by an unappreciated 61-year-old wunderkind who draws up plays on diner napkins – true. The Chiefs’ offense was on full display in the final three quarters scoring 51 points in a 51-31 win.

The 49ers appear to be the most balanced team left and they are 7-5 to win it all. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw 13 interceptions this season, only two less than Mahomes (5), Aaron Rodgers (4) and Ryan Tannehill (6) combined. The 49ers try to compensate for the lack of a bell cow back with a committee of three backs, none of whom ran for 800 yards.

Fortunately for the 49ers they have an imposing front seven which is getting healthier. San Francisco, which gets the Pack at home  again, throttled the Minnesota Vikings, holding them to 147 yards and seven first downs.

The line drops significantly with the Titans at 15-2 to win it all. Tennessee has gone back in time offensively. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has attempted just 29 passes (completing 15) for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Mahomes threw for 95 yards and four touchdowns in just the second quarter of Sunday’s win against Texas.

Fortunately for the Titans, they have a defensive end playing running back. Derrick Henry, the 6-3, 247-pound battering ram of a man, has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He did this against two elite defenses – New England and Baltimore. Tannehill doesn’t throw often because he doesn’t have to.

Bringing up the rear is Green Bay, which boasts the old-school blueprint of an elite QB (Rodgers), running back (Aaron Jones) and wide receiver (Davante Adams). Green Bay needs all three to be at the top of their game because there are no other weapons that really strike fear in a defensive coordinator’s heart. The Packers suffered their worst beat down of the season in a 38-7 shellacking at San Fran on Nov. 24. Aaron posted an 8.5 QBR, Jones averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and Adams was held in check – seven catches for 43 yards.

Fortunately for the Packers, their Big Three is playing well at the right time. Rodgers threw for 243 yards and two TDs, Jones ran for 62 yards and two TDs and Adams, caught eight balls for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 win over the Seahawks. If they play at the level, Green Bay can beat anyone.

Before the season started the pick here was Kansas City over Seattle. One down, one still in. We’ll stick with Chiefs over the 49ers. Thanks New England, this should be fascinating final three games of the season without those Pats around.

Judge Comes Out Swinging, Now He Has to Prove he Can Connect.

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Credit Twitter

  Joe Judge was a sight and sound to behold in his first press conference as the coach of the Giants.

Everyone with any blue in their veins had to feel as if the conference coincided with happy hour. Judge was polite, impassioned, and emphatic. He chased shots with shots.

When asked his vision of Giants football, grandfathers around the metropolitan area were ready to run through a brick wall.

“We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we will play every play like it has a history and a life of its own,’’ said Judge.

Damn, for a franchise that has compiled a 12-36 record the last three seasons with teams that often hit opponents in the thigh with a pillow, this alone would be a huge step in the right direction.

Judge clearly won the day, arriving early to meet the media and embrace Giants past and presence. Nothing was not to like, right?

Judge, 38, has never been a head coach, or an offensive or defensive coordinator, on any level. He sounded a little like a college football coach, say at Mississippi State, his alma mater which was itching to bring him back to Starkville, or a young egomaniacal GM.

It was Brady Van Wagenen who told NL East opponents to come get the Mets. They did.

It was former UConn football coach Bob Diaco who claimed in August of 2015 that the Huskies would win the national championship. They didn’t and Diaco was fired in 2016.

What happens on press conference day means zero when Judge gets before the entire Giants team and lays out his vision. Will pro football players buy into a young, inexperienced coach who gets an A+ in talking the talk but has to prove he can walk, talk, call a good game, manage the clock, challenge calls when there’s a chance of not losing a time out, and about 200 other responsibilities?

“I want the people of New York, North Jersey and South Jersey, knowing when they pay to watch our product, our team is a representative of their blue collar mentality and that they can be proud of,’’ announced General Judge.

Give Judge credit for this: He was prepared enough, impassioned enough and authentic enough to have earned some grace with the media and he assuaged the fan base, many of whom were still asking, “Joe Who?”

And you can bet you’re favorite Giants hoodie that Judge knows the hard work starts now.

He has to build a staff. He has to win over the veterans. He has to do a crash course on preparing for the NFL Draft, the most important day in every franchise’s year, which is only about 14 weeks away.

So, kudos to Judge for looking the part, delivering a clear message and coming across as a man of conviction. All he has to do is turn losers into winners, which is as easy getting every player to play every play like it has a history and a life of its own.

The Hiring of Joe Judge Speaks Volumes About the Giants

credit twitter

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

The hiring of Joe Judge says more about the state of the Giants than it does about the relatively unknown quantity that is about to become the 19th head coach of what once was one of the premier sports franchises in American sports.

Only the most diehard football fans knew who Judge was before Tuesday’s stunning announcement that he would sit in the office as Allie Sherman, Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin.

Judge has worked for highly successful organizations, as Alabama’s and, most recently, New England’s special teams coordinators. Judge also was the Patriots receivers coach. He knows what success looks like and feels like but he can create that for the Giants? Who knows.

Judge was quickly moving up the list of intriguing young coaches. Mississippi State was poised to make Judge, a former Bulldogs player, its head coach. And when Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel accepted the Indianapolis Colts job, if only in Central Belichick Time, he tabbed Judge as one of his lieutenants.

We know that people in the know hold Judge in esteem.

But apparently the Giants no longer are held in high esteem, which should be just as disconcerting as who the Giants have hired.

Mike McCarthy reportedly was high on the Giants list of candidates to replace Pat Shurmur. He chose the Cowboys.

Matt Rhule was supposed to interview for the Giants job on Tuesday. He literally took the money and ran, getting a seven-year, $60 million deal from the Panthers. Rhule reportedly called the Giants hoping to leverage a similar deal from his hometown team and dream job.

Apparently, it’s not as dreamy as it once was, although Rhule got 60 million reasons to find in a new dream in Carolina.

That left the Giants feeling a little more squeezed. McCarthy was gone. Rhule was gone. Judge was on the verge of being gone to Mississippi State.

Think about that – the Giants found themselves competing with a second-tier SEC team located in Starkville, MS.

Judge just turned 38 on Dec. 31st. He is the third youngest head coach in NFL. He has never run an offense or a defense. He is not a quarterback whisperer. He reportedly is a no-nonsense coach not afraid to challenge players.

He could be a remarkable head coach, a diamond in the rough. He could be in way over his head. New England assistant coaches don’t engage with media. New York coaches can’t escape it.

Yes, there are a lot of question marks regarding one Joe Judge. But there is no question about how far the Giants have fallen.