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Tag: NFL

The Kaepernick Story is More Than Football

ROBBINS NEST

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By Lenn Robbins The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Let’s get this out of the way: Colin Kaepernick endured a terrible injustice, pure and simple.

Having led the San Francisco 49ers to the 2013 NFC Championship game, Kaepernick was out of football following the 2016 season because he had the temerity to protest the systematic oppression of people of color.

He would be a hero in today’s NFL. By the end of the 2016 season, he was a pariah.

Now, from all corners comes statements supporting Kaepernick’s return to the NFL.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, who would make for an excellent wind sock, said, “I welcome that, support a club making that decision, and encourage them to do that.”

The publicity hound, wayward accountant and civil rights activist (correct order) known as Al Sharpton said, “Give Colin Kaepernick a job back.”

As if preparing for an NFL season in the age of coronavirus isn’t enough to make a GM batty, now the 32 team architects have to consider bringing in a 32-year-old quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game since Jan. 1, 2017.

They have to evaluate the impact of adding Kaepernick, and the horde of media that will follow. Does Kaepernick get his own interview tent? Where and how do they manage protesters? Extra security, anyone?

A GM has one goal, and only one goal: Put together a roster that has the best chance of winning. Period.

If a punter from Australia can drop a  ball inside the 10 on a consistent basis, “G’Day Mate!” If a nose tackle from American Samoa is a run stopper supreme, “Talofa!” If a quarterback can flummox a defense with his arm and legs, “Sign Him!”

A GM’s role is not to assuage a league’s conscience or put up points on the PR scoreboard. This is best understood in the locker room where players put their trust in each other to compete against the elite in their sport.

If Kaepernick can help an NFL team succeed in 2020, by all means, get a jersey on his back. It could be thrilling to watch one of just six players in league history to have thrown three touchdown passes and rushed for 100 yards in a game.

But Kaepernick has a lot of questions to answers. He had surgery on his thumb, knee and shoulder after the 2016 season. David Fales has completed more passes in the last three seasons than Kaepernick.

Here’s where Kaepernick might have a wonderful role in and out of football. CNN recently hired Saints defensive back and Players Coalition cofounder Malcolm Jenkins as a paid contributor to help better educate the nation on the horrifically fractured relationship between people of color and people in authority.

 Few have the credentials and insight that Jenkins possesses on this topic. Kaepernick could be one.

He co-founded the “Know Your Rights Camp,” and has been honored with Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and Harvard’s W.E.B. De Bois Medal. His kneeling helped the “Black Lives Matter,” movement gain traction.

This is not to offer Kaepernick a consolation prize, nor is it band aid for the injustice he has endured. Kaepernick has been living the struggle his entire life. He was born to an African-American father and a white mother but raised by the white parents who adopted him.  Talk about the road less traveled.

Kaepernick may or might not be able to help an NFL team on the field. He might be able to do a whole lot more off it.

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Kneeling in the NFL: A Trump Nightmare, An Editorial by Lenn Robbins, Editor – In – Chief ,The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

The ownership of the New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com, does not in total agree with the statements of Mr.Robbins, but gives him full editorial privlege of Freedom of Speech to express his views. Neil Miller,Publisher

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

9/04/08 Andy Roddick Vs. Novak Djokovic at Aurther Ashe Stadium: US Open night session Real Estate mogul Donald Trump enjoys tonight’s game. Neil Miller/The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com copyright 2020

President Donald Trump is irked at the NFL, which could be some of the best news the beleaguered league has received lately.

The President believes that the league’s recent admission that it was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest”. meant to Trump that Roger Goodell and the franchise owners were now condoning that players could kneel during the national anthem,

Trump tweeted:

“Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?”

The league didn’t use the word kneel but that’s about as peaceful a protest as you get.

 When Saints QB Drew Brees, whose grandfathers both fought in WWII, was met with swift and overwhelming condemnation by fellow players for saying, ‘I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of American or our country,” the league stayed mum. Not Trump.

No, the man who acknowledged he avoided military service by making up a fake injury (bone spurs) was doing what he does best, divide and conquer. He’s done it well enough to win an election for the highest office in the free world he’s proven time and time again that when times get tough, he defaults to what he knows best.

From the day he was sworn in and bragged about having had the largest inauguration crowd in history, to claiming he would build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, to separating families at the border, to blowing up environmental legislation, to stating there were good people on both sides in Charlottesville, to pushing through a new tax code that favors the uber rich, Trump has proven to be a human Molotov cocktail.

The NFL has been one of his favorite topics for stoking division. He criticized Brees for apologizing.

He Tweeted that players should stand for the anthem in 2017, “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

He upped the rhetoric in May of 2018 saying that if a player doesn’t stand, “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” 

Times are changing right in front of the President’s face. It’s the kind of change a hate monger doesn’t like.

The Carolina Panthers yesterday removed the statue of its former owner, Jerry Richardson, who was exposed in a 2017 Sports Illustrated article as having used a racial slur and creating a hostile work environment.

 Also yesterday, NASCAR announced it was removing the Confederate flag from all racetracks.

The voices the president doesn’t want to hear are being heard around the country and the world. When that happens, the malevolent child in chief usually throws a tantrum.

I’m betting he will. Maybe not today or tomorrow but surely by the first week of the NFL season when players protest peacefully. He’ll lash out at the NFL which needs to back its recent statements with actions.

If Trump doesn’t like it, he shouldn’t be in the country.

NFL Draft: Giants, Jets Go Big; Packers go Bizarre

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

There is no place like the Big Apple. Courtesy of the Giants and Jets, it just got a little bigger – and maybe safer for their quarterbacks.

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The Giants opted not to trade down and fulfilled Dave Gettleman’s vow to improve the offensive line. But instead of going with Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Jr., Iowa’s Tristian Wirfs, or Louisville’s Mekhi Becton with the No.4 pick, Gettleman took Georgia’s Andrew Thomas.

“We spent a lot of time on this and we want to fix this offensive line once and for all,” Gettleman told reporters. “Andrew has a hell of a pedigree. Three-year starter. He’s played big-time ball in front of a lot of people … He’s ready.”

The Jets had their choice of Wirfs or Becton and went with the most massive player in the draft. Consider this, at 6-foot-7, 364 pounds, Becton can dunk a basketball – and not blow out his sneaker.

“He brings an edge for us,” coach Adam Gase told reporters on a conference call. “He brings nasty to our offensive line room.”

The draft, perhaps because of the complications caused by the coronavirus, was lacking in wheeling and dealing early on. But made up for it late with four trades. There were six 1st-round trades last year.

It was the Packers who shocked the NFL world by trading up to take Utah State QB Jordan Love. One problem. The Packers have a QB by the name of Aaron Rodgers (36). He expects to play for another Super Bowl or two.

  1. Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU – After turning in perhaps the greatest statistical season in college football history, capped by a national championship, Cincy hopes Burrow is the second coming of John Elway. Or at least not the second coming of JaMarcus Russell.
  •  Redskins – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State – Ron Rivera starts the Redskins major rebuild with an elite pass rusher. The big questions in D.C. – is Dwayne Haskins the answer at QB or is it “Tank for Trevor?”
  • Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State – No drama. No trade. Okudah is the best CB prospect we’ve seen since Patrick Peterson (2011). That’s worked out pretty well.
  • Giants – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia – Dave Gettleman stays true to his word and drafts a Hog Mollie. But did he get the right one? We had Iowa’s Tristian Wirfs rated hired. Our streak of opening 3-for-3 snapped.
  • Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama – If the hip, and the rest of his body hold up, he has everything to be a franchise player. Most accurate QB in the draft and a terrific young man. Aloha nui.
  • Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon – Let the debate begin: Herbert or Tagovailoa? Another top-shelf young man. Herbert has a stronger arm and no injury worries. Tua more mobile and accurate. We shall see.
  • Panthers – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn – Goodbye Gerald McCoy. Hello Brown. A high-character, high-effort, highly unmovable presence in the middle of the line. Brady, Brees beware.
  • Cardinals – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson – Ever since the Cardinals made Deone Bucannon a $LB in 2014, teams have been searching for hybrid defenders. Swiss Army never made a knife as versatile as this defender.
  • Jaguars – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida – Jalen who? The only CB in this draft that can be mentioned in the same sentence as Okudah. His 4.39 speed and 6-foot-1, 204-pound frame, he replaces Ramsey, without the baggage.
  1. Browns – Jedrick Wills, Jr., OT, Alabama – Baker Mayfield just got the protection he needs to emerge as an elite quarterback. Wills blocks like he has a personal vendetta against any defender.
  1. Jets –  Meckhi Becton, OT, Louisville – The Zion Williamson of the NFL. A man 6-foot-7, 364 pounds who runs 5.1 40. Jets will have to keep a tight eye on his weight. He won’t hard to find. Flagged drug test. J-E-T-S.
  1. Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama – They can move the franchise to Bora, Bora, the Raiders can’t resist speed. Ruggs is the fastest player in the draft. Is he the next Tim Brown or Darius Heyward-Bey?
  1. Bucs (from 49ers) –  Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa – Tom Brady continues to live a charmed life. GOAT career. Model wife. Signs with a team that has a bounty at WR. The best tackle in the draft falls to the Bucs who move up.

14. 49ers – (from Bucs, plus No.117) Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina – Lose      DeForest Buckner in a trade, replace him with a 6-foot-5, 324-poud disrupter. GM John Lynch continues to build inside out. Smart.

15. Broncos – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama – Courtland Sutton, a 6-4 target and ball snatcher broke out last season. Team him with Jeudy, last year’s No.1 pick, TE Noah Fant, RB Melvin Gordon, and QB Drew Lock just might take the next step, ending John Elway’s QB curse.

16. Falcons – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson – The second truly baffling pick, behind the Giants. Terrell has all the tools to be an elite corner but is he the third best corner in this draft? Atlanta better have gotten this right or it becomes Hotlanta.

17. Cowboys – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma – The Cowboys had their choice of S Xavier McKinney or DE K’Lavon Chaisson but when a talent like Lamb, our No.1-rated WR, it’s too good to pass up.

18. Dolphins – Austin Jackson, OT, USC – There are more NFL-ready tackles than the 20-year-old. But this makes a lot of sense if the Fish “redshirt” Tagovailoa, giving Jackson a year to develop.

19. Raiders – Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State – Okudah got all the publicity but Arnette would have been the Buckeye’s best CB in most seasons. Just not a first-round pick in this draft.

20. Jaguars – K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU – Not too long ago, this was one of the best young defenses in the NFL. They might be there soon again. With Chaisson off the edge and Henderson at the corner it’s a good night in Jax.

21. Eagles – Jalon Reagor, WR, TCU – New aspect to the Cowboys-Eagles rivalry: Lamb or Reagor? Both are highlights waiting to happen. It would have been negligent not to give QB Carson Wentz a big-time playmaker.

  • Vikings – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU – Lose Stefan Diggs in a trade, add a WR that wins a lot of contested balls.
  • Chargers (from Pats)  – Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma – The Chargers are severely lacking at linebacker and Murray is the best pure linebacker in the draft. Was it work giving up a 2nd and 3rd? Hmmm.
  • Saints – Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan – Simple. Before Drew Brees heads to the broadcast booth, the Saints need to do everything to help him get one more ring. Ruiz can play center or guard. Not a need but insurance.
  • 49ers (from Vikings) – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, ASU – The Niners needed to address this position in a big way. Aiyuk has a catch radius that would make an NBA forward proud. Jimmy Garoppolo, meet Baker Mayfield.
  • Packers (from Dolphins) – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State – Aaron Rodgers eventually replaced Brett Favre. The cleat is on the other foot: Love is the heir apparent. No WR for Rodgers. Another Green Bay soap opera.
  • Seahawks – Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech – A mean, sideline-to-sideline linebacker who is addicted to hitting. The Red Raiders weren’t very good and Seattle has other needs. They thought best player available.
  • Ravens – Patrick Queen, ILB, LSU – LSU has replaced Miami as my favorite college for NFL talent. The Tigers play with a speed and tenacity that’s a football purist’s joy to watch. So do the Ravens.

29. Titans – Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia – Poly Prep’s latest product. Wilson still needs a little experience but imagine this: The 6-foot-6, 350-pounder blocking for the 6-3, 238-pound Derrick Henry. Pity the cornerback.

30. Dolphins – Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn – There is no better athlete in the draft. In addition to corner he’s a terrific kick returner. But the Dolphins just signed Byron Jones and have Xavien Howard.

31. Vikings (from 49ers) – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU – Cornerback, WR, OT were the positions that were up for debate. Gladney makes up for his lack of height (5-10) with speed (4.48) and tenacity. Guess they wouldn’t take Trevon Diggs, huh?

32. Chiefs – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RD, LSU – Just what the NFL wants – another weapon for Patrick Mahomes. E-H is not the best RB in this draft but he’s the best for KC. The 5-7 back is a great receiver. Lot’s of YAC, the Chiefs M.O.

We’ll be back Sunday with our grades. Stay safe. Boo Goodell.

Live From Goodell’s Basement: The NFL Draft

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

A LIVE SPORTING EVENT!

O.K. it’s not a game or even a preseason game or even an exhibition, but Thursday night sports fans hungering for a live sporting event will be sated by the NFL Draft.

It may not be the Super Bowl but the draft is arguably the most important day of the year in a franchise’s fortunes. The undisputed winners will be ESPN/ABC and the companies that locked in ads long before COVID-19 decimated the sports landscape.

The ESPN/ABC family of networks televised the draft last season, posting a record 47.5 million viewers. The price for a 30-second ad cost in the mid $100,000. With no other game in town, last year’s record could be shattered.

If you haven’t been invited to a remote draft party, you will be. Or host your own. Start a pool in which everyone picks the first round and the most accurate prognosticators take home prize money. You’ll just have to use Venmo.

As for the draft itself, there could be a lot of trade action as quarterback hungry teams jockey to secure the rights of Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love.

 The Chargers, Dolphins, Raiders, Patriots and Saints all are in the market for their quarterback of the future. The Bears should be. The Titans need a backup to Ryan Tannehill.

A live sporting event is just 10 days away! Here’s our mock draft cheat sheet. Stay safe.

  1. Bengals – Joe Burrows, QB, LSU – In a draft riddled with questions: Who’s the best WR? Who’s the best OT? Who’s the second-best cornerback? The question of who’s the best QB prospect is not up for debate. The Andy Dalton era ends and Burrows era begins; forget hand size.

2. Redskins – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State – The Redskins need a lot of help but unless they get a trade offer they can’t pass up, Ron Rivera sticks with his defensive roots. Washington’s offense doesn’t have enough to compete. But a defense with Young and Ryan Kerrigan might steal a game or two.

3. Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State – As with the Redskins, the Lions are fielding offers like bees to honey. Okudah is one of the most college corners we’ve seen. There’s a significant drop off at cornerback after Okudah.

4. Raiders (from Giants) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama – Stunning trades and out-of-the box No.1 picks are part of the Raiders’ DNA. The franchise doubles down on its move to Vegas. They send the Giants their two, first-round picks –  12 and 19 – to the Giants, even though trading down is not in GM Dave Gettleman’s DNA.

5. Dolphins – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon – The Dolphins reportedly have been flipping coins between Tagovailoa and Herbert. By sitting tight, they don’t have to gamble on Tagovailoa’s health. Herbert is one of the smartest players in the draft and he answered a lot of questions through the predraft process.

6. Chargers – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State – The Chargers know exactly what they have without Phillip Rivers and with Tyrod Taylor – no future at football’s most important position. Chargers fans need a reason to make the trek up I-5 to the new stadium they’ll share with the Rams. Terrible.

7. Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson – Tough call for Carolina. They lost Gerald McCoy and Luke Kuechly. Derrick Brown could be a 10-year plug on the DL but Simmons can change a game with his ridiculous skill set. Can’t see the Panthers not finding that irresistible.

8. Cardinals – Meckhi Becton, OT, Louisville – Anyone claiming they know which of the four elite tackles will be selected first is not being honest. Becton is the biggest of the bunch and he possesses amazing athleticism (5.2 40 time) for a man listed at 6-7, 364-pounds.

9. Jaguars – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn – Just a few short years ago the Jaguars had one of the elite, young defenses in the NFL. Gone are Patrick Ramsey, Marcell Dareus, and Calais Campbell (Ok, not so young). We believe in building from the inside out.

10. Cardinals – Jedrick Wills, Jr., OT, Alabama – They have their QB in Khyler Murray and a great new target in D’Andre Hopkins (still find this hard to fathom). Time to make sure this connection stays healthy. Wills is a Day 1 starter.

11. Jets – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa – If this comes to fruition, Jets fans have reason to hope their luck is turning (finally!). Wirfs was coached at Iowa by Kirk Ferentz, a former longtime offensive line coach who has built a tradition of producing technically sound, tough O-linemen.

12. Giants (from Raiders) – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia – If this comes to fruition, Giants fan have reason to hope their luck is turning. The Giants trade down and still get a starting OT. Next pick is just six spots away when Big Blue. Can they get another starter, on the other side of the ball?

13. 49ers – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama – Frankly we like CeeDee Lamb a tad more than Jeudy, but it’s impossible to argue against Jeudy’s 4.45 speed, broad jump of 10 feet, vertical jump of 35 inches and magnificent route running. He teams with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle to give Jimmy Garoppolo a terrific trio of targets.

14. Cowboys (from Bucs) – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida – The win-now Cowboys need to replace Byron Jones. Knowing the Falcons at No. 16 are in the CB market, Dallas trades up with Tampa Bay. Henderson has the speed and athleticism but he needs to hone his tackling.

15. Broncos – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma – Courtland Sutton, a 6-4 target and ball snatcher broke out last season. Team him with Lamb, last year’s no.1 pick TE Noah Fant, and Melvin Gordon, and Drew Lock just might take the next step, ending John Elway’s QB curse. Lamb is our favorite receiver in this WR-rich draft.

16. Falcons – K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU – Atlanta has a tough choice here between addressing the defensive backfield and edge rusher. When you’re in a division that now has Tom Brady and Drew Brees, you better be able to get pressure.

17. Bucs – Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan – Every move the Bucs make must consider how it will maximize Tom Brady’s ability to excel. Jameis Winston was sacked 47 times. He also led the league with 677 drop-backs. And he is more mobile than Brady. Ruiz plays with tenacity and technique and he can play center or guard. Bucs mandate: Protect Tomba.

18. Dolphins – Josh Jones, OT, Houston – Just as the Bucs are all about Brady, the Fish are all about Herbert. Jones allowed just one sack and four pressures his senior season. If you think it was because he didn’t face elite competition at Houston, he was voted the top offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl.

19. Giants – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina – After trading down for the first time, Gettleman thinks, “This isn’t a bad way to go!” If getting Thomas at No.12 wasn’t good fortune, getting Kinlaw here sure is. He’s a better rusher than Brown and more athletic.

20. Jaguars – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama – I’m still not sold on the Jaguars being sold on Gardner Minshew II, III, or IV. But even if this turns out to be a one-season audition, get the man the fastest receiver in the draft. Ruggs, seen as a Tyreek Hill-like weapon, certainly could be off the board by this point.

21. Eagles – Josh Jefferson, WR, LSU – And so begins the run on WRs. A healthy Carson Wentz can be as effective as almost any QB in the NFL, if he has legitimate targets. No receiver in this draft wins contested balls like Jefferson. He can play all three wide receiver positions.

22. Vikings – Brandon Aiyuk, WR,  – The loss of Stefon Diggs hurts. He’s is an upper echelon WR and keeps Adam Thielen from facing constant double teams. Denzel Mims, Baylor is bigger. Jalen Reagor, TCU is the most explosive. Any of the three could go here.

23. Patriots – Zach Baun, OLB/DE, Wisconsin – The focus in New England and throughout the NFL is Tom Brady’s change of address. But this defense lost Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton. Baun is a smart, versatile defender. In other words, he’s a Belichick player.

24. Saints – Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma – The Saints need to do everything they can to give Drew Brees his best chance at one last Super Bowl before he heads to the broadcast booth. We know the Saints can score. The defense was solid if unspectacular last season. Murray, who plays nasty, becomes an anchor in the middle.

25. Vikings – A..J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa – Everson Griffen is gone. The Vikes face two terrific passers – Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford –  twice each season. With Epenesa, who has a great motor, on one side and Daniel Hunter on the other, the Vikes should be able to get pressure.

26. Dolphins – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia – Georgia has become Running Back U and Swift carries on that tradition. In addition to his speed, vision and ability to make defenders miss, Swift will stick his nose in on pass protection. He gives Herbert a serious upgrade over Jordan Howard.

27. Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State – The $17-18 million question is whether or not Jadaveon Clowney returns. The thinking here is that he heads to Cleveland, leaving a neglected defense with a major hole. Gross-Matos is one of the DE’s that is also good against the run.

28. Ravens – Patrick Queen, ILB, LSU – LSU has replaced Miami as my favorite college for NFL talent. The Tigers, especially on the defensive side, play with a speed and tenacity that football purist’s joy to watch. Queen fits the mold. The Ravens have tried to cover up the loss of C.J. Mosley but it’s time to address this second level of defense.

29. Titans – Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State – Boise State doesn’t send a lot of players to the league in comparison to Bama, Ohio State, etc. But the ones that come off the blue turf have excellent success – DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, Matt Paradis, Alexander Mattison. The Titans offense is focused on Derrick Henry. Cleveland wowed in pre-draft workouts.

30. Packers – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson – After Devante Adams there is a significant drop off at the WR spot. With a QB such Aaron Rodgers, not having another top target on the opposite side is a waste of talent. Higgins is a step slower than the WRs that already have gone but at 6-4, he’s a red zone ball winner.

31. 49ers – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama – All any 49ers fan needs to do to find the No.1 position of need is to cue up a replay of the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs. Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill combined for 13 catches for 203 yards. Richard Sherman is still a quality corner but he’s 32.  McKinney can play either safety spot.

32. Chiefs – Antoine Winfield, S/CB, Minnesota – This is my favorite player in the draft because of the way he plays. Yes, he’s only 5-foot-9, 203 pounds but he hits like a man constantly in a bad mood. He’s instinctual, versatile and has great bloodlines. Only concern is that he hits so hard he hurts himself.

A Live Sporting Event Just One Week Away

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

A LIVE SPORTING EVENT!

O.K. it’s not a game or even a preseason game or even an exhibition, but next Thursday night sports fans hungering for a live sporting event will be sated by the NFL Draft.

It may not be the Super Bowl but the draft is arguably the most important day of the year in a franchise’s fortunes. The undisputed winners will be ESPN/ABC and the companies that locked in ads long before COVID-19 decimated the sports landscape.

The ESPN/ABC family of networks televised the draft last season, posting a record 47.5 million viewers. The price for a 30-second ad cost in the mid $100,000. With no other game in town, last year’s record could be shattered.

If you haven’t been invited to a remote draft party, you will be. Or host your own. Start a pool in which everyone picks the first round and the most accurate prognosticators take home prize money. You’ll just have to use Venmo.

As for the draft itself, there could be a lot of trade action as quarterback hungry teams jockey to secure the rights of Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love.

 The Chargers, Dolphins, Raiders, Patriots and Saints all are in the market for their quarterback of the future. The Bears should be. The Titans need a backup to Ryan Tannehill.

A live sporting event is just 10 days away! Here’s our mock draft cheat sheet. Stay safe.

  1. Bengals – Joe Burrows, QB, LSU – In a draft riddled with questions: Who’s the best WR? Who’s the best OT? Who’s the second-best cornerback? The question of who’s the best QB prospect is not up for debate. The Andy Dalton era ends and Burrows era begins; forget hand size.

2. Redskins – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State – The Redskins need a lot of help but unless they get a trade offer they can’t pass up, Ron Rivera sticks with his defensive roots. Washington’s offense doesn’t have enough to compete. But a defense with Young and Ryan Kerrigan might steal a game or two.

3. Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State – As with the Redskins, the Lions are fielding offers like bees to honey. Okudah is one of the most college corners we’ve seen. There’s a significant drop off at cornerback after Okudah.

4. Raiders (from Giants) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama – Stunning trades and out-of-the box No.1 picks are part of the Raiders’ DNA. The franchise doubles down on its move to Vegas. They send the Giants their two, first-round picks –  12 and 19 – to the Giants, even though trading down is not in GM Dave Gettleman’s DNA.

5. Dolphins – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon – The Dolphins reportedly have been flipping coins between Tagovailoa and Herbert. By sitting tight, they don’t have to gamble on Tagovailoa’s health. Herbert is one of the smartest players in the draft and he answered a lot of questions through the predraft process.

6. Chargers – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State – The Chargers know exactly what they have without Phillip Rivers and with Tyrod Taylor – no future at football’s most important position. Chargers fans need a reason to make the trek up I-5 to the new stadium they’ll share with the Rams. Terrible.

7. Panthers – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn – The defense lost Gerald McCoy and Luke Kuechly. The 6-5, 315-pound Brown can be a Day 1 starter for the next decade, plugging the middle. This might not be the sexiest pick but it’s the smartest.

8. Cardinals – Meckhi Becton, OT, Louisville – Anyone claiming they know which of the four elite tackles will be selected first is not being honest. Becton is the biggest of the bunch and he possesses amazing athleticism (5.2 40 time) for a man listed at 6-7, 364-pounds.

9. Jaguars – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina – Just a few short years ago the Jaguars had one of the elite, young defenses in the NFL. Gone are Patrick Ramsey, Marcell Dareus, and Calais Campbell (Ok, not so young). Kinlaw offers more of a pass-rushing threat from the tackle spot than Brown.

10. Cardinals – Jedrick Wills, Jr., OT, Alabama – They have their QB in Khyler Murray and a great new target in D’Andre Hopkins (still find this hard to fathom). Time to make sure this connection stays healthy. Wills is a Day 1 starter.

11. Jets – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa – If this comes to fruition, Jets fans have reason to hope their luck is turning (finally!). Wirfs was coached at Iowa by Kirk Ferentz, a former longtime offensive line coach who has built a tradition of producing technically sound, tough O-linemen.

12. Giants (from Raiders) – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia – If this comes to fruition, Giants fan have reason to hope their luck is turning. The Giants trade down and still get a starting OT. Next pick is just six spots away when Big Blue. Can they get another starter, on the other side of the ball?

13. 49ers – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama – Frankly we like CeeDee Lamb a tad more than Jeudy, but it’s impossible to argue against Jeudy’s 4.45 speed, broad jump of 10 feet, vertical jump of 35 inches and magnificent route running. He teams with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle to give Jimmy Garoppolo a terrific trio of targets.

14. Cowboys (from Bucs) – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida – The win-now Cowboys need to replace Byron Jones. Knowing the Falcons at No. 16 are in the CB market, Dallas trades up with Tampa Bay. Henderson has the speed and athleticism but he needs to hone his tackling.

15. Broncos – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma – Courtland Sutton, a 6-4 target and ball snatcher broke out last season. Team him with Lamb, last year’s no.1 pick TE Noah Fant, and Melvin Gordon, and Drew Lock just might take the next step, ending John Elway’s QB curse. Lamb is our favorite receiver in this WR-rich draft.

16. Falcons – K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU – Atlanta has a tough choice here between addressing the defensive backfield and edge rusher. When you’re in a division that now has Tom Brady and Drew Brees, you better be able to get pressure. Vic Beasley is gone and 2017 first-round pick Takkarist McKinely hasn’t emerged.

17. Bucs – Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan – Every move the Bucs make must consider how it will maximize Tom Brady’s ability to excel. Jameis Winston was sacked 47 times. He also led the league with 677 drop-backs. And he is more mobile than Brady. Ruiz plays with tenacity and technique and he can play center or guard. Bucs mandate: Protect Tomba.

18. Dolphins – Josh Jones, OT, Houston – Just as the Bucs are all about Brady, the Fish are all about Herbert. Jones allowed just one sack and four pressures his senior season. If you think it was because he didn’t face elite competition at Houston, he was voted the top offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl.

19. Giants – K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU – After trading down for the first time, Gettleman thinks, “This isn’t a bad way to go!” If getting Thomas at No.12 wasn’t good fortune, getting Chaisson here sure is. He’s a high-character, high-athletic prospect.

20. Jaguars – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama – I’m still not sold on the Jaguars being sold on Gardner Minshew II, III, or IV. But even if this turns out to be a one-season audition, get the man the fastest receiver in the draft. Ruggs, seen as a Tyreek Hill-like weapon, certainly could be off the board by this point.

21. Eagles – Josh Jefferson, WR, LSU – And so begins the run on WRs. A healthy Carson Wentz can be as effective as almost any QB in the NFL, if he has legitimate targets. No receiver in this draft wins contested balls like Jefferson. He can play all three wide receiver positions.

22. Vikings – Brandon Aiyuk, WR,  – The loss of Stefon Diggs hurts. He’s is an upper echelon WR and keeps Adam Thielen from facing constant double teams. Denzel Mims, Baylor is bigger. Jalen Reagor, TCU is the most explosive. Any of the three could go here.

23. Patriots – Zach Baun, OLB/DE, Wisconsin – The focus in New England and throughout the NFL is Tom Brady’s change of address. But this defense lost Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton. Baun is a smart, versatile defender. In other words, he’s a Belichick player.

24. Saints – Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma – The Saints need to do everything they can to give Drew Brees his best chance at one last Super Bowl before he heads to the broadcast booth. We know the Saints can score. The defense was solid if unspectacular last season. Murray, who plays nasty, becomes an anchor in the middle.

25. Vikings – A..J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa – Everson Griffen is gone. The Vikes face two terrific passers – Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford –  twice each season. With Epenesa, who has a great motor, on one side and Daniel Hunter on the other, the Vikes should be able to get pressure.

26. Dolphins – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia – Georgia has become Running Back U and Swift carries on that tradition. In addition to his speed, vision and ability to make defenders miss, Swift will stick his nose in on pass protection. He gives Herbert a serious upgrade over Jordan Howard.

27. Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State – The $17-18 million question is whether or not Jadaveon Clowney returns. The thinking here is that he heads to Cleveland, leaving a neglected defense with a major hole. Gross-Matos is one of the DE’s that is also good against the run.

28. Ravens – Patrick Queen, ILB, LSU – LSU has replaced Miami as my favorite college for NFL talent. The Tigers, especially on the defensive side, play with a speed and tenacity that football purist’s joy to watch. Queen fits the mold. The Ravens have tried to cover up the loss of C.J. Mosley but it’s time to address this second level of defense.

29. Titans – Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State – Boise State does send a lot of players to the league in comparison to Bama, Ohio State, etc. But the ones that come off the blue turf have excellent success – DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, Matt Paradis, Alexander Mattison. The Titans offense is focused on Derrick Henry. Cleveland wowed in pre-draft workouts.

30. Packers – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson – After Devante Adams there is a significant drop off at the WR spot. With a QB such Aaron Rodgers, not having another top target on the opposite side is a waste of talent. Higgins is a step slower than the WRs that already have gone but at 6-4, he’s a red zone ball winner.

31. 49ers – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama – All any 49ers fan needs to do to find the No.1 position of need is to cue up a replay of the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs. Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill combined for 13 catches for 203 yards. Richard Sherman is still a quality corner but he’s 32.  McKinney can play either safety spot.

32. Chiefs – Antoine Winfield, S/CB, Minnesota – This is my favorite player in the draft because of the way he plays. Yes, he’s only 5-foot-9, 203 pounds but he hits like a man constantly in a bad mood. He’s instinctual, versatile and has great bloodlines. Only concern is that he hits so hard he hurts himself.

Is Fantasy Football Being Optimistic for an NFL?

Let’s get right to it.

This shelter in place deal stinks. We are social creatures forced to behave in an antisocial way. It stinks. I can pet my neighbor’s dog but can’t shake hands with said neighbor. I’m washing hands so often I will never sing, “Happy Birthday,” again.

One of the ways to cope is fantasy. This morning I fantasized that it wasn’t a Sunday in COVID-19 March, rather a Sunday in vaccine October. NFL season. Glorious NFL season.

Which team will be the most fun to watch:

The Arizona Cardinals, with Kyler Murray throwing to DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald and a tight end to be named later?

Or, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Tom Brady throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard?

In fact, I’m willing to purchase a separate NFL South Division RedZone so I can see Matt Ryan throwing to Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Todd Gurley II and TE Hayden Hurst, and Drew Brees throwing to Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Alvin Kamara?

Or Patrick Mahomes throwing to Tyreke Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mercole Hardman, Travis Kelce and Damien Williams.

Or Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer throwing to tripled teamed Julian Edelman? (I’ve waited almost two decades for this)!

Or Dak Prescott throwing to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Zeke Elliott?

Or Mitch Trubisky throwing to the yard marker? Or is that Nick Foles?

Or, don’t dismiss this one, Phillip Rivers throwing to T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell and tight end Jack Doyle?

Or, Deshaun Watson throwing to? It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.

Or Josh Allen hopefully throwing to Stefan Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley and Devin Singletary?

Or Sam Darnold throwing six more touchdowns than interceptions?

Or Lamar Jackson throwing, to himself?

Or Jared Goff throwing for 78 yards two weeks after throwing for 517 (both losses)?

Or Ryan Tannehill completing 70-percent of his passes with a quarterback/interception of better than 3-to-1? Ryan Tannehill?

Or Derek Carr throwing to Nelson Agholor? Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Or Aaron Rodgers throwing to anyone at any time from any place on the field?

Or Drew Lock throwing for a passing rating of 48.2 yet going 4-1?

Or Tyrod Taylor hoping the Chargers pass on quarterback in the draft?

Or the Redskins passing on a quarterback because, well, they’re the Redskins?

Or a healthy Teddy Bridgewater getting his much-deserved chance to be a starter and having a weapon as versatile and potent as Christian McCaffrey?

Or Kirk Cousins posting his sixth straight season of 3,600 yards or more without getting to an NFC Championship game?

Or 23-year-old Joe Burrow throwing to 32-year-old A.J. Green?

Or Russell Wilson throwing to Tyler Locket, DK Metcalf and Greg Olsen?

Or Jimmy Garoppolo throwing for 165 yards one week and 349 the next?

Or Daniel Jones throwing from an upright position?

Or the warrior known as Matthew Stafford throwing to Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockenson.

Or Ryan Fitzpatrick playing catch with Tua Tagovailoa?

Or the Pittsburgh Steelers throwing a Hail Mary in the 2nd round of the draft?

Or Carson Wentz throwing to Zach Ertz or Dallas Goedert, or to Dallas Goedert or Zach Ertz?

Or Baker Mayfield throwing 21 interceptions and dropping 42 verbal farts?

Or Gardner Minshew II throwing to, uh, how ‘bout that draft?

Or Patrick Mahomes throwing to Tyreke Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mercole Hardman, Travis Kelce and Damien Williams? Wait. Didn’t we write that already?

O.K. how about this?

Training camp to open this summer giving all of us sports-starved fans hope of watching the NFL in the fall. Amen.

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.

How’ Bout Them Cowboys! Can Dallas Return as the Team to Hate?

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Credit Twitter

America’s Team has a new coach.

He is not a wunderkind such as Kliff Kingsbury, who got fired from his college job (Texas Tech) and barely had time to update his resume before being hired by the Arizona Cardinals. Nor is one of the NFL’s perceived young studs – 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh or Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In a stunning departure from how and who NFL franchises are hiring, the Cowboys marched to their own tune. Whether it turns out to be a celebration parade or a funeral march is impossible to predict.

What is almost certain is this: If Mike McCarthy doesn’t succeed, America’s Team might become as abstract as a central American country, say Uruguay or Paraguay. And owner Jerry Jones might not get another crack at hiring a head coach.

Of paramount importance to Giants fans, and the rest of the NFL, is the former. The Cowboys, by most talent evaluator’s assessment, have the most impressive roster in the NFC East. Many of their stars are in the prime of their careers and could form an immovable object for the rest of the division.

Considering that Jones hasn’t been a trigger-happy owner when it comes to firing coaches suggests that McCarthy, who reportedly will get a five-year deal, will be given time to succeed or fail. If he fails, the Cowboys might go another decade without getting to an NFC Championship game.

At first glance the hiring of McCarthy seems curious at best. After compiling a 125-77-2 record with a 10-8 mark in the postseason including one Super Bowl victory, two NFC title game appearances, McCarthy was fired late in the 2018 season when the Packers were 2-7-1.

Of course, the bigger issue was the reported estrangement between McCarthy and all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The quickest way for a coach to get hired, or fired, in today’s NFL, is his relationship with the quarterback.

It seems as if Adam Gates got that part right. We’ll see.

By not getting hired in 2019, McCarthy, accurately or not, got a rep as being too old school, which is a nice way of saying out-of-touch or over-the-hill, euphemisms for ageism. Now comes word that McCarthy, suddenly a youthful 56, is a renaissance coach, one into analytics and has been hosting a meeting of the McCarthy Group, a convent of ex-coaches that are re-evaluating their craft.

Now word comes that Bill Belichick, at a 2015 owners meeting, reportedly said McCarthy is one of the best coaches he ever went up against. Now comes word that Brett Favre says McCarthy is very bright, very understandable and can relate to players the way Daboll does.

Of course, there are many that believe all those criticisms of McCarthy are legitimate and he’s little more than a more successful Jason Garrett. There are legions of Cowboys haters, led by the irrepressible Stephen A. Smith, who are thrilled that Dallas made a hire that has absolutely no sex appeal but might have success appeal.

Look, this could be exactly what the NFL needs. The Patriots dynasty, if not over, is gasping. The NFL needs a team to hate, Who better than, “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys!’”

Darnold is Looking and Sounding Like a Franchise QB

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Sam Darnold had good pass protection all day. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Dear Outrageous, Obnoxious, Outlandish Raiders fans.

Thank for you coming to MetLife Stadium Sunday and attempting to turn it into the Black Hole East. You were maddeningly, mind-bogglingly, maniacally antagonistic.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. MetLife Stadium became the black hole for Raider fans today. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

When the Jets took their home field, they felt like the visitors.

Those wearing the Black and Silver booed, hooted and hollered their heads off. And the guys in Green and White heard it. They heard it, went back into the home locker room and got heated.

“I’m not going to lie to you, when we came on to the field, we felt disrespected,” safety Jamal Adams said. “We got booed in our own home stadium by the Oakland fans. We came back into this locker room and it was a hell of a talk.”

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Raiders backup QB Mike Glennon gets pressure from Jamal Adams. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

Adams should know. He gave the talk and it contained a lot of words not suitable for white collar criminals.

Even the calm, cool, California kid, quarterback Sam Darnold, was jacked. He bullied his way for a four-yard touchdown run that gave the Jets a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. The Jets didn’t look back as they posted their most impressive win of the season, a 34-3 demolishing of the Raiders.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Sam Darnold finds the endzone on a QB keeper in the second quarter. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

“I had someone in my way at the goal line,” Darnold said, “and I just did what I could to get into the end zone.”

This win, the Jets third straight, felt different than the previous two. The Jets beat the hapless Giants and pathetic Redskins in moving to 3-7. The Raiders, however came in with a 6-4 record, breathing down the necks of the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the AFC West.

They left licking their bruised egos on what surely will be a long flight back to the West Coast.

“We got our butts kicked,” said veteran quarterback Derek Carr, who was benched. “There’s no other way around that. They got after us from start to finish. Hopefully, it’s an eye opener.”

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Jamal Adams and Brandon Copeland crunch Raiders QB Derek Carr. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The new York Extra)

The quarterback that opened a lot of eyes was Darnold. It was a little more than a month ago that Darnold was haunted by the New England Patriots in a 33-0 loss. His rating that day was 1.5.

The Raiders saw a very different player. Darnold completed 20-of-29 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns passing, one rushing and no interceptions. His rating was 127.8, or 126.3 better than it was against New England.

East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday, November 24, 2019. NY Jets vs. Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Sam Darnold scrambles for a gain. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

This is new territory for Darnold and the Jets (4-7). This is Gang Green’s first three-game win streak in more than two years. Darnold, who missed time early with mononucleosis, is looking more and more like the franchise quarterback the Jets thought they were drafting last season with the No.3 pick.

Darnold also is sounding like a franchise quarterback. He’s tossed out the playoff word lately. Darnold is smart enough to know that almost certainly won’t happen this season. But isn’t it uplifting to hear a Jets QB talking about postseason?

“It’s in the back of my head,” Darnold said, “but I think where we’re at right now, we just gotta keep taking it one week at a time, and if we do that, I think we’ll be all right.”

Jets Are No Closer to Knowing If Darnold Is The Man

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

10/21/19 Patriots vs Jets at Metlife stadium East Rutherford nj #14 Sam Darnold returns to the bench after a 3 and out in the 4th quarter Neil Miller/ The New York Extra

It has been almost exactly one month since Sam Darnold saw ghosts. One month since the New England Pats, known cheaters, seemingly had 12 men on the field on defense for every play in a 33-0 bashing of the Jets.

Every time Darnold thought he had an open window, it was slammed shut. Every time he thought he had a receiver break free, he was covered. Darnold completed just 11-of-32 passes for 86 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions.

East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, October 21, 2019. Jets QB Sam Darnold and J.C. Jackson of the Patriots chase the ball in the endzone after it was snapped over Darnold’s head. The play was called a safety. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

When the mic-up Darnold was overheard saying he was seeing ghosts, Jets Nation went apoplectic. Their second-year quarterback, the third player picked in the 2018 NFL Draft, was a bust, his psyche snapped, they fretted.

Over the last two games, however, Darnold has completed 38-of-60 passes for 523 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. Not a spirit in sight in wins over the Giants, 34-27, and Redskins, 34-17.

11/10/19 NY giants VS NY Jets at Metlife Stadium East Rutherford N.J. NY Jets #14 Sam Darnold throws in the 1st half today Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Yet the Jets are not much closer to knowing if Darnold will be their franchise quarterback than they were after the Patriots’ game. The Redskins have the 21st worst defense in the NFL. The Giants are even worse. They’re 31st.

“Towards the end of the game, I was talking more about the interception to the coaches and the other players, so maybe that,” Darnold told reporters about his dialogue Sunday. “But I think for us as an offense, as a whole, it’s just another steppingstone in the right direction, so that’s how we’re going to look at it.”

The one thing we’ve learned, and this might turn out to be paramount, is that Darnold didn’t crack, his psyche wasn’t snapped, his confidence hadn’t been confiscated by the Pats.

East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, October 21, 2019. Terrence Brooks (25) celebrates his third quarter interception in the endzone with his Patriots defensive teammates. (Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra)

In fairness to Darnold, the Patriots defense is great. It made Carson Wentz look pedestrian Sunday night in a 17-10 New England win. Maybe every quarterback, save Lamar Jacks on, sees ghosts when playing the Pats.

Maybe, just maybe, Darnold is on his way to being a franchise QB.

“He knows what he likes; he knows what he doesn’t like,” Jets coach Adam Gase said of Darnold. “He’s not afraid to say it.”

Good to know. The question is, can Darnold, who’s not exactly surrounded by the talent Troy Aikman had with the Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, win a game against a top-tier NFL defense?

Darnold did complete passes to seven different receivers, which suggests he’s seeing more of the field. But we won’t for another month if Darnold has exorcised his demons and is closer to being a franchise QB than he is today.

The Jets play at Baltimore on Dec. 12. The Ravens made Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson look like a scarecrow on Sunday. If Darnold can play as he has these last two weeks, well, that will speak well of his progress.

If not, well, Jets fans are accustomed to seeing all kinds of bizarre occurrences from butt fumbles to Bill Belichick becoming coach for a day. Seeing ghosts is nothing new.