FMIA: A Divided Cleveland Reckons With Deshaun Watson Reality

CLEVELAND—On the 300 level of First Energy Stadium, in the concourse a half-hour before kickoff of the

I asked a shopper, young woman, if she’d buy a Watson jersey

Of 163 jerseys I counted on fans, I saw Kosar, Manziel, Mayfield, Garrett (the most), Chubb, Beckham Jr

Guy passed me in the concourse with a NEXT YEAR DAMMIT Browns T-shirt

On the one hand, he never got found guilty of anything in a court of law, so

“What do they say? Time heals all wounds? If he wins, it’ll be forgotten

South of the city, an architect and former mega-Browns fan, Kyle Marvin, was not as forgiving as

He’s been a religious Browns’ watcher and tailgater, the kind who gets to the tailgate lot

“I have loved this team,” Marvin said from his home, “but I will not be a Browns

If he’d just come out and say ‘I’m sorry,’ it’s a different story

This, as one person in the middle of this maelstrom told me Sunday, “is a complicated, complicated,

Watson issued a statement when the settlement was announced saying, “I take accountability for the decisions I

How does one person say—sort of—I’m sorry, and two hours later say, I’m

My sense is the Browns hope that at some point Watson will understand what he either doesn’

Very likely, the Browns believe counseling can help Watson get to the bottom of why he sought

That he has begun the counseling is a step in the right direction

But tamp down the expectations that Jimmy Garoppolo is on the way

But I do think the Browns will search for a challenger to backup Joshua Dobbs around the

I think the Browns gave Watson the $230-million guaranteed contract because they figured it was the only

The Haslams have been pilloried for the contract, and rightfully so; Watson, even after his fine, will

But my gut tells me they felt they had only one chance after Watson told the team

How could the Browns differentiate themselves? A fully guaranteed contract

If you’re Jimmy Haslam, who had been through a slew of failed quarterbacks in his 9

5 years as owner, you might think: Taking an avalanche of criticism for a year will be worth

I bet 90 percent of football fans, asked what they think of Watson being banned for 11 weeks with

Could they, would they have triumphed if the appeals office, Peter Harvey, had banned Watson for the

At what cost? Two more months of Watson headlines? No thanks, they thought

The plan for Watson during his suspension has some question marks

10 and can be in meetings but can’t practice with the team for the next five weeks

I asked coach Kevin Stefanski Sunday about Watson’s work—presumably with private QB coach Quincy Avery—

He has a really good quarterback coach, Quincy Avery, so I know that they’ll have a

It will be important for him to make sure that every day will count for him when

4 in Houston, when he’s eligible to play, almost two years since he last played in a

I think that he’s a player… that… say this the right way… in his young career,

I’m not naive enough to say there won’t be some rust or whatever it may

Jacoby Brissett, the temporary QB, seems almost blissfully unaware of the turbulence in the outside world about

“His career has uniquely prepared him for this,” Stefanski said

I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this job

We set a plan when we first started this thing, and we’ve been going along with

That’s why I think you see none of us really stressing with whatever’s going on

” He said, as if speaking to Jimmy Haslam: “You’re an enabler

I formed this opinion over the weekend talking to people on this story … Jimmy Haslam is a

He’s taken quite a few slings and arrows in his business life, some of them seriously

Fabulously successful businessmen—Steven Ross, David Tepper, Woody Johnson—have tried for years to find that guy

If there are rocky patches— even legal and moral ones —on the way to great success, isn’

But they hadn’t really impacted Joe Burrow, who’d completed two-thirds of his throws and been

The Bengals were—surprise!—sliding protection to thwart Aaron Donald, and the Rams couldn’t take advantage

“Coach Rah,” is what the players call Morris, and when he stood in front of the defense

Six months later, Jones, 22, talked like he couldn’t quite believe what Morris said at halftime during

He sacked Burrow late in the third quarter to foil one drive, then had a three-yard tackle

Morris’ coaching wrinkle led to six second-half sacks by the Rams, and intense pressure on the final

“No way I was expecting Rah to send me like that,” Jones told me in camp

“The beauty of football, and the beauty of being a coordinator, is that it’s never just

It’s about incorporating everybody, the players and coaches alike

But someone’s got to make the decision to feature a third-round rookie on a defense full

I came to take the temperature of the Rams on a hot, arid dog day of August

He stepped into an odd but overall healthy situation last year, taking over the league’s top-rated

I remember having conversations with Sean—he wanted to keep that the same as well

“When you get a new coach, it comes down to trust,” Donald said

“He let players he trusts give feedback, and he learned his players

The previous year, five teams wanted Staley for interviews, and the Chargers hired him the day after

Watch this video of the play to see why the decision by Morris to blitz Jones at

Watch the Cincinnati line shade to the left, and watch the massive hole open at right guard

Then it’s Jones versus blitz-pickup-back Joe Mixon, and may the best man win

Football is a matchup game; when Morris saw the Cincinnati effort to eliminate Donald, he changed up

“Ernest gives us an advantage with his ability to rush, his ability to spin, spin on the

With a top-heavy-spending franchise like the Rams, lesser draftees and free-agent marginalia need to be coached up

Nick Scott, a seventh-round pick in 2019, was a special-teamer when Morris took the job 18 months ago

That was great for me because I saw it as a challenge, but he was expressing a

He played every defensive snap for the Rams in four playoff games

Scott stalled one Tampa Bay drive in the divisional playoff game on the last interception Tom Brady

Morris is plagued in the public sphere, to some degree, by his first head-coaching experience

So, they promoted their charismatic young DBs coach, Morris, to head coach

Had to be tough to go back to being a position coach in Washington and Atlanta after

Going to the offensive side in Atlanta, I got to coach and learn from one of the

I talked to him through a defensive lens, and I learned so much about offensive football at

“He sees the game differently than other coaches, and I think it’s because he’s coached

Re: second chances … I talked with Morris about Josh McDaniels getting a second chance this year in

“Josh and I were the same age when we got the jobs,” Morris said, smiling

McDaniels got his first head coach job at 32, as Morris said

Morris told Demoff: “I’m not gonna be a head coach again

As with every Super Bowl contender this time of year, so much will have to go right

Joe Noteboom needs to have a seamless transition replacing the retired Whitworth at left tackle

Leonard Floyd and someone (2020 third-rounder Terrell Lewis?) have to fill the pass-rush hole vacated by Von Miller

Stafford’s got to stay upright, with a healthy-enough elbow

You should know that, in the previous 1,700 words, I didn’t mention that Morris is Black

He doesn’t want to be seen as a top Black coaching candidate, but rather a top

He’s a coach who had a shot, wasn’t great at it, and set about over

This happened Thursday, at the conclusion of the Chargers-Cowboys joint practice

I went down and took a few photos, and a couple videos, when a ball boy approached

Herbert went at this specific route for 12, 15, 18 minutes, throwing to a couple of camp receivers, time after

Then he came off the field, did a scheduled session with the news media, and walked over

I wondered about all the extra throws, and the wear on his arm

I think practice is a time to let it go and go onto the next one

After practice is where if I need to focus on something, I need to work through something,

I place the ball where I want to, and work on that throw a few times

Plenty of strength training, ice, all the stuff that I need to so I’m able to

I would hate going into this weekend knowing maybe I didn’t throw as well as I

Driving away that day, I thought: There’s a reason this guy’s thrown for 9,300-some yards

Teams I’ve seen, and camps I’ve visited, compartmentalized:

Five things: I was in camp on Thursday, the day the Derwin James deal got done

He’ll play all over the back seven of a better defense … The Chargers allowed a ghoulish 4

So, it is fitting that the last play from scrimmage in the last game of the year

Thus the off-season importing of defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson

He’s 31, coming off missing 10 games with a foot injury his last season in Chicago

“I really hope people believe that,” Mack said to me, “so I can go out there and

” If Mack hadn’t missed those 10 games, my bet is the Chargers never would have gotten him

It might have required the 17th pick, which the Chargers used on guard Zion Johnson, who they

” Brandon Staley broke into the NFL on Vic Fangio’s defensive staff in Chicago in 2017 and coached

Many days in training camp, Bosa and Mack have gone off to the side and worked on

“You talk about two guys still learning the game and wanting to play it at a high

We kinda go back and forth all day … what moves to use on later downs versus earlier

What I’ll remember: Something you’ll see next week in this space

) Meeting coach Brandon Staley at his home in San Juan Capistrano for a ride to work

Five things: Shaquille (nee Darius) Leonard, the centerpiece of the defense, may or may not be ready

He had a nagging calf injury throughout the offseason that was eventually diagnosed as a back injury

in training camp, playing the mental game so he’ll be ready when the physical games begin

“You know what he told me? ‘Frank, my arm is so much stronger than it was back

Nick led the Eagles to the Super Bowl stunner over New England and when, telling almost no

But he made a dumb play on his first snap against the Lions and wasn’t impressive

” First catch of the day Saturday—a drag route across the shallow middle, and he bulled for

Ryan played 14 years in Atlanta, and you’d think a guy who played 14 years with some playoff

Ryan’s not one of these guys who’s big into I-told-you-so, but you can bet he’

What I’ll remember: Lunch with Reich on Friday near the Colts’ camp complex north of the

In five years—but you play the hand you’re dealt in this business

Now with Matt, I definitely don’t think it’s only one year

Five things: There’s just more of a positive vibe around this camp than I remember in

The players had been tired of what many felt was Mike Zimmer’s negative approach, and that

Not that we’re going to duplicate everything that happened in L

The biggest area of need: a run defense makeover after the Vikes allowed a putrid 4

A 307-pound nose man, Harrison Phillips, came from Buffalo in free-agency to steady the front

He runs such beautiful, effortless routes, with almost perfect body control

Now, when I talked to Cousins, he chafed a bit at the suggestions that he wasn’t

I think the actual statistics would suggest that we’re doing that

He had 20 completions thrown at least 30 yards downfield, ninth in the league, and two receivers—Jefferson and

Playing for O’Connell is going to be interesting to watch, at least as far as pushing

“That wasn’t a stat we were even talking about,” O’Connell said

It could be one or two plays a game—maybe a play’s been set up for

He said it: Adam Thielen on the unpredictability of the Kevin O’Connell offense: “What’s cool

But we all see that it could be on any play, and to any of us

“Kaden,” Coach said to his antsy son, “I promise you’ll get your pizza

FMIA: You’ve said all the right things, but doesn’t some voice deep inside you say,

Ryan: “You know, it’s one of those things, when you’re going through it, it hurts

You wake up every day for a decade and a half and you’re giving it everything

It’s a reminder that there’s a harsh reality to this business

I feel like I’ve always been somewhat empathetic to guys going through that, but certainly you

I really do feel fortunate that I’ve only had to do it once, when that’s

” If Tom Brady can leave New England, if Peyton Manning can leave the Colts … it’s part

Ryan: “I would hope six-and-done! My mindset is not for one year

It’s not just a handful of new guys coming in, as I dealt with every year

You feel like you’re making new friends, getting a feel for the city and going around

Then there’s an added challenge of learning players on the field that when you’ve played

But for me this year, there was a ton of discovery in May and June and really

“We don’t even really look at it as going for back to back

It’s being the best version of the 2022 Rams that we can possibly be

Everybody’s got the goal of trying to be able to win a championship

There’s too many good coaches and players around the league that adjust and adapt

— Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who represented the plaintiffs in the case against Deshaun Watson

“You feel like a zoo animal sometimes when people are just looking at you and taking pictures;

— Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, on his loss of privacy, to Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated in Orr’

That’s the reason why I did it and I think that everyone can continue to help

— Tampa Bay defensive end Carl Nassib, who came out last year as gay, after signing with the

I’ve had too many of the ‘no’ phone calls, and to get this with the ‘yes’

New Tennessee wide receiver Robert Woods, on the experience of missing a Super Bowl victory because of

Having that Super Bowl experience and losing was a total … I’m doing everything in my power

Really, I remember just coaching him up and then he came back in the play and he

I was like, I’m getting a ring too, so I’m making sure everybody knows what

I remember [Kendall Blanton], one of our tight ends, had his shoulder banged up

After the Super Bowl, when the confetti’s coming down, the parade, when we get our rings –

California notes of the week, with a few bonus items from the Midwest:

With some smoke to the left, off route 118 headed east before going south to Orange County

A few hundred yards to the side of the water-drop, there are six or eight firefighters digging

on Tuesday morning, with an iPhone propped up by a kettlebell, AirPods in the ears … that was

Thinnish crust, great puffy edge crust, not overloaded with cheese, perfect tomato sauce with a touch of

No non-stop redeyes, so I redeyed to Cincinnati on Delta, landed at 6:35 a

, picked up a rental car, drove the one-hour, 55-minutes to downtown Indy, lucked into early check-in, and

, to downtown Indianapolis, you go from Kentucky to Indiana to Ohio to Indiana on I-275 and I-74

No non-stop flights, which seemed odd, either Saturday evening or Sunday morning

Didn’t want to risk one of the smaller connecting flights getting cancelled, so I drove it

Saturday, post-Lions-Colts, and drove the first 173 miles to a Renaissance in Westerville, on the northeast outskirts of

4, it will have been 23 months—and exactly 100 weeks—since he last played a football game

On Tuesday, when the Cowboys had to travel from Ventura County, an hour north of Los Angeles,

, for practices Wednesday and Thursday and a game at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles Saturday, they decided

McCarthy grew up in Pittsburgh and had taken streetcars around the city and area before

We probably don’t pay enough attention to scheduling when analyzing a team’s prospects for the

The other three games match a team against foes that finished in a like position in the

The crossover games were a big factor in the NFC West race last year

In 2021, Seattle was coming off a first-place division finish, and San Francisco was coming off finishing last

It’s not the best example, because, in retrospect, there’s not a huge difference in quality

Looking at three divisions this season that could be affected by the schedules faced by returning first-

The Bengals will learn late this season all about the price of 2021 success

One week ago today, as Cowboys played a preseason game, so did two 9-and-under teams in Dallas

Important story by longtime football journalist and columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor about the unconscionable murder of a Texas

They still stand by the fact that they're denying all of this

So much for Jimmy Haslam's statement that Watson is "remorseful

Michael David Smith is the managing editor of Pro Football Talk

Now, @SteveHartmanCBS goes On The Road to reunite the two for the first time since that incident

I mean, they’re also the SB favorites when they have to play against starters

Aaron Schatz, the Football Outsiders czar, commenting astutely as always

Pierce writes for Esquire and Tweets on all things having to do with the world, and I

com is really not that old but he is most definitely a get-off-my-lawn guy

Eleven games? Time to come back for the Houston game? Ratings win … $5 million for victims, with $2 million

And the apology that turned into a declaration of innocence? The greatest con of all

You live in Paris? From Francesco Segoni, of Paris, France: “I agree with you (and Deion Sanders):

As the rules and style of play change from decade to decade, stats follow suit

Also, we need to disregard Pro Bowls completely – the voting is totally bogus

All I can say is, how did you get so smart about the NFL and the Pro

I am baffled that year after year, the committee continues to overlook Marshall as a finalist for

Klecko, who moved from RDE to NT, played 140 games and had 78 sacks and nine forced fumbles

I do know that many people on the full committee give great heft to Super Bowl titles

The Vikings never won one with the Purple People Eaters, and two of the four defensive linemen

Klecko gets rave reviews from the great players he played against, most notably Dwight Stephenson, and made

People are working, just not from their offices in huge buildings that require them to drive, pay

I put in more time now from the house because I don’t have to commute

And this may just be the beginning of the evolution of cities, where experts will have to

I have done it for almost all of my 42 years in the American work force

I have never been in favor of putting Pat Tillman in the Hall of Fame because of

What makes Tillman’s service any more deserving of note, other than recency bias? (And, knowing Tillman

) I don’t even think the number of an exceedingly honorable player should be retired

He was an all-pro tackle for the Giants in 1943 and desperately wanted to serve in World War

He was a second lieutenant, stationed in France, scouting enemy lines in late January 1945

He was killed searching for them, and buried in a French cemetery with many of his military

I don’t think retiring one of their numbers is the way to go

From Chris VanDagna, of Houston: “Your articles have been a Monday morning staple for the majority of

Almost all major energy companies employ a 9/80 schedule, where half of the company is off every other

And Davis Mills is correct: The Texans are going to shock the NFL

I see a bright future for them and potentially a 7-10 season this year

Also did not go to Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Carolina, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Miami, Detroit and Arizona

In their place: The league should televise the joint practices more and more teams have now

You might say, Who’d watch a joint practice on TV? I don’t know

I do know it’s an insult to ticket-buyers to pay to watch backups when two days

I think it might be time to worry about the Tampa Bay offense

I think that’s a fascinating media deal by the Big Ten, giving the conference the best

) And they did it without the power of ESPN, going with Fox, CBS and NBC for an

Even without ESPN, the Big Ten’s new set of partners will provide a powerhouse lineup of

It will start with Fox’s “Big Noon Saturday” at noon ET, followed by CBS’ 3:30 p

The Fox-CBS-NBC triumvirate will provide the Big Ten with an NFL-like lineup of games on over-the-air TV

“To capture the hearts and minds and the fan avidity, I think you’ve got to make

So, I always had this visual, especially coming out of the NFL, that we’d have partners

And then we’d have some special events, like two games on Black Friday

ET, is precisely what the NFL did, right down to NBC now owning the prime-time football windows

I think, and I don’t really know anything about this, that there is almost always a

Do you think Aaron Rodgers would be calling out stiffs who weren’t going to make the

I think the Football Story of the Week is Kevin Clark of The Ringer on the deep-passing

Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan told Clark there’s a point in every game when Burrow says: “I

I like the fact he got his receivers and Callahan to tell the tales too

I think, apropos of nothing, I admire Andrew Luck walking away from football on his terms, staying

It’s so cool he has disappeared and there aren’t 16 rumors a week about him

Pickett still needs to significantly outplay Mitchell Trubisky, but it’s helpful that is two games out

com and NFL Network, and so obviously she understands she can push the envelope, but not napalm

But she understands the outrage of the Deshaun Watson ruling and of the appeal and of the

This was the first graf of her story analyzing the settlement:

Radio Story of the Week: Rachel Treisman of National Public Radio with a gem: “A man who

Scary Story of the Week: Indiana obstetricians and gynecologists consider fleeing the state because of fear of

YOUSRY: A survey of residents and fellows across all specialties at the hospital found that 80% of the

I mean, they signed up to provide – I’m sorry – they signed up to provide comprehensive health

Imagine people making choices about where to live and raise families, and learning that in some places

The Texans PR staff features a Keurig cup brewing system with a wide variety of coffees, from

Never thought I’d have a Starbucks French Roast coffee in an NFL press box, but here

Thanks to the Texans for being considerate of caffeine snobs

But his column about the Lakers re-signing LeBron James really surprised me

Would they be better not signing LeBron? How possibly would they?

Training Camp Road Song: “Times Like These,” a Covid song with some remote artists combining as the

” Man, Taylor Swift slays people who have crossed her, and so literately

We pulled into her mother’s driveway on Saturday and found a line of American flags planted

We rallied around baseball games, played soccer, and watched football on the weekends

On Saturday, as we drove south on Interstate-5, I asked my wife what she and her mother

“There wasn’t a lot of time for going and doing things,” my wife said

FMIA used to be MMQB, but I left that for Albert Breer at The MMQB, and my

One example that you’ll see next week in this space: Annie and I agreed to meet

at his home 25 minutes away from my hotel and the Chargers’ facility

Annie didn’t have a Go Pro (the portable mini-cam used on dashboards in things like Comedians

We were to meet at the Chargers facility in Costa Mesa to drop one car and take

They drive, they arrange, they sacrifice personal lives, they cut sleep short

By the end of the conversation, you’ll think you can’t live without them

Anyway, at this point in my life I appreciate young people who love the work and who