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Patrick Mahomes offered free ketchup for life if he throws record 57 TDs


Patrick Mahomes might have ketchup for life if he’s able to set a single-season record with 57 touchdown passes this season.

Heinz Ketchup, which has used “57 varieties” in its advertising, tweeted the promise to Mahomes on Thursday after the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback told ESPN’s Seth Wickersham of his love of the condiment, even putting it on steak.

ESPN has reached out to Heinz for further comment.

Mahomes has 31 touchdown passes this season, already setting the Chiefs’ single-season franchise record through 10 games. Peyton Manning holds the NFL’s single-season record for touchdown passes with 55 in the 2013 season.

Mahomes told reporters Thursday that he’d be willing to share the wealth if he were to receive ketchup for life.

“I’m not opposed to it,” he said, when asked if he’d want ketchup for life. “If it happens and I get ketchup for life, I’ll be sure to share it with some of the offensive linemen.”

Mahomes also said Thursday that he likes to put ketchup on another favorite dish when asked about putting ketchup on steak.

“I don’t think it’s that weird but I put it on my macaroni and cheese. People seem to think that’s a weird thing. Some people think that’s disgusting but it’s good to me,” he said.

ESPN’s Adam Teicher contributed to this report.





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Pittsburgh Steelers attend funeral for brothers killed in Tree of Life Synagogue shooting


Two buses of Steelers players and staff attended the joint funeral on Tuesday for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, who were killed in the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting on Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Michele Rosenthal, the sister of the two victims, used to be the Steelers’ community relations manager. Several players mentioned Rosenthal by name after the Steelers’ 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

“It was tough, it was crazy tough, especially with Michele and the closeness we have with her,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We’re thankful for the victory but we all understand, there are bigger things, there’s life. I’m glad we could gift people three hours with a break.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Sunday said he was “a member of the Squirrel Hill community” and that “words cannot express how we feel.”

More than 1,000 people poured into Rodef Shalom — one of Pittsburgh’s largest synagogues — to mourn the two intellectually disabled brothers who were killed in the massacre that left 11 dead in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. Members of the team took two buses to the funeral, and the Steelers moved Tomlin’s weekly news conference from noon to 1 p.m. so that he could attend.

The Rosenthal family had asked media and the public to respect their privacy at the Rodef Shalom Temple as they mourned the passing of their loved ones.

The Steelers held a moment of silence before Sunday’s game, and Tomlin addressed the tragedy during a Saturday night meeting with his team. In pregame warm-ups, defensive end Cam Heyward wore a T-shirt featuring a heart around the word “Pittsburgh.” “Our hearts are heavy, but we must stand against anti-Semitism and hate crimes of any nature and come together to preserve our values and our community,” said team president Art Rooney II in a statement issued Sunday morning.

Prior to Tuesday night’s 6-3 loss to the visiting Islanders, the Penguins observed 11 seconds of silence for the 11 killed in the shooting. Three members of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh stood with Jeff Jimerson as he sang the national anthem and the puck drop featured Pittsburgh’s police chief, its public safety director and two first responders, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Prior to the game, the Penguins collected money at all three gates and the team’s foundation donated $25,000 apiece to the Jewish Federation and to a fund established to benefit police officers injured in the shooting. On Monday, the team held a blood drive.

Penguins players wore “Stronger Than Hate” patches and their sweaters will be auctioned after the game. The team is also donating its share of the 50/50 raffle.

Sidney Crosby, who scored late in the first period to forge a 2-2 tie after the Panthers fell behind 2-0, said the victims were on his mind.

“We wanted to go out there and play for them,” Crosby said. “You try to recognize that and play as hard as you can to show your appreciation. Words are one thing, but you try to go out there and follow it up the same.”

Crosby had hoped for a better result.

“We had a lot of different emotions going through our minds to start, but the bottom line is that we wanted to find a way to get a win for a lot of reasons,” Crosby said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”

Information from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and The Associated was used in this report.





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How saving a life shaped Christian McCaffrey’s approach to 2018 – Carolina Panthers Blog


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Dan Smoker Sr. hasn’t met Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.

At least, not consciously.

Smoker, 72, doesn’t remember how McCaffrey and his friends helped save Smoker’s life after a 20-foot fall during a March hike in Castle Rock, Colorado. He doesn’t remember that McCaffrey and his family came to see him the next day at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Denver.

He doesn’t remember anything about what happened for seven days after the fall because he was on a ventilator in critical but stable condition.

McCaffrey remembers everything about that day.

The accident had such a profound impact on the eighth pick of the 2017 draft that it is carrying over onto the football field as he prepares for his second NFL season.

He has made plans to pay for Smoker, who is back home in Cincinnati after two months of rehab in Colorado, and his family to attend Carolina’s Sept. 23 game against the Bengals at Bank of America Stadium.

“You see something like that, you definitely have a better appreciation for life, and you take every moment in and can’t take anything for granted,” McCaffrey said before the Panthers departed for their last break before training camp. “We had a little decompression time after that where we just looked at life, and you realize it can really be gone in a split second, and you have to appreciate every single moment.”

What happened on that hike made such an impression on McCaffrey that he has shared it with running backs coach Jim Skipper and teammates, and he hasn’t hesitated to say it’s the most unusual thing that has happened during an offseason in which he got a new offensive coordinator and is adjusting to a new scheme.

“It does remind you how fickle life can be,” Skipper said. “There ain’t no guarantee of tomorrow.”

Not that McCaffrey has worked any harder this offseason than last because of the accident. According to coaches and teammates throughout his career, McCaffrey always gives maximum effort. But he is practicing with more of a purpose than ever, in part because of the accident and in part because he’s determined to meet expectations from a year ago that he fell short of in terms of being the most dynamic back in his draft class.

The former Stanford star is practicing with more confidence after a full offseason with the team, unlike a year ago, when he missed offseason workouts because of a rule that prohibits a rookie from joining a team before his college semester ends.

“He sees everything clearly,” Skipper said. “He sees the defense. He knows the protections. So all it’s done is elevate his game because he can play quicker.”

‘New team, new me’

Jonathan Stewart set the bar high for McCaffrey early in training camp a year ago.

“He’s pretty unstoppable as far as coming out of the backfield and running routes,” the Pro Bowl running back said. “I can tell you now there’s not going to be anybody in this league that can cover him one-on-one. He’s a special player.”

McCaffrey was special in that he led the Panthers in receptions, with 80 for 651 yards and five touchdowns. But because Stewart remained the featured back and injuries at receiver forced McCaffrey to play a bigger role in the slot, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound back was limited to 435 yards rushing on 117 carries.

Fellow rookie backs Alvin Kamara (Saints), Kareem Hunt (Chiefs) and Leonard Fournette (Jaguars) overshadowed him during the 2017 season. Hunt and Fournette each topped 1,000 yards rushing. Kamara and Hunt were Co-Offensive Rookies of the Year.

“He didn’t have a great year,” Skipper said. “He didn’t have a bad one, either.”

The Panthers expect more out of McCaffrey in 2018. Stewart was released, elevating McCaffrey to the featured back role, even though former Denver standout C.J. Anderson was signed in free agency.

Coach Ron Rivera said there’s no reason McCaffrey can’t reach 200 carries, referring to how new offensive coordinator Norv Turner has used featured backs in the past.

Skipper wouldn’t put a number on McCaffrey’s carries. He also wouldn’t limit the expectations.

“All you want with football is put the ball in the playmakers’ hands,” he said. “So in some kind of way, he’s going to get his touches.”

The confidence he saw in McCaffrey throughout offseason workouts makes Skipper more confident that McCaffrey can be the every-down back he was at Stanford, where in 2015 he broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA single-season record for all-purpose yardage (3,250). Skipper doesn’t see Turner overloading McCaffrey with responsibilities as sometimes happened a year ago.

“When he got here, he was rushing through everything,” said Skipper, reminding again that McCaffrey missed most of organized team activities in 2017. “He never relaxed because everything was boom, boom, boom, boom. It was all new on him.

“Now he can catch his breath. He’s seeing things clearer, he’s playing faster, he’s playing with more confidence. All he has to do is carry it over and have a little more success once we start preseason, and it’ll go from there.”

McCaffrey, in typical fashion, brushed off how he will do with an expanded role.

“Not up to me, man,” he said. “I just show up every day. Everybody on the team wants the ball as much as possible, but that’s football. You should want to compete. We’re here to win football games, so whatever that means, whatever that takes, that’s what we’re going to do.”

McCaffrey also isn’t looking back at his rookie season because he has a new coordinator and a lot of new weapons around him.

“I watched all the film from last year to see what I can improve on,” he said. “I’ve moved on. It’s a new team, new me.”

Great expectations

Smoker has watched most of McCaffrey’s interviews since his accident. He has been impressed by what he has seen and heard.

“I didn’t even know who Christian was before this, so I’ve learned a lot about him,” he said. “He’s somebody with very high integrity, and I look forward to meeting him.”

Smoker remains in physical therapy, but he has come a long way. He has been out of a wheelchair for four weeks and, after several weeks of working with a walker, can get around with a cane now.

He can’t wait until September to walk up to McCaffrey in Charlotte and personally thank him for being so fast to call 911 and help stabilize him after the accident.

The longtime Bengals fan might even pull for the Panthers. He’ll definitely pull for McCaffrey.

“The Bengals haven’t been doing well the last two or three years,” Smoker said with a laugh. “They better shape up, or I might have to start rooting for the Panthers. I’ll for sure be rooting for Christian and anything he does.”

Expectations for McCaffrey will be higher than ever. Skipper compares the running back to former New York Giants Pro Bowler Tiki Barber, whose 2,390 total yards in 2005 were the second most by a running back in a season in NFL history.

“Listen, he’s a good football player, and good things are going to happen to him,” Skipper said. “The more he touches that ball, the more plays he’ll start making. So it’s a natural progression to take the next step, and he’s right on cue with that.”

Smoker is thankful that McCaffrey and his friends were right on cue with their response to his fall. He isn’t surprised the accident has had a profound impact on the 22-year-old because it has also had a profound impact on him.

“It just makes me very thankful every day,” Smoker said. “I’m a strong Christian. It wasn’t a coincidence [McCaffrey] and the people were there at the time I fell.”



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Patriots coaches share life lessons learned from their mothers – New England Patriots Blog


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. On Mother’s Day, Patriots assistant coaches share the one lesson they’ve learned from their mom that stands out to them most:

  • Steve Belichick (safeties): “I’ve learned a ton from my mother [Debby]; I’m definitely a momma’s boy. With my dad working a lot, I grew up very close with my mother. She always preached to me, the golden rule in our house was ‘Treat others as you want to be treated.’ It’s got me a long way. Hard to do sometimes, but I definitely appreciate it and love my mother for teaching me that.”

  • Brian Flores (linebackers): “My mother [Maria] is the toughest person I know. She’s battling cancer now. It’s like it doesn’t faze her at all; she just gets up every day and says ‘I’m beating this.’ She’s as tough as they come, and that’s the one thing I feel like I’ve taken from her, and has helped me in all walks of life — personally, professionally.”

  • Ivan Fears (running backs): “If I were to say anything that [my late] mom [Martha] left us, or mom gave us, it’s that family was everything. That’s the only thing we had, growing up poor. Family was everything.”

  • Chad O’Shea (wide receivers): “I’d say most of the lessons I’ve learned in life have been from my [late] mother [Annette]. I grew up in a household where my dad, like [many] coaches, was away from the house a lot of the time, especially during the football season. Obviously, she was the one that was there, and I think the most valuable lesson I learned was mental toughness. Throughout her life, she was very mentally tough. I saw it on a daily basis and it’s one I talk to a lot of our players about, and I try to live by.”

  • Josh Boyer (cornerbacks): “The main thing I learned from my mother [Rachelle] is hard work and her determination to do the right thing. My mother was 18 when she had me. She was working multiple jobs up to the day I was born. She put herself through college with two young kids. She graduated, and moved on to a management position, and always took my sister and me to all our sporting events. She was a great example of how hard work pays off.”

  • Nick Caley (tight ends): “My mother [Patty] has a big heart, she’s a loving human being, and always wore her heart on her sleeve, and always would do anything for my three sisters, myself, my father and or extended family. That’s one thing I take — being very unselfish and wanting to extend to everybody.”

  • Brendan Daly (defensive line): “I’m fortunate that my mother [Anne] is coming to town this weekend, so I’ll get to spend some time with her. What I took from her was an unbelievable work ethic, an unbelievable attention to detail and planning. She is a phenomenal advance planner, looking into the future — long-term, short-term and detail-oriented. It’s been great for me in my life.”

  • Joe Judge (special teams): “I definitely learned mental toughness from my mother [Denise]. There were a lot of times growing up when things weren’t the best, but she never let us as children know that maybe our family wasn’t in the position that maybe we thought we were. Every day, she worked as hard as she could for us, to give us a better opportunity than she had.”

2. One leftover from an entertaining Friday media session with veteran Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia: He’s never coached an offensive lineman as big as 6-foot-8 Trent Brown, whom he said weighs 380 pounds. Brown was listed at 355 on the 49ers’ roster last season, although rosters are seldom updated when a player’s weight fluctuates. One recent example of that in New England was with defensive tackle Alan Branch.

3. The best part of Scarnecchia’s meeting with reporters? When asked about the importance of arm length for offensive tackles — a hot topic with first-round draft pick Isaiah Wynn not fitting the prototype at the position (6-foot-2 6/8 and 33 3/8 arm length) — he used a reporter as a blocking dummy and explained why “that s— is way overrated.” The 70-year-old Scarnecchia then pointed out that longtime Patriots tackle Matt Light (2001-2011), a finalist for the Patriots Hall of Fame this year, had 33-inch arm length.

4. A trickle-down effect of the Patriots drafting LSU’s Danny Etling in the seventh round is that I believe it effectively ends the team’s exploration into Johnny Manziel. In recent months, it’s safe to say the team did its due diligence on Manziel, at one point even considering an additional meeting and/or workout with him outside of the University of San Diego pro day that he had participated in (with a Patriots scout among those in attendance) before plans changed. The Patriots usually carry three quarterbacks and currently have Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Etling on the roster.

5. Fears, the Patriots running backs coach, said one of the things that stood out to him scouting first-round pick Sony Michel was how when Georgia wanted to do something with a back at the end of the game, Michel usually got the ball. Fears referred to Michel as a “playmaker,” before noting his size (5-foot-10 5/8, 214 pounds) and ability to gain yards in different ways: “He’s a very physical guy for a guy that’s very good in the open field. Most of those guys are scat-back guys [but] he has some stout to him. He’s not a little guy. He’s broad-shouldered. He’s a size player that can pound it away and can make things happen in the open space.”

6. Did You Know: Former Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain (1998-2004), who gave Tom Brady some fits opposite Sam Madison early in Brady’s career, just finished his first year as head coach at Michel’s alma mater, American Heritage High School. When Michel played at American Heritage, one of the head coaches he played for was former Dolphins offensive lineman Jeff Dellenbach.

7. Ben Roethlisberger’s remarks about being surprised that the Steelers drafted quarterback Mason Rudolph — “I thought that maybe in the third round, you can get some really good football players that can help this team now” — reflected the narrow-minded view of a player and also had a natural tie-in to the Patriots’ decision to select quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 draft. The Garoppolo pick is a good example to highlight to Roethlisbeger how an ascending backup truly can help the team right now. Among other things, Garoppolo pushed Tom Brady to a higher level from 2014 to 2017, the Patriots won two Super Bowls in his time with the team, and it’s not a stretch to say that his work in practice raised everyone else’s level around him. Bill Belichick once said the way Garoppolo ran practice was similar to Brady.

8. No surprise, but Patriots special-teams coach Joe Judge sounds optimistic about what Cordarrelle Patterson might bring to the team as a kickoff returner. What has stood out to Judge most? “He comes to work with a good energy and enthusiasm and he’s definitely buying in to what we’re doing,” he said, while also cautioning that the on-field work the team has done at this point has been limited.

9. Some Rutgers-based fun from the Patriots jersey-numbers department:

  • After five years, Patriots safety Duron Harmon has switched from No. 30 to No. 21, which was the number his close friend/teammate Devin McCourty wore at their alma mater, Rutgers …

  • In giving up 30, Harmon ensured that Rutgers alum Jason McCourty, in his first year with the team, would be able to wear the number he’s had over his 10-year NFL career …

  • But before switching to 30 in the NFL, Jason McCourty wore No. 32 at Rutgers, which is what his brother Devin has donned with the Patriots since being selected by them in the 2010 first round.

10. Voting for this year’s Patriots Hall of Fame inductee ends Monday, with Matt Light, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel the three finalists. Only one gets in via the fan vote. When I recently asked longtime Patriots receiver Deion Branch (a teammate of all three) what he thought, his answer reflected a theme I’ve heard from many this year: How do you possibly choose just one? Branch relayed that all three are worthy, so it’s more a matter of “when” than “if.”



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Life after Joe Namath: 40 years of bad luck for New York Jets – New York Jets Blog


Ken O’Brien was in sixth grade, circa 1972, when he attended his first New York Jets practice. He was in from California on a family vacation, and his four uncles — all single, all New York City police officers — were charged with showing him a good time one summer afternoon. So they drove out to the Jets’ training camp at Hofstra University on Long Island and young Ken wound up in the players’ parking lot, sitting on a shiny new Cadillac.

“Nobody was going to mess with us because we had four badges with us,” O’Brien recalled.

But in this particular precinct, NYPD Blue was outranked by NYQB Green, who happened to be the owner of the Cadillac:

It was legendary quarterback Joe Namath, who came out to his car, introduced himself and exchanged pleasantries with the boy and his uncles. This was one of those cosmic moments, when present and future intersect. Eleven years later, the boy would be anointed the second full-time successor to the Namath throne. We’ll call him A.N. (After Namath) II.

“That, to me, shows there’s an energy out there that touches us all,” Namath said the other day, channeling his inner 1960s as he recalled the chance meeting with O’Brien.

In some way, Namath has touched many of the men who have succeeded him, reaching down from his pedestal to offer wisdom and friendship. Unfortunately for the Jets and their tortured fan base, none of them have reached his level. Forty-two years after Namath’s last game with the Jets — and almost 50 years after he delivered their only Super Bowl title — the search continues for a franchise quarterback.

Many of Namath’s successors enjoyed varying degrees of success, and a few came tantalizingly close to the big prize only to get their hearts crushed into tiny pieces. (A couple of shoulders, a calf, an Achilles tendon and a jaw were damaged along the way, too). Twelve quarterbacks have held the job on a full-time basis in the post-Namath era — behold, the Namath 12 — but only four produced a winning record, never mind a championship.

“I’ll tell you why I think it is,” Namath said of the perpetual search. “Luck is involved, of course, just like with most things in life. I’m quoting Don Shula now: He said, ‘Luck is involved in football. When you don’t have a good quarterback, it’s a bad luck.'”

The franchise with the worst quarterback luck this side of the Cleveland Browns will try again Thursday. At approximately 8:30 p.m., the Jets will submit a draft card with the name of a quarterback, instantly turning that young man into A.N. XIII.

Will he be able to overcome nearly five decades of bad karma? Will the curse get him? Is it really a curse? Why can’t the Jets get it right?

Let’s look back — and forward — through the eyes of six men who played the position for the Jets: Namath, O’Brien, Boomer Esiason, Neil O’Donnell, Vinny Testaverde and Chad Pennington:

***

It started with Richard Todd. He was a first-round pick in 1976, out of Namath’s alma mater, Alabama. He got the Jets to the 1982 AFC Championship Game, but his career died with five interceptions in the Miami mud.

The Jets used first-round picks on O’Brien (1983), Pennington (2000) and Mark Sanchez (2009), and second-round picks on Browning Nagle (1992) and Geno Smith (2013). They made big trades for Esiason (1993) and Brett Favre (2008), and a small trade for Ryan Fitzpatrick (2015). They spent huge money on a free agent, Neil O’Donnell (1996), who was the Kirk Cousins of his era. They also picked up castoffs, Vinny Testaverde (1998) and Josh McCown (2017).

There’s your Namath 12.

ESIASON (1993-1995, record: 15-27): “Me, Testaverde, Neil O’Donnell, Favre … we were all mercenaries. And mercenaries aren’t the answer for the quarterback position. You need someone like Eli Manning with the Giants. The Jets have to find that guy. Chad was the closest to being that guy, but he couldn’t get past the shoulder injuries and they fell in love with Brett Favre. Kenny O’Brien was in a good spot and had some success, but it all kind of fizzled.”

PENNINGTON (2000-2007, record: 32-29): “I mean, shoot, if you think you’re going to be like Broadway Joe, you’re fooling yourself. But I did have that desire to be that stability and create a stable legacy. I never got hurt in college; I never had any major issues. I had that desire to bring that … because you always hear from long-suffering Jets fans, their highs and lows. As a player, you’d like to sustain those highs and keep it stable and produce a winning product year after year.”

NAMATH: “Testaverde, I liked him. Chad Pennington established himself. His best years were ahead of him when we let him go. Ken O’Brien had some of the darndest days. Wesley Walker was a big help, too. So was Mickey Shuler. There were some players. My buddy Richard Todd, I know people talk about that Mud Bowl down in Miami, but Richard was pretty darn good. They were good people and good citizens.”

TESTAVERDE (1998-2005, record: 35-26): “Sanchez kind of had it going a little bit. They had the defense going, the offense was good enough to get them where they got to [two straight AFC title games], and they just couldn’t make the next step. From there, things started to unravel a little bit.”

O’BRIEN (1983-1992, record: 50-55-1): “Pennington and Sanchez I thought were really good players. I think it was, at times, dysfunctional. No, that’s not the right word. I mean ‘dysfunctional’ in terms of what you were trying to get accomplished. I don’t think the direction was extremely clear and you become a product of that.”

O’DONNELL (1996-1997, record: 8-12): “Coming back to New York was intriguing because I’m from that area, and I also thought I could really help the team by bringing a winning tradition into that locker room due to the fact that I came from Pittsburgh, where you were expected to win. It was exciting, but the change was hard, I’ll be honest with you — the locker-room change, the environment change. We were at Hofstra, which was horrible. I never thought it would affect me, but every game was like an away game. It was just such a hard burden to change the whole culture and environment of winning.”

***

It’s inevitable. At some point, they experience that “Same Old Jets” moment, which can emerge in the form of heartbreak or injury.

In 2013, Sanchez, battling Smith for the starting job, was inserted into the fourth quarter of a preseason game and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He never played again for the Jets. In 2003, Pennington broke his left wrist in the preseason and missed six games. Of all the summertime injuries, nothing tops Smith’s broken jaw. He was punched in the face during a locker room dispute with a teammate, ultimately costing him the starting job and forever altering his career.

O’DONNELL: “You remember my moment, don’t you? I blew out my calf in pregame warmups. I was warming up in the end zone and there was so much paint on the letters. Plus, it was wet that day. I drop back and I said to Wayne [Chrebet], ‘I think I just blew out my calf muscle or my Achilles.’ He said, ‘What? Get out of here.’ I said, ‘Dude, I’m not kidding. Somehow, get me over to the tunnel, I’ve got to get out of here.’ When something happens like that, it’s like, wow, holy cow.”

TESTAVERDE: “When I look back at my career with the Jets, I don’t look back at the Achilles’ injury (in the 1999 opener). I go back to the game in Denver and what could’ve been. That, to me, is my moment. It’s hard to get over. It’s the AFC Championship Game we should’ve won. Could’ve won, put it that way. That’s the low moment for me. Injuries are going to happen, whether you’re young, old or anywhere in between, but a shot at the Super Bowl doesn’t come along that often.”

ESIASON: “I went through three coaches in three years, a general manager [Dick Steinberg] who died and an owner who was fed up. I lived through all aspects of what the Jets have been. I loved it, with the exception of the last year [1995], when I took a vicious blow to the head. Everything changed that year. It was a matter of survival and I wasn’t young enough and didn’t have the energy to deal with all that crap.”

O’DONNELL: “If we win [the 1997 finale] in Detroit, when I was pulled, we’re in the playoffs. Remember that? If you go back and watch that tape, you know how we lost that game [a controversial halfback option pass intercepted in the end zone]. If that doesn’t happen, who knows if I’m not back in New York? See what I mean? If we go to the playoffs and make a little run, I still may be in New York those last couple of years.”

***

Counting temporary starters and injury replacements, a total of 30 quarterbacks have started at least one game in the post-Namath era — 13 draft picks and 17 veteran acquisitions. The only ones to win a playoff game are Sanchez, Pennington, Testaverde and Pat Ryan.

In talking to the former quarterbacks, three themes emerged as reasons for the lack of success: Poor scouting, bad luck and a lack of organizational stability. Since 1990, they’ve gone through nine head coaches and 13 offensive coordinators, including six in the past eight years.

As for bad luck, the Jets thought they had a trade worked out during the 1991 draft that would’ve allowed them to pick Favre, but it fell through at the last minute. Desperate for a young quarterback, they reached for Nagle, who flopped. In 1997, they owned the No. 1 overall pick, but Peyton Manning decided to stay in school. In 1983, their personnel people fell in love with O’Brien, picking him over future Hall of Famer Dan Marino.

O’BRIEN: “I wish we could’ve won 10 Super Bowls, but we didn’t. If I had to do it all over again, would I do anything different? Yeah, sure. Nothing specific, but when you’re older and more mature, you look at things differently. It didn’t work out all the time, but it was a great experience. I love New York and I love the fans. I’m proud of all of it.”

NAMATH: “I’m not pointing fingers. I’m just saying, have we been unlucky picking a quarterback? Well, we haven’t had the right eyes on the guys. We haven’t had the right communication with the guys. It’s bad luck to start with, but the rest? Who’s doing this? Who’s picking these guys? The 24-hour-a-day folks who have dedicated their lives to the job, fine, but if they’ve never played that position, they don’t know what the heck goes on between the ears in any given situation.”

PENNINGTON: “There’s no question that luck plays a role. If we’re going to sit here and say the Patriots knew Tom Brady would be their franchise guy, we’re all fooling ourselves. If that’s the case, we need to ask them to look in a crystal ball for all of us.”

ESIASON: “The last time the Jets were totally stable was when Bill Parcells was in charge. Since he left [in 2001], and since Bill Belichick resigned as HC of the NYJ, they’ve been a perpetual pinball machine, with different guys running the franchise. Who’s the GM? Who’s the head coach? Where’s the owner? Oh, right, he’s in Great Britain.”

NAMATH: “I’m not even going there.”

TESTAVERDE: “I wish a young Testaverde could’ve played for Parcells or a Parcells-type coach earlier in my career, to have that type of coach who holds everybody accountable on the football team. … It makes it tough for one individual when everybody is looking at him with great expectations. It’s almost a save-the-world mentality.”

PENNINGTON: “In today’s NFL, with the rate of turnover and the lack of patience with staffs and being able to build a program, it’s even harder to find a, quote-unquote, franchise guy even if he has the ability to be a franchise guy, because they’re not going to be patient enough with him and build a system around him. Everyone doesn’t consider Joe Flacco a franchise guy, but he’s been able to hold down that organization for 10 years. I think the Jets would take that.”

NAMATH: “New York is a challenge. Your focus can be broken in a lot of ways. The Big Apple, being the greatest city in the world, can catch a guy’s eye, can catch a guy’s ear, can take his mind off the function. It comes into play and you can’t run away from it. You should know what kind of guy you’re getting ahead of time.”

ESIASON: “They’d better get it right. For [GM] Mike Maccagnan, this is a defining moment. Can he find the long-term answer or will he show himself to be a guy incapable of making the right pick? If they blow it, they’ll go 3-13 and fire Todd Bowles, starting over again. It’s important they get the right guy in here, someone who can bring life to the franchise. Can they do it? [Pause.] Being realistic, I’d say the odds are very long.”



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Christian McCaffrey of Carolina Panthers credited with helping save man’s life


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Add saving lives to the list of talents for Carolina Panthers multifaceted running back Christian McCaffrey.

The eighth pick of the 2017 draft was hiking with family and friends in Castle Rock, Colorado, on Saturday when they witnessed 72-year-old Dan Smoker fall about 20 feet onto a rock.

McCaffrey immediately called 911 and then rushed with others in his group to help Smoker, who at the hospital was determined to have suffered a broken femur, pelvis and neck, fractured ribs and internal bleeding on the brain.

“I credit them with saving my dad’s life,” Smoker’s 13-year-old grandson, Eli, told Panthers.com on Tuesday.

McCaffrey was hiking with his brothers, Dylan and Max, and friends Michael Mann and Brooke Pettet when they walked up on the fall as it occurred.

“It felt like he was in the air for 10 seconds,” McCaffrey told the team website. “I had never seen anything quite like that in my life as far as the trauma and the sound. We were in shock.”

But not so much that they didn’t respond quickly. A fellow onlooker identified as Chris held Smoker’s head to keep him still. Mann performed chest compressions when Smoker stopped breathing.

“Everybody stepped up,” McCaffrey said. “I called 9-1-1, and it felt like an eternity. It felt like we were up there waiting for four hours. But I looked back at my call log and it took 11 minutes before the paramedics came. Amazing what those guys did.”

That McCaffrey and company were at Castle Rock was random. They were on the way to lunch when a member of the group suggested they go hike.

The next day McCaffrey, along with his mom, Lisa, and brothers went to the hospital to check on Smoker, who remains in critical but stable condition.

When they introduced themselves, Eli hadn’t figured out that McCaffrey was the star football player for the Panthers and the son of former Denver Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey.

“I can’t say I’d recognize Christian without his football gear on,” Eli told the website. “Around here, Valor Christian is a popular high school, and I knew that Ed McCaffrey had just taken over as head coach there. We were talking and they had mentioned that they went to Valor, and we were looking there because our son loves football as well.

“At that point, Lisa chimed in and said, ‘Well, we may have a contact.'”

McCaffrey, who led the Panthers with 80 catches this past season, has kept in touch with the Smokers since via text.

“Eli was such a trooper, man,” McCaffrey said. “I was traumatized, and I had no relation.”

Now they’re bonded by a moment none will forget.

“Truly a blessing that we turned the corner at that exact moment and we could be there for him,” McCaffrey said. “I don’t know what would have happened … We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time.”



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How school lunch with Nick Foles changed a child’s life – Philadelphia Eagles Blog


Four framed photographs hang on a wall at Garret and Lauren Chachere’s house outside New Orleans.

Three are typical — one of Lauren with her sons Garrett and Jackson, the second of their son Noah and, finally, Lauren with her bridesmaids on their wedding day. The fourth is atypical. Their son Grant standing next to Nick Foles in the front office of Grant’s elementary school.

The fourth photo was taken when Grant was in sixth grade and his dad, Garret, was an assistant football coach at the University of Arizona. Foles, who will lead the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday, played quarterback at the school from 2009-11.

Garret, who coached receivers for two seasons and running backs for the third, didn’t work directly with Foles, but knew him well enough. When Foles arrived in Tucson as a transfer from Michigan State, Garret had no idea what kind of person Foles was off the field.

He soon found out.

Life as the new kid

During a father-son conversation in early May 2011, Garret asked Grant how he was adjusting to his new school. As a football coach, Garret had moved his family around the country. Arizona was his eighth stop since his career began in 1992. Grant would spend a few years at each school before the family moved on to Garret’s next job.

Garret trod lightly when talking with his son, asking how Grant was adjusting and if he was making friends. Grant, nonchalantly, mentioned he had been eating lunch at school by himself.

“I was not happy with that,” said Garrett, who soon discovered his son was having trouble fitting in.

Grant, who had a stutter back then, was being picked on, teased and made fun of by his classmates. He knew it was hard for his classmates to understand him.

“People thought I was different from everybody else. … ‘Let’s go make fun of the guy that’s different,'” said Grant, now 18 and a college freshman.

In addition to his speech impediment, Grant said he was shy. Those issues, coupled with moving every few years, led to Grant having just a friend or two at school. Garret knew it was hard on Grant to keep moving schools. Just when his classmates would get to know him and his circle of friends would start to grow, the family would move.

In Tucson, Grant either ate by himself in the lunch room or in a classroom with a teacher who started looking out for him.

“I just thought it was kind of normal because I was doing that for a little while,” Grant said. “I only had maybe one or two friends. But sometimes I didn’t eat with them. I didn’t know who my true friends were. It was a big deal cause at the time, when you’re young, you see other people interacting with a bunch of people and they have a bunch of friends, and you have maybe one or two friends, maybe none at all, it’s really hard for you to process that.”

Helping his son

Garret knew something needed to be done, so he hatched a plan: He was going to have lunch with Grant at school on his birthday later that month. To make the experience even better, Garret decided to bring along one of his Arizona players. At the time, he was Arizona’s running backs coach, so he first asked one of his running backs if they’d join him but the player had a final exam and couldn’t make it.

Who he brought with him — and more importantly, who he told about his son’s situation — was a decision Garret wanted to make carefully. He had a strong relationship with Foles. Grant knew him. Why not ask the quarterback, Garret thought.

“Him coming to eat lunch with me actually taught me that no matter who you are, doing one nice thing for somebody can change their whole life.”

Grant Chachere, on his lunch with Eagles quarterback Nick Foles

This all took place at a time when when Foles’ star was shooting straight up. He threw for 3,191 yards and 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a junior in 2010. On top of all that, he was impossible to miss, standing 6-foot-6, with long, blond hair. He looked more like Shaggy Rogers, Grant said, than the short-haired, bespectacled Foles who has been in the spotlight all week at Super Bowl LII in Minnesota.

Garret called Foles.

When Foles answered, Garret began by saying he had a favor to ask. Details were, intentionally, held back. Foles wavered at first, saying he needed to study for an upcoming exam. Garret understood and told Foles not to worry about it. Then Foles asked what the favor was.

Garret explained everything — how Grant had a developmental disorder, how he was being bullied, how he ate lunch alone, how he planned to surprise Grant for his birthday, how he’d love it if Foles could join them.

Foles didn’t hesitate. He was in.

The big day

When Garret and Foles walked into Grant’s school that Friday, the buzz spread quickly. Autograph requests began as they waited in the front office. Teachers and administrators asked Foles to sign for their children — and for them. When they reached the cafeteria, the secret was out about Foles being at the school. But there was one problem: They couldn’t find Grant.

Everyone looked, and he was found eating lunch in a classroom with a teacher. By the time Grant and his visitors made it back to the lunch room, lunch was almost over.

“He comes out and he sees me and Nick, and so at that point, he’s kind of a little stunned,” Garret said.

Grant said: “The fact that he came to eat lunch with me really shocked me because it came out of nowhere. You wouldn’t expect it.”

When they finally were eating, Foles started to get inundated with autograph requests. He politely declined them all, explaining to the star-struck kids he was at their school to eat lunch with his friend Grant. To this day, that moment sticks out to Garret, who didn’t ask Foles to not sign. That was all Foles.

After they finished their meals, there was still time left in recess and kids were outside playing football. Grant had played a handful of times throughout the school year but on that day, he had one of the best quarterbacks in college football hanging out with him, so, of course, he was asked to play.

Foles was the all-time quarterback for both teams and with the game tied and a few minutes remaining, Foles threw a pass to the end zone. Garret called it a Hail Mary. Grant, who later was a two-year letter winner as a fullback in high school, called it a vertical route. Whichever, Foles’ pass was perfect and Grant caught it in stride for the winning touchdown.

That’s still one of the moments from that day etched in Grant’s memory.

Before Garret and Foles left, they stopped so Foles could take a picture with Grant — the one that now hangs in the Chachere’s living room.

“He’s had a special place in our family’s hearts,” Garret said of Foles. “My dad roots for him. [Grant’s] grandfather on his mom’s side roots for him.

“My wife though, that next year, she would always bake stuff for Nick or do stuff for Nick. He had a special place for us. We never talked about it again. It’s something that lasts in both of our minds as a memorable experience.”

Act of kindness bears fruit

Memorable, yes, but that day — those few hours — changed Grant’s life. He became more social and had an easier time making friends in the future.

“Him coming to eat lunch with me actually taught me that no matter who you are, doing one nice thing for somebody can change their whole life, and I really thought that throughout my whole life,” Grant said. “I always talk to people to see how their days are going. It actually changed my whole perspective on life.”

Grant, now, is thriving. He’s in his freshman year of college at New Mexico Highlands University, where his dad is an assistant football coach. He’s thinking about pursuing a career in business or marketing.

Whatever he ends up doing after college, Grant will take the lessons he learned from Foles with him.

“You can be this big star, but the way you grew up and the way you interact with people, from the way your parents saw you, really determines how you are as a person,” Grant said.

“What that really taught me was you can be whoever you want to be, but at the end of the day, it’s about your character and about the things you do for the better of the world instead of thinking about yourself.”

Catching up

Two weeks ago, as the Eagles were preparing for the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Garret asked Grant if he wanted to reach out to Foles. It had been awhile since they had talked.

Through a mutual friend, Garret got Foles’ number and both Garret and Grant sent the quarterback text messages the night before the then-biggest game of his life.

In his message, Grant congratulated Foles on making the conference championship and passed along this message: “You are a great leader and you’ve always had that ability to lead because a lot of people like you, and not only do they like you, they trust you as a leader.” He finished the text by telling Foles “everybody believes in you. Your teammates believe in you. Your family believes in you.”

Grant also included a picture of the picture of them.

Foles wrote back quickly: “Thanks, Grant. That means a lot.”

There’ll be another text this weekend before the biggest game of Foles’ life, from the young man whose life changed to the man who changed it.



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Clean slate for Odell Beckham Jr., new life for Eli Manning with new coach Pat Shurmur


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is getting a “clean slate” and quarterback Eli Manning has new life under the New York Giants‘ new regime.

This became even clearer Friday at Pat Shurmur’s introductory press conference as the 18th head coach in franchise history. He replaced Ben McAdoo, who was fired last month before the end of a disastrous 3-13 campaign.

The topics of Manning and Beckham were prominent during the interview process for the Giants. Shurmur was on the same page as new general manager Dave Gettleman and Giants ownership in believing that the Manning still has some quality seasons remaining in that 37-year-old body. With the new coach and general manager in place, their short-term plan is evident.

“I believe today, standing here this morning, that Eli is going to start the 2018 season as the Giants starting quarterback,” co-owner Steve Tisch said.

Shumur saw Manning last summer at the Manning Passing Academy. That helped shape his opinion.

“I walked away saying he looked really, really good,” said Shurmur, who also spoke on the phone with the two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback this week. “He looked fit, he was throwing the ball well, the ball had good velocity coming off his hand and, again, I think he has years left. How much? I don’t know but I think he has time left and I look forward to working with him.”

Manning has two years remaining on his contract. He threw 19 touchdown passes with 13 interceptions this past season.

Gettleman went back and watched the tape from the dismal year and also saw a quarterback that he believed could be successful in 2018 and possibly beyond.

“We certainly asked every candidate what they thought of Eli. I think the fact that Pat was strong about Eli, he was strong about Eli,” Gettleman said. He later added: “I still saw a quarterback that knew what he was doing, had plenty of arm talent and can win games.”

It doesn’t, however, eliminate a quarterback from contention for the No. 2 overall pick and that remains a strong possibility. Manning has even told Gettleman he would be OK if that is how the situation unfolded.

“He’s a professional,” co-owner John Mara said of Manning, who has been the Giants starting quarterback since 2004 but has struggled the past two years. “He’s a competitor. I don’t think that is going to faze him the least.”

It would help if Beckham is on the field this year. He played in just four games last season before fracturing his ankle. Beckham, whose passion has sometimes crossed the lines and turned problematic, is slated to play on the fifth-year option on his rookie deal and is looking for a new contract. Shurmur wants to sit down and talk with his star receiver before moving forward.

“I’ve watched him play and compete and — when you throw all the other stuff out and watch him on the field — he’s outstanding,” Shurmur said. “So it makes sense to throw him the football. I’m just going to say that right away. If I didn’t acknowledge that, you definitely got the wrong guy up here. … What happens now is I need to get to know him. I need to get to know what makes him tick.

“And I need to talk to him about what it is that we’re looking for for a guy that plays for the New York Giants.”

If all goes well, the Giants will need to make a long-term decision on Beckham. They continue to say they want him to be a Giant for life.

“We will deal with that at the appropriate time. That is not necessarily now,” Mara said. “I’ve said before many times we want him to be a Giant. We’ll get something done at some point and time. I want first Pat to sit down and have him a good understanding about how we’re going to act going forward. I have a lot of confidence that will work out well, but we’ll see.”



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