Mandatory Image Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Happy first day of fall, everyone! As the weather *hopefully* begins to grow cooler, that means the NFL season is getting into its groove. If this past weekend was any indication, that might already be happening. In last week’s edition of Footenotes, we addressed some injuries to cornerstone NFL quarterbacks, broke down the Chiefs’ ongoing offensive dominance and even touched on Whit Merrifield’s never-ending value he brings to the Royals. We’ve got plenty more Chiefs and Royals goodies to dive into this week, but with much more added content. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
Ned Yost announces his retirement
After speculation had grown for the past year or two, a decision has finally been made. Ned Yost, the winningest manager in the history of the Kansas City Royals, has decided to join the ranks of the retired following the conclusion of the 2019 MLB regular season.
Yost has been the manager of the Royals since 2010, delivering two American League pennants and a World Series win during his tenure. He had long been on the record expressing his willingness to stick out the difficult part of the team’s post-2017 rebuild, then hand it over to the next man in line. Some reports have indicated special advisor and former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny could be that person, but that is far from a done deal.
Like most organizations would, Kansas City will probably conduct an extensive search — both inside and outside the organization — for the club’s next skipper. With owner David Glass selling the franchise to Kansas City native John Sherman, perhaps he has someone in mind for that job.
Yost catches a lot of flak for his in-game managerial decisions such as lineups and pitching changes. From some people, he isn’t seen as the man responsible for leading the Royals to back-to-back World Series appearances. Rather, they credit the immense amount of talent the team had peaking at the right time, combined with some excellent trade acquisitions by general manager Dayton Moore. Regardless, Ned Yost is a two-time American League champion and brought the Royals their first ring in 30 years. I only had to wait half of that time to witness it happen.
I’ve never listened to any conversation involving Ned Yost that failed to, in some way/shape/form, display how much he cares about his players. I’ve never read an article mentioning Ned Yost and put my phone or computer down without the impression that he loved his job and those he worked with. He’s the definition of a players’ coach. Best wishes to Ned in his post-baseball life.
Mahomes vs. Jackson, battle No. 2
We experienced quite the treat last season when the Baltimore Ravens came into Arrowhead Stadium and almost upset the Kansas City Chiefs. If it weren’t for an insane 4th and 9 play that saved the Chiefs’ bacon, Lamar Jackson would have entered last Sunday’s game with an undefeated record as a starter:
Needless to say, the anticipation for round two was immense. Mahomes picked up where he left off, terrorizing defenses and looking like the MVP. Heading into Sunday, though, Jackson had arguably the best statistics in the entire NFL and possibly would have been crowned two-week MVP in his own right. Round 2 of Mahomes vs. Jackson was a solid barometer for both QBs.
Mahomes was… well, Mahomes. Without his starting left tackle, running back and top wide receiver, the 24-year-old shredded a highly-touted Baltimore defense for 374 yards and three touchdowns. On the year, the 2018-19 MVP has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes for 1,195 yards and 10 scores in just three games. He’s on pace to record the NFL’s first 6,000-yard passing season and make a serious run at the single-season touchdown record. There isn’t much else I can say about Mahomes that you probably haven’t already heard.
Jackson’s performance as a passer was rather underwhelming, but offered a lot of hope for the future. Facing the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals to open the year, folks were a bit skeptical of his eye-popping numbers. Their concerns were proven legitimate when the former Heisman Trophy winner completed 22 of 43 passes for 267 yards and failed to throw a touchdown. He took care of the football and was a large part of Baltimore’s 200+ yard rushing attack but overall, Jackson missed on many of his throws and was inaccurate for most of the outing.
We learned a few new things on Sunday. First and foremost, the Chiefs’ defense may legitimately be improved from the unit it was a year ago. They got gashed on the ground but through three quarters, Steve Spagnuolo’s troops surrendered just 13 points. If you tilt your head just right and think about the bigger picture, especially when considering we’re just three weeks into the new season, there’s ample reason for optimism.
Speaking of optimism, don’t feel down in the dumps if you’re a Lamar Jackson supporter. Yes, he was erratic on Sunday and made a few terrible decisions with the ball. The placement on his passes was poor. When he starts putting touch on those deep balls and performs better from the pocket, though… look out. He showed glimpses of being able to do that during weeks 1 and 2 and with every passing game, he’ll become more and more comfortable. With a stout defense working in his favor as well, the Ravens aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
KU Basketball (and Football?) in hot water with NCAA
The University of Kansas has had its name drug through the mud and linked to various recruiting-related rumors and allegations for the past few years. Per ESPN, the enforcement staff of the NCAA has taken things to the next level. Charging the school with a “lack of institutional control” along with hitting head basketball coach Bill Self with responsibility violations, Kansas has to be watching its back.
Multiple Level 1 violations are headed the Jayhawks’ way, which are the most severe ones the NCAA can dish out. The football program is linked to a Level 2 violation relating to a coaching issue when David Beaty was in charge of the university’s team.
Pay-for-play issues have marred Division-I basketball for quite some time. Kansas’ name was thrown into the hat of schools involved in it recently, with a lot of heat coming last season. Now, concerns about both the school and Self’s relationship with program sponsor Adidas have risen to the surface.
Self claims the NCAA’s allegations are “based on innuendo, half-truths, misimpressions and mischaracterizations.” I’m not sure whether that’s true or not but in the meantime, Kansas is going to have to keep its nose clean if it wants this to die down.* Perennial powerhouse programs, such as blueblood Kansas, hardly go without some type of accusation or drama coming their way. Once the truth comes out, it will way a lot about all parties involved.
Is it time to give up on the Freddie Kitchens era in Cleveland?
Not too long ago, a friend and I were bouncing ideas off of each other in a group chat. Messing around with some form of a 2019 NFL season predictor machine, we both had the Cleveland Browns winning at least 11 games. If my memory serves me correctly, I had them going 11-5 and my friend had them going 12-4.
Fast forward a few weeks and the Browns are 1-2. With games against the Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots on the horizon, things could get ugly pretty quickly. Sunday night’s uninspiring performance against the Los Angeles Rams didn’t leave me one bit worried about the Browns’ defense. What’s scaring me, in a bad way, is the offense.
After taking the league by storm last year and breaking the rookie touchdown record, Baker Mayfield has thrown three touchdowns and five interceptions through his first three games of the 2019 season. He’s completed just 56.9 percent of his passes. He has two of the best wide receivers in the league to throw to, which should lead to him putting up monster numbers. But then again…
Starting tight end David Njoku has a broken wrist and is on injured reserve. Cleveland’s offensive line was a huge question mark heading into the year and has been as poor as advertised, leading to Mayfield being sacked 11 times thus far. Oh yeah, head coach Freddie Kitchens also allowed the offense to run a draw play on 4th and 9.
There’s still time for the Browns to figure things out and become the playoff team everyone imagined they’d be, but it’s going to have to be fast. With the aforementioned schedule and the odds of 1-3, 1-4 or 1-5 teams making the playoffs potentially stacked against them, it will have to be a team effort. Mayfield will need to make better decisions and try to hang in the pocket. The offensive line will need to hold up long enough for there to be a decent pocket. Kitchens has to be sharper with his decision-making in his own right. Starting now.
Daniel Jones’ career starts off with a bang
One thing I am always willing to admit is when I’m wrong. I did not want the New York Giants to bench Eli Manning this season. I saw 2019 as a lost year for the franchise anyway and I certainly didn’t believe pulling a bad-but-not-horrible Manning for a completely unproven rookie in Daniel Jones would be a good idea. It was far from a Favre/Rodgers or Smith/Mahomes situation but in my mind, I thought it’d be nice to let Jones sit and not be thrown into the fire so early. Judging by Jones’ one-game sample size, I was dead wrong.
Let’s place some emphasis on the “one-game sample size” part, though. Jones is not going to lead a comeback drive every week. He isn’t always going to throw for 336 yards and two touchdowns. Heck, the odds are he won’t have another two-rushing-TD game for the next month or two at the very least. But what I saw on Sunday was a quarterback who got knocked down, got right back up and made me — and many others — believers.
Because running back Saquon Barkley is slated to miss 4-8 weeks due to a high ankle sprain, along with many other reasons we shouldn’t have to explain, this version of the New York “football” Giants isn’t anything close to a playoff team. It is, however, a team worth watching for the rest of the season. Also, how can this not make you feel good?
KD back sooner than we think?
This is more so speculation than anything else, but numerous sites and NBA pundits alike are trying to figure out if the Brooklyn Nets’ prized offseason addition, Kevin Durant, can defy the odds and return from his Achilles injury in less than a year.
Kobe Bryant is most notable for his “Mamba Mentality” and undying work ethic, which led to him being able to return from an Achilles tear in eight months. Durant almost surely isn’t going to do that but if he did it in nine, he’d be returning just in time to get a few regular season games under his belt before gearing up for a Nets playoff run.
Already one of the league’s most exciting teams a year ago, D’Angelo Russell is now a member of the Golden State Warriors and Kyrie Irving departed from the Boston Celtics to take his spot as the Nets’ starting point guard. An isolation-heavy player, he shouldn’t have too much trouble shouldering the bulk of Brooklyn’s scoring load until Durant is fully healthy.
Without Durant, Brooklyn is in the second tier of Eastern Conference contenders behind the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. With Durant in the fold, Brooklyn becomes one of the best teams in the NBA on paper and a legitimate threat to any team it faces in the seven-game series. Erring on the side of caution, here’s to hoping Durant focuses on returning when he’s ready, not because the team needs him for a playoff run.
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