1. It's official: the NFL has the worst all-star game of all the main four professional sports in this country. On a day when 50% of those leagues put their all-star exhibitions on the air, the disparity was very clear. While hockey might rank below a few other sports that I love more, I am an avid hockey fan. I would say I watch at least 75-80% of all Capitals games (sometimes on DVR later that night if I can avoid the final score). The NHL All-Star Game yesterday was one of the better all-star experiences I have had in recent memory. Four divisions, two mini-games followed by a championship, and voila...something compelling to watch. I understand it was still a bunch of highly-paid athletes trying not to get hurt or hurt each other, but the 3-on-3 format all but eliminated any true ability to hide on the ice or slough off. I was extremely entertained. (To round out this point, the MLB All-Star Game is the most nostalgic, but it, too, has lot a lot of luster. The NBA All-Star Game is fun to watch, but means less than nothing. While not part of the "four major pro sports," the MLS All-Star Game is actually very solid. The league puts an all-star roster together and takes on an international club--it is usually a good match.)
2. Cut to the NFL Pro Bowl. Many of you don't even watch it. I know this because you are the ones who shake your heads disapprovingly when I race home from wherever I am on this particular Sunday every year to tune in and watch. In all honesty, yesterday's affair was the hardest one I have ever sat through--which I also said last year. I guess this makes me the bazillionth person to announce that the NFL Pro Bowl is dead. Michael Irvin may not have killed it, but he sure is not part of any kind of real solution. Come on...am I really supposed to get into the whole Jerry Rice versus Michael Irvin thing?
3. I honestly don't think there is a move the NFL can make that is similar to what the NHL did to inject a little bit of meaning and excitement into its all-star exhibition. Just look at the fact that an unprecedented number of players rejected invitations to play (133 total invitations offered to net enough players to fill out the rosters). The players simply have too much to lose, as NFL contracts aren't guaranteed. If you get hurt in the Pro Bowl, it stands to reason it will cost you a large amount of money (the assumption is based on the fact that if you are in the Pro Bowl, you are likely capable of garnering a decent deal). The players who do show and suit up are playing a glorified version of flag football. When the NFC put defensive lineman Michael Bennett in at running back late in the game, he rumbled to the end zone only to learn that the referees had blown the whistle when he was touched--by one arm--around the line of scrimmage. It's a joke, but not a joke on the fans. It is a joke played on the players by the league. Few industries in existence would so carelessly expose their most prized assets in such meaningless fashion. It is really somewhat shocking--although very few guys were in any danger of injuring themselves in Hawaii yesterday.
4. I read a lot about the snubbing of Kirk Cousins leading up to this Pro Bowl game. It is laughable to me--and plenty of others--that Jameis Winston and Tyrod Taylor were playing in Hawaii this weekend instead of Captain Kirk. That said, let's be honest: I didn't want #8 ANYWHERE NEAR THAT FIELD. We finally have a quarterback that is deserving of the Pro Bowl, which is awesome enough, and he is on the verge of unrestricted free agency and a brand new contract. Do I really want that guy exposing himself to even the slightest of scratches or dings? Hell no! (He shouldn't be exposing himself at all actually, but I digress.) As a kid, I lived for that Redskins helmet on the field in the Pro Bowl. I will never forget Sean Taylor treating the game as any other game. These days, however, the game is just...unnecessary and mostly unwatchable. Kirk has more important things to do, like limber up his signing hand for what looks like will be a rather rich contract.
5. Anyone want to play a game I like to call "What Will Kirk Cousins Contract Look Like?" I have thrown this out before, but here goes--get your prediction in below. I have Kirk signing a 5-year contract worth $90 million, with $25 guaranteed. I wouldn't be surprised to see there be a voidable year if Kirk is the Super Bowl MVP or something like that, and I think the Redskins want to do everything they can to control Cousins for that five-year span. For both the team's sake as well as the player's sake, I hope this deal doesn't hit the $100 million neighborhood (those contracts generally don't work out for anyone not named Darrelle Revis). Kirk needs the Redskins to be able to have a few bucks to spend around him, and the Redskins need to be able to maintain salary cap flexibility.
6. I want to personally thank all of you who have given The Audible a listen in the last few weeks. We will be ramping up the show this spring, covering the Redskins and a variety of other football topics. At its heart, The Audible is a football show. Kevin Ricca and Tim Strachan (my co-hosts) are very well-known football personalities in the D.C. area, for both their on-field exploits in high school and college as well as their involvement in coaching and broadcasting in the many years since. We love our Washington teams, and we will talk about them, but football is never far from the tips of our tongues and will continue to be the focus of our endeavors. We tape tomorrow night in the basement studio, and I figured I would broaden the request for topics to anything remotely related to the sport. There is a decent amount of knowledge in the room--always boosted by a guest...that brings the majority of that knowledge! Mostly, we enjoy taking your points and suggestions and riffing on them over a few cocktails. While we eagerly await your Redskins thoughts and questions, what else (football-related) would you have a few whiskey-slugging gentlemen beat each other up about in the ol' basement studio? If you saw the way Ricca prepares for this segment of the show each week, you would shower him with requests. On a slightly unrelated note, we have been leaning heavily on YachtRock to create the soundtrack to our shows lately. What genre or band would you suggest we try out tomorrow night (typed into your average Pandora/Spotify app)?