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Trophies and Winning Mentality


Hello, everyone. We've talked endlessly about Man United's various players and how good they really are, but something which I've seen crop up on occasion is the idea of the 'winning mentality'. In other words, it's this idea that part of the reason that this club is struggling on the pitch at the moment is attributable to the fact that most of our players have little to no experience winning trophies and so lack the required drive, desire or experience to succeed in the same way that the likes of Liverpool and Man City have.
How do we measure 'winning mentality', though? I don't think it can truly be measured objectively, but medals and trophy cabinets might give us some indication. Thus, I'll be going through every player currently at the club (with a minimum cut-off of fifty career senior appearances) and looking at all the senior trophies they've won to see how true it is that our current problems stem partially from a lack of experience at winning things.

David de Gea

De Gea was bought from Atlético Madrid by Sir Alex on the 29th of June 2011 for £18.9 million (which was a British record for a goalkeeper at the time) and it's fair to say that he's been among our best players in recent years. You may already know that he's one of the very few players left at the club who has won a Premier League title, but what else has he won?
Not many people talk about this, but DDG had actually won stuff with Atlético prior to joining United, namely the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup. Not the most impressive haul, but part of Fergie's magic was instilling a winning mentality into players who otherwise might not have possessed the same mental fortitude.
At United, De Gea was of course part of Ferguson's last title-winning squad. In addition, he has won an FA Cup under van Gaal, a League Cup under Mourinho, three Community Shields (one under Ferguson, one under Moyes and one under Mourinho) and he even got a winners' medal when Mourinho won the Europa League (I checked and he did actually play a few fixtures). All-in-all, not a bad trophy haul, but considering that he was the best goalkeeper in the world at one point, he'll be disappointed to have won just one league title and no Champions Leagues in his senior career. His lack of silverware with Spain will also be an issue for him.

Dean Henderson

Hendo came from the youth ranks but didn't sign a senior contract until August 2015. He has since gone on loan to Stockport County, Grimsby Town, Shrewsbury Town and Sheffield United. In that time, he hasn't won a single senior trophy; the closest he came was making the EFL Trophy final with Shrewsbury and coming second in the Championship with Sheffield United. He's no doubt a solid keeper, but if we're to return to the glory days, Ole (or whoever a future manager might be) is going to need to drill him to win titles.

Sergio Romero

The Argentinian international was signed on a free transfer (his most recent club being Sampdoria) by Louis van Gaal on the 27th of July 2015. Prior to joining United, he had already won the Eredivisie and the Johan Cruyff Shield (which is basically the Dutch Super Cup) with AZ Alkmaar, so he had experience winning league titles. He had also recently featured in the World Cup Final for Argentina, but failed to win.
Since joining United, he has won the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Community Shield and, most notably, the Europa League. He has failed to win anything with Argentina despite reaching two Copa América finals. Considering he's essentially a backup, his trophy cabinet isn't too shabby. Plus, he absolutely earned that Europa League title under José considering he played both in the semi-final and the final (take notes, Ole).

Lee Grant

Manchester United's GOAT goalkeeper has had quite the career. Signed from Stoke City on the 3rd of July 2018 for a reported fee of £1.5 million, it's fair to say that he's a bit of a veteran, having made his senior debut all the way back in 2002. In that time, he has won absolutely nothing. I mean, I guess there's no obligation for the third-choice goalie to have won anything, but still, it's a little odd.

Joel Pereira

A youth player, Joel Pereira has spent most of his time on loan. He has yet to win anything.

Victor Lindelof

Lindelof was signed from Benfica by Mourinho in June 2017 for a fee of €35 million, and his list of honours is bigger than you might expect (granted, not quite playing at the same level). His first trophy was the Swedish Division 1 title with Vasteras SK, before winning three Primeira Liga titles, two Taca de Portugal titles, one Taca de Liga and one Supertaca Candido de Oliveira with Benfica. In other words, prior to joining United, he had won four league titles, two cups, a league cup and a super cup. He has yet to win anything with Sweden, however, or with Manchester United for that matter.

Eric Bailly

Bailly was the first player to be signed by Mourinho on the 8th of June 2016 for £30 million; he had previously been at Villareal. Bailly is a rather unusual case in that he hadn't won any domestic trophies prior to joining United but he's also the first person on this list to have won international silverware, more specifically the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations with Cote d'Ivoire. At United, he has won the Community Shield, the League Cup and the Europa League, all under José Mourinho.

Phil Jones

Now we come to none other than Jonesta himself. When he was first signed by Fergie from Blackburn Rovers on the 13th of June 2011 for £16.5 million, he was genuinely seen as one of the hottest young talents at the time despite not having won anything. It's a shame that hasn't really lived up to his potential, but right now, we're focussed only on trophies, and I have to say that he hasn't done too badly for himself on that front.
He's one of the few players at this club who has won the Premier League, more specifically Ferguson's last title (which is still one more than Steven Gerrard). He has also won the Community Shield under both Ferguson and Moyes (not under Mourinho, however), the FA Cup under van Gaal and the Europa League under Mourinho. At international level, he of course hasn't won anything with England.

Harry Maguire

Maguire was infamously signed for £80 million (a world record fee for a defender) from Leicester City on the 5th of August 2019. The only silverware he's ever won, though, is a Championship play-off trophy with Hull City, which is somehow still more than some of our other players. Of course, he's also reached two semi-finals with England (the World Cup and the Nations League) but he's yet to bring football home. With his record in mind, it's easy to see why some fans are sceptical of Slabhead's captaincy.

Marcos Rojo

Like Cristiano, Rojo came from Sporting, having been signed for £16 million by Louis van Gaal on the 19th of August 2014. He has been much-maligned by United fans for a while now (I bet most of you forgot he was still at the club), but his trophy cabinet, compared to most of our players, is actually relatively impressive.
While at Estudiantes de La Plata (which is not one of the Argentinian 'Big Two' of River Plate and Boca Juniors), Rojo won the 2010 Apertura (which I think counts as a league title?) and the 2009 Copa Libertadores. That makes him the first player on this list to have won a continental title. At United, he has won the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Europa League and the Community Shield. I have to say, if the problem is players who lack a winning mentality then I'm not sure Rojo should be the first to go (though he's still deadwood IMO).

Axel Tuanzebe

Somehow, he actually makes the cut-off; I didn't realise how much he's actually played. Another youth player, most of Tuanzebe's appearances have come while on loan to Aston Villa, and he actually won the Championship play-off with them, so he already has a trophy in his cabinet. He also supposedly has a Europa League to his name, but I'm not sure how considering he hadn't made his debut yet, so I'll be cautious and exclude it.

Luke Shaw

Louis van Gaal signed Luke Shaw from Southampton on the 27th of June 2014 for a reported fee of £30 million (making him the most expensive teenager in world football at the time). What had he won at that point? Nothing. Still, he was considered a generational talent and he has since won a couple of stuff at Manchester United: the Community Shield and the Europa League, both under José. Yeah, his trophy cabinet is pretty barebones.
Interestingly enough, Chelsea were in for him at the same time United were, but backed out due to his wage demands. Perhaps Shaw would have won more trophies had he gone to Chelsea instead? More interesting is that José Mourinho was Chelsea manager at the time, so it's quite ironic that after refusing to sign Shaw, he'd end up managing him anyway.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

I'm not sure what position TFM plays, but fullback seems most appropriate. Anyway, he came through our academy and didn't win anything on his various loan deals. However, he has won both the FA Cup and the Europa League at United, like most of our players, it seems.

Alex Telles

Signed from Porto for £15 million in this transfer window, I'm happy to say that he's actually won a lot of stuff in various leagues, which is hopefully a good sign.
Firstly, he has won the Copa FGF (a regional Brazilian cup competition) twice with Juventude. Secondly, he has won a league title with Galatasaray, as well as two Turkish Cups and a Turkish Super Cup. Finally, he has won two Primeira Liga titles, a Taca de Portugal and a Supertaca Candido de Oliveira with Porto. He has won trophies at every club which he's spent more than a season with, so hopefully, he'll help United to our first piece of silverware since the Europa League under José.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Signed from Crystal Palace for £50 million on the 29th of June 2019, he hasn't got the greatest pedigree, winning nothing. How much he's expected to win at the age of 22, I don't know, but certainly, there's still plenty of time. What's needed is for someone to instil that winning mentality into him like Sir Alex would have done with his young signings.

Diogo Dalot

Dalot was supposedly considered a huge talent before signing for us, but really, it seems to me as if he should be a winger rather than a fullback. Anyway, we signed him from Porto on the 6th of June 2018 for £19 million, but went out on loan this transfer window to A.C. Milan. Believe it or not, he's actually got a trophy to his name, and it's not some minor super cup either; he's actually won the Primeira Liga with Porto. Dude has won more trophies than Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Paul Pogba

Depending on who you ask, Pogba is a fantastic midfielder who is United's best player, a talented midfielder who has been too inconsistent or a waste of money who has cared only for himself (in José Mourinho's words, a 'virus'). This isn't too surprising considering we signed him for £89 million from Juventus on the 8th of August 2016, which was a world record for any player at the time; of course expectations were going to be high.
At Juventus, Pogba was a trophy-winning machine, having to his name four Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia titles and two Supercoppa Italiana titles. The lack of European success was his only weak spot in that regard. Since joining United, however, he's been restricted to a League Cup and a Europa League, which must feel like quite the stepdown (at least he's got a European trophy now, though probably not the one he wanted).
That's only counting club trophies, of course. His greatest achievement by far has to be his 2018 World Cup win for France; it's not as if he was a passenger either, being praised during the tournament for boosting France's midfield significantly. This, to me, shows that he can absolutely be motivated to win titles, but it doesn't seem to happening for him at United for whatever reason.

Juan Mata

The only David Moyes signing still at the club, Mata was signed from Chelsea in January 2014 for £37 million, which was a club record at the time. He had an illustrious career prior to joining United, and looking at his trophy cabinet, one could argue that he has effectively wasted his prime years at this club.
Even prior to joining Chelsea, he had won a Copa del Rey with Valencia and the 2010 World Cup with Spain. He then proceeded to win a Champions League, a Europa League and an FA Cup with Chelsea (as well as reaching the final of the FIFA Club World Cup), in addition to winning the 2012 European Championship with Spain. When United signed him at the age of 25, he had already won pretty much every major trophy barring a top-flight title and he hadn't even hit his prime, so the signing must have felt like an absolute steal.
Unfortunately, this is where Mata's success began to fade. At Manchester United, he has won a Europa League, an FA Cup, a League Cup and a Community Shield, but still no league title. At the age of 32, it seems unlikely that he'll win any more major trophies, which is a shame for a player who won so much at a tender age.

Jesse Lingard

Although he made several appearances as an unused sub under Fergie, Lingard didn't make his competitive debut for the club until the 2014-15 season under van Gaal (who loved to use youth players). How much has won, then? Not more than most other players, it should be said. None of his loan spells garnered him any trophies, but he has won the Europa League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Community Shield for Man United.


When United signed the Brazilian midfielder for £47 million from Shakhtar Donetsk on the 5th of June 2018, there were no doubt a few eyebrows raised. However, he has actually won a boatload of trophies at club level despite his lack of international success.
While at Internacional, Fred won the Campeonato Gaúcho (the top division of the Rio Grande do Sul regional leagues) twice and then proceeded to win three Ukrainian Premier League titles, three Ukrainian Cups and four Ukrainian Super Cups at Shakhtar Donetsk. That's actually not a bad trophy haul at all.

Bruno Fernandes

Ah, the Portuguese Magnifico himself; when United fans talk about the 'winning mentality', Bruno is often the first player that is pointed to as an example of a player who possesses this mentality. The question is, though, has Bruno actually won anything?
As a matter of fact, he has, but no league titles, unfortunately. While at Sporting, he has won a Taca de Portugal and two Taca da Liga titles, so a cup and two league cups. His most prestigious trophy is arguably the 2018-19 Nations League with Portugal, though time will tell if the Nations League successfully establishes itself as a premier competition. That being said, based solely on his trophy haul, there is little to suggest that Bruno has what it takes to win a league title (of course, anyone can see from his performances and demeanour on the pitch that he hates losing).

Nemanja Matic

The best Nemanja since Vidic, Matic has won a lot of trophies over his career. When he was first signed from Chelsea by Man United on the 31st of July 2017 for £40 million, he had already won the incredibly prestigious Slovak Cup with Kosice, before winning two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup during his two stints at Chelsea as well as a Primeira Liga and a Taca de Liga with Benfica. At United, he has won...nothing. In fact, if you discount his season-long loan at Vitesse, this is so far the only club in which Matic hasn't won anything.

Donny van de Beek

For Ajax, DvdB won an Eredivisie title, a Dutch Cup and a Johan Cruyff Shield. He also reached a Nations League final with the Netherlands. Time will tell if he can add to his trophy cabinet at Manchester United.

Scott McTominay

McSauce came through the youth ranks, made his debut at the end of the 2016-17 season and has yet to win anything.

Andreas Pereira

Pereira made his senior debut in the 2015-16 season before being loaned to Granada, Valencia and now Lazio. He has yet to win anything at senior level.

Edinson Cavani

The signing of Cavani has divided opinion. Some feel that he'll be the next Bastian Schweinsteiger or Radamel Falcao, while others feel that he could be the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, one thing that can't be denied is his massive trophy cabinet; whether a player who has achieved as much as he has is precisely what United needs is another matter.
The Uruguayan started his career by winning the Primera División with his boyhood club Danubio before winning a Coppa Italia with Napoli. However, it was at PSG where he really shone, winning six Ligue 1 titles, the Coupe de France four times, the Coupe de la Ligue five times and the Trophée des Champions four times. Yes, it's PSG and yes, he hasn't won any continental competitions, but he's still a proven winner. Add in the 2011 Copa América (which he won with Uruguay) and I don't think Man United have a more decorated player in their squad at the moment. The real question is whether Cavani is past it or whether he still possesses the class that he had in his prime.

Anthony Martial

On the 1st of September 2015, Manchester United famously threw £50 million down the drain to sign a 19-year-old Anthony Martial (who came from France) from AS Monaco. The English press declared that he had no chance; he went on to score 71 goals in 225 competitive games for United.
It should be said that Martial hadn't won anything when we signed him, but considering his age, that's forgivable. He has since won the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Community Shield and the Europa League, but still no Ballon d'Or. As for the French national team, Martial came close to winning Euro 2016 but he (and France) fell at the final hurdle, while he wasn't included in the squad for the 2018 World Cup.

Dr. Marcus Rashford MBE

The future Prime Minister and part-time Manchester United forward came through the academy ranks before making his debut under Louis van Gaal following an injury to Martial. Rashford during his time at Man United has won an FA Cup, a League Cup, a Community Shield, a Europa League, a Member of the Order of the British Empire and an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester.

Mason Greenwood

The best finisher at the club since Robin van Persie, Greenwood also came through the academy ranks. Given his young age and lack of experience, he of course hasn't won anything yet.

Daniel James

The Welsh winger was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first signing as manager, being bought from Swansea City on the 6th of June 2019 for £15 million. Given his previous club (Swansea) and his national team (Wales), it's no surprise that he's yet to win anything.

Odion Ighalo

Unlike the rest of the players here, Ighalo was loaned to us in January 2020 from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua. He may won just the one trophy, but when that trophy is none other than the coveted Chinese FA Cup, you can already tell that he's a natural born winner (Chinese FA Cup-winning centre-forward, you'll never sing that!). He also came second place in the Championship with Watford, but second place is first place for losers, so that doesn't really matter.

Jadon Sancho

Bought on deadline day for £120 million, Sancho has won the DFL-Supercup with Borussia Dortmund.
...screw Ed Woodward. At least we have Facundo Pellistri, eh?


This whole thing is turning into a bit of a mess, so let's standardise it with some numerical values. Note that these are just arbitrary numbers that I've assigned for comparison purposes, so don't take them as gospel.

World Cup, confederation cup (e.g. Euros), Champions League, Copa Libertadores = 20 points
Top-flight title in 'Big Five' leagues = 16 points
Europa League, national cup competition in 'Big Five' leagues = 10 points
UEFA Nations League = 6 points
Other top-flight title = 5 points
Other national cup competition = 3 points
Other cup (e.g. league cups, super cups) = 1 point

With this system, here are all the current Man United players (min. 50 senior appearances) ranked by trophy haul.

Cavani: 180
Pogba: 117
Mata: 112
Matic: 52
De Gea: 51
Rojo: 47
Jones: 38
Fred: 33
Bailly: 32
Lindelof: 28
Romero: 28
Telles: 27
Lingard: 22
Martial: 22
Rashford: 22
Fosu-Mensah: 20
Fernandes: 11
Shaw: 11
Van de Beek: 9
Dalot: 5
Ighalo: 3
Maguire: 1
Tuanzebe: 1
Grant: 0
Greenwood: 0
Henderson: 0
James: 0
McTominay: 0
Pereira (both of them): 0
Wan-Bissaka: 0

Obviously, trophies aren't everything (I am not seriously suggesting that Phil Jones has a stronger mentality than Bruno Fernandes) but this might be interesting. For reference, here's the list for all of Man United's players who played in at least five league games in the 2012-13 season (our last league title) up to and including the beginning of that season (so trophies won after the start of the 2012-13 season, including the league title, aren't counted).

Ryan Giggs: 291\*
Paul Scholes: 244*
Rio Ferdinand: 113*+
Anderson: 111*
Nemanja Vidic: 108*
Michael Carrick: 98*+
Patrice Evra: 97*
Wayne Rooney: 95*
Nani: 83*
Shinji Kagawa: 62
Jonny Evans: 44*^
Chicharito: 42
Rafael: 41*
Antonio Valencia: 23
Robin van Persie: 21
Chris Smalling: 18
David de Gea: 12
Danny Welbeck: 9*
Anders Lindegaard: 4
Tom Cleverley: 2
Ashley Young: 2
Phil Jones: 1

*Player won the Club World Cup, which I've assigned 6 points
+Player won the Intertoto Cup, which I've assigned 3 points
^Player won the second division of a 'Big Five' league, which I've assigned 3 points

OK, firstly, jeez, calm down, Giggsy. Secondly, LOL at Anderson being ahead of Vidic, Carrick, Ferdinand, Evra and Rooney. Thirdly, that 2012-13 squad contained 10 players who had a score greater than 52 at the time (and of course, several of them saw a jump after the title win). The current squad has 3. Obviously, it's much easier when you've been winning titles left, right and centre for the past twenty years, but make no mistake: Fergie drilled his teams to win at all costs.
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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Apr. 4, 1988

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words, continuing in the footsteps of daprice82. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
The Complete Observer Rewind Archive by daprice82
1-4-1988 1-11-1988 1-18-1988 1-25-1988
2-1-1988 2-8-1988 2-15-1988 2-22-1988
2-29-1988 3-7-1988 3-14-1988 3-21-1988
3-28-1988 * * *
  • ”This is horrible, Gorilla.” These words open the issue this week, because Wrestlemania IV is in the books and, well, it was not pretty. Dave is flabbergasted by how bad a show it was, wondering if this was a dream or a nightmare that he hasn’t woken up from. Wrestlemania III was the best wrestling production of all time. It may not have had the best card, but it was entertaining all around and the fans loved it. It set Vince up as the king of wrestling, all-powerful over the business. He’s still the king, but he’s definitely not all-powerful, and Crockett absolutely kicked Vince’s ass on March 27. Financials will take time to come in, and of course McMahon will win that measure, but we can flash back to January 24 for an analogue: The Royal Rumble won even though the Bunkhouse Finals made more money.
  • Preliminary info Dave has gotten from phoning cable companies and hearing from fans at closed-circuit site is that Wrestlemania interest was down by nearly half of last year’s. The buyrate for ppv could be as low as 6 percent, half of WWF’s expected 12% and still way down from last year’s 10.3%. Even so, the PPV gross would be $10.8 million, of which WWF can expect no more than $3.5 million, plus an estimated $2.3 million from a minimum 175,000 (last year had 375,000) at closed-circuit and a live gate of about $ million and an undisclosed site fee from Donald Trump for putting on the show. The early (and I mean early, don’t get attached to these numbers) overall estimate is a total gross of $14 million, with WWF netting maybe $6.5 million, a far cry from the $18 million they were predicting their take would be. How much was because Crockett ran the Clash? How much was because WWF just has been less interesting? It’s hard to say, but Crockett hurt McMahon way more than anyone could have anticipated.
  • As for the shows themselves, just absolute night and day between them. Crockett’s Clash was a really solid show. It wasn’t as polished a production and only had 30 minutes of wrestling in the first 90 minutes of the show, though this was to allow Sting/Flair to work without commercial breaks so it was an overall benefit. The matches, minus the barbed wire one, were all good. The crowd was into it. Two excellent matches. Probably best to never let Steve Williams talk again, though. The Jim Cornette and Eddie Haskel bit was great and made Bob Uecker and Gene Okerlund look worse than they were. Meanwhile, Wrestlemania made Starrcade 1987 look like Starrcade 1985, and that’s too nice to say even. WWF’s guys, rather than working harder because it was Wrestlemania, opted to phone it in instead because Wrestlemania itself would carry the day. Even Jesse Ventura had no good lines and coasted while Gorilla was like soundbites of his Wrestling Challenge commentary.
  • Anyway, Dave breaks down the major problems for WWF, as he sees them. 1) Hogan - he’s too over, to the point he overshadows everything else and by booking him as just one of the guys in the field, they completely devalued their star attraction. And instead of putting Randy over at the end, which they need to do if they’re going to try and have him be even close to as over as Hulk has been, they put Liz and Hulk over. “It’s like Randy can’t even order a taxi cab unless Liz tells Hulk to flag down the cab.” 2) Hindsight is always 20/20, but Trump Plaza was a terrible venue for a Wrestlemania, and the crowd just wasn’t a wrestling crowd, so they were not invested at all. 3) Steroids. Dave supposes he’s probably the most hated person in the world among the heavy steroid users in the business because of all the nicknames he gives them, but in all seriousness it was embarrassing to watch so many guys get blown up in a minute or two to where they couldn’t even pace out a five minute match. Like, take out the health issues, take out any sense of blame on the guys, Dave says. The tournament was embarrassing. It wasn’t funny to see the guys fail like this. It was just sad. 4) The tournament as a concept flopped. It gave fans no specific issue to focus on because belts in modern wrestling just don’t mean anything to fans - the real draw is the big personalities, and WWF proved it with this show: the only matches anyone cared about were the ones with Hogan and, to a lesser extent, DiBiase and Savage. 5) Spoilers. Too many people knew the outcome, and giving Savage the title is almost a mistake after you’ve given so many spoilers of your own show. ABC News did a report the morning after, saying “Randy Savage was the winner at Wrestlemania, but of course everyone knew it since the WWF magazine had printed the result three weeks ago. The WWF claims the magazine report was simply a typographical error.” Anyway, Dave is sick of people blaming him for their wrestling promotions not being able to draw fans at live shows when they aren’t interesting enough. Newsletter subscribers are maybe 0.002% of the viewing audience - if all Dave’s subscribers quit watching nobody would notice in the viewing numbers. Meanwhile, the fans who read newsletters are probably the most dedicated and put more money into the business than the “marks” do and will be the ones stubbornly holding on to the end if the business somehow were to die. So don’t blame Dave if your show sucks and your creative is bad and you give away your finish weeks ahead of time and don’t even bother changing it.
  • Anyway, Wrestlemania preliminary numbers time. About 540,000 homes on PPV, plus 195,000 through closed-circuit, as far as the U.S. goes. They did just 95 closed-circuit sites in the U.S., 39 of which had less than 2,000 capacity. No word on Crockett’s ratings, but if they hit a 5 on TBS that’s about 2 million homes.
  • So all that said, time to look at the Wrestlemania card. Good production, particularly the opening graphics, but not as far ahead of Crockett as last year now that they’ve upped their game. Battle royal started hot and quickly became your standard boring battle royal. The Hart/Badnews angle at the end saves the match from a dud and gets it half a star. DiBiase vs. Duggan was real slow for a five minute match, and Duggan no longer resembles the worker he was in UWF/Mid-South just a couple years ago. Very little heat. 1.5 stars. Muraco vs. Bravo gets half a star, and both were blown up by the double clothesline like they’d wrestled a hard 20 minutes, but the whole match was under 5. Valentine vs. Steamboat saw Valentine look tired and old, and just not have his famed longevity anymore. Good finish, solid work even with the timing issues. Steamboat coming out with his son and being able to be lost in the moment of just being a proud father was “a tremendous sight” for Dave. 2.25 stars. Savage vs. Reed got a pop for the finish but nothing else, really. 1 star. One Man Gang vs. Bam Bam Bigelow wasn’t good. It was obvious how bad Bigelow’s knee was, and that takes away his agility, which is the thing that sets him apart. Dave says this is a -1.5 star match in a vacuum, but considering Bam Bam’s condition he’s not going to rate it that low and calls it a dud instead. Rick Rude vs. Jake Roberts was a 15 minute draw and Dave hated it. He hated Rude’s tights, the many long rest holds, the fact that there just weren’t any moves in there to pop the crowd, and the fact that the crowd chanted boring. Worst match of the year candidate. -2 stars. Ultimate Warrior blew up before he entered the ring for his match with Hercules and the match was bad. -1.5 stars, and Dave says it was worse than Rude vs. Roberts, but gets a better rating for knowing when to be done quick and not overstaying its welcome like the other match did.
Watch: Cleanse your palate with Hogan’s weird promo from Wrestlemania about faultlines and Donald Trump caring about his family
  • Wrestlemania continued, because holy shit that was a really long paragraph and we needed an intermission. Round two saw Hogan and Andre go to a double disqualification to start off. Andre could barely stand by two and a half minutes in. Lots of shenanigans, Virgil took a nasty suplex on the floor where Hulk didn’t protect him at all, but there’s a glimmer of a future face push for him at least. Maybe his father’s a plumber, Dave quips. Half a star if you ignore the posing at the end (dud if you count the posing). But really, the crowd came to see Hogan pose. DiBiase vs. Muraco had no heat but decent action for its short stay. 1.5 stars. Savage vs. Valentine was good, well-paced with good action. 2.5 stars. Beefer vs. Honkytonk Man amazed Dave since neither was over at all when both usually are decently over. Sherri Martel made more noise than the entire audience. Loads of shenanigans, Beefer’s new haircut makes him look like a Davey Boy Smith with less wrestling ability, dud. Islanders and Heenan vs. Koko and the Bulldogs had some decent comedy and started okay, but got boring quick. 1.25 stars. Savage vs. One Man Gang was watchable but the finish sucked. Half a star. Demolition vs. Santana and Martel was solid throughout, although the crowd seemed on Demolition’s side. If the crowd had been responsive this would have been a really good match rather than just pretty good at 2.5 stars. DiBiase vs. Savage saw the crowd missing “two top-flight guys trying to work a good match” because they were watching the entrance waiting for Hogan. Savage sends Liz to get Hogan, Hogan evens the odds, Savage wins, Hogan must pose. 2.25 stars. Once round two started, the show was pretty decent, Dave thinks, just the first half of the show wasn’t RestholdMania, but Rigor Mortis Mania.
  • Over in Crockett Country, it’s a whole different story. They drew 6,000 fans to the Greensboro Coliseum, and all six thousand were champing at the bit for the show, which created a great energy that the wrestlers fed on for their matches. Rotunda retained the TV Title against Jimmy Garvin in the amateur rules match with a one-count pin, pinning Garvin a minute into the second round. 2.5 stars. The Midnight Express beat the Fantastics by DQ to retain the U.S. Tag Titles in a classic Memphis style brawl that was so action packed the cameras missed a lot of it. Dave gives them 4.25 stars, saying the action earned it 4.5, but the overused finish with the over the top rope throw and the referee reversing the decision lost it half a star, but then the post-match action with Corette lashing Bobby Fulton’s back with a belt got it back a quarter star. Dusty and the Road Warriors (the Rhode Warriors, I almost typed) beat Warlord and Barbarian and Ivan Koloff in a real short barbed wire match, and Dave notes the resemblance between Dudty wearing facepaint and a black t-shirt and Dump Matsumoto (with the notable difference that Dump is prettier). Ivan was bleeding after 20 seconds and Dusty after 90. Dave hates these matches - everyone gets all cautious and careful and stays in the center of the ring, so nothing really happens. 1 star. Luger and Barry Windham beat Arn and Tully for the NWA Tag Titles. Good match all around, 3.5 stars. Flair and Sting had a 45 minute draw for the NWA Title in a match of the year candidate. Slow pace to start, but the heat kept up and they weren’t dull and Flair sold the hell out of every rest hold. Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone did fantastic work on this, particularly Ross who sold the intensity and importance of the match, which was critical for the first half (if only he were still able to do that today). There were supposed to be three judges, but there were five people at the table, only two of them didn’t vote, so no idea what the point there was. Anyway, Patty Mullen (Penthouse Pet of the year and who had been on Ric’s arm the night before on tv) picked Flair. Gary Juster, former NWA promoter, voted for Sting. Sandy Scott then ruled it a draw, and nothing came of the judging gimmick which made it utterly pointless. 4.75 stars
Watch: Clash of the Champions. I’ve set it to start with the Steve Williams promo because it needs to be heard to be believed
  • During Clash of the Champions, after the first match, there was an ad on TBS for the WWF 900 number advertising play-by-play for Wrestlemania. WWF managed to get an ad on TBS during Crockett’s big special, and that’s hilarious. They also ran the first ad for the new Four Horsemen vitamins, which was hilarious but unintentionally so, and Dave thinks they aren’t going to sell a lot of those vitamins.
  • Last week Dave teased a big story, and it’s that Crockett has been negotiating with Ken Mantell of World Class Dave didn’t give any details beyond the tease last week because he was hoping to get more before press time. He promises to never note a major story the way he did again without giving more details up front, because he expected more details to break before he had to print copy but it didn’t. Anyway, negotiations have been ongoing for ten days and there are conflicting reports. Crockett’s goal is taking over World Class the way they did Florida, getting the valuable channel 11 time slot on Saturday nights in Dallas. They’re going to need Fritz on board to complete the deal, though. If it does go through, Kerry and Kevin will have guaranteed work and a push in the NWA, but neither really seems to want the travel, so they’d likely get a deal for local stuff and maybe occasional work in St. Louis. The bottom line everyone needs to consider, though, is that Mantell and Michael Hayes may be the most creative bookers anywhere right now, but they aren’t turning WCCW’s business around and it just may not work out that they can. Dave doesn’t expect a deal done now, but he thinks Mantell and Hayes may give themselves until May to see if their hard work will pay off before considering any offers.
  • An example of that creative booking is the WCCW title change on March 25 in Dallas. Hayes was at ringside with Kerry while Black Bart and Buddy Roberts were for Parsons. Iceman King Parsons is one of the least likely champions in wrestling history, and the match wasn’t particularly good, but the finish saw the lights go out after Terry Gordy came down, at which point Bart and Roberts used flashlights to blind the fans in the front row so nobody could see what happened. When the lights came back on, Kerry was knocked out in the ring, Hayes was bleeding on the floor, nobody knew who hit whom, and Parsons pinned Kerry to win the belt. They even had Kerry carted out on a stretcher. Dave doesn’t think (and actively prays against) Parsons will hold it for long. Hayes looks like the best prospect (nope. It’s going back to Kerry in May at the Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions). Also, I just learned that King Parsons is his real legal name. I always thought combining Iceman and King was a weird combo of gimmicks, so that solves a mystery for me.
Watch: Iceman King Parsons wins the WCWA World Title
  • Eddie Gilbert is leaving Memphis to book for Continental beginning April 10. Continental’s business is bottoming out and it’ll be interesting to see if Gilbert and Missy can get things going there again like they did in Memphis. This also puts Memphis in some dire straits, since the Gilberts were basically all their storylines and they were drawing triple what they had been by giving the Gilberts such big spotlight, so they’re in trouble.
  • Lanny Poffo, brother of WWF Champion Randy Savage, has a book coming out called Wrestling with Rhyme. It’s a book of poetry coming out in late April and will be available at Walden Books. Man, I remember when Walden went out of business. It was a sad day for me.
  • The only news Dave has from Japan right now is that Bruiser Brody beat Jumbo Tsuruta for the International Title at Budokan Hall on March 27. Tenryu also retained his PWF Title against Hansen.
  • Roddy Piper’s latest project is a new film going into production called They Live.
Watch: They Live trailer
  • A correction on the Bruno Sammartino stuff. WWF isn’t trying to ban Bruno from using his name. They’re trying to ban him from using the trademarked nickname “The Living Legend” in contexts outside WWF. There’s a lot of talk about his radio interview , and some excerpts in the mail section of this issue.
  • There’s a film in the works about former Olympic and pro wrestler Chris Taylor. Taylor was a 450 lb wrestler from Iowa who won bronze in the 1972 Olympics and died in 1979. A book about him called “The Gentle Giant” is being adapted into a film, currently called “Lean On Me.” That does not wind up being the title, and I can’t find a movie based on him so this might have gotten scrapped. In other biopic news, no word from Hollywood on any upcoming Hulk Hogan movie.
  • WWF went up to the number 4 slot in the syndicated ratings for the week ending Feb. 28. They had a 10.6 rating, an increase on the previous week. Crockett’s network fell to number 9 with a 7.6.
  • Paul E. Dangerously firing Joe Pedicino, Gordon Solie, and Boni Blackstone on Pro Wrestling this Week aired this past weekend. It was fantastic stuff, and Paul has cemented himself as one of the top managers in the business. This is all part of a reformatting of the show to a 30 minute format with Pedicino and Patrick Schaeffer (who was the mastermind behind Global doing an IPO to build up a million dollars of operating capital) at the helm, with Schaeffer as the heel commentator.
  • Crockett had a big angle taped on March 21 that they aired this past Saturday, involving Magnum T.A. Magnum was doing an interview when Tully and J.J. came out, then Barry Windham came out and Tully popped Windham with a hit, then hit Magnum. J.J. was behind Magnum and helped Magnum gently go to ground, then Dusty barged in with a baseball bat and swung for the fences on Tully, then knocks out Jim Crockett without realizing who he’s swinging at when Jim and David Crockett and Rob Garner try to restore order. Jim Cornette did a tearful interview about his “good friend Jim Crockett” and Magnum even bladed, though that last didn’t make it to tv. Later on, Magnum came out and hit Tully with a bat in a match to cause a disqualification. Dave loved the concept here at first because you have to imagine Magnum hates being on the sidelines and wants to be involved to some extent and this gives him something to sink his teeth into. At the same time, “the idea of beating up a cripple, which unfortunately is the reality of the situation” is just kind of pathetic. That said, it’ll draw, and it’ll let Dusty (with Magnum in his corner) push himself as top star once again, and it may even be enough to put heat back on Dusty vs. Tully. Dusty will be suspended for 120 days come Saturday’s tv (taking us into July - will we see the Midnight Rider face Flair at the Bash, Dave wonders), Dusty will return as the Midnight Rider with Magnum at his side, and he’ll likely get the U.S. title in the tournament they’re going to hold in May.
Watch: Tully suckerpunches Magnum
  • The Oregon State Athletic Commission held a public hearing on March 18. Topics mostly stuck to safety concerns such as cleaning the mats, barriers at ringside, security, mats on the floor by ringside, etc. A lot of wrestlers were there, along with Billy Jack Haynes and Don and Barry Owen. Most of the wrestlers were negative about the Owens’ promotion, with only Tony Borne and Art Crews saying anything positive. Borne testified against the idea of using mats outside the ring, saying it’s not going to help as much as it hurts the visual effect of a spill to the floor. He also said the commission’s drug testing proposal went too far by including painkillers and marijuana on top of cocaine. The commission indicated they’ll be looking at action like the use of chairs in the future and potentially issuing fines. They also clarified their stance on blood: hardway is good, blading is bad. It’s pretty absurd to say that the more dangerous way of getting color is good but blading is bad, but this whole blood thing has become a thing for commissions around the country because blading sounds absolutely insane to people outside the industry, and even Dave has mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, blading is a minor safety issue at best, especially compared to rampant steroid and drug use and nasty bumps. On the other, Dave’s not sure fans are really drawn by excessive bleeding either, and probably actually turns off a large number of potential casual viewers. It doesn’t hurt if kept rare, but it doesn’t help if half the matches have it. And more dangerous to the wrestlers in a blood match than AIDS (they’re more likely to get that from outside activities) is scabies, which Owen’s wrestlers had an outbreak of not too far back. Rip Oliver said he’s gotten scabies four times since July and wound up giving it to his wife and kids on top of it. The outbreak led the Commission to pass a ruling against wrestlers working while they have communicable diseases and that they must notify promoters.
  • Eddie Gilbert vs. Jerry Lawler on March 21 drew 6,000 fans for Memphis. Gilbert won in what’s being hailed as a great match (and Dave’s heard their match the week before was even better). On tv on March 26 Gilbert acted like he was going to throw fire at Lance Russell, which got Lawler out from backstage in his first tv appearance in a month. They wound up brawling into the parking lot and Gilbert slammed Lawler on the hood of a car, shattering the windshield.
  • Scott Rechsteiner, using the ring name Scott Steiner, debuted as a babyface in Memphis recently. No mention of peaks or freaks yet.
  • Some random trivia about AWA Tag champ Paul Diamond. His real name is Tom Boric, and he was born in Winnipeg, you idiots, on May 11, 1961. He played soccer for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the old North American Soccer League and was drafted sixth in the 1980 collegiate draft by the Calgary Boomers, before getting traded to Tampa in 1982. He stayed until the NASL folded, which is when he got into wrestling.
  • Anyway, Diamond and Tanaka won the belts because the Midnight Rockers wanted $500 a week guaranteed to stay and Verne doesn’t believe in guaranteed money. They don’t appear to have left yet.
  • [Continental] Looks like Eddie Gilbert is replacing Robert Fuller and going to be sole booker.
  • [USA] The other spinoff from the old Continental promotion ran its first big show in Knoxville, drawing a $10,000 gate. Previous sellouts there hit $27,000, to give an indication of relative value there. Not a lot to report about this. Moondog Spot is there as “The Dog.” He’s not a big dog. He’s not a little dog. He’s The Dog.
  • WCCW drew 1,700 on March 25 for their Dallas show, where Kerry dropped the title to Parsons. The other main event had Michael Hayes vs. Buddy Roberts, and Roberts kept trying to apologize for hitting Hayes, but Hayes wasn’t going to let it slide. Terry Gordy did a run in and broke things up, and told Hayes they sold Angel of Death’s contract so they can all be friends again. Hayes walked out on Gordy, though.
  • [WCCW] Fabulous Lance keeps getting booked for shows but hasn’t returned. His agent still doesn’t want him to be a heel because it’ll cut down his opportunities for tv and modeling work.
  • To illustrate how bad business is for World Class, here’s the biggest gate they drew out of three shows last week in Mississippi: $783.
  • A man named David Peschel of Washington, New Jersey is suing Randy Savage for a million dollars. He alleges that Savage punched and bodyslammed him when he got out of his car at a light to ask Savage for his autograph. He describes Savage as 6’4” and 280 lbs, prompting Dave to ask if this was maybe a different Randy Savage.
  • Rumor has it that Angelo Poffo put a $1 bet on the Wrestlemania tournament. Apparently, his bet was on Ted DiBiase.
  • According to a sumo journal in Japan, Futuhaguro is 99% certain he won’t go into pro wrestling. Koji Kitao will debut near the end of 1989 in the AWA, so I’ll put my dollar bet on the 1% chance.
  • Reader Mike Rodgers attended the Oregon commission hearing on March 18 and writes about his take. The commission is making big improvements to safety that he thinks are great, but thinks they’re overstepping by wanting to legitimately fine wrestlers who use foreign objects or chairs, and says they don’t understand “that promoters do what they can to fill up arenas.” Banning the blade but not blood is just going to increase the chance of legitimate injury, and it’s part of the proof that the commission really isn’t smart to what wrestling really is about.
  • We get a really long letter on Bruno’s radio interview. The writer taped the second hour and is hoping to get tape of the first hour. But before getting to the good stuff, he first wants to note that lying and silly gimmicks didn’t start in 1984 (was Gorilla Monsoon really from Manchuria? Didn’t Bruno employ gimmick wrestlers when he booked Pittsburgh? How about when he’d blade and claim to have spent the night hospitalized receiving transfusions) and that Bruno’s not really got a leg to stand on for “wrestling must be credible and it is an insult to the fans’ intelligence to lie to them.” Fans knew then just as they know now that it’s a work, but that doesn’t matter - you watch the show because it’s entertaining and you want to see the magician do their tricks. Also, the writer weighs in that the real story with the Main Event will be told by the demographic breakdown rather than the overall rating. In other words, is Hulk Hogan the Demo God? Anyway, after all this preamble, we finally get some quotes from the interview:
  • Bruno denies blading happened in his day but says “today, nothing would surprise me.”
  • Says he’ll never work for the NWA. “I wouldn’t touch it with a 50-foot pole.”
  • He breaks kayfabe on George Steele and says he’s been a teacher for years.
  • He thinks Bobby Heenan is a “dud and a disgrace” to wrestling.
  • He compliments Ric Flair as a guy who can give you an exciting 30 or 40 minute match, but the NWA “have an awful lot of bizarre nonsense in there that, to me, is no good.”
  • He says David wanted to be like him and he tried to warn David that these days they aren’t interested in “guys who just want to wrestle” but he’ll be going to Japan where they appreciate that better.
  • He didn’t like doing commentary. He just clocked in, did his job, and left as soon as he was done. He was very uncomfortable and unhappy doing it.
  • Bruno says WWF didn’t really have anything great to generate interest in the tournament for Wrestlemania.
  • A caller asks if his wrestling was all real, and Bruno says “Well, it was in my day, at least I thought it was.
  • We get a letter that feels so much like it could have been a post here on /SquaredCircle when Dave rated Omega/Okada 6 stars that I’m posting it in its entirety. Be warned, it is long, kind of racist, and absolutely bonkers, but that’s not unfamiliar around these parts. It gets the headline “Sick of praise for Japan.”
I get so sick of the way that people talk about Japanese wrestling. There’s no question it should be covered extensively in the Observer because it is a significant part of the wrestling world. However, when you start printing letters that criticize the American society and the jazz scene, then you are going way too far.
Anyone who thinks the Japanese never forsake quality for showmanship is full of it. The rock group KISS has enjoyed phenomenal success there because of their wild appearence [sic] and stage show. In fact, when they stopped wearing their makeup in the United States, they waited almost two years to do the same in Japan because they knew they wouldn’t be accepted there without it. And what about the movie industry? Do you think Godzilla movies are popular because of great acting?
As a student, I find teachers constantly comparing the American intelligence with that of the Japanese. I’m sure that the wrestlers love being compared to Japanese wrestlers as much as I love being compared to Japanese students. The Japanese do well at everything because they become obsessed with it. For them, it’s a matter of pride. If they screw up, it’s not only a mark on themselves but also on their entire family. You may think that’s great, but it puts a lot of pressure on everyone. They spend hours studying and I’m certain spend hours learning wrestling skills and have no time for themselves. Cut the North American wrestlers some slack. They’re just trying to make a living and preserve their bodies in the process. Look at what trying to wrestle like the Japanese did to Tommy Billington. Everyone would love matches filled with nothing but high spots, but working them is a great way to destroy yourself in a hurry. Now there is no excuse for total duds like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant either, but there are many non-Japanese who can hold their own without going crazy about it. I wonder how many Observer readers can honestly say that they work as hard at their own jobs as the Japanese in the same profession do. If they do, then I think they would quality [sic] as workaholics.
If there is anything wrong with our society, it’s the lack of national pride, which is so evident in the pages of the Observer. You seem to hate everything that wasn’t imported from the other side of the world. I have absolutely nothing against the country of Japan or Japanese wrestling, but I don’t think it’s up to a bunch of wrestling fans to dictate what’s wrong with our country just because they prefer the Oriental style of wrestling. I think the Observer is great, but I’d like to see you stick to writing about wrestling instead of how rotten our way of life is. I’m sure that’s what a Japanese journalist would do.
  • Anyway, Dave responds to that letter, giving the writer only 4 stars because it’s not in the literally-only-opened-a-couple-weeks-ago Tokyo Dome:
DM: Have I ever written about how rotten our quality of life is or done any cultural comparisons between the U.S. and Japan except to where it pertains to the wrestling business? If I lived in Japan and made a comparison of the quality of the football product and wrote the U.S. product was superior, I hope people wouldn’t take it as an indictment against an entire society.
  • Lastly, it’s about that time of year, I guess, because we have letters arguing about whether Dave should include GLOW coverage or not. Two letters this week on that theme, the first noting what the writer calls a progression in the letters calling for more coverage of women’s wrestling. First were the calls for more coverage of “conventional” women’s wrestling. Then the calls for GLOW coverage. Then POWW. Guess the next will be coverage of the apartment house wrestling scene, the writer supposes. The other writer claims to speak for 90% of subscribers and says Dave would offend that much of his readership if he covers GLOW and POWW and says that if you even consider GLOW to be pro wrestling, you’re incapable of understanding what makes a match good or not. This one asks if Dave’s going to be asked to cover mud wrestling next. There’s no misogyny problem in wrestling fandom. Move along. Nothing to see here.
  • Back to news, the Kentucky Athletic Commission has put up some new rules. There are to be guard rails around the ring now. Throwing an opponent over the top rope will result in a fine or suspension. Ditto for any referee who doesn’t immediately stop the match for it. The top rope rule is now state law, as insane as that sounds.
  • Dave should have national numbers next week, but in Atlanta Clash of the Champions drew an 11.7 rating, with the FlaiSting match hitting 14.5 National numbers will not be nearly that high, but hitting that 5 Dave mentioned earlier that would mean 2 million viewers doesn’t seem so far fetched anymore. Clash beat the NCAA tournament on the networks in Atlanta. TBS is reportedly looking to do another in prime time on a Wednesday early in the summer.
  • Stampede set up an angle where Johnny Smith (kayfabe Davey Boy’s cousin or brother or something) argued with Diana Hart Smith, which got Owen out to defend his sister. Davey Boy was supposed to come in after Wrestlemania to work with Johnny, but Vince put the kibosh on that. There were also considerations for some Stampede guys to participate in the Crockett Cup, but politics (Vince) made that a no-go. So it’s probably no coincidence that when Owen did the job for Hercules it was just outside Greensboro. Anyway, the real takeaway is that Owen is probably coming over to WWF by the end of the year.
NEXT WEEK: Clash vs. Wrestlemania poll results, Clash ratings and Wrestlemania buyrate, an assload of mini headlines because news is apparently thin next week, and more
submitted by SaintRidley to SquaredCircle [link] [comments]

Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jul. 22, 2002

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
1-7-2002 1-14-2002 1-21-2002 1-28-2002
2-4-2002 2-11-2002 2-18-2002 2-25-2002
3-4-2002 3-11-2002 3-18-2002 3-25-2002
4-1-2002 4-8-2002 4-15-2002 4-22-2002
4-29-2002 5-6-2002 5-13-2002 5-20-2002
5-27-2002 6-3-2002 6-10-2002 6-17-2002
6-24-2002 7-1-2002 7-8-2002 7-15-2002
  • WWE hit the reset button again with a new storyline assigning general managers to each brand, and it featured the shocking debut of Eric Bischoff. The new storyline will have Bischoff as the heel GM of Raw, while Stephanie McMahon will be the babyface GM of Smackdown, while Vince McMahon will take more of a backseat role and reduce his TV presence. Of course, just 5 weeks ago, Vince panicked and blew up the existing "feuding GMs" storyline between himself and Ric Flair, so now we're re-starting it with new people I guess. It feels like a last-ditch effort to save the brand extension, which has been an utter flop since day one, with no effort to differentiate the shows and only resulting in diluting the talent and falling ratings.
  • Bischoff and McMahon struck a secret deal about 10 days prior to his debut. Bischoff had talks with WWE last year about coming in during the original Invasion angle, except they only wanted him to do a one-off match with Vince for the PPV (which Vince would obviously have won), but Bischoff turned down that offer. But this time, they agreed to a more long-term deal. Bischoff didn't know he was going to debut on Raw until just a day or two prior, when Vince called him and told him to be there. The whole thing was kept secret and almost no one other than Vince himself knew about it. This is believed to be a unique contract, in which it's a short-term deal with the option to renew it for longer-term if the angle gets over. His only role is as a television character, it's strictly a performance contract. Bischoff is not going to be a part of management or creative.
  • When Bischoff walked across the screen in the backstage segment, almost everyone in the company was just as shocked as the viewers at home. Bischoff's debut saw him come out and hug Vince, which Dave thinks about is the dumbest possible way to introduce him. Sure, the Invasion angle is over but WCW's corpse isn't completely cold yet. It's only been a year or so. There is probably still plenty of money to be made in Bischoff as an outsider trying to destroy Vince McMahon and the WWE. But as always, that would involve Vince allowing himself or WWE to look vulnerable against an "outsider" and his utter refusal to do that is a big part of what tanked the Invasion. But that's par for the course. Bischoff cut a promo, giving the fake "WWE version" of the Monday Night Wars history (Dave points out multiple inaccuracies that WWE still clings on today, such as claiming they stole Hulk Hogan from WWF. Of course, Hulk had been in NJPW and hadn't worked for WWF for nearly a year at the time WCW signed him. Things like that.). Dave thinks it became one of those promos full of old stuff or inside references where so much of it is about things that the average fan doesn't know or care about. Dave thinks most of this audience in 2002 isn't familiar with Alundra Blayze, they don't know Raw used to be taped instead of live, and they don't care about 83-week TV ratings streaks (Dave also notes that Bischoff said 84 on this show, which is incorrect). And once again, it became one of those promos talking about how much WWE sucks lately, which is something you don't want to keep pointing out to the fans who are still watching because you just make them feel dumb for supporting something that even the people producing it knows sucks. Shit like that is partly what drove off WCW fans. Bischoff also gloated about almost putting WWE out of business, and to the many guys in the locker room who remember that vividly, it wasn't a joke or a storyline. Those are guys who really were fighting for their job against a guy who really was trying to put them out of business. Bischoff has tremendous heat from the locker room, with a lot of people who worked for him in WCW or who resent him from the WWE side....they don't want Bischoff there.
WATCH: Eric Bischoff debuts in on WWE Raw - 2002
  • This angle was going to take place regardless, but it's thought that the injury to Kevin Nash may have moved things up a couple of weeks because Vince once again panicked when his plans went down in flames. Nash had surgery last week. Because of the location of the tear, it's not quite as serious as the tear Triple H suffered last year. But Nash is also 10 years older. However, he has vowed to return, noting he doesn't want his career to end like that. With his age and his track record of injuries (this is his 22nd surgery, dating back to his collegiate basketball days), Dave isn't sure how much Nash will be able to offer if/when he returns next year. Also, while nobody wanted Nash to get hurt, the mood in the locker room was said to be much happier this week without him around, as the whole Nash/X-Pac/Shawn/Triple H group isn't very well liked these days (the more things change...)
  • Speaking of X-Pac, a weird situation with him this week led to him being suspended by WWE. The day of the Raw when Nash tore his quad, X-Pac missed his flight to the show. Why? Well, he was hospitalized earlier that day in Minneapolis. Again, you ask, why? No idea. Sounds like X-Pac sure would like to know also. He called WWE saying he was in the emergency room and had no idea how he got there. He left the ER and made new travel arrangements and he got to Raw 90 minutes before the show started. And then he went out there that night and worked his match (and Dave says looked more impressive than he had in a long time). However, after the match, he still couldn't explain to WWE officials how or why he was in the hospital earlier that day and so they were naturally suspicious. As a result, X-Pac has been suspended and removed from all upcoming bookings until they get a medical report on what the deal is. Dave says X-Pac has been acting out of control for weeks now and it's been well-documented (threatening to quit if match finishes weren't changed week after week). The feeling backstage was that as long as Nash was around to go to bat for him, he was basically protected, but no longer. With Hall fired, Nash out for probably a year, X-Pac suspended, and Hogan a babyface, the feeling within the company is that the NWO angle is dead. Shawn Michaels is still expected to appear at upcoming house shows and Raws in some new role, since much of the advertising for those shows was based around him appearing, but this is probably the end of the road for the NWO. (This kinda flew under the radar, but yeah, X-Pac never wrestled another match in WWE. The match where Nash tore his quad remains to this day the last time X-Pac ever worked a match in a WWE ring. He gets released soon after this and we all know in retrospect that he was dealing with some drug issues throughout this time).
  • Dave provides some details on Vince Russo's first (and only) creative meeting when he was briefly rehired by WWE last month. Russo apparently proposed a Raw vs. Smackdown feud that would eventually lead to reviving one of them as WCW and reigniting the WCW vs. WWE war. This time, they would have Eric Bischoff leading the WCW side, while Russo suggested Mick Foley as the leader of the WWE side. It was pretty much made clear to Russo during the meeting that if they were to do a Raw vs. Smackdown angle, it would be Stephanie in charge of the WWE side, not Foley, and sure enough, that's what is expected to happen (but without the whole WCW-revival part). Russo's idea was pretty much a combination of the 2001 Invasion angle and the 2000 WCW Bischoff/Russo angle. Dave notes that Russo wanted to essentially start from scratch again, strip everyone of their belts the way they did in 2000, and bring in Bret Hart and Goldberg to be involved as well.
  • A big recap of UFC's debut show in England, which featured rising star Frank Mir getting beat in what should have been an upset, but word is Mir didn't take the fight seriously and barely trained. As a result, he got murked in the first round. Also, while in England, some people in Tito Ortiz's camp got into a big drunken bar brawl with fellow fighter Lee Murray. Chuck Liddell was somewhere involved too. Anyway, long story short, some people tell the story that Murray knocked Ortiz out. Ortiz denies it (to this day, this is a famous MMA story and both men tell different versions, so depending on who you believe I guess).
  • TNA's 4th show ended with a strong angle that actually got them some national publicity. It involved Tennessee Titans players Frank Miller and Zach Piller hopping the rail and attacking Jeff Jarrett and some other wrestlers, resulting in a big brawl to end the show. So how much of it was real or shoot? Well, Russo is involved, so who knows. The official story is that Jarrett and Piller were supposed to shove each other from across the rail, but that's it. From NFL sources, Dave has actually heard the same thing. It was supposed to stop at a shoving confrontation, and then Malice would come pull Jarrett away. That was the story as Russo allegedly wrote it. But reportedly, Piller had been drinking and he ended up hopping the rail and straight up overpowered Jarrett like it was nothing and took him down. Whether this was a shoot or a work is still unknown, but it ended up getting them coverage on SportsCenter and Dave says it's possible it was a work that only a few people were in on. If it was a work, nobody else was in on it. Ron Harris, who works backstage, almost rushed to the ring to save Jarrett and Malice (who wasn't supposed to touch the football players) got involved and broke it up quickly. After the show, the players were backstage laughing and joking with Jarrett and Miller has been openly telling people it was all planned and they were told to make it look as real as possible, but it's still unknown if jumping the rail and tackling Jarrett was part of the plan or not. Several other Titans players were at ringside with them and saw it unfold, but mostly didn't get involved. So now after the publicity, TNA is trying to see if they can make a match out of this. Either way, it's starting to feel like an elaborate work that none of the rest of the roster was clued in on, which is exactly the kind of shit Russo used to do constantly in WCW that soured morale among the locker room, and for this to happen on Russo's first night in, with an angle he wrote, sure feels a little familiar.
WATCH: Tennessee Titans/TNA brawl
  • Puerto Rico's IWA had its most successful show in company history, drawing more than 11,000 fans (without a single WWE name on the card) to see the payoff of an angle with Savio Vega fighting for control of the company. WHO SAID SAVIO AIN'T A DRAW?!
  • On the other side of things, WWC has postponed its anniversary show from August to September in order to give themselves more time to build up big angles and storylines. Seems like something they probably should have been planning earlier? IWA has become the dominant promotion in Puerto Rico and WWC felt they didn't have the build-up necessary to do a big-money show right now. Especially after this IWA show did such big business, anything less would be an embarrassment.
  • Bischoff's debut on Raw was a pretty big hit. How big, you ask? During Bischoff's in-ring promo after his debut, Raw added nearly 1.1 million new viewers from the previous segment. Meaning that as soon as Bischoff walked across the screen backstage, tons of wrestling fans started calling their friends telling them, "Holy shit, Eric Bischoff is on Raw, turn it on!" The bad news is that as soon as Bischoff's promo was over, a lot of them tuned right back out, leading to a huge drop-off for the rest of the show. On the flip side, this week's Smackdown, featuring the heavily-hyped return of The Rock ended up being the 7th lowest rated episode of the show in history (4th if you don't count holidays). Rock's not a draw, bet he won't even be in the business in a couple more years.
  • Kenta Kobashi is finally back in the ring, wrestling undercard prelim tag matches for NOAH. Even though he's in tags and doing limited in-ring work, his knees are said to be already killing him and one of them totally locked up on him after one of his recent matches. But he still hasn't missed any dates.
  • NJPW announced that Kensuke Sasaki will face Pancrase star Minoru Suzuki at the Tokyo Dome in October. This match was actually planned for the big Tokyo Dome show back in May, but negotiations fell apart because Pancrase didn't like the idea of Suzuki doing a worked pro-wrestling match. Suzuki started his career in NJPW back in 1988 and was being groomed to be a big star for the company, but he quit and joined UWF because he preferred to work shoot-style matches. In 1993, he and a few other guys all started Pancrase, which he's been doing ever since. These days, Suzuki's days of fighting for them at a top level are over and he usually only competes against nobodies or in catch wrestling (grappling and submission only, no striking). Anyway, for those curious, this didn't happen. Not sure why yet, I haven't gotten that far, but Suzuki doesn't return to NJPW until 2003.
  • Goldberg is said to be leaning very much against going to WWE anytime soon and is instead eyeing his options of working big shows in Japan. He's contemplating an offer to make an appearance at Toryumon's show in Tokyo in September, but only an appearance. He doesn't plan to wrestle until later in the year (don't think the Toryumon appearance happens, but he does end up working a few matches in Japan here soon).
  • Bret Hart is still hoping to make his scheduled appearance for Jacques Rougeau's upcoming indie show in Montreal. If you recall, Rougeau's big show there last year drew over 11,000 fans and he's got himself another big stadium to fill this year and Bret was expected to be the biggest draw. Whether he'll be healthy enough to make the show, following his recent stroke, remains to be seen but he's determined to try. As of this week, Hart is able to lift his left arm over his head. Just a week ago, he couldn't move it at all. His grip strength is also coming back and he's able to walk short distances. His vocal cords were also damaged but have started strengthening again and he's able to talk again (though he can't cut a wrestling promo yet, Dave says, so he might not be doing much other than coming out and waving to the crowd if he does make it). He's still having some vision problems also, but not too bad all things considered.
  • Dave says that "no matter what you may hear," a lot of people involved in TNA behind the scenes are very unhappy about Vince Russo being brought in. He also says that a lot of people associate Russo and Ed Ferrara together, but they actually had a major falling out awhile back and hadn't been on speaking terms until now. When it became clear Russo was coming back, Ferrara reached out to Russo and the two sides made up. He goes on record saying for sure that neither Mike Tenay or Bill Behrens are happy about Russo's arrival, among others, but says everyone is being professional.
  • Notes from TNA Weekly PPV: Crowd of about 1,500, only about half paid. Dave says it was easily the best of the 4 shows they've had so far. About 85% of it was written and booked by Jerry Jarrett and the original writing team before Russo was hired, but Russo did make some changes. Dave says some people are beginning to get tired of Don West on commentary already and he definitely brings a ton of enthusiasm (but nothing else, Dave adds) to the table. During the Ken Shamrock vs. Omori match, the crowd was distracted by one of the cage dancers near the entrance who was apparently showing her ass to the crowd. Former WCW wrestler Crowbar (real name Chris Ford) worked a tag match under the name Tempest and Dave notes that when Ford worked a try-out match for WWE awhile back, he also signed over the name Crowbar to them when he did (guessing Dave is mistaken about this. He never used the name Crowbar in TNA, but he's been using it everywhere else ever since for the last 18 years). Brian Christopher is now going by his real name, Brian Lawler, and cut a promo on Jerry Lawler about being a bad father. It got a lot of heat but now they've made fans want to see a match that they can't deliver. K-Krush faced NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler and got DQ'd. Dave says Krush was absolutely awesome here, actually carrying Sadler to a watchable match. Sadler was awful of course, but the Gayda/Stratus match from Raw was light years worse, so hey, who cares? TNA tried to bring in Hermie's more famous older brother Elliott Sadler, but that fell through because Elliott has some type of affiliation with WWE, though Dave isn't sure what (I did the research and apparently Elliott drove a Summerslam-themed car during a race around this time, so I assume that's it).
  • More notes from TNA Weekly PPV, since this recap is huge and big, unbroken paragraphs suck: Mark and Jay Brisco worked a brief match until Malice ran in and destroyed everyone (Dave says this was a Russo addition to the show. Dave also says the Briscos will be great some day and notes that on this show, the announcers lied and said both of them are 18, when in fact, Mark Brisco is still 17 and therefore not even allowed to wrestle in many commission states). Former porn star and ECW valet Jasmine St. Claire debuted and gave Jeremy Borash a lap dance, took off her underwear, and was about to strip nude until a big angle stopped it. And yes, in case it wasn't obvious, this was another Russo addition. AJ Styles and Jerry Lynn are the tag team champions and ended up in a big brawl backstage. If you've been paying attention to the show the last 2 weeks, you would have recognized that they were doing a slow build with these two partners having friction, but Russo convinced Jarrett to hurry up and pull the trigger on the split, so here we are. Dave thinks this had no impact at all because it felt completely rushed, the story hadn't progressed far enough yet for these two to already be coming to blows. Another interview with the Dupps saying "shit" repeatedly was, yes, another Russo addition. Try not to cut yourself on all this edginess. Shamrock vs. NOAH star Takao Omori ended in a no contest because of politics. Shamrock was supposed to win clean, but then NOAH decided they didn't want Omori to do a job, so this is what we got. Dave thinks TNA should have said screw them then and just not used Omori because it's not like TNA's fanbase knows who the fuck he is anyway. Omori was said to have been spaced out all day beforehand and looked bad in the match. Crowd didn't care and they pumped in a ton of fake crowd noise for it. Jeff Jarrett ran in and took everyone out with chair shots, including "NWA rep" Harley Race, who ate a brutal unprotected chair shot to the head from Jeff and Dave thinks that's not good for anyone's brain, especially a guy pushing 60. Race was there basically to help Omori since Harley's small promotion in St. Louis has a relationship with NOAH. And finally, the 6-man X-Division #1 contenders match was excellent. Dave thinks WWE really missed the boat on Jerry Lynn and K-Krush. He admits Lynn probably couldn't have ever been a top guy in WWE or anything, but he makes everybody he wrestles look like a million bucks and guys like that are priceless to have on your roster. They also pumped a bunch of crowd noise in for this match, and at one point, the fake crowd noise loop stopped and there was a moment where it went from a loud roaring crowd to dead silence in a blink. Also, a fight in the stands distracted the crowd near the end. But great match otherwise. Show ended with the Titans players angle.
  • In other news, The Shane Twins have been working as the masked penis wrestlers The Johnsons in TNA but the penis aspect of it has been played down to almost nothing. Upcoming plans were for the team to unmask and revert back to the Shane Twins, but when Russo came aboard, that plan got scrapped and they will remain The Johnsons for now. Because dammit, Russo will get to make penis jokes on TV or he's going to die trying.
  • Many of the key names in TNA (Shamrock, AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, Mike Tenay, among others) have now signed 1-year contracts. Scott Hall was rumored to have also signed a 1-year deal, but Hall is telling people it's not true and he's only committed for 4 more dates. Low-Ki is signed through the end of the year.
  • At the recent K-1 vs. PRIDE show, there was a huge upset when PRIDE fighter Quinton Jackson knocked out Cyril Abidi, one of the top kickboxers in the world. The "plan" was for Abidi to win and then go on to a bigger money match with Don Frye, but that's what happens when you try to plan things around a shoot.
  • And I'm sorry, I know this ain't an MMA recap, but this is too good: at the UFC press conference for the UK show this week, Dana White showed up with a bag filled with $250,000 in cash and challenged UK boxing promoter Frank Warren to put up any fighter in his stable and White would find a UFC fighter of the same weight to fight him, winner takes all the money. If you recall, Warren made some statements a few weeks back calling UFC fighters unskilled steroid freaks and claiming that his boxers could beat any of them in a real fight. So Dana showed up with a whole bag of cash, doing Dana things.
  • Notes from Raw: Vince came out to the NWO music and said that's the last time we'll ever hear it and that the NWO is dead, so as expected, that's it for that gimmick. Tommy Dreamer is back to his old ECW gimmick and is already 1000x more over than the jobber-eating-gross-stuff gimmick WWE gave him. There was a Coach/Booker T segment backstage which is when Eric Bischoff walked through the shot, leaving everybody with their mouths hanging open, and then his promo. Another hype video for Rey Mysterio debuting on Smackdown next week. Former WCW wrestler and recent developmental guy Johnny The Bull made his Raw debut winning the hardcore title, and Dave is baffled how he got the call up because he's one of the worst guys they have in developmental and is nowhere near ready. But it's all about how he looks. Undertaker & Lesnar beat RVD & Flair in the main event and afterward, Lesnar turned on Undertaker in a good angle, though Dave doesn't have high hopes for the inevitable match.
WATCH: Rey Mysterio debut vignette
  • Notes from Smackdown: it was a pretty bad show and for a pretty surprising reason. It was all built around Rock and he was awful. Rather than trying to sell a PPV, he came off like he was trying too hard to be a funny, "cool" guy and became a parody of himself. Dave is a huge Rock fan and thinks it was painful. He did a big in-ring promo segment with rapper Busta Rhymes that was just an elaborate plug for his new Halloween: Resurrection movie ("coming out in July?" Dave asks incredulously and, right, wtf?). Even Rock using Angle's own ankle lock against him at the end of the show looked hilariously fake and Dave has no interest in the Rock/Angle match at Vengeance after this show. Edge & Hogan defending the tag titles was a super heated match and Dave can't understand it. The live crowds are still nuclear hot for Hogan, but it's not translating at all into TV ratings or ticket sales. But man, the people who do buy tickets sure do love him. They seem to be slow-burning a Randy Orton heel turn. The Nidia segment at the buffet was great and Dave thinks they may have stumbled across a pretty great gimmick with her.
WATCH: The Rock & Busta Rhymes Smackdown segment
  • The crew got a little backstage pep talk before Raw this week, mostly given by the agents (John Laurinaitis, Arn Anderson, and Fit Finlay) as well as Triple H. In particular, Triple H talked about there being too many people in the locker room who think they deserve a push ahead of the newer guys because they've been there longer. He said too many guys are sitting back waiting for someone to give them a push rather than breaking out from the pack and earning the push. He said he got over on his own when management was trying to hold him down after the MSG curtain call incident. Said too many guys are being lazy, playing cards and playing video games backstage rather than watching the matches and learning. He said just because you've had a few good matches on TV doesn't mean you know how to work or deserve a push, and also said everyone needs to work harder at house shows because attendance is down and it was guys like him who worked hard to re-build the company the last time business was down. Needless to say, for a locker room full of people who feel like they bust their asses only to get their legs cut off and hit a glass ceiling (often at the hands of the same guy giving the speech), this went over just about as well as you'd expect with the rest of the locker room. Not that anything Triple H said is wrong. Dave agrees with most of it. But considering who the messenger was, it was not well-received.
  • Lots of backstage talk about last week's Bradshaw/Trish Stratus vs. Chris Nowinski/Jackie Gayda match, which was among the worst matches anyone has seen in years. Fit Finlay is the usual trainer and agent for the women and usually goes over their matches and spots with them, but in this case, Sgt. Slaughter put together this match. Gayda missed a few spots early in the match and seemed to panic and it all fell apart from there. Backstage, she was fully aware of how bad it was and was said to be extremely upset. There's been talk of sending her down to OVW for more training, but she'll probably still be on TV because she's fresh off winning Tough Enough.
  • Steve Austin hasn't had any contact with anyone in WWE except for Jack Lanza, who was the agent Austin often worked with for his matches. All that's known now is Austin told Lanza he's still training hard and Lanza felt like he's getting antsy sitting at home and may be ready to return already (I think he's got bigger problems at home). But Austin and Vince still have not spoken and there's still a lot of bad feelings there.
  • In light of recent events, Dave digs up the transcript from an old Prodigy online chat from 1996, in which Eric Bischoff was asked if he would ever work for Vince McMahon. His response: "I would rather chew off my fingers."
  • Writer Brian Gewertz reportedly has some heat over Raw's declining ratings. The problem is, no matter who it is (Gewertz, Heyman, Russo, or even Stephanie), the final approval for everything you see on television comes down to Vince McMahon. He deserves the credit when it's good and the blame when it's bad, end of story. It's a common occurrence for Vince to rip up a script and tell the writers to come up with something new, so any bad segment that makes it to TV is on him, and resulting in lots of last minute changes. Some people are even blaming Gewertz for Kevin Nash's recent injury because Gewertz wrote the match into the script the day of the show, so Nash wasn't even aware he was going to be wrestling until a couple hours before they went on the air and I guess he didn't have time to properly stretch and get ready, and ended up tearing his quad 10 seconds in. Same thing with Cena's debut, that was a day-of decision, and luckily Cena was already on the road with the crew working dark matches, so he was available. But again, Dave says you can't blame Gewertz for either of those things because, once again, it's Vince who is constantly changing his mind and forcing last minute rewrites and whatnot every week. How is Gewertz or any other writer supposed to build long-term stories under those conditions? (Man, this sure feels familiar)
  • Latest on DDP, he and wife Kimberly are planning on moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles to try their hand at acting careers. They've both saved a lot of money from their years in wrestling and can afford to take a chance on this kind of thing I guess. (DDP has done a handful of acting roles, mostly in the mid-00s, but obviously nothing of note. And Kimberly Page did a few movies, including a starring role with DDP in a movie called The Scam Artist that I can't find anywhere, and of course, her most famous role as "chick who's tit fell out" in The 40 Year Old Virgin).
  • Randy Orton suffered a concussion in a house show match with Batista. Orton was trying to sell a clothesline by flying in the air and taking a big flat back bump, but hit his head on the mat coming down and was knocked unconscious. He should be back in a week or so though, because it's not like concussions are serious injuries or anything. EMT's helped him out of the ring and he walked to the back under his own power but he was knocked clean the fuck out for a bit there.
  • This week's episode of WWE Confidential featured Big Show and Bradshaw playing a game of HORSE with the winner "getting a shot to sexually harass Linda Miles." So obviously they're out of ideas for this show. (Yeah JBL is on some full-blown Jerry Lawler shit with Miles here).
WATCH: JBL perving on Linda Miles for 5 minutes under the guise of playing basketball
  • John Cena is still finishing up in OVW and working the upcoming big Six Flags show in Louisville. Despite being a big babyface on TV, he's still a heel in OVW and is playing a gimmick where his main roster success is going to his head.
  • The New York Daily News ran a story on the "Sex, Lies & Headlocks" book that is coming out soon about Vince McMahon and noted several revelations in the book, such as Vince being paranoid about his office being bugged in 1993 prior to the steroid trial and how he wouldn't sit or talk near windows because he thought the FBI was listening in. It also talked about how Vince gave a job interview to Matt Lauer to host the WBF Bodystars show but didn't think Lauer had the right look, among other things. When asked for comment, WWE responded "No one in WWE has any interest in reading it. No one cares to." Dave says that's 2002 carny talk for, "Can you get us an advance copy?"
NEXT WEDNESDAY: Raw appears to turn a corner (lol no), WWE making major cutbacks and severing developmental ties, TNA also making major budget cuts, WWE Vengeance fallout, and more...
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Relegated Players: Cheaper Transfer Options?

This post has nothing to do with various transfer rumours floating about, it's just a fun exercise in analysing players who could be available at knockdown prices from the 3 relegated clubs in the PL, with a couple from elsewhere in Europe. Let me know your thoughts on any of the below or any other options I chose not to discuss and how they might or might not fit into our squad.
Norwich City
Norwich earned plaudits after gaining promotion with a team containing a few promising academy products. If those young players choose to continue their development at Norwich and they can keep the core of their team together they could do what Burnley have done in recent seasons by coming straight back up and securing some form of stability for a few seasons.
After reaching an FA Cup Final last season, only to be demolished 6-0 by Man City, Watford seem to have been scarred by the experience. An 8-0 loss at the Etihad in September was followed up by a 4-0 loss which set them up for relegation. A club with trigger happy owners, they have gone through 6 permanent managers during their 5 season stay in the Premier League.
After failing to fix their defensive frailties, Bournemouth have instead blamed their relegation on Hawkeye not working in Sheffield United vs Aston Villa. Eddie Howe has earned plaudits for taking the club from League Two to the Premier League and surviving for 5 seasons with a smaller club with a small stadium and limited resources. Bournemouth have played some good football and earned some great results during their time in the PL, putting up the best fight to beat the drop post-lockdown of the 3 relegated clubs.
Other players from relegated clubs in Europe
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2020 Offseason Review: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Division: NFC South (7-9 2nd in the Division)
Head Coach: Bruce Arians
Offensive Coordinator: Byron Leftwich
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Bowles

Intro: Let me Get Something off my Chest

A couple of months ago, I wrote the Buccaneers 32 Teams/32 Days Post. Looking back a it, I’m sticking to my guns on most of my analysis. There’s just…one….little….thing….we need to talk about. Regarding Jameis’s pending free agent status, I said:
There's also the question of QB. Jameis is also a UFA and I'd say there's a...40% chance we re-sign him. So who replaces him, and would an aging veteran QB like Brady or Rivers really be a marked improvement?
[Sneezes in Boston accent]
The answer is yes, Fencing Coach, you fawkin dumbass!
Did you really think that Jameis Winston was a bettah option than Tawm Fawkin’ Brady 6-time supah bowl champion and enemy of Rawjuh Fawkin’ Goodell? You were fawkin’ wrong!
Admit to the good people of Aw/NFL that you wuh just another paht of the fake news media that tried to say Tawm Bwady deflated the footballs and that Bill Belichick used the video cameras for the SpyGates!
And who would have evah guessed that we’d end up with Gronk! What a yeeyah! What an offseason you fawkin’ pessimist! We got the GOAT! Get ya Covid immunity TB12 pills and shove ‘em up yuh asshole!
[Snaps out of it]
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s get serious for a moment. This is the final Hail Mary of the underwhelming Jason Licht era, and aggressive moves were made this offseason, because the excuses have finally run out.
Since taking over the team in 2014, Jason Licht is on his third head coach (to be fair, Lovie Smith was not his choice) and only has a 34-62 (.35) record to show for, 0 playoff appearances, and only one winning season.
Meanwhile, a select list of his GM peers hired since include:
Big moves were made this offseason at the Quarterback position, bringing in a certain 6th round pick out of Michigan to compete with the ethereal and legendary Blaine Gabbert. Jameis was shown the door. And the result is about a case of beer’s worth of cap space and little depth across the roster. Buckle your Bucs, this is going to be a helluvah ride.

Top Offseason Stories

The Tompa Bay Gronkeneers: The biggest news of the offseason was giving Tom Brady a 2 yeaar, $50M contract (fully guaranteed). I won’t be blind to the fact that Tom Brady is 43 years old and clearly on the decline. But Tom Brady on the decline doesn’t have to carry the team on his back when he has Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, and Oterius Jabari Howard to throw to. Not to mention, people will be sleeping on the Buccaneer defense. They shouldn’t be (more on that later).
Had Jameis Winston cut his 2019 turnovers in half, the Buccaneers would have been a playoff team and he would have been in the MVP discussion. Of course, if my mother had wheels, she’d be a bicycle. The real value of the Brady deal will be in his accuracy and more conservative approach to quarterbacking. Let’s exclude Tom Brady’s rookie year and his 2008 season cut short by injury, and Tom Brady has averaged ~10 interceptions. In five seasons, Jameis averaged ~18 interceptions per season (and dozens more fumbles).
Numbers aside, Brady’s value will come in the swagger he brings to the locker room. The 2019 Bruce Arians signing brought in a coach with a track record of winning. Brady’s window is obviously short…very short. But the ride should be fun while it lasts.
Then of course, there’s Rob Gronkowski, one of football’s most beloved meatheads. One year post retirement, Gronk put the cleats back on and chose to follow Brady to Tampa (in exchange for a 4th and the Patriots’ 7th round pick). With OJ Howard and Cameron Brate already on the roster, the Gronkowski trade was a luxury move, but will give Brady his favorite all-time target in an offense largely unfamiliar to him.
Jason Licht’s approach of building from the outside-in has often worked to his detriment for a team that has always excelled at receiving skill position players…but little else. The Tompa Bay Gronkeneers will be fun to watch. Let’s hope Brady can capture lightning in a bottle.
The Jameis Winston Cult of Personality Ends: When Jameis Winston first entered the league, I declared that his ceiling was Brett Favre and his floor was Jay Cutler. Five seasons in and I feel like he got a quarter of the way past Cutler. So how will I remember Jameis? For those of you who were old enough to watch the Jerry Springer show and see a big reveal that Cletus’s wife was cheating on him with the next door neighbor, it sure was entertaining for everyone watching, except for Cletus himself. For five years, Bucs fans were Cletus. Fans of the NFL marveled at his “eating W’s” meme while many of us cringed in embarrassment. You saw 5,000 yards and 30 TD’s. We saw 30 INT’s and 6 more fumbles.
The worst part of the Jameis Winston era wasn’t the embarrassment on-field, but the divisiveness he generated off the field. Post-game discussion threads on Buccaneers were riddled with personal attacks should anyone have dared mentioned that perhaps we would have won the football game had he not thrown 18,000 picks. But the worst of all? The discussion that came from his third sexual assault allegation (no, this is not a typo. People forget there were two allegations at FSU). Three allegations were not enough to keep a large contingency of the fan base from defending him, justifying his actions, and of course the classic Redditor “she was just in it for the money” trope.
Jameis Winston signed with the Saints this offseason, becoming a division rival’s embarrassment. I still believe he has an on-field future in the league. Perhaps, for now, the comments section will allow for smoother sailing. Perhaps not.

2020 Outlook

Hard to believe that I’m now in Year 6 of writing these offseason reviews for Tampa, and outside of 2017 where I was wildly off on predicting our record, I’ve managed to fall within one victory/loss in each of the other four. The past two seasons, I’ve predicted our exact record. While Covid delays could impact the 2020 season itself, I predict the Tom Brady Bucs will go 10-6, win the wild card, and lose in the Divisional round.
Year My Prediction Actual
2015 7-9 6-10
2016 10-6 9-7
2017 10-6 5-11
2018 5-11 5-11
2019 7-9 7-9
2020 10-6 ???

Things I Like About the Bucs in 2020

Things That Scare me About the Bucs in 2020:

2020 Draft Analysis

Round/Pick Player Analysis
Round 1, #13 Overall Tristan Wirfs (RT – Iowa) Admittedly, I always struggle with evaluating OL positions. I thought Chance Warmack, Robert Gallery, and Jason Smith were generational talents. They were far from that. So take what I have to say with a grain of salt, and listen to people like Barian_Fostate who did an excellent breakdown of Wirfs and Jedrick Wills, with the evaluation noting some glaring flaws in Wirfs’ footwork and hand technique. There’s no denying that Wirfs’ athletic ability is deity level batshit. At 6’5, 320 pounds, he ran a 4.86 forty at the Combine, had a 36.5” vertical, and a 10’1 broad jump. Not to mention, the kid can straight up jump out of a pool and casually hang clean 500 pounds. I wanted to watch how Wirfs performed against some of his incoming peers in the NFL, so I watched his matchup against Pedophilia State University to see how he’d fare against Yetur Gross-Matos, 2nd round pick of the Panthers and future division opponent. The results were…underwhelming. YGM brought constant pressure throughout the game, and seemed to have Wirfs beat from his first step onward, but in the same game, his ability in the run game was eye opening (Example). But then you had cases of sheer lack of awareness on blitzes and also stunts that showed deep areas of weakness for Wirfs. One way or another, this was a necessary pick, and even if he doesn’t pan out at RT, Wirfs’ athleticism and gifted abilities in the run game will make him a long-term key part of the Bucs and a potential Guard candidate.
Round 2, #45 Overall Antoine Winfield Jr. (S – Minnesota) Antoine Winfield Jr.’s entrance into the league was a “you’re an old man” moment for us Redditors in our 30’s who grew up watching his “Hall of Very Good” father. This was a pretty pick. While Winfield is of course a safety, the very first thing that stood out to me watching his tape was his pass rush ability. Yes, his pass rush ability. The first couple of clips I put on of Winfield had him perfectly timing a snap from the box and immediately in the backfield by the time the QB had the ball in his hands. The second thing that stood out was his nose for the ball, particularly in clutch situations. As Joe Theismann simply stated: “big players make big plays,” and that couldn’t have been more true of Winfield, who had big time game saving interceptions against both Fresno State and Penn State. Winfield was my favorite pick of the Buccaneers draft class, and what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed and an excellent nose for the ball. Keep an eye out for this one.
Round 3, #76 Overall Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB – Vanderbilt) Ke’Shawn Vaughn was one of the harder players to scout from this Buccaneer class, simply because it looked like he would have been better off with an offensive line of obese, beefy toddlers than whatever Vanderbilt rolled out for him. Nearly every snap I viewed of him, he rarely had a clean hole and was hit in the backfield the moment he touched the ball. Like, seriously, what is this? Vaughn’s biggest strengths to me showed up on tape with designed outside runs. Between the tackles, he showed little elusiveness, and a similar issue I saw with former Buccaneer pick Jeremy McNichol is that Vaughn tended to make multiple cuts before turning upfield. Not a good thing. Unlike a glaring weakness I saw in McNichols’ complete inability to block, it’s an area where Vaughn succeeded with flying colors. This, along with his adequate pass catching abilities (28 receptions for 270 yards in 2019) will make him a valuable 3rd down back in the beginning of his career (assuming RoJo is anointed the feature back). There are some traits in a RB that can’t be coached, like vision. There are other things like running upright with high pad level, a weakness I frequently saw with Vaughn that can be taught. Vaughn crosses me as a valuable utility player who may get looks as a feature back should RoJo continue to struggle. The value was there with his 3rd round selection, but expectations for his upside should be kept in check.
Round 5, #161 Overall Tyler Johnson (WR – Minnesota) A lot of the Buccaneers crew is pretty high on the Tyler Johnson pick. Pro Football Focus (PFF) had him top 50 on their big board and a Round 2 grade. I just don’t see it. Not at all, in fact. For a guy who stands at a mere 6’1 and is expected to play slot receiver, his speed and separation stand out as glaring weaknesses on tape. What I do like however, is his footwork coming off the line. Most of the time he’d beat his receivers within the first 5-7 yards off the line, but when it came to the deep ball I didn’t see a lot of “wow” factor. Tyler Johnson, I think, will be a reserve WR, which is exactly what you want from a 5th round pick. But I don’t see him as the massive steal many other fans did.
Round 6, #194 Overall Khalil Davis (DT – Nebraska) Played alongside his twin brother Carlos at Nebraska (who went one round later to the Steelers). I watched Davis’s game against Wisconsin and he looked to me like he’d fit best as a backup 5-tech. Not particularly explosive with a slow first step, and there were numerous occasions when he did penetrate the backfield but had terrible angles on the RB. Mind you, he was playing against Jonathan Taylor and a stalwart OL, but you want to see flashes of brilliance, even against good competition. Did not see anything that made me say: “this guy’s going to make our final roster.”
Round 7, #241 Overall Chapelle Russell (LB – Temple) I was able to find little tape of Russell, but one area where I do trust Jason Licht is in his ability to scout LB’s. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about Russell. I don’t.
Round 7, #245 Overall Raymond Calais (RB – Louisiana Lafayette) Calais’s best shot to make the roster will likely be as a return man, where he excelled at Louisiana Lafayette. Based on the limited tape I saw of him, I saw flashes of Felix Jones for his ability to get big gains off of draw plays in the shotgun. Obviously a longshot to make the roster.

Schedule Predictions

Week Opponent Prediction Analysis
Week 1 @Saints 27-24 Bucs (1-0) Bucs pass rush finds a way to get to Brees. Fun fact: this will be the oldest matchup of QB’s ever in NFL history…until the Bucs play the Saints again in week 9.
Week 2 Panthers 34-20 Bucs (2-0) Panthers are no doubt in rebuild mode right now. In the past two matchups, Bucs run game has managed to stifle Christian McAffrey. Keep an eye on rookie Yetur Gross-Matos. I think he’ll have a more immediate impact than even 1st round pick Derrick Brown.
Week 3 @Broncos 37-28 Bucs (3-0) Always a challenge to play at Mile High on the road, but I think the Bucs defense will manage to shut down a young and budding Broncos offense. On a Broncos note, I’ll never understand Jeudy being the 2nd WR off the board (let alone the 2nd Bama receiver taken). Best route runner I’ve seen enter the league since OBJ.
Week 4 Chargers 28-21 Chargers (3-1) No, I’m not too high on Justin Herbert, but when the Bucs play a rookie QB, I’m usually prone to pick the other team. For some reason, no matter the Head Coach and/or defensive coordinator, the Bucs crumple into fetal position against rookies.
Week 5 @Bears 31-13 Bucs (4-1) If Foles’ performance against the Bucs last year is any indication, they have his number. Pray that Mitch Trubisky doesn’t start. In his last outing against Tampa, he threw 6 TD’s. He did that as a rookie, mind you. Remember what I said about Bucs against rookie QB’s?
Week 6 Packers 28-24 Packers (4-2) Rumors of Aaron Rodgers’ demise are greatly exaggerated. It’s a team that’s just complete enough on both sides of the ball that I find it surprising so many are writing them off.
Week 7 @Raiders 34-31 Bucs (5-2) Here’s another team that is starting to form well under the cracker Mike Mayock. Raiders will be as good as Carr is in Gruden’s offense, and while he improved somewhat in Chucky’s offense by the end of year 2, this is a team at the tipping point between playoffs and an outright QB replacement.
Week 8 @Giants 37-17 Bucs (6-2) Though rookie Daniel Jones (sense a trend here?) shredded the Bucs with gusto last year, Bucs run defense should be able to neutralize Saquon, and despite a good rookie showing, I don’t have much faith in the long term prospects of Daniel Jones.
Week 9 Saints 20-17 Saints (6-3) Can usually count on the Saints and Bucs to split the division series. And once again, the oldest QB matchup ever. Put on some episodes of MASH. Get your Bingo cards ready. It’s geriatric QB time.
Week 10 @Panthers 41-21 Bucs (7-3) Will there be a season by this point? I don’t know. But I still like the Bucs to sweep the series with the Panthers this season.
Week 11 LA Rams 24-17 Rams (7-4) Rams offense is all of a sudden looking less like the powerhouse it was from a few years ago, but their defense is still nasty. Aaron Donald will make any QB poop their pants, including Tom Brady. This will be a violent defensive battle and I think the Rams will take the edge.
Week 12 Chiefs 37-27 Chiefs (7-5) For years on NFL going back to his time at Texas Tech, I told you all to get on board the Mahomes canoe. Love seeing him already building his Madden legacy. I’m just not going to bet against him right now.
Week 13 Bye N/A I have no way of confirming this, but I’m fairly certain during the bye week Bruce Arians clears out his office and runs an illegal cockfighting ring with his assistant coaches. You can’t convince me I’m wrong.
Week 14 Vikings 31-28 Bucs (8-5) Vikings remain a balanced team on offense and defense and the Zim Zamm still can’t be flim flammed. Close game here that will be a defensive battle with a few big time plays on offense sprinkled in.
Week 15 Falcons 34-27 Falcons (8-6) I’m glad to see Raheem Morris back in a DC position after seeing him work his way back up the coaching ranks. Always one of my favorite Buccaneer coaches despite his (many) flaws. I pick the Falcons in our first matchup because of one man and only one man: Julio Jones. Jones has now played a full 16 games in his career against Tampa, coming up with a staggering 116 catches for 1,841 yards and 11 TD’s. That’s cruelty.
Week 16 Lions 41-14 Bucs (9-6) I have a feeling by this point in the season, Fat Patricia will be one of the first Head Coaches fired and the Lions will be staffed by Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell. The Bucs will be playing a team with a wounded ego ready to be put down like Old Yeller.
Week 17 Falcons 28-3 Bucs (10-6) Bucs fight hard to squeak into the playoffs, their first appearance since 2007.
Final Projection: Bucs win wild card, lose in the Divisional Round

Projected Starting Lineup & Analysis: Offense

QB- Tom Brady: See above analysis. Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 4,438 yards, 67.1% completion percentage, 33 TD’s, 13 INT’s
WR1 – Mike Evans: At only 26 years old, Mike Evans already sits at 128th all-time on the career receiving yards list, and has a chance to pass [checks notes] Michael Crabtree on the all-time list this season. In every season in the league, Evans has surpassed 1,000 yards and has become a hallmark of consistency, even with the suspect supporting cast around him. Having an accurate QB for the first time in his career will be a huge benefits to Evans. Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 70 receptions, 1,213 yards, 6 TD’s
WR2 – Chris Godwin: Godwin had a brilliant breakout last season, earning 2nd Team All-Pro honors (that probably would have been 1st team had his season not been cut short by injury). While Evans might be the bigger threat, Godwin is among the most complete receivers in the league. A fantastic route runner with sure hands—and perhaps his most overlooked quality is his blocking. Find me a WR who does it better right now. You won’t. Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 77 receptions, 1,387 yards, 7 TD’s
RB – Ronald Jones: RB is one of the few positions where fans can reasonably expect instant production from a player when he transitions from the college ranks to the pros. As a rookie, RoJo was a mega dud who could barely find the field in the Koetter era. He took a huge step forward in year 2 (724 yards, 4.2 ypc) but still often disappeared in games and lacked the pass protection skills that are so necessary in Arians’ offense. RoJo will have Vaughn to take off some of his workload, but I still see RoJo as one of the weakest links on an otherwise complete offense. Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 808 Rushing yards (4.2 YPC), 5 TD’s
TE – Rob Gronkowski: See above analysis. Probably Wrong Projected Stats: 41 receptions, 614 yards, 6 TD’s
LT – Donovan Smith: Donovan Smith provides as much protection as Jeffrey Epstein’s guards when he was on suicide watch. While Tom Brady tends to release the ball far faster than Winston, the Arians offense designed for Brady better be getting the ball out fast. 43 year old QB’s aren’t meant to take the kinds of hits Winston did. Let’s hope that Tristan Wirfs is able to prove himself a viable option on the left side. We’ll be able to get out of Donovan Smith’s contract after this season with no cap ramifications. On a side note, there’s a decent change Donovan Smith will opt out of his contract due to Covid concerns. And I wouldn’t blame him one bit.
LG – Ali Marpet: Marpet continues to be the most reliable piece of our OL. Like Lavonte, a continually unheralded player who you can rely on to go toe-to-toe with the league’s best interior DL while manhandling the dregs of the NFL. I thought last season would be Marpet’s shot at a 2nd Team All-Pro, but he was passed over once again. Love Marpet.
C – Ryan Jensen: Jensen’s first year with the team was free agent bust material. He seemed to thrive more in the Arians offense and we saw marked improvement in all facets of his game last year. Overpaid for his value? Definitely. Living up more and more to the contract we gave him? Yup.
RG – Alex Cappa: When Jason Licht rolled the dice on small school Humboldt State product Alex Cappa, he may have been expecting the next Ali Marpet. In his first full season as a starter, there were things to be encouraged by and I’m a little more bullish on Cappa than most of the fan base. Though he allowed 31 pressures on 562 pass snaps (roughly 6% pressure rate), I saw Cappa’s confidence growing as the season went on. His third season will tell us what his true ceiling in this league is. Right now, his floor isn’t Garrett Gilkey, but his ceiling ain’t Earl Grey.
RT – Tristan Wirfs: See above analysis.

Projected Starting Lineup & Analysis: Defense

EDGE – Sack Ferret: The Sack Ferret was brought on a 1 year, $4 million deal last season. I predicted he’d be a 5.5 sack guy and then probably hit free agency again. Just like we all expected, he went off and led the league in sacks with 19.5 (more than his previous five years in the league combined) and earned himself the franchise tag. Barrett has quickly become a fan favorite, and while I don’t see him replicating his majestic 2019 season, I still think he’ll be the same terror he’s been off the edge. Probably wrong projected stats: 12.5 sacks.
0-Tech - Tevita Tuliʻakiʻono Tuipulotu Mosese Vaʻhae Fehoko Faletau Vea: Running on the Buccaneers in 2019 was damn near impossible, so much so that the team only allowed 73.8 rushing yards per game. That success started up front with Vita Vea, who has quickly emerged as the league’s top 0-tech. Unfortunately, like his forefathers in Vince Wilfork and Casey Hampton, he’s likely to spend his career as a valuable defensive cog who receives few to no career accolades due to the “unsexiness” of being a two-gap space eating defender. So NFL, here’s a homework assignment for you. Watch Vea on All-22 if you have some time while on Covid lockdown. You will see one of the most absurdly athletic big men in the league who is your definition of immovable object. His progress last year was a joy to watch and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite players. Oh, and he’s the best TE on the Bucs. By far. Probably wrong projected stats: 2.5 sacks, 2 receiving TD’s.
5-Tech – Ndamukong Suh: We brought Suh back on another 1 year deal. No, he’s not the player he once was (he’s even refrained from curbstomping genitals in Tampa…so far), but his attitude he sets on the field has been a welcome change compared to the namby-pamby milquetoasts on our DL from the past. Suh’s value will come mostly in the run game. His sack producing days are long gone. Probably wrong projected stats: 3.5 sacks.
EDGE – Jason Pierre-Paul: It’s [checks notes] August, and Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t had an offseason accident. Praise the football Gods. Despite starting in only 8 games last year due to a serious auto accident, JPP managed 8.5 sacks. At 31, father time hasn’t quite caught up with him yet. Probably wrong projected stats: 9.5 sacks.
ILB – Lavonte David: The good part of Lavonte David bouncing inside last season to Will is that he no longer got grouped in the same bucket as sack-producing 3-4 OLB’s who beat him out for All-Pro nods nearly every year. Even at 30, Lavonte only seems to be getting better, and his instincts and smarts continue to essential to the defense. Though Lavonte is one half of the Mike tandem and has been one of the league’s best LB’s’ for all of 8 seasons, I don’t think he’s going to be the centerpiece stud. Keep Devin White’s name at the forefront of your mind, which leads me to... Probably wrong projected stats: 3.5 sacks, 3 INT’s
ILB – Devin “Get Live 45” White: If you’ve read any of my posts here for the last 5+ years, you would see I don’t take a blind homer approach with player evaluation. Not once have I predicted a Buccaneer would win the MVP award, nor have I predicted a Buccaneer would win DPOY. In fact, only once have I ever predicted we’d be a playoff team. Now that preamble is done, let me say it outright: Devin White is going to win Defensive Player of the Year in Year 2. What? Mikes never win, you say. And you’d be mostly correct. In fact, Vegas odds don’t even have Devin White listed in their top 10. Here’s what I saw from Devin White in the last half of his rookie season: an absolutely insane nose for forcing the fumble, excellent pass rush abilities, and smarts that put him in the backfield often before the RB even had the ball in his hands. I saw enough from him to believe his leap in year 2 is going to be similar to that of Luke Kuechly’s where he won DPOY in his second year in the league. Wherever the ball is, Devin White will be there. You’re going to see one of the league’s dominant defensive enforcers for a long, long time. Probably wrong projected stats: 6.0 sacks, 5 INT’s, 6 FF’s.
FS – Antoine Winfield Jr.: See above analysis. I think we’re also going to see Justin Evans get cut Probably wrong projected stats: 2.0 sacks, 2 INT’s
SS – Jordan Whitehead: Jordan White is the most underrated player on the Buccaneers defense, in my eyes. No, not Lavonte, because people talk about how underrated he is all the time to the point he’s not so underrated anymore. Whitehead’s mistakes went down drastically last year and he has a knack for being where the football is. Really like him and could see some big plays from him this season. Probably wrong projected stats: 1.0 sacks, 3 INT’s
CB – Carlton Davis: Bruce Arians doesn’t give empty praise, but he recently called Carlton Davis a top ten CB in the league, an assessment I’m inclined to agree with. He was battle tested big time in year 2, getting targeted 105 times and only allowing 52.4% of those balls thrown his way to be completed. He was able to shadow the best, and his 18 pass breakups are indicative of a guy with great awareness. And the funny thing is, he’s not even the CB I’m highest on with this roster. Probably wrong projected stats: 4 INT’s
CB – Jamel Dean: For a guy who came in as a 3rd round rookie, Dean exceeded expectations and then some. His first game as a starter came against the Seahawks, there’s no sugarcoating it—he got owned. But what I saw was a guy who stayed stride for stride with his receiver with little help over the top. By the end of his rookie season, he was looking like a shutdown corner. This is the CB I’m most excited for in 2020. Kid’s got a bright future. Probably wrong projected stats: 3 INT’s
CB – Sean Murphy-Bunting: When I’m wrong, I admit I’m helluh wrong, and with Murphy-Bunting, I was helluh wrong. Yes, it’s been only one season and things could still go south, but I was baffled when we passed on Greedy Williams in favor of SMB.

Non-Buccaneer Predictions for the Season

  1. My 2018 breakout player prediction was Patrick Mahomes. Last year, it was Joshua Jacobs and Corey Davis (oops). This year, you need to watch J.K. Dobbins (rookie, Baltimore), N’Keal Harry (2nd year, NE). Perhaps not a true breakout, but I think Calvin Ridley will surpass 1,000 yards and become an even bigger complement to Julio Jones.
  2. MVP will go to Russ Wilson. DPOY will go to Devin White (and if you’ve been reading these posts long enough you know I don’t usually go the homer approach). OPOY will go to Patrick Mahomes. COTY will go to Cliff Kingsbury.
  3. The NFC Championship will be played between the 49ers and the Cowboys. The Cowboys will win. The AFC Championship will be played between the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots. The Chiefs will win. The Chiefs will repeat in the Super Bowl, defeating the Cowboys.
  4. Last year I wrote: “Sam Darnold isn’t going to amount to much as an NFL QB. Not this year, and probably not ever.” I’ll repeat it this year too. But let me add one guy to that list: Tua Tagovailoa.
  5. Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t the superstar you think he is. I think his career will wind up like Joseph Addai’s: a guy who had a few flash in the pan seasons but never among the top backs. That’s not a bad thing, I would just cool expectations on him.
  6. The teams with the highest potential to land a top 5 pick, in no particular order: Lions, Jaguars, the Washington Football team (I feel like an idiot even typing that), Bears, Jets. Dark Horse: Eagles.
  7. Coaches who have the hottest seats: Fat Patricia, Dan Quinn, Adam Gase, Doug Marrone, Bill O’Brien (as coach and GM).


Shoutouts to my fellow mods on Buccaneers and NFL. It's a pleasure working with you all every day and shooting the shit with dank memes. And of course, much love to platypusofdeath who puts an insane amount of work into this series every year. Thank you for all you do.
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Day 1

First Time Post, I like to just get this off my Chest and would love some support or outside opinions, Sorry if it’s a bit of a rant
Context: 20 Year old Male, 2 Year University
Essentially I have been gambling consistently on Sports gambling and BlackJack/Casino games for the past 2 months. I’ve been gambling prior to this also but the past 2 Months are where it’s been getting worse. This past weekend was by far the worse relapse I had, Deposited a total of 4000 in a combo of sports betting and Blackjack, Gone over the course of two days. Was constantly stuck to my screen over and over again watching games and doing hands of BJ, I feel terribly sick thinking about it right now. I was very lucky to be able to stop myself with 2500 left in my bank account, and have than Just installed GamBan on my phone and laptop for extra help. But it’s been a very ruff 24 hours, Been criying non stop and feeling very depressed. I’m very grateful to have a loving family that I was able to open to and explain what I did.
Gambling has stopped my focus away from school (University student) and has stopped me from focusing on my workouts which is important for me as I also play for a university football team. My main issue is now is coming to terms with accepting the losses; I’ve been up to 11k in my bank account, To now 2500 (Bought a few things too but a 50 percent lost to gambling)
I also want to note that I am a chronic smoker (Every day, 2-3 times a day) of weed (Legal in Canada). I’m very curious to know if anyone has any ideas on the linkage between Smoking weed and gambling as majority of time I was high when gambling. I’m also doing my best to take 1 Week off from smoking completely to try and re asses how it makes me feel
The money I’ve gained was from previous gambling as I have not been working very consistent hours with my construction Joh. However I’m hoping to start and try and work 3-4 times a week to appreciate the value of money because I’ve really stopped appreciating money: Doing 100 dollar BJ hands on 3 seats makes me realize how sick that is and how much it truly is.
I do not currently have any debt nor do I even bother owning a credit card. I have a few Nice shoes I’m going to sell to recoup a bit of money and put me at about 4000 in my bank. My main question for you guys is what are the best ways to stop thinking about looses ? I was thinking of giving 3000 to my parents and keeping 1000 in my own bank for personal use. I was wondering any other ideas people have had or just methods of triying to not be in a loop of depression? I try to be positive tell myself that my life has not Truly changed and that I’ve only lost money which can be earned back, but it’s hard to to just hate myself for what I just put myself through. I currently live with my parents (Online school) and don’t have any immediate Bills to pay. I understand my situation is far less worse than some but it has been very mentally draining on me and would love some other opinions and stories of similar people.
Thank you, Here’s to day one of being gamble free, Hoping to keep it going forever 🙏🏽
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NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020

We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them.
Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now.

1. Arizona Cardinals

Why they can win the division:
Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other.

Why they could finish last again:
Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league.

Bottom line:
I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020.

2. Detroit Lions

Why they can win the division:
Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough.

Why they could finish last again:
Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive.

Bottom line:
I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark.

3. Miami Dolphins

Why they can win the division:
When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game.

Why they could finish last again:
As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams.

Bottom line:
As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here.

4. Los Angeles Chargers

Why they can win the division:
First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy.

Bottom line:
In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division.

5. Washington Redskins

Why they can win the division:
These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game.

Why they could finish last again:
Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you.

Bottom line:
These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars

Why they can win the division:
I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November.

Why they could finish last again:
I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period.

Bottom line:
The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now.

7. Carolina Panthers

Why they can win the division:
Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7.

Why they could finish last again:
Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season.

Bottom line:
The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center.

8. Cincinnati Bengals

Why they can win the division:
We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates.

Why they could finish last again:
As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year.

Bottom line:
I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air.

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