Tag Archives: Joe Namath

The engineer as artist: Peyton Manning sets a new standard

For those who weren’t in or around Denver at the time, it may be hard to believe that there was a vigorous debate, at least on sports talk radio, about the relative merits of Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning as the Broncos’ quarterback for 2012 and beyond.

One of the arguments advanced by the Tebow backers was there wouldn’t be much “beyond” with Manning. He was not, as they say, a quarterback of the future. At 36, he was a veteran of 13 NFL seasons coming off multiple neck surgeries and a full season of inactivity.

To jettison Tebow, who had just led the Broncos to an improbable postseason berth and first-round playoff victory in 2011, and replace him with what might turn out to be a relic, must be an act of desperation. The final acts of John Unitas, in San Diego, and Joe Namath, in Los Angeles, were referenced. John Elway, now pulling the strings in the Broncos’ front office, must be jealous of Tebow’s celebrity, some said. With many Tebow backers animated by imperatives beyond the world of football, it got pretty silly.

I remember one contending on the radio show that a Manning signing could only be justified by another championship parade in downtown Denver.

It did look that way. Manning was Elway’s attempt to go for greatness right away, just one year into his tenure as owner Pat Bowlen’s chief football executive. If the Broncos didn’t win a championship during whatever time Manning had left on the field, they would have to start over with his understudy, Brock Osweiler, which would make them just another team banking on potential.

Sometime between then and now, Manning changed all that. He recovered his brilliance so quickly, and made such an impact on the Broncos’ culture, and covered so ably for those physical abilities slowest to return, that he presented an opportunity we never imagined. He reached a skill level never before seen in football, a combination of intellectual and athletic rigor that took the game to another level. The quarterback was no longer a gunslinger. He was an engineer.

The Broncos have finished with a won-loss record of 13-3 in each of Manning’s two seasons in Denver. Before his arrival, they won that many games four times in 34 years of 16-game schedules. This year, at 37, Manning put up the best statistical season by a passer in NFL history.

Football fans had the sublime pleasure today of watching him finish the regular season with near perfection. He established league records for passing yards in a season (5,477, exactly one more than Drew Brees in 2011) and passing touchdowns (55, five more than Tom Brady in 2007). His largesse extended broadly, allowing the Broncos to set an NFL record for most players scoring ten touchdowns or more (five: Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker and Wes Welker).

When Manning took back the passing touchdown record from Brady in the Broncos’ fifteenth game last week, he reached 51, one more than the previous mark. He predicted this record, like its predecessors in the category, would prove temporary. Manning began this stair-step escalation by exceeding Dan Marino’s 20-year-old mark of 48 by one in 2004. Brady slipped past, again by one, in 2007. Busting Brady’s six-year-old record by five may mean Manning’s mark stands a bit longer.

He made today’s regular-season finale at Oakland look like a Broncos practice and the Raiders’ defense like the Broncos’ scout team. Actually, that’s probably unfair to the Broncos’ scout team. In former Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen’s second season as a head coach, the Raiders finished as though they deserved their 4-12 record.

As long as Manning was on the field, the matchup seemed unfair. The Broncos had five possessions. Four ended in touchdown passes, the fifth in a Matt Prater field goal. Manning failed to complete only three of 28 passes, spread the 25 completions among nine receivers and passed for those four touchdowns, one of them a gorgeous 63-yard bomb to Demaryius Thomas that made even Manning smile. It did not help the Raiders that their offense, directed by Terrelle Pryor, kept giving the ball back, once at its own 21-yard line on a bad snap. By halftime, it was 31-0.

“Obviously, not our best effort in the first half of the football game,” Allen said. “We got beat by a better team today. Offensively, we weren’t able to really get anything going. Defensively, obviously, that quarterback is really good. I thought there was a couple times where we had some opportunities to potentially get off the field. I thought they put the throw in there when they needed to and they were able to convert and that’s the difference between getting off the field and saving points and giving up points.”

Following the intermission, Broncos coach John Fox chose discretion, replacing Manning with Osweiler. This was, as the ever-competitive Manning pointed out afterward, “a coach’s decision.”

“Our goal was to play as good as we have to date this season,” Fox said. “And the way it worked out, I thought the first half was about as good in all three phases as we’ve been all year. It allowed us to get some guys out of the game and rest them, not to risk injury, and still take care of business on the field.”

By taking care of business, Fox meant winning the game and earning the top postseason seed in the AFC, meaning any and all Broncos playoff games prior to the Super Bowl will be in Denver. Of course, that was the situation last year, too, but we’ll get to that in a minute. As is his custom, Manning explained a memorable regular season by talking about the team’s accomplishments and not his own.

“I think it’s been really good focus on the players’ part,” he said. “We’ve had a number of distractions — injuries, off-field situations, on-field situations — but I think the one constant has been the players’ focus. They have remained focused on the task at hand, on trying to improve everybody’s individual play, which hopefully would result in better team play. But it’s a season unlike any other for me as far as having your head coach ill and missing for a while. We’ve had some injuries. We had the offseason. Those things are well documented. But the players have kind of kept their focus on trying to do players’ jobs. I think that’s been constant, and I think that’s served us well.”

This is the Manning mantra: Do the little things, do your job, take care of every detail. If every individual does that, it can add up to something quite remarkable. Particularly if the signal-caller, the quarterback, is the most maniacal of all about this preparation.

The 34-14 final score against Oakland gave the Broncos a season total of 606 points, another league record. For the benefit of trivia buffs and those already preparing for Mardi Gras, the 2011 New Orleans Saints retained the record for most yards gained in a season with 7,474. This year’s Broncos managed 7,317 for second place.

Manning’s surgical accuracy prompted analyst Solomon Wilcots to extol him on the CBS telecast as the greatest quarterback in the 94-year history of the NFL. Watching him against the Raiders, it was hard to argue. If he doesn’t win his fifth most valuable player trophy — extending another record — there should be an investigation. His relentless drive, combined with the Broncos’ seemingly endless supply of capable receivers, made Denver’s merciless offensive efficiency seem inevitable. Compared to the hope-and-prayer offenses of so many teams, it represented the NFL’s version of fine art.

On the flip side, there was this, from CBS play-by-play man Kevin Harlan: “The Raiders’ performance in the first half was about as bad as we’ve seen.”

Manning has made a lot of teams look that way this year. Three that didn’t, the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers, made the postseason tournament as well, so now we get a week or two of reminiscing about last year, when the Broncos had the same record and the same playoff seed and still lost their first playoff game, to the Baltimore Ravens.

So we’ll see. Tony Dungy, Manning’s coach for seven years in Indianapolis, likes his chances to get through the AFC side of the bracket this year because none of the other playoff teams have great defenses to stop him. Where the 2012 edition was riding an 11-game winning streak and feeling pretty good about itself, this year’s version lost just three weeks ago and remembers it quite clearly.

Another advantage is the still-raw memory of that bitterly cold day last January when the Broncos surrendered a seven-point lead in the final minute of regulation by blowing the coverage on a hope and a prayer by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Elway likens it to 1996, when the Broncos team he quarterbacked to a 13-3 record was upset in its first home playoff game by the Jacksonville Jaguars. That memory helped propel those Broncos to Super Bowl championships after each of the next two seasons.

Are these Broncos ready to do the same? They certainly looked like it in the regular season finale, although allowances must be made for the quality of the opposition. The regular-season losses to Indianapolis, New England and San Diego made it clear they are not invincible. Environmental conditions can turn any outdoor mid-winter game into a crap shoot, including the Super Bowl this year in New Jersey. So can ball control that keeps the football away from Manning, as the Chargers demonstrated.

Whatever happens in the new year, it no longer seems even remotely true that the Broncos need to win a Super Bowl to justify the Manning signing. It has already brought the Broncos two of the best seasons in their history. Manning’s remarkable comeback and relentless work ethic have set a standard we’ve never seen before.

He was asked, of course, whether the Broncos need to confirm the regular season this year in the playoffs.

“Well, sure,” he said. “We’ve had our goals all along. And this is why you work hard in the offseason. This is why you lift weights and have the offseason program, is to give yourself an opportunity to play in the postseason. But I’ll tell you, it’s a fun group of guys to play with. Offensively, it’s been a fun unit to meet with, practice with, watch tape with, work after practice with. And I’ve really enjoyed the coaches and the players on offense. It’s been a fun group.”

This is Manning acknowledging the obvious, but also sharing what he can about how he and his teammates got to this point. He loves the process, from offseason workouts to training camp and every week of practice through the long season. Only someone who loves it that much could so utterly master it. But he won’t entertain any of the big-picture questions — the records, the legacy — at least until the postseason is over.

“It’s not easy to go back-to-back 13-and-3s,” Fox said. “It’s not easy to go back-to-back 1-seeds. Obviously, everybody in our building, in our city, probably in our region, maybe in the country, was disappointed in how we finished a year ago. So hopefully that’s been a fire in the bellies of everyone in our building since that last January.”

The Broncos and many fans will be bitterly disappointed at any outcome other than a Super Bowl this year. Manning will most certainly be among them. That doesn’t change the fact that his 2013 regular season is already immortal, a story we’ll be telling a generation from now, no matter what happens next.

The two things Peyton Manning will need to survive in Denver

Peyton Manning’s short free agency prompted a healthy debate about the merits of putting the fortunes of your franchise in the hands of a 36-year-old quarterback coming off a neck injury serious enough to require multiple surgeries and sideline him for an entire season.

Skeptics cited Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath as examples of once-great quarterbacks who tried and failed to rekindle past glory with new teams late in their careers. But then, Unitas was 40 when he played his final, forgettable season in San Diego after 17 years in Baltimore, and Namath could barely walk by the time he played an equally cringe-worthy final season for the Rams after 12 years with the Jets.

(By the way, these two greats put on what some consider the best passing exhibition in NFL history on Sept. 24, 1972 in Baltimore, where they combined for 872 passing yards. Namath threw for 496 yards and six touchdowns in a 44-34 win, the Jets’ first victory over the Colts since Super Bowl III almost four years before. Unitas threw for 376 and three touchdowns.)

On the other hand, although John Elway never changed teams, he did achieve his greatest success very late in the day, winning his two Super Bowls with the Broncos at ages 37 and 38.

The best example of a quarterback changing teams and achieving success late in his career is Jim Plunkett, like Elway a Stanford star and first overall pick in the draft. Plunkett struggled in his early stops at New England and San Francisco. He joined the Raiders in 1979, the year he turned 32. A year later, at 33, he led them to the first of his two Super Bowl championships. He threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns and was named most valuable player as the Raiders became the first wild-card team to win a title, beating the Eagles 27-10. Three years later, at 36, he led them to his second, a 38-9 romp over the Redskins.

“It’s about the all-around personnel,” Plunkett explained recently during an appearance on the Dave Logan Show. “You’re playing with a better group of people. You’re playing with a team that has a defense. You’re not always playing catch-up all the time. A team that’s used to winning. That’s a big plus as well. They expect to win each and every game every time they step on the field.

“It was a struggle initially for me both at New England and San Francisco. I wanted it to work out in the worst possible way for me back in my home area and it just did not. I joined the Raiders and I’m playing with a lot of Hall of Famers-to-be, guys who are used to winning, guys who have a winning past. They just surround you with more better players to get the job done.”

I mentioned Unitas and Namath and asked Plunkett what the primary differences are between older quarterbacks who save their best for last and those clearly on the downhill side of their careers.

“Part of it has to do with health,” he said. “Part of it has to do with the team you’re around. As you get older, you get hurt more. I just found that to be my case after that second Super Bowl, and even a little bit before. It was hard for me to stay healthy. I’d get nicked up a little easier. Of course, part of it was my style of play. Instead of going down like I should, I’d hang in there and get my head knocked off and in the process got beat up quite a bit.

“Peyton Manning’s had a lot of luck in that regard up until lately. And it still remains to be seen how well he bounces back. One of the things everybody’s hoping, especially the Broncos, is that he hardly misses a beat and he comes back strong. But then you’ve got to still surround him with the type of people and run the kind of offense that he’s used to, I think. That would be a big plus for him. The personnel’s just different. It was geared (in Indianapolis) to make Peyton Manning a better quarterback on offense. Right now, they might not have those kind of people at Denver in place yet.”

Plunkett, who continues to cover the game as a radio and television host for the Raiders, offered this overall assessment of Manning as a quarterback and his prospects moving to Denver:

“I see a guy who gets rid of the ball quickly, who reads defenses quickly, throws prior to the break. I’ve seen him a lot. I saw him in that great championship game when they were down 21-3, I believe, to the Patriots at halftime (the 2006 season AFC championship on Jan. 21, 2007, in which the Patriots led 21-6 at the half and the Colts came back to win, 38-34). To watch him bring that team back against a very good football team was quite impressive. The Patriots were able to put a lot of pressure on him, but the guy’s just got a great ability to anticipate where that receiver’s going to be and get rid of the ball, even though the protection’s not that good. Hopefully, that’s the kind of quarterback that Denver’s going to get.

“But also you’ve seen guys with injuries, and I’ve seen it a lot with broken jaws for some players, especially linebackers and running backs. Those guys that have broken their jaw, for whatever reason, when they come back, they’re kind of tentative. They’re afraid to put their head in there because it hurts. It’s something you’ve got to overcome. I had a few knee operations when I was playing and after you get your first hit and you get knocked down, you’re kind of testing out your knee to see if it’s OK. And I think Peyton might have to go through some of that when he comes back and starts to get hit and knocked around: ‘Is my neck going to hold up?’ And he might be kind of tentative until he takes a few shots and sees how sturdy or not that his neck is.”

Immediately after signing Manning, Elway moved to improve the quality of the weapons around him. He added wide receiver Andre Caldwell to incumbents Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. He also signed a pair of receiving tight ends in Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme, the latter a teammate of Manning’s with the Colts.

Plunkett put his finger on the two key ingredients if the Broncos are going to enjoy the kind of success with Manning that Elway is banking on:

1. Manning must stay healthy, fully recovered from his neck injury and not suffering other, nagging injuries that often contribute to the deterioration of play in older quarterbacks.

2. Elway must surround him with the right personnel. If anyone understands this, Elway should. After three Super Bowl losses, it was the arrival of Terrell Davis that finally gave him the opportunity to win championships. Manning may not need a 2,000-yard rusher, but Elway will have to get the supporting cast right for the $96 million gamble on a 36-year-old Hall of Famer-to-be to succeed.

The Broncos ranked 23rd in total offense and 25th in scoring offense last season. Some of that, obviously, was the result of a run-dominated scheme built around the skill set of quarterback Tim Tebow. The Broncos ranked first in rushing, at 165 yards a game, and 31st in passing, at 152. Those numbers are likely to change quite dramatically with Manning at the controls.

Somewhere along the way, Manning will have to find the sort of working relationship with Broncos receivers that he enjoyed with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark for him to replicate the success in the passing game he achieved in Indianapolis.

Do the Broncos have receivers capable of that on the roster currently? We’ll soon find out.

Tebowmania changes time zones

Tebowmania in Colorado was as much a cultural phenomenon as a sports story, which is why limiting it to sports makes it almost impossible to understand.

Take the Broncos’ trade of Tebow to the New York Jets, finally consummated last night after a day of dickering over a $5 million payback provision in Tebow’s contract.

The Broncos traded three draft picks — one each from the second, third and fourth rounds — to move up into the first round in 2010 to draft Tebow with the 25th pick. In the 23 months he was a Bronco, Tebow became a national phenomenon, topped all NFL players in jersey sales for a while, won more games than he lost and led his team to an unexpected playoff berth and a more unexpected playoff win.

Yet, after all that, his value in the NFL marketplace depreciated substantially. John Elway dealt Tebow and a seventh-round draft pick to the Jets and for a fourth-round pick and a sixth. If Tebow’s name were not attached to it, that would be a minor trade on the books of both teams.

Already reviled by Tebow’s most ardent admirers, Elway can now expect criticism for not getting enough in exchange for him, but the consensus among personnel executives around the league over the past two weeks was that Tebow would fetch either a third-round pick or a fourth straight up. So a fourth and a jump from a seventh to a sixth was basically the market price.

But why was that the market price? Why wasn’t a quarterback who pulled off last season’s serial miracles more valuable than that?

Three reasons:

1. The consensus within the league, right or wrong, is that Tebow’s results with the Broncos last year were a fluke, the product of a gimmick offense no one was prepared to defend. The most important stat to NFL club officials is not the record (Tebow was 8-5 including playoffs) or even the completion percentage (46.5 percent last season), although they do cite the latter number with regularity, suggesting it is so low that even dramatic improvement will yield only a mediocre result in a league in which the top four passers last season had completion percentages of 68, 71, 65 and 66.

The most important stat to many league execs is that Tebow won seven of his first eight starts and lost four of his last five. The consensus is that defenses, with the exception of the stubborn Steelers, figured out how to play him — less aggression yielded better results — and would have refined the approach this season.

2. The offense the Broncos built for Tebow required him to be part quarterback, part running back. Taking that many hits, it’s only a matter of time until he’s injured, league executives believe, at which point they would have to revert to a conventional NFL offense or commit totally to an option offense by signing more than one quarterback who can run it. The injuries Tebow suffered in the playoffs against New England — he would not have been able to play in the AFC championship game had the Broncos won — only served as confirmation of this view.

3. Tebow brings with him a legion of followers who believe all of the foregoing is pure hogwash. Winning is what Tebow does, they insist. The end-of-game miracles are a bonus. At the least, those in the NFL who can’t see this are blind. At the most, they might be anti-Christian, turned off by Tebow’s evangelical zeal. As a result, any perceived slight of Tebow becomes a public controversy. A significant number of league executives simply don’t want that headache.

That last part, not to mention celestial explanations of the miracle finishes by Tebow’s more zealous followers, moves the story into religious and cultural areas that perplex and frustrate NFL officials, many of whom spend so much time in their bunkers they couldn’t tell you who’s running for president, let alone who’s trending on Facebook or Twitter. If Elway, a Denver icon, can be drawn and quartered for his treatment of Tebow, what’s the upside of a mere mortal front office type wading into this pond? Not a single team expressed interest in acquiring Tebow to be its starting quarterback.

Still, as a sports story, the dispute cries out for resolution, which is why following Tebow’s career from a distance will remain interesting. The Jets just extended the contract of their starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez, to a five-year deal that includes $20.5 million of guaranteed money. Tebow was acquired to be his backup and to operate variations on the wildcat offense as a change of pace.

Jets coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have both run the wildcat with some success, Ryan with Brad Smith in New York and Sparano with Ronnie Brown in Miami. The fact that Tebow beat both of them last season (Sparano was coaching the Dolphins then) didn’t hurt.

Why the Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t trump the Jets’ offer remains something of a mystery. Tebow was a natural for the Jags. He played his high school football in Jacksonville and is immensely popular there. The Jags went 5-11 last season and got poor quarterback play from rookie Blaine Gabbert, the tenth overall pick of the 2011 draft. They went out and signed a veteran free agent, Chad Henne, as insurance, but he wasn’t much better in four seasons with Miami. The Jags could also use somebody to help them sell tickets so they don’t have to put a tarpaulin over thousands of seats in the upper deck of their stadium.

Evidently, the Jaguars’ new owner, Shad Kahn, was interested but his football people were not, including general manager Gene Smith, who drafted Gabbert. Smith wasn’t ready to give up on Gabbert after one year and had the same reservations about Tebow that other executives do (see above). When the trade to the Jets was finally completed, Kahn issued this statement:

“Earlier this week, I asked Gene Smith and his staff to explore the potential of acquiring Tim Tebow. I think we have a duty to consider all avenues of improving the Jaguars on and off the field, especially given the unique circumstances involving the player.

“I appreciate the high level of due diligence Gene and his staff dedicated to this matter, even as late as (Wednesday) evening, and I am very satisfied with the outcome. Our commitment to developing Blaine Gabbert was, and still is, central to our goal of returning the Jaguars to elite status in the NFL. We’re looking ahead with zero regrets.”

In the end, the Jags and the Jets made very similar offers. The Jags offered a fourth-round pick and $3 million of the $5 million the Broncos had advanced Tebow on his salaries for 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Jets offered the fourth and sixth, getting a seventh in exchange for the sixth, and $2.53 million. Because the Jags draft earlier in each round than the Jets, the draft pick offers were almost identical according to the draft value chart.

Although it was widely assumed Tebow wanted to return to Florida, site of his glorious high school and college careers, New York offers more endorsement opportunities and a much larger platform for his evangelism. In any case, Tebow did not sound unhappy about his landing spot.

“I wanted to play for Coach Ryan ever since I saw ‘Hard Knocks,’ ” Tebow said with his customary laugh. “He just seemed like a coach who loves football and is passionate about the game of football. He’s definitely a players’ coach. I just love that about him.”

Not everyone was so sanguine about Tebow’s move. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie lobbied against the deal Tuesday on Twitter.

“We don’t need Tebow,” Cromartie wrote. “We sell out every home game. Let him go to Jacksonville, Tampa or Miami.”

Legendary former Jets quarterback Joe Namath also weighed in against it, saying, “It stinks.” And Drew Stanton, signed to back up Sanchez just a week earlier, reacted to the deal by asking for his release.

For Elway and the Broncos, such headaches are now in the rearview mirror. The Broncos return to a conventional quarterback setup with Peyton Manning the undisputed starter and a traditional backup to be signed. Former Colorado State quarterback Caleb Hanie is one candidate. Stanton might even be a candidate if he gets his wish to be released by the Jets.

And the Broncos moved immediately to shore up the receiving corps for Manning, a career 65 percent passer, signing Andre Caldwell to join Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Caldwell said the Manning signingplayed a major role in his decision to join the Broncos.

Leading a regime that took over the front office nine months after Josh McDaniels drafted Tebow, Elway found himself caught in a crossfire from the beginning, targeted by Tebowmaniacs who accused him of betrayal, envy and some of the other deadly sins. Passionate as quarterback controversies often are, Tebowmania took it to a whole new level.

At first, pursuing an agenda of transparency following the opaque, Bill Belichick-inspired McDaniels era, Elway acknowledged his reservations about Tebow as a passer. As he came under attack for failing to support the young quarterback sufficiently, he dialed back the openness, praising Tebow’s character and competitive fire, while still noting almost parenthetically that he needed to improve as a pocket passer.

Tebow’s fan base should not have been surprised. When he was hired to run the front office, Elway made it clear his sole goal was to win a Super Bowl and he believed Super Bowls today are won by great pocket passers. As proof, he cited the last nine Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks: Tom Brady (2), Eli Manning (2), Ben Roethlisberger (2), Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

John Fox’s coaching staff overhauled the Broncos offense into a run-heavy, read-option collegiate scheme to suit Tebow’s skill set, and it got the Broncos to the playoffs in a mediocre division. But that relative success, combined with Tebow’s following, left Elway presiding over a team running an offense he didn’t believe in.

So Manning’s sudden free agency was manna from heaven. A four-time most valuable player and certain Hall of Famer, Manning was not only the elite passer Elway sought, he provided unassailable cover to get out from under Tebowmania.

Well, not entirely unassailable. A significant minority opinion remains among Broncos fans that Tebow was a better choice than Manning to be the team’s starting quarterback. This baffles people in the game — Elway said any logical analysis would conclude pursuing Manning was the right move — and it reinforces their perception that Tebowmania is beyond the reach of logic.

Tebow’s legion of followers, of course, have their own logic. Tebow is 24, Manning is 36. Tebow is healthy, Manning is coming off multiple neck surgeries and a one-year layoff. They compare Tebow’s stats as a first-year starter to Elway’s rookie stats in 1983 and Manning’s rookie stats in 1998 and conclude Tebow could turn out to be the better player.

The dispute is interminable. It can only be resolved by giving Tebow an extended opportunity to be a starting quarterback in the league and seeing what he does with it. Jacksonville would have provided a better opportunity for that than New York, although, if Sanchez plays this season the way he played last season, Jets fans could be calling for Tebow a month in.

Elway will absorb the departing shots from the Tebow faithful. He has his passer and Tebowmania is now somebody else’s problem. Around the NFL, Elway is seen as having had a masterful week.

“Elway inherited Tebow and in essence dealt TT and a 7th-round pick for Manning (on a great contract), plus a 4th and a 6th and $2.53M,” tweeted Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network. “Wow.”