Aaron Rodgers in Jeopardy!, and Other Alternate Vocations
Andrew: Hello and welcome to Scramble for the Ball, where I am pleased to report that my alternative gig as a home removals operative has finally come to an end. For the past fortnight, daytimes in the Potter household have consisted almost exclusively of me packing and hauling boxes of other people's (read: my family's) junk across town to unload at a new location. Once, in the dim and distant past, I did that for a living. This more recent experience has definitely put me off a return to that profession. Which may come as a disappointment to some of our readers, but it sure is a relief to me.
Bryan: For those keeping track, that's now two (2) moves for your Scramblers in the middle of a pandemic, with a third coming this offseason in all likelihood. We're beginning to understand what life has been like for the
Oakland Los Angeles Oakland Las Vegas Raiders.
Andrew: This is also my second move in the past four seasons of Scramble, because landlords kept selling houses we would have happily continued to live in. Hopefully that is all a thing of the past, as we plan to be in our current home until we're carried out in (hopefully separate) boxes. In my wife's case, to be carried out amid a dozen boxes full of nothing but jeans and shoes would be fitting, unlike either the jeans or the shoes.
Bryan: But we're not here to talk about moving today, we're here to talk about what people do for a living. Ever since Aaron Rodgers appeared as Jeopardy! guest host during the Great Waffling of 2021, Andrew has been pitching an article talking about what other jobs some of our NFL superstars would prefer to be doing. Personally, I think we saw enough evidence of this last Sunday night, when Russell Wilson, injured and unable to appear on the active roster, spent the entire game ... acting like he was on the active roster, from going through pre-game warmups, to coaching on the sideline (and occasionally, running on the field to coach), to going out for the overtime coin flip. Football players, it turns out, really want to be football players, even when they're not allowed to be football players.
Andrew: I wonder just how universal that perspective is. I recently read an article on soccer players who just weren't that into soccer, following comments made by Arsenal player Ben White. That article cited legendary Italian striker Christian Vieri stating quite openly that he'd much rather be a cricketer, except he couldn't earn as much money doing that as he did playing soccer. Heck, Curtis Martin mentioned during his Hall of Fame induction speech that he didn't really like either football or running.
Bryan: It's not crazy for NFL stars to hold other jobs, although most of them are obviously more hobbies that occasionally pay than anything like actual work. Von Miller famously owns a chicken farm; giving the former poultry science major a sort of catharsis from the game. Or, to put it in Miller's own words, "chickens are dope."
Andrew: That may be the most innocuous way that anybody has ever combined the words "dope" and "catharsis" in the context of football, so well done on that.
Rodgers isn't the only high-profile quarterback with a high-profile side gig, either. Tom Brady has parlayed his quarterback fame and longevity into a line of ... let's be charitable and say "health products," including a cookbook and meal plan, along with a variety of other merchandise of less demonstrated efficacy.
Bryan: A cookbook? It doesn't happen to be called To Serve Manning, does it?
Andrew: That would be far better than its actual title of TB12 Nutrition Manual. At $200, let's just hope the recipes are more imaginative than the nomenclature.
Bryan: But again, Brady's just dabbling in pseudoscience as a hobby. Frankly, at this point he's kind of dabbling in football as a hobby considering the net worth of his supermodel wife, but that's neither here nor there. Rodgers was talking about moving to Jeopardy! in the midst of his fight with Packers management, as something he'd possibly be willing to sit out an entire year of NFL action to do. While obviously more bargaining chip than reality, it does have a little bit of precedent. Jim Brown retired at the age of 30 to further his acting career—without that, we may have been deprived of such cinematic classics as Slaughter or Black Gunn or Slaughter's Big Rip-Off (which, honestly, aren't terrible blaxploitation-type films; you could do worse if you're looking for slices of early 1970s cheese).
Jim Brown in the sequel to the terrific SLAUGHTER ... "the baddest cat that ever walked the Earth" pic.twitter.com/HALCLM9Nks
— ALL NEW SUX (@AllNewSux) March 14, 2021
Andrew: Being a European kid who wasn't born until after his career was over, I knew O.J. Simpson from The Naked Gun series before I ever knew that he had played in the NFL. Neither of those guys quite reached the heights of Vinny Jones (FA Cup-winner in 1988, successful acting career including Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and X-Men: The Last Stand), but they're far from the only examples.
Bryan: The best answer the NFL has to Jones might be Bubba Smith, former No. 1 overall draft pick and Hightower in the Police Academy franchise. Whether Smith or Brown is your highest scorer in "NFL success times Hollywood success" probably depends on your critical analysis of Steve Guttenberg's career, which is beyond the purview of this column and, indeed, most sane minds outside of the Stonecutters.
Andrew: Smith's another guy I didn't find out had been a football player until way after I'd known him as Hightower. I guess, if we're mentioning acting chops, we should also mention Bill Goldberg, who enjoyed much greater success as a wrestling star than he ever did as a professional football player.
Bryan: Plenty of failed professional football players have gone to the wrestling world—Ron Simmons bombed out for the Browns before winning WCW gold and becoming half of the APA; an injury ended Big Van Vader's football journey before he went on to a Hall of Fame wrestling career; and some guy named Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson had a little success in wrestling after washing out of the CFL, I have heard. And, of course, Lawrence Taylor headlined a WrestleMania in what can only be described as an act of desperation from the then-WWF.
Andrew: Going from football to wrestling does seem like quite a straightforward transition. I wouldn't say easy, because that does those guys a disservice, but there's enough of a crossover in skill set: big, muscular, used to being in front of a crowd. It makes more sense than Tim Tebow's foray into baseball, at least. Some football players could also have made it as baseball players—and heck, some even did back when such a thing was realistically possible—but I'm not sure Tebow was ever one of them.
Bryan: But even then, when we're talking about NFL players, they're passing up baseball careers to play football. Kyler Murray could be in the Athletics organization right now … and considering that the A's finished the year 86-76 and out of the playoffs while the Cardinals are 6-0 for the first time since 1974, I think I can clearly state that Murray has made the wrong decision and should leave
the NFC West football immediately.
Andrew: Wasn't there genuine concern about Murray making that decision at one point too?
Bryan: There was concern, for sure, although I don't think I'd really describe it as genuine; it never seemed particularly likely that Murray would enjoy the life as a star of the Beloit Snappers or Midland RockHounds over being the No. 1 draft pick. Even for Arizona!
Andrew: He would have been drafted into MLB though, right? The way baseball leagues operate confuses me, what with the farm system and all. I have never taken the time to learn how it works because, as a sport, it's the most effective insomnia cure that side of cricket.
Bryan: He was drafted. The Athletics took him with their ninth overall selection in the draft; he's the first player ever chosen in the first round of both the MLB and NFL drafts. But you don't go straight from the baseball draft to a major league club as a rule; it has only happened 23 times since the draft began in 1965, with the only instance in the past decade being due to the minor league season being cancelled last year due to COVID. Murray would get to enjoy all the luxuries of low per-diems, long bus trips, and terrible hotel rooms!
Andrew: So what's the ... you know what? Never mind.
As I mentioned with wrestling, other sports are quite a straightforward—though again I'll say, NOT easy—option. Just this offseason, we saw Marquise Goodwin and DK Metcalf try out for the U.S. Olympic team—Goodwin in the long jump, Metcalf in the 100-meter dash.
Bryan: Not just trying out, mind you—Goodwin made the Olympic team back in 2012, finishing 10th in the long jump. Then again, "Olympian" isn't really a job, as endless commercials during this year's games constantly reminded me.
Andrew: That's kind of a weird distinction to those of us with no athletic talent of which to speak. I have to imagine that the level of training required to become an Olympian sure feels like a job.
Bryan: And the size of the paycheck makes it feel like a hobby.
Andrew: Nate Ebner also featured at the Olympics, playing for U.S. Rugby during his time with the Patriots, so it's not completely unheard of for a player to compete in multiple sports at the same time. Though the days of playing baseball in the fall, football in the winter, and basketball in the spring are long gone.
Bryan: And it doesn't really fit the thesis, anyway—athletes being other types of athletes doesn't really fit with the premise of NFL players doing other jobs. Going from football player to quiz show host or commentator is a much larger gap than going from, say, Raider to Royal, Bo Jackson-style.
Andrew: Alright, then we have Martellus Bennett retiring to become a children's writer and ultimately branching out into other educational resources
Bryan: Well, Bennett didn't so much retire to become a children's writer so much as he retired because he couldn't play at a high level anymore, and then became a children's writer.
Andrew: With Bennett, I get the impression it really was a little bit of both. He never struck me as somebody who was that into football, so when he was no longer in demand from the types of team he wanted to play for, it was easier for him to step away than it would have been for other players. He had already released his first book prior to his final release by the Patriots. Again, I'm not sure a lot of these guys love football as much as they like us to think they do.
Bryan: Considering "as they like us to think they do" would indicate that football is their entire lives and sole purposes of being, the fact that they have to be paid ungodly sums of money to do it perhaps is our first indication that we're being sold something of a bill of goods, but y'know? It's a job. I'm sure a significant chunk of NFL players would show up on Sundays for free. Maybe not so much Wednesday mornings in July. It's enough to make anyone want to be a movie star.
Andrew: The number of amateur teams across the country would attest to that. I will say, having played football very briefly as an amateur, that I would much rather have a second job as a host of Jeopardy! than as a professional sportsman, regardless of the discipline. And that if I were Aaron Rodgers, I would definitely have chosen that as my other job this summer.
Bryan: It's funny, I thought Rodgers' other job was owner of the Chicago Bears, but perhaps I was misinformed.
Andrew: That's not a job. He does that entirely for pleasure.
Bryan: We have missed the one player currently in the league who has left the game to do something else, mind you, and I'm not talking about Rob Gronkowski's brief sojourn into the world of professional wrestling. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif took the 2020 season off to work as an orderly during the pandemic. For most players, nothing's bigger than football. Duvernay-Tardif proves that "most" is an operative part of that sentence.
Andrew: It honestly defies belief that Duvernay-Tardif was even able to qualify as a medical doctor while maintaining a football career. To then walk away from football for a year specifically to place himself in the front line during a pandemic is astonishing. He was even set to retire completely during the summer to practice medicine, though he did eventually change his mind. We have looked through a lengthy list of neat alternative jobs that players have had, but nothing else quite so impressive.
Bryan: Suffice it to say, I don't think we have a future as headhunters, trying to draw NFL players away from football.
Andrew: Good! Do we really want players looking for alternative careers? As entertaining as Jeopardy! is, or Police Academy was, I'd much rather see Aaron Rodgers in a Packers shirt. Even as a Saints fan.
Bryan: Though as a 49ers fan, if Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Kyler Murray want to start a prestigious law firm or a hot new R&B act, I'm more than happy to do anything I can to help them out.
Keep Choppin' Wood
It's not often we can give this award to the man who has been the best quarterback in the league almost since the moment he took over as the starter in Kansas City, but what, oh what, is this?
Mahomes 8th interception of the season 😮
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 17, 2021
This play went wrong right from the start, with a bad snap messing up the mesh between Patrick Mahomes and Darrel Williams. By the time Mahomes had the ball secure, two Washington defenders were almost on top of him. That's the time to eat the sack and live to play another down, even when you're Patrick Mahomes. It is not the time to lob the ball up in the air as you fall backward, gifting Bobby McCain the easiest interception of his life.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
With just 22 seconds left in Tennessee on Monday night, the Buffalo Bills faced fourth-and-1 from the Titans' 3-yard line, trailing by three points. This is a situation in which basically every team in league history attempts a field goal: in the last minute of a game, trailing by exactly three points, inside the red zone, on fourth down, nobody had ever gone for it in the history of the Stathead database. Until, that is, Sean McDermott made what we could reasonably argue was the most aggressive call in at least the six seasons that we have been writing Scramble for the Ball. Unfortunately for McDermott, and perhaps for analytics mavens everywhere, Jeffery Simmons stuffed Josh Allen and Tennessee won the game. But full credit to McDermott for recognizing that his team had a stronger chance to win the game by going for it than by taking the easy option and going to overtime.
John Fox Award for Conservatism
Bill Belichick used to be an aggressive coach by the standards of the NFL: who can forget the fourth-and-2 call against the Colts, or the seemingly unstoppable Brady fourth-down sneak? However, against the Cowboys, Belichick made two very conservative decisions. First, he elected to punt on a makeable fourth-and-1 when his offense was enjoying success against the Cowboys defense. Second, following a huge goal-line stand and fumble recovery which gave the Patriots the ball back around 90 seconds before halftime, Belichick had his team kneel out the clock rather than attempt a two-minute drive. The lack of two-minute offense has been a hallmark of the season with Jones at quarterback as Belichick plays this season extremely cautiously behind his rookie passer.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
It didn't end up mattering, but we have to highlight, underline, and draw a big circle around one of the worst timeouts we can remember, called by none other than analytics guru Mike McCarthy. At the end of regulation of the crazy Patriots-Cowboys game, trailing by three points, Dallas faced a third-and-25. They picked up 24 yards of it with a crazy catch by CeeDee Lamb, moving the Cowboys into long field goal range with 24 seconds left and giving Dallas a fourth-and-1 decision to make. Dallas still had two timeouts remaining, giving McCarthy a number of options.
Analytically, the right option was probably to go for it, giving you a chance to score the game-winning touchdown and keeping the ball out of New England's hands. But the Cowboys had struggled on fourth down and short situations all game, so alright, kicking the game-tying field goal can be excused as a reasonable conservative option. What can't be excused is kicking said field goal after calling a timeout with 24 seconds left. If you're going to kick the field goal, drain the clock to three seconds left, so the Patriots can't even touch the ball afterwards. Don't intentionally stop the clock early! What that did was give New England the ball back with a timeout and 20 seconds left, time for two or three shots down field to get into field goal range themselves. Of course, Bill Belichick didn't take advantage of that, so everything worked out OK ... except for Dak Prescott injuring himself during the overtime period that McCarthy could have avoided.
'Everyday Peoples-Jones' Fantasy Player of the Week
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR1 in Cleveland? For a few heart-stopping moments this week, it seemed like that would be a thing as Odell Beckham went into the dreaded blue medical tent. Beckham came back and was fine, but it was still a huge day for Peoples-Jones—not just the first multiple-score day of his career, but the first 100-yard day of his career as well, nearly doubling his season receiving totals. The Hail Mary at the end of the first half was a significant chunk of it, of course, but Peoples-Jones also bowled over Robert Alford on his way to his second score.
DPJ trucked his way in the endzone
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 17, 2021
Garbage-Time Performer of the Week
Several times this year, we have passed up on giving this award to the Lions, preferring to honor and commemorate their fight in terrible situations. Well, we're not doing that this week, so come on down and collect your trophy, D'Andre Swift! Your garbage-time touchdown won my fantasy matchups and earned me some money in daily fantasy. In the second half of Detroit's blowout loss, Swift had four receptions for 40 yards, plus 13 more yards and a touchdown on the ground. In past weeks, that would have been part of a furious comeback which ended up falling just short. This week, it was just some filler at the end of a hopeless game for one of the few teams dead before Halloween rolls around. Gotta love that game script for pass-catching running backs!
Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
The Cleveland Browns emerged from their 37-14 dressing down by the Cardinals down one running back, down one linebacker, and down to .500. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham have been hurt, meaning tight end David Njoku is the team's leading receiver with just 266 yards, good for a mere 44 yards per game. However, as mentioned above, second-year player Donovan Peoples-Jones was the team's leading wide receiver against the Cardinals. Peoples-Jones currently has 228 receiving yards on just 15 targets, over 15 yards per target with an 86.7% catch rate. Though that is likely unsustainable, his two-touchdown day also makes him the only player on the team who has caught multiple scores. He is likely to pass his rookie total before the end of October, and has performed well enough that trade rumors are once again swirling around supposed top dog Odell Beckham.
Game-Changing Play of the Week
This was all set to be Trevon Diggs' pick-six as part of the recap of the wild Dallas-New England finish until Monday Night rolled around.
— NFL (@NFL) October 19, 2021
Was going for it the right call? Probably yes. EdjSports said going for it gave the Bills a 6% increase in win probability, and that's considering fourth-and-1 as a full yard instead of the inches it actually was. Things can always get a bit goofy when there's such limited time left, but any model you look at will call for a team to go for it, giving you the chance to win the game right then and there and not risking overtime. The Bills are a very good short-yardage team; they are unfortunate that Josh Allen slipped. Would I have made that call? Never in a million years, because I am an invertebrate coward. This is one of many reasons why I am not an NFL head coach.
The loss bumps the Bills from second in the AFC to fourth, with the Titans vaulting up to third (and the Chargers into second). It actually knocked the Bills out of the top slot in the AFC in our projections and significantly cut into the margin of error over the Ravens. With only one bye week to work with, those couple of failed inches could be the difference between the Bills relaxing in Week 19 or having to face, say, a finally healthy Browns team in January. And for the Titans? This is a massive win in a division that isn't exactly looking likely to rack up a bunch of victories between now and the postseason. Those inches may end up being the ones that get Tennessee into the playoffs.
Bryan: OK, 1-5? Now we're getting into crazy territory for my Lock of the Week picks; something's gotta change entirely. I have had bad stretches before, yes, but this is the worst stretch I have ever had in my six years writing Scramble. And my picks keep being well in play, tantalizingly close before being swept away—at halftime, Washington +6.5 was looking pretty nice! It's back to the drawing board to try to figure this one out for me before Andrew puts this thing to bed in November.
Records to Date
Andrew: It's usually too simplistic to look at a rematch, compare it to how the first game went, and use that as the basis for a prediction. I enjoy simplicity, however, so I'm going to do just that with this week's pick. The Patriots levelled a bad Jets team in Week 2, picking off Zach Wilson four times and holding New York to just two field goals while rushing for two touchdowns in a 25-6 victory. Since then, I believe that the Patriots have improved, whereas the Jets really haven't. I'm not predicting another three-touchdown shellacking, but a line of just -7 seems generous. New England (-7) over N.Y. Jets.
Bryan: I need to pick something different to try to claw some of this ground back, and it's pretty clear I need points to help me get any of these dang things right, so let us turn to Monday Night Football. The Seahawks offense, while not groundbreaking, was functional last week against the Steelers—and New Orleans still has receiver problems, with Michael Thomas not cleared to go. If you believe in trap games, the Saints have a huge game next week against Tampa Bay—could the Saints overlook struggling Seattle? I mean, probably not, I expect the Saints to win, but the Seattle (+5) line doesn't sit right with me. New Orleans is totally capable of blowing the Seahawks out of the water, but they have been extraordinarily inconsistent this year. I have a funny feeling Seattle keeps this closer than Vegas is expecting, and my 1-5 record shows just how good my funny feelings have been to this point in the season.
Double Survival League
Records to Date
Bryan: BAL, CIN, CLE, DEN, DET, GB, MIN, NE. NYG, WAS
Andrew: ATL, ARI, CIN, DEN, DET, GB, IND, MIN, NYG, WAS
Andrew: Obvious picks are obvious, at least for this week. First up, New England haven't been as good as I expected this season, but they still saw off the Jets very comfortably back in Week 2. Mac Jones looked better last week than I have seen him all season, whereas Zach Wilson is still throwing to the other team at an alarming rate. The Patriots should be just as comfortable in Foxborough as they were in New York.
On the opposite coast, Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford face off in their new teams' colors just a few months after swapping uniforms. Stafford hasn't been flawless, but has still been a significant upgrade for a potential Super Bowl contender. As for Goff ... what, you think the Rams staff isn't fully aware of their former signal-caller's flaws? I was tempted to leave the Los Angeles Rams for a game with fewer revenge angles, but Sean McVay's coaching staff is better equipped to smother Goff than Dan Campbell's is to stifle Stafford. This one could get ugly in a hurry.
Bryan: By Official Law of Scramble, I'm joining you in taking the Los Angeles Rams. Jared Goff has been winning games for the Rams for years now; why should Week 7 be any different?
I have already blown my New England game, but I think that even if I had them available, I'd still be taking Arizona over the Texans, for reasons which should be fairly obvious on paper. I took my medicine last week so I could have easier picks the rest of the way, and I'm pretty sure the Cardinals and Rams are the two most likely teams to win this week, frankly by fairly insane margins. Of course, with my luck in picking games this season that means the NFC West is going to be thrown into major chaos this week, but I suppose I could live with that.