Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: What's Kareem Hunt's NFL Future, If He Has One?December 5, 2018
Kareem Hunt's NFL future reveals a lot about the NFL, it's the Patriots' time of year again, and the NFL's best surprise story just may get the Broncos into the playoffs. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.
1. The sad reality of the NFL and violence against women
The words from an NFL team executive stunned me.
After former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was released by the team in the wake of a video that showed him shoving and kicking a woman in a hotel hallway in February, an AFC team official was asked if he thought Hunt would play again in the NFL.
"He will be back because we can't help ourselves as a league," the front office source said.
The league is about talent, the official added, even if that talent is on tape shoving and kicking a woman.
"Show me one example where our league suffered from signing players like Hunt," he asked. "That's why he'll play again. There are no repercussions for signing guys like him. But there are if you don't."
Translation: You get bad press for signing a bad guy, but that only lasts a short time. Meanwhile, that bad guy can help you win games. So, in the long run, teams calculate, it's worth the risk.
It's the calculation Washington made when it claimed linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers three days after he was arrested and charged with domestic violence, and two days after he was released by the 49ers.
Clearly, when it comes to players and violence against women, little has changed.
There's no way to definitively measure how teams signing players with a history of violence against women affects the NFL's popularity. One possible indicator is what happened with Ray Rice. Four years ago, the video of him assaulting his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, was published by TMZ. The NFL's handling of the case was atrocious, and because of that, some in the NFL thought the league would suffer a significant loss of advertising dollars and viewership.
Instead, NFL games have accounted for 46 of the top 50 most-watched television programs during the 2018 season, according to ESPN.com.
Also, domestic violence headlines invariably fade. Teams know this. How many people remember Jonathan Dwyer? Or Greg Hardy? Or Ray McDonald? Or Josh Brown? The list is long. So the executive is probably correct. There seems to be almost no long-term repercussions for signing players with a history of violence against women.
"[Have] the Chiefs suffered repercussions [from] signing Tyreek Hill?" asked a second team executive, this one from the NFC.
Hill pleaded guilty to choking and punching his pregnant girlfriend, Crystal Espinal, while in college, which rarely gets mentioned anymore.
Of course, not all executives feel signing abusers is a good idea. Washington was lit up by executives following its claim of Foster. "What do they gain by doing this now?" one executive told CBSSports.com. "It reflects poorly on the entire league. It makes all of us look bad. They said in their own press release he might not ever play a snap for them. What's the point? I'm kind of disgusted by it."
Hunt's actions, which became public after TMZ obtained and published the video last week, are only one issue surrounding Hunt. The site also reported Hunt was accused of assault at a nightclub in January and of punching a man in the face at a resort in June. No charges were filed, according to the stories.
Team executives, in general, believe Hunt will eventually be suspended six games, and then sign with a team almost immediately following that suspension. That means Hunt could be back on a football field and on our screens in less than a year.
This is the way of the NFL.
It's unfortunate. It's awful. It's cynical. But it's true.
2. The NFL could hold teams accountable, if it really wanted to
If teams don't feel disincentivized to sign players with a history of violence against women, what would make them think twice about signing the next Hunt, or Hunt himself? One suggestion made to me by a league office source sounds intriguing.
If a team signs a player with a provable history of domestic violence or violence against a woman (either a conviction or video proof), that team would give up a No. 1 draft pick. Or, at least, a high-round pick.
Something like this would never, ever, happen, but it is an example of the sort of cost that might make a difference. No teams want to risk draft picks, and it would finally add some sort of accountability.
3. Rodgers-McCarthy split a long time in the making
There have long been rumors that the relationship between Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and fired coach Mike McCarthy was essentially nonexistent.
Jeff Saturday, who played in Green Bay in 2012, offered some insight.
Saturday said on ESPN this week the problems began years ago.
"When you'd be in the huddle, and Mike McCarthy would make the play call, you could see Aaron's frustration," Saturday said. "Whether it be the eye-roll..."
Saturday added that the disconnect between the two began years ago, and also said he believes a lot of young players may have picked up Rodgers' disdain for the play-calling, and that that disdain spread like a virus.
We won't fully know what happened with this relationship until McCarthy and Rodgers talk about it extensively (or write books about it), and that may not happen for years.
Now, though, with McCarthy gone, the pressure reverts back to Rodgers. He got what he wanted; now it's time to show what he can do after the divorce.
4. One of a kind
Odell Beckham Jr.'s late-game "business decision" against the Bears may have drawn its share of criticism, but Beckham continues to transform the record book.
Beckham, against the Bears, threw his second touchdown pass of the season and made some history in the process, according to the Elias Sports Bureau:
Love him or loathe him, Beckham continues to do things we just don't see a lot of players do. It's incredible to watch.
5. The Patriots are here to steal your toys again
During the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, the Patriots have always viewed December as the true beginning of the NFL season. September, October and November are little more than extensions of the preseason, in Patriots world.
Well, here we are again, and the Patriots are still going to warp in December. After beating Minnesota 24-10 on Sunday, New England has won 31 of its last 34 home games in the month. And while we marvel (rightfully so) at the Chiefs and Chargers, the Patriots are sitting quietly at 9-3 and ready to shock us all, which really shouldn't be a shock anymore.
6. Object of Bill's affection
Everyone knows by now that at his press conferences Belichick sounds like he's headed to the dentist. But on occasion, he gets passionate about a subject, and that happened this week when he was speaking about Alabama coach, and former Browns colleague, Nick Saban.
"I don't think anybody has done it better than he has, so I think probably every coach in football is trying to do it as well as he does it and has done it," Belichick said, according to a transcript from the team. "But they do a tremendous job there. Nick's a tremendous coach. I've certainly learned a lot from him during the time we were together, and he's been a great friend and a coach that I have tremendous respect and admiration for.
"Whenever we get a chance to visit, it's really a great opportunity to me to learn from somebody that I respect so much and know how much knowledge and ... real football application he has—what you can do, what you can't do and what looks good on the board and what actually looks good on the field. ... It's really incredible what he's done there, the program that he's built, how consistent he is and the way he does it with a lot of class and great discipline, great execution and passion. Yeah, there's nobody I have more respect for in football than Nick Saban, period."
7. Lindsay one of the league's great surprises
Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay is one of the best success stories in football, but I'm not sure everyone understands just how remarkable he's been.
Lindsay has transformed the Broncos from a disaster to a contender, and he's done it by eating up large chunks of yards. Through Week 13, Lindsay was averaging a league-leading 6.1 yards per carry. Against the Bengals on Sunday, he ran for 157 yards on 19 carries (an 8.3-yards-per-carry average). According the Broncos:
Patrick Smyth @psmyth12
Broncos RB @I_CU_boy (19-157, 8.3, 2 TD) today became the 1st NFL player in 11 seasons (Fred Taylor, ‘07) to post three consecutive games averaging at least seven yards per carry (min. 10 att.). Lindsay is the first rookie to accomplish that feat in 25 yrs (Jerome Bettis, ‘93). https://t.co/AOW0bFXZ7C
It may be too late for the 6-6 Broncos to make the playoffs, but after winning three straight while heading into a closing stretch against the 49ers, Browns, Raiders and Chargers, Denver has a shot. And Lindsay is no small part of the reason why.
8. NFL shouldn't hold its breath for Urban...at least for now
With the announcement that Ohio State's Urban Meyer is retiring from coaching the Buckeyes, several NFL teams did their due diligence on if he'd coach in the NFL. At the moment, Meyer is telling teams no, I'm told.
Meyer is—how do I say this—shaky when it comes to employment matters. He "retired" from Florida and then unretired. Now he's "retiring" again.
He will likely coach again; however, it won't be in the NFL. At least that's his answer today.
9. Firing season arrives early
As ESPN's Adam Schefter outlined, the number of coach firings is already multiplying quickly, and we're not even at the end of the season:
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Oct. 15 - Bucs fire DC Mike Smith Oct. 19 - Cardinals fire OC Mike McCoy Oct. 29 - Browns fire HC Hue Jackson Nov. 12 - Bengals fire DC Teryl Austin Nov. 26 - Jags fire OC Nathaniel Hackett Dec. 2 - Packers fire HC Mike McCarthy And the NFL hasn't even reached its busy season...
You can add Panthers defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary coach Jeff Imamura to that list after Monday's shake-up in Carolina.
They won't be the last, especially with the usual rumors swirling around the Bengals' Marvin Lewis, among others. This offseason could get ugly for a lot of coaches.
10. Still top dog
The Steelers may have suffered a terrible loss to the Chargers on Sunday night, but the game did remind us of one thing: Antonio Brown remains the best receiver in football.
Brown had six catches for 117 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. That put Brown in some select company, as NFL Research pointed out:
It's not just Brown's numbers. It's how he's doing it. He's got the route-running skills of Rice, the footwork of Cris Carter and the hands of DeAndre Hopkins. Sometimes you see all those traits in a single play; and sometimes you see a singular facet of his game stand out.
One play exemplified the Brown experience Sunday: Late in the first half, the Chargers doubled-teamed Brown right from the snap. Brown simply juked right by it, before Ben Roethlisberger sailed a perfect pass to him in the end zone.
It was a clinic in route running. Brown does it every week, and no one today does it better.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.