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Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley is optimistic that games will be played on schedule this fall.
“I feel by September, the world is going to need football,” he said Tuesday on a conference call, according to Ryan Abert of The Oklahoman. “Hopefully, I think a lot of that will be determined by our country’s response to (COVID-19) and how serious every single person takes it. Hopefully we, as a country, can do the best we can.”
While other sports leagues have shut down or pressed pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, Riley added that he isn’t ready to think about the possibility of a canceled college football season.
“I definitely haven’t considered it,” he said, according to Parker Thune of Sports Illustrated. “I don’t think it’s gonna do me or us any good. None of us know exactly what it looks like right now. I think if we’re spending time on that right now, then we’re not spending time on our guys. We’ll adjust as time goes on.”
For now, the 36-year-old Riley has been getting creative with most spring activities canceled.
The Sooners have posted a 36-6 record under Riley while winning three conference titles. They are scheduled to begin their 2020 campaign at home on Sept. 5 against Missouri State.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced last week that a decision on the upcoming football season will be made in the next 60-90 days.
More and more in recent seasons, it’s become clear that the most important thing in the modern NFL is offensive infrastructure. Offense has been more important than defense for a while now, and the personnel involved in crafting that offense matters a great deal when it comes to determining its success.
Who is your quarterback? Who is protecting him? Who does he throw to? Who does he have next to him in the backfield? Who’s scheming those players open? All the pieces matter. The degree to which they matter varies greatly, of course, but each plays a role in making an offense hum at peak efficiency.
All of this brings us to the following project: ranking the offensive infrastructure of all 32 NFL teams. To go about this, we used a weighted grading system where each team was given a 1-5 ranking (1 = terrible, 5 = elite) in the following areas: Quarterback, Offensive Line, Pass-Catchers (WR/TE), Running Backs, and Play-Caller (head coach or offensive coordinator).
Those scores were then weighted so that quarterback was the most important component of the offense, followed by offensive line, play-caller, pass-catchers, and then finally running backs, so that the weights reflected as closely as possible the reality of the way modern NFL offenses really work. We’ll run through these rankings in this space over the next few days, beginning here with the lowest-ranking tier in the NFL, and continuing below with the teams that need major improvements to reach their potential.
The quarterback grade assumes that Nick Foles beats out Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job in Chicago. And why wouldn’t he? Trubisky has not consistently shown anything resembling long-term starter-level play during his three NFL seasons. He is generally inaccurate. He does not handle pressure well. His throws rarely turn into touchdowns and are intercepted more often than the average passer. He does not push the ball downfield. And last season, he showed an aversion to doing the one thing that was propping up the rest of his skill set (running the ball when things break down). Foles has his faults as well, but we at least have seen him succeed in a system that looks a whole lot like the one run by Matt Nagy. He hasn’t shown the ability to last a full season without getting injured and he runs extremely hot and cold, but he is far more likely to make the Bears’ offense run the way it is supposed to run than is Trubisky.
Nagy showed an ability to scheme players into position to succeed during his first year in Chicago, as well as during his brief stint calling plays in Kansas City. The Andy Reid-style offense he runs depends on the quarterback being able to distribute on-time and on-target passes, and with a QB more suited for that type of offense he should get back to being one of the better designers in the league.
One issue facing him here is that he’s still working with sub-par personnel. A few of the free agents Ryan Pace sprang for a few years ago are now either gone (like Taylor Gabriel) or replaced (like Trey Burton), and it’s still likely that the Bears have a below-average group of pass-catchers. Allen Robinson is incredible, but Anthony Miller did not take the step forward many expected in his second season, Riley Ridley is almost a complete unknown, Burton has done next to nothing, Jimmy Graham was washed up several years ago, and Adam Shaheen looks like a wasted draft pick. Throw in Tarik Cohen’s strange backslide last season and David Montgomery’s sudden inability to make defenders miss at the NFL level after leading the nation in broken tackles in 2018, and, well, this is not an inspiring group.
The Bears also still could use upgrades along the offensive line, where even their most reliable starters are plagued by bouts of inconsistency. If they can get that group working well all at the same time, like they did at times in 2018, then the offense can sing. If not, things could get ugly.
Remember all the kind things we said about Foles above? They’re only really true because he’s being compared to Trubisky. He looked like a clearly and vastly inferior option to Gardner Minshew last season, and the Jags cast him aside pretty easily after just one year in town. Minshew-Mania was a little bit overhyped, but getting league average-ish QB play from a late-round rookie is practically a Godsend in the modern NFL. Minshew isn’t yet a top half of the league starting quarterback, but he should be given a chance to develop into one.
Jay Gruden’s offenses in Washington kind of fell apart after Kirk Cousins left town, but he was a good play-caller during his time in Cincinnati, and that earned him the Washington job in the first place. He’s decent enough and should be able to help Minshew grow into his role. The Jags have about three-fifths of a good offensive line, but there is an issue at tackle that needs to be solved. Still, the protection up the middle, led by center Brandon Linder, is pretty strong and should help put Minshew in pretty good position to succeed.
The pass-catching group is an underrated one. D.J. Chark’s breakout sophomore season came as a relative surprise given his lack of involvement as a rookie, but it’s clear he and Minshew developed nice chemistry. Chark showed the ability to beat even the best corners in the league during his first season in a No. 1 role. The Jags also have decent complementary weapons in Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, and Chris Conley, and if they can find a way to keep Tyler Eifert healthier than the Bengals did, they’ll have another strong red zone weapon.
It was still a mistake to take Leonard Fournette with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, but he’s a good running back who can break big plays and last year showed he can be a threat in the passing game as well. The draft capital they spent on him makes the Jags pretty likely to mistakenly center their offense around handing the ball to Fournette, but he had a nice year running it last season, taking a step forward from his poor 2018 campaign.
It’s very easy to see this ranking being far higher a year from now, after Kyler Murray takes the next step in his development. He had a solid enough rookie year, but did not push the ball downfield enough to be considered an above-average option under center just yet. He’s on the right track, though, and clearly has a ton of talent.
Similarly, Kliff Kingsbury got off to what looked like a pretty bad start to his rookie season as a head coach, but by the end of the year he really found a rhythm. His spread-field offense led to wide running lanes for the likes of Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds, and the Cards ranked as one of the most efficient running teams in the league because of it. Throw in Murray’s ability to make plays with his legs and his accuracy on intermediate throws, and the Cardinals were one of the most improved offenses in the NFL last year.
They should be even better in 2020, with DeAndre Hopkins now in town to anchor the pass-catching group. Arizona rarely tested defenses outside the numbers last year, and Kingsbury eventually had to move Christian Kirk out of the slot just to have somebody capable of threatening the defense on the perimeter. With Hopkins in town, Kirk can move back inside and work the middle of the field with Larry Fitzgerald. If Andy Isabella can tap into some of the big-play potential he showed in the second half of the season, this group looks even better.
The offensive line was an absolute disaster last season, though, and needs dramatic improvements for any of the previously-mentioned facets of the offense to really shine. Arizona should be taking a long look at offensive linemen in the draft.
With Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Tom Brady still in place, the Patriots should be able to reclaim their spot among the league’s top oops sorry Brady is gone, let’s re-do this.
For the first time in 20 years, there is uncertainty in New England at the game’s most important position. Who is going to be under center for the Patriots in 2020? Jarrett Stidham? Brian Hoyer? Someone who is not yet on the roster, whether it be a draft pick like Jordan Love or a free agent like Cam Newton? It seems safe to say that right now, we have absolutely no idea who it’ll be. Stidham seems like the in-house favorite, even if only because they have been talking him up for a while, but he did not exactly light things up in college and he obviously did not do much of anything last year. It’s hard to have much confidence in him reaching average, let alone piloting a top offense.
Stidham (or Hoyer, or whoever) should at least benefit from a solid offensive line in front of him, assuming David Andrews can get back on the field and Isaiah Wynn can remain healthy for longer than five minutes. The New England line struggled last year, but much of that was due to a rash of injuries. At full healthy, it’s an above-average unit. That said, the line did backslide the last time legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired, and he won’t be there to coach them up in 2020 now that he’s called it quits for a second time.
Josh McDaniels is widely considered one of the league’s brightest offensive minds and we gave him the benefit of the doubt in our rankings, but we’re about to see him working with a far different set of tools than he’s used to for the first time in a while. It’d be nice if the Patriots had the kind of weaponry that could prop up a quarterback, but if that were the case, Brady probably wouldn’t have left. This is a team that badly needs to add talent at receiver and tight end, and could probably use an infusion at running back as well, given Sony Michel’s horrible 2019 season, James White’s dependence on Brady’s timing and decision-making, Rex Burkhead’s age, and the fact that Damien Harris couldn’t get on the field as a rookie.
This time last year, the Browns might have ranked inside the top 10 on a list like this. Then 2019 happened. John Dorsey neglected the offensive line, which resulted in Baker Mayfield being under constant pressure every week. Mayfield’s confidence tanked and he started getting skittish, and Freddie Kitchens couldn’t find a way to scheme him into success with quick-strike throws that took advantage of his best skills and allowed players like Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry to make plays. Kitchens for some reason abandoned the kinds of things that worked in 2018 and got him the head coaching gig, like play-action passing and working out of 12 personnel. He also refused to hand off play-calling duties to Todd Monken, who at least had a wealth of experience coordinating an offense hampered by poor line play. As a result, the Browns were arguably the league’s most disappointing team last season.
Now, though, Kitchens and Dorsey are gone. Their replacements are Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski, who have already set in motion a plan to get back to what made Mayfield successful two years ago. They brought in Jack Conklin to upgrade one spot on the offensive line. They will presumably find themselves a left tackle early in the draft, perhaps as soon as pick No. 10. They brought in Austin Hooper to work alongside David Njoku in dual-tight end sets, which again should bring Mayfield back into his comfort zone. They can now operate out of 12 personnel as their base package, rotating Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in and out and occasionally using them on the field together as they did down the stretch of last season.
The question mark at left tackle is enough to ding the Browns on the offensive line grade, though, and we probably need to see Mayfield actually make good decisions and deliver the ball quickly before we bump him up to above-average again. It is entirely possible that when we do this list next year, the Browns are back where we thought they’d be a year ago, as opposed to where they are right now.
Teddy Bridgewater acquitted himself nicely enough in relief of Drew Brees last season, but his 5-0 record as a starter oversells how well he actually played. Bridgewater is an extremely conservative passer whose average throw traveled only 6.2 yards in the air last season — last among qualified quarterbacks. He was lucky to have Sean Payton scheming things up for him, which afforded wide throwing windows to pop the ball to Michael Thomas over and over. Bridgewater did that well, and he does a good job of taking care of the ball due to his conservative nature, which raises the floor of a team’s offense. It just doesn’t raise the ceiling all that much.
In Carolina, he will be afforded the help of a play-caller who just coordinated perhaps the most explosive offense in college football history. Joe Brady came from LSU to join Matt Rhule with the Panthers, and he actually has an underrated crew of pass-catchers to work with here. D.J. Moore had a true second-year breakout despite working with Kyle Allen under center for the majority of the season, and that breakout was presaged by his posting rookie numbers that placed him among rare company. Curtis Samuel never really managed to get untracked last year, but with a better (and more accurate) passer under center he should get back to making plays. And the Cats added the explosive Robby Anderson on a steal of a contract, worth $20 million over two years. Greg Olsen was let go and is now in Seattle, but Ian Thomas has flashed playmaking upside filling in for Olsen during injury spells over the past two seasons.
And it’s entirely possible none of those guys is even Bridgewater’s top target, because he has the best pass-catching back in the league in Christian McCaffrey. There is no route McCaffrey cannot run out of the backfield or split out wide or in the slot, and he is a dynamic threat who can score from absolutely anywhere. That’s an incredibly valuable piece for a quarterback to have, especially when he checks down as often as Bridgewater.
The Panthers still need to make some upgrades along the offensive line, and they’re not off to a great start after swapping out Trai Turner for Russell Okung and letting Greg Van Roten walk. Perhaps Rhule wants something else from his linemen, but the team took a downgrade in the trade and still has needs elsewhere on the line.
Can anybody explain why the Raiders think they need so many tight ends? They already had one of the league’s better one-two punches with Darren Waller and Foster Moreau, but they for some reason signed Jason Witten (who could barely move even at his peak and looked dreadful in his return to Dallas last season) andNick O’Leary. What’s up with that? Mike Mayock and company tried to upgrade Derek Carr’s weaponry last offseason by bringing in Tyrell Williams and Antonio Brown, and we all know how the second part of that equation worked out. Williams was miscast in the No. 1 role for most of the season, and he only really got help in the form of Hunter Renfrow later in the year. The Raiders badly need to add one of the top receivers in this year’s draft class.
Despite their lack of punch on the outside and Derek Carr’s general aversion to testing defenses down the field, though, the Raiders still managed an average-ish offense in 2019. That’s because for all his faults, Jon Gruden is actually a pretty good play-caller, and he knows how to get guys open. He’s just working from behind when it comes to players who don’t need to be schemed into space, and with a quarterback who is unwilling to throw the ball all that far beyond the line of scrimmage.
The Raiders’ offensive line played extremely well last season, in what had to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. It helped that they stayed fairly healthy up front, but they also coaxed better-than-expected seasons out of guys like Kolton Miller and Trent Brown, the latter of whom people expected to drop off precipitously after leaving New England. Brown only played about 60 percent of the team’s snaps in 2019, but he was good when he was out there. I’m somewhat skeptical the line can repeat last year’s performance given issues like age (Richie Incognito), prior track record (Miller), and coaching (Tom Cable), but they get an above-average grade for now.
The same is true of Josh Jacobs, who could be a much more valuable player for the Raiders if they’d throw him the ball instead of giving all the passing-down work to the likes of Jalen Richard. Jacobs flashed some decent receiving skills at Alabama and looked good when he got the rock thrown his way last year. He can do more than he was given the opportunity to do last season.
For the first time in forever, Philip Rivers won’t be the quarterback of the Chargers. The team insists it is moving forward with Tyrod Taylor, though there are near-daily rumors about their interest in Tua Tagovailoa and/or Justin Herbert. Taylor is an underrated passer who has the ability to make things happen outside of structure by using his legs, and he is one of the least turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league. All of that makes him much different than Rivers, who became more and more willing to throw picks in an effort to make splash plays in recent seasons.
It’s difficult to say with much confidence what Shane Steichen brings to the table as a play-caller, but he has a strong group of pass-catchers to work with, including dynamic running back Austin Ekeler. Taylor will also have Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on the outside and Hunter Henry over the middle, giving him threats at all three levels as well as the ability to test defenses horizontally and force them to cover every blade of grass. If he can be a bit more aggressive than he was during his time as the starter in Buffalo (which he should, given the quality of weapons afforded to him), he should be just fine as a starter.
The Chargers already made one upgrade by swapping Okung for Turner in the trade with the Panthers, but bringing in Bryan Bulaga on an affordable deal was a nice move as well. Things are at least moving in the right direction here.
Arum planned on staging Ali-Chuvalo in Chicago, but the Illinois State Athletic Commission banned Ali because of his “unpatriotic” remarks about the Vietnam War. So, Arum went north of the border, and Maple Leaf Gardens owner Harold Ballard welcomed Ali and Arum with open arms. Chuvalo accepted the fight on less than three weeks’ notice after original opponent Ernie Terrell pulled out, and the rest is boxing history.
It started March 29, 1966 with Ali vs. Chuvalo in Toronto and has been a hell of a ride ever since. https://t.co/NzTtHDIcqQ
“It was a memorable, crazy time in our country,” Arum said. “After we were kicked out of Chicago, Ballard told us we could bring the fight to Toronto, and he was a man of his word. More than 50 years later, Ali-Chuvalo in Toronto is still the most difficult promotion of my entire career.”
Arum wound up promoting 27 Ali fights and turned Top Rank (incorporated in 1973) into an international brand that has promoted 2,079 fight cards and 655 world title bouts in 42 U.S. states and 92 foreign or international cities. Many of the greatest fighters of the past half-century have fought under the Top Rank banner, including: Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Johnny Tapia, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Roberto Duran, George Foreman, Oscar De La Hoya, Timothy Bradley Jr., James Toney, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Alexis Arguello, Michael Carbajal, Miguel Cotto, Emile Griffith, Carlos Monzón, Terence Crawford, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Tyson Fury.
Said Arum: “It has been one hell of a 54-year ride. I am honored to have promoted many of history’s greatest boxers. I could have never foreseen this 54 years ago. I look forward to many more memorable nights at ringside.”
Top Rank/Bob Arum By The Numbers:
2,079: Fight cards promoted 824: Shows on ESPN family of networks 655: World title fights promoted 517: Shows promoted in Nevada 412: Shows promoted in New Jersey 219: American cities in which Top Rank has promoted 195: Shows promoted in California 154: Shows promoted in Texas 129: Shows promoted on HBO 92: Foreign or international cities in which Top Rank has promoted 73: Shows promoted on ABC 72: Shows promoted in New York State 69: Shows promoted in Arizona 63: Shows promoted in Puerto Rico 52: Shows promoted in Mexico 49: Pay-per-view shows promoted 47: Shows promoted in Illinois 42: States in which Top Rank has promoted boxing 41: Miguel Cotto fights promoted 41: Shows promoted in Pennsylvania 38: Michael Carbajal fights promoted 38: Shows promoted in New York City 37: Oscar De La Hoya fights promoted 36: Johnny Tapia fights promoted 35: Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights promoted 33: James Toney fights promoted 32: Erik Morales fights promoted 31: Shows promoted in Florida 28: Iran Barkley fights promoted 27: Muhammad Ali fights promoted or co-promoted 26: Foreign countries in which Top Rank has promoted, plus Puerto Rico 25: Freddie Roach fights promoted 24: Shows promoted in New Mexico 23: World heavyweight title fights promoted 22: Terence Crawford fights promoted 20: Marvelous Marvin Hagler fights promoted 20: Manny Pacquiao fights promoted 19: Juan Manuel Marquez fights promoted 14: George Foreman fights promoted 14: Shows promoted in China 13: Thomas Hearns fights promoted 10: Alexis Arguello fights promoted 10: Ray Mancini fights promoted 9: Timothy Bradley Jr. fights promoted 8: Roberto Duran fights promoted 7: Sugar Ray Leonard fights promoted 7: Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. fights promoted 5: Carlos Monzón fights promoted 5: Emile Griffith fights promoted 4: Mike Tyson fights promoted 3: Tyson Fury fights promoted 2: Larry Holmes fights promoted 1: Evel Knievel Snake River Canyon jump promoted 0: Shows (so far) promoted by Top Rank in: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
ODESSA â Chris Jericho bounces barefoot in the converted gym in his garage, Ozzy blasting overhead and a trainer in pads barking orders in his face.
Jab! Kick! Jab! Burst! Thirty seconds left! Beat that clock!
Jerichoâs sweating. His jaw is locked in a grimace; his long, graying mane bunched in a bun. Gone is Y2J, the Lionheart, the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla, the Man of 1,004 Holds, even his latest wrestling persona, Le Champion. Gone is Chris Jericho the author, the actor, the rock star, the podcaster, the chameleonic raconteur from Best Week Ever and Dancing With the Stars.
Here in his home off Lake Keystone, heâs simply Christopher Irvine, 49-year-old father of three, sweating through his Bret Hart tank top, bare feet splotched pink from kickboxing.
A year ago, Jericho, a Tampa Bay resident of more than two decades, signed on as the marquee star of All Elite Wrestling, an upstart company funded by the deep-pocketed owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars. That places him squarely in competition with the WWE, his off-and-on employer since 1999.
And it means that when the WWE stages its signature annual event this weekend in WrestleMania, Jericho â the WWEâs first undisputed champion, a 13-time WrestleMania veteran, and by most accounts one of the best all-around pro wrestlers ever â will be nowhere near it.
Judas! the trainer snaps.
Jericho plants his left foot and spins backward into Le Champion’s latest finisher, the Judas Effect. He smacks a blind right elbow into the trainer’s pad with a loud pop that cracks through the Ozzy. Unlike his old finisher, the Walls of Jericho, this one looks like it could do real damage.
âI wanted something that had never been done before, that Iâd never seen before,â he says at roundâs end. âNot just a whole move, but a whole new story that I can tell.â
He flashes a wily Hollywood grin.
âNo oneâs ever kicked out of the Judas,â he says. âNo one ever will. And if they do, itâll be a big f–king deal.â
This is not about the WWE. Not entirely. Jericho has too much history with Vince McMahon to let it get personal. And heâs too smart to drag AEW into it.
But itâs also not not about the WWE. Thatâs a real storyline here, and if thereâs one thing Jericho can smell, itâs a story. Heâs too smart to let one as juicy as a rift with his former company slip by â even if he knows the WWE isnât likely to join in.
âTheyâll probably never mention me again,â he says. âI donât blame them. Why would they promote me in any way, shape or form, when Iâm the head of this opposing army, in their opinion, thatâs stealing money out of their pockets?â
Is Jericho just playing a heel, as he has so many times before? Maybe, maybe not. But itâs notable that heâs still doing it this well so deep into his wrestling career.
âHeâs a natural born marketer. Heâll be selling something until he dies,â says veteran wrestling announcer Jim Ross, who recruited Jericho into the WWE, and now calls his matches with AEW. âHeâs a student of this whole process. Heâs not a dumb guy. He is his own business.â
When Jericho and his family moved out of a different home in Odessa last year, he held a yard sale to get rid of old junk, from furniture and fishing poles to signed books and life-size cutouts. And in the grand tradition of pro wrestling, he hyped it with a promo video.
âThe next thing I know,â he says, âpeople are showing up in droves, buying my underwear.â
Jericho has a knack for this sort of thing, for pitching hooks that at first sound ludicrous, but as often as not pay off. Like dubbing himself âY2Jâ at the peak of Y2K hysteria, or unveiling a gimmick where heâd dramatically scribble foesâ names on a notepad in the ring, shouting âYou just made the list!â as fans went crazy.
âHeâs got a little Ric Flair in him,â Ross says. âFlamboyant. Always doing something to catch someoneâs eye.â
In the WWE, Jericho was a reliable performer who usually had McMahonâs ear. He would sometimes walk his pitches past the companyâs writers and go straight to the boss, believing âmy ideas are better than most, and nine times out of 10, I think Iâm right.â
Did that make him a difficult employee? For the briefest of moments, the question gives him pause.
âAm I hard to work with? Maybe to somebody whoâs used to working with yes men, and people that just want to get along, yes,” he says. “If youâre looking for somebody thatâs going to do his utmost best to get the job done right, to put on the best possible program and best possible storyline at the risk of hurting peopleâs feelings? Then yes, Iâm hard to deal with.â
Still: âI earned Vinceâs trust. And it takes a long time to get his real trust. Money-making trust. … Heâs never told me this, but indirectly, I think he regrets losing me, because I was one of his generals. Iâm not always right, but f–k if Iâm not close 80 percent of the time.â
The son of NHL player Ted Irvine, Jericho grew up in Winnipeg, part of a long and distinguished line of wrestling greats from the Canadian prairies. Even as a child, he says, âall I wanted to do was be in a rock ‘nâ roll band and be a wrestler, and here I am 30 years later, doing both at the highest of levels.â
Itâs bravado, sure. Itâs also hard to argue.
As a wrestler, Jericho was a champion in Japan, Mexico and various American circuits before 1999, when he made his WWE debut interrupting a monologue by the Rock. He was slightly undersized, but a great promo artist and in-ring storyteller. He could play the heel or the babyface with equal ease, and make his opponents look like champions in the process. And he reinvented his style so often that fans started calling him pro wrestlingâs David Bowie.
Speaking of music, thereâs Fozzy. What started in 1999 as Jerichoâs goofy metal cover band became, over the years, a legitimate success. In 2017, they scored their first Top 10 single on Billboardâs Mainstream Rock chart in Judas, which Jericho still uses for his ring entrance music. Two subsequent singles have also gone top 10, and the band has opened for Iron Maiden and Kiss, among other heroes. When Guns Nâ Roses plays Tampa in August, Jericho says, âIâm going to invite Slash and Duff over for a barbecue the night before.â
And thereâs more. His talent for spinning anecdotes has led to several bestselling memoirs. His comic timing and pop-culture sponge of a mind led to performances with L.A.’s Groundlings comedy troupe and roles in films like Magruber and Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. He tangoed with Cheryl Burke on Dancing with the Stars. Heâs the namesake of Chris Jerichoâs Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Rager at Sea, a cruise line that in 2019 turned a profit.
And then thereâs his podcast, Talk is Jericho. Launched in 2013, the show has featured dozens of wrestlers and industry players going deep on the business, as well as movie, music and political stars (Donald Trump Jr. was a guest last fall). Most episodes get around 100,000 downloads; an episode featuring AEW rival Jon Moxley netted 1.5 million.
Itâs a diversified resume that few wrestlers can match outside the ring. Which has kept him a commodity inside the ring, too.
All Elite Wrestling was founded by several wrestlers, including Cody (son of Dusty) Rhodes; and Tony Khan, son of billionaire Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan. The younger Khan had been a Jericho fan since the â90s. And with the wrestler no longer under contract with the WWE, they offered him âmore money than I ever made in my career,â Jericho says.
Jericho doesnât have a stake in the company (âBelieve me, I askedâ), but his star power did grease the wheels on AEWâs TV contract with TNT. He came in as the heel face of the company, sneering his way to a title belt. Viewers tuned in, and later listened to Talk is Jericho for behind-the-scenes scoop. As usual, Jericho kept saying and doing things to keep them coming back.
Hereâs one example. After winning the AEW championship last fall, Jericho stormed ceremoniously into a sad-looking backstage buffet. He lambasted the cheap spread of olives and salami before spotting a bottle of champagne â or, as he called it in a growly purr, âa little bit of the bubbly.â
It was a half-second ad lib, an old quote from Dumb and Dumber. Thatâs it. But social media ran with it, remixing the clip into songs and memes, taking the phrase âa little bit of the bubbly” viral.
Jerichoâs light bulb went off. Within weeks, he had partnered with a Washington state vineyard on A Little Bit of the Bubbly sparkling wine. They produced 30,000 bottles, needing to sell 10,000 to break even. They sold 25,000.
Behind the scenes at AEW, however, Jericho fulfills a role thatâs harder to define. He uses words like âdirector, manupulator in a good way, pulling the strings.â Ross calls him a âproducer,â âcoach,â âroad agent,â even âfather figure.â
Like a lot of WWE alternatives, AEW is populated with performers from alternative circuits. Some donât look or perform like traditional, hulking WWE SuperStars â the wiry, acrobatic Jungle Boy; the irony-soaked enigma Orange Cassidy; the face-painting skateboarder Darby Allin; even transgender womenâs champ Nyla Rose. Coming from the WWE, Jericho didnât initially understand their appeal, either.
But part of his job was to build them up, helping AEW seed a crop of future stars â âputting them over,â wrestlers call it. Which, as it happens, is yet another thing Jericho always did well. So he pushed Allen to lean into the skateboarding gimmick, went a fierce 10 minutes in the ring with Jungle Boy, asked Cassidy for tapes so he could study his skills and perhaps book a match. He had Rose on Talk is Jericho, where the host â admitting he knew little about trans issues â delved into her life as a trans woman.
âWeâre not a one-man show, which Chris Iâm sure would say as well,â Ross says. âBut to say that we would be as far along as we are right now, getting an extension from TNT, coming off a very successful pay-per-view â I would say we would not be this far along without Chris Jericho. He added instant credibility.â
Even before the coronavirus forced the WWE to move WrestleMania out of Tampa and over to its training center in Orlando, Jericho wanted no part of it. Outside of one (now-canceled) autograph signing at a non-WWE convention, he wouldâve laid low at home with his family.
Instead, heâs kept doing Chris Jericho things in AEW.
When the coronavirus forced AEW to tape shows in March with no audience, Jericho stood in an empty ring and talked enthusiastic smack to a drone. (Deadspin, the next day, called it âthe greatest piece of television this year, and quite possibly the last decade.â) When social distancing became a cultural norm, Jericho live-streamed a hang sesh from his home office on Facebook. Nearly 160,000 fans tuned in.
While Jericho tends to downplay the AEW-vs.-WWE angle, he does say his new employer allows more âcreative freedomâ than his old.
âAfter 30 years, I actually know what Iâm doing,â he says. âIn WWE I had that freedom, but thereâs a process you have to go through there. Thereâs a lot of approvals and different heads of state that you have to go through before the idea is approved.â
He says heâs had good talks with McMahon, and that McMahon even offered to counter his deal with AEW (although by that time, Jericho had already signed). But he also knows that as long as heâs with AEW, some doors will stay shut behind him.
And for now, heâs okay with that.
âIf I continue to work for the Khan family for the rest of my life, Iâll never go into the WWE Hall of Fame,â he says. âDoes that bother me? No. I mean, the Sex Pistols didnât show up for theirs. I always kind of liked that.
âIâm a hall of famer in the minds of the people who want me to be in the hall of fame,â he adds. âIâm a hall of famer in my mind. Thatâs all that matters.â
CONOR McGREGOR has released never-before-seen sparring footage as the UFC star shows off impressive boxing skills.
The training clips range from before McGregor first won a UFC title in 2015 leading up to his boxing debut in 2017.
The footage, released by the Irishman’s media company TheMacLife, show spars in The Notorious’ Straight Blast Gym in Dublin and the UFC’s old Las Vegas Ultimate Fighter gym.
McGregor works on his jujitsu with training partner Dillon Danis – who is 2-0 in his Bellator – as well as six-time national Irish amateur boxing champion Conor Wallace, who in 2016 was brought in to replicate Nate Diaz’s southpaw boxing style.
In the final spar the ex-featherweight and lightweight champion just boxes, and lands some telling combinations and counters.
There are many misconceptions surrounding Formula 1 which are often brought up on a yearly basis, some of which are particularly prevalent in modern times.
Amid a heavily delayed start to the 2020 campaign due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – which has forced the postponement or cancellation of the opening eight races so far – we have decided to take a look at some of the championship’s biggest myths…
F1 is so boring, it’s not like the ‘good old days’
Ok, let’s start at the top and address the big one. You will have definitely come across somebody who claims F1 is not as exciting as it used to be, or that it should not even class itself as a proper sport because it is “just cars going round in circles”.
Particularly in recent times, this claim has been based around Mercedes’ domination of the V6 hybrid era, with the majority of wins and championship titles over the last five years being picked up by Lewis Hamilton.
But people are quick to forget that F1 has always had spells of dominance from one team or another. While Ferrari and Red Bull have been left to fight over the scraps in recent seasons, both sides have had their stretch of dominance over the past two decades, with Red Bull winning four consecutive world title doubles between 2010 to 2013 and Ferrari taking five consecutive drivers’ crowns plus six straight constructors’ championships across 1999-2004.
A closer look at the pecking order over the last few seasons in particular highlights a convergence between the midfield runners. Arguably, F1 now has a far more competitive field below the top three teams than at any point in history, when cars finishing minutes behind the winner was a regular occurrence.
And that is not even beginning to scratch the surface with regards to the incredible levels of innovation and technology involved in modern-day F1.
Nobody can overtake
Another misconception is that the way F1 cars are designed means that overtaking is near-impossible, suggesting that in years gone by F1 races were overtaking-fests.
The tight and twisty nature of certain circuits such as Monaco and Hungary make overtaking incredibly difficult in any era of F1 car, and it is true that the current technical regulations do make passing harder due to the extreme pursuit for aerodynamic perfection in recent years, but overtakes do still occur.
The biggest problem F1 faces at the moment is that the ‘dirty air’ or wake currently produced by cars has a huge destabilising effect on the downforce and tyre performance of the following car, meaning it is hard to stay close, let alone pull off an overtake. This is an area F1 is working hard to address in the future.
There are overtaking aids such as the Drag Reduction System (DRS) which have helped increase the amount of overtaking moves, though many see this as a gimmick and the device has been criticised for being too effective at times – sometimes F1 can’t win either way.
But you only have to look back at a number of races in 2019 to see that overtaking is definitely not just a phenomenon.
F1 cars are very fragile
Another commonly held misconception, largely based around the fact that car parts break up easily in the event of contact or a crash.
In reality, F1 cars are incredibly sturdy. They are built to withstand massive loads while being driven at 300km/hr and the subsequent G-Forces that come in cornering and under heavy braking.
The objective of an F1 car is to be as fast as possible, and therefore the lightweight nature of Carbon Fibre is an ideal product to use. But the reason it breaks off and shatters so easily is because it is designed to do exactly that in the event of an incident.
This is so drivers are protected as much as possible within the cockpit during a crash, with the majority of the impact level absorbed by the part of the car which has broken off, rather than travelling through the monocoque and directly to the driver’s body.
The drivers aren’t proper athletes
Many people argue that F1 drivers are not real athletes because the cars are much easier to drive in recent times – another common myth.
In fact, drivers need to be incredibly fit to master their modern-day machinery. F1 cars of today may appear easier to drive compared to their predecessors from the outside, but they are complex beasts swamped with electronic components and a plethora of control buttons.
While concentration levels must be at optimum when battling with 19 other drivers on track at eye-wateringly high speeds, drivers also need to have strong core and upper body strength just to keep their cars on the road and pointing in the right direction.
The strain placed on drivers’ necks in particular is extreme. F1 drivers typically experience around 5G under braking, 2G while accelerating and anywhere between 4-6G in cornering. At 5Gs, a driver experiences a force equal to five times their weight, which is equivalent to 60 to 70 pounds of force pulling their head to the side.
Imagine putting up with those levels of force non-stop in a racing situation for a two-hour race. Not to mention the practice, qualifying and test hours also put in across a season.
Some argue that the current era of F1 is significantly lacking big-name personalities, but there are reasons to suggest this is not the case.
Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel all display different personalities and lifestyles that have made them fan favourites for varying reasons, while the likes of Lando Norris and Max Verstappen are leading the new generation of stars embracing their ever-growing followings on social media.
There’s an argument that Kimi Raikkonen, one of the most popular names on the F1 grid with the fans, has personality traits where he actively shuns the limelight or standing out from the crowd which only leads to increasing his status.
While times have changed and drivers’ lives may no longer seem as eccentric as they did in the past, there are still many personalities within the sport with many of the younger stars striking a cord with a new audience.
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Navigating through the college football schedule is vital for smart bettors.
The strength of a team’s path can factor into preseason win totals, traveling spots throughout the year, or knowing who to play or fade in the futures market.
Before you start doing homework for the 2020 season, here are the 10 teams with the toughest schedules ahead of them.
Key games: at LSU, vs. Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, at Kansas State, at Texas Tech, vs. Iowa State
For the second straight season, Texas will play a Group of Five program (South Florida) to open 2020 before facing off against LSU. After that, the Longhorns have a tough slate in the Big 12, though key matchups against Iowa State, TCU, and Baylor will all be at home.
Key games: at Notre Dame, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Alabama, vs. LSU, vs. Ole Miss, at Auburn
There are always two or three non-contending SEC schools that get the short end of the stick. In this case, Arkansas has the second-toughest schedule in the conference, with games against Nevada and Notre Dame before getting into seasonal play.
Key games: at Cal, at SMU, vs. Oklahoma State, at Baylor, vs. Iowa State, vs. Oklahoma, at Texas
There is no tuneup to open the year for TCU, which gets a rematch of the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl against Cal on the road. After that, the Horned Frogs should make quick work of Prairie View A&M before facing SMU, which precedes conference play.
7. South Carolina
Key games: at Kentucky, at Florida, vs. Tennessee, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Georgia, at LSU, at Clemson
A year after leading the nation in strength of schedule, South Carolina finds itself in the top 10 again. The Gamecocks could realistically start the season 3-0, but their first road contest of the campaign against Kentucky begins a four-game gauntlet in SEC play.
Key games: vs. Iowa State, at Minnesota, at Ohio State, at Penn State, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Nebraska
Key games: at Nebraska, vs. Memphis, vs. Air Force, at Boston College, at Minnesota, at Michigan, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Iowa
Did someone import this schedule from the NCAA Football 14 video game? A nonconference stretch against Memphis, Air Force, and Boston College is weird. Purdue‘s the third and final team from the Big Ten to crack the list despite escaping Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State.
Key games: at Alabama, at Stanford, vs. Arizona State, at Utah, at Oregon, vs. Notre Dame, at UCLA
Imagine coming out of the gates against Alabama and then choosing to play the rest of the season. USC has the one big nonconference game against the Crimson Tide and then a few tough roadies at Utah, Oregon, and UCLA in the Pac-12. It’s a wide-open conference, but the Trojans will have to earn it.
1. Michigan State
Key games: at BYU, vs. Miami, at Iowa, vs. Michigan, vs. Ohio State, at Indiana, at Penn State
Mel Tucker will face quite a challenge in his first season as Spartans head coach. Not only does Michigan State get nonconference matchups with Miami and BYU, but there’s a stretch in which the Spartans will play seven straight games against teams that went bowling last year.
Alex Kolodziej is a betting writer for theScore. He’s a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 12 years. He can quote every line from “Rounders” and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AJKolodziej.
Well, the Falcons have made moves in free agency and, according to team president Rich McKay, they’re not done yet. Meanwhile, you’ve got plenty of questions and comments about the draft, the current state of the Falcons, uniforms and, of course, free agency. So, let’s get to them now. Just remember that all opinions here are mine unless noted otherwise.
And we’re off.
Will from Spokane, WA
Hey there Beek, I hope all is well. It’s my third time writing in. Prior to this I had questions about our defensive ends. This time I would like to address Falcons Nation. Living in Washington I’ve had to purchase the Sunday Ticket for the last 10 years just to watch our beloved birds. I just want to say, knowing we do still have some holes, that we are not as weak as the other 31-team fans think. In fact, I think with a B+ draft we will at the very least shock the South! Thank you for your space, Beek, and rise the (blank) up. 😁
Matt: Alright, Will. My only question for you is, what does a “B+ draft” entail? I’m also assuming you believe that the Falcons would also win the NFC South as a result, true? I’ll say this much when it comes to Tom Brady (Bucs), Drew Brees (Saints) and Teddy Bridgewater (Panthers) – they’re not going to beat you with their legs. The Falcons had better amp up that pass rush, wreak some havoc in opposing backfields and get after those guys. Otherwise they’ll sit back there and pick apart defenses, including the Falcons. It’s another reason why you need to have solid corners who can cover.
Charles from Columbus, OH
Hello, Beek! First off, let me say thank you for all the great content you put out for us we appreciate it! Now on to my question. I know mock drafts aren’t written in stone but a lot of them have us taking C.J. Henderson from Florida at 16. Do you think it would be a worth the move to possibly trade up and grab Jeffery Okudah from Ohio State if he were to fall out of the top 10? I would do everything I could to trade up to pick 11 in the draft if he fell out of the top 10.
Matt: Thanks, Charles. Appreciate that a lot. Look, I’d be all for trading up for an impact player. Julio Jones was certainly worth it back in 2011, right? I think it’s worth it if A) you land a starting player who upgrades the position and makes an immediate contribution to your team and B) you don’t overspend or give up too much in the process. I think Jeff Okudah is a very good cornerback and would love to see him wearing Red and Black. But I think he’s likely a top-five pick – and definitely a top-10 pick. If he were to slip, well, that’s one thing. But I think the Falcons can still land a very good player at 16. Ultimately it all depends on the Falcons’ draft board and how they’ve rated certain players. If there is a high-value target available and the compensation is worth the move, I’d expect them to pull the trigger.
Chris from Los Angeles, CA
Hope all well and safe with you and your family. Appreciate the release and information you provide. Question: Any update on when the new uniform announcement will be in April? Need something to look forward to during these difficult times. Thanks in advance!
Matt: If I only had a nickel for every question I received about the Falcons new uniforms … I’d be social distancing for life on a tropical island somewhere. Ha! All I can tell you about the uniforms is that I’ve seen them all, I liked them even more in person and that they will be unveiled in April. As soon as I have any more details on them (that I’m allowed to share here), I promise that I will.
Jeremy from Calhoun, GA
Hey Brother Beek! Almost draft time! Less than 30 days away and man I’m excited! I bet this will be the most viewed draft in history on TV this year! I’m sure the NFL is going to make this exciting as they can to watch and give us the excitement we would expect! Well with everybody pretty much sheltered away from the world with COVID-19 precautions, I’m sure we all have a little more time on our hands than usual. I know I asked you earlier in the year and now with free agency coming and going in the first wave, could we get a multiple-round mock draft from you? I know many of us are doing our own and reading others, but we want to see your predictions! Thanks, Beek! Rise up!!
Matt: You know, Jeremy, that’s one thing I have yet to do since I started putting together these mock drafts on AtlantaFalcons.com three years ago. I’m working on my next mock draft (for tomorrow) right now and maybe I’ll tack on a second and third round, especially if you readers would enjoy it. They take time and research, but I have a lot of fun doing it, knowing you fans love to consume them. Thanks for reading and the suggestion! In the meantime, you can check out my latest mock draft here. Next one is April 1.
Jared from Phoenix, AZ
Hey Beek! Hope all is well man! My next question isn’t a normal one but hear me out! So, what would you say to someone who is aspiring to be a GM of a team one day? I know it starts as being a scout somewhere in the organization, but I feel like it’s almost who you know not exactly what you know … if you know of any positions or anyone I can contact available I would be greatly appreciative. All Hall of Fame GMs have to start somewhere and I’m ready to begin the journey! Even if this just gives you a laugh, thanks for the read but I am 100 percent serious as to what I think I can accomplish as a scout/GM. The reason I’m writing is because I’ve always had this ambition but don’t know anyone who can help me get a start!
Matt: Jared, I don’t know anything about your background or your football IQ, but I love your passion and the fact that you just laid it all out there – so that’s why I’m responding. Everyone starts somewhere, and good things never come easy. I don’t know how many football people you know, whether or not if you played football or how many coaches you know – and I’m talking at any level (high school, college or professional). My first piece of advice is become a student of the game, read, watch All-22 video and reach out to any coaches and former players you may know and respect. See if you can volunteer somewhere to coach. Develop relationships, ask questions and don’t ever assume you know it all. Scouts come from all different kinds of backgrounds, too. I highly recommend you take some time to read the feature stories I wrote on GM Thomas Dimitroff and each of the Falcons scouts a couple of years ago. Those guys made a ton of sacrifices and, in many cases, created their own breaks to make it. Not everyone does, though. It’s a tough, competitive business but it can be extremely rewarding. Best of luck to you.
Dan from Cumming, GA
Will the NFL ever allow teams to switch helmets, so that they can play in their retro jerseys and helmets? Why not practice with two helmets and have both available for the regular season? Some college teams use different helmets during season, so why can’t the NFL figure out a safe way to make it happen? Wish this would be discussed with Roger! Thanks!
Matt: It’s interesting that you ask about the NFL rule on helmet colors, Dan. As it stands right now, the league has a one-helmet rule which prohibits teams from using alternate designs above the chin strap. Last week (on March 25), NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN that there would be no change for the 2020 season, but that “there are ongoing discussions for a potential change for the 2021 season, but no decisions have been made.” That’s about all I can say about it. Would I be for it? Heck, yeah. Some of my favorite all-time uniforms are now considered throwbacks. Sometimes change is good, but not always. And I agree withUSA TODAY’s Jim Reineking on (most of) his list here.
Do you have a question about the Falcons that you want answered Straight from the ‘Beek? Ask a question here and it could be posted on AtlantaFalcons.com.
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Not only does this one from Bethesda SC feature a player working on dribbling, but it also involved a very cute dogy.
Ainsley Coleman (U9 White-coached by Liz Robinson) showing off some great moves against a very difficult defender 🐕! Anyone who has a dog knows they love soccer and love chasing a ball. pic.twitter.com/B08LtFWg3r