Take 5: NBA, NFL overstepping players’ boundaries

By TPN Staff

In this week’s Take 5, our staff voices its displeasure with ownership in both the NFL and NBA, and also weighs in on the underachieving Baker Mayfield and Michigan football team.

Baker’s big mouth

Since the Cleveland Browns drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield has been the talk of the league. A year after Cleveland lost every single game, Mayfield came in and led the team to a 7-8-1 record. He broke the rookie passing record with 27 touchdowns, surpassing the likes of future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson. With only one season under his belt, Baker is already the star of Progressive and Hulu commercials.

But this season, the headline-grabbing sophomore is off to a slow start and the Browns are 1-2. Mayfield tossed three picks in an ugly loss against the lowly Titans at home. He only managed to throw one touchdown against the Jets. With a shot at beating the Rams at home, Mayfield refused to stay in the pocket and failed to capitalize on four attempts to tie the game at the goal line. The Browns have dropped both home games and Baker has thrown three touchdowns compared to five interceptions.

Baker’s recently poor play led former NFL coach and current commentator Rex Ryan to describe him as “overrated as hell,” a bold statement considering the hype around the quarterback. Mayfield, who has been known to address criticism, fired back when asked by the media about the comment.

“It’s whatever,” Mayfield said. “In the wise words of Freddie Kitchens, ‘If you don’t wear orange and brown you don’t matter.’ Rex Ryan doesn’t have any colors right now for a reason.”

Ryan was probably wrong to dub Mayfield overrated so soon, but the last sentence about Ryan’s unemployment in the league is what makes the reply childish. Sure, Mayfield is correct, but when he’s playing at such a low level, he should keep his mouth shut. It’s fine to be bold and brash when you’re winning games and making plays. But a player that’s started 1-2 and hasn’t accomplished anything all that significant yet should be humbled by his struggles.

That’s not Mayfield’s personality, but it should be until his play picks up. He’s looked like a great quarterback at times, but it’s evident he has a lot of room to grow on and off the field. Only time will tell if the Browns have finally found their answer, or if he’s just another in the long line of failed Browns quarterbacks — albeit one with a bigger mouth.

— Nick Carlisano, Senior Staff Writer

Let the tampering continue

In recent years, eventful NBA trades and free agency have provided fans with as much entertainment value as the regular season. But NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league Board of Governors made an effort to control the situation last Friday, agreeing on updates to anti-tampering rules. The new statutes will worsen punishments and expand the league’s ability to investigate teams that make blatant recruiting pitches to other players under contract.

Perhaps the NBA got so preoccupied with whether or not they could stop tampering that they didn’t stop to think if they should. It’s ridiculous that players are restricted from exploring their future options while under contract. What the NBA calls “tampering” is really just a natural part of the business. Executives and players should be able to tell a player from another team that they’re interested, especially when most top players already know that every team wants them. In the world outside sports, it’s not illegal to look for other jobs prior to leaving your current one — in fact, it’s commonplace. And that’s because preventing “tampering,” as evidenced by the NBA, is a waste of time and immensely futile.

NBA owners are clearly just fed up with the amount of power that players have in determining their own fate and would like to diminish it. Meanwhile, ownership can blindside players with trades and force them to uproot their families. And now under stricter enforcement of tampering, players could have their personal devices seized and private information exposed as part of investigations which are pointless. Managing personal interactions like this makes the NBA come across like Big Brother from “1984.” Tampering rules are clearly unfair to the players which make this league possible. It’s time the NBA accepts that it’s a star-driven league where players have power.

— Sean Tierney, Staff Writer

For NFL players, 16 games is more than enough

The NFL preseason has always been a topic of debate among athletes, journalists and fans alike. Now it seems that team owners will join the discussion on whether to cut back — or completely eliminate — preseason games.

Just recently, NFL insider Adam Schefter released a report detailing a proposal from owners about possibly expanding the season to 17 games. In conjunction, all preseason games would cease to exist. The discussion of extending the regular season was brought up last season with 18 games as the benchmark. The NFL Players Association is obviously not so happy with this kind of proposal — at least not without a higher percentage of the revenues from regular season games. NFLPA representative DeMaurice Smith spoke recently on this topic.

“I don’t see an 18-game schedule, under any circumstances, being in the best interest of our players,” Smith said. “If somebody wants to make an 18-game proposal, we’ll look at it. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think that it would be good for the players.”

Both the NFL collective owners and the NFLPA will have to reach a decision by the end of the 2020 season, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.

As usual, the players are right on this one. Owners already make out with the lion’s share of profits from this sport. Now we’re talking about expanding the regular season by another game.

Nice try. This scenario in no way benefits the players, who already face wear and tear from 16 games. Now the owners believe eliminating preseason games will spare injuries. Most starters don’t play the majority of snaps in preseason, meaning teams are mainly risking second-string and depth to spare their starters. It boils down to this — NFL owners shouldn’t expand the regular season unless they’re willing to part with some of their profits.

— John Riskis, For The Pitt News

Ann Arbor abomination

The Michigan Wolverines dropped from No. 11 to No. 20 in the AP Top 25 NCAA football rankings following a 35-14 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers last Saturday. The Badgers utterly dominated the entire game and flat-out embarrassed the Wolverines.

This is not the way Michigan fans envisioned their team starting out the season. The program opened up the year ranked No. 7 with a 34.2% chance to win the Big 10 conference. It’s safe to say that expectations were high in Ann Arbor.

But those expectations quickly turned into frustration when Michigan narrowly defeated the Army Black Knights 24-21 in double overtime on Sept. 7. That game wasn’t supposed to be a scare for the Wolverines, as they were 22.5-point favorites entering the contest.

Michigan’s sluggish start is pinned on two of the most influential members of the squad, senior quarterback Shea Patterson and head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Patterson hasn’t been sharp so far this season. He boasts a 49.9 QBR, which ranks No. 86 in the country. He’s also only completing 55.6% of his passes, his lowest rate since his first year. Patterson should be replaced if he can’t find his form soon.

For years now, Harbaugh has failed to meet program expectations. This season appears to be more of the same, with Michigan being weaker than experts predicted. Matchups against Iowa and Notre Dame are now in their favor opposed to Michigan’s.

With losses to Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State, the Wolverines will finish the season with an 8-4 record. This will be Harbaugh’s final season in his tenure with his alma mater, as Michigan will search for a new coach next season.

— Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

Mr. Jones and me, we’re gonna be big stars

From trading star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to drafting quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL draft, the New York Giants made many questionable decisions in the offseason. Most people doubted how these moves would turn out and criticized the Giants for their actions.

But after Week 3 of the NFL season, many of those doubts have been put to rest. When veteran Eli Manning was benched against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was Jones’ time to prove the naysayers wrong. And that’s exactly what he did.

Things looked bleak for the Giants at halftime. They trailed 28-10 and star running back Saquon Barkley left the game with an ankle injury. But Jones led a second-half rally, finishing with 336 passing yards and two touchdowns as well as 28 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He orchestrated a game-winning drive that ended with a rushing touchdown on fourth and five with just over a minute left in the game. Tampa Bay missed a field goal as time expired to give the Giants a 32-31 win. New York seemingly has a lot to look forward to with its young quarterback.

Jones should be expected to have another big week when his team hosts the winless Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon. The Redskins have struggled to find their identity with Case Keenum at quarterback, and ESPN ranked them as the No. 29 team out of 32 in its weekly power rankings. While the Giants have a lot of work to do defensively and will feel the loss of Barkley on offense, Jones has shown he has the ability to make tight throws and move his team down the field.

— Elliott Borawski, Staff Writer