Lawrence: Fool's Gold

As NFL fans, we think we know everything, Amy Lawrence says; then reality happens and the truth is revealed...

Amy Lawrence
September 24, 2019 - 8:58 pm
Daniel Jones Giants

USA Today Images


The NFL enjoys making us look like fools. As sports fans, we LOVE to jump to rash conclusions without any real evidence. We let our hearts commandeer our brains, and we join the vocal knee-jerk mob on social media. No one's ever accused sports fans of being too logical or rational. In Week 3, it was comical to see a few of the recent popular hot takes blown to smithereens, even as many fans conveniently abandoned the hill they were willing to die on.

It shouldn't be too hard to recall the uproar on NFL Draft weekend in late April. Just a few short months ago, the Giants shocked the world by selecting Daniel Jones, the quarterback out of Duke, as the sixth pick overall. "What?? Are you kidding me?? He SUCKS! The Giants blew it again! They reached for the wrong guy! Over Dwayne Haskins?? Dave Gettleman should be fired!" The volatile reaction from fans and analysts caused tremors around the league. Imagine yourself in the shoes of Jones. He realizes his dream and is promptly greeted with a steady stream of criticism from all corners of the football world before he ever runs a drill in his first mini-camp. Doubters pointed to his average numbers at Duke with no All-ACC appearances to his name. They claimed Jones was only selected because of his ties to the Mannings and their college coach David Cutcliffe. He was buried by the "experts" before he set foot on the field.

Where are the "Daniel Jones sucks!" people now? Probably hanging out with the "Jared Goff is a bust!" people. Jones made the most of his NFL debut, steering the Giants back from 18 points down in the second half and scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the final 90 seconds. His mobility is a huge asset in Pat Shurmur's offense, though it's his recognition of the defense and his options that make him dangerous with the ball. Against Tampa Bay, the majority of his runs were scrambles on passing plays. It was only one outing, but he definitely didn't operate like a rookie. The energy and athleticism Jones infused into the offense were obvious. Having the support of Eli Manning on the sidelines was critical. Instead of pouting or sulking or letting his body language convey his displeasure, Eli was engaged, helpful, supportive, a total team guy, a true pro as usual. His relationship with Jones will only contribute to the rookie's success.

Another popular hot take debunked early in the NFL season is the one with the Browns skating through an undefeated season, planting their flag at midfield in every stadium along the way, and roaring into the Super Bowl. While Miami may still happen, the growing pains are obvious in this first month. Freddie Kitchens is still adjusting to the role of head coach AND shot-caller, and Baker Mayfield isn't in the same groove to start his sophomore campaign. His decision-making is erratic at best, and he ranks near the bottom of the league in passer efficiency. Why the struggles? No doubt a variety of factors are at work. He's adjusting to new personnel, including Odell Beckham Jr., and figuring out how to spread the ball around. The offensive line is an ongoing project, and Baker anticipates pressure in his face too much and too soon. Against the Rams, time and time again, he bailed out of the pocket when he didn't need to, usually backward and to his right, and made the drives infinitely more difficult. Yes, he's uncanny when it comes to extending plays, but there's a fine line between scrambling and waiting to see what unfolds and flat-out holding the ball too long. Mayfield has been caught doing the latter a bunch this season. Credit is due to the NFL's defensive coordinators. They are the best in the business, adept at finding the tendencies and weaknesses of opposing QBs, and implementing schemes to exploit those flaws.

So no, Cleveland isn't going undefeated. But these early games are putting their feet to the fire. Kitchens says, "Nobody is panicking." However, the 1-2 start creates a sense of urgency, especially as they face the gauntlet on their schedule the next six weeks. First up, they're on the road at division rival Baltimore plus road games against the Niners and Patriots in October. As the Browns try to change the culture and learn how to win again, this adversity should push them and build character. These early challenges can bring them together and make them stronger.

Hopes dashed, the "Browns are going undefeated!" people are probably hiding with the "Amari Cooper isn't worth a first-round pick!" people. Actually, he's worth more. A year ago, Dallas hadn't yet traded with Oakland for its top receiver. Since his first start with the Cowboys early last November, he's hauled in 11 touchdown catches in 11 games and racked up more than 1400 yards. With Cooper in the lineup, Dallas is 11-3, including the playoffs. The Pro Bowler is a game-changer, a major piece of the Cowboys' offensive transformation. His addition gave Dak Prescott a precise, physical route-runner. And since then, the franchise has signed veteran Randall Cobb, welcomed back Jason Witten, and drafted a second rusher in Tony Pollard to share duties with a happy Ezekiel Elliott. Throw in the creative play-calling of new coordinator Kellen Moore, and this offense barely resembles the product on the field a year ago. Cooper was the catalyst, and Dallas couldn't care less about the first round pick. They got him on the cheap.

When we rant with all our hot takes, the NFL laughs out loud. Don't forget, football fans, it's okay to admit when we're dead wrong.

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.