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NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020
We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them. Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now. https://preview.redd.it/rs90lt6ckf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3ddfc8945862472b52b5ef8c69076acde904c44c
1. Arizona Cardinals
Why they can win the division: Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other. Why they could finish last again: Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league. Bottom line: I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020. https://preview.redd.it/anrr9erfkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=5655b4452baff2691a0e060e8d70918d58801a4c
2. Detroit Lions
Why they can win the division: Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough. Why they could finish last again: Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive. Bottom line: I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark. https://preview.redd.it/7ivo914ikf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=d029ddd274b78e78f5bc932d00086b8c697a466e
3. Miami Dolphins
Why they can win the division: When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game. Why they could finish last again: As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams. Bottom line: As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here. https://preview.redd.it/nme3explkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3998c6026125c1b9b48438e3fc9afaf9601b116e
4. Los Angeles Chargers
Why they can win the division: First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room. Why they could finish last again: I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy. Bottom line: In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division. https://preview.redd.it/rywropjokf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=ed77a7303af810b862abb2100c4f0b86841a2d38
5. Washington Redskins
Why they can win the division: These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game. Why they could finish last again: Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you. Bottom line: These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently. https://preview.redd.it/szpawv9rkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=62ca5fe882d8155d83eb3328e9bf1f1681a17384
6. Jacksonville Jaguars
Why they can win the division: I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November. Why they could finish last again: I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period. Bottom line: The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now. https://preview.redd.it/5myv276vkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=7fb25f47d0759e9b5a07876ea01787898c6cc817
7. Carolina Panthers
Why they can win the division: Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7. Why they could finish last again: Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season. Bottom line: The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center. https://preview.redd.it/y7agj2n2lf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=221af0a1f689d3b19d5e250fac0b58a35877edad
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Why they can win the division: We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates. Why they could finish last again: As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year. Bottom line: I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air. If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/16/nfl-teams-most-likely-to-go-from-worst-to-first-in-2020/ You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9kCcuPobNU
The truth behind Puskás Akadémia FC - How Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán stole a legend, built a stadium in his backyard and guided his team to Europe
The 2019/2020 season of the Hungary’s National Football League (NB1) – being one of the first leagues to restart play - came to an end on 27 June. If a casual observer (for whatever reason) decides to check out the final standings, he would be not surprised at the first two positions: record-champion Ferencváros defended their title, while regional powerhouse Fehérvár (Videoton) came in second. However, the third place team,Puskás Akadémia FCmight seem unusual and one could think that there is a story behind that. Is there a team named after Ferenc Puskás? Did some academy youths make an incredible run for the Europa League qualification? Well, the observer is right, there is a story behind all this, but it’s absolutely not a fun story. It’s a story about how one powerful man’s obsession with football stole a legend, misused state funds and killed the spirit of Hungarian football.(Warning: this is a long story, feel free to scroll down for a tl;dr. Also, I strongly advise checking out the links, those images are worth seeing). Naturally, political influence in football has been present ever since the dawn of the sport and we know of numerous state leaders who felt confident enough to use their influence to ensure the successful development of their favored clubs – Caucescu’s FC Olt Scornicesti and Erdogan’s Basaksehir are well-known examples of such attempts. However, I fear that very few of the readers are aware of the fact that Puskás Akadémia FC is nothing but Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s grandiose project for establishing his hometown’s club as one of the country’s top teams. Considering that Orbán managed to achieve this goal using state funds in an EU member democracy in the 2000s, one might even say that it might be one of the most impressive attempts of cheating your way through Football Manager in real life. Now that Puskás Akadémia FC escaped the desolate football scene of Hungary and is getting ready for the European takeover, I feel that it’s high time to tell its true story.
Part 1: Part time striker, part time PM
Our story begins in 1999 when the 36-year-old striker Viktor Orbán (recently elected as the country’s Prime Minister) was signed by the sixth-tier side of Felcsút FC residing in rural Fejér County. It might sound surprising that an active politician would consider such a side job, but given that Orbán has been playing competitive low-level football throughout his whole life and has always been known as a keen football enthusiast, people seemed to be okay with his choice for a hobby. Orbán spent most of his childhood in the village of Felcsút (population: 1,800), so it seemed only natural that he would join the team after one of his old-time acquaintances became team president there. Orbán’s arrival to the club seemed to work like a charm as Felcsút FC immediately earned a promotion to the fifth league. The Prime Minister’s busy program did not allow him to attend every training session and game but Orbán did make an effort to contribute as much as possible on the field – there is a report of a government meeting being postponed as Orbán was unavailable due to attending Felcsút FC’s spring training camp. The 2001/2002 season brought another breakthrough for the side as Felcsút was promoted to the national level of the football pyramid after being crowned the champion of Fejér County. Sadly enough for Orbán, he suffered a defeat on another pitch – his party lost the 2002 election and Orbán was forced to move to an opposition role. No matter what happened on the political playing field, Orbán would not abandon his club. Just before the 2002 elections, Felcsút was surprisingly appointed as one of the regional youth development centers by the Hungarian FA. Orbán continued contributing on the field as well (he had more spare time after all) but his off-the-field efforts provided much more value for the team as he used his political influence to convince right-wing businessmen that they should definitely get sponsorship deals done with the fourth-division village team. Club management was able to transform the influx of funds into on-field success: Felcsút FC was promoted to the third division in 2004 and achievedpromotion to the second division in 2005. Although these new horizons required a skill level that an aging ex-PM is not likely to possess, Orbán regularly played as a late game sub and even appeared in cup games against actual professional opponents. The now-42-year old Orbán did not want to face the challenge of the second division, so he retired in 2005 – but this did not stop him from temping as an assistant coach when the head coach was sacked in the middle of the 2005-2006 season. Success on the playing field did not translate to political success: Orbán lost the elections once again in 2006. However, this was only a temporary loss: the ruling party committed blunder after blunder and by early 2007 it became absolutely obvious that Orbán would be able return to power in 2010. Now confident in his political future, Orbán opted for the acceleration of football development in Felcsút – by late 2007 he took over the presidency of the club to take matters in his own hands. Sponsors seeking to gain favor with the soon-to-be PM were swarming Felcsút FC, so the club was able to stand very strong in an era where financial stability was a very rare sight in the Hungarian football scene, accumulating three medals (but no promotion) between 2007 and 2009. On the other hand, Orbán realized the value of youth development as well, and started a local foundation for this purpose back in 2004 that gathered funds for the establishment a boarding school-like football academy. The academy opened its doors in September 2006 (only the second of such institutions in the country) and Orbán immediately took upon the challenge of finding an appropriate name for the academy. He went on to visit the now very sick Ferenc Puskás in the hospital to discuss using his name, but as Puskás’ medical situation was deteriorating rapidly, communication attempts were futile. Luckily enough Puskás’ wife (and soon to be widow) was able to act on his incapable husband’s behalf and approved the naming deal in a contract. According to the statement, naming rights were granted without compensation, as “Puskás would have certainly loved what’s happening down in Felcsút”. However, there was much more to the contract: Puskás’ trademark was handed to a sports journalist friend of Orbán (György Szöllősi, also acting communications director of the academy) who promised a hefty annual return for the family (and also a 45% share of the revenue for himself). Ferenc Puskás eventually died on 17 November 2006 and on 26 November 2006 the football academy was named after him: Puskás Academy was born. Orbán shared his vision of the whole organization after the opening ceremony: “It’s unreasonable to think that Felcsút should have a team in the top division. We should not flatter ourselves, our players and our supporters with this dream. Our long term ambition is the creation of a stable second division team that excels in youth development and provides opportunity for the talents of the future.” Let’s leave that there.
Part 2: No stadium left behind
Orbán became PM once again in April 2010 after a landslide victory that pretty much granted him unlimited power. He chased lots of political agendas but one of his policies was rock solid: he would revive sports (and especially football) that was left to bleed out by the previous governments. The football situation in 2010 was quite dire: while the national team has actually made some progress in the recent years and has reached the 42nd position in the world rankings, football infrastructure was in a catastrophic state. Teams were playing in rusty stadiums built in the communist era, club finances were a mess, youth teams couldn’t find training grounds and the league was plagued by violent fan groups and lackluster attendance figures (3100 average spectators per game in the 2009/2010 season). Orbán – aided by the FA backed by business actors very interested in making him happy – saw the future in the total rebuild of the football infrastructure. Vast amounts of state development funds were invested into the football construction industry that warmly welcomed corruption, cost escalation and shady procurement deals. In the end, money triumphed: over the last decade, new stadiums sprung out from nothing all over the country, dozens of new academies opened and pitches for youth development appeared on practically every corner. The final piece of the stadium renovation program was the completion of the new national stadium, Puskás Aréna in 2019 (estimated cost: 575 million EUR). Orbán commemorated this historic moment with a celebratory video on his social media that features a majestic shot of Orbán modestly kicking a CGI ball from his office to the new stadium. Obviously, Orbán understood that infrastructure alone won’t suffice. He believed in the idea that successful clubs are the cornerstone of a strong national side as these clubs would compete in a high quality national league (and in international tournaments) that would require a constant influx of youth players developed by the clubs themselves. However, Orbán was not really keen on sharing the state’s infinite wealth with private club owners who failed to invest in their clubs between 2002 and 2010. The club ownership takeover was not that challenging as previous owners were usually happy to cut their losses, and soon enough most clubs came under Orbán’s influence. Some clubs were integrated deep into Orbán’s reach (Ferencváros and MTK Budapest club presidents are high ranking officials of Orbán’s party) while in other cases, indirect control was deemed sufficient (Diósgyőri VTK was purchased by a businessman as an attempt to display loyalty to Orbán). Pouring taxpayer money into infrastructure (stadium) projects is relatively easy: after all, we are basically talking about overpriced government construction projects, there’s nothing new there. On the other hand, allocating funds to clubs that should be operating on a competitive market is certainly a tougher nut to crack. The obvious solutions were implemented: the state media massively overpaid for broadcasting rights and the national sports betting agency also pays a hefty sum to the FA, allowing for a redistribution of considerable amounts. However, given that the income side of Hungarian clubs was basically non-existent (match day income is negligible, the failed youth development system does not sell players), an even more radical solution was desperately needed. Also, there was definite interest in the development of a tool that would allow for differentiation between clubs (as in the few remaining non-government affiliated clubs should not receive extra money). The solution came in 2011: the so-called TAO (“társasági adó”= corporate tax) system was introduced, granting significant tax deductions for companies if they offered a portion of their profits to sports clubs – however, in theory, funds acquired through TAO can be only used for youth development and infrastructure purposes. Soon enough, it became apparent that state authorities were not exactly interested in the enforcement of these restrictions, so some very basic creative accounting measures enabled clubs to use this income for anything they wanted to. Companies were naturally keen on cutting their tax burdens and scoring goodwill with the government, so TAO money immediately skyrocketed. Opportunistic party strongmen used their influence to convince local business groups to invest in the local clubs, enabling for the meteoric rise of multiple unknown provincial teams (Mezőkövesd [pop: 16,000], Kisvárda [pop: 16,000], Balmazújváros [pop: 17,000]) into the first division. Although it’s not the main subject of this piece, I feel inclined to show you the actual results of Orbán’s grandiose football reform. While we do have our beautiful stadiums, we don’t exactly get them filled – league attendance has stagnated around 3000 spectators per game throughout the whole decade. We couldn’t really move forward with our national team either: Hungary lost 10 positions in the FIFA World Rankings throughout Orbán’s ten years. On the other hand, the level of league has somewhat improved – Videoton and Ferencváros reached the Europa League group stage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Too bad that the Instat-based top team of 2019/2020 Hungarian league consists of 10 foreigners and only 1 Hungarian: the goalkeeper.
Part 3: Small place, big game!
As seen in the previous chapter, Orbán did have a strong interest in the improvement of the football situation Hungary, but we shouldn’t forget that his deepest interest and true loyalty laid in the wellbeing of Felcsút and its academy. Now that Orbán had limitless means to see to the advancement of his beloved club, he got to work immediately. Orbán handed over formal club management duties to his friend / protégé / middleman / businessman Lőrinc Mészáros in 2010, but no questions would ever arise of who is actually calling the shots. First of all, no club can exist without a proper stadium. Although in 2011 Orbán explicitly stated that “Felcsút does not need a stadium as stadiums belong to cities”, no one was really surprised in 2012 when the construction of the Felcsút stadium was announced. Orbán was generous enough to donate the lands just in front of his summer home in the village for the project, locating the entrance a mere ten meters away from his residence. Construction works for the stunningly aesthetic 3,800-seater arena (in a village of 1,800 people) started in April 2012 and were completed in April 2014, making Felcsút’s arena the second new stadium of Orbán’s gigantic stadium revival program. The estimated budget of the construction was 120 million EUR (31,500 EUR / seat) was financed by the Puskás Academy who explicitly stated that they did not use government funds for the project. Technically, this statement is absolutely true as the construction was financed through the TAO money offered by the numerous companies looking for tax deduction and Orbán’s goodwill. However, technically, this means that the country’s budget was decreased by 120 million EUR unrealized tax revenue. Naturally, the gargantuan football stadium looks ridiculously out of place in the small village, but there’s really no other way to ensure that your favorite team’s stadium is within 20 seconds of walking distance from your home. Obviously, a proper club should also have some glorious history. Felcsút was seriously lagging behind on this matter as though Felcsút FC was founded in 1931, it spent its pre-Orbán history in the uninspiring world of the 5th-7th leagues of the country. Luckily enough, Orbán had already secured Puskás’ naming rights and they were not afraid to use it, so Felcsút FC was renamed to Puskás Academy FC in 2009. The stadium name was a little bit problematic as the Hungarian national stadium in Budapest had sadly had the dibs on Puskás’ name, so they had to settle with Puskás’ Spanish nickname, resulting in the inauguration of the Pancho Arena. But why stop here? Orbán’s sports media strongman György Szöllősi acted upon the contract with Puskás’ widow and transferred all Puskás’ personal memorabilia (medals, jerseys, correspondence) to the most suitable place of all: a remote village in which Puskás never even set foot in. While the off-field issues were getting resolved, Orbán’s attention shifted to another important area: the actual game of football. Although academy players started to graduate from 2008 on, it very soon became painfully obvious that the academy program couldn’t really maintain even a second division side for now. In 2009, Orbán reached an agreement with nearby Videoton’s owner that effectively transformed Felcsút FC into Videoton’s second team under the name of Videoton – Puskás Akadémia FC. The mutually beneficent agreement would allow Videoton to give valuable playing time to squad players while it could also serve as a skipping step for Puskás Academy’s fresh graduates to a first league team. The collaboration resulted in two mid-table finishes and a bronze medal in the second division in the following three seasons that wasn’t really impressive compared to Felcsút FC’s standalone seasons. It seemed that the mixture of reserve Videoton players and academy youth was simply not enough for promotion, and although Orbán had assured the public multiple times that his Felcsút project was not aiming for the top flight, very telling changes arose after the 2011/2012 season. Felcsút terminated the Videoton cooperation deal and used the rapidly accumulating TAO funds to recruit experienced players for the now independently operating Puskás Academy FC (PAFC). The new directive worked almost too well: PAFC won its division with a 10 point lead in its first standalone year which meant that they would have to appear in the first league prior to the completion of their brand-new Pancho Arena. Too bad that this glorious result had almost nothing to do with the academy - only two players were academy graduates of the side’s regular starting XI. Orbán did not let himself bothered with the ridiculousness of an academy team with virtually no academy players being promoted to the first division as he stated that “a marathon runner shouldn’t need to explain why the other runners were much slower than him”. Orbán also displayed a rare burst of modesty as he added that “his team’s right place is not in the first league, and they will soon be overtaken by other, better sides”. The promotion of PAFC to the first division made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Supporter groups were united in hatred all along the league and not surprisingly, away fans almost always outnumbered the home side at PAFC’s temporary home at Videoton’s Sóstói Stadium (demolished and rebuilt in its full glory since then). One of the teams, however, possessed an extraordinary degree of anger against PAFC: supporters of Budapest Honvéd – the only Hungarian team in which Ferenc Puskás played – felt especially awkward about the transfer of their club legend’s heritage to Felcsút. Tensions spiked at the PAFC – Honvéd game when home security forced Honvéd supporters to remove the “Puskás” part of their traditional “Puskás – Kispest – Hungary” banner – the team answered the insult with style as they secured a 4-0 victory supported by fans chanting “you can’t buy legends”. Despite Orbán’s prognosis, other better sides did not rush to overtake his team, so PAFC, now residing in their brand new Pancho Arena, came through with a 14th and a 10th place in their first two seasons. Naturally, conspiracy theories began to formulate, speculating that government-friendly owners would certainly not be motivated to give their best against PAFC. However, as the league size was reduced to 12 for the 2015/2016 season, PAFC found themselves in a dire situation just before the final round: they needed a win and needed rival Vasas to lose against MTK in order to avoid relegation. PAFC’s draw seemed to be unlucky as they faced their arch-enemy Honvéd at home, but Honvéd displayed an absolute lackluster effort – fueling conspiracy theories – and lost the fixture 2 to 1 against a home side featuring four academy players. Vasas, however, did not disappoint, their 2-0 victory resulted in PAFC’s elimination and a very relaxed sigh all over the football community. PAFC’s relegation seemed to be in accordance with Orbán’s 2013 statement, so public opinion supposed for a while that Orbán’s project came to a halting point and the Academy would go on to actually field academy players in the second division (especially as rostering foreign players was prohibited in the lower leagues). However, if you have read through this point, you know better than to expect Orbán to retreat – obviously, PAFC came back with a bang. With a ballsy move, PAFC didn’t even sell their foreign players, they just loaned them across the league, promising them that they would be able to return next year to the newly promoted team. The promise was kept as PAFC went into another shopping spree of experienced players (easily convincing lots of them to choose the second division instead of the first) and easily won the second league. Orbán – now aware of his negligence – opted for the doubling the team’s budget,making PAFC the third most well-founded club in the whole country (only coming short to his friend’s Videoton and his party minion’s Ferencváros). With an actual yearly influx from TAO money in the ballpark of 30-40 million EUR, PAFC management had to really work wonders in creative accounting in order to make their money look somewhat legitimate. The books were now full of ridiculous items like:
Construction of a new tea kitchen for youth players for 650,000 EUR
Employment of a 45 person “cleaning and maintenance staff” for the academy.
Naturally, in the country of no consequences, absolutely nothing happened: PAFC went on with its spending and signed 35 foreigners between 2017 and 2020. They did so because they could not hope to field a winning team in the first league consisting of academy players, despite the fact that Puskás Academy has been literally drowning in money since 2007. This seems to somewhat contradict Orbán’s 2013 promise, stating that “Puskás Academy will graduate two or three players to major European leagues each year”. To be fair, there have been players who managed to emerge to Europe (well, exactly two of them: Roland Sallai plays at Freiburg, László Kleinheisler played at Werder Bremen) but most academy graduates don’t even have the slightest the chance to make their own academy’s pro team as it’s full of foreigners and more experienced players drawn for other teams’ programs. Despite their unlimited funding, PAFC could not put up a top-tier performance in their first two years back in the first division, finishing 6th and 7th in the 12-team league. Many speculated that the lack of support, motivation and even a clear team mission did not allow for chemistry to develop within the multinational and multi-generational locker room. Consistency was also a rare sight on the coaching side: club management was absolutely impatient with coaches who were very easily released after a single bad spell and there were talks of on-field micromanagement request coming from as high as Orbán. Even so, their breakthrough came dangerously close in 2018 as PAFC performed consistently well in the cup fixtures and managed to reach the final. Their opponent, Újpest played an incredibly fierce game and after a 2-2 draw, they managed to defeat PAFC in the shootout. Football fans sighed in relief throughout the country as ecstatic Újpest supporters verbally teased a visibly upset Orbán in his VIP lounge about his loss. Obviously, we could only delay the inevitable. While this year’s PAFC side seemed to be more consistent than its predecessors, it seemed that they won’t be able to get close to the podium - they were far behind the obvious league winner duo of Ferencváros and Videoton and were trailing third-place Mezőkövesd 6 points just before the pandemic break. However, both Mezőkövesd and PAFC’s close rivals DVTK and Honvéd fall flat after the restart while PAFC was able to maintain its good form due to its quality roster depth. PAFC overtook Mezőkövesd after the second-to-last round as Mezőkövesd lost to the later relegated Debrecen side. (Mezőkövesd coach Attila Kuttor was fined harshly because of his post-game comments on how the FA wants PAFC to finish third.) PAFC faced Honvéd in the last round once again, and as Honvéd came up with its usual lackluster effort, PAFC secured an effortless win, confidently claiming the third place. PAFC celebrated their success in a nearly empty stadium, however neither Orbán, nor Mészáros (club owner, Orbán’s protégé, now 4th richest man of Hungary) seemed to worry about that. While Orbán high-fived with his peers in the VIP lounge, Mészáros was given the opportunity to award the bronze medals (and for some reason, a trophy) to the players dressed up in the incredibly cringe worthy T-shirts that say “Small place, big game!”. Big game, indeed: in the 2019/2020 season, foreign players’ share of the teams playing time was 43.6% while academy graduates contributed only 17.9%. On Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after PAFC’s glorious success, György Szöllősi, now editor-in-chief of Hungary’s only sports newspaper (purchased by Orbán’s affiliates a few years back) published an editorial on the site, stating that “the soccer rebuild in Felcsút became the motor and symbol of the revitalization of sport throughout the whole country”. Well, Szöllősi is exactly right: Felcsút did became a symbol, but a symbol of something entirely different. Felcsút became a symbol of corruption, inefficiency, lies and the colossal waste of money. But, hey, at least we know now: you only need to spend 200 million EUR (total budget of PAFC and its academy in the 2011-2020 period) if you want to have a Europa League team in your backyard. Good to know!
Epilogue: What's in the future?
As there is no foreseeable chance for political change to happen Hungary (Orbán effortlessly secured qualified majority in 2014 and 2018, and is projected to do so in 2022 as well), PAFC’s future seems to be as bright as it gets. Although consensus opinion now seems to assume that Orbán does not intend to interfere with the Ferencváros – Videoton hegemony, we can never be really sure about the exact limits of his greed. One could also argue that entering the European theater serves as a prime opportunity for making splashy transfers who could be the cornerstones of a side challenging the league title. However, as all political systems are deemed to fall, eventually Orbán’s regime will come apart. Whoever will take upon the helm after Orbán, they will certainly begin with cutting back on the one item on Orbán’s agenda that never had popular support: limitless football spending. Puskás Academy, having next to zero market revenue, will not be able to survive without the state’s life support, so the club will fold very shortly. The abandoned, rotting stadium in Felcsút will serve as a memento of a powerful man who could not understand the true spirit of football. But let’s get back to present day, as we have more pressing issues coming up soon: PAFC will play their first European match in the First qualifying round of the Europa League on 27 August. We don’t have a date for the draw yet, but soon enough, a team unaware of the whole situation will be selected to face the beast. I hope that maybe one of their players does some research and maybe reads this very article for inspiration. I hope that the supporters of this club get in touch with Honvéd fans who would be eager to provide them with some tips on appropriate chants. I hope that other teams gets drawn as the home team so Orbán wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking to his stadium for an international match. But most importantly, I very much hope that this team obliterates PAFC and wipes them off the face of the earth. 5-0 will suffice, thank you. And if this team fails to do that, we don’t have to worry yet. Due to our shitty league coefficient, PAFC would need to win four fixtures in a row. And that – if there’s any justice in this world – is a thing that can’t, that won’t happen. Ball don’t lie – if I may say. TL,DR Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán redirected some 200 million EUR of taxpayer money over 10 years to fuel his ambition of raising a competitive football team in his hometown of 1,800 people. He built a 3,800-seater stadium in his backyard, expropriated football legend Ferenc Puskás’ trademarks and heritage and built up a football league where almost all clubs are owned by his trustees. His team, Puskás Akadémia FC was originally intended to be a development ground for youth players graduating from Orbán’s football academy, but eventually the team became more and more result-orianted. Finally, a roster full of foreign and non-academy players came through and finished third in the league, releasing this abomination of a team to the European football theatre. Please, knock them out asap!
Day One Here Day Two Here JULY 3RD A FEW HOURS AFTER MIDNIGHT The night fighting on Culp’s Hill was slow and torturous. The Confederate assault from Johnson’s division had to cross rough terrain and a river before it even started going uphill, which at night was an incredibly miserable task even without Union troops firing at them. Union skirmishers played hell with their progress, and after brushing them aside, Johnson bumped into a defensive line that his Union counterpart Geary had spent all day perfecting. As mentioned yesterday, their only success was to grab tiny footholds on the Union side of Rock Creek, which ran between the two hills. As the fighting died away and the bone weary soldiers on both sides crashed asleep hard, Lee plotted. He smelled blood; on July 1st, they’d carved up the Union men good and drove them from the field. Yesterday, on the Union left, they’d wrecked a Union corps under Sickles, smashed into the Union center and almost broke it (damn those blue belly reinforcements showing up in the knick of time), and even gained a toehold on the Union right. The men’s morale was high. Lee decided to repeat yesterday’s plan, but better executed. Simultaneous attacks on both flanks should overwhelm them, and J.E.B. Stuart could make it up to all of them by chasing down the shattered Army of the Potomac to scoop up all the heavy guns and supplies and wounded that could not retreat rapidly. To which end, Lee sent Stuart on a super wide flanking attack around the Union right so as to be in position to strike at the right moment. Lee generated the orders in written form and sent them off by messenger to his corps commanders. Meanwhile, Meade had another war council face to face with his generals. They decided to stand pat, to neither attack the Confederate positions nor retreat back towards Washington. The terrain massively favored them and Lee would (more likely than not) walk into their gunsights again. A defensive stance, however, doesn’t mean pure passivity. A few hours after the Confederate assault petered out and Lee’s decision was made, the Union started a counterattack on a small scale. ———————————————————————— DAWN At dawn, the Union right flared up. Fresh troops had marched in overnight and Meade wanted his damn hill back. The extreme end of the Confederate left flank (which is of course opposite the Union right) found itself getting hammered in front of Culp’s Hill by artillery from the Baltimore Pike. Clearly, such a bombardment was meant to be followed up with an assault to retake the bridgehead. Johnson, having received his orders from Lee and being under the impression that Longstreet was attacking in tandem a mile and a half away on the other side of the hills, attacked Culp’s Hill again before the Union could attack him first. The plan was what the plan was; pressure here, successful or not, was needed for someone to break through somewhere. But Longstreet wasn’t attacking. Later on, Longstreet would claim to have never received the order to advance, but the sources I have assert this is untrue- he received the order, he just didn’t do anything about it. Instead of spending the night getting his troops on line to attack Little Round Top and the southern chunk of Cemetery Ridge, he just sat tight and did nothing. Oceans of ink have been spilled over the years speculating as to why. The Lost Cause narrative asserts that Longstreet was a Yankee-loving turncoat who deliberately sabotaged Lee’s plan and lost the battle on purpose. Others think that Longstreet's conviction that attacking here was insane and that they should fall back and look for battle somewhere else on more favorable terms had been strengthened by the results of July 2nd, and as such was dragging his heels trying to not attack again. Or maybe it was just the general haze of Civil War era incompetence taking its toll again. ———————————————————————— MORNING As Johnson’s men gamely attacked the untakeable Culp’s Hill and were cut down by accurate rifle fire and close range cannon fire, Lee hunted down Longstreet to demand an explanation for his borderline insubordinate refusal to attack. Longstreet pitched his idea again. He’d spent all night scouting the Union line. The enemy line was unbreakable. They shouldn’t try to attack them here. They should slip around the Union left, south of Big Round Top, to threaten the Union supply lines. Do that, they would make the Union respond to them, fight them on more equal terms. That’s the plan Longstreet had been preparing for all night, not a suicidal- Lee cut him off with a raised fist. There would be no tricky maneuver around the flank. They would assault the Union line under the present conditions. To the north, Johnson was still getting his teeth kicked in. Lee sent orders to call off the assault, but it would take a while for the messenger to get there and for Johnson to get word to his brigades to stand down and fall back. Meanwhile, across the way on Cemetery Ridge, Meade stalked his line, double checking all the positions for any confusions or errors to correct, emitting confidence and good cheer. Lee scoped out the Union center personally, being in the area anyway. His complex double flanking maneuver wasn't working. A new plan was needed. Lee figured that Meade had reinforced Little Round Top and the surrounding area yesterday, and that those troops hadn’t gone anywhere since. The Union defense at Culp’s Hill has been similarly fierce that morning, fierce enough to threaten Johnson with an offensive. If both flanks were strong... the center must be weak. Yesterday, a small Confederate brigade had crossed the Emmitsburg road under fire and smashed into the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, just south of Cemetery Hill. They had straight up routed the enemy- had there been more men available to back them up and follow through, that small brigade might have won the battle outright instead of being pushed back as they’d been. Lee was satisfied. The Union center was brittle, undermanned, and the best point to hit it was at that same place. Meanwhile, J.E.B. Stuart was stepping off on his flanking ride. ———————————————————————— LATE MORNING Johnson’s last big push up Culp’s Hill was heroic. By that time, all of them knew how strong the Union position was. They surely walked into this with their eyes open. A three brigade front set up for a shock attack, backed up by four more to exploit the hoped-for opening. Among them was the famous Stonewall Brigade, Jackson's old unit that he’d raised up and trained personally before being tapped for higher command. The Stonewall Brigade was, arguably, the elite of the Confederate army. The year before, they’d outmaneuvered and outfought a Union stab at Richmond coming through the Shenandoah valley. The charge was cut down and butchered like all the others, and Johnson fell back. Williams, whose batteries on the Baltimore Pike had kicked things off that morning, got a little overexcited and counterattacked without orders. His orders to attack the Confederate flank left his subordinates sickened with dread, but were obeyed nonetheless. Once the Union counterattack was butchered in retaliation by the entrenched Confederates, combat on the Union right ceased after six straight hours of gory, hopeless combat. Meanwhile, Confederate artillery under the command of Colonel Alexander set itself up on a mile wide front, all carefully sited and positioned both for protection and for good lines of sight on the Union center. A brief but fierce artillery duel kicked off as each side tried to knock out the other’s firing points before the big moment, but was soon cut off to preserve ammo. Lee mustered his available forces, bringing in troops that were only now straggling in and combining them with some units that had fought the day before. It was a haphazard and frankly half-assed piece of staff work- veteran units who hadn’t fought at all in the last two days were left in reserve, while exhausted troops who’d already suffered 50% casualties were included. Many of the brigades who were to charge Cemetery Ridge had green colonels in charge because their generals had been killed or wounded the day before. The gap between the northern half of the assaulting force and the southern half was four football fields long, and nobody seemed to notice or care. The division commander to lead the north side of the assault, General Pettigrew, was selected not for any rational consideration or advantage, but because he happened to be standing nearby when the decision was being made. Longstreet, who by this point wanted nothing to do with any of it, was placed in overall command. It took a few hours to organize this clusterfuck into something resembling a coherent unit- three divisions spread over a mile wide front, with Pickett on the left, Pettigrew on the right, and Trimble behind them to provide some depth to the big push. There is no particularly good reason why the upcoming Pickett’s Charge is known as “Pickett’s Charge”. Pickett was not actually in charge of it, or even in charge of most of it. He was a division commander who had never seen proper combat before- in every battle since 1861, his unit had been held in reserve or absent. This was to be his first chance to get in this war. I suspect it’s known as Pickett’s Charge because he and his men were Virginians, and it was fellow Virginians who would pour over the battle to find out why the wrong side won. Accordingly, they conceived of it as being a Virginian affair, overshadowing the Tennesseans, Alabamans, North Carolinians, and Mississippians who formed the other two-thirds of the attack. I was surprised to learn that we have a hard time figuring out how many men were actually involved in Pickett’s Charge (this being a basic narrative history, I am sticking with the common name for it despite the inaccuracy); I attribute this to the confusion involved in organizing it. I’ve heard as low as 12,500 men and as high as 15,000. I’m going with 14,000 men because it’s a nice even number that is approximately midway between the upper and lower limit, so don’t mistake my choice as being accurate or even evidence-based per se. Regardless, the agreed upon number of Union defenders is 6,500. The Confederates would outnumber the Union by about 2-1 or greater at the point of contact. These days, a lot of people show up at the battlefield and stare out from Cemetery Ridge at Spangler Woods where Pettigrew would have emerged from (or stand in Spangler’s Woods and stare out at Cemetery Ridge, same difference) and wonder what the hell was going through Lee’s head. The ground there is now flat and devoid of cover, the exact kind of terrain that time and time again had proven to be a death sentence for infantry assaults. The answer is that the ground changed between 1863 and today. Just before World War One ended in 1918, the field over which Pickett charged was artificially flattened for tank training. Before that, it was the kind of rolling terrain that Buford’s skirmishers had exploited on day one- an observer from a distance would see the troops disappear and reappear as they went over and down each gentle slope. The 14,000 attackers would have some cover as they advanced- not perfect terrain to keep immune from artillery and bullets, but not explicit suicide either. ———————————————————————— EARLY AFTERNOON By 1 PM, Alexander had his guns set up the way he liked them. What followed at his command was the single largest coordinated artillery mission that the Western Hemisphere had ever seen. In the south, cannons at the Peach Orchard suppressed the Union firing point on Little Round Top. All along Seminary Ridge from whence the charge would spring, cannons lined up practically wheel to wheel for a mile, aimed at wrecking Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was in what you might call a high stress kind of mood. He was having second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about attacking, but orders were orders and he was in charge of this damned charge. As the guns began their bombardment, Longstreet did something that frankly goes beyond the pale of any command decision I’ve ever heard of. The film Gettysburg and the novel it’s based on cast Longstreet in a very sympathetic light, as a kind of deliberate pushback against the reductive myth that Longstreet was personally responsible for losing the battle and by extension the war, leaving Lee off the hook to stay firmly in the saintly canon of the Lost Cause. But here, Longstreet indisputably abdicates any pretense of the responsibility of command. He fired an order off to Colonel Alexander, telling him:
If the artillery fire does not have the effect to drive off the enemy, or greatly demoralize him, so as to make our effort pretty certain, I would prefer that you should not advise General Pickett to make the charge. I shall . . . expect you to let General Pickett know when the moment offers.
Allow me to reiterate in case you were reading this on autopilot. Longstreet, the man in charge of the whole offensive, was telling a lowly artillery colonel that the decision when and if to attack was on him and no one else. Alexander was a subject matter expert on artillery and not infantry for a reason. This order hit him from out of left field. He wrote back for clarification, and the professional in him mentioned that since the plan is to use every single artillery shell they can spare, if there is any alternative plan to charging Cemetery Hill at the end of the bombardment then they’d better tell him before he runs out of ammo. And Longstreet reiterated his first order. He told Alexander to advise General Pickett whether or not to attack. And with that on his shoulders, Alexander gave the order to open fire. All told, somewhere between 150 and 170 guns opened up at the same moment. The 75 Union cannons they had on hand briefly engaged in counter-battery fire, before being ordered to go quiet and save ammunition for the infantry assault to come. For about an hour, the Union troops just had to sit still and take what the Rebel had to give them. What Lee was doing was classic Napoleonic tactics. Massing artillery against the weakest point on the enemy line was literally by the book soldiering. The problem, as was noted here before, was that technology had changed. Napoleonic could bring his cannon close to the frontline with the reasonable expectation that they wouldn’t be shot, since smoothbore muskets are basically harmless from 200 yards away. But that was no longer the case. The long stand off distance that the enemy rifles dictated meant that the cannonfire was proportionally less accurate and devastating. The smoke covering the field concealed the truth from the Confederates- their artillery fire was off. Most of the shells flew high overhead and exploded behind Cemetery Ridge. Some shells hit the target area- Union men did die screaming by the score. But the positions on Cemetery Hill were only lightly damaged, and the units manning them were intact and cohesive. Most of the damage done was to the rear echelon types- surgeons, supply wagoneers, staff officers, that kind of thing. Such men were massacred as the shells aimed at men a quarter mile away arced over and found marks elsewhere. Meade, of course, was on hand, showing a brave face and cracking some jokes about a similar moment in the Mexican-American War 15 years back. Throughout the hour, as his line endured the steel hailstorm, Meade’s engineer mind was working. He’d already suspected that Lee was about to hit his center- he’d predicted as much the night before- and now the shot placements confirmed it. He was already ordering troops into position, getting ready to reinforce the line on Cemetery Ridge if needed. He hedged his bets, putting them in a position to relieve Cemetery Hill as well, just in case. Little Round Top became somewhat less defended as men marched out, using the high ground to mask their redeployment. Irresponsible and insubordinate though Longstreet was at that moment, he was right. Lee’s improvised plan had already failed, though it hadn’t happened yet. Pickett’s Charge wasn’t going to slam into a fragmented and demoralized Union line. It was heading into a mile long, mile wide kill zone backed up by a defence in depth. ———————————————————————— Pickett’s Charge Confederates were getting mangled before the charge even started. Union artillery fire reached out and touched out them in Spangler’s Woods, rolling solid iron shot and explosive shells into their huddled ranks. Longstreet rode the line, exposing himself to the artillery fire to set an example of courage. The men didn’t need such an example- or rather, they’ve seen such examples in a dozen battles over the last two years and have already learned valor as a second language- but there’s something to be said for showing the groundpounders that their boss is in the wrong end of the shooting gallery the same way that they are. Just before 2 p.m., Alexander decided if it’s gonna happen, it’d have to be now. He needed at least a small reserve of shells to function after the battle and he’s running out fast. He dashed off a note to Pickett telling him to step off. In keeping with the standard of Confederate comms thus far, Pickett then took Alexander’s note to Longstreet in person for confirmation, because nobody had told him that Longstreet was trying to dodge the responsibility of command. Longstreet was desperate for an out, and in one crazed leap of illogic he thought he found one. Alexander was low on shells, with only a tiny reserve of ammunition left over for self-defense! Longstreet issued orders to halt in place and delay some more, so that they could replenish their ammo chests from their strategic reserves. I really feel for Alexander, man. I've had bosses like that too. Alexander had to break the news to Longstreet that there was no strategic reserve, he already told him, they were shooting every round they got. Longstreet was shocked- apparently nobody on Lee's staff had been paying attention to how fast they'd been burning through their artillery rounds. (Meade's staff paid attention to such banal details- that's why they now had tons of ammunition standing by their guns on Cemetery Ridge, patiently waiting for something valuable to shoot at). Even then, Longstreet couldn’t bring himself to actually say the words to order the attack. He just nodded, mute and numb. At 2 p.m., the attack started. 14,000 men rose up and walked forward, a giant line of infantry one mile across. In lieu of specific instructions about where they were going and how to get there, the order was to aim for a copse of trees on the objective- an easy visual marker that was easy to remember. As long as you kept the trees in sight and kept moving forward, you were right. (Miles and miles away, J.E.B. Stuart’s flanking maneuver was being countered by an equal force of Union cavalry. Their clash had one of the few cavalry-on-cavalry battles of the Civil War; fun fact, this was one of the fights that put Custer’s career on the map, until getting killed off by the Cheyenne at Little Big Horn 13 years later. The battle was intense, but a draw; Stuart couldn’t break through. Even if Pickett’s Charge worked, there’d have been no way to follow up and finish Meade off for good. Lee’s plan was well and truly fucked.) Things immediately stopped being clean and neat, as per the usual. The center of Pickett’s Charge sprang up and walked before the flanks did, but the brigades on the south and the north of them set off late, leading to a kind of droopy effect where the center bulged out unsupported. When the Union soldiers manning Cemetery Ridge saw the Confederate advance begin, they began to chant “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” Just a little “fuck you” from one set of veterans to another; at Fredericksburg eight months before, Union General Burnside had ordered several such suicidal attacks on prepared defenses which the Confederates had gleefully blasted into chunky salsa. 70 odd guns opened up on them all. To give a sense of the skill involved, the artilleryman in charge of the Union guns, Colonel Hunt, had written the book on artillery- literally, because his work Instructions for Field Artillery was the go-to manual for the US Army- and at West Point had personally taught most of the Confederate artillery officers across the way everything they knew about the big guns. One must not mistake this as just plopping down the cannons and pointing them in the right direction. Hunt was an artist with his weapon systems, and the pattern of explosions that snaked into the advancing infantry had been painstakingly designed by a master craftsman. At the distance of a mile, it was iron shot and shell that carved bloody little holes into the line. The Confederates took the beating, closed ranks, and pushed on. On the south, the cannons on Little Round Top delivered particularly hideous effects from the flank, driving their line into disorder; some brigades cut in front of other brigades, and what should have been a line became a muddled column. On the north, a brigade under General Brockenbrough bumped into a small detachment of 160 Union men who were jutting out north of the road. The Union men fired a small but devastating volley that raked them from the side and broke their nerves. Brockenbrough’s men ran- the first to break, but not the last. Similar small detachments of skirmishers dotted No Man’s Land between the armies. Between their vicious little ambushes and the massive shock of massed artillery, Pickett’s Charge slowed down. Slowing down just left them in the kill zone for that much longer. When Pickett’s Charge reached the Emmitsburg Road, they were further delayed by the stiff fencing that lined it. As they clambered over it, Union infantry opened fire at long range. The casualties skyrocketed as the Confederate line absorbed the fire. If you want to know what it was like under fire, picture the start of a rainstorm. The water droplets go taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap... that's how the survivors described the musketry that pelted the fence they were trying to climb over. One small contingent of Davis’ brigade (you recall how roughly they were manhandled on July the 1st) accidentally got ahead of everybody else and found itself standing right in front of the Union line all alone. The guys closest to the Union defenses surrendered as one; the rest got shot up bad and ran for their lives. Pickett’s Charge was pure chaos by then- their mile wide front that had surged forth from Spangler’s Wood had shrunk down to about a half mile, partly from taking casualties, partly from brigades running away after the shock of massed fire, and partly from bridges shifting north away from flanking fire from their right side. From the fence line on the Emmitsburg to the stone wall that protected the Union defense was about two hundred yards. This is a long shot for a rifle, especially under pressure- that’s the whole point to volley fire, so that everybody shooting at once will create a sort of probability cloud of danger even at long range. Some Confederates, desperate to hit back after enduring hell, shot anyway. Their fire was ineffective. It is a very, very short shot for an artillery piece, even under pressure. A battery of cannons placed just behind the Union line switched to canister and blasted massive bloody holes in the bunched up Confederates. A lot of Confederates huddled up behind the fencing and stayed put. It is marginally safer than moving two feet forward past the wooden railings, and the spirit had been knocked out of them by the mile long charge and the mile long shooting gallery they’d been subjected to. The left side of the attack had been stopped dead and turned back; the right side pushed on, disregarding any thought but closing distance. 1,500 men blitzed those last 200 yards to the stone wall Scores of them died from rifle fire as the cannons reloaded. The surviving Confederates, running on pure adrenaline, reached the stone wall at a place called the Bloody Angle. The Union line was disjointed, with the Northern section slightly back from the southern section. The Angle was the little joint that connected the two walls; it was also right by the copse of trees that everybody was racing towards. A fierce firefight broke out once the Confederates reached the wall. Most of them stayed behind the wall; like their buddies to the west still behind the fence on the Emmitsburg pike, they’d finally found a few square feet that was sorta kinda safe, and every instinct they had in their brains screamed at them to stay there. The Union troops were outnumbered at the point of impact, and backed off in good order. Reserve regiments were already marching up to plug the gap that didn’t exist yet. Units north and south of the Bloody Angle shifted in place to fire at the beachhead. Behind the Confederates on the Angle, there was a small ocean of blood on the ground and a mile long procession of silent, mangled dead and writhing, screaming wounded... but no follow on reinforcements to help exploit the breakthrough. General Armistead, the only Confederate General there still on his feet, still believed in all that chivalrous Walter Scott romantic nonsense, still thought that raw valor and heart could somehow beat a superior enemy. He stuck his hat on his sword as a makeshift battle flag and rallied his men to leave the safety of the Bloody Angle and close distance. Just as the pitifully few Confederates got on the east side of the wall, the cannons shot canister again and puked metal death all over them. After shooting, the artillerymen ran back to safety before the rebels could stagger up to them. Hundreds of men surged forward by inertia; hundreds out of the 14,000 that they’d started with. They drove off the understrength Union regiments with the bayonet and capture those hated big guns, turning them around to use against the inevitable counterattack. This failed; there was no more ammo left for the guns. Colonel Hunt had measured out the number of rounds needed for the job at hand with the utmost precision. The counterattack was messy and bloody for everybody involved, for the brawl saw everything available used as a weapon- bullets, bayonets, rifle butts, pistols, knives, rocks, boot heels, bare hands. But the Confederates all just dissolved after a short while. Nobody ordered a retreat; nobody was alive and of sufficient rank to order a retreat. Thousands just plopped down where they stood and waited for Union men to come out and collect them. They were too numb and exhausted to walk anymore. Others streamed back to safety in ones and twos. For every Confederate who died, four more were maimed and crippled. For every wounded man, another was taken prisoner. It was an unmitigated disaster for the Confederate cause, and correspondingly it was a triumph of humanity as the stalwart defenders of the slave plantations died in droves. Remember, like I said, we’re rooting for the Union. The battle wasn’t over, not really. Not was the campaign. But it certainly was decided. ———————————————————————— RIGHT SO Interestingly, at first it was kind of ambiguous who won. Meade got fired from the job after Lee got the Army of Northern Virginia home intact. Lincoln was seething that Meade hadn’t shown some aggression and had failed to destroy Lee’s army as he had been ordered. Meade, however, didn’t have much of an army at that point, just a diverse collection of units that had suffered 50% casualties and were in no condition to do anything. Moreover, there had been no way to bring the retreating Lee to battle without taking a lot of risks that might see all the good done at Gettysburg undone. Still though. Meade was out, and Grant, riding high after his conquest of Vicksburg, was in. Lee initially claimed victory in the Richmond papers, and it was hard to gainsay him at first. He had indisputably invaded north and thrashed the living shit out of the Army of the Potomac so bad that they could not invade again in 1863, which was indeed partly the point of the strategy. But soon the facts of life made themselves clear. Lee had holes in his ranks that simply could not be filled anymore. Southerners didn’t want to die in a losing war, and coercing in them into the ranks through State violence only gave him shitty recruits who would desert the second they were put on guard duty. In contrast, tens of thousands of men poured into training depots across the nation, all armed and clothed and fed by the grandest industrial base in the world. Thousands of experienced veterans re-upped their contracts in Gettysberg’s wake to become these new recruits’ NCOs and commanding officers. Lee has gone north to break the will of the Union to continue the fight. Gettysburg had, if anything, demoralized the Confederacy and reinvigorated the Union instead. I do not believe that Gettysburg started this trend, but I do think it sped it up significantly. Patterns that might have taken a year to come to fruition instead took months. Gettysburg, in my opinion, is significant not because of any great gains or losses on the material level, but because of its effects on the minds of voters and soldiers and politicians in the North and the South. To crib C. S. Lewis really quick, what matters was not whether a given action would take a specific hill, or seize a certain road; what matters is whether a given action pushes people to either dig their heels in and seek victory at any personal cost, or whether it pushes them to back down and seek a safer compromise. Gettysburg pushed all of the American people in the directions they were already heading down, that’s all. Any conclusion beyond that is on shaky ground, I feel. Having said that, I shall now irrationally contradict myself; Gettysburg can also act as a Rorschach test with symbols and images and stories in lieu of the ink blots. Like I said, it’s a place of religious significance to me to an extent far beyond appreciation for its historic value. I just don’t think it’s possible for that many people to die in such a short period of time, in so compact an area, and with such blunt contempt for the foreseen probability of violent death, and not leave an indelible and ineffable mark on the land itself. Like, if humanity went extinct and Earth got colonized by Betelgeusians a hundred years after, I am certain that the aliens would somehow feel a chill in their exoskeletons when they walk over the soft leaves and through the bare trees of Herbst Wood, or tromp around the south side of Little Round Top, or poke about on the steep slope of Culp's Hill, or splash across the Plum River in the Valley of Death. I’m not saying I’m right, of course. But I am saying how I feel.
The Green Bay Packers surprised just about everyone (except James Jones) with their successful campaign under first year HC Matt LaFleur. Before the season, he hired former Jaguars OC Nathaniel Hackett to fill the same role in his offense, and he elected to keep DC Mike Pettine who served in that capacity the year before under former HC Mike McCarthy. The team ended the year 13-3 on the regular season, including a complete sweep of the division, plus a win against the Seahawks in the division round of the playoffs. Despite their success, there were many critics who considered them to be the worst 13-3 team in NFL history. The Packers were accused of "winning ugly" and not resembling a true contender. Those chickens would come home to roost in San Francisco as they were no match for the 49ers in the NFC championship game. The team gave a horribly flat performance on defense, plus an offense that had no answer to San Francisco's elite defensive front 7. Even though they didn't achieve their Cinderella story, the Packers would go into the offseason with much of the starting roster returning intact for a chance at a second run in 2020. The roster is mostly comprised of players 27 or younger, and only three starters needed to be replaced from the prior season. The team is banking on the growth and development of their young players to help propel the team to that next level. Their upcoming schedule will be much more challenging than 2019's on paper, but working on building more consistency on both sides of the ball will hopefully produce a better overall "team" than the one which overachieved a year ago.
2020 FREE AGENCY
Departures: This offseason saw the end of the road for two longtime Packers in Green Bay with RT Bryan Bulaga (EYE-WAH) and ILB Blake Martinez (aka pussyfucker69). They signed deals elsewhere after giving the team many years of consistent on field play. Replacing them will not come easy. Jimmy Graham, on the other hand, will not be greatly missed. His best games of the season came in the playoffs after two seasons of dropped passes, lazy routes, and non-existent blocking. (But at least he was better than Martellus Bennett.) The only other significant loss was Tramon Williams who played lights out as the nickel corner last year. At 36 years old, it is more likely the team will go with younger and cheaper alternatives to fill his role next season, but a return to the team isn't out of the question. The contracts signed by Martinez and Bulaga, along with OLB Kyler Fackrell, should mean the Packers are in line to be rewarded three compensatory choices in 2021 in the 4th, 5th, and 7th rounds respectively. Bulaga's compensation is capped at a 5th rounder due to being a 10 year veteran. * = former starter
Bryan Bulaga *
3 yr / $30 mil
Blake Martinez *
3 yr / $30 mil
Jimmy Graham *
2 yr / $16 mil
1 yr / $4.6 mil
1 yr / $2.4 mil
1 yr / $1.3 mil
1 y $825 K
1 yr / $800 K
1 yr / $750 K
Additions: The Packers used the $8 mil in cap savings they got back from releasing Jimmy Graham to add Christian Kirksey (ILB - Browns), Ricky Wagner (OT - Lions), and Devin Funchess (WR - Colts) once they were released from their former teams. Kirksey is an athletic ILB with 4.55 speed and playmaking ability, but he has missed substantial time due to injuries recently and only played in 9 games the last two years. Wagner has had one brilliant season with the Ravens in 2017 followed by two average ones with the Lions, but a starter is a starter. Funchess is a former 2nd round pick and still only 25, so hopefully he can finally reach the potential he has flashed now that he has Rodgers at the helm. They did not sign a TE to replace Graham because the team will be using returning players instead. The favored starter is 2019 3rd round pick Jace Sternberger, after he missed most of his rookie season due to injuries. He is accompanied along with the returning ageless veteran Marcedes "Big Dog" Lewis (who is now famously known as the only 1st round player Rodgers has thrown a TD pass to). By making these moves and essentially locking up their starters pre-draft, they allowed themselves some flexibility with their approach to how they would spend their picks. *= projected starter
Christian Kirksey *
2 yr / $13 mil
Ricky Wagner *
2 yr / $11 mil
1 yr / $2.5 mil
3 yr / $2.3 mil
1 yr / $850 K
Gerald Willis III
1 yr / $675 K
Jamal Davis II
1 yr / $675K
3 yr / $13 mil
1 yr / $2.3 mil
1 yr / $1 mil
1 yr / $750 K
2020 NFL DRAFT
1 (26) - JORDAN LOVE (QB - UTAH ST) \pick acquired from Houston thru Miami for #30 and #133 overall* The Packers shocked everyone by passing on a player who may have helped the team right away when they instead traded up for Utah St. QB Jordan Love. This has been an endless point of criticism and even ridicule since the draft ended. But this pick made a lot of sense at its core. I go into much greater detail in regards to this pick elsewhere, but here are the main points that led to this selection:
The team was unable to move up for a WR they were targeting and didn't want to reach for the next one down.
They had a very high grade on Love and expected him to be gone before the #20 pick - he was probably rated higher than any other player in the draft late in round 1.
In 2017, they considered drafting Deshone Kizer at #33 but ultimately chose CB Kevin King instead. Then in 2019, they had a lot of reported interest in Drew Lock – including an official team visit. However, the Broncos moved up ahead of the Packers in round 2 to take him, so we will never know how interested Green Bay truly was. But there is a clear pattern being established of open interest in top rated QB's.
In 2020, the Packers made Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts two of their official “visits” in the pre-draft process, once again showing a clear interest in an early round signal caller.
The Packers do not believe in passing on a high rated player if he is available, especially at QB which is the most important position in the game
"I think it's always kind of been in my DNA that anywhere in the draft, if you have an opportunity to take a quarterback you really think can play, you need to consider it."
-Brian Gutekunst, GM of the Packers Jordan Love is a 6'4 and 224 lb QB with large 10.5" hands and a rocket for an arm. He is a self-described playmaker, which is evident when you watch him on tape. At Utah St in 2018, Love put on a clinic, throwing for 3500 yards, 32 TD's, and only 6 INT's. This put him on the radar as a potential top 10 or even top 5 prospect heading into the 2019 season. Unfortunately, after a coaching change and losing 9 offensive starters, Love saw a major drop in his numbers (3200 yards, 20 TD's, and 17 INT's). Love started to develop some bad habits such as staring receivers down and forcing risky throws, which is what led to the spike in turnovers. However, it needs to be mentioned that Jordan Love put the team on his shoulders all season. He frequently had limited choices available but to either try and make a play or take the sack. Had he not been dealing with this adversity, he probably would have heard his name called much sooner and the Packers would not have had a shot at him in the late 1st round.
"He’s not a bad decision-maker. That was one of my biggest pet peeves in the draft process was people calling that kid a bad decision-maker. He’s not. He’s a kid that’s played with nobody around him and he was competitive and he was trying to win football games. Did he force throws? Absolutely. Did he have to force throws? Absolutely. You didn’t see bad decision-making on ’18 tape, when he threw 32 touchdowns and six picks. You never heard those numbers brought up the whole process. All you heard was 20 touchdowns, 17 picks. Like, nobody ever went back and talked about ’18….. He is the only QB I’ve ever scouted who will be throwing into bigger windows in the NFL than he threw into in college.”
-Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl director and former NFL scout Numbers aside, there are glimpses and flashes of his game that make you swear you are watching Aaron Rodgers himself. He flourishes when the play breaks down displaying the ability to throw off various platforms to keep the play alive. Love has that same gunslinger mentality that Patrick Mahomes had at TX Tech – no throw is impossible in their minds. And when I say that Jordan Love didn’t have any help, it isn’t just making an excuse. He was essentially the only threat Utah St. had on offense in 2019, so Love took it on his shoulders to will the team forward, similar to other top picks like Daniel Jones at Duke and Josh Allen at Wyoming. As far as his fit with the Packers, clearly they have to like his arm talent and his hand size, along with his experience playing in frigid environments - those are three important boxes that need to be checked if a QB wants to succeed at Lambeau Field. One could argue that of all the QB's in this draft, Love may have the most upside just due to his physical traits but is also the least ready to play. I don't think he could have landed in a better position than on a team built to win championships with a future Hall of Famer to learn from. 2 (62) - AJ DILLON (RB - BCU) According to Peter King, the Packers were trying to trade up in round 2 for one of two specific WR's. Once Chase Claypool was selected at #49, they stopped calling teams. We can take this to mean that at that point, the Packers felt all the impact players at WR in the draft were gone. The Packers were content to look for other ways they could improve the offense. The team did not want to simply draft a receiver just to say they took one. And that's where AJ Dillon comes in. Even with the breakout season of Aaron Jones in 2019, there is reason to suspect the Packers view AJ Dillon as the long term primary RB in this offense. Unlike Jones who is a quick and elusive 5’9 and 200 lb RB, Dillon is a north/south runner with surprisingly light feet for his 6'0 and 247 lb frame. He has proven he can withstand the workload of a RB1 posting three 1,000+ yard seasons in college. Similar to Jordan Love, he did it without much of a supporting cast. He led the FBS in the amount of stacked boxes he was facing by a wide margin (46% of the time). He also led the FBS in yards after contact (over 800) because teams knew he was getting the ball but it just didn't matter - he ran it hard just the same. Dillon is best known for his balance and being able to keep himself moving through first contact. He is knocked by evaluators by his lack of presence in the passing game, catching only 21 career passes, but not being asked to do it isn’t the same as not being able to do it. Dillon also has a tendency of not exhibiting the patience to let the play develop, which leads to him missing opportunities for cut back lanes on occasion. These two things are hardly fatal flaws, and he can improve with proper coaching. But why Dillon, and why Round 2? That seems to be what gets people scratching their heads the most. Well, the Packers love to draft athletes, and as far as RB prospects go Dillon is a rare player. He is bigger than Eddie Lacy and faster than Aaron Jones. Dillon posted the best SPARQ score (97%) among all RB's at the combine, and his speed score (117) was in the 97th percentile. Running 4.53 and jumping 41" should simply not be allowed from a RB who is also 247 lbs. I also believe the front office had Dillon rated extremely high on their board compared to other options at RB. Dillon and Jonathan Taylor (96% SPARQ) had to be the 1a and 1b of this class for the Packers. Gutekunst just can't help himself, he loves size and speed. The Packers will also be facing a lot of difficult decisions with their group of free agents in 2021, which includes #1 RB Aaron Jones and #2 RB Jamaal Williams. Drafting Dillon makes it so the team can choose to keep one of those two next year, while potentially grooming their long-term starter. Now LaFleur has his own Derrick Henry that will help him run the kind of offense he wants to execute. Short yardage and goalline situations will be a different story in 2020 compared to the struggles a year ago. Frankly, fewer positions are as NFL ready as RB's are, and few of them are as rare of an athletic prospect as Dillon. He is likely going to be a big part of the offense moving forward. Especially in December and January when it is freezing cold and actual football begins. 3 (94) - JOSIAH DEGUARA (TE/HB - CINCINNATI) The Packers missed on all the WR's that might have made a difference for them, but they were ready to find a pass catcher in an unconventional way. So at pick #94, with only two TE's selected at that point (Cole Kmet and Devin Asiasi), the Packers had their choice of player at the position. It is safe to say the Packers got their preferred one with Josiah Deguara. This pick was considered a reach by most analysts when it was made, but context is important. Matt LaFleur was the QB coach in Washington in 2010 under Mike Shanahan. That year Chris Cooley, a 6'2 and 250 lb TE/HB, had 77 catches on 126 targets for 849 yards. That position was currently vacant on the Packers depth chart, so it can't be underestimated how integral this role could be going forward as LaFleur continues to shape the team to fit his philosophy. Josiah Deguara is the perfect player to fill that Chris Cooley (or Kyle Juszczyk) role in this Shanahan-style offense. At only 6'2, Deguara played in-line TE 60% of the time in college because they tried to move him around to take advantage of his versatility. He played TE, HB, FB, and WR at Cincinnati, where he ended his career as the school record holder for catches at the position with 92 catches in 2 years. The former record holder was Travis Kelce, so he is in good company. It also just so happens that Mike Denbrock, the OC for Cincinnati, coached alongside Matt LaFleur at Notre Dame previously - I bet the two discussed together all the ways Deguara could be a factor within the Packers offense. The main thing that I keep reading about Deguara is how great his character is both on and off the field. The Packers believe strongly in finding players who "carry the G", and Deguara is just a high effort, hard-working, bring-your-lunch-pail-to-work kind of guy that everyone wants to root for. He will play on all the special teams units, learn to play in whatever role the offense asks him to, and he will always give 100% effort. It would be premature to say Josiah Deguara is an impact player as a late 3rd round pick, but he is a wild card who could potentially open this offense up and take it in several new and creative directions. P.S. LaFleur showed this play during one of his team meetings in 2019 as the prime example of what it means to never give up on a play (he starts at the top of the screen as a blocker, then chases the defender down to make the TD-saving tackle). https://twitter.com/ethanthomthom/status/1254590868507557890?s=19 Six months later, the Packers selected him with the #94 pick. It is clear looking back that Deguara was meant to wear green and gold. LaFleur was more excited about this pick in his post-draft interviews than any other player chosen that weekend. 4 (133) - to Miami *traded along with #30 overall to move up to #26 for Jordan Love 5 (175) - KAMAL MARTIN (LB - MINNESOTA) Kamal Martin is one of those LB's that would have been talked about more had he not been battling injuries and been able to compete in the pre-draft functions. Injuries cut his season short to just 8 games, but he still finished with 66 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 FF, and 2 INT's - his knack of finding ways to always be around the ball had to stand out to Gutekunst. Jim Nagy, the director of the Senior Bowl, called Martin a top 3 senior LB and a steal for the Packers as a 5th round pick. He has prototypical size for a 3 down LB at 6'3 and 240 lbs along with 34" arms and an 81" wingspan. The Packers scouts estimated that he runs between 4.55 - 4.65 in the 40, but he wasn't able to participate in the drill while recovering from his knee injury. Martin is a former high school QB, and he uses that experience on the defensive side to help give him a unique perspective of the action in front of him. He lined up at both OLB and ILB at Minnesota and was a playmaker at both positions. And that position versatility is what attracted the Packers to him. He will need to get stronger and play with better pad level, but there is a lot going for Martin as a prospect. As the first defensive selection in the draft for the Packers, Martin will be given a chance to compete with other young players, such as Oren Burks, Ty Summers, and Curtis Bolton, for a chance to be the #2 ILB next to Christian Kirksey. Burks and Summers are two very athletic guys who have played mostly on special teams, and Bolton was a UDFA last year who made waves in preseason before getting hurt. This group is young, athletic, and horribly inexperienced, making it the most open of all the roster competitions on the team. Kamal Martin is the definition of a sleeper who could have landed in a fortuitous situation based on the uncertainty surrounding the LB group in Green Bay. He is a proven playmaker who finds ways to get to the ball, and those instincts could serve him well as he fights for a spot. Martin is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Blake Martinez to become an every down starter as a day 3 selection. 6a (192) - JON RUNYAN JR (G/T - MICHIGAN) *pick acquired from Raiders for WR Trevor Davis The Packers have had a very positive track record selecting OL on day 3 of the draft. They had three picks to spend in the 6th round, and considering they have veterans with expiring contracts coming up and nothing but UDFA's as depth, they felt it was an area of the team that could use an infusion of new competition. They have a good shot of one of the next three players becoming a starter down the road. With their first of three IOL choices in round 6, they selected Jon Runyan Jr who comes to the Packers with a great NFL pedigree (his father had a very long and successful career for the Oilers/Titans and Eagles). After being a backup OG for his first few seasons, Jr. made the switch to RT and then LT under the coaching of Ed Warriner who coached Packers center Corey Linsley at Ohio St. Jon Runyan would go on to start 25 games at LT for Michigan over the next 2 years, earning 1st team all-Big 10. While Runyan is a bit smaller than you would like out of an NFL tackle (6'4 and 306 lbs with 33" arms and a 79" wingspan), his agility and athletic ability were near the top of the draft class. He had the 3rd best 3-cone time at 7.57, and his 40 time of 5.08 was 9th best in the class. His 10 yard split of 1.79 met the threshold that you want for OL by 0.01 (good enough by NFL standards and that's all that matters). Due to his size, Runyan is more of a pass blocker than run blocker at this point in his career. He excels by using his quickness and athleticism to keep up with dangerous pass rushers but sometimes struggles with moving bigger guys back in the ground game. Runyan will compete at guard, which is what he was announced as during the draft, but his versatility makes him a potential swing tackle and utility guy in the early part of his career. Fortunately he comes from a zone blocking scheme at Michigan, which will help him adjust to the Packers version. A lot will depend on how well he transitions inside and how he makes the jump to the speed and complexity of the NFL. If he can make a similar leap like he made entering his junior season, the future looks very bright for him in the NFL. 6b (208) - JAKE HANSON (C - OREGON) *pick acquired from Titans for OLB Reggie Gilbert There is always something to be said when the Packers select a true center in the draft because they rarely do. Elgton Jenkins played 4 different positions at Miss St and JC Tretter played OT before the Packers moved him inside. The only true center Ted Thompson ever drafted was Corey Linsley - an athletically limited and undersized player but a consistent technician who played in a big time program at Ohio St. Now, Linsley at 28 years old is heading into 2020 as the 6th highest paid member of the team and 3rd highest paid center in the NFL. He is also entering the final year of his contract. Next year is going to be judgment day for many starters on the team, and decisions will need to be made to see who will be offered an extension including David Bakhtiari (LT), Kevin King (CB), Aaron Jones (RB), and Kenny Clark (DT). The Packers may not have the cap space to keep Linsley around beyond this season. The Packers also dislike handing out third contracts to their players who may be starting to head towards the back end of their careers. That means the search to find a successor is part of the plans, and that leads us to this next pick. Jake Hanson may not have had the flashiest combine (5.5 in the 40 at 6'4 and 303 lbs), but when it comes to centers, it is more about their technique and ability to make the right calls at the line. That being said, he did have 33 reps in the bench press which was #4 among all OL. Hanson comes to Green Bay as a 4 year starter who boasted 49 career starts. He was the anchor of one of the best lines in the country since he first won the job as a true freshman, and Oregon may not have been as successful without him in the middle making sure the assignments were correct. Hanson plays with an incredible motor, even if he lacks the desired size to compete against linemen one on one, but the Packers' zone system should be able to hide some of those deficiencies. He has strong hands and a sticky grip (which I'm sure will make our division rivals happy), and he works well with guards in double teams. He still needs some fine tuning with his snap placement as he can occasionally misfire out of the shotgun. But as a developmental 6th rounder, Hanson can continue working on those techniques while learning behind one of the best technicians in the game. Not to mention he can use this valuable time on the scout team practicing with Jordan Love. Should the time come when both players are ready to start, they would have already developed a rapport thanks to their time on the practice field together. 6c (209) - SIMON STEPANIAK (G - INDIANA) With the selection of Simon Stepaniak, the Packers believe they got a player who could have been selected as early as the 4th round had he not tragically torn his ACL last December. Stepaniak is the opposite of Runyan and Hanson - he is a tough-nosed mauler in the run game who likes to pick fights and look for people to punish. He played RG at Indiana, and it is likely with his 32" arms that he may be limited to play interior OL as a pro. His 37 reps (!!!) on the bench press in Indianapolis frequently showed up on tape where he routinely manhandled defenders in one-on-ones and would flatten other guys out on double teams. (The fact he could even do 37 reps while recovering from his surgery is astounding.) His main issues will be dealing with poor agility when matched up against quicker speed rushers, where relying on his upper body strength alone won't be enough. Despite his athletic shortcomings, Stepaniak allowed a pressure on only 3.3% of passing plays per PFF. With some fine tuning of his game, there is potential that Stepaniak could become the top OL of the three the Packers selected in round 6. Stepaniak resembles a guard in a power running scheme from 1993, who would rather be out hunting for defenders than settling back and waiting for them to come to him. In a way, this could be a pick for the future direction of the offense, especially after the Packers selected AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara earlier. This shows a subtle shift in the offense away from 5 WR shotgun formations and hinting more towards pounding the rock to punish the new mold of smallefaster defenses. It makes sense that they would take a gamble on Stepaniak late this year. Even though he may wind up on the PUP/IR list, the Packers liked his talent this late in day 3. 7a (236) - VERNON SCOTT (S - TCU) *pick acquired from Browns for OG Justin McCray and #244 Who the hell is Vernon Scott? He was only Dane Brugler's 61st ranked safety out of 62 in the 2020 draft, of course! But really, this is a name that most people just shrugged their shoulders to and probably overlooked. Let me now be the one to introduce you to him. Vernon Scott is a player that is all about two things: versatility and upside. At 6'2 and 206 lbs, he has the prototype size you are looking for in a modern defensive back. He wasn't invited to the combine, and his pro day was canceled hence why he was invisible to the draft community. His athletic testing will unfortunately remain a mystery, but the Packers estimated he ran a 4.40, which would be outstanding for a player at his size. Scott was a one year starter at TCU who lined up all over the secondary. He was primarily a key contributor on special teams for all 4 years before taking over as a starter this past season. While Texas WR Devin Duvernay made him look silly in 2019 (seriously, don't watch the tape), Vernon Scott really started to come on towards the end of the year. In the last three games of the season he had 4 total takeaways, a sack, and a TD. He had a particularly strong game against Oklahoma where he made 7 tackles, a fumble recovery, and a 98 yard INT for a TD. He would finish the year with 44 tackles (4th on the team) and 7 PBU's (ranked 3rd). Where did this sudden playmaking skill come from? Scott moved to the nickel corner role, and he was told to let loose. The Packers are clearly banking that his ability as a slot CB, while also having experience playing the other 4 positions in the secondary, will translate to the NFL and give him an edge to win a roster spot. Not often is a player drafted because of a 3 game stretch, but hey, it is the 7th round so why not? He joins a secondary that is led with Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos but was often exposed when other players such as Will Redmond had to see meaningful snaps. The team also allowed Ibraheim Campbell to walk this offseason who had been with the team for two years. Needless to say, the Packers liked the direction where Vernon Scott’s arrow was pointing, and the more competition in the secondary the better. 7b (242) - JONATHAN GARVIN (OLB - MIAMI) *pick acquired from Ravens for RB Ty Montgomery Jonathan "Spider" Garvin comes to Green Bay with a nice resume from his last two years at Miami. He is an impressive physical specimen at 6'4 and 263 lbs with 34" arms and an 80" wingspan. While his 4.82 probably didn't help him, when you watch the tape his explosiveness jumps off the screen - literally. His 36" vertical was #1 among edge rushers and DL at the combine. Garvin put up 60 tackles, 17 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and 5 pass breakups his sophomore season (not to mention a fumble returned for a TD) while playing across from Joe Jackson. That sort of production tends to get a player noticed, and so his junior season in 2019 was all about fighting for whatever he could get while dealing with the extra attention. Garvin would enjoy much of his time fighting off double- and triple-teams in 2019, which caused a dip in his overall numbers from the year prior. Garvin ended the season with just 37 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 sacks, 4 hurries, and 2 FF. However, his pressure rate of 14.8% was still 5th best in the ACC according to PFF. The drop in production along with the 4.82 in the 40 is likely why he didn't hear his name called in the early part of day 3. Even so, at his size, length, and explosiveness, he could find a home as part of the rotation at OLB in Green Bay. Kyler Fackrell played over 400 snaps on defense as the #3 OLB last year while 1st round pick Rashan Gary played 245. Now that Fackrell left to join the Giants in free agency, Gary will presumably be in line to pick up the snaps left behind which still allows enough opportunities for Garvin to find a role as a situational pass rusher on defense if he can win the #4 spot. Garvin comes to Green Bay with very similar measurables as Za'darius Smith. He has the strength to hold up on the edge but also the explosiveness off the line to get up field to rush the passer. Garvin has a lot of tools to work with, and having both the Smith's as mentors could go a long way as far as how he learns to master them. The OLB depth has a lot of juice on the team for once, and Garvin makes this group even more exciting. 7 (244) - to Cleveland *traded along with OG Justin McCray for #236
OVERALL DRAFT EVALUATION
The Packers were in an interesting position heading into the draft, coming in as a 13-3 team without any major holes on the roster. All the starting spots were filled ahead of time, which already put this draft class at a disadvantage compared to other teams in the league. The rookies may not be relied upon to start or play much in 2020, barring an injury to someone ahead on the depth chart. It isn't too farfetched to think that the Packers could have selected 9 completely different players and would have received the same level of impact from this class year 1. That isn't to say some of the members of this class can't find a role as part of a rotation - I expect Dillon, Deguara, and Martin to all get involved - but there isn't a need to have any of these guys start right out of the gate. Which can be a good thing. It reminds me of the old school days where rookies yielded to veterans and had to bust their asses to earn playing time, rather than being handed a job as soon as they walked through the door. At the end of the day, regardless of what happens with any other player, this draft will ultimately be judged based on the success or failure of one single player: Jordan Love. The legacy (and possibly the future employment) of GM Brian Gutekunst is also now firmly tied to this selection. The coaching chops of Matt LaFleur will also be thoroughly put to the test to see how he develops. A lot is riding on getting this one right. But in the end, because Jordan Love plays the most important position in the game, if he becomes a successful starter, this whole draft is a win. For now all he needs to do is focus on being the best scout team QB the Packers have had the luxury to have on the team since Aaron Rodgers himself. Nothing will be easily given to Love. Proving to the organization that he is worthy of being the heir apparent to Aaron will greatly depend on how he prepares himself for what comes next.
We drafted him in the first round, we certainly think he has that kind of talent. But that’s not enough in the National Football League. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to earn it, you’ve got to become a good enough player. Again, we have one of the best to ever lace them up, and we’re shooting for championships as long as he’s here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while. -Brian Gutekunst
Hi, I am a gambler and this is my story. When I was little, being and exceptionally intelligent little kid, I had a hatred towards everything that meant gambling. I was convinced it's so stupid and the only reason you should do it is for fun, but not spending more than what you would spend on a night out. I use to have a good control over my llife always planned things carefully in advance, always sorted out difficult situations, always helped others. I even eliminated toxic things from my life: people, sweet drinks, sugar, fast food. I could do pretty much everything I wanted with so much ease that I can't even realise what brought me here. I never wanted to have lots of money. I really don't see the point in luxury, I have no need for exorbitant amounts of money. So it makes me even more confuse. Why did I want to play, what got into me? I was surrounded by people who had a gambling addiction, but i was never even tempted to play. The first time I gambled was on sports betting. I was around 14 I think, and bet sports. I bet the equivalent of 0,3 USD on 4 football games and won the equivalent of 0,5 USD. From then I started gambling on sports every now and then, like a few times a month, but always very very small aamounts. I didn't have a lot of money, and i preferred spending them on necessary things like clothing, but also going out with friends. I was very organised with my money and I would always wind up with economies. Around 17 hold'em poker got very popular in my area, so I played small sums like 10$ a month, but as soon as I turned 18 I opened my first online gambling account on bwin. From there, things started going really bad. I then created accounts on every possible poker platform. I was chasing offers and giveaways, but I still manages to hold myself back from spending too much. I went to college after that and continued to play poker, but always spent as much as I would afford. When I was around 23 I started having a little more money and began to put it all on poker. I preferred to play poker instead of going out, but I would still keep control. Around the same age I discovered lotteries that go off every 5 minutes. At first I played very little money, poker was mostly out of the picture as I begun a full time job ad didn't have the urge of playing online, it was more like a poker night with friends I craved for, but no big money. 2 years in lotteries was ok. I could control my finances, had no urges, could stop any time, didn't play very large amounts. After that, I bought an apartment with my wife, had a kid coming, everything cool. I also used to play DOTA for fun and i usually prefered doing that than losing money on gambling. But things took an ugly turn and I began betting big. I had really big wins, used to go buy things I needed, stuff for the house, I could really make good use of the wins and my wife, although not happy with me playing, most of the time knew what I was doing. I was pretty transparent to her. Things hit the fan when I got a big raise at my workplace and starting earning good money. But even more ugly when banks made it so easy to make loans that it took me half an hour to make online loans of 40k USD and lose it all in less than a day. So, yeah, everything got ugly really fast. I hid from my wife all my loans, but eventually had to come clean last year because we had to move to another country and she said it would be a good idea to make a loan to help us get started, I told her we can't and eventually confessed. Of course she didn't take it very well but she was supportive. I by then suspended all my online accounts and was a little happy with myself. Said I would start fresh. It took my a month until I got back to betting due to an old account that conveniently got reactivated after I had suspended it for a year. I didn't lose too much money and I confessed to my wife and deactivated my account. Got to visit my home country in september last year when I gambled less than 50$ cash and made 1000$ in a gambling office on international lotteries. I payed off some debts and didn't play. Returned to my adoptive country and thought I'd ask for a friend's account to play a little online. Made another 3000$. I made a withdrawal of 2000 and kept the rest for playing. Everything was going well until my friend, also an addict, started to lose my money. I got pissed and eventually lost all, even the money I had withdrawn. Another account was reactivated due to expiration of exclusion period and I started betting on my own account. Not very much. Had some ups and downs. Payed off a few debts, but eventually ended up again playing more than I had. Never said anything to my wife. I kept lying because I had to pay my debts from my salary. Now, apart from around 40k that I'm paying for 5 years from now, I have made a 2000$ debt after winning 2000$ 2 weeks agod and then losing 4000. I will pay it, that's for sure, but I Iied to my wife again. It feels so bad. Most of the time I can't even have an errection so I lie I am tired (which is also true because I work 80hrs a week, so believable), but that never stopped me before. We used to have sex very often no matter how tired I was. So now, I suspended my account. I think of playing every day to win back at least 2000$ for being on "zero". But I hope I won't play. It is very difficult to gamble where I am right now so that's good for me, but I sometimes find myself searching for betting opportunities near me. Sometimes I just wanna be run over by a bus so that my family can get the insurances I have on my death, but I think of my children and see how upset they are when they don't see me for a day and say to myself that I would bring them so much suffering if I was gone. So I choose the least suffering option which is making them suffer by my addiction. Fuck gambling. Fuck all the shining lights, all the repetitive tunes, all the friendly platforms. And fuck myself for losing my identity. I used to be a brilliant kid with large potential and a bright future. Although I hadn't had much as a kid, I had my intelligence and had and have a lot of respect and support from people because I was always smart, well-mannered, respectful, helpful, a good friend, a good lover, but now I feel like it's all lost... I have a job where I have to study all the time but I can't get myself up to the person I was before my addiction took over me. I miss playing DOTA, I miss playing with my kids and reading to them without thinking of gambling while doing that. I miss going to the beach, hiking, doing sports, reading. I have lost a good part of my life without even dying. I feel like i have something in my head, I have a physical feeling that there is something there. Like when you lose a tooth and you put an implant that feels awkward but eventually you get used to that. But I can't get used to this feeling I have of something in my head that i can't get out. I want to put my hand into my head and pull it out. It feels like its compressing my brain. It's really gotten physical. The feeling gets worse when I gamble even if I win or lose. I wanna puke only when thinking of gambling and it gets worse when I do it. So if it feels so bad, why does my stupid ass brain.keep doing it? Fuck gambling. I wish every day that when I wake up I will not see commercial for gambling platforms. That's the least they could do to help us. Stop advertising it. Thanks for reading.
Cheating Boyfriend Betrayed by His Good Christian Sister in the Best Possible Way
This story is now somewhat famous in my circle of friends, and one finally roped me into spilling it on here (here you go Evan). This is the tale of myself and this perfect girl named "Charlie". Part 1: Exposition This took place roughly 2 years ago, at the twilight of my senior year of high school. It was early May and our graduation was set for early June, so with most of our brains switched to summer mode and our teachers fresh out of fucks, my friends and I finally fell in line with the majority of our class and started ditching. Our friend group consisted of a handful of minor characters in addition to my boyfriend of 3 years: "Kyle", my best friend since middle school: "Sarah", myself, and a recent inclusion: "Brad", who, not gonna lie, was and is a bit of a White Knight. Kyle belonged to a Christian family. No, not the nice, charity giving, actually Christian Christians, but rather the homophobic, slur slinging, will kick a homeless guy in the face and then sit in church like a saint Christians. They always went to church every Wednesday and Friday, and while they invited me, I never went due to being a) an Agnostic, b) a closeted bisexual, and c) almost physically sick from their hypocrisy. They never really liked me because of this. They also were entitled. It wasn't evident until they got into trouble. You see, they helped organize the Church's funding (grants, donations, charity, maintenance, etc), which put them pretty high on the pecking order. The Church, while not the centerpiece of our part of town, still claimed A LOT of the district's authority figures as patrons. It was the sort of unofficial institution that sneaks its way into politics without ever being directly involved. So whenever they got pulled over or issued a parking ticket, they'd drop a couple names and dodge the whole thing. Kyle himself was decent. I'd known him since elementary school, he was usually nice, and he was hot (shallow, I know, but it was high school), so I tolerated his idiotic and oftentimes narcissistic behavior (they treated him like God's gift to Earth). But it was his sister, "Charlie", who redeemed the whole family. She was a year younger than Kyle and I, and was the only genuine Christian in the group. However, she also had an impish streak in her that led to some fun hi-jinx. You could always tell she'd had a devilish epiphany with this little half smile she'd make. We'd often hang out and she was a blast to be around. We were very close, and she often confided in me about stuff she couldn't tell her family. To me, a great friend. To them, the perfect little Christian daughter. Sarah was a really good friend who had helped me through the death of my mom. I wasn't diagnosed with depression or anything major, but I loved my mama to pieces and it shattered me. Her and Kyle were always there for me and she was the one who pushed me to ask him out. I trusted her about as much as any teenager could. Anyways, back to the story. One fateful Tuesday, Kyle, Sarah, myself, and our mutual friends headed downtown to get food, skate, and generally do stereotypical annoying teenage stuff. Getting bored of our current activities, I asked Kyle if he wanted to race on our boards to the end of the street (it was just past the lunch rush so most people were either back in their offices or stuck in traffic). He accepted and about 30 seconds and a loose flagstone later I ended up planting my face into the sidewalk and fracturing my arm. I tried to shake it off but no one else was having it, considering I was walking like a newborn deer and my arm was beginning to swell. We ended up making a visit to the ER where they confirmed that yes, I did have a fractured arm, and a concussion to boot. The concussion was my dumbass tax. It wasn't too big a deal as far as accidents go, but considering my sorry state, they wanted me to stick around so they could do a few more tests, brace my arm, and generally just ensure that I was healthy enough to return to my dumbassery. Thankfully, Kyle and Sarah had offered to stay with me, because apparently their parents didn't care, and we were already ditching so school the following day wasn't a big issue. I ended up spending the night in the hospital (the hospital had been understaffed for years, so once your condition was deemed stable they tended to shove you into limbo) and went home the following day with the usual concussion orders. Effectively I was to become as a vegetable for 10 days. Wanting to get back to my recently attained freedom I complied, meaning I spent about 7 days sleeping and eating. I only picked up my phone after the doctor cleared me, to which I found an unexpected message. Part 2: The Act Brad had gotten my number from Kyle, and sent me a link to a private data storing account (one of those services where you can upload videos, pictures, etc and lock it behind a pass-code for personal use only) and a password. I, being intrigued by this sudden plot hook in my boring life, followed it to find literal GIGABYTES of pictures, all showing Kyle and Sarah in compromising positions and captions hollering things that were definitely not beneficial to their relationship with the Lord. I'm talking everything from individual nudes taken from the Chat of Snaps to full on money shots and everything in between. It looked like an amateur porn album. The most recent of which was dated to, as you probably guessed, that Tuesday evening. Brad explained that Kyle had this whole thing where he'd upload videos of him and Sarah doing it for his close circle to whack off at. I personally would've simply used Pornhub like a normal human, but Kyle had always been a little self-infatuated so I wasn't too surprised at this Narcissus level move. Brad had apparently just been included and was sickened by the whole thing. For context, in our 3 years of dating, the furthest Kyle and I had gone was a BJ after a football game that January. He spewed BS about "saving it for marriage" while dicking down my BFF. I. Was. Shattered. The two people I had placed my unconditional trust in had, without my knowing, been taking turns pounding that trust away, all the while being fully aware of their importance in my life. I confronted Kyle about this when we next hung out at his place, and he denied everything at first. Said I was being a paranoid bitch. When I showed him the evidence, he involved his parents, who started claiming I PHOTOSHOPPED the photos and videos, and threatened that they would report me for making child porn (Sarah and Kyle had only just turned 18 the past September). Knowing the police would prove me right, but not wanting to tank Brad for possession (our city had been throwing the book at people for this for years) I dropped it and left. I thought we'd broken up, but apparently his parents insisted we stay together until after graduation to save face with his extended family. Apparently they knew deep down he was guilty, but the usual EP tendencies flared up. Not wanting to make waves (yet) I reluctantly complied, and began regressing into my earlier negative mental spaces. Part 3: The Revenge The funny thing about religious families is that they are just as prone to producing LGBT children as non-religious ones. Kyle had avoided the "sickness". Charlie hadn't. Not one week after our argument, I was at Kyle's house, helping him keep up the act. We hardly interacted, so I turned to Charlie for companionship. This typically happened when Kyle and I would get into fights, as Charlie's chill demeanor and deep concern often led me to confide in her, sometimes with things I didn't even share with Sarah. This, being the biggest "argument" of our relationship, was no different. While we were chilling in her room, she started to get really antsy. Her normal bubbly demeanor was gone. Contrary to your typical homosexual, I didn't have a strong gaydar, so I assumed she'd learned of Kyle's infidelity. Well yes, but actually no. I asked her what was wrong and she said she had a secret to spill. I wasn't really in the mood for drama or comforting, but it being Charlie I let her go. In what has yet to be the second biggest surprise of my life, she told me about how she'd been in the closet for years (14 or 15 was when she first started figuring it out), and apparently for a long time she'd been trying to get closer to me because I was the only person she truly felt comfortable around. Her family was almost stereotypically homophobic and really only approved of her church friends. She was jealous of Kyle and our relationship, but thinking I was straight and not wanting to rock the boat she resigned herself to her angsty teenage heartache. That was until the HMS Relationship struck an infidelity iceberg and she figured she could finally shoot her shot. Now, given any other circumstance, I would've said hell no. We'd known each other for over a decade, and I'd been dating her brother for 3 years. It would've been scummy and Charlie was practically a sister to me at this point. But then the blood started rushing and the lizard brain started screaming for payback. I'll spare the details for her privacy, but one woo-hoo later her and I were enjoying the afterglow when the gears really started turning. I felt like shit. I knew what I'd done was wrong, but given my current situation I frankly didn't care about that. I more so felt bad for Charlie. At the time, my feelings were twisted and painful, and I thought I didn't really like her that way, so I thought I'd just one-and-doned the only non-family member who I still trusted. She caught on to the vibe I was giving off and ended up talking me out of some bad thoughts while we got dressed and said our goodbyes. We ended up continuing the relationship after that. For her she finally got to be with her longtime crush, and I got an escape. When the day of graduation came and went, we maintained the charade until both our families, as well as their church group, went over to their place for a massive dinner celebration and commemorative slideshow. Now I'd known about this event since the fall, and hadn't thought too much of it until the incident. During our fling, Charlie had been pushing me out of my slump and towards thoughts of vengeance. Apparently, her parents had been spreading rumors to their church group that I had been cheating on Kyle, and they were saying that after the dinner he was going to dump me. In front of an entire crowd that included MY FAMILY. I didn't really care about myself, but my dad had gotten a lot of flak for remarrying after mom died. Some of it even came from me, but having the perspective of age and distance I got over it. I was not about to have him publicly embarrassed by some shitheads who thought they blessed the ground they walked on. Before it was just petty high school drama. But this was no joke. My dad worked for the District Rep's office. The District Rep grew up at that church. It was part of his "one of the people" persona. A few choice words my dad's job would be history. Guess Kyle's parents in their malignancy never thought that part through. Or maybe they did and I'm giving them too much credit. Either way, this was now personal. So Charlie, being her impish self, began scheming. She was loved by the Church group, so it was easy for her to get the role of prepping the slideshow. She even gave a whole speech about how she couldn't wait to "finally give her brother and his friends the recognition they deserved". She then began compiling the videos and photos from the circle jerk account Kyle had made (dumbass hadn't changed the password), alongside screenshots of their conversations in a group chat they had (she got those by "borrowing" his phone, making a "call" and sending the screenshots to her phone before deleting them from the message history) , and integrated them into a slideshow. It was structured so that a slide would pop up with a bunch of pictures of the boy in question alongside their favorite bible quote. Then the next few slides would include the screenshots of their respective conversations and whatever pictures they had listed as their favorites (censored and from after they had turned 18 for obvious reasons). Altogether this slideshow took Charlie days to compile, but not once did she complain or ask for a break. She was on a mission, and alongside being hot in its weird way, it was also shifting my perspective on our relationship. So the night comes and we're all sitting around the table, making small talk and putting on our best fake smiles. Several church families are giving me smug "you're gonna get what's coming to you" looks, but I shrugged them off and stuck with my family for most of night. Charlie and I avoided each other to ensure no one got suspicious. Finally, the moment of truth came. Everyone was called into the backyard where they had rows of chairs set up in front of a massive projector. Charlie portrayed her best innocent little sister act before starting the soundtrack. The slides began to roll, and people began to gasp and yell in tune to Good Old Days by Macklemore. Seeing the looks on Kyle and his family's faces as they realized what was happening was priceless. In turn, each boy was brought onscreen and put on blast, and each time everyone was too busy recovering from the whiplash to stop it. The few that did tried to grab Charlie's laptop, but she quickly scooped it up and ran into the house, locking herself in a bathroom (the projector was wireless). No one thought to turn off the projector. Idiots. Finally, after almost five minutes of bible quotes and nudes, the boy of the hour was put on screen. His quote: Hebrews 13:4 "Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery." It was intended to create the setup for my humiliation. Oh how the turntables. A handful videos played showing his 18+ exploits, alongside screenshots of the rows of content he had made, with texts dating back to the summer of 2017 implying the length of his fling. It hurt to watch, but I found my solace in the sweet nectar of vengeance laid before my eyes. Finally came the last slide, a blank white page with a single audio file link. Even I was confused at this part, seeing as audio wasn't included in our plans. Charlie crept back outside and clicked play, and Kyle's parents' voices came screaming through the speakers. Apparently, Charlie had recorded their entire humiliation plan in detail, and had added it to the slideshow as evidence of my impending setup. The girl had covered all bases, and when the show ended, she stood next to the projector beaming that devilish half grin. It took a few seconds for anything to happen. Kyle and his family beat a hasty retreat to the house, but the party being at their place they had nowhere to go. Several church members conveyed their disgust at Charlie, Kyle, and the boys in equal measure for the event. She ignored them, called out to her parents, and waited for them to peep their heads out. When they did, she quickly planted a massive kiss on my cheek and pronounced herself as gay. Needless to say, that didn't go down well. My parents and I left in a hurry, and Charlie, now in deep shit, came with us. Part 4: The Aftermath Charlie and I have been dating since. As you probably guessed, her family cut ties with her, so she ended up crashing at my place. My stepmom wasn't too pleased with how she'd gone about my revenge, but my dad thought it was hilarious. He collected his $20 from my stepmom (they'd had a bet over when I'd come out, apparently) and argued on our behalf for Charlie to stay. After all, they had an interesting first impression, and there was no risk of pregnancy. To top it off, it was the perfect way for them to spite Kyle's family after they'd trashed my reputation and tried to make me an outcast. He caught some jokes and snide remarks at work for the next few weeks, but given the circumstances and the fact I was a teenage daughter (apparently we're prone to bouts of roguishness), he got off. No harm. As for Kyle? Well his family got barred from their church after his collection came to light, which caused them to fall from local grace. They lost the ear of local officials, and the various name drops they'd been using to avoid various fines and penalties caught up to them. Last I heard from Sarah they had moved to the next state over and Kyle was living sexless in his parents basement, squeaking by at a community college. Sarah and I made up eventually. It took a lot of apologizing and no small amount of grovelling on her part, but not wanting to resent her for the rest of my life I got over myself and allowed her back in. We're not as close as we used to be, but that trust is slowly growing back. Let's just hope she she keeps her stuff in her pants this time. Charlie and I lived together until I went off to college, where we've been long-distance since. She managed to get into a school two hours away, so we often spend weekends at each others' dorms or somewhere in between, doing our typical hedonistic thing. It's taken me some time to fully recover. As cathartic as our revenge felt, it did little to truly bring me solace. Despite the implications of this story, I had a really deep connection with Kyle, and while it's easy to write off as teenage drama, it still scarred me. My family and Charlie have helped me rebuild. Our relationship may have begun unconventionally, and could certainly be classifiable as "trashy", but we don't care. We're happy, and I have a girl who's gone above and beyond for me. Not everyone can say that. TL;DR: Boyfriend of 3 years cheats with my BFF, and his religious family tries to cover it up. I sleep with his sister, who exposes him during a church dinner, and drags me out of the closet with her.
The board is easy to construct, and because this is game of chance, your friends don't even need to know the first thing about football to participate in betting. Point spreads and fantasy football statistics are not involved. A betting board is more like a lottery with the winning numbers determined by the score of the game. Participating in the Super Bowl "squares" or "boxes" game has become a mainstay for offices, parties, and bars in late Janauary and early February, as casual and ardent viewers of football's Paper Football LEGO Game A goal post made of LEGOs is the simplest way to get creative with your Super Bowl party games this year. Kids will love playing with it well past the weekend's end. Get the tutorial at Little Bins for Little Hands. SHOP SUPER BOWL PARTY SUPPLIES. 100 Directions. 8 of Once football season begins, the office pool becomes an activity that many people enjoy. Participants purchase squares in the pool according to what they think the final outcome of the game will be. Come Monday morning, the winners receive a prize and the pool resets for the following week’s matchup. If you are in Football Squares is a popular Super Bowl party game in which all of the players try to guess the score for each quarter. Start by drawing a 10 by 10 grid on a large poster board with enough space in each square to record your player’s initials and their projected score for the game.
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