The NFL returned last week. Kind of.
The Hall of Fame Game was technically football, just like the cardboard rectangle of Ragu and shredded mozzarella-ish cheese you got in elementary school was technically pizza.
This week, the league countered the preseason’s ongoing lack of quality with a major uptick in quantity. Thursday night unveiled an 11-game slate that could rival what you’ll see on Sundays this fall, assuming you squint really hard or drink until Garrett Gilbert looked like a stretched-out Baker Mayfield. Some games came down to the wire. Ones involving the Lions and Jaguars did not.
We’ll have more winners once Week 1 concludes. Assuming there are winners. But so far, who has won the first true week of the preseason slate?
It certainly was not this first name:
Not considered: David Fales, who lost exactly as many yards as he gained
Fales entered a Patriots-Lions game that was somehow out of reach in the first quarter and walked a sturdy tightrope of awfulness for Detroit. He completed only five of his 14 passes, gaining 62 yards in the process. Impressively, he was also sacked six times — 30 percent of his dropbacks! — for a loss of ... 62 yards.
He wasn’t entirely neutral, however; Fales did manage to throw an interception to defensive end John Simon. It was just as bad as it sounds:
Fales was responsible for Detroit’s only three points of the night. His interception led to a Patriots touchdown, however, leaving his impact at a negative-four points.
Now, on to the actual winners of the NFL preseason’s premiere week:
9. Whichever Sotheby’s realtor handles Boston’s high-profile clients
Tom Brady put his Boston-area five-bedroom, seven bathroom estate — which features a 2,400-square-foot guest house and a driveway that parks 20 cars — up for sale this week. Any money he’s left on the table in negotiations with the Patriots will be made up from the bids of too-rich Massholes.
It’ll cost you $39.5 million to cook in a kitchen once stocked with avocado ice cream, or do yoga in the same room where Alex Guerrero once regularly prescribed stretching and hugs to prolong a Hall of Fame career. This is a tremendous Brady-bump — a similar five-bedroom, 8,800-square foot house in the same neighborhood sold for only $5.6 million back in May.
Assuming a six percent commission split between two realtors, the two primary sellers of this estate would clear more than $1 million for making the king of the finance bros’ dream come true. And if multiple Bravo reality shows have taught us anything, it’s that elite realtors are wonderful people who truly deserve this money.
Not considered for this list: Other Chestnut Hill-area realtors
Pitching the opportunity to live in the same neighborhood as Brady and Gisele is easily worth a 10 percent bump in asking price. Now that the neighbors who respectfully declined to attend every neighborhood pot luck are leaving, sellers may have to settle for a mere $1.8 million for their 3,000-square-foot home.
8. Alpine doctors
One of medicine’s more forgotten specialties got a boost this week when Antonio Brown posted a picture of his gnarly feet and invited the world to ask: arrrggggh why?
What could have caused Brown’s feet to develop a rind like a poorly stored wedge of Montgomery cheddar? ESPN analyst Chris Simms originally landed on fungal infection before correcting the culprit to frostbite from a cryotherapy session gone wrong. The Raiders have neither confirmed nor denied this — while the feet were a sticking point on Hard Knocks, though there was no real insight into the cause — but yeah, given the grossness of those feet I’m inclined to believe the most outlandish possible cause for these symptoms.
The question now is when Oakland can expect its superstar acquisition to return to the field, though that situation has taken an unexpected turn unrelated to his foot:
And now this: Raiders’ WR Antonio Brown has told team officials that, unless he gets to wear his old helmet, he will not play football again, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 9, 2019
7. Helmet connoisseurs
Brown’s refusal to play with an outlawed helmet has created a chain reaction among reporters asking veterans whether they like their new skull protectors. Tom Brady, who along with Brown and Aaron Rodgers had to retire his equipment of choice, telling WEEI’s Greg Hill show he “doesn’t love” his replacement. Jason Witten, returning to the field after one year of torturing America with banal and inaccurate Monday Night Football analysis, can’t play with his trusty old helmet “Betsy.”
There’s no word yet from Rodgers, but given his background in helmet testing and investment in Zero1 helmets, he’s sure to have an opinion on the change. First reporter in Green Bay to talk on it will get those quotes disseminated for the rest of the week.
6. The kid whose bike was destroyed by J.J. Watt
Watt returned to his home state when his Texans bunkered down in Green Bay in advance of their preseason opener against the Packers. This afforded him the chance to take part in one of the league’s finest August traditions: riding the bikes of local children who’ve come to watch training camp sessions. Players pick out a waiting child, hand over their helmets, then make the trip down the DreamDrive from the locker room to the field before practice begins.
Watt, the human embodiment of a Great Dane loose at a dog park, promptly crushed his loaner bike.
(video courtesy of @ClintStoerner)
“It was pretty awesome until I broke the bike,” Watt told reporters afterward. “The bike that I was using was not equipped for a 290-pound man. The seat broke off. We have purchased a new bike for the boy, so I apologize for that.”
Watt makes nearly $17 million annually, so the aggrieved child likely came out of this deal with a solid upgrade. Plus he gets to tell his friends about the time a Hall of Famer came to town and ruined his bike for the rest of his life. A nice little Tuesday for him.
5. Vikings quarterbacks past and present
Kirk Cousins threw four passes Saturday and completed all of them for 65 yards and a touchdown. He even added 10 extra yards on a scramble. Teddy Bridgewater cemented his spot as one of the league’s most interesting backups, connecting on 14 of his 19 passes in the Saints’ preseason opener for 134 yards. Case Keenum was that only Washington QB to throw a touchdown pass this week and that team’s only passer who did not throw an interception.
Also, Sam Bradford made nearly $16 million last season to play in three games. He’s not having a great preseason since he’s not on a roster and all, but I imagine he can’t be too sad.
4. The ongoing legend of Adam Gase’s, uh, peculiarness
We knew about the eyes — that Gase’s face existed in an atmosphere solely made of whispers informing him his exact time of death. This week we got some insight as to why. The Athletic’s Dan Pompei took a deep dive to explore the foundation of Gase, only to find it’s built from caffeine, coaching cliches, and the self-care of an unattended minor.
“You would get these texts from him until 4 in the morning on a regular basis,” says Tannenbaum, now an ESPN analyst. “I don’t think he sleeps a lot.”
Fueled by five or six 20-ounce cups a day from the Kuerig coffee maker that is an arm’s length from his desk, and maybe a Red Bull here or there, Gase has energy like a power plant. And it doesn’t wane in the wee hours.
There’s also the fact Kevin McCallister had a more responsible diet while left unsupervised in the hit movies Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
Well, and pizza. With pepperoni. When Gase was with the Dolphins, his office often was filled with the aroma of a pie from Pizza Loft in Davie. When the owner of the restaurant sold the business, he put a clause in the contract that required the new owner to deliver pizza to Gase every night for one year. So Gase ate pizza every night.
Gase is not likely to prepare a meal on his own. When Jennifer recently left him home alone to dog sit for a day, he texted and asked her to order him lunch from Uber Eats.
This revelation of late-night annoyances and childlike disdain for utensils was quickly swept aside by the fact Gase and his wife scheduled their second child’s Caesarean section around his football schedule. His son Wyatt was born at 10 a.m. in the middle of the 2013 NFL season. Gase was back at the Broncos’ facilities — where he was an assistant coach — to greet Peyton Manning for their weekly sit-down by 2 p.m.
This is all, of course, bonkers. But this? For a preseason game?
Did Adam Gase just take smelling salts before a preseason game? pic.twitter.com/gVINzrkcjW— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) August 8, 2019
These are not the actions of a successful NFL head coach. They are the actions of a man in a wedding dress attempting to blow a car to smithereens.
3. Former Phoenix College star Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, who will somehow be played by Mark Wahlberg in the film version of his life
Sheehy-Guiseppi went from sleeping on the grass in Miami to a tryout with the Browns this summer. The former junior college All-American had the slimmest of NFL prospects, but found a landing spot in Cleveland after effectively hustling his way into a workout this summer. His 4.38-second 40 speed earned him the chance to put on a Browns uniform Thursday night, and he once again burst through a door that had only been cracked a sliver.
WHAT A MOMENT— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 9, 2019
Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi returns a punt 86 yards for a TD — and the whole bench clears to celebrate pic.twitter.com/anLZ3EEgAT
Everyone on the Cleveland bench went completely apeshit for this return. It turns out they had a pretty good reason.
2. The Patriots’ passing offense without Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski, somehow
New England got its long-awaited revenge on Matt Patricia Thursday, breaking a months-long losing streak against the Lions by absolutely thrashing Detroit’s second team to start the preseason. That in itself isn’t amazing, but the way the Patriots did it is. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham combined for 326 passing yards and three touchdowns. Two of those went to undrafted free agent Jakobi Meyers, who sure as hell looks like the latest college-quarterback-turned-receiver to turn Bill Belichicks frown ... into a slightly more neutral frown.
New England needs a big target who can unstick himself from opposing defenders now that Gronk’s gone into the party bus business full time. Meyers looks like he could fit that bill.
1. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who may have been right all along
We all had a nice laugh when the Giants selected zero-time All-ACC selection Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. We reveled in Gettleman’s long, strange list of justifications for drafting a passer who may have been available at the team’s second first-round pick, or maybe even on Day 2. We marveled when the Giants inadvertently recreated the pointing Spidermen meme in offseason camp.
But it turns out Jones may have been the right pick after all (I am certain I won’t regret writing this in September, of course).
Drive 1: Every single Daniel Jones pass— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) August 8, 2019
-5/5, 67 yds and a TD
Say goodbye, Eli pic.twitter.com/MURmdOceVD
It’s Week 1 of the preseason and it was against a Jets team without the best players in its budding secondary, so maybe Eli Manning shouldn’t retreat into retirement just yet. Still, Jones’ solid debut gives at least some hope there’s balm in Gilead for a suffering Giants team that still may not have found the bedrock of its bottoming out.
Jones finished his night as SB Nation’s top-rated rookie passer, though he wasn’t the only young New York quarterback to turn heads Thursday night. Both Sam Darnold and Jones finished their 2019 debuts with perfect passer ratings. That’s literally the best they could have hoped for.
Maybe MetLife Stadium won’t be a swirling vortex of depression this season after all.