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I say the same thing every year at the end of the season but I think it's fitting the regular season wraps up around the Holidays. Because for me, the NFL season is sort of like Christmas: Tons of anticipation, and then it seems to be over before I know it.
Part of the fun in writing this column is I know I'll get to share some thoughts with folks like yourself who love football as much as I do. And that strikes me as a very good thing. I've had a blast throwing out my goofy observations this season. And I've smiled at the emails from people telling me they've thought some of the same things as they were watching the games.
As I wrap up the regular season this Week 18, I've pulled up some of the more interesting things I remember seeing during the year. It's my sincerest hope that you've enjoyed reading this column a fraction as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you're up for it, we'll do it again next season. And if you've got thoughts and ideas on how this thing can be better, or just want to yell at me about my preseason Christian McCaffrey ranking, feel free to shoot me a note at Bryant@footballguys.com.
Here's to Football,
Hat Tip to Footballguy Cecil Lammey.
Those people on the field in Carolina are nuts. A 50 foot tall Panther jumping around and they're just walking around like nothing's happening. Amazing.
Check out our new mixed-reality panther that debuted today ðŸ”¥ðŸ”¥ðŸ”¥ pic.twitter.com/8DwEvam9KM— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 12, 2021
Internet: It takes wide receivers some time to adjust in the NFL.
Narrator: Ja'Marr Chase is a rookie.
Hindsight is 20/20 and there's a LOT of football to be played. But I'm not disagreeing with Bengals Study Room: "The Bengals lose on Sunday with Penei Sewell and not Ja’Marr Chase"
And after all the hand wringing this summer, you know LSU had this one ready to go.
Confirmed.— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 12, 2021
Ja'Marr Chase can catch the ball
I'm happy for Sam Darnold.
(Week 18 Comment - Things change fast.)
My favorite thing about shows like Hard Knocks is the behind-the-scenes stuff from practice or games. DeMarcus Lawrence coaching up Azur Kamara is so good. At this point, Kamara was struggling to make the team. Watch this. (Warning - Some R-Rated Language)
The thing I love most about Hard Knocks is the insight into veterans coaching up young guys. DeMarcus Lawrence doing work. Good life advice too. Think before. Then execute in the heat of battle. Warning: NSFW language. pic.twitter.com/WEJeBFM4CL— Joe Bryant (@Football_Guys) September 1, 2021
Interaction like this is so complex. Lawrence does multiple things here exactly right and gives a lesson in leadership.
He opens with a question instead of an accusation or instruction. Lawrence already knows the problem. He knows Kamara is thinking and not just playing fast. This isn't really a question. But instead of telling him not to think. He asks him why he is thinking. Huge difference.
Look at his eyes. He is giving Kamara his 100% full attention. People desire to be seen and heard. He does both here.
His body position. Lawrence crouches down to get below eye level with Kamara. This is a non-threatening posture. For someone Lawrence's size, this is important.
He reaffirms. Kamara said something about getting "locked in" and Lawrence repeats that phrase as one of the things he wants him to do. It's clear he heard Kamara and he's on his side.
You may not be an NFL defensive end. But I bet there are people in your circle of influence who see you as someone further down the road than they are and wants to be a bit like you. Be like Lawrence here and help them along the way.
It was a long week but finally, all is right again in the world and Lamar Jackson has resumed his normal status on talk radio as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
Note for USC: Next time do not put all the linemen at the back of the plane.
USC just arrived in Pullman WA for their game with Wazzu. Here’s their plane… Half the team was still on it tooðŸ˜³ no explanation yet… pic.twitter.com/3lwvChstEA— Dave Stockton Jr (@DSJR1) September 18, 2021
Thanks to Footballguy Clayton Gray for that one.
It doesn't last forever, but for a while, kids think their dad can do anything.
Poor guy is just trying to fix a helmet and Kenny Golladay won't stop yelling at him...
Yikes ðŸ˜¬ pic.twitter.com/OeP0mb0zcU— LaQuan Jones ðŸºðŸ† (@RealDealFantasy) September 17, 2021
(Spoiler: He's yelling at Jason Garrett)
He may not be an elite running back. But Jamaal Williams can be on my team anytime.
No Random Shots FROM WEEK 3
This was the week that was not.
I was down with COVID but thankfully not serious enough for hospitalization. It was touch and go almost missing my son's wedding but I made it. Y'all humbled me with heartfelt messages of encouragement. Thank you, sincerely.
Tragically, this week was also a reminder that our friend Mike Tagliere of FantasyPros died from COVID complications. If you're able, I can't think of a better cause to support than the Tagliere Family GoFundMe.
Let's start with a throwback.
A blown ACL seems like a fair price to pay for a triumphant ride off the field in front of 50,000 people in the back of this sweet bastard. pic.twitter.com/tqPyk5XExE— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) September 27, 2021
People are so impatient. I saw someone the other day criticizing Odell Beckham Jrand Baker Mayfield for having chemistry problems. Can we give the guys a break, please? Beckham's only been there 2 1/2 years...
Please tell me Mike McCarthy was paid extra to wear this hoodie.
Mike McCarthy is dressed as delicious sprinkles pic.twitter.com/vb2IiaBg5M— ParakHEAT Cortes (@Ryan_Cortes) October 3, 2021
I'm going to just leave this one right here...
Bill Belichik using a pencil for a toothpick pic.twitter.com/EZWX9WPBvc— Internet #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) October 4, 2021
I could probably do a Random Shots just on the Patriots' sidelines...
Steve Belichick never misses an opportunity for a great GIF pic.twitter.com/uzuCfXITDI— Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) October 4, 2021
Warren Moon here absolutely crushing the Shoulder Pads to Shorts ratio.
I'm a long-time fan of Chubbies Shorts. I smell a Footballguys Collaboration in the works...
Technically, couldn't we call almost every Jameis Winston pass a "Hail-Mary"?
My friend Sam Monson pointed this out and I completely agree.
The Browns kept losing track of Mike Williams 50 yards downfield.
How do you lose track of a 6'4" 220-pound guy wearing a powder blue jersey with yellow lightning bolts?
I'm with my buddy Paul Charchian.
Kirk Cousins is celebrating.
Mike Zimmer is trying not to get COVID.
R.J. White summarized my world with one tweet.
Pro tip: When trying to rank the NFL teams, start by noting the Titans beat the Bills and lost to the Jets, then give up and go find something better to do— R.J. White (@rjwhite1) October 19, 2021
Serious Question: Have we reached a point where quarterbacks are too good?
I don't know if it's the rules favoring the offense or the athletes are better or the gloves are stickier or what. But so far this year, 29 quarterbacks have completed 60% or more of their passes. Six quarterbacks have completed over 70% of their passes this year.
Joe Montana completed 63.2% of his passes during his career.
I'm not saying we need to change anything. The NFL product each Sunday is incredibly compelling. But I do think it's worth noting how the game has changed dramatically in the last few years. Show me the best quarterbacks in the league and I'll show you the best teams in the league.
On that note, Pete Carroll:
Jamal Adams in 5 seconds.
"PFF Rank: 62 of 85" pic.twitter.com/dnB129Da5a— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) October 18, 2021
Jack Coan: Footballguy.
Jack Coan’s impersonating is spot on ðŸ¤£ðŸ¤£ðŸ¤£pic.twitter.com/ET9OuMtLvg— Footballism™ (@FootbaIIism) October 23, 2021
Regular Random Shots Readers will like this one.
Zay Jones. Still a wizard.
This might be one of my favorite things in all of sports. Not sure what that says about me.
Phil Mickelson won Halloween.
This might be the best thing Odell Beckham Jr has done this season...
Beckham has a history with Thriller.
Operator, I need to report a murder in Columbia, South Carolina.
So much room for activities! pic.twitter.com/503NkyMvxg— Gamecock Football (@GamecockFB) November 9, 2021
Poor Florida Gators.
"Gate code is 4017"
(If you don't follow college football, South Carolina stomped Florida Saturday 40 to 17.)
If Belichick retires before I do, I'm not sure how I'll be able to do Random Shots each week.
Bill Belichick fit check ðŸ’§ pic.twitter.com/OJfp8xIcMY— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) November 7, 2021
"Josh Allen wants to see Jaguars build on upset of Bills" was not a headline I predicted last week.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video may be worth a million. This tells you all you need to know about Nashville vs Los Angeles. The Rams brought out Michael Buffer for the drawn-out look at me "Let's get ready to rumble" thing that hasn't been interesting in 20 years.
The Titans, on the other hand, were there to play football.
Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach is a National Treasure.
The Auburn Football Program may never recover from this.
Mike Leach lettin loosepic.twitter.com/5Se7pxfjGY— Kendall Baker (@kendallbaker) November 14, 2021
Breaking it down at the presser was even better.
How ‘bout those dance moves, coach? ðŸ˜‚ pic.twitter.com/JzSvsTI7PH— Mississippi State Football (@HailStateFB) November 15, 2021
And his follow-up on social media was the cherry on top.
I could just stop right here.
Oh, those Texas Longhorns. Losing to Kansas. Again. In Football. This time as 30 point favorites. They're going to love the SEC.
Tom Herman never lost a bowl game at Texas. It’s looking like Sark won’t lose one this year either.— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) November 14, 2021
The winning catch was made by the freshman fullback and perfect for Random Shots.
This Kansas Guy was the picture of fanhood through the game:
I’m witnessing a Kansas football fan experience joy for the first time. This was at 14-0. pic.twitter.com/6Ud6XmnbnN— Jason Dick (@jasondickaf) November 14, 2021
57-56. Good for him. He earned it. pic.twitter.com/fVYPq5HHK5— Jason Dick (@jasondickaf) November 14, 2021
And here's one post with them all.
Here ya go. pic.twitter.com/Nb3edHGSXF— Ryan Fares (@AirFares27) November 15, 2021
The Falcons Social Media won the internet Sunday when they went behind with a score of 28-3.
Yeah, yeah. We know.— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 14, 2021
Roughing the passer - 2021. pic.twitter.com/8PDXFOyqMG— Joe Bryant (@Football_Guys) November 13, 2021
Terry Bradshaw and Turkey Jones say hello.
(Week 18 Comment - Another "Things Move Fast".)
Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady gets it.
1-Ø.— Joe Brady (@CoachJoeBrady) November 15, 2021
Who knows if the Bills are any good anymore. But Josh Allen's still killing it. Welcoming back the Canadian fans last week:
It's not that often Oregon has the second-best uniforms on the field. But that was the case Saturday against Utah rocking their USS Salt Lake City tribute uniforms.
No. 23 Utah routs No. 3 Oregon, 38-7, in Salt Lake City ðŸ‘€ pic.twitter.com/wLA4ZGe34t— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) November 21, 2021
One Ship Fleet âš“ï¸ @Utah_Football USS Salt Lake City uniform symbolizes the strength & fighting spirit of the famous WWII Pacific Fleet ship. Every aspect of the uniform pays homage to the USS Salt Lake City, her crew and their accomplishments. pic.twitter.com/Ke2y9RqG9v— Under Armour FTBL (@UAFootball) November 16, 2021
Sometimes I watch the NFL and think, "If this were a movie, people would make fun of it for being too over the top." Aaron Rodgers with the latest example.
Rodgers going with the old school cat burglar look today. pic.twitter.com/uV2DRXTtVI— ð™ƒð™šð™¡ð™¢ð™šð™© ð˜¼ð™™ð™™ð™žð™˜ð™© (@HelmetAddict) November 21, 2021
Seeing Lamar Jackson walk into the stadium Sunday battling the flu, seems like there's an advertising opportunity for Ultra Soft Toilet Paper somewhere in there...
Hoping Jackson has a speedy recovery. In the meantime, the Ravens did what good teams do. Win even when they're missing key players.
This tweet may or may not have been based on personal experience...
Eric Bienemy is your dad not buying your story about where that dent on the fender came from. pic.twitter.com/63trHu1Wum— Joe Bryant (@Football_Guys) November 21, 2021
Oh, Kirk Cousins.
Running back Alexander Mattison could see it unfolding and did what he could to help.
Afterward, Cousins said, "Just got under the wrong guy."
I could probably wrap this one up right here.
But I won't.
Cris Collinsworth better watch out. Brees looked smooth on that slide.
C’mon Drew. Don’t make it look so easy. https://t.co/5S3jsqjlWB— Cris Collinsworth (@CollinsworthPFF) November 26, 2021
Side note - Comeback Of The Year is easily Drew Brees' hair.
Mike Glennon getting the start because of someone else's neck should be the most ironic thing I read today.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs' son won Thanksgiving.
Bill Belichick tried to tell us.
He broke out the Navy mask in the pre-game interview then proceeded to run the ball all night.
Thanks to Will Brinson for that one.
Bills coach Sean McDermott said this after the game.
As the kids say, "He mad".
Baylor won the Big 12 Championship Sunday upsetting Oklahoma State. Baylor's Jairon McVea made one of the best plays I've ever seen saving a touchdown that would have won the game for OSU.
In the midst of pandemonium, Baylor coach Dave Aranda was unfazed.
Again, Thinking about those two losses. pic.twitter.com/bbGW62vWR9— Chris Buttgenâœž (@ccbuttgen) December 4, 2021
He was asked if he cut loose with his players in the locker room.
Aranda responded, "I did not."
On the other end of the spectrum was Detroit's Dan Campbell.
This struck me too. Notice how embattled quarterback Jared Goff immediately ran to his coach to celebrate after the catch. That says something about their relationship.
After the game, Dan Campbell dedicated a game ball to the Oxford community.
Can someone tell Devonta Freeman the "Let's Eat" thing is usually reserved for a run that's more than zero yards?
devonta freeman's reaction after a 0-yard run to end the half ðŸ¤·â™‚ï¸ pic.twitter.com/O4bgFnFY6S— Benstonium (@Benstonium) December 5, 2021
For insight into why folks loved Demaryius Thomas so much, it's stuff like this. Wait for the kiss at the end.
He will be missed.
This is my absolute favorite clip I've ever shot of DT. THIS was Demaryius. Such a loss. Just painful. pic.twitter.com/h7W3Lr11Ce— Ryan Greene ðŸ“· (@RyanCBS4) December 10, 2021
Hats off to Denver and Detroit for this tribute to open the game.
The official gamebook — the collection of statistics that details every NFL game — will forever reflect that when the Broncos opened the game against the Lions, they did so with a missing man. pic.twitter.com/cKbODPDWk3— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) December 13, 2021
Ryan Clark was all of us when Rex Ryan said we should trust him on Aaron Rodgers because "I'm a toe expert".
Thanks to Footballguy Jordan McNamara for that one.
South Carolina's Shane Beamer is killing it.
This is the time of year when we start speculating on which teams may move on from their coaches. Joe Judge is an interesting case. I think I have a pretty good idea of how management should weigh out the pros and cons and make a reasonable decision.
Then I'm reminded management also thought this was a good idea and I realize all bets are off.
The Giants just announced fan appreciation day for Sunday. Season ticket holders get a free medium soda.— TheGiantsWire (@TheGiantsWire) December 17, 2021
I love how the talking heads are spouting off the stats about how the Colts win when Jonathan Taylor runs for 100 yards. As if all you need to do to win is run the ball.
I'm with my buddy Maurile Tremblay. If we're going to play that way with "predictive stats", teams should start taking QB kneel-downs way more often. Those teams always seem to win.
Christian Wilkins with the Big Man TD.
It got even better from there...
But this is not new...
We lost a legend on Tuesday with John Madden. I think one can make the case no other person has made a more positive impact on this game we love than John Madden.
Well done, Coach.
You will be missed.
Boom. Let's Go.
2021 needed this.
His teammates are into it too.
The Waddle is about to take over the celebrations game ðŸ™Œpic.twitter.com/XfdgVqtTSB— NFL on ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsNFL) December 28, 2021
I barely know these golfguys. But this is fantastic.
Year-end ð—£ð—²ð—¿ð—³ð—¼ð—¿ð—ºð—®ð—»ð—°ð—² ð—¥ð—²ð˜ƒð—¶ð—²ð˜„ð˜€ are in.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 27, 2021
There is significant room for growth. pic.twitter.com/Jci0gbmB1x
Once you see it...
I'm with Jimmy Traina, this may be the bravest reporter I've ever seen.
I warn you, never poke the bear ðŸ˜… pic.twitter.com/BNXxWN0PQ3— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 26, 2021
Tom Brady agreed.
Brady on the reporter who asked Belichick for his New Year's resolution after Sunday's loss to the Bills: "I want to be as brave and courageous as she was, asking that question to Coach Belichick after a loss. That's what I want for the New Year."— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) December 28, 2021
On that note of "taking your shot" like the reporter did with Belichick, I'll wrap this year again with one of my favorite stories. And one I tell here often.
Heading into the last day, a doubleheader, of the 1941 baseball season, 23-year-old Ted Williams' batting average was .39955. He could have sat out the meaningless last two games of the last day and his average would have rounded to the hallowed .400 mark.
From the sabr.org article: "In his autobiography, My Turn At Bat, Williams recalls Joe Cronin telling him, 'You don’t have to be put in if you don’t want to. You’re officially .400.' Ted reports his reaction: 'Well, God, that hit me like a ***damn lightning bolt! What do you mean I don’t have to play today?'"
But you probably know the story. Williams put his .400 mark at risk and played. Both games. And went 6 for 8 finishing the year at .406.
How that applies to you and me is simple. I feel pretty safe in saying we're not going to hit .400 in the majors. But we all get to walk to the plate every day and take some swings. Take yours.
That'll do it for Random Shots for the 2021 season.
Dang. This was a year. And I said that last year too.
But we're still here. And that's something worth celebrating.
Shauna Niequist is a writer I enjoy. She wrote this a few years ago but I think it applies to this year more than ever.
“My prayer is that what you’ve lost, and what I’ve lost this year, will fade a little bit in the beauty of the Christmas season, that for a few moments at least, what is right and good and worth believing will outshine all the darkness, within us and around us.”
That's my hope for you. That the pain of what you've battled this year may fade a bit as we seek out and focus on what's right and good and worth believing. That what's right and good will outshine the darkness. Happy New Year to you and yours from all of us at Footballguys. Rock on.
I want to thank all the folks who sent me funny things they saw this year. You guys rock and you make my job easier. And thanks to all of you for the kind words throughout the season - you encourage me. Sincerely.
This may be the last Random Shots of the year but Lord willing, I'm not going anywhere. You can always reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay in touch with us on Facebook by clicking "like". And you can keep up with me on Twitter or keep up with my non-football stuff here on Instagram.
I realize I've often strayed from sports and climbed on the soapbox maybe a bit more than I should. I intentionally left most of those off this collection as most of the rants were more a context thing. But not to be too dramatic about it, I felt like we sort of went through this season together. There were tough moments. And plenty of light moments. It wasn't all fun, but I think I can say it's been good to be together.
I'm completely down with Ram Dass who said: "In the end, we're all just walking each other home at night." Thanks for walking with me.
Peace and Grace to you.