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17 Thoughts At The End Of The 2017 NFL Season

February 5, 2018
I'm going to give this a shot. Stick with me. We'll see how it goes. I thought about doing "52 thoughts after Super Bowl LII" but that's insane. So let's stick with "17 thoughts at the end of the 2017 season." Here we go:

1. The team that was hell-bent on upgrading the receiver position ended up winning a Super Bowl title. That's something we can get behind here.

Not only did the Eagles add former Raven Torrey Smith, they were the team that took a chance on the absolute best receiver available in free agency (Alshon Jeffery) despite injury concerns. Issues at the position plagued them for years. Instead of waiting and going dumpster diving or pinning themselves into having to take one in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Eagles addressed it the best possible way they could. Hopefully some personnel folks just south of them noticed. 

2. Speaking of Smith, he's one of the best people on the face of the planet and if you weren't rooting for him you're insane.

He also happens to have once caught 11 touchdowns in a single season (2014) for the Ravens, the second-most in franchise history. After that season, the Ravens let him walk despite his contract in San Francisco being rather reasonable ($22 million guaranteed). Since then, the most touchdowns a Ravens pass catcher has had in a single season is five (Steve Smith Sr. in 2016, Kamar Aiken in 2015). But no, he definitely wasn't worth the money. 

3. There were about a thousand other Baltimore/Maryland connections on the Eagles' roster, so good for them, too.

Former Ravens Corey Graham, Timmy Jernigan, Dannell Ellerbe and Steven Means get rings. So do Baltimore County native Jim Schwartz (defensive coordinator) and former Terps quarterback Frank Reich (offensive coordinator). Key Eagles personnel folks Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl and Ian Cunningham are former Ravens scouts. They are clearly missed.

4. I'd love to tell you that I think this is the beginning of the end for the Patriots, but I'm trying something new in 2018 where I don't want to lie.

Quarterback Tom Brady threw for more than 500 yards despite losing his top wide receiver in the first half. The Patriots have shown a willingness to do whatever is necessary to best surround him every year with talent. Until proven otherwise, the road to representing the AFC in Super Bowl LIII goes through Foxborough, Mass.

5. It's terrible for the NFL if Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski retires. It might be best for the NFL if Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski retires.

He's a larger-than-life personality who (outside of his inexcusable cheap shot on Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White this season) has been incredibly likable. So as much as it would hurt the league to lose him, it might be worse if concussions and health issues continue to plague him. He's right to seriously consider his football future.  

6. Both of the controversial "catches" in the Super Bowl were catches. The NFL needs to make sure it stays that way moving forward.

If you watched the game with folks who weren't big-time football fans, I can only imagine how confused they may have been about why anyone was asking if either play (Eagles running back Corey Clement and tight end Zach Ertz's touchdown catches) might not be a catch. Of course they're catches. The league has to make sure it stays that way somehow. 

7. Justin Timberlake is amazing. Justin Timberlake's halftime show was decent.

Traversing the stadium and showing off his dance moves is cool and all, but it would have been nice if one of the best singers on the face of the planet had actually, you know, sang a little more. Still, his tunes are bangers, and the whole thing was fun. 

8. There's a popular refrain that if the Ravens were to fire head coach John Harbaugh, "he'd have a new coaching job tomorrow." But maybe he'd prefer a TV gig instead.

Unsurprisingly, Harbaugh has been solid in both of his turns as a Super Bowl analyst for NBC. He doesn't have the cache of a Jon Gruden, but if for some reason his tenure in Baltimore comes to a close sometime in the next few years, this could be his career path. 

9. The Eli Manning/Odell Beckham Jr. commercial was probably the best, but Tide had the best night of any brand.

Considering all of the publicity Tide has recently received regarding kids inexplicably eating its detergent, it did a great job of changing the narrative. It was a gazillion dollars well spent. Also, this column is a Tide ad.

10. Before we move on, the Super Bowl was great and the "football is dying" narrative is a silly one.

Ratings are down for everything. People don't watch TV as much as they used to. Of the people who do watch TV, they continue to watch football far more than anything else. The Super Bowl was entertaining and a tremendous advertisement to casual fans. It was a very good night in general for the NFL. 

11. This year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class was impossibly logical. I'm still worried we're going to wake up tomorrow and find out it isn't real.

Everyone knew former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was a slam dunk to reach Canton, Ohio. But the other three candidates who should have been slam-dunk inductees because of their play on the field (linebacker Brian Urlacher and receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens) were question marks because the committee has inexplicably screwed this up too often in recent years. It's nice that it got this year's class right.

12. If you're disappointed someone didn't make it this year, there should be two spots open next year after a few more slam-dunk candidates.

Next year's class is headlined by former Ravens safety Ed Reed, legendary Chiefs/Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez and former Broncos/Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey. All should be easy choices. Former Redskins tackle Joe Jacoby and Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls come off the ballot, but there are plenty of worthy candidates for the other spots. 

13. Remember how we all thought the Ravens wanted to bury their news by holding owner Steve Bisciotti's news conference on a Friday afternoon? They succeeded. The only question is … why did they want that?

Bisciotti certainly delivered big news regarding the succession plan for assistant general manager Eric DeCosta to replace general manager Ozzie Newsome, but that's not necessarily bad news. Bisciotti doused cold water on those thinking the Ravens were preparing to move on from quarterback Joe Flacco. (This weird report in particular has not aged well. Maybe considering the totally random source -- a Denver talk show host -- we shouldn't have paid it so much attention?) He said the team would be offensive focused. He said it would consider trying to lower some concession prices and wouldn't be raising ticket prices. He said absolutely nothing controversial about kneeling/protests. So why did any of this need to be buried on a Friday afternoon of Super Bowl weekend? Very weird. 

14. The DeCosta/Newsome plan sounds great in theory. If the Ravens struggle again this season, I still think it could be awkward.

If the Ravens miss the playoffs for a fifth time in six years, it's really hard to argue that their head coach should stick around. It's even harder to argue that their assistant general manager definitely deserves to be promoted. Plus, the team has already had to clarify confusing comments from Newsome about his future role. Remember how James Franklin was going to replace Ralph Friedgen as Maryland's head football coach? 

15. Is it possible Bisciotti is playing poker by denying the Ravens' interest in a quarterback? It's possible, but it would be dumb.

If the Ravens really do want to use an early-round pick on a quarterback, a simple non-answer would have sufficed. He could have said, "Look, we always look at ways to improve our football team" or something like that. That's what they say about everything. Making such a strong denial could create quite the brutal sound bite to be replayed in the future if the Ravens really just don't want other teams to believe they're taking a quarterback. I tend to think Bisciotti was being completely honest there. (Which is good, because using an early-round pick on a quarterback would be stupid.)

16. Moving forward, pitchers and catchers report in less than 10 days.

And in the case of the Orioles, "pitchers" does refer to both of them, which reminds me ...

17. I miss you already, football.

Football's offseason is now underway. It marks the first time in history that it begins before baseball's. 

Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/PressBox