5-at-10: Falcons best QB plan, NFL+ continues domination, magical greatness of prep tour

Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks Desmond Ridder (4) and Marcus Mariota (1) work during their NFL minicamp football practice Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks Desmond Ridder (4) and Marcus Mariota (1) work during their NFL minicamp football practice Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Falcons open camp

So the Falcons report to camp today. Yay. The NFL rocks.

The most lasting piece of good news for said Falcons during an offseason overhaul has been the return of the throwback red helmets. (Side question: IF I started with the Falcons and added the Chargers, that's the Batman and Robin of throwback NFL unis right? Sure, you could add the Pats old John-Hannah-era duds and maybe the old Seahawks and even the old Jets, the Chargers and Falcons are 1 and 1A.)

Anywell, the Falcons face the first and most pertinent question every NFL team must ask: Do we have our QB1?

If the answer is yes, you know it and the rest of the league knows. And if/when the answer is yes, the questions move to contract and cap impact.

But the first question is always the most important.

If the answer is no, well, you know it and the league knows it too.

And if a team's answer is there's a competition, then the answer is still no, it's just that everyone outside of the building is aware of it, and you are still trying to figure it out.

It is with that knowledge that I pray the Falcons make the complete organization decision to give the ball to Desmond Ridder, the rookie from Cincinnati.

Is it a certain extra four losses for a rookie in that kind of transitional jump? Almost assuredly. But if you are the cap-strapped, rebuilding Falcons, what's the difference between 6-11 and 2-15? (And the correct answer about the difference is for the Falcons, the latter is better.)

But this has to be an organizational decision of experimentation.

It has to be organizational because coaching staffs are judged on victories, and by any measure, Marcus Mariota's experience would be worth a few Ws alone. But let's reread the 6-11 to 2-15 corollary.

So Arthur Smith has to know that rolling with Ridder comes with realistically lower expectations. Can the Falcons do that?

Who knows?

But the potential payoff of that experiment is worth it.

Look at the other post-first-round QB picks over recent years who were given the reins early, and two of the most comparable to Ridder - guys who were doubted in the draft process after having lengthy careers starting in college and achieving eye-popping success at least-heralded programs - are Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson.

Each of whom hastened - and some could say almost single-handedly - reworked his franchise's rebuilding process.

Because if you play Ridder and he stinks, then you know. And when that 2-15 becomes the No. 1 overall pick with a rich QB class on the horizon, there are no second-guesses and misconceptions.

If you play Mariota, well, we already know what Mariota is, and it's not the answer to the most important question for every NFL team.

Bigger NFL story

Of course the Falcons are not the biggest NFL story as camps open all across the league. The Falcons are gonna stink, and for those of us who can rightly remember everyone from the Grits Blitz to Kyle Pitts, stinking is nothing new.

Still, that's who we have always followed. So it goes.

No, beyond rosters and rankings, first contact and second contracts, the biggest story in the NFL in my mind is this one. It's from The Athletic, so it's a pay site, but it details the NFL's new NFL+ streaming service.

And yes, it means the NFL is looking to have its cake and eat it too. Because all of the traditional networks line up to give the NFL billions for live games one or twice a week.

And yes, the streaming services and social media platforms are lining up to give the NFL billions more for online rights, including the exclusive deal with Amazon for exclusive access to the Thursday night games.

Which the NFL is happy to cash those checks, but it's also opening its own stream platform with NFL+, which according to The Athletic story is available for $4.99 a month or $39.99 annually and offers viewers a streaming buffet of NFL goodness that includes, "live out-of-market preseason games, live local and prime-time regular season and postseason games, live local and national audio for every game, NFL Network shows on demand, and NFL Films archives. The live-in-market games had previously been free through cellular carriers."

Now, the live regular-season and postseason games can't be streamed through TVs, only phones and tablets, as to not infringe on the traditional broadcast deals.

And of course there is more, from The Athletic: "There is also NFL+ Premium for $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year, which offers ad-free full game replays, condensed game replays, and the all-22 coaches film, which previously had been on NFL Game Pass and is touted as allowing fans to study game tape the way coaches do."

You also have to wonder how long the NFL waits to control its news narrative with platforms and avenues like this, you know? Or how much 'inside' informative could they peddle - and require folks to buy - in terms of gambling details, injuries, etc.?

And it only continues to strengthen the Shield's hold on sports and pop culture in America.

And that's whether the Falcons stink or not.

TFP staples

We try to follow a set of TFP rules. No, not those big picture rules; we try to push that envelope whenever possible.

But there are some blessings the sports folks downtown offer on a regular basis.

Paschall on college football, like this preview on Auburn. Weeds on college hoops. And TFP sports editor Stephen Hargis on preps, especially high school football.

And of all of those, there is nothing that signifies a start to anything like the annual prep football tour. Hargis takes in as many stops as possible - he did 19 this year - on the first day in pads in Tennessee.

It's truly a throwback, and the old-school kind of connection great local papers had with their communities and the folks within those communities.

Because, as we divide and push away and argue and fight about all too many things with a rarely seen before veracity, the common ground of high school football feels intertwined.

Sure, Red Bank may hate Soddy-Daisy, and vice versa, and Baylor and McCallie are going to bemoan how much more ink Baylor or McCallie get - while the public schools bemoan how much more the private schools get - the nature of these disagreements and diatribes is genuine.

And almost always good-natured.

Because at its core, everyone involved loves high school football.

This and that

- Rest easy Paul Sorvino, who died Monday. He was 83. Needless to say since he was a central figure in "Goodfellas" and the early run of "Law&Order" he was a personal favorite. And considering James Caan (Sonny Corleone), Ray Liotta (Henry Hill) and Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts from "The Sopranos") have kicked lately, either someone is settling all movie family business or Joe Pesci better sleep with an eye open.

- So ESPN's recruiting rankings for the class of 2023 dropped Arch Manning from the top spot to No. 2. The new No. 1 is Malachi Smith, a California QB who has committed to Southern California. Which begs the question: When did the name Malachi become common again, because if you are around my age, the name Malachi is forever connected to the red-headed character who led the "Children of the Corn" and always will be?

- Speaking of recruiting, Justin Edwards, the No. 2 recruit in this class, picked Kentucky on Monday.

- Speaking of QBs, why are people having a fit about the "Four hours of independent study" clause in Kyler Murray's new monster $230-plus million contract extension? In truth, if I'm in the Cardinals front office - and we go back to the question above - if we are going to have to contractually require someone to do anything extra to be ready for Sunday, then my vote - no matter how good his stats may look - is that the answer is 'no' to that all-important question. Because do you really want to give 1/5 of your cap space to the 1 guy out of 53 who a) needs to be the most prepared and b) appears to be the laziest?

- So Chuck Barkley will go work for the LIV - and potentially sacrifice his TNT gig - for triple his annual salary of an estimated $20 million per year. Thoughts?

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. Hope the family's well Ern.

True or false, being mediocre in the NFL is the worst.

True or false, you'd give a QB $160 million guaranteed if you had to contractually obligate him to put in the work required to be mentally prepared.

True or false, you'd work for LIV for triple your salary. True or false, you'd work for the LIV for triple Chuck's salary.

True or false, with all those actors mentioned above being called to the next life, the good Lord is looking to remake "The Many Saints of Newark," and do it right this time.

You know the drill. Answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.

As for today, July 26, let's review.

Mick Jagger is 79 today. Sandra Bullock is 58. If I said "Speed" was her best movie - not a fan of "The Blind Side" movie to be honest - am I wrong?

Also, the ChocoTaco is no more. I'm OK with that. If they come for the Chipwich I'm gonna fight someone.

Rushmore of store-bought pre-packaged ice cream treats. Go.

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