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FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2021, file photo, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) runs with the ball during the team's NFL divisional playoff football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Green Bay, Wis. Rodgers earned his third Associated Press Most Valuable Player award, Saturday, Feb. 6, at the NFL Honors. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)

PFF top 101

In a sports culture that has never been more divisive, I offer that there is one uniform view that can bring us all together.

No one does player analysis in the NFL than Pro Football Focus.
Nope. Doesn't happen.

Their information is based on film study and analyzing every player for every player at every position. It's the type of unabashed intel with the next-gen detailed level of stats that make them unassailable when  grading players.

In truth, the best early-game lineup addition since the players told the camera what schools they went to is the Sunday Night Football graphic that shows the PFF rank of each player among the number of qualified players at their position.

This is not a PTSD, Rainman-esque rant about the yearnings for NFL tor return. ("Hot water burn Brady." "Who's on first down?" Twelve minutes to Washington. Twelve minutes to Washington. "Cover-2 sucks. Cover-2 sucks.)    

(Side note: Speaking of the Cover 2, the longstanding defensive zone made popular by Tony Dungy's genius in which the 2 is the notification for the two safeties deep that split the field as three LBs and two CBs drop in zone with a speedy middle linebacker (perfect for former Tampa Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks' skill set) playing centerfield has been one of the driving factors that has shaped the modern game defensively. Offensively, it also has helped craft the need and the value of that oversized polar bear who can run at TE like the Gronks, Kelces and Kittles of the modern football landscape.)

Where were we? Oh yes, the brilliant folks at PFF. Monday we lamented the constant conversation about the quarterback carousel, and that will not change. Click on your favorite sports TV channel, and here's betting before the next commercial, Dak, Carson, Deshaun and even Russell and next team will be covered or who will be Bill Belichcik's target to lead the Pats back to the postseason.

But Monday afternoon, the PFF 101, the annual rankings of the best of the best across all of the NFL regardless of position, hit the interwebs, and it's insightful and informative, as we would expect. It's here.

Five takeaways in quick work of 10 words or less — yes, the patent-pending 5-in-10 by the 5-at-10 — are as follows:

> Aaron Donald is 1: Dude's the best defender since LT;

> Rodgers renaissance: MVP went from 83rd to second last season;

> Brady than ever: Super Bowl MVP was fourth overall;

> MaHoly Cow: Mahomes was fourth among QBs, seventh overall;

> Rookie steal: Vikings first-year WR Jefferson lands at 15;

Heck, let's make a 10-in-10 while the legal department makes sure we're not infringing on anyone's copyrights:

> Vikings verified: Jefferson ranked ahead of dealt Diggs by one;

> Best O: Three Titans — Henry, Tannehill, Brown — in top 22;

> Breakthroughs: Nine of top 25 (18-of-40, 35 of 64) unranked last season; 39 of top 70, three rookies — Jefferson, Chase Young and Tristan Wirfs

> Grades: Five rookies — Jefferson, Young, Onwenu, Herbert, Wirfs — made list;

> Diminished value? Only four RBs — Henry, Cook, Kamara, Montgomery — make cut.

Thoughts?

 

Ever Green comments
       
The NBA is filled with some of the best athletes in any sport everywhere.

Seven-footers who run like gazelles and have 30-foot-shooting range. Guys like LeBron James who at 6-foot-8, 270-pounds can run an alleged 4.5 40 and would be a wrecking ball in helmets and shoulder pads.

But, whether it's the day-in, day-out grind of NBA hoops being always around or just the fire hydrant-like flow of sports opinions and observations from athletes on myriad topics, we can frequently overlook insightful conversations, especially when we may not agree with them.

That brings me to Draymond Green's postgame rant last night about how players who demand trades get blistered and teams that sit healthy players — like the Cavs — get the benefit of the doubt, according to Green. More here.

As a starter, Green's points are based in logic and I will try to never bash a truly interesting player who is unafraid to step over the cliché crosswalk and into Reasoned Responseville and Interesting Answerland. I appreciate that Draymond, and likely more than you most considering what I've spent most of life doing for a living.

But Green's point of view turns, as Yogi might offer, a blind ear and a deaf eye to the common knowledge that the employees at every workplace are at the whims of the employers, and employees dare speak out at their own risk. Believe me, I know.

Plus, Green's thesis about players being scrutinized when organizations get a pass does happen. But so does the other direction, and there's far from a universal aspect to either side.

Ask the Cowboys about their dealings with Dak or the Atlanta Hawks with their dealing with local media for decades, if the organizations have skirted criticism.

Plus, Green's pegged example — the Cavs sitting Adnre Drummond as they look to deal him and comparing that to how James Harden clearly tanked to get out of Houston — is not apples to apples. Because the Drummond thing is a business decision to protect the player and the teams, and is more comparable to NBA players missing a game with a 'leg contusion' or a 'coach's decision' to rest, especially on the wink-wink, nod-nod, back-end of a back-to-back. As for Harden tanking to get dealt, teams have been tanking for years. And been criticized routinely for it.)

That said, thanks for the honesty and brave answer Draymond. Honest because it was clear you believe it. Brave because he almost assuredly will get fined tens of thousands for saying it. I may not agree, but I am truly grateful to hear it and that it made me think about a different perspective.   

 

Math's racist?

Sorry I missed this Monday, but meant to include it.

So apparently the state of Oregon is looking for ways to end racism in - - - - yes, it's a noble thought and proper process, but let me finish.

Because while we all agree that we should all fight against racism — especially in school and among all children, because I believe that with each passing generation, racism decreases in meaningful and magnified ways. My kids are more tolerant of and more open to these issues than I was, and that's because of education and awareness of our society.

But this program is designed to end racism in math. What? Numbers are numbers, right? Heck I remember the much-discussed hullabaloo about the SAT and the debate whether the English side of the test were racially biased.

But even Furious Styles — Lawrence Fishburne's character in "Boyz in the Hood" — says that math is universal.

This stretched and far-fetched idea is worse than comical. It's divisive and offers potential excuses and controversy.

The program includes a toolkit for middle school teachers that alleges 'white supremacy culture' can 'infiltrate math classrooms.' And that culture is tilted toward white supremacy because the "focus is on the right answer" and because students are "required to 'show their work.'"

Again, what?

I wish I had words for this, and I'm certain my opinion hardly counts since I'm a white guy./

But I will leave this with a big picture puzzlement that features two declarations.

First, there is nothing more blissfully unaware of race, religion, sexual preference than math. Even more so than the meritocracy we want sports to be considering the hidden stereotypes punctuated with phrases like "athletic QB" or "gym rat" or "possession receiver." (Side note: That last one, "possession receiver" was always so hollow, because Larry Fitzgerald almost never got called a possession receiver even though he has more career tackles than drops. Seriously. Conversely, white receiver Scotty Miller, who is a track star who challenged Tyreek Hill to a race, gets that tag more than Fitzgerald, who is Black.)  

And that complete indifference to those working the math is a true two-way street, because whether it's "Hidden Figures" or the analysis of the calculations and configurations done on the Olgiati Bridge, not only do the numbers and equations not give two rips about the boxes the mathematician checks in daily life, but the astronauts and/or those of us who need those solutions for safety only care about right, not black and white.

Also big picture, stuff like this is so damaging for the actual fights for equality, because the question exists that if everything is racist, in some ways then is anything racist?

 

This and that

— As if the last 11-plus months have not been enough, my prayers to those impacted by this crazy weather system that has left snow everywhere and tornados plowing through the Eastern seaboard. Stay safe friends. God bless.

— Also, thanks be to the Creator that the little girl who was in the crazy involving Andy Reid's son is out of her coma. Yes, the authorities need to get to the bottom of the entire deal, but at least that little girl appears to have turned the corner.

— UT hoops game with South Carolina moved to Wednesday because of COVID.

— Duke star freshman Jalen Johnson 'opted out' Monday. Social media became an avalanche that he 'quit' on his team. I understand that frustration, but in terms of perspective, is quit a fair word? And this is less about the pandemic as it is about the pros, and to that end, how is this that much different than college football players making a business decision to leave the college game early to get ready for the draft process? And, like most things, the meaning is in the margin of the middle, because I think there is a place that he did quit on his teammates AND, considering the money at stake and the lingering issues of a nagging foot injury, he made a smart business decision. Thoughts?

— Nice win over ETSU for Lamont Paris and his Mocs. Here's more from Gene of Many Hats Henley, the TFP UTC beat ace.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on UT hiring Tim Banks as its DC. Banks seems like a nice addition, considering the credentials — way better than Charlton Banks or Uncle Phil Banks, anyway — but at this point, it's impossible to know. And while we're here, here's a very well-crafted perspective on the hire form TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer. Talk about aces.

 

Today's question

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus, and yes, Ernie there is a true or false Tuesday.

True or false, UT fans especially, the Vols could hire in-his-prime Buddy Ryan as the DC and it's tough for Johnny Vols Fans to generate high hopes these days.

True or false, a player leaving his college program to prepare for the draft is 'quitting' on his team.

True or false, Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL and is still under appreciated.

True or false, Baker Mayfield, who was ranked 45th, is better than Matt Ryan, who was 66th, one spot behind Kirk Cousins.

Answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.As for today, Feb. 16, Pope Gregory the Great decrees that "God bless you" is the correct response to a sneeze.

Cool, and if "God bless you" is far left, what else is the Rushmore of best retorts to someone's sneeze? Go.

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