The Broncos, their quarterbacks and COVID-19
Wear a mask, guys
So Sunday’s Broncos’ game was interesting. Anyone want to play quarterback?
Kendall Hinton will not be added to the organizational depth chart after that. From now on, one quarterback has to be offstage in one of those old game-show isolation chambers.
Did the NFL hose the Broncos? Yes. Was it part of some grand conspiracy by the NFL to mess with the Broncos? No, Denver fans, the NFL does not care that much. Is the NFL giving the Ravens-Steelers game a lot more leeway with regard to COVID? Yep, but it’s not for the notorious reasons you think.
We break it down.
The Broncos quarterbacks were colossally stupid. Despite people’s opinions to the contrary, the NFL is an apolitical organization. The NFL is about minting money, and, since COVID-19 has the potential to interfere with money making, the NFL demands that everyone wear masks and take social distancing carefully.
The Broncos quarterbacks didn’t. Jeff Driskel, who ironically got COVID last week, was wearing a mask, but Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles weren’t when they met on Tuesday. First off, let’s keep in mind that all the Broncos have behind Lock is Mark Rypien’s nephew and Blake Bortles. (Yes, I was surprised, too, that Bortles still exists.)
Wear a mask, dummies. Lock, Rypien and Bortles didn’t around Driskell, who was positive. They were all ruled ineligible through contact tracing. That’s pretty simple.
The NFL is in charge of regulating and trying to put on a good entertainment product, not of people’s stupidity. The Broncos didn’t take COVID seriously and paid a price, mercifully in the form of a loss and nothing more serious.
Do the Broncos beat the Saints with eligible quarterbacks? Probably not. Would it have been a better game? Yes. The biggest question that few are asking? How much is this escapade going to cost Lock?
This was the year when Lock was going to show he was The Guy. After Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Brandon Allen — that’s becoming quite a list — Lock was going to be the one to lead the Broncos out of the post-Peyton Manning wasteland.
Not only is Lock 4-7, but this decision doesn’t reflect well on him. The Guy does not do stupid things that endanger his status for Sunday. Just within the division, the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes and the Chargers Justin Herbert when it comes to young quarterbacks and the Broncos are still missing their savior.
Throw in that it seems everyone else in the league seems to be finding a young QB stud — the Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa and the Bills and Josh Allen and the Cardinals and Kyler Murray — and the clock is starting to tick on Lock.
So as the Broncos went down to ignominious defeat to the Saints, 31-3, on Sunday, Denver fans were watching the NFL move the Ravens-Steelers game from its original Thanksgiving night spot to Sunday to Tuesday to, at last check, Wednesday afternoon.
A fair question would be if the Broncos had to play Sunday, despite COVID issues, why do the Ravens and Steelers get rescheduled constantly?
The answer has nothing to do with conspiracy or the NFL “liking” franchises better. It’s all about the Benjamins. Ravens at Steelers on NBC on Thanksgiving night was meant to be a big payday for the NFL and NBC.
Before seemingly half of the Ravens got COVID-19, this was shaping up to be a huge game — one of the league’s biggest rivalries with big stars like Lamar Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger, Juju Smith-Schuster and so on with a huge audience overstuffed with turkey, stuffing and pie.
The NFL is not playing “how many times can we reschedule this game” because it cares about the Ravens and the Steelers, the integrity of the AFC North or AFC playoff races. The NFL’s biggest concern here is making NBC whole after the Thanksgiving night game was postponed.
Concern No. 2 is making it through five more weeks of regular-season play and a 14-team playoff tournament. Again, the NFL has no other agenda than playing this season, collecting the accompanying television revenues and, by playing this season, setting up the next round of negotiations with the networks and streaming services.
ESPN’s contract ($1.9 billion per year) for “Monday Night Football,” expires after the 2021 season, while CBS ($1billion per year), NBC ($950 million) and Fox ($1.1 billion) come due in 2022.
We’re talking roughly $5 billion — some real money — per annum from television, and the NFL is doubtless thinking an increase for the next contract. As far as the NFL is concerned, This. Season. Is. Being. Played. Regardless. Leprosy may become a COVID-19 symptom and players may have limbs falling off during Super Bowl LV, but the league is finishing this season.
So that may mean Ravens at Steelers on a Wednesday afternoon and then the Steelers vs. the Washington Football Team (really, Daniel Snyder?) next Monday at 3 p.m. on Fox before regular “Monday Night Football” — Buffalo Bills at the Arizona 49ers — and Cowboys at Ravens a week from Tuesday at 6 p.m. on Fox.
Get used to it. And, Drew, don’t forget your facemask in the future.
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