NFL AM: New England Patriots, USC Trojans and the Lies that Bind Them


Del Rio Calls Pats Punishment ‘Overreaction’

Beware, NFL coaches: Clickbait-driven reporters will ask you about New England’s “Deflategate” punishment over the next couple weeks, no matter how irrelevant your opinion might be. That’s what happened to Raiders coach Jack Del Rio on Saturday before his induction into the USC Athletics Hall of Fame.

Del Rio, given he was at a USC event, compared the Patriots punishment to the USC athletics scandal that resulted in one of the harshest penalties ever given to a D-I school, including vacating the final two wins of the 2004 national championship season (as well as all of the wins from the 2005 season), enduring a bowl game ban in 2010 and 2011 and forfeiting 30 scholarships over three years.

“I think there are some similarities in terms of an overreaction, from my standpoint,” Del Rio said. “I think it was a little bit overdone, but that’s somebody else’s problem right now.”

Del Rio, an old-school coach if there ever was one, doesn’t have a problem with quarterbacks doctoring footballs to their liking. In today’s quarterback-driven league, he is all for passers doing whatever they can to be as effective as possible. He added he would have preferred to see the Patriots simply given a warning about maintaining air pressure in their footballs, rather than losing Tom Brady for four games, a pair of draft picks and $1 million.

It’s doubtful you will hear similar comments from Mike Tomlin, Rex Ryan, Gus Bradley or Jason Garrett, the four coaches who will lead their teams against the Patriots during Brady’s suspension.

“Everybody understands that quarterbacks all want to get the balls how they like them, and why not?” Del Rio said. “They throw these balls around, and one of the reasons the sport is so popular is the ability of guys like Peyton [Manning] and Brady to throw the ball the way they do.”

That Del Rio brings up Manning is interesting. Had Manning not suffered another playoff meltdown against the Colts, it would have been the Broncos — led by Manning on offense and Del Rio on defense — that faced New England’s famously flat balls. If Denver lost that game (and it would have), Del Rio would no doubt be singing a different tune today.

Seattle head coach Pete Caroll, the former Trojans coach whose Seahawks fell just short against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, was also inducted into the USC Hall of Fame over the weekend. And unlike Del Rio, he is fine with New England’s penalty.

“Nobody wants to play this game thinking that somebody has some kind of advantage, players and fans alike, and so they did the right thing in following up on it,” Carroll said.

Carroll’s comments are ironic, given that it was his dirty program at USC that resulted in the school’s aforementioned sanctions. But Carroll, who said Saturday the USC investigation “wasn’t done rightly,” is certainly not above twisting the truth to portray himself or his team in a more favorable point. This brings us to our next headline …

Carroll’s Lies to Cover Irvin

There have been some outlandish lies told by NFL officials over the last couple weeks. One of my favorites came from Patriots camp in an attempt to defend against the Deflategate allegations, when the team said equipment manager Jim McNally referred to himself as “the deflator” in text messages because he was trying to lose weight.

While that lie brings the most comedy, the most egregious lie was told by Carroll on Saturday when he was asked about comments made by DE Bruce Irvin, who said in no uncertain terms he is planning on joining the Falcons in 2016. Irvin is upset the Seahawks declined to pick up his fifth-year option, so he prefers to move to Atlanta, where he would be back in his hometown and reunited with his former defensive coordinator (and current Falcons head coach) Dan Quinn.

“I’m going to be in Atlanta next season. I’m ready,” Irvin said last week in an interview with Black Sports Online. “Atlanta is where I want to be. Believe that.”

It seems pretty cut and dry, but Carroll is still insisting on trying to put out the fire while it is still smoking.

“[Irvin] didn’t say that,” Carroll said on Saturday. “We’ve been talking all along, he’s been working out in Atlanta for three weeks, and he said in response to the question ‘Do you want to come back home?’ He said: ‘Everybody likes to come back home, it’s a dream to come back home.’ It wasn’t in reference to leaving us and coming back, so he was really adamant about it, and I asked him so let’s leave it and not go at it anymore.”

Carroll’s comments would be more believable if Irvin wasn’t so openly upset with the Seahawks. Irvin sent out a series of angry tweets after the team declined to pick up his option, which he has since deleted. He also retweeted his interview with Black Sports Online, so it’s not as though he is trying to hide from the message he put out there.

Irvin has made some big plays during his three years with the Seahawks, including 16.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions. He would provide a serious spark to an Atlanta defense that finished No. 30 in sacks in 2014.

A New Version of Sims

Former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims is making a positive impression on Redskins coaches as he transitions to running back. He is trying to become the next Denard Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback who racked up more than 700 yards from scrimmage last season as a rotational running back for the Jaguars.

Sims has a different style than Robinson — he is a little bigger (5-foot-11, 218 pounds) and not as fast — but he did a superb job of eluding tacklers when he was rolling with the Tide. Apparently, Sims is still rolling in the nation’s capitol.

Head coach Jay Gruden said over the weekend it looks like Sims “has been playing running back for a long time,” according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post.

Washinton already has some talented runners on its roster, including two-time Pro Bowler Alfred Morris and rookie third-round pick Matt Jones (Florida). Nonetheless, if Sims continues to demonstrate his natural playmaking ability, he has a chance to stick around as the team’s No. 3 back.

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About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.