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Unpacking Urban Meyer’s awkward NFL start, plus will the NHL getting rid of Tim Peel change anything?

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Happy Thursday! And it’s not just any Thursday, either … it’s NBA trade deadline day. There could be plenty of wheeling and dealing, so make sure you’ve got yourself caffeinated enough to pump out those takes as the deals roll in today. 

Of course, if you happen to miss anything, we’ll have you covered with recaps and analysis later today/tomorrow. However, I will not be the person bringing you those updates because, as of this morning, I am officially on vacation. I’ll be taking some time off, but Shanna McCarriston will be filling in and you can always trust her to not miss a beat. 

In the meantime, I’m ready to spend the morning with you before I jet, and we’ve got some good stuff to go over. We’ll talk about the awkwardness of Urban Meyer’s transition to the NFL so far, plus a big update on the NHL officiating controversy I mentioned at the top of yesterday’s newsletter and more. 

Ready to go? Good. Let’s party.


📰 What you need to know

1. Urban Meyer is off to an awkward start as coach of the Jags 🏈

There was plenty of excitement surrounding the Jaguars when they landed Urban Meyer to lead them out of the pit of despair earlier this offseason, but Meyer’s first stint as an NFL head coach hasn’t come without its bumps in the early going. Transitioning from the college ranks to the NFL comes with some challenges, and it seems that Meyer hasn’t particularly enjoyed his first go-round with the NFL free agency process.

Last week, Meyer said that the NFL’s legal tampering period ahead of free agency was “awful.” It sounded like his complaint(s) mainly stemmed from an inability to “wine and dine” players before making formal offers. Instead, he essentially said it was just a race to hand out cash.

Well, our Jason La Canfora pushed back against Meyer’s complaints in a column this week, questioning whether Meyer has the stomach for a free market free agency:

  • JLC: “You gotta pay if you wanna play up here. Especially if you are a small-market team without any recent history of sustained success. And it’s great that you totally crushed it in college, recruiting and all, but as you see this is different ballpark and these players are old enough to have watched Chip Kelly and others crash and burn to know this gamble on you is far from a guarantee to produce real results.”   

I suppose it’s not entirely shocking that Meyer would experience some growing pains with free agency considering he’s used to holding all the cards and being able to make extended pitches to players. But in the NFL, players have a lot more power than Meyer is used to, and they have the right to seek a big payday and decide where they want to play without owing anyone an explanation.

The most ironic part of all this, though? The Jags had more money to spend in free agency than any other team in the league, and they successfully managed to land a bunch of guys. Oh, and Meyer is making $12 million annually as a first-time NFL head coach. 

He probably shouldn’t be whining about anyone chasing the bag.

2. The NHL removing referee Tim Peel should have long-term implications 🏒

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As I mentioned in the intro to yesterday’s newsletter, the NHL had an embarrassing incident on Tuesday night in which referee Tim Peel was caught on a hot mic basically admitting to calling a bogus penalty simply because he “wanted to get” a penalty against the Nashville Predators

Despite it being a terrible look for the NHL, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot to come from it. The league tends to protect its officials whenever possible, but apparently they couldn’t justify keeping Peel around after what happened on Tuesday. The league swiftly came down on Peel yesterday morning:

  • The NHL announced Peel would “no longer be working NHL games now or in the future”
  • Peel wasn’t expressly “fired” and was already planning to retire at season’s end next month
  • The 53-year-old has been an NHL on-ice official since 1999 and has been recognized as one of the league’s more maligned officials over the years
  • Colin Campbell,  NHL SVP of Hockey Operations: “Nothing is more important than ensuring the integrity of our game. Tim Peel’s conduct is in direct contradiction to the adherence to that cornerstone principle that we demand of our officials and that our fans, players, coaches and all those associated with our game expect and deserve.”

The league’s response to the incident seems fair, but my question is this: Will this change anything on a wider level? “Game management” calls and make-up calls have become a recognized (and often expected) part of the game, but why do we just accept this as common practice? 

I mentioned it yesterday, but I feel like there can certainly be more accountability and transparency when it comes to NHL officiating. It’s easy enough to look past behavior like Peel’s and say it’s just part of the way the game is policed, but the NHL does have an opportunity to use this latest incident as a catalyst for meaningful change. I wrote a column yesterday explaining just how that might work, and I think it starts with the league consistently acknowledging when its officials get things right or wrong.

3. MLB players who could be traded this year ⚾

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We are now officially one week away from Opening Day, which is almost as exciting as it is hard to believe. I feel like there might still be some snow melting in my backyard.

In any case, it’s a great time to look ahead to baseball season. But while all these other places are buzzing about Opening Day lineups and pitching matchups and things of that nature, we like to stay steps ahead of the competition. With that in mind, what do you say we look all the way ahead to the midseason trade market? 

There are some big names that may find themselves attached to in-season blockbuster trades this year, so let’s look at a few:

  • Trevor Story, Rockies: Colorado has already triggered the rebuild by dealing away Nolan Arenado, and it makes sense that Story will soon be shipped out of town as well. He’s on the final year of his contract and holds a lot of value as one of the game’s best all-around players. Even as a rental, the Rockies should get a nice package in return for the shortstop
  • Kris Bryant, Cubs: It’s pretty surprising that Bryant is still in Chicago to begin this season, as he’s been the subject of trade rumors for a while and the Cubs continue to cut payroll. He’ll become a free agent after this season and an extension isn’t promising. If Chicago isn’t committing to winning this year, then they should probably deal him
  • Josh Hader, Brewers: Hader is getting expensive and his salary could top $10 million as soon as 2022. Paying that kind of money for a reliever probably isn’t going to fly for a smaller market team like the Brewers, and Milwaukee has a ready-made closer replacement in Devin Williams. Hader could be dangled at the deadline, even if the Brewers are competitive

Our Mike Axisa highlights many more names to keep an eye on, so you can check out the rest right here.

Stay tuned next week when we highlight the 2021 MLB playoff picture before anyone else.

4. Re-seeding the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 teams 🏀

Listen, I don’t think it’s out of line to say that the March Madness selection committee may have fudged up some seedings this year. You look at all the upsets that went down through the first couple of rounds and it’s easy to make the case that the evaluation process led to a number of teams being underrated while several other were vastly overrated

But what if we had the opportunity to re-seed the final 16 surviving teams based on their performances thus far? Our Chip Patterson did just that, and here’s his top 10:

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Baylor
  3. Michigan
  4. Alabama
  5. Houston
  6. Arkansas
  7. Florida State
  8. Loyola Chicago
  9. USC
  10. Oregon

I, for one, am glad that re-seeding isn’t actually a thing in the NCAA Tournament, because there’s potential for so much more chaos when you have to play it as it lies. There’s been plenty of chaos to this point, so we’ll have to wait and see if the upset train rolls on through the Sweet 16 and beyond.

📝 Odds & Ends

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📺 What to watch today

🏀 Trail Blazers vs. Heat, 7:30 p.m. | MIA -4 | TV: TNT

🏒 Islanders vs. Bruins, 7 p.m. | BOS -125 | TV: NHL Network

🏀 76ers vs. Lakers, 10 p.m. | LAL +4.5 | TV: TNT

🥇 The best thing I saw yesterday

After what might be his final game for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry got a FaceTime call from Drake during his press conference.

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