By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
April Fool’s day is the prankster’s Christmas and it also falls on the official start of the month of April every year, otherwise known as draft month in the NFL.
You’d think the franchises of the NFL would otherwise be busy at this time of year, but all across the league social media different pranks were created by players and teams looking to get a piece of the publicity pie on social media.
Likely topping any list of April 1 gags were Tom Brady’s fake retirement tweet and the Chicago Bears’ prank, releasing fake three-digit jerseys to commemorate the franchise’s 100th year anniversary.
As for real business the NFL has been mostly quiet outside of a few sprinkled free agent signings and a couple interesting draft rumors. This is a normal quiet period in the NFL since teams are planning off-season workouts mid month then of course the draft coming the 25th though the 27th.
The biggest, or most final, football news came from the Alliance of American Football, aka the AAF, with the league’s business plan being perhaps the best April Fool’s prank this year.
Off-season workouts have begun for teams with new head coaches and the rest of the league will get started April 15th — believe it or not but the NFL off-season is picking up momentum and things are moving quickly now.
It has been a funny week for the Bears since the trade of running back Jordan Howard. The Bears will likely have to go out and sign or draft another running back even if they believe the starting running back is already on the roster.
After the dust settled on the trade, Bears fans were anticipating some exciting news for their upcoming 100th year anniversary. The Bears had previously teased a major jersey announcement for this week. On April first, the Bears dropped a prank video with the “jersey announcement.”
The joke video is in the link above but essentially the joke was adding a number one in front of all the regular jersey numbers to make triple digits on each jersey. In the video owner George McCaskey and quarterback Mitch Trubisky discuss the “new jerseys.”
A follow up video was posted hours later with Trubisky leaving the interview room with April Fools on the back of his #110 jersey. The Bears have said they will have special jersey’s for this season and if they do unveil them, don’t expect triple digits.
The other Bears news of note was the resigning of outside linebacker Aaron Lynch to a one year deal. Lynch was a solid player for the Bears last season and filled in about as well as could be expected for Khalil Mack when he went down with injury. Lynch is not a dominate pass rusher but he can definitely be a contributor.
The only real knock on Lynch has been his inability to stay healthy, he missed nine games in 2016 and in 2017. Last season he missed three games including the playoff game against the Eagles. The Bears needed to add a body if they had not resigned Lynch but expect him to be in competition with Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving for extra snaps in the in-season rotation.
Adding Lynch gives even more continuity to a defense that has stayed together for the most part. Another good signing and decision by general manager Ryan Pace.
Where There is Smoke, There is Fire
A very interesting and stellar piece on the Packers was released on Thursday by Bleacher Report documenting the history between former head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Basically, the relationship got off on the wrong foot right away when McCarthy and the 49ers took quarterback Alex Smith over Rodgers in the 2005 draft. McCarthy even said Smith was the better prospect which is a grudge that Rodgers seemingly didn’t let go.
From there, players from different years and decades talked about the relationship. Most, if not all, felt that the team should have won more Super Bowls if McCarthy had done a better job of managing the relationship with Rodgers and be willing to adapt his system. McCarthy supposedly made it more about his system rather than accepting the reason for success which was all the assembled talent helmed by arguably the most talented quarterback ever.
The coach and quarterback would routinely argue over play call and many times the plays would breakdown to backyard football type plays. Rodgers wasn’t innocent on his part and received criticism from ex players and coaches for having an attitude and being difficult to coach. Then towards the end of McCarthy’s tenure, it seems that he lost the locker room after missing meetings for massages.
Based on what players said in the piece, allegedly, McCarthy would sneak in a massage therapist for massages during team meetings. When players found out about this, it sent a bad message throughout the locker room and one that Rodgers likely wasn’t going to let go. It will be a challenge for new head coach Matt LaFleur to get Rodgers and the Packers back on the right track for success.
Rodgers is arguably the best in the league, a team with that good of a quarterback should be a threat every year to win the title. It was a nice run for McCarthy in Green Bay but few can argue that it should have been closer to a Patriots type run instead of what it was.
The NFL as well as all the teams are primarily focusing on the upcoming draft and perhaps the team focusing the most on the draft are the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals hold the overall top pick and a lot of mystery surrounds what they may do at number one. Reports have been hot that quarterback Kyler Murray is going to be the pick ever since head coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired.
Kingsbury had said to the media before his hiring that if he had the number one overall pick that he would draft Murray. Because of those comments, trade rumors with last year’s first round pick quarterback Josh Rosen have been picking up heat as we get closer to the draft. The Cardinals have created a larger plume of smoke when it was reported the team had met with another possible top pick, pass rusher Nick Bosa the brother to Chargers pass rusher Joey Bosa.
The younger Bosa brother is considered a dominant pass rushing prospect and more worthy of the top pick than Murray. But of course, quarterback is the most premium position in the sport and getting that position right is so important. The meeting with Bosa could be a smoke screen to drive up the price for the top pick or perhaps the Cardinals will take the talented Bosa. Another interesting report came out suggesting the Cardinals could take Murray and keep Rosen.
Clearly giving away Rosen would be a mistake just from the fact the Cardinals invested the number 10 pick in last year’s draft. What a wild media circus it would be for the Cardinals if they were to take Murray and keep Rosen. The Cardinals are definitely the team to watch as we lead up to the draft. What they do with the first overall pick could have a significant impact on the top ten if not the entire draft.
How can anyone not love all the smoke, fake rumors, and lies of the highest level that come before the draft? No worries folks, expect the rumors to get wilder and juicer as April 25th draws closer.
AAF, Oh How We (Didn’t) Know Ye
The Alliance of American Football was in its inaugural season as a league. Their goal was to be an alternative to the NFL and supply football junkies with a product that may eventually become a minor league for the NFL.
That goal ended this week as it was announced that the AAF would suspend all play and is headed for complete shut down with the dissolving of assets soon to come. The reported reason for the shut down was the lack of funding for the league which is always the number one hurdle of basically any startup. There was one odd report that chairman Tom Dundon wanted to get the AAF’s gambling technology then shut down the league once he had it, but other reports have since come out refuting the claim.
Beyond the reasons for the shut down, the committed fans of the AAF will not get to see an end to the season with just two weeks left before the playoffs. The Orlando Apollos had the overall best record at 7-1 and head coach Steve Spurrier proclaimed the team the winners because of their standing at the time of the suspension.
It may be a bittersweet end for AAF fans but they were apart of the grand experiment. The XFL couldn’t make it past its first season either back in 2001, but they will make an attempt at relaunch next year. In its revival the XFL would be wise to take note of the failures of the AAF if it wants any chance at surviving past its first year.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR