What Is WWE Thinking Putting NXT on the USA Network?

The WWE is always thinking about money, as all companies do. If there is a dollar to be made, Vince McMahon will listen. The decision to put WWE’s best product, NXT, on television was a decision based entirely on monetary gain. According to the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, the WWE will make around $60 million over the next two years by having the yellow brand transition to the USA Network. McMahon himself was quoted saying, “Over the long term our goal is to develop a following that can be monetized to the same level as our flagship programs, ‘Raw’ and ‘SmackDown.’ ” If McMahon didn’t think this move would result in more profits he wouldn’t do this. McMahon wouldn’t shakeup his only universally beloved show, the highest-rated WWE Network show to boot, if the money wasn’t right. Why fix what’s not broken? Money. Pitting Triple H’s baby against AEW’s new Wednesday night program was likely just an added bonus. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to Vince if the two-hour program suffers in quality because it’s on television, the hardcore fans are going to watch it anyway, and his company prints more money. 

Nevertheless, it’s a shortsighted decision from a shortsighted decision-maker. It should come as no surprise that McMahon would make a move like this ahead of AEW’s launch on TNT this fall, but money and Cody Rhodes’ promotion aside, why else? The beautiful thing about NXT has always been that its shows are two hours and its WWE Network specials are limited in matches. Triple H and that staff understand that less is more. With more wrestling available than ever, getting pro wrestling fans to want to watch more professional wrestling is a difficult proposition. The three hour episodes of Monday Night Raw are hard enough to sit through as it is, but to then have another two-hour program the night after, by Wednesday night the average fan should have absolutely no interest in watching more of the WWE product -- but they do. We know they do because the program is the highest-viewed program on the WWE Network. You don’t see Johnny Gargano every week. You don’t see Bianca Belair each week. You don’t see Undisputed Era each week. No, you get a little bit of what you want each week and then the company gives you everything at a TakeOver down the road. It’s a beautifully simplistic product that is about to become exhaustingly overcomplicated. With NXT going live and for two hours each week, you are going to see those previously mentioned wrestlers every week. You are going to feel like you’re watching a standard WWE product, not an outlier, and that’s a shame.


The other major pitfall of moving NXT to USA is that storyline cohesion can only take a hit. Sure, Triple H and friends may still be running the show, but if you really believe you aren’t going to see “Vince and/or Triple H made major changes to the NXT script the week-of” articles on the dirtsheets, I have a timeshare in Orlando I’d like to discuss with you. This is no longer a niche thing like 205 Live continues to be. This is now a televised product that will have more figureheads seated at the table. They are going to have differing opinions and those differing opinions will result in a muddled, disappointing product. It’s inevitable because there will be too many cooks in the kitchen, similar to how much better a two-man booth is than a three-man booth is. Less is more. Now that NXT will be live, the company will be monitoring how certain segments stack up against AEW on Wednesday nights. The show will be more reactionary, less thoughtful. The pressure is different and the expectations are heightened. With NXT being pre taped, storylines weren’t interrupted on a whim because of a bad ratings week. One of the things that makes TakeOvers the best pro wrestling event in the world has been how so many of the matches resonate with the fans on an emotional level. The performers were given weeks of proper build so that when it came time for a TakeOver the anticipation was there and fans were chomping at the bit for a final resolution. 

And then you have the size of the NXT roster. Is it really big enough now to support a two-hour program that you want to challenge AEW on Wednesday nights? Maybe a year or so ago, but now, this former farm system has been pillaged. As cool as it is to have Tyler Breeze back in NXT, this is something the yellow brand needs now -- former talent returning to Full Sail to add much-needed depth. Before the move to USA, the company will need to send more back to Orlando. You will need The Ascension there to job to the Street Profits on a random November episode, and you will need most of the 205 Live roster popping up on NXT to make the latter’s talent look good. You will need to sign more talent in general. (Also, can we please close NXT: UK and move everyone who wants to remain with the company to Full Sail. Please?) NXT is the best wrestling show in the world, but it’s never more limited in the star-power area than it is now. The WWE will have to move some bigger names back to NXT -- I’m looking at you, Finn Balor -- and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens sooner rather than later. This show needs more star power when it moves to USA, and that means more bodies from Raw and Smackdown Live.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about NXT moving to USA is how it relates to AEW. Like I mentioned earlier in the piece, everything comes down to money and with NXT and thriving on the WWE Network for years now, a move to television was probably going to happen sooner rather than later anyway. If the company thinks they can monetize more things they are going to try and monetize more things. NXT has always had the potential to make a lot more money for the company and now we’ll find out for sure if that really is the case. But what Chris Jericho said about the move rings true, that, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the WWE doesn’t need to worry about AEW. Like Roman Reigns and the other top guys in the company have been saying, there is no real competition for the WWE -- they are simply too big to fail now. So why try and stick it to an upstart promotion that isn’t challenging your main shows time slots? Why make it seem as though you are reacting to their moves when you are the top dog in the industry? Making the argument that this move makes the WWE seem insecure is a fair one -- especially when you consider the timing. If AEW does well that doesn’t hurt the WWE. It just means more people are watching professional wrestling. The fans who watch NXT on the WWE Network are going to watch AEW, too. They are going to watch New Japan. They are going to watch other promotions because the content is everywhere and it’s easily accessible. So why make moves in a way that makes you seem ostensibly nervous about another promotion when you already have a stranglehold on the industry? It’s just more shortsighted behavior.

So we know why the company is putting NXT on the USA Network, and it rhymes with “blonetary”. Still, it’s sad that the best pro wrestling program on the planet will change. The pre taped, short-and-sweet feel will be a thing of the past. It will be a different show on a different network that goes on for a different length of time, and that’s sad because it didn’t need to change any of these things. Nothing needed to change. That isn’t how things work in the real world, though, and the yellow brand was really just a victim of their own success. We still have a few more weeks before the move, but it already feels like the era is over, an era that was highlighted by undisputed excellence.

Chase Thomas is an independent sportswriter based out of Atlanta, Georgia. You can email him at chasethomaspodcast[at]gmail.com. Let’s talk.

Why Are We Not Exhausted of Alabama and Clemson Yet?

You’re not going to believe this, but Vegas loves the Crimson Tide and Tigers heading into the 2019-2020 college football season. The two schools that recruit at the highest-level, have the two best head coaches in the sport, have the two best quarterbacks in the sport and the two schools who show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney have built two Goliaths, and if you were to bet against either taking home another championship in 2020, I would be forced to ask what exactly you were smoking. Sure, Jake Fromm is Mr. Efficient and UGA’s offensive line is ridiculous, but do you really see this group getting over the hump *this* year? Yes, Ohio State is everybody’s favorite wild card because Ryan Day might be Chip Kelly 2.0 and Greg Schiano isn’t running the defense and Justin Fields may win the Heisman this season, but we need to see it, and, yes, Oklahoma quarterbacks might just keep winning the Heisman as long as Lincoln Riley is not coaching the Dallas Cowboys, but Alex Grinch has a magic turnover number his defense has to it to have a shot at winning two playoff games. It’s the Usual Suspects in college football once again, but I’m still pumped to wake up on Saturday mornings with College GameDay on once again. Do I know Alabama or Clemson is winning it again this season barring catastrophic injuries and/or coaching changes? Absolutely. Do I care? No. Now, why is that?

Part of the reason I don’t think college football fans have lost interest in the sport in the era of Alabama and Clemson kicking the shit out of everyone is that big-picture dreams is not commonplace for most fans. If you are a fan of Mississippi State, you know, going to into just about every season you will not have the horses to run the table and win a championship. You can go 10-2, you can even finish the regular season 12-0, but you really just want to win your home games, win the Egg Bowl, and not have Scott Loeffler be your team’s offensive coordinator. Expectations ruin all the fun, which is why Washington State fans can enjoy the Mike Leach ride for what it is -- a gimmick that will never result in a title but, man, is it fun to watch it every Saturday. The only fans annoyed about the dominance of Alabama and Clemson are the Oklahoma, Georgia, Michigan, Auburn, Florida State and Ohio State fans who usually recruit at the level to win a title but are just not quite there. Being a Cougars fan the last few years I imagine has been a blast, while being a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs has been horrendous. Expectations and big-picture thinking ruin the fun and often hilarious beauty of college football. It’s not like the NFL where every team competes on an even-playing field; the Cougars are never going to be able to get more four-and-five-star kids than Georgia or Ohio State because not many talent kids from the southeast and southwest want to live in Pullman. College football isn’t fair, but most fans understand and embrace it. That’s what makes it fun.


When thinking about this question, I think about my Auburn Tigers. I think about the current state of affairs -- a head coach on the hot seat, an unsettled quarterback battle, and a schedule that, pardon my language, fucking sucks. In a win-or-you-are-definitely-gone-coach year for Coach Gus Malzahn, he opens up against Justin Herbert and the Oregon Ducks on a neutral site, plays in College Station, plays in Gainesville, plays in Baton Rouge, and hosts Georgia and Alabama to finish out the year. If the Tigers go 9-3, you could sell me on Gus earning a state outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium. If you keep up with the latest Auburn scuttlebutt, you may have seen Bo Nix, a true freshman, is getting the majority of first-team reps in practice leading up to the game against the Ducks. Nix might be the next Trevor Lawrence, or he might be Sean White or Brandon Cox or another lazy, white quarterback comp from yesteryear, or he might get eaten alive and Auburn cleans house this offseason.  Maybe the running game gets back on-track with Boobie Whitlow and Seth Williams becomes the go-to guy I think he could be and maybe the offensive line will be fine with more experience. Maybe! If it goes the wrong way, I’ll enjoy watching every game, if it goes the right way I’ll enjoy watching every game. I am going into this season with no expectations -- which is how 120-plus fanbases head into every college football season. Someone pass me a White Claw.

If you were to ask Purdue fans what they’re excited about heading into this season, I imagine most immediately start talking about Rondale Moore this and Rondale Moore that. The presence of Moore and the existence of Jeff Brohm is enough for Boilermaker Nation. They are never winning a national championship, but that duo alone gets Purdue fans hyped every Saturday morning. If you were to ask North Carolina fans why they’re invested in the 2019 season, look no further than Sam Howell, who was just named the starting quarterback in Chapel Hill as a true freshman. If you have an exciting playmaker on offense, that goes a long way for most college football fans. Cougar fans could get grad-transfer quarterbacks until the end of time -- is Blake Barnett still eligible? -- and never get bored. Memphis fans got to experience Darrell Henderson rush for close to ten-freaking-yards per carry for two seasons. They weren’t getting a playoff bid, but they were must-see TV. The Memphis Tigers are a blast and, because they are not in a Power 5 conference, nothing really matters for them. Those teams in those conferences are playing for nothing. (Note: I will not stop pitching a Group of Five Playoff. Would you rather watch Notre Dame vs. SEC/ACC Powerhouse or Memphis vs. Boise State? I thought so.) 

This is also the case in college basketball, to a slightly different degree. Yes, everybody, theoretically, has a chance to run the table and win it all in March. Yes, even you, Iona. But those teams never pull it off. Butler came close. George Mason was cool. It never actually ends in a title, though. If you are not a blueblood program, you go into every season hoping you knock in a few buzzer beaters, beat your rival and maybe make a fun run in your conference tournament. UNC, Duke, UConn, Louisville, Kansas, Virginia, Syracuse, Villanova, Kentucky, etc. recruit well enough to go 35-5 every season and win the title. Most teams don’t and can’t. If you don’t have an elite coach and/or elite playmaker or two, you are not a real contender to actually win it all in March. But are we all still doing our brackets knowing it’s probably going to be Villanova or Duke again? Of course, because it’s not about who actually wins it’s about the ride. We care about the upsets -- not who cuts down the nets at the very end? Who cares about winning? Give me No. 1 seed going down to a No. 16 seed and let’s call it a day.

I think fans are just smarter now. Everybody has access to 247sports’ Recruiting rankings, most know about SB Nation’s Bud Elliot’s test of a true contender in college football -- basically, recruiting at an elite level for a four-year stretch. If your coach can’t recruit at an elite level or your school isn’t located in a desirable area for the star recruits -- you’re screwed. Minnesota fans know as great and as invigorating as PJ Fleck is, there is a cap on their ceiling. They can’t compete with Ohio State and Michigan every year and they won’t. Guess what? The Gophers are fun and we all loved the Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III era. Golden Gopher fans could go check the recruiting rankings every day, or they can go row that boat to 7-5 and a memorable bowl win against Kentucky. Most fans do.

Perhaps the biggest reason that Alabama and Clemson haven’t ruined enjoyment for all of the land is that everybody is on television now. You aren’t watching the Crimson Tide and Tigers each week if you’re not a fan of the club -- you’re only doing that in January when you run out of options. The majority of the season is Pac-12 After Dark, MACtion on weeknights, and the list goes on. Everybody watches everybody, so you’re not overexposed to the dominant teams like you would in other arenas. You can watch Oklahoma State vs. Baylor over Alabama vs. Ole Miss and feel great about it. The options are endless, even if you’re a fan of a bad team. College football is about variety, even as Alabama and Clemson win championship after championship and that’s what makes it great.

Does It Matter If The Spurs Pay DeMar DeRozan?

I miss watching “You’re The Worst” on FX(X?). This was a show that was short, funny and biting and did I mention only twenty-minutes long or so? I knew, going in, each episode at the very least would be good. It may not always be great but Stephen Falk’s sitcom was never going to be bad. However, I was never able to talk about this show with anyone because it seemed like nobody watched it, but everyone heard it was good. It lived and thrived in anonymity where the expectations were limited and those who actually watched it knew they were getting a good product. That’s kind of what the San Antonio Spurs have been since the Kawhi Leonard trade  -- nobody watches them anymore, but everybody seems to still appreciate them, universally agree they’re a good team, but the lofty expectations are no longer there. They can’t win a title, and “You’re The Worst” was never going to push “Game Of Thrones” in popular culture, but both could still be counted on to be just fine. 

This what makes the report out of San Antonio that the Spurs might offer DeMar Derozan, the crown jewel in their haul from Toronto in the Kawhi trade, the max so interesting. Per Sporting News, “DeRozan could re-sign before 2019-20 for a 10+ YOS deal that would pay him, as the salary cap grows each season, slightly more than $38 million this season to just more than $48 million in 2023-24 for a five-year total of just shy of $217 million.” This is a lot of money for the 30-year-old wing, who doesn’t shoot 3s and had a plus/minus of -5.0, per Basketball Reference. Still, on a team littered with role players, somebody has to create and get shots up. Without DeRozan navigating tight windows inside the arc on a nightly basis, do the Spurs still have the best 3-point percentage in basketball last season? Who knows. What we do know if the Spurs pay DeRozan, keep Aldridge around for at least another season, this club will continue on as the “You’re The Worst” of the NBA: A team you can count on to be good at the bare minimum.

Paying DeRozan has other ramifications, too, as the Spurs’ current collection of guys is an odd bunch -- a bunch of guards Basketball Twitter adores, but a big and wing rotation held together by a thread. If Lonnie Walker profiled as a point forward, maybe you look at this team and where they could go a little differently. It seems like everyone loves the Keldon Johnson pick, and they may be right, but he’s another guard in a backcourt that’s already as crowded as 285 in Atlanta on a Friday afternoon. Sure, DeRozan played 75 percent of his minutes at the three this season, where he belongs in today’s game, but he also led San Antonio in minutes a season ago, and with Dejounte Murray back, Derrick White blossoming, and Walker just needing minutes, how does Coach Pop allocate his minutes? Is there anything more important for Spurs fans next season then seeing how Murray, White and Walker look on the floor at the same time next season? DeRozan is just too good to not let him gobble up lots of minutes at the two and three, but if the Spurs are to rejoin the contender conversation -- one of these guards have to pop, but if DeRozan is always on the floor, is that possible?


Still, the DeRozan conversation is more complicated than just looking at his on-court value. Yes, who he blocks matters, but if Coach Pop sees something that I nor any other outside observer can see, can you really get all that riled up about one of the league’s smartest teams prioritizing a contract extension for DeRozan? The former Raptor has spoken glowingly in the past about just calling the Team USA boss to talk. Lots of organizations like to claim that they’re a family, but with the Spurs’ mandatory team dinners, the random phone calls between Pop and players, it seems more genuine than in other locations. If you’re Pop, maybe you see the type of leader in DeRozan who is the perfect veteran to help White and Walker and Murray get to where they need to be for the Spurs to ultimately get to where they need to be. Perhaps DeRozan knows that his most important task as a veteran wing on this team is that while these guys get more comfortable being professionals he makes it that much easier and that much more likely they make All-Star teams in the future. With the Spurs prioritizing this kind of substantial financial investment to a pseudo-star, there has to be more there, and with what we know about DeRozan off the floor, it’s easier to understand why this kind of deal makes sense for San Antonio -- it’s bigger than basketball.

The Spurs paying DeRozan now reminds me of the Warriors paying David Lee years ago. Sure, it was a sign-and-trade with New York that led to the former Gator’s big payday, but Lee was a divisive figure among basketball fans and analysts. Some people loved him, some people loathed him. At the minimum, Lee was an important player for those early Golden State teams that ultimately concluded with Lee sacrificing his starting spot for the betterment of the team. Championships followed. Lee could have handled his demotion like Tate Martell in Miami, but he didn’t. With Mark Jackson, Lee started and averaged 33 minutes a night on a good team. With Steve Kerr, he fell out of the rotation, but eventually played pivotal minutes in 2014 in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the Warriors to get to that next level, Lee had to be moved to the back-burner. With DeRozan, his Defensive RPM figure was -0.46 last season, good for 52nd among shooting guards in the NBA. At some point, his limited shooting range compounded with his below-average defense is going to require the former All-Star to move to the bench, to move into a sixth man role for the good of the team. Like, Lee, though DeRozan is ostensibly the kind of guy who could understand and get on board with it. 

But what matters to DeRozan? This report comes from the perspective of the Spurs, not DeRozan. Would he be interested in signing a max deal with a team that has a lot of young ball handlers who need playing time and to, well, umm, handle the ball. DeRozan is a number of things, off-the-ball assassin isn’t one of them. Maybe if you’re DeRozan, you appreciate the team wants to keep you around long-term even with the roster-construction concerns, and you choose to stay with an organization that isn’t likely to flip you for a more intriguing player in a year or so. In a league where every team wants you shoot all of the 3s, the Spurs shot the least of anyone. They adjust their style to their stars. When they make a mistake, like with Aldridge a few seasons ago, they rectify it. These things might matter to DeRozan, or DeRozan could see that he’s 30-years-old now, and would like to play for a contender for the remainder of his prime. If he were to ask for a trade to Miami to play with Jimmy Butler for a couple of seasons, nobody would blame him. Maybe he’d like to go North again and play with Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. Maybe he’d like to go be The Guy in Orlando for a couple of seasons. Who knows, but what we do know is the Spurs and DeRozan can do whatever and we know both will be fine, we know the product will be good and we know the expectations will be limited. Can you beat that if you’re the Spurs and DeRozan? I guess we’ll find out.

The Redskins Just Can't Be Bad Or Can They?

There are not many certainties in this world, but one thing I have always been certain of is a professional football team coached by Jay Gruden cannot be counted on to be great but can absolutely be counted on to be fine. Without looking at the numbers, would you suspect that Gruden has hovered around .500 every year in Washington? Yes, right? Outside of a rough 4-12 first season in the nation’s capital, Gruden has kept the Redskins afloat. If Gruden were to stick around in D.C. for the next 10 years, what the Redskins’ future look like? I imagine it would look a lot like the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati where they have a special season every now and then, are loaded on both sides of the ball for a couple of seasons, but still never find themselves in the elite category. When they go 10-6, it will still feel like they went 8-8. When they go 7-9, it will feel like they’ve been going 7-9 every season. Can the Redskins actually be a bad football team with Gruden and an above-average coaching staff around him? Unlike in previous years, I could finally see it. Maybe?

One of the things I loathe about the shift in the way baseball is played in 2019 is uniformity in offensive-style from team-to-team. It seems as though nine at-bats out of 10 end in a strikeout or home run. There is no moderation, and if you’d like to know if your team is good just look at the current leaders in home runs: Minnesota, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta. If you hit dingers there is a very straightforward to contention. The same is true in football, just a bit different, in that if you have a good quarterback and a great offensive line, it's really hard not to be good at football. People love the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots this season because these teams all have elite quarterbacks and a potentially elite offensive line to pair with them. Sure, you could get more granular with J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore’s impact on the Pats’ defense; you could get more granular with Alvin Kamara taking over as the league’s best all-around back; you could get more granular with the importance of the Devin White pick in Pittsburgh as the new anchor of that defense. These are all important, to be sure, but it’s that these teams have offensive lines and quarterbacks you believe in that leads to dripping optimism.


If the marriage between Trent Williams and Washington didn’t look as destined for a split as it does now, the case for the ‘Skins as a sneaky Cleveland-type team from 2018 wouldn’t seem so improbable. As great as Baker Mayfield was as a rookie, the change in offensive coordinators along with a top-5 offensive line, per PFF, cannot be overlooked as to why Cleveland is getting so much buzz this offseason. Washington, if Trent Williams were to play this season, is looked at as a top-10 offensive line, per PFF, but he the guy who hasn’t allowed a pressure or a sack in 36 years, doesn’t seem like he’ll be there this fall to protect Dwayne Haskins’ blind side. The absence of Williams changes everything about how you look at Gruden’s group. With him, along with a healthy season from the rest of their starting o-line, there is a path to the Redskins sneaking into a wild-card spot in the NFC. Not to mention, the possibility of a Kevin O’Connell bump from longtime offensive assistant Matt Cavanaugh is in play, similar to what happened in Cleveland last season with Freddie Kitchens. You just have to have Trent Williams at left tackle. You just do.

Williams suiting up again for the Redskins is a wild card. O’Connell as an offensive genius a wild card. Perhaps my favorite wild card is the return of Derrius Guice, who, prior to a devastating season-ending injury last season, looked like the next great all-purpose back who could do everything the Skins have looked to get out of Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson and friends. Had Guice, not gone down last season, are we looking at this team entirely different? Are we still as concerned about that anemic wide-receiver room? Are we still as concerned about the health of this offensive line? Maybe, but the Guice Is Going To Be Great hype from last summer was warranted, as D.J. Swearinger was quoted last July saying Guice would be a top-three rusher in 2018. Guice should excel as the leading back in a weirdly crowded running back room, with his elite pass-catching and bouncing-off-defenders ability. The Redskins can still be a terrible football team and Guice can be a fantasy-football superstar in 2019, but the latter makes the former seem even less likely.

The defense in Washington, perhaps the team’s strong suit, still employs defensive-line whisperer Jim Tomsula and their commitment to drafting every good Alabama defensive lineman looks to be not not the worst strategy for Washington. The Redskins were seventh in sacks in 2018, and with another season of Ryan Kerrigan, the addition of Montez Sweat and his 23.5 sacks in college, the ‘Skins will get pressure on teams again in 2019. But Josh Norman is still on this team. Reuben Foster and his extremely high-upside is still there once he returns from a torn ACL. This front office signed Landon Collins away from the Giants this offseason. This is not the Jim Haslett defenses I grew up with, this is a group that has talent everywhere and still somehow finished 27th in defensive DVOA, per Football Outsiders, a season ago. It seems like this defense should be better in this department, and if it struggles early, Greg Manusky could be out a job and Tomsula could get elevated to that defensive coordinator spot. Would it really be all that surprising to see this defense make the leap from 27th into the middle-of-the-pack zone? There is too much talent to rule it out.

It’s pretty crazy to have written over 1,000 words on the Redskins and not mention Alex Smith. If Smith doesn’t go down to one of the more gruesome injuries you’ll see in sports, is there even a debate about my thesis: The Redskins just can’t be bad? Before he went down to injury, the Redskins were 6-4 with the veteran former Utah star at the helm. Smith may not be Tom Brady, but Smith wins regular season games, baby. Since 2011, Smith has gone 13-3, 6-2-1, 11-4, 8-7, 11-5, 11-4, 9-6 and most recently 6-4. This guy hasn’t had led a bad team since 2010 and that was almost a decade ago. There is consistency, and then there is Alex Smith-level consistency. If that injury doesn’t happen and the Skins still wind up with Haskins on draft day, do we look at this situation in Washington more favorably? Do we love the possibility of Haskins sitting and waiting behind a winner and insanely efficient quarterback for a year or two while this offensive line gets sorted out and the wide-receiver room gets a little bit more appetizing? Of course we do.

This is important, because, as it stands right now, it seems highly unlikely that Haskins doesn’t start a lot of football games for the Redskins in 2019. Sure, Case Keenum is probably the perfect veteran quarterback to play behind a potentially horrid offensive line -- shoutout to that 2017 Minnesota Vikings team -- but with the kind of season Washington had a season ago, along with just how expensive this offensive core has become, you can’t have Keenum under center for the majority of the season. Still, Haskins playing behind an offensive line that doesn’t include Williams in 2019 seems like a recipe for disaster. Ereck Flowers is slated to be the team’s left guard. Coming out of college, the biggest concern from draft experts about the former Ohio State star was his decision-making when defenders get in his face. Without Williams and the existence of Flowers on the left side of the o-line, Haskins is going to get a lot of defenders in his face. He’ll get hit a lot and he’ll throw some pick-sixes like he did early on this preseason. If Haskins is going to be their next franchise quarterback, he has to deliver when pressured and he has to deliver in a clean pocket, but only one of those options might be readily available this fall.

But why I am doubting Jay Gruden? Outside of year 1 in Washington, where he made Sean McVay his new OC, went through three different quarterbacks, and employed Haslett as his DC, Gruden wins just enough. There are not many things in this world that Gruden loves more than going 9-7. This year six of Gruden in DC and he has won less than seven games exactly once. He has also won double-digit games exactly, erm, zero times. When he coached the Orlando Predators in the Arena Football League he won multiple titles and never had a losing record. In his brief USFL stint, he went 5-3. This guy gets just enough out of his group to not be terrible. But Trent Williams is no longer in the fold. Guice needs to be fully recovered from his season-ending injury. Manusky can’t put together another defense that lands at 27th in defensive DVOA. Haskins has to look like the next great NFC East quarterback. I just don’t know, and I have always known with Jay Gruden and the Redskins.

Chase Thomas is an independent sportswriter based out of Atlanta, GA who has been published in SI, VICE Sports, ESPN TrueHoop Network, SB Nation and many more publications. Question? Email him at chasethomaspodcast@gmail.com.

There Is No Reason For The Falcons Not To Sign Colin Kaepernick

One of my favorite things in the world besides recording my own podcast every week is listening to some of my favorite podcasts every week. Earlier this week, I was listening to Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo on PFF’s NFL show and there came a point in the conversation where the Atlanta Falcons’ backup quarterback situation came up. What followed almost caused me to drive off the road both from laughter and despair due to Monson’s biting and fair criticism of the Falcons ostensibly paying Matt Schaub to be the team’s backup quarterback. Monson pointed out that if Atlanta really values Schaub in the quarterback room that’s fine, then they should just make him a coach and use that roster spot on anyone else who is not named Matt Schaub because anyone named Matt Schaub should not be under center for your football team in the year 2019 for the hilarious reasons Monson laid out. Even if you found Monson’s assessment of the Falcons’ quarterback room to be a bit harsh, it’s hard to disagree with the broader point that the Falcons need a more proven commodity behind Matt Ryan in 2019 with so much riding on the line.

If you were to ask most Falcon fans what they’re worried about most in heading into the 2019 NFL season, I have my doubts that backup quarterback would be one of the first things mentioned. Most fans are just hoping for a year of good health, as the 2018 team was considered by many NFL analysts to be the most talented roster in the league, but that group was ravaged by injuries and things just didn’t work out. However, with Kurt Benkert now lost to the injured-reserve abyss, the Falcons have to address this spot with quarterbacks that don’t have the first name “Matt”. (Is it not insane that the team’s quarterback room is highlighted by Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub and Matt Simms?) You feel for Benkert, though, because of how well he played in the Hall Of Fame game where he passed for close to 200 yards, scored a touchdown and just looked like a guy who might be able to keep the first-team offense afloat for a couple of weeks if it came down to it. He didn’t have Nick Foles or Robert Griffin III-type upside off the bench, but he was firmly in that Nate Sudfeld or Colt McCoy-type zone where you could live with it. But a severe case of turf toe changed all of that and the Falcons are left with Bad Quarterbacks Named Matt and that can’t continue to be the case.


Thankfully, the Good Matt, let’s call him Matt Ryan, has not missed a start in a decade -- good for the fifth-longest streak in NFL history -- so the chances of the Bad Matts, let's call them Matt Simms and Matt Schaub, having to play quarterback for the Falcons this season is quite slim. You just don’t know, though. Tom Brady hadn’t missed a start in seven years until Bernard Pollard happened. That kind of thing can happen to Ryan, especially behind an already shaky offensive line that might start two rookies for the majority of the season. You hope it never comes to this sort of thing, but like everything else in life -- you have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. As my mother has always told me, you need an emergency fund. Matt fucking Schaub and Matt fucking Simms are not an emergency fund they are the emergency. Now, should the latter be lauded for his “keep getting them checks” career? Absolutely. There is absolutely no reason for a 30-year-old Matt Simms to still be collecting a paycheck from an NFL team. But the Falcons have a type and it’s not Colin Kaepernick. 

Why, though?

We know the excuses teams have made in the past to not sign Kaepernick ranging from contractual issues, schematic fits, to him now just being out of the league for too long. They’ve all been bad-faith excuses, and it remains disgusting that Colin Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster. But, with the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback reaching a settlement in his collusion case, along with his recent video making sure everyone knows he’s still in ridiculous shape, you would think that now may be the most realistic time for a team to finally end this nonsense and sign Kaepernick. If Kaepernick just wants a job, is willing to do whatever it takes to get back on the field like Eric Reid, how is Kaepernick not the backup quarterback in Atlanta over Simms and Schaub? How? (If you read that last sentence and immediately went to a “Well, Actually” place about how Kaepernick fits in a Dirk Koetter-type offense then I cannot help you and I am not the sportswriter for you.)

The city of Atlanta already loves Kaepernick, too. With murals of Kaepernick in a Falcon uniform now scatter throughout the downtown area, in some ways it already feels as though Kaepernick is an Atlantan. He even appeared at a charity game at Berkmar High School in Lilburn, Georgia earlier this year -- that included Julio Jones, Migos, etc. Kaepernick even has the right number for many city of Atlanta fans -- No. 7. If you were to ask a random Falcon fan in Atlanta who their favorite quarterback in Falcons history is, I would bet that a majority of folks would say Michael Vick. Now, please do not get me wrong, Matt Ryan is the greatest quarterback in Atlanta Falcons’ history and it is not particualry close, but Ryan has also never come close to being as popular as Vick in the city.  You remember what Vick did in Green Bay in the playoffs; you remember that time Vick was so damn quick that two Minnesota Vikings collided into one another trying to tackle him; you even remember all the bad that came with the disgusting dog-fighting case. You remember everything about Vick’s tenure in Atlanta, but you will forget a lot about Ryan’s. You will always see random No. 7 Vick jerseys around the city, but once Ryan is long gone, I don’t imagine I’ll see a fan rocking a red No. 2 jersey walking down Moreland Avenue. Just a hunch.

And then you have Dan Quinn, who has to win this year more than any other year. After firing Marquand Manual and taking control of the defense once again, the Falcons have to contend for a Super Bowl this season or he and the rest of this staff are toast. Quinn can’t afford to go into this kind of pressure cooker with a backup quarterback situation highlighted by the Bad Matts. If Ryan misses time and the season unravels, you don’t get a mulligan. You already have several mulligans -- one that includes a 28-3 score in a pretty important game, I think. In the event Ryan goes down in 2019, you have to have somebody else who has the upside of keeping this high-powered and increasingly expensive offense rolling. Sure, you could trade for Mason Rudolph or something, or you could just sign Colin Kaepernick. You could just solve the Kurt Benkert Is Gone issue by signing somebody better than Kurt Benkert. Again, you could just sign the best available quarterback on the free-agent market, Colin Kaepernick.

Just do it.

Mike Leake To The Braves Makes Too Much Sense

We are a few days away from the 2019 MLB Trade Deadline, so, in a few days, this piece that I am spending my Sunday afternoon writing at the coffee shop down the street from my place in Atlanta will be lost in the archives forever. Nobody gives a shit about trade possibilities on August 1. Old news, pal. This is true when you are tasked with writing about draft-related topics in sports, free-agency primers, free-agency reactions and the list goes on and on. There is always another thing on the horizon. Does that mean I am not going to write about why Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Mike Leake was meant to be an Atlanta Brave knowing he might very well be a New York Yankee in a manner of hours? Absolutely not. We’re doing this, folks. Mike Leake, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher makes too much sense.

One of the more frustrating elements of this time of year, outside of it being too hot for me to not wear shorts in Atlanta, is the amount ridiculous trade ideas tossed around by fans and even analysts from time to time. If what you’re pitching has no earthly chance of happening, what are you even doing? You can pitch Madison Bumgarner for Cristian Pache, Austin Riley and Kyle Wright until you’re blue in the face but you are wasting your breath. Dave Dombrowski isn’t running the Atlanta Braves, some mysterious figure(s) in Colorado is. Sustainability while pseudo-contending is the blueprint, like it or not, so making a big-time move like trading for an ace who can walk after the season is not going to happen. Should it happen? That’s a conversation for another day.

If the Braves were to have another year or two of controllable years of Bumgarner, a blockbuster is more realistic. The less risk, the better. Trading for Bumgarner now would be the Braves’ front office letting the Los Angeles Dodgers know they actually think they can beat them this fall when it counts. The Braves are too smart to think they’ve got a realistic chance at taking down the powerhouse Dodgers with the MVP-favorite and a starting rotation that is borderline insanity. The Braves are the second-best team in a one-team league. The Braves are really good, but they are not good enough. If the Braves would like to be good enough, they’d have to take a page out of AJ Preller’s book and trade the farm. 


That’s part of what makes Leake a realistic fallback option for the Braves down the stretch. If Max Fried were healthy, if Mike Foltynewicz was pitching like it was 2018, and Julio Teheran wasn’t the most frustrating pitcher in the universe, you would think bigger than a solid arm like Leake because it’d feel more like your year. Instead, outside of superstar teenager Mike Soroka, the Braves have far more questions than answers in the rotation. Dallas Keuchel has been fine, but this team needs more. To take it a step further, to keep the Washington Nationals at bay, the team just needs more help not only this year, but next year, too. Leake, unlike Bumgarner, has one more year on his deal, something that I’m sure the Braves’ brass prefers.

The Braves should also like the fact that Leake won’t cost what it would cost to trade for somebody like Bumgarner, even in a walk year. To take it a step further, Atlanta fans should prefer the Braves do business with Jerry Dipoto rather than Farhan Zaidi. This is always the most underrated part of trade-deadline hypothesizing -- call the bad general managers. In a league where it seems like every team has a smart general manager in their front office, the Mariners are ostensibly one of the few that do not. You call the New York Knicks when you want to make a deal for Andrea Bargnani not Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics. If Leake were pitching for, say, the Houston Astros and the latter were having a season similar to the Mariners, something tells me the return would look a little bit different.

But the Braves should be thinking bigger than Leake and his 4.43 xFIP. There is nothing attractive about trading for Leake at the deadline in 2019 -- is this where I make a joke out Leake’s long brown hair? No, it is not. Since the Braves signed Keuchel and the bullpen mostly got back on track and the offense decided to become one of the league’s best in June, the “financial flexibility” jokes have mostly fallen by the wayside. Now, the starting rotation is crumbling, it’s hard to feel at ease whenever Luke Jackson is trying to close a game out and Austin Riley might actually just be a nice platoon guy who hits a lot of home runs for low average for his entire career. If the Red Sox were in the Braves’ shoes right now, they’d be more aggressive in doing everything they could to match the Dodgers’ doom squad, but that is not what this team is about. This team is about kinda contending for the next 10 years, not trying to win a title in two. Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors’ front office the Atlanta Braves are not.

But there are more possibilities with the Mariners. Dipoto loves to trade just to trade. He would probably be bored just trading Leake for, like, the corpse of Christian Betancourt. The Mariners have other pieces you could add to a deal -- I’m thinking Domingo Santana. With Nick Markakis going down with a brutal injury, there is an opening in right field for an outfielder not named Ender Inciarte.  Santana has launched 19 bombs in Seattle this season, plays the position and is only making $1.5 million this season. Cheap, young and can hit dingers in Safeco? Let’s go! And, look, if I were Alex Anthopoulos, I am targeting one more name: 30-year-old closer Roenis Elias. While big-time starters rarely move at the MLB Trade Deadline, closers and relievers move all the time. Contending teams hoard relievers this time of year like I hoard pea coats in the winter. It’s a problem. What is the point of holding onto a closer in his 30s on a team heading towards a long rebuild? Sure, Leake would fill a need, but you need more, and it needs to be realistic: the Braves giving up a few pieces for Leake, Santana and Elias is realistic. So do it, Anthopoulos.

The Philadelphia 76ers Are Frustratingly Close

Kawhi Leonard picked the Los Angeles Clippers. Kyrie Irving picked the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant picked the Nets. Taj Gibson picked the New York Knicks. And then Jimmy Butler picked the Miami Heat. What the hell, Jimmy Butler? Why the Heat? Why now? Why leave the Philadelphia 76ers the same offseason that saw the conference’s best player dip and the conference’s next best player saw his team take a step back? Knick fans may be asking “Why, Kevin, why?”, but why are we all not asking why “Why, Jimmy, why?” 

We will remember this NBA offseason for a multitude of reasons: Leonard left his team even after winning the title; the Lakers gave up everybody not named LeBron James to secure Anthony Davis; Chris Paul got traded for Russell Westbrook. Left is right, east is west, and nobody knows when the next superstar player is going to want out. Still, I won’t remember this offseason for those transactions, no, I’ll remember this offseason as the summer that cost the Sixers a title. 

RELATED: The Westbrook & Harden Fit in Houston, Paying Ben Simmons in Philly and Pelicans Projections With TrueHoop's Coach David Thorpe

The Sixers locked in Ben Simmons. The Sixers locked in Tobias Harris. The Sixers locked in Al Horford. The Sixers didn’t lose Butler for nothing; the Sixers snagged Josh Richardson away from a desperate Miami franchise. This is all great. Locking in several very good basketball players in the same offseason is always good. Losing your most-important player in the same offseason is never good. Sure, Embiid is most-important Sixer long-term, but Embiid is not the most-important Sixer next season, that title now belongs to Harris. If Harris returns to the role he had in Los Angeles last season before he was moved to Philadelphia, this team could win the title. If Harris is closer to what he was last season, particularly in the playoffs, the Sixers cannot win the title. There was not a team in the East last year that gave Toronto more problems than Philadelphia; if that role doesn’t go Toronto’s way, does Philly win the title? It’s not only conceivable it is probable. The 2018-19 Sixers were thin, but those Sixers had the ingredients of a title team -- elite big who could impose his will when necessary, two wings who can score from anywhere, a three-point marksman and a unicorn point guard who could always go up another level. 

When people think of the Sixers, they seem to focus on the odd pairing between Simmons and Embiid. It looks weird, you’re never sure if they’ll have enough shooting to survive, but this pairing has always been fine -- especially in the Jimmy Butler era. In mid-January, Liberty Ballers found that Simmons was averaging 17/10/8 since Jimmy forced his way out of Minnesota. Even when Butler was off the court for the Sixers in the regular season, the team had a positive net rating with Simmons and Embiid on the floor together. Point is, Simmons is a very good basketball player that can play with anybody and Embiid is a very good basketball player that can play with anybody. Akin to Daryl Morey’s ethos -- talent wins out. Losing talent does not. The Sixers lost Butler.

Butler can obviously do whatever he wants, and it’s easy to understand why a human being would rather spend his winter months in Miami rather than Philly. But the East is wide open, man. The East was open last year post-LeBron; the East even more open post-Kawhi. The East is just not open for the Miami Heat. Pat Riley can acquire Paul in a couple of months but that Miami team is not winning anything. That Miami team wasn’t winning anything with Russell Westbrook. That Philly team with Butler, Simmons and Embiid was winning something next year. In a summer where every star paired up with another star, the Sixers already had two with the possibility of two more depending on who you ask. Health-permitting, that Philly core would have been favored to reach the NBA Finals. 

With Butler gone, the pressure falls back on Embiid. It’s easy to forget two postseasons ago, but what Al Horford and the Boston Celtics did to the big fella was illegal in 17 states. It was bad. It caused us to wonder if Embiid could be the best player on a title team. Should you still be building around a big in today’s NBA? Is Embiid in-shape? Is Embiid going to hit threes like Brook Lopez or is he just going to keep taking them and bricking almost all of them? With their closer off the roster, the pressure is back on the former closer, Mr. Joel Embiid. By leaving for South Beach, Butler put the spotlight back on the former Kansas Jayhawk. We’ll see how he handles it. I’d recommend getting in-shape, but I’m no doctor, just a keyboard warrior.

You also end up thinking about the Markelle Fultz insanity. If the Sixers take Jayson Tatum and not trade for Fultz, where are they now? Are we pencilling them as the new Oklahoma City Thunder with Durant, James Harden and Westbrook? Three stars is nice, but having three stars on the same timeline is nicer. Even if they don’t take Tatum, let’s say Fultz turns into the guy everybody thought he would be coming out of the NBA Draft? An already weird Philly team would have been even weirder with two lead ball handlers with very different games and very similar personalities. Do the numbers trend in the right direction like Embiid and Simmons even if they don’t look like they should? 

But smart NBA people are talking themselves into the new-look Sixers. Horford and Embiid is going to go just as well Mike Budenholzer predicted Dwight Howard and Horford would have in Atlanta a few years back. Josh Richardson could go up another level with a better collection of players. Simmons could stop being a coward and shoot some dang threes. Harris could remember who Clipper Tobias was and take Philly home in close games in June. Like that kid in ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD repeated over and over again, “It could happen.” I have my doubts. I don’t believe Horford and Embiid will share the floor in clutch-time. I don’t believe Richardson has another level in him. I don’t believe Simmons is shooting any threes. I don’t believe Clipper Tobias returns. I just believe the Sixers would have won the title if Butler stayed in Philly.

WWE and Arkansas Football Season Preview With Vaughn Johnson and Hawg Sports Pete Roulier

Chase Thomas is joined by Philadelphia Eagles beat writer Vaughn Johnson to talk about Brock Lesnar regaining the WWE Universal championship, the problems with Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch on-screen, if Baron Corbin is good, Kevin Owens breaking out on Smackdown Live and much more. Then, Hawg Sports' Pete Roulier jumps on the pod to talk about the upcoming Arkansas Razorbacks season, the Chad Morris era, Ben Hicks being the favorite in the Hawgs' QB battle, playing in the SEC West, and much more.

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The Westbrook & Harden Fit in Houston, Paying Ben Simmons in Philly and Pelicans Projections With TrueHoop's Coach David Thorpe

Chase Thomas is joined by TrueHoop's Coach David Thorpe to talk about the fit of Russell Westbrook and James Harden on the Rockets, Harden adapting more to Westbrook's style, if the Sixers should have paid Ben Simmons, the conditioning of Joel Embiid, the loss of Jimmy Butler but the importance of Al Horford, the Pelicans huge offseason, Zion's ideal size, Lonzo vs. Ingram in the future, and hilarious Kevin Martin stories.

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21 NFL Questions With PFF's Austin Gayle and UConn's Back in the Big East With The UConn Blog's Aman Kidwai

Chase Thomas is joined by Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle to talk about 21 NFL offseason questions heading into the new season that includes Philly's elite offensive line, what a Stafford trade would like for Detroit, poor Josh Rosen, best-graded Raider in 2019, Kyler or Jimmy G for the next 5 years, who trades for Melvin Gordon, and the Broncos as a playoff team. Then, The UConn Blog's Aman Kidwai comes on the pod to talk about UConn returning to the Big East, their football program, and much more.

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Kings Moving On Up, Westbrook Trade Destinations and the Spurs Have Too Many Guards With Sactown Royalty's Sanjesh Singh

Chase Thomas is joined by Sactown Royalty's Sanjesh Singh to talk about the Sacramento Kings finally getting it together, the addition of Luke Walton's offense, De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley's ceiling in the NBA, how they compare to the Indiana Pacers, if the team will make the playoffs next season, trade possibilities for Russell Westbrook, why he'd be perfect in Toronto, the Spurs having too many guards, trading DeJounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge's trade value and much more.

Bruins Offseason Questions, the Sebastian Aho Kerfuffle and Geoff Collins Hype at Georgia Tech With Boston Sports Journal's Conor Ryan and From The Rumble Seat's Ben Tankersley

Chase Thomas is joined by BSJ's Conor Ryan to talk about the Bruins falling just short in the Stanely Cup Final, what's next, their 2019 NHL Draft haul, Sebastian Aho's RFA drama with Montreal, the Hurricanes' offseason issues, Mitch Marner's future in Toronto, and the Coyotes' new billionaire owner. Then, From The Rumble Seat's Ben Tankersley jumps on the pod to talk about the end of the Paul Johnson era at Tech, Geoff Collins' hype, GT's recruiting, and what to expect in Year 1 in this new era.

Raw Is Good Again, Styles Reforms The Club, and Rollins And Becky Have No Chemistry With RBR Wrestling's Eric Brady

Chase Thomas is joined by RBR Wrestling's Eric Brady to talk about the very good week of WWE television, what made the Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley spot work, less in-ring promos, Paul Heymans influence on the show, where The Miz and Cesaro fit on the show, the absence of Roman Reigns, Baron Corbin's perfect backstage promos, the return of Ronda Rousey to help the Raw Women's Division, what made the Ricochet and AJ Styles segment work this week, and the AEW vs. WWE war for teens.

Kawhi Free Agency Watch, Why Lakers Why, and the Pacers Winning the East With The Athletic's Jovan Buha

Chase Thomas is joined by The Athletic's Jovan Buha to talk about everything going on with Kawhi Leonard, where the Clippers stand in the race, why the Lakers are the favorites with LeBron and Anthony Davis, the issues with the rest of the Lakers' roster, trading Kuzma instead of Lonzo, why Kemba doesn't make the Celtics that much better than last season, the Bulls possibly figuring it out, why the Pelicans are going to suck and why the Pacers are going to win the East. 

So We Need To Talk About That Episode of Monday Night Raw

I enjoyed three hours of professional wrestling on a Monday night. Now, on the surface, this may not seem like a big deal, but, folks, I could not tell you the last time I enjoyed three hours of professional wrestling on a Monday night. Since the WWE elected to actively hurt their product by making their two-hour show a three-hour show, sitting through these episodes of Raw each week have been harder than it is for OJ Simpson to not tweet out fantasy football advice. To make matters worse, these episodes haven’t even been enjoyably bad like TNA was back when Claire Lynch was a thing and AJ Styles was going through some stuff and Hulk Hogan thought he could save the business. Obviously, I would like to enjoy a good product each week, but if that isn’t an option, I would gladly take a hilariously bad product over a forgettable, boring product. Monday Night Raw hasn’t been a train wreck since moving to three hours, it has just been like watching the Bills play the Jaguars each every Sunday afternoon -- it’s still football and you’re happy it’s still available, but it’s not Packers vs. Steelers. Quite simply, you know it could be better.

This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw was better. Now, who is responsible for this week’s creative choices is still up in the air, but does it really matter? What matters is that it seems as though the majority of WWE fans enjoyed this week’s episode of Raw and, these days, that is very rarely the case. This week, we saw a beloved faction reform in The Club; we saw a young-and-still-quite-green babyface get their big sympathy moment in Ricochet; we saw pyro; we saw fans become invested in the Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman storyline; we saw an insane start to an angle involving Maria and Mike Kannelis; we saw Drake Maverick win back the 24/7 title. It speaks volumes that the worst part about this show was everything involving Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch, who, oh boy, have been extremely bad both in backstage segments and in-ring promos. However, if Rollins and Lynch making cringe-worthy comments is the worst part of a three-hour show, then you have to be happy about where things are headed. 

While Rollins and Lynch are trending down, Ricochet and Styles are trending up. During one backstage segment on this show, we saw Lynch tell her on-screen-and-off-screen hubby that she would advise him not lose her title and vice versa. Individually, these two are fantastic babyfaces. Together, they are the 0-16 Detroit Lions. From the dialogue, to the faces they make, it just doesn’t work. (It doesn’t help that Baron Corbin was phenomenal in his backstage work with Lacey Evans where he correctly pointed out how stupid Rollins was to give him and Evans another shot at his and The Man’s titles. Sure, Corbin is a loser, but his speaking-like-a-normal-human ability is top-notch; it’s just a shame he still has so far to go in the ring to belong in the main event of WWE PPV.  

It should be a problem that the Raw’s biggest storyline -- Lynch and Rollins versus Corbin and Evans -- has bombed, but Ricochet and Styles have saved the day. From their incredible main-event match last week to close the show, to their once again enjoyable main-event match this week, everything about this dynamic works. If you want fans to take Ricochet seriously you have to do what the company is doing from pitting him against the best wrestler in the company to giving him backstage segments that get heated to the point where he takes a vicious slap from the Phenomenal One to sending one right back. Most of the WWE audience didn’t have a reason to cheer for Ricochet or become invested in his character when he first arrived on the main roster, he was just a guy who could do cool stuff in the ring. Now, with his matches against Styles and his story now including the return of The Club, fans have a reason to root for Ricochet and the possibility of turning the latter into a top-tier babyface is no longer so far fetched. 

While Ricochet is finding his groove on the red brand, The Miz is still searching for his Styles. After losing his feud to Shane McMahon, the Miz has been lost in the shuffle. However, if you watched this episode of Raw you can’t help but wonder if the company is squandering Miz’s babyface run in a similar way to the way the company squandered Alex Riley’s back in the day. The Miz works as a babyface, both with his charisma in backstage interviews -- where Raw had at least 37 this week -- and in the ring. He’s figured out how to be a professional wrestler both as a top heel and a top babyface. He just doesn’t have any suitable dancing partner at the moment. The Universal champion is a babyface; the United States champion is a babyface; there just isn’t anyone currently on the Raw roster for Miz to have a big-time feud with. 

Or maybe it’s Cesaro? One of my favorite blips on this week’s episode of Raw was Cesaro dismissing the god-awful No Way Jose with two brutal moves outside the ring. It both looked and sounded painful for Jose and, once Cesaro was done, he left angrily. Cesaro, like the Miz, is floating. His work as a dangerous heel works, and with Sheamus gone, why not have these two collide. These two feuding would feel right as the Miz’s new persona is a guy who just wants to be taken seriously as a professional wrestler. He wants pro wrestling fans to adore him the way they have always adored Cesaro. You can work with Cesaro not taking Miz seriously; you can work with The Miz taking a beating from Cesaro leading up to a PPV match; you can work with The Miz having his SummerSlam moment by defeating the Swiss Cyborg. 

Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t what made this Raw really click was the Styles Turn. (Like the Styles Clash, but, you know, in a different sense. Hey, where is everybody going?) With The Good Brothers looking to have two feet out the door for months and months, to see the duo feature so prominently this week, to see Karl Anderson offer up his Hot Asian Wife to motivate Styles, to see three exceptionally good professional wrestlers motivated again was a breath of fresh air. It’s almost like Vince McMahon finally watched an episode of NXT, took a gander at Undisputed Era’s success, and decided he wanted a main-roster version of that. Pro wrestling fans love Adam Cole and that stable; pro wrestling fans love AJ Styles and that stable; it was about time this company just gave them what they have always wanted. Adding Ricochet into the mix was just the icing on the cake.

MLB With Fangraphs' Dan Szymborski and NFL With Fox Sports Analyst Mike Pereira

Chase Thomas is joined by Fangraphs' Dan Szymborski to talk about the mess that is the New York Mets, Mickey Calloway's future with the team, if you fix the Mets with the Wilpons in power, Pete Alonso's All-Star case, Marcus Stroman wanting to be a Yankee, Jordan Hicks needing Tommy John, and much more. Then, NFL On Fox's Mike Pereira jumps on the pod to talk about his career, future of instant replay in football, and working with Troy Aikman and Joe Buck every Sunday.

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Devils Take Jack Hughes and Trade for PK Subban, Giants' New Frontier With Daniel Jones, and Eli Manning's Future With All About the Jersey's John Fischer and New York Giants Beat Writer John Schmeelk

Chase Thomas is joined by John Fischer to talk about the New Jersey Devils taking Jack Hughes No. 1 overall in the NHL Draft, how the Devils got here, how long before Hughes is a difference-maker, the rationale behind trading for PK Subban, if this team can make the playoffs next year, and much more. Then, John Schmeelk jumps on the pod to talk about the Daniel Jones experience, how he's performing in camp, how Eli Manning has dealt with his gradual decline, the OBJ trade, and much more.

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Emergency Atlanta Hawks' Draft Day Trades, Braves, and Falcons Pod With Peachtree Hoops and Talking Chop's Sam Meredith

Chase Thomas is joined by Peachtree Hoops and Talking Chop sportswriter Sam Meredith to talk about a wild week for Atlanta sports, why fans are so hyped about the city's future, Dallas Keuchel's debut in Washington, if the Braves could trade for Rasiel Iglesias in Cincy, why Ian Kennedy will be a future Brave, who won the Luka Doncic trade, why the Hawks' young core has a ceiling, who is Cam Reddish, and why the Falcons could contend in 2019.

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Jazz Make Mega Trade for Mike Conley, Horford to Dallas? Plus, The Thunder Want to Make Moves With Bleacher Report's Dan Favale

Chase Thomas is joined by Bleacher Report's Dan Favale to talk about the Utah Jazz going for it by trading for Mike Conley, how the former Grizzly fits next to Donovan Mitchell, Utah's lack of depth on the wring, the Celtics losing Al Horford, how Horford and Porzingis would work in Dallas, Kemba Walker's fit in Dallas versus Los Angeles, paying Porzingis and Horford the max, the Thunder trying to move bad contracts, Steven Adams' value around the league, and much more.

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Braves' Red Hot Offense, Yankees Trade For Encarnacion, and the Indians Have Problems With Sox Machine's Josh Nelson

Chase Thomas is joined by Sox Machine's Josh Nelson to talk about the White Sox playing .500 baseball into the middle part of June, the Braves' offensive explosion, what makes Ronald Acuna so special as a hitter, Freddie Freeman's NL MVP case, what the Phillies will do to respond in the NL East, the case for Mike Soroka down the stretch, the Yankees trading for Edwin Encarnacion, what Clint Frazier's future with the team is, the Indians trading Franciso Lindor this summer, and much more.

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