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#pounditSunday, October 24, 2021

Stories by Grey Papke:

Jared Goff responds to Sean McVay’s trade admission

Jared Goff Lions

Jared Goff has long complained about how his trade from the Los Angeles Rams was handled. So much so, in fact, that even his former coach’s apology isn’t enough for him.

Rams coach Sean McVay admitted this week that he should have offered “better, clearer communication” to Goff when the Rams traded him to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford during the offseason. Goff had previously said he felt blindsided by the trade, and that the Rams had not spoken to him between the end of the season and the abrupt blockbuster deal.

Goff said Wednesday he appreciated McVay’s admission, but did not sound ready to forgive or forget.

Goff had hard feelings toward the Rams from the moment of the trade. Time clearly hasn’t dulled that, even though things aren’t going much better for him in his new home. It adds some extra spice to the matchup between the two teams this Sunday.

Case Keenum has funny comment about spot start for Browns

Case Keenum on the field

Case Keenum will step in for the injured Baker Mayfield Thursday night, and there is no doubt the veteran quarterback is ready for the challenge.

Keenum had a pretty funny take on Wednesday when discussing his backup duties. The journeyman quarterback admitted he’s stepped in on late notice so many times in his career that it’s become his calling card.

Keenum isn’t wrong, to be fair. Only once in his career has the 33-year-old made a full complement of starts in a season. This will be the eighth time in the last nine seasons, however, that he’s made at least one start. It’ll be the sixth organization he’s done it for, too.

Admittedly, some ex-teammates might say Keenum’s method of introduction makes him out to be cold and closed-off. In this situation, it’s unlikely to be a problem, with Keenum in his second year with Cleveland.

Photo: Aug 22, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Case Keenum (5) after the game against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Rolovich fired by Washington State over vaccine mandate

Nick Rolovich with a Washington State shirt

Washington State coach Nick Rolovich is out of a job after failing to comply with the state’s vaccine mandate.

Rolovich was fired for cause on Monday along with other unvaccinated Washington State assistant coaches, The Oregonian’s John Canzano was first to report. The state’s vaccine mandate for all state employees came into effect Monday, two months after it was announced in August.

Rolovich previously said he applied for an exemption for medical or religious reasons and was hoping things would work out. The news suggests his exemption was not granted.

Rolovich’s vaccination status has been the subject of ongoing drama at Washington State. He made clear in July that he would not be taking the vaccine, and actually missed Pac-12 Media Day as a result. Rolovich refused to change his stance even in light of the statewide mandate.

It was not clear who would take over the Cougars, either permanently or on an interim basis. At 4-3, they sit firmly in contention in the Pac-12 North, and have won three consecutive games.

Could infamous Astros executive be candidate for Mets front office job?

Jeff Luhnow smiling

The New York Mets’ hunt for a new president of baseball operations is turning messy as candidate after candidate passes on the opportunity. That may force the organization to do something controversial.

As it stands, the Mets have not asked for permission from any other organization to interview any front office personnel. That prompted Joel Sherman of the New York Post to speculate that the Mets might seek out a candidate they would not need permission to speak to. One that would fit the bill is former Houston Astros GM Jeff Luhnow.

Sherman makes clear that there is no specific evidence that the Mets consider Luhnow a candidate. However, he would fit what they are looking for. Luhnow is in the mold of other candidates the Mets have looked at, like Milwaukee’s David Stearns. He also has a track record of success, constructing the core of the Houston Astros team currently playing in the ALCS.

That said, Luhnow would come with major baggage. As Sherman notes, he lost his job with Houston over the 2017 sign-stealing scandal and served a one-year MLB suspension. He also traded for Roberto Osuna after the pitcher had been accused of domestic violence, and oversaw the mess that led to assistant GM Brandon Taubman’s firing. Considering the instability and culture issues the Mets have had recently, those could be difficult problems for the Mets to overlook.

The Mets’ search has turned into a bit of a fiasco as every preferred target turns them down. That they have no clear backup plan speaks poorly of them. Luhnow could be a quality addition from a pure baseball perspective. The question is whether the Mets could stomach the bad PR that would come with it.

Photo: Oct 13, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow before game one of the 2017 ALCS playoff baseball series against the New York Yankees at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Deandre Ayton unhappy with Suns after failed contract talks

Deandre Ayton in his Suns uniform

Deandre Ayton’s long-term future with the Phoenix Suns is unclear for multiple reasons after contract talks stopped Monday.

Ayton and the Suns halted talks on Monday after failing to agree to a contract extension. Monday marks the deadline for the 2018 draft class to sign long-term extensions, and the failure to get Ayton signed means he will be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ayton is notably unhappy with how negotiations have gone with the Suns. The center had been adamant about asking for a full five-year max contract worth $172.5 million, but Phoenix was never willing to make that offer. The Suns briefly raised the contract of a shorter three- or four-year max deal, but never formally offered it. The organization has been consistent in the belief that it does not view Ayton as a max player.

Ayton is said to be unhappy with the franchise over this valuation. There is some fear that his relationship with coach Monty Williams could even suffer, as the center’s maturity will be tested playing out a contract year for a franchise he’s currently displeased with.

Ayton’s case can be bolstered by the fact that the Suns’ stance is viewed with surprise around the rest of the league. That also indicates Ayton should have a robust market next summer, and Phoenix may face a real battle to keep him.

The former No. 1 pick has made clear that respect is a major factor for him. The fact that the organization doesn’t view him as a max player can definitely be taken as a sign of disrespect. That’s even more true after Ayton averaged 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds en route to the NBA Finals in last year’s playoffs.

Photo: Jan 3, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) against the New York Knicks at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kliff Kingsbury had specific reason for not watching Cardinals game

Kliff Kingsbury

Kliff Kingsbury was away from the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday due to a positive Covid test. One might expect that he watched his team on live TV along with everyone else, but that was not the case.

Kingsbury was back home in Arizona isolating as he waited to be cleared from Covid protocols. He actually avoided watching Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB. Instead, the Cardinals coach decided to use the time to begin gameplanning for next week’s game against the Houston Texans.

Kingsbury did tune in eventually, though he did so with just three minutes to go and Arizona up big. He tuned in not to see the play, but because he was proud of his team and wanted to see them celebrate.

Believe it or not, Kingsbury probably isn’t the only coach who’d avoid the game. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was in a similar spot last year, and while he did watch the game, he admitted that the inability to control any of it was very stressful. Maybe Kingsbury didn’t want to needlessly put himself through that stress.

Joe Judge questions Giants’ effort after latest loss

Joe Judge

Things are looking bleak for the New York Giants, and public criticism from coach Joe Judge isn’t making the situation look any better.

The Giants lost 38-11 to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in a game that saw them trailing 31-3 after three quarters. The loss dropped the team to 1-5 on the season, and with upcoming November games against the Chiefs, Raiders, and Buccaneers, things don’t appear likely to improve anytime soon.

To make matters worse on Monday, Judge publicly questioned his team’s effort in the loss. The head coach suggested he saw things in both the first and second half that would be addressed privately.

There will be a debate about whether there’s anything to be gained from this sort of public condemnation. Maybe Judge believes the players need to be called out in public, even if not by name.

On the other hand, Judge has some good reasons to question how much the team was trying. Maybe some fans will be happy to hear him say publicly what they all saw.

Nick Saban shows off bruise from Texas A&M fans rushing field

Nick Saban

The weekend’s college football events brought some focus on safety, not just for fans, but for players. Angry spectators and people storming the field in celebration both pose their own unique hazards.

Alabama coach Nick Saban is familiar with the second group right now. He and his Crimson Tide had to avoid Texas A&M fans after the Aggies upset them a week ago, and Saban has some visible evidence of that. When asked about the incident at Tennessee and the safety of players, coaches, and fans, the Alabama coach showed a large bruise on his arm Monday that he said was the result of the Texas A&M field storming.

Fans storming the field may be fun to watch. This is why it’s dangerous, too, and why the NCAA takes a stance against it. After all, Saban got caught up in some pretty chaotic scenes last Saturday.

It has not been a good couple weeks for SEC fan behavior, that much is certain.