Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

This Post Could Give You Just The Spark You Needed

Illustration: Jim Cooke (G/O Media)

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday during the NFL season. Email Drew here. Buy his book here.

Titans franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota lost his job this week. The immortal Ryan Tannehill will be starting in his place when Tennessee faces the Chargers on Sunday. Why is this? Well, it’s because Mariota is an inert passer. But also, in an EXCLUSIVE, I’m here to report that Mike Vrabel is searching for something that has eluded NFL head coaches for decades now. I’m talking, of course, about A SPARK:

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Tannehill himself believes that he indeed may be that very spark:

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Oh, but he’s hardly the only Ryan out there who is a potential candidate for Commander-In-Spark. There’s also Ryan Finley!

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And Ryan Fitzpatrick!

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Fitzpatrick, as you have seen over the course of this century, has amassed over $50 million in career earnings ($20 million more than Tannehill, in fact) by serving as designated spark-purveyor for 27 other franchises. You don’t actually have to be GOOD at your job, and Fitzpatrick is decidedly not, to get bestowed with the precious spark label. You merely need to be the backup, and the guy ahead of you has to perform so terribly that A) Anyone would be an improvement and B) That improvement could potentially serve as a master switch that jolts through an entire moribund offense (it’s always an offense that requires sparking) and brings it back to life, after which your team runs the table.

But, you’re not asking me, are there different kinds of sparks? There are. How are they different? Well, sometimes they come in the form of a DIFFERENT boilerplate white guy:

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And sometimes they have a charming mustache!

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And sometimes they go to high school with Dan Snyder’s garbage son!

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Sometimes a single play sparks a drive that leads to a touchdown that sparks an entire team, that then leads to a win that’s just the spark everyone needed! Whoa hey, it’s like I’m at a welding plant with all these sparks! Some guys have been sparks in the past. Other guys could be sparks if given the chance. And yet other guys could one day PROVIDE a spark. From where? I am, currently, not privileged to divulge such information. Maybe they have a friend who can lend them a spark. Maybe they’ll be able to source it from a neighborhood Meineke. Maybe they’re Rodimus Prime and know the location of the AllSpark and can get to it before it falls into Decepticon hands. All that matters is that they could maybe almost sorta kinda possibly obtain that spark, which is more than Andy Dalton can do!

It goes without saying that with the possible exception of Kyle Allen, none of these be-knighted sparks are very good at the job of quarterbacking. “Spark” is just cursory managementese from a coach looking to give things a positive spin when his hand has been forced at the most important position on the field. It belongs right alongside “poise” and “upside” as stock terms used by football people to highlight shit about a player that is not directly tied to immediate on-field performance. Not only does it polish the turd holding a clipboard, but it also frames benching the starting QB as a savvy bit of risk that could pay enormous dividends, even when it’s a change that should have been made weeks prior.

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None of these sparks will prove to be sparky enough. The few times in history when a new QB has swooped in and legitimately revived an offense, it’s been a QB who was acquired to take the job anyway. The most glaring example of this, off the top of my head, was when Colin Kaepernick took Alex Smith’s job with the Niners back in 2012. Kaepernick led the Niners to a Super Bowl, and then he himself was benched for certified Class B party explosive Blaine Gabbert just a few years later.

In most cases, a shitty team grasping around a pitch black room for a spark will continue doing that all the way up until Draft Day. As always, the NFL posits itself as the ultimate physical meritocracy left standing in America today, but is just as prone to layoff doublespeak and clumsy political maneuvering as any other business venture. There are no sparks. You don’t suck just because you happened to blow a fuse. You suck because you suck. A spark won’t fix anything when the entire engine has fallen to pieces.

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The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

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Five Throwgasms

Ravens at Seahawks: Anytime an NFL head coach is asked about some political controversy or about a disgruntled player shitting in another disgruntled player’s cleats, they go through the mandatory process of bristling at the line of inquiry and then demanding to only talk about the upcoming opponent. The best example of this was when Bill Belichick waved off questions about his first mate Donald Trump and grumpily huffed SEATTLE fifty times in a row to steer the press conference the way he wanted to go.

Other coaches do this. Even fans do it. How many times have you seen some Pats chud tweet WE’RE ONTO CINCINNATI after they got an oil change or something? The funny thing about this tic is that the opponent is the LAST thing any of these coaches wanna talk about. They’d much rather talk about sparks. The fuck is John Harbaugh gonna tell you about the Seahawks before his team has to go beat them on the road? He’s gonna say Russell Wilson is a playmaker. He’s gonna talk about how much he respects Pete Carroll. He’s gonna say that the Ravens have to be sharp in “all phases of the game” to win. He’s gonna say, “That’s a good football team” a dozen times over.

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He’s not gonna tell you HOW he plans to win. That would be fucking stupid. You’re not gonna get anything resembling nuts-and-bolts strategy, existential fear, or matchups worth exploiting from a coach who has zero incentive to provide such information. An invitation to talk about the next game is an invitation to talk about nothing. So remember that the next time some coach convinces a beat guy that sticking to Atlanta is gonna result in a goldmine of copy.

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Four Throwgasms

Texans at Colts: I have goofed on Andy Benoit in this space to incredible excess. But Benoit was recently part of the Thursday Night Massacre over at Sports Illustrated that resulted in nearly half the editorial staff getting laid off. As such, I feel compelled to note that Benoit was on an island defending Jacoby Brissett when the Colts locked him in as the long-term starter after Andrew Luck suddenly retired. The beginning of this season has, thus far, proven Benoit vindicated.

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Houston is still the best team in that sorry-ass division, but the Colts just ran over the Chiefs two weeks ago and Brissett is completing nearly 65 percent of his passes in the process. They ARE good and he IS a bargain. I am the sort of petty asshole who bases his rooting interests on whether or not they’ll prove someone I dislike wrong. This is especially true of Bill Simmons, to the point where I have become both hoary and in dire need of therapy to address my grudges. But it’s a genuinely good thing that Benoit was right and that the Colts don’t suck, especially when the AFC remains preseason fodder for the goddamn Patriots. I hope the Colts win 11 games and then they run Marlon Mack directly up Belichick’s ass in the divisional round.

Saints at Bears: I recently realized that I have texting hours. I don’t text during the work day. I don’t reply to my mom when she texts me out of the blue about something she read in the newspaper. Instead, I wait until after I’ve eaten dinner and walked the dog and had my requisite hit of Alaskan Thunder Fuck. THEN I sit in my chair and fire off inane texts to unfortunate friends and family alike. I’m like an ‘80s teenager bogarting the phone after hours with my texting regimen. No one is safe when I’m feeling lazily social.

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Vikings at Lions

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Three Throwgasms

Raiders at Packers: I saw an NFL OWNER cheesehead hat during MNF last week. If you own one of these, or if you bought a certificate that says you’re a part-owner of one, please go jump into a vat of molten steel.

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Eagles at Cowboys: We need to have a serious talk about Carson Wentz’s facial hair. Look at this ginger inkblot:

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He looks like he just got back from a beer run and all they had was Beast Light. He looks like he just gave up six goals to the Calgary Flames in the second round of the NHL playoffs. He looks like Jim Halpert playing Ed Sheeran in a biopic. This is why the Eagles are .500.

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Two Throwgasms

Patriots at Jets: I know he’s paid to be objective, but you can tell when the ref is excited to announce a defensive holding call to the home crowd. They always get a little bit of lift in their timbre when they call it out. Clete Blakeman will make the hand signal, then say HOLDING, then wait a beat, and then say DEFENSE and point to the visitors’ end zone. You thought he was gonna call holding on the good guys, didn’t ya? WELL HERE’S A TWIST.

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Cardinals at Giants: All this time, people have been gnashing their teeth over plastic straws while certain deli meats still come with those little plastic divider sheet thingies. As we speak, there is a patch in the ocean the size of Texas that is comprised entirely of prosciutto slice protectors.

Chiefs at Broncos

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One Throwgasm

Niners at Skins: Home whites have become an epidemic. The Packers wore them a week ago. The Jets did as well. Previously, home whites were strictly the province of the Cowboys and Skins, to the point where both teams only had to wear their solid color jerseys when they faced each other on the road. But now other teams have gotten into it and I’d just like to say that I hate it. I’m too old and confused for this shit. Home whites look good on Dallas and no other team.

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They’re especially ugly on the Skins, who think their home whites are some hallowed tradition—one on par with suing their own ticketholders—when no one else gives a crap. You know what it is? It’s PRETENTIOUS. It’s one team saying that they’re so special that deserve to reverse the home-away color scheme whenever they feel like it. YOU FOLKS NEED TO ABIDE BY THE UNIFORMITY OF LEAGUE DRESS GUIDELINES AND SHOW THE SHIELD SOME GODDAMN RESPECT.

Bengals at Jaguars: And another thing! I also hate road grays in baseball. They’re fucking depressing. Plenty of baseball teams now rock solid color jerseys at home—as the Nationals do. There’s no reason that MLB can’t just shift permanently to the usual (and optimal, dammit) NFL arrangement of home solids and road whites. When the Yankees play on the road, they look like they just broke out of a prison camp. It makes me want to kill myself.

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Dolphins at Bills: The Bills are favored by 17 to win this game. Seventeen! VEGAS DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THESE DOLPHINS! Anyway, you can go ahead and count on Miami being 15-point dogs to pretty much every team from here on out. I still think they’ll accidentally win a game and ruin their best laid plans, because they’re the Dolphins. But there’s no reason before kickoff to believe they’re gonna be competitive in any of these games. They don’t want to be. They wanna die. Eighty percent of their current roster will be playing on the opening day of the XFL.

Rams at Falcons: Let’s take a look at Jared Goff’s game log this year, shall we?

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GAHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I know the Rams just won the NFC and appear to have their shit together now. But their quarterback got solved, seemingly for good, in a Super Bowl loss. And since then, the team has handed him a fat extension and traded two first-rounders for a cornerback who, even when active, couldn’t keep the Jaguars from falling apart. Join us a week from now when they rehire Jeff Fisher as a special consultant. It’s all coming back again…

Chargers at Titans

Pregame Song That Makes Me Want To Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“Kill To Die,” by Lords of the Trident! Gotta respect that title, if nothing else about this particular song. Here’s Kevin:

When you think of Madison Wisconsin, what do you think of? That’s right, absolutely RIPPING power metal from a band named after Game of Thrones. This is KILL TO DIE, by Lords of the Trident. None of their other songs quite sound like this, but no matter! It’s great, and they have tons of other great tunes too.

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I’m gonna take your word for that. The minimum dose of this band is all I require. But again, they named their song “Kill To Die.” Not since Motorhead’s “Killed By Death” has a metal band gotten to the point so quickly.

Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week

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Eagles coach Doug Pederson dropped the notorious Victory Guarantee this week in the lead-up to the Dallas game. Anytime a coach or an athlete does this, you better believe that a local columnist will be like HOW DARE YOU PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE LIKE THAT?! This week, that brave columnist is the Inquirer’s Marcus Hayes:

Doug Pederson said it. He said it unprompted and unscripted, and he meant it.

It’s true. He did it. He did the confident-guy thing.

The only question now is: Will it haunt him?

Marcus sure hopes so!

Pederson told listeners at 94WIP on Monday:

“We’re going down to Dallas, and our guys are gonna be ready to play. And we’re gonna win that football game, and when we do, we’re in first place in the NFC East.”

Oh, really?

Who does this coach think he is? Miss Cleo? Are we to believe he can just WILL the future into being? Nice job giving Jerry Jones bulletin board material, Doug, you big ape!

The Cowboys are in a tailspin after a 3-0 start to be tied with the Eagles at 3-3. They are, as you might expect, as ornery as a longhorn steer stuck in the sagebrush.

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Did LBJ write this column? Them Cowboys … why they’re like a buckin’ bronco and you’d best saddle up! Like my daddy always said, “A hornet that don’t sting ain’t no hornet at all!”

How might they respond to Pederson’s guarantee?

Are you guys ready for some Cowboys fan fiction?

Tepidly, at first.

You are not. Not even Marcus Hayes appears to be.

On Monday afternoon, Pederson insisted that he was just expressing confidence in his own team; that the word “guarantee” never left his lips.

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Those are both true things. BUT…

Split the hairs however you like. Whatever Pederson said, it didn’t play well in Big D.

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OH NOES! The Cowboys are mad now! We can’t say things that might be taken poorly in some other town! Now they’re REALLY gonna wanna win! I understand that no one can hate Philly sports teams more than their own fans and local press. But it’s also the job of Philly people to act like they don’t give a shit about what anyone outside Philly thinks or says or pronounces correctly. Meanwhile, here’s Marcus Hayes actively trying to make this a whole thing.

Not all of the Cowboys will admit it at the moment, but Pederson’s bluster might be just the boost they need to come out of their three-game slide.

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Are you a fucking coach for that team?

(Antwaun) Woods isn’t DeMarcus Lawrence or Dak Prescott, but he’s not nobody, either. He was in his second year last season and started 15 games, including the two wins over the Eagles. A knee injury cost Woods three games this season, but he returned Sunday at the Jets. And he’ll play Sunday night.

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Wow. FEAR THE WOOD.

And he’ll be putting his hand in the dirt.

Like a MAN. (The Cowboys don’t play on grass at home.)

Unlike Doug Pederson.

Yeah! Coward-ass Doug Pederson doesn’t know what it’s like to be out there on the field and feel the soil, except for the 10 years he played in the NFL. Other than that? A GUTLESS PUSSY.

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Magic Johnson’s Lock Of The Week: Lions +1

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“I believe the Lions will win this game, giving them a record of 3-2-1! We have liftoff! Hanging out with all my clients at the Bertucci’s booth at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas, Nevada all week! Great job, team! Wow!”

2019 Magic record: 3-3

Fantasy Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

I know it’s not really his fault, but JuJu Smith-Schuster is only averaging a notch above 50 yards a game this season. Therefore, regretfully, he must die. I don’t care if Devlin MacGregor Pharmaceuticals is the one throwing him the ball. I demand RESULTS. Just because Big Ben is a Big Shithead doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, buddy!

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Bad Local Commercial Of The Week! 

Pizza-N-Go! SPRINKLE THE CHEESE… SPRINKLE THE CHEESE. Submitted for your approval by Alex:

In what world is this a “rap” commercial? Is the bit at the end supposed to be twerking?

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I rule that is NOT twerking. He’s just brandishing his ass, not sufficiently bouncing it. Also, note our hero pantomiming having nipple tassels. ANYONE ELSE FEELING HUNGRY RIGHT NOW?!

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2019 chopping block:

Jay Gruden—FIRED!
Doug Marrone
Dan Quinn*********
Pat Shurmur
Mike Tomlin
Adam Gase*
Brian Flores
Freddie Kitchens*
Zac Taylor
Mike Vrabel
Anthony Lynn
Jason Garrett

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(*—possible midseason firing)

This is Jason Garrett’s 10th season in Dallas. Every other year, he ends up on the hot seat and I’m like, “Ol’ Jase is gone for sure now!” And he never is. Jerry Jones is both loyal AND lazy, which means you can stay in his good graces for years and years so long as you split a Johnnie Walker Blue with him in the back room of the Spearmint Rhino. I need to see the body cold before I go celebrating Princeton Boy’s demise.

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Also, I’d like to reiterate the point that Freddie Kitchens is clearly unqualified for his job and that there’s no shame in the Browns admitting their fuckup and replacing him before he’s logged a full year on the job. They’re the Browns. They can’t be any MORE disgraced. They may as well own up to their mistake quickly if they really want to convince people they’re an actual football team now.

Great Moments In Grandpa History

Elisabeth sends in this story call KRZYSZTOF KIEŚLOWSKI’S GRAY:

My grandparents came to Montreal in 1952 and my grandfather never lost his thick Polish accent. He sounded like a mix between the old people in Avalon and Mel Brooks as the 2000-Year-Old Man. He was also a Holocaust survivor, convinced he invented the McRib, and kept single peaches and plums loose in his trunk so that he could offer my brother a snack on the days he picked him up from T-ball.

He couldn’t pronounce anything, especially these three words: Pain was “paint”, table was “taveleh” and smoked was “gershmoked”. He also called Wayne Gretzky “Trotsky” and the Oilers the “Oildemen”. My grandmother, who lost any accent she ever had the moment she stepped off the boat in Canada, never bothered to correct him. Probably because she thought it was funny. My grandfather also taught me how to cuss in Yiddish, a skill I’m still looking to use.

Anyway, one day in the early 60s, he sends my 6-year-old aunt to the butcher down the street to buy cheese and meat. My aunt goes to the counter and asks for “gershmoked” meat and cheese because that’s the only pronunciation she knows. The butcher, without missing a beat, says, “Mike Galina’s daughter!”

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Now I want gershmoked meats.

Gametime Snack Of The Week

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Walnuts! Whole-ass walnuts. When I was a kid, my folks would put out whole walnuts and pieces of cheese after dinner. This is because I grew up in 1921. They gave use nutcrackers to split the walnuts open, which we did with gleeful abandon. That was the fun part. Eating unseasoned walnut meat out of the shell, getting little shards of walnut cartilage stuck between your teeth in the process? Not as much.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

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BALASHI! From Aruba! Aruba, Jamaica, oooooh I wanna BREAK ya… From Alex:

Since Balashi is “Aruba’s Beer” it can be found all over the island, and they were selling it in buckets at our resort for something like 5 cans for $20. It is not a good beer...just a basic pilsner with a bad aftertaste. What makes me laugh is that the can says that it’s “brewed with Aruba’s pristine water,” which is funny because there is no fresh water on the island. The water supply comes from the world’s second-largest desalination plant where the seawater is made safe to drink! Delicious!

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Well then, it IS pristine, in a way. Whatever. I MUST HAVE IT.

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!

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“I’ve been to Aruba. I floated there once in a bucket. Nice people. They make this stew out of old algae there that’s surprisingly good. Reminded me of the moss soup my friend Cincinnati Cynthia makes outside the paper mill back home. Everything around you is a vegetable. People just don’t know it, okay? I got half a mind to get in my bucket with a paint can lid again and paddle my way back to that island paradise.”

Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Dolphins Fans

Mean Streets. Martin Scorsese pissed off all the Marvel fanboys last week when he said this about the MCU movies:

“That’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

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You know, you can like Marvel movies and still think Scorsese is right. It’s not that hard to bridge that gap. I like a lot of Marvel movies. They’re well thought-out and expertly made. You can tell the people involved in those movies give a shit, which is all I really ask for when I buy a ticket. But they’re also designed to be visceral experiences, like rides. That’s no crime. Scorsese wasn’t even saying it was. He was just issuing the standard, accurate complaint that more modest and human movies have been all but erased from the Hollywood slate to accommodate the bigger shit. So you can watch Endgame and love it and at the same time be sad that Disney can’t be bothered to make, like, normal movies anymore. You definitely shouldn’t sit there and play Smithers to Kevin Feige’s Mr. Burns and act like it’s a war crime to criticize a fucking billion dollar movie factory. What do they need your advocacy for? All they need is your fucking money.

These people who ride Marvel’s dick are among the most dismal and COMMON of Internet denizens. All the hobbies in the world you can fuss over, and you pick the same goddamn bunch of movies everyone else does. Watch fucking Mean Streets and step out of your comfort zone for once in your sorry-ass lives. Now Star Wars? There’s an underdog franchise worth obsessing about!

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Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Dad wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but the pull of clowning was too strong.”

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Enjoy the games, everyone.

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About the author

Drew Magary

Drew Magary is a Deadspin columnist and columnist for GEN magazine. You can buy Drew's second novel, The Hike, through here.