Illustration by Sam Woolley/GMG

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

There are four starting quarterbacks left in the NFL playoffs and there’s a good chance you, not to mention TV execs, are not exactly elated to see three of them there, because either their play or their stature (or both!) don’t exactly align with the moment. Well, I don’t know if this is a comfort, but it’s worth remembering that this shitpile isn’t exactly a new phenomenon.

Go back in time and you will discover a rogue’s gallery of average-to-shitty quarterbacks who somehow found themselves as unwelcome interlopers in the NFL’s final four: Kordell Stewart, Rex Grossman, Shaun King, Erik Kramer, Mark Sanchez (twice!!!!), Chris Chandler, Jake Delhomme, Kerry Collins, etc. You can even toss Colin Kaepernick in there if you wanna get take-y about it. There have always been teams that have found ways to work around having, let’s say, deficiencies at quarterback.

What’s different about THIS particular year is that the simultaneous presence of Case Keenum, Blake Bortles, and Nick Foles illustrates how thoroughly the QB market has warped NFL rosters. Even with the salary cap growing by leaps and bounds, a fact that Kevin Clark says shrewd teams like Jacksonville have been able to exploit, franchise quarterbacks still tend to take up a disproportionate amount of both a team’s payroll AND its psyche. As long as free agency has existed, NFL teams have been forced to essentially choose which positions on the field they can tolerate sucking at, because they can’t afford to be good at everything. And with good quarterbacks now commanding and deserving $25-$35 million a year, you are probably gonna suck at a lot of other things if you have one.

Look at what happened to the rest of the league this year. Aaron Rodgers WAS the Packers. The second he went down, the rest of that team feel apart like an old Datsun that lost its only connective rivet. The same goes for the Colts, who even going back to the Peyton years, have been consistently unable to assemble a decent roster around their highly paid field general. Rarely have I seen two teams as co-dependent when it comes to their quarterback. Neither team even had a decent fucking backup.

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Now that’s the sort of thing that can be blamed on both coaching and management, because God knows the Colts have sucked at both. But it’s also a matter of hard economics. It’s not exactly a shock that the Seahawks started to deteriorate soon after they finally had to pony up for Russell Wilson’s contract extension. The way the cap works now, you either have to amass a stud roster and hope that your relatively affordable rookie QB develops ahead of schedule (Carson Wentz!!!). Or you have to make like the Saints and pray that you fall into a historically great rookie class everywhere else on the field to give your aging superstar QB a final run. Or you have to build a stud defense and just hope whoever you plug in at QB is good enough (Vikings, Jags). Hope is a necessary evil in all of those blueprints.

I live in the D.C. area and while the Skins have handled the Kirk Cousins situation horribly, there are more than a few fans here who have bought into the idea that Washington cannot be good if they pay Cousins the salary he’s looking for, and they aren’t even necessarily wrong! The Cousins situation remains, at least for me, emblematic of the modern Sophie’s Choice facing NFL teams. Every decision facing you personnel-wise sucks in its own uniquely awful way, and I assure you that Washington will be far from the last franchise to struggle with this sort of thing.

So it’s not a fluke that Blake Bortles finds himself part of your championship Sunday. That is all by design in an NFL economy that deliberately suppresses player salaries and discourages any sort of long-term roster hoarding. Either your QB drags a shit team to the playoffs, or your team drags a shit QB to the playoffs. The Broncos winning a Super Bowl with a gimpy Peyton Manning wasn’t an anomaly. That kind of team is a stock character in the playoffs now. I have always subscribed to the idea that you either have a QB or you have nothing. But that isn’t exactly true anymore. The skyrocketing cost of QBs has essentially leveled the playing field by stripping QB-rich teams bare everywhere else.

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You might think the Patriots are somewhat of an exception here, mostly because of Bill Belichick’s genius and Tom Brady’s annual willingness to offer a hometown discount (which I remain convinced Bob Kraft will handsomely reward him for once his career has ended). But in other ways, they have actually mastered the process of winning despite being less than the sum of their parts. Brady has been forced to drag more than his fair share of patchwork offenses to title games and Super Bowls. And this year’s Pats outfit ranked 29th in defense, just sucky enough to delude people like me into thinking the Jags have a chance against them. They are vulnerable. But of course, they always have been, haven’t they? That’s what makes them so annoyingly GRITTY, the ways they dominate without being dominant.

More than anyone else in football, Bill Belichick realized that a team cannot have a fabled “core,” and that there is no “window” for that core to win X number of Super Bowls. This is an era of football that demands, instead, that teams constantly reinvent themselves on the fly, sometimes week to week. Belichick’s No Days Off mantra is depressing and soulless, but it also speaks to the frantic, constant need for him to identify what is wrong with his team at any particular moment and engineer NASA-like ways of patching it. There are always problems. Depth will never be what you want to be. The Pats dynasty is a snake that sheds its skin cells as a matter of routine survival. There is a never-ending churn that you must master if you want to keep winning.

And that’s true even if, perhaps especially if, you are set at the most important position in sports. There was a time when Brady himself was a playoff interloper, you know. No team is perfect, and there are unknown quantities everywhere you look. You can choose to find this era, in which teams must pick their poison and figure out the blueprint for being the best mediocre team they can possibly be, either inspiring or dispiriting. One look at Bortles this weekend and I probably know your answer.

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The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms. And during the playoffs, I pick the games because Vegas clearly has NO IDEA about any of these spreads. They’re giving out free money to you people and only sharps like ME know it! 

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 Five Throwgasms

Vikings (-3.5) 20, Eagles 7. FUN FACT: This is not the first time the Vikings have been favored on the road in the NFC title game. The last time it happened was back in 2001, when they were one-point favorites against Kerry Collins and the Giants. They, uh, did not cover.

The Vikings are the winningest team to never win a Super Bowl and I thought the Eagles would be runners up for that honor but I did SPROTS RESEARCH and…well you’re not gonna believe it but the Cleveland Browns, of all teams, have a better all-time win/loss record than the Eagles. So if you’re an Eagles fan and you hear some Cleveland asshole mew-mewing about how sad his franchise is, you burn that fucker with hot cheese and tell them that they know NOTHING of suffering. Nothing! You have statistically out-suffered them. You win.

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Patriots 28, Jaguars (+9) 23. The most fitting thing to happen on Sunday would be for Tom Brady’s leg to snap in eight places so that Brian Hoyer completes the quartet of unwanted QBs. That’s really what the NFL deserves for blackballing Kaepernick and giving the world a season-long exhibit of their astonishing talent drain. This will not happen of course. What will happen is that the Pats will get a brief scare or two—who knows, maybe the Jags will suffer the notorious “blueprint loss” in which they lose but theoretically showcase their opponent’s weakness to the next opponent, who then UTTERLY FAILS to capitalize—before New England shitstomps their way to another title. For an encore, they will then bring God out to midfield and assassinate Him. I am fully prepared to be dead inside.

Time for some random crap:

I don’t know if there’s been a running list of Cool Tony Romo Footbaw Insights but he delivered another one on Sunday when he explained that players will often move or even lightly toss the ball right after the play in order to manipulate where the ref spots the ball. This sounds very much like the sort of thing that Belichick would devote 17 hours of practice time per week toward. Anyone who forgets to hoodwink Ed Hochuli into spotting the ball two extra yards downfield gets cut on Monday.

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I have something to confess, and that is that I miss Thursday Night Football. Since the NFL spread out the schedule, it has become all the more glaring when that schedule goes partially unfilled. Despite all my bitching, I have gotten used to starting my weekend off with a terrible, terrible Thursday night game that I pay roughly 20 percent of my attention too. Without that game, I feel naked. In fact, the post-Bowl football drought is almost unbearable. During that stretch between Christmas and New Year’s, you can’t change the channel without stumbling upon an Idaho Tech versus Georgia Eastern in the Meineke Mufflers Ontario Bowl Sponsored By Ontario. But now all that is GONE. My body remains in withdrawal for forgettable football content. It’s a serious problem. I am suffering fever chills. I may even have to read a book.

Next week is the dreaded Super Bowl bye week and that means it is time once again for the annual Pooporoo, where I punt on doing any kind of actual writing and instead lazily crowdsource your Great Moments In Poop History to help fill up blank web space. So if you have a poop story to share, now’s the time to get it in. Over the years, I have found that any poop story email that starts, “This one is really good” invariably ends up being very bad, whereas any poop story email that starts, “I dunno if this is very good” invariably ends up being RIVETING.

I know Hawaii was NOT bombed into oblivion this past week. But if it had been, I can promise you that the bulk of Twitter’s response would have been, “lol that’s WILD.”

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My colleague Tom Scocca noted this a while back, but something needs to be done with cable box speed. One of the reasons that people are so eager to cut the cord now is not only because cable is expensive, but because cable is also slow as balls. I’m paying $X a month for a service that takes a full two seconds to change channels? UNACCEPTABLE. I should be able to flip around with impunity. Anything else is a mockery of modern technology.

You are gonna see a lot of unbalanced lines because unbalanced lines are the new hotness among NFL coordinators. I have seen teams put two tackles AND two tight ends on one side of a line. That’s crazy! These playcallers don’t give a fuck! I want a team to put 10 linemen out there at once. Just line up the QB behind a ten-man army and have him pick the widest hole to run through. NOW THAT’S OLD SCHOOL FOOTBAW!!!!

Did you know Gillette is headquartered in FACKIN’ MASSACHUSETTS?! Well thankfully, they have started airing ads with a Boston-accented voiceover just to drive the point home. Because everyone loves Boston! I swear I’m gonna burn all my Gillette razors and become a Schick man.

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I have two hot takes to share with you, so take a moment here to put on a Hazmat suit and ready yourself. Are you ready for the first HOT TAKE? Here it is: Meatloaf sucks. The food, not the singer. Maybe I’m scarred by having to eat Lipton soup mix meatloaf as a kid, but I really don’t see the appeal, man. Fast food joints get shit all the time for padding their meat with filler like bread crumbs and what not. Why does meatloaf get a pass? Meatloaf is like the realization of Eddie Murphy’s nightmare burger from Raw. Every time some food critic coos over a nouveau comfort diner serving meatloaf sandwiches for $18 a pop, my eyebrow raises. Why wouldn’t I just have a fucking burger instead? Or why wouldn’t I have meatballs, which have more of a sear on them and don’t taste like meat insulation? Your meat credit is better spent elsewhere, people. Outside of bread, very few things are appetizing in loaf form.

Time for a second hot take! WWE wrestler names SUCK now. I grew up with Jake the Snake and Bret “Hitman” Hart and Adorable Adrian Adonis and the Fabulous Moolah. Look at this roster now. It reads like the fucking UVA lacrosse team. Bo Dallas? Heath Slater? What the fuck is this? I’m not watching any of these boringly named assholes. These are jobber names. Bayley? GTFO. Seth Rollins’s real name Colby Lopez. Why’d he even bother to change it? Change your stage name to THE MURDERHUNTER, and maybe I’ll tune back in. The WWE has completely abandoned campiness and it makes me sad. MORE ANVILS FEWER BROCKS.

I know our own Tom Ley said this is the last video you’ll ever need of the Diggs touchdown, but I do not agree. I still need the live feed from outer fucking space. Gimme the reverse triple slo-mo angle, with the Portuguese announcing crew, shot with Dogme 95 lighting. I cannot get enough. Have the “put the team on his back” guy do a full narration of the NFL Films highlights. I will never stop watching that play. It is my fourth child. DIGGS! SIDELINE! TOUCHDOWN! UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!

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Back before the Vikings and Falcons played in the 1999 NFC title game, a game in which they were heavily favored, Cris Carter stood at a press conference and told all the reporters, “I’ve always wanted to be a champion.” That still sticks with me… how CERTAIN he was that they were gonna win. I don’t really blame Carter for being presumptuous, but it was just one of those times when sports can weaponize your expectations and set them against you. The Vikings really shit the bed against Atlanta, man. Just took a bug old dump on the mattress and then rolled around in it.

I don’t know what’ll happen Sunday, but I know I definitely shouldn’t get too comfortable. The last time the Vikings went to a Super Bowl was four months after I was born. They lost that game and haven’t been back since. I am the cursed child. Clearly, the only way the Vikings will return to the Super Bowl is if I am destroyed. It’s a sacrifice that I am… not at ALL willing to make. Fuck that.

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Last week’s picks: 4-0 (3-1 straight up)

Playoffs: 7-1 (3-5 straight up)

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

“Wendy’s Trash Can,” by Rozwell Kid! From Ben:

Straight out of West Virigina. Some kick ass power pop with rippin’ guitars and an awesome video to boot.

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Indeed. I feel like it’s 1996 all over again.

Gregg Easterbrook Memorial Haughty Dipshit Of The Week

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Bret Stephens of the New York Times is your standard-issue literate conservative dickbag who is eternally tortured by the fact that no one is smart enough to realize he’s the smartest man in the world, and loves to SHOCK the establishment libs by intellectually dismantling their arguments in support of, like, feeding babies. Today he ran an op-ed with this headline:

A Modest Immigration Proposal: Ban Jews

O ho ho! Oh, Bret! You cutup! You little people should understand that Bret does not mean this headline literally, of course. ‘Tis merely a thought exercise to show President Trump the folly of his immigration policy. And I’m sure Trump and his base will note the cutting satire and adjust their worldview accordingly!

It’s worth acknowledging there are often kernels of anecdotal or statistical truth for nearly every ethnic stereotype.

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So true. Before we go defending immigrants, we must acknowledge that some of them DO smell. Because that’s valuable to remember when considering all options!

“Today, American Jews are widely considered the model minority”

That sentence ran in the New York Times. WILD. “Today, everyone knows the Jews behave better than, say, the blacks. That’s just common knowledge! Now Mister President, SIR…”

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Fuck this guy with a telephone pole.

Rex Ryan’s Lock Of The Week: Patriots -9

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“Men, lemme tell you something about the Patriots… they are a bunch of penises. I met Bill Belichick in a hallway once and he was a COLOSSAL penis. Just a shaft of dick with bad hair on top! They are puke. They are the runoff on a dead man’s shit salad. They lie! They cheat! They take EVERY drug! They’d pull the plug on your grandma’s respirator if it meant they could get an extra yard of field position! One other coach I know said they poisoned his team’s training table with laxatives! That team spent the whole first half of a game in Foxboro shitting hot coffee! They are low-down, seedy, evil scum. GOD I WISHED THEY’D OFFER ME A JOB. Just lemme coach a linebacker! I don’t even need the whole group! I’d get with the program and have him cutting brakes and filling cleats with glue in no time! GIVE A COUNTRY BOY A CHANCE!”

Ryan 2017 record: 10-7-1

Player Who Deserves To Die A Slow, Painful Death

Aw man, poor Marcus Williams. I feel awful for him. I mean… I’m glad he fucked up, but I also feel bad that I’m glad. Remind me to send him a single boxed chocolate to assuage my guilt.

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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 2017 chopping block:

Ben McAdoo-FIRED!!!

Chuck Pagano-FIRED!

John Fox-FIRED!

Hue Jackson-NOT FIRED!

Jim Caldwell-FIRED!

Bruce Arians-RETIRED!

Jack del Rio-FIRED!

Mike Mularkey-LOLOLOLOL

Mike Tomlin

I like Mike Tomlin but really, is there any coach in football who stubbornly sticks to his guns as much as this man does when he makes a glaring coaching fuck-up? The Steelers butchered the clock in that Jaguars game and had two fourth-and-short calls that merited imprisonment, and Tomlin was STILL like, “We wouldn’t have done ANYTHING differently.” I am endlessly amused by the Steelers committing to being utterly passive as a way of sticking it to the haterz. “Oh, you want us to change how we do business? Well guess what, Yinzers: next time we’re gonna have even WORSE play calls on fourth down! See how you like THAT!” They didn’t even go outside the organization to replace Todd Haley. They hired your dad instead.

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I also did NOT know about Pittsburgh’s policy against running QB sneaks. That is astonishing. Imagine having the tallest, fattest QB in the world—a man so dumb he’s unable to even register pain—and not using him to sneak the ball in short yardage situations. It’s lunacy. Tomlin should be fined real money.

Great Moments In Poop History 

Reader Mike sends in this story I call POOPSTERS UNIVERSITY:

December. 2005. Central Michigan University.

It’s my sophomore year of college and it’s getting to be the end of the year. Time for final exams. I’m doing pretty well in all of my classes, except for one. For whatever reason, Meteorology is really bringing me down. Did I just not pay close enough attention? Was it too difficult to figure out how to draw a PSUEDOADIABATIC chart? Who knows. Either way, I’ve got a C in the course heading into finals.

I’m a good student. I like getting good grades. Plus, the professor, who looked like fat Captain Jean-luc Picard, has a pretty sweet deal: get a higher grade on the final than your final calculated grade and that’s your final grade in the course. Fuckin’ killer.

So. I spend the night before studying my balls off. I’m in the library. I’ve got giant pieces of paper. I’ve got rulers. I’m pseudo-ing the fuck out of these adiabats. I’m feeling good. Stop by the eatery, get some eats. I’m planning on waking up early to get some extra studying done, so I decide to relax the rest of the evening and hit it in the morning.

Now. We’re living in the dorms where for, whatever reason, you can’t control the heat. It’s just flying out of the radiator. It’s a god damn sauna. So, we leave the window cracked even though there’s a couple feet of snow and wind chill warnings.

I wake up the next morning with plenty of time. I get out of bed, the sun is streaming into my room. I’m a little too hot, but the crisp breeze blows in and comforts my soul. I look out the window at the cloudless sky and think to myself, “Today is going to be a great day.” I reach into the air and stretch out my back as I gaze into my promising future and proceed to involuntarily squirt hot liquid magma shit into my boxers. I try to clench. There’s no time. It’s down my leg. On the floor. It’s like I’ve killed a man. Evidence everywhere.

I hop into the shower still clothed. Wash my body as quickly as I can. Wrap my boxers in my towel and toss the whole thing in the trash. I never liked that towel anyway. I get dressed. Look at the time. The exam starts in 15 minutes. I run to class and get there in the nick of time.

I got a C in meteorology.

Brutal.

Gametime Snack Of The Week

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After Eight Mints! They still sell After Eights, and they are still both tasty AND elegant. I feel like I’m plucking a piece of candy right out of a $5,000 cocktail dress. Watch any old ad for After Eights and you will quickly learn that these mints are for rich people who fuck. I bet Bret Stephens eats a box before bed every night to get randy. PURE CLASS. I wonder if billionaires have sex right in front of their butlers. I know I would!

Gametime Cheap Beers Of The Week

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Kukko and Karhu III! From Finland…THE COUNTRY WHERE I QUITE LIKE TO BE! Yes, from the least interesting Nordic country come two intriguingly awful brews. Here’s reader Isaac:

I had the, um, well pleasure isn’t the right word... let’s say opportunity, to try a couple of cheap beers from Finland. Both of them cost one Euro apiece and you better believe they could only be bought as a single can from an opened flatpack in the basement of their Target knockoff.

The first is Kukko Lager and it’s just terrible. The first sip tastes a bit like a lukewarm Busch Light (regardless of what temperature the Kukko actually is) and if it stopped there it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But then the aftertaste just lingers in your mouth for far too long, leaving an unavoidable air of gym sock and herring. Don’t know how they did it.

The second is Karhu III. I couldn’t find Karhu I or II but I can only imagine that all people who drink a couple of these ending up making the same expression as that bear on the can. A friend who had visited Finland prior to me told me “Oh, I should’ve told you—don’t drink Karhu. They market it as beer but I am fairly certain it’s furniture polish”.

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I certainly hope that each of these beers contains real juices from the animals depicted on their respective cans. Look at that bear, man. It belongs in an art gallery. It really looks like it wants to hunt me down and gut me like a sardine. I’d be into it.

Jim Tomsula’s Lifehack Of The Week!

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“Home security? That’s all a scam, okay? So you got some box that goes bleep and bloop if a prowler breaks in to steal your dough and any loose sugar you got on hand. That’s not stoppin’ nobody. Take it from me. I can’t go into detail, but I’ve had to sidestep an alarm or two to score some Drano and a bucket from a pool shed. The way you keep the bad guys off of ya, see, isn’t with some jerkwad security firm. Ya need one of these…

[pulls out an old hammer]

“Nothing an alarm can do that a hammer can’t do better. You gotta smash a guy, you got this end. You gotta claw a guy? You got this end. I’ve hammered six men in self-defense. The cops didn’t say nothin’. They know a hobo with a hammer knows what he’s doing.”

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Sunday Afternoon Movie Of The Week For Browns Fans 

Serpico, which still holds up and still has one of the best opening shots of any movie ever. I am now at the age where I watch an old movie like this and my first reaction to viewing it is OMG PACINO LOOKS SO YOUNG! Well, yeah. No shit. The movie was made nearly half a century ago. My mom reviews movies this way now. She won’t bother telling you if the movie was good or bad. She’ll just say, “Johnny Depp looks AWFUL!” It’s a superior way to review movies, frankly.

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Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Oh, goody: the Sea Monkeys I ordered have arrived! Heh heh heh, look at them cavort and caper!”

Enjoy the games, everyone.