Welcome to "Six Points" for Week 4, with Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen. This week we hit on the NFL's offensive line crisis, how Johnny Manziel ended up getting drafted in MLB and why Bucs GM Jason Licht jumps in his pool after wins.
1. Steve Smith's brush with New England
Jerome Bettis has no doubt about it. Steve Smith Sr. would have been, in the Bus' words, "the perfect Steeler."
"He would have been an incredible Steeler," said Bettis as he rolled out superlatives. "He's tough, no fear in him, no quit in him, he's blue collar ... Steve Smith would have fit perfectly."
But Smith will be in a Baltimore Ravens uniform Thursday night at Heinz Field in a tense game between two wounded, fierce AFC North rivals, and it was actually another AFC team that almost lured him.
Smith continues to empty his tank in his 15th and final season, having announced that he is resolute in devoting time to his family and committed to retirement after this year. He is the NFL's third-leading receiver with 25 catches for 349 yards, adding to a Hall of Fame résumé that includes 940 catches and 13,811 yards.
After getting battered during a valiant 13-catch, 186-yard, 2-TD effort in a dramatic loss to the Bengals on Sunday, the 36-year-old Smith refused to take any practice off Monday or Tuesday in a short week, despite Ravens coach John Harbaugh's willingness to rest veterans when they need it. Smith never takes a rest. He will continue to scratch and claw with his team, hoping to get a second crack at a championship. His best shot with the Panthers fell short when the Patriots beat Carolina 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
But another Super Bowl opportunity was out there. The Patriots reportedly coveted Smith when he tested free agency in March 2014. Smith was scheduled for a flight to New England, but weather delays allowed him to settle his mind on the Ravens.
For those who wonder whether Smith would be a trade target for a team such as the Patriots if Baltimore's slide continues, a member of the organization says that would never happen because "even if the team is 0-15, Harbaugh will still be fighting and he will want Steve Smith fighting right by his side."
And there's another reason not to trade Smith: don't be surprised if the Ravens try to keep him around for another season.
2. Pressing pause on the Cooper-White debate
Remember 2011, when scouts debated whether Alabama's Julio Jones or Georgia's A.J. Green was the better wide receiver? Well, in many ways, this year's draft was Jones/Green all over again, with the debate centering around West Virginia's Kevin White and Alabama's Amari Cooper
Cooper and White became the first two wide receivers picked, with Cooper going No. 4 to the Oakland Raiders and White going No. 7 to the Chicago Bears. When the two teams square off Sunday, Cooper will continue to try to stake his claim to the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, while White will remain on the injured-reserve-designated-to-return list.
Cooper has been what the Raiders thought he would be -- an emerging receiver, a dynamic playmaker, an offensive building block on a team that needed more of those. Head coaches of the teams he has faced this season have already remarked that Cooper does not play like a rookie. The numbers prove that, as Cooper is outpacing the combined output from the seven receivers drafted after him.
White has been a disappointment, through no fault of his own. He suffered a stress fracture in his leg during training camp, similar to the injury he had in college. He underwent preventative surgery, and though the Bears haven't ruled him out for the season, some around the league believe White won't see the field at all in 2015.
This was always supposed to be a developmental year for White anyway, so with Chicago already off to an 0-3 start heading into Sunday's game versus the Raiders, the Bears might as well give White every chance possible to get healthy for when it really matters.
So there will be no showdown Sunday. White still might turn out to be the better NFL wide receiver, but we'll have to wait to find out.
3. O-line crisis?
"There's a legitimate crisis going on," one general manager said last week, before Roethlisberger was injured. "I'm just blown away by the shortage of quality offensive linemen."
And what makes matters worse is that the league is struggling to develop them the way it used to. There's no NFL Europe in the spring for players to experience the game. There's no offseason contact as a result of the rules implemented in the CBA. There's no extra training for a position that is vital for the protection of the league's quarterbacks and the betterment of the game.
When this many front-line quarterbacks are affected, the issue is bound to merit more discussion from the competition committee, with solutions being bandied about. Maybe the league can set up academies where linemen can opt to train if they'd like during the offseason. Maybe the NFL can find a way to get linemen some extra coaching somehow someway. But multiple executives want something done.
There are certain teams -- New England, Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay come to mind -- that have done a superb job of drafting and cultivating young offensive linemen. But more teams than not have holes along their line they are struggling to fill with quality players, which has execs around the league annoyed and angered.
4. Newton and David familiar foes
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Life is a journey, not a destination." Cam Newton, Lavonte David and even Chad Froechtenicht can attest to that.
Newton renews a rivalry with Buccaneers linebacker David on Sunday when he takes on the Panthers for an NFL South matchup. Newton led Blinn Community College to a 31-26 win over David's Fort Scott Community College team for the national juco championship on Dec. 6, 2009, then known as the Citizens Bank Bowl in Pittsburg, Kansas. Newton had 14 carries for 99 yards and a TD. David had 12 tackles for Fort Scott.
But the real hero of that game? Blinn's Froechtenicht, who scored the winning touchdown on an 86-yard punt return with 15 seconds left. Froechtenicht went on to Sam Houston State. Newton went to Auburn. David went to Nebraska. In June, Newton signed a five-year, $103.8 million contract that guaranteed him the most money of any NFL quarterback in the first three years. In August, David signed a five-year $50.25 million contract, making him the NFL's highest-paid OLB.
Froechtenicht? It's still a journey.
5. Tampa's GM celebrates wins in style
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has made plenty of deals. But one of his most interesting ones came with his three children -- 6½-year-old Charlie, almost-5-year-old Zoe and almost-2 Theo.
Licht made them a deal that if the Buccaneers won at New Orleans in Tampa's second game of the season, he would come home and jump in the family's pool in his suit.
Sure enough, Tampa pulled the upset and when Licht returned home that night, his children were waiting, holding him to the terms of their deal.
Licht took off his tie and shoes, but jumped in the pool in his suit, just as he had promised.
"It was a moment of 'Yes!'" Licht recently recalled. "It was the best win I've ever experienced besides winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots. Just because it was coming off the first week of the season, when we knew that wasn't the team we had [in a loss to Tennessee].
"It was just great to see the young rookie QB [Jameis Winston] manage the game. Our entire town needed a win. It needs hope. And it gave us a lot of hope."
Licht liked the feeling so much, he promised his children that any time Tampa wins from now on, he will jump right back in their pool in the suit he wears to the game. Licht was unable to take the plunge Sunday night, after the Buccaneers lost at Houston, but he's hoping he'll need to install a heater in the pool so it will be nice and toasty for any plunges he has to take in January.
6. Johnny Baseball?
Johnny Manziel won't get a start this week when the Browns travel to San Diego, a place where he was Johnny Baseball for a day.
Manziel's NFL draft preparations in 2014 under George Whitfield Jr. in San Diego led to him being selected by the Padres in the Major League Baseball draft that same year. Manziel took batting practice before a Padres game at Petco Park. He hit the first pitch to the warning track. A few members of the Padres organization were there and ended up chatting with Manziel. While he had not played baseball since his junior year in high school, Manziel was bold enough to tell them "Draft me."
The Padres selected him with the 837th pick in the 29th round of the MLB draft on June 7, a little more than a month after the Browns made him the 22nd pick in the first round of the NFL draft. Johnny does bold well. Or at least he did.