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The Current State of the NFL: Questions about handling tragedies, Cleveland’s quarterback plans, and reality TV

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We recap deaths in sports, Cleveland’s draft plans, and the best running back in the NFL

News: Aaron Hernandez Trial The Boston Globe-Pool Photo

The Aaron Hernandez saga came to an end inside of a New England prison cell when Hernandez, a former Patriots star and convicted murderer, reportedly hanged himself early Wednesday morning. He was 27.

From an outsider’s perspective, the impact of his death is difficult to contextualize. Hernandez was, after all, a little more than two years into a life sentence for the 2013 murder of his friend, Odin Lloyd. He was also engaged at the time of his arrest, and has a daughter, who will now grow up without her father. Hernandez leaves behind family members, fans and friends, including the Pouncey brothers, who posted the following messages on Instagram:

Today is a tough day the world may think wateva but to my brother I LOVE YOU! GOD strengthen us all!

A post shared by Maurkice Pouncey (@maurkicepouncey) on

Naturally, Hernandez’s death has evoked comparably emotional responses from naysayers, many of which are not appropriate to hyperlink to this website. Some tamer samples include variations of “good,” “he deserved it,” or “he should have done it earlier.” Search Twitter or read some comments on Hernandez stories, you’ll see what I mean.

The loss of a life cannot and should not be downplayed. In 2012, former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins during an argument, drove to Arrowhead Stadium, and killed himself in the parking lot in front of Romeo Crennel, Gary Gibbs and Scott Pioli. Belcher was just 25. Later, in 2014, a Missouri medical examiner diagnosed Belcher with CTE, the same degenerative brain disorder that is rumored to have played a role in the deaths of Mike Webster, Junior Seau and Dave Duerson.

Finding the “right” response to Belcher’s death proved to be difficult. That weekend, in a game against Carolina, the Chiefs held a moment of silence “in remembrance of victims of domestic violence,” though it can be reasonably assumed that it concurrently highlighted the impact of Belcher’s death.

By pretty much any conceivable measurement, Belcher and Hernandez died as villains. But what closure can we find in celebrating either man’s death? Maybe we can. Like I said, the impact is almost impossible to fully comprehend, and ultimately it is a matter of personal preference. To borrow a line from Kendrick Lamar, you’re moving backward if you suggest that you sleep with a Tec. Admittedly, I’m reaching for parallels, but maybe somebody will understand.

Overall, “tragedy” is the only term that accurately encapsulates Aaron Hernandez’s life and death.

RIP, Mr. Rooney

On the opposite end of the Hernandez spectrum is former Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who passed away last week at age 84. He was laid to rest at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oakland, near’s Pitt’s campus, where streets were shut down to accomodate the massive crowd, which included current and former Steelers, dozens of coaches and NFL owners, and 44th President Barack Obama. Needless to say, Rooney will be remembered fondly.

Rooney made an immeasurable impact on the city of Pittsburgh and the NFL, building the Steelers into the most successful franchise in league history and spearheading the “Rooney Rule,” which helped tangibly increase the percentage of non-white coaches in the NFL.

Goodbye, Mr. Johnson

Andre Johnson retired! The man with the league’s scariest voice finishes his NFL career with 1,062 receptions (11th-most of all time), 14,185 yards (also the 11th-most of all time) and 70 touchdowns (he only averaged five scores per season, which is forgivable given Houston’s history of terrible quarterback play). In my mind, this dude is a Hall of Famer, but probably not on the first ballot.

Johnson’s career achievements are seemingly overshadowed by those of his contemporaries—namely, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. So, in recognition of Johnson’s success, let’s count down the top three moments of his career:

3. In 2010, Johnson caught a pass at the Arizona Cardinals’ five-yard line, pancaked the middle linebacker, and then bulldozed/carried two defensive backs with him into the end zone. Go watch that play immediately, please.

2. Johnson spent much of his professional career routinely spending $20,000 at Toys R Us in order to fund massive shopping sprees for children on behalf of his foundation. Make no mistake, Andre Johnson is one of the kindest professional athletes in the history of professional athletes.

1. On that note, here is the normally-kind-hearted-and-level-headed Johnson beating the tar out of Cortland Finnegan.

The Browns have no idea what they are even doing at this point

Surprisingly, the Cleveland Browns are going to allow Brock Osweiler to compete for the starting quarterback job, which is a sentence that only seems applicable to the Cleveland Browns.

In Cleveland’s defense, keeping Osweiler does actually make sense, as there is virtually no risk involved in doing so. The Browns would take a one-time $17 million cap hit if they cut Osweiler this offseason, so they might as well keep him around and see if he can learn the system. And by “learn this system,” I mean to learn how to play quarterback. Brock Osweiler throws footballs like DeAndre Jordan shoots free throws.

Kicking the tires on Osweiler also (potentially) gives the Browns some flexibility on draft day. For one, it allows Cleveland to select Myles Garrett with the first overall pick instead of drafting Mitchell Trubisky and further infuriating their rightfully-irked fanbase. It also allows them to get creative with the 12th pick. If Trubisky falls a couple of picks, the Browns can either trade up to get him or play the sit-and-wait game. If they can’t land Trubisky or another “top” (I’m using that term extremely loosely) quarterback, Cleveland can grab the best player available with the 12th pick. If they don’t like the quarterback options in the second or third rounds, they don’t have to draft a quarterback then, either.

This isn’t a particularly groundbreaking statement, but Cleveland is still, one would assume, a few years away from realistically competing for a playoff spot. Even if Trubisky is the next Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson (or Tom Brady), Cleveland would still be lucky to win six games this season. They need everything. It would be more beneficial to load up on other blue-chip players than rolling the dice on a quarterback who could become the next Brock Osweiler.

Hard Bucs (haha I hate myself for that)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will reportedly be the subject of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series later this summer, which is fantastic news since it will provide an unfiltered look into Jameis Winston’s day-to-day life. That could wind up pushing even HBO’s limits.

Eric Dickerson says Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL...

...and he is probably correct. Bell, who had nearly 1,300 rushing yards and over 600 receiving yards in 12 games last season, has done enough to surpass Adrian Peterson as the NFL’s best running back, and is probably one step ahead of Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, the other back Dickerson considered for this honor. Hopefully Dickerson’s endorsement is enough to get the ball rolling on a contract extension.