Here is an early look at my Confidential for Tuesday May 31st. Enjoy and remember if you have a confidential story please send it me at @realmattlanta or matt@680thefan
Mike Nolan: Desperate Falcons should sign Dwight Freeney
- Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer
Former NFL head coach and ex-Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has coached pass-rushers 33 years of age or older, including Lawrence Taylor, John Abraham, Jason Taylor, and Osi Umenyiora.
So Nolan, now a television and radio analyst who is scheduled to be on ESPN next month, offered his take on the Falcons bringing in 36-year-old Dwight Freeney for a visit this week. Freeney, who had eight sacks in 11 games with Arizona last season, is expected to be in Atlanta on Wednesday.
“Dwight Freeney is a one-dimensional guy; does not play the run — ever — and only pass-rushes,” Nolan said. “His only move is his spin move, and it works. If he gets a young guy on him, he’s going to have two sacks in a game. He’s worth having. The thing is, if he’s their only pass-rusher, he’s just going to be so-so.”
Nolan was the linebackers coach in San Diego the year after Freeney had four sacks in two seasons with the Chargers.
“Now it’s two years later and at that time, they thought he was done,” Nolan said. “But look, they are in dire need in Atlanta. If they screw up again this year, there will probably be huge change. They’ve got to do whatever they’ve got to do. In my opinion, they shouldn’t care who they bring on, because they’ve got to save their asses. If that’s the case, then bring Freeney on.
“If this was the New England Patriots, they’re not going to bring (Freeney) in. This would be a desperation move for Atlanta, but they’re in a desperate situation.”
The Falcons finished with a league-low 19 sacks last season. They did not truly address the pass rush in free agency or the draft, although they did sign veteran Derrick Shelby to provide a push up the middle. And the Falcons expect second-year player Vic Beasley Jr. to take another huge step as a pass-rusher even though they are moving him to Sam linebacker.
“I heard they moved Beasley to the drop linebacker? Well, I would rush him every down,” Nolan said. “That’s why they drafted him. They at least accumulated a few players (around Beasley). We didn’t have crap. They don’t have to make up anything. They need to stick with what (Beasley) does best.
Johnny Manziel found in obvious place after reportedly being missing
It’s not quite “Amazing Grace,” but Johnny Manziel has apparently been found after reportedly going missing.
And he was spotted in the likely place one would find Manziel: A nightclub in the wee hours of the morning.
The New York Post had reported Monday that the former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M has gone missing in New York.
According to the Post’s Page Six report, Manziel was supposed to host a party for close friends and family in the Hamptons, but didn’t show up for his helicopter flight Saturday. Per the Post, the helicopter crew waited 15 minutes for Manziel, but left after he didn’t answer his phone.
However, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted late Monday afternoon that sources close to Manziel told her they’d been in contact with him earlier in the afternoon.
That was supplemented by the following video posted by Instagram user “Anthony Shnayderman” in the wee hours Monday of him partying with what certainly looks like Manziel at a location tagged in the post as New York hotspot 1 Oak.
Given Manziel’s penchant for partying, it hardly came as a surprise that he was found in a club. He’s been spotted partying from coast to coast since the NFL season ended.
That was just part of an eventful weekend for Manziel, who got into a confrontation Friday night outside the Trump Soho with the owner of a rented Mercedes Benz that a friend of Manziel’s reportedly crashed in Los Angeles (with Manziel in the vehicle as a passenger).
Car owner Wayne Schneider said Manziel allegedly promised to pay for a replacement, but then didn’t hear back from the former Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick.
“Straight punk. Straight punk. Straight bitch,” Wayne Schneider told TMZ after blocking a vehicle in which Manziel was riding outside the Trump Soho.
Washington receiver leaves team because of depression, anxiety
In a heartfelt statement, Renfro shared his battles with depression and anxiety, saying that he missed Washington’s spring practice this year because he was in a hospital and part of a program “for people like me.” Renfro wrote the program “taught me how to cope with my problems and what to do when I hit my lowest of lows. I didn’t know how bad I got until it was almost too late.”
Renfro also wrote that he was in a “dark place,” but that he now has a “better outlook on life” and has to leave football so that he can continue taking care of himself.
“I want to thank Coach Pete, Coach Bush and all the rest of the coaches and staff, for the opportunity and for the continued support,” wrote Renfro. “I also want to thank my teammates for allowing me to be a part of the brotherhood that is the football team. And for all the dawg fans out there for making me feel like I was worth something every time I put on that jersey and stepped on the field. This isn’t the end of me, just the end of a certain chapter. I will conquer this, and not let this situation conquer me. I’m on a journey to find my happiness again.”
Renfro caught 13 passes for 178 yards as a freshman with the Huskies last season. He was a three-star member of Washington’s 2015 class, alongside quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin.
Dominique Wilkins Get That Money, Kobe!! Trademarking Nickname Was Smart
FYI, Bryant’s company, Kobe Inc., recently filed to trademark “Black Mamba” — the nickname Kobe’s been using for years. Question is … did he wait too long to make his move?
We posed that very question to ‘Nique — who famously trademarked his legendary handle “The Human Highlight Film” back in the day. Check out what he says.
BTW, he also gave an assessment of Justin Bieber‘s jump shot … and guess what, he didn’t hate it.
Lakers’ Jeanie Buss: Fiancé Phil Jackson not leaving Knicks
“No. To visit, yes … but in terms of basketball, he’s committed to New York for many years,” Buss said Monday on ESPN Radio’s Beadle and Shelburne Show. “He’s building something there. He has a mission, he’s on that journey to get the team back to where he believes it can be and it will be. He’s a former Knick … he loves New York, he loves the fans, he wants to make them proud.
“In terms of the Lakers, we have a front office. They’re putting together a team … they have a vision. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us. So, to answer your question … no, there’s no plans for Phil to come back here.”
Jackson has three seasons remaining on his five-year deal with the Knicks. Speculation about Jackson’s potential return to Los Angeles will likely continue because his contract contains an opt-out clause after the 2016-17 season, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard.
“He has a mission, he’s on that journey to get the team back to where he believes it can be and it will be. … no, there’s no plans for Phil to come back here,” Jeanie Buss, right, said of the possibility of Phil Jackson returning to the Lakers. Dominic DiSaia for ESPN
New York has won just 48 games over the past two seasons of Jackson’s presidency, but Jackson and the Knicks hope to build a contender around rookie Kristaps Porzingis and veteran Carmelo Anthony. The club is expected to announce Jeff Hornacek as its next head coach some time this week. Hornacek will be the second head coach Jackson has hired (a total that doesn’t include 2015-16 interim coach Kurt Rambis and 2013-14 head coach Mike Woodson, whom Jackson fired).
Anderson Varejão’s brush with history: He’s the first player to ever play for both Finals teams in the same season.
The Most Popular Baby Names of 2015 By State
Earlier this year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) released its annual list of the most popular baby names of 2015. The list crowned Emma as the most popular name for girls born in the United States, and Noah as the most popular name for boys. Diving deeper into the data, The Huffington Post recently created color-coded maps to show which names were more popular in each of the 50 states.
Most popular name for baby girls born in Georgia was Emma and for boys it was William.
The Social Security Administration just released the list of top baby names for 2015. While Noah and Emma are still number one nationally, the top 10 changed a little, with Daniel and Madison falling off to places 12 and 11, respectively, and Benjamin and Harper moving into the top 10.
More interesting changes are revealed with a look at the full list of the top 1000 names. A number of names made the list for the first time ever. For boys, Achilles, Boone, Canaan, Huxley, and Wilder are new, and under the influence of burgeoning favorites Cash, Kash, and Ashton, Kashton has now come on to the scene. New names for girls are Dalary, Heavenly, and Kensington as well as three names that have until now only been on the boys list: Ellis, Lennox, and Royal. Briar has made the list for the first time for both boys and girls.
A few names are not completely new to the list, but have been reintroduced after long hiatuses. Bishop, Louie, and Otis haven’t made it into the top 1000 since the 1990s. And Adaline, which hasn’t made the list since 1924, entered at an impressive rank of 364. Ophelia appeared for the first time since 1958, and Zelda for the first time since 1967.
To make room for the new names, some names have to go. Traditional names like Howard, Randall, Antonia, Sonia, and Cindy no longer make the cut. And some creative spellings of more common names have also fallen off the list: Jaycob, Abbigail, Lesly, Pyper, and Konner are out. Despite the salad and smoothie craze, Kale has been declining since 2008 and this year finally left the list. Also, parents no longer have time for Patience or Temperance. For obvious reasons, Isis is out as well.
In politics, Cruz is down 34 places, but Nixon—which first appeared in the top 1000 in 2011—moved up 75 spots this year.
The biggest increases in popularity were for Kaison, which went up 251 places as a boy’s name, and Ariyah, which went up 329 places as a girl’s name. Other names that had big increases were Omari, Titan, Atlas, Legend, and Ford for boys, and Thea, Milani, Jessa, Zahra, and Gwen for girls. Carter has been rising for boys since 1981 and for girls since 2013, and Karter has been rising for boys since 2005 and for girls since last year.
In pop music name trends, last year we finally lost the name Britney, and this year Miley faced the same fate. And while Justin is down from 96 to 110, finally falling out of top 100, Zayn is up 189 places from 833 to 644.
In fictional character news, the spell cast by Frozen seem to be lifting: Elsa is down 201 places from last year’s peak. And though Game of Thrones remains as popular as ever, Khaleesi is down 60 places.
Top 20 American Cities to Visit, Ranked
It’s time for another version of GroupThink, where our writers get together and rank something. Just in time for Memorial Day and the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, we are ranking our best American cities to visit. We have writers from all over the country, who have a variety of different experiences and preferences.
The only rules were you could only personally rank a location if you had been there, and the Wisdom of the Crowds would fill in, and you could consider things within a short distance (an hour or so) as part of your ranking of that location. Everyone submitted a list of 20.
Geographically, we have a pretty good span of locations. All told, 65 different locations got at least one vote. The largest media market not to get a single vote: Sacramento (sorry, Kings fans).
#1 Chicago (6 ballots, top 3 in 5 of them)
#2 New York City (5 ballots, top 6 in all 5)
#3 Las Vegas (6 ballots, top 5 in 4 of them)
#4 Denver (6 ballots, top 6 in 3 of them)
#5 New Orleans (4 ballots, top 5 in all 4)
#6 San Diego (4 ballots, ranked #1 in 3 of them)
#7 Washington, D.C. (5 ballots, once in top 5)
#8 San Francisco (4 ballots)
#9 Boston (4 ballots, top 5 once)
#10 Seattle (3 ballots, top 5 once)
#14 Los Angeles
Houston, Minneapolis, and Dallas all just missed the list, one point behind Madison.
Several smaller cities also just missed the cut, but received plenty of support. Here were cities outside the top 50 in size that missed the top 20 but finished highest: Saratoga Springs, NY; Fort Myers, FL; Gettysburg, PA; Lahaina, HI; Destin, FL; Ouray, CO; Baton Rouge, LA; Jackson Hole, WY; Charleston, SC; Ocean City, MD.