We need more Chase Claypools
He says he's a "Top 3" wide receiver? Great. People can shame the Steelers wide receiver all they want because he will not care, will not change and that's damn good for the game.
Supply does not meet demand in June. Shocking, I know.
The NFL is fully aware that its product is an addiction and does everything in its power to inject you with a fix 24/7/365 when, sadly, the painful reality is that what’s happening right now isn’t that important. That’s why most of the airspace this time of year is filled with brainless Mount Rushmore debates… and power rankings… and, inevitably, a player shares an opinion on a podcast that is treated with the tender calm and care of a nuclear bomb.
That happened Monday. There’s zero chance you missed this quote.
On the “I Am Athlete” podcast, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool declared himself a top 3 receiver. Predictably, those words were slapped on graphics by all of the usual suspects, pushed out onto social media and the engagement numbers soared. That’s the fast-food formula for most all sports media companies. They know most users will gladly fatten up on quarter-pounders with cheese. Without a doubt, oh, 95 to 99 percent of the people who consumed this quote did not watch the interview itself. That’d require the strenuous effort of opening up a new window on the iPhone.
Co-host Brandon Marshall asked Claypool what he expects out of himself in Year 3, and I encourage all to watch the exchange for yourself. Here's how it went down:
Claypool: “Just like you said, understanding I’m not normal, I feel that way when I’m on the field. I know for a fact I’m not like the rest of the guys in the NFL.”
LeSean McCoy: “Talk your talk.”
Claypool: “I know I’m a top 5 receiver. I know I’m a top 3 receiver.”
Hosts Pacman Jones, Brandon Marshall and McCoy nod and croon and smack hands in approval. Marshall yells, “Keep going!” McCoy asks, “Can I get some numbers?”
Claypool: “When I’m working, I’m like, ‘I’m a dog.’ People line up across from me, too. I just gotta bring that confidence and I gotta bring that spirit and show the people. It’s gonna happen. And we’re going to rewind this and we’re going to see this clip in a little bit and they’ll be like, ‘Damn.’”
Claypool got around to McCoy’s inquiry, too. He predicted 1,300 yards with 10-plus touchdowns.
No, it was not as volatile as advertised. Even then, who gives a damn? Teams should want this level of confidence out of their starting wide receivers, let alone a 6-foot-4, 240-pounder capable of doing spectacular things on a football field. If Claypool isn’t going to believe in himself, who will? Nobody should be appalled given the fact that wide receivers have always been a different breed. From the 60s and 70s to the 80s, 90s and 2000s, the position has always featured the game’s most colorful personalities. This wide receiver isn’t saying anything harmless.
He's trying to manifest. He’s trying to speak something into existence. Good for him.
I suppose it’s all up to interpretation, but this didn’t strike me as a player pulling up an Excel spreadsheet to meticulously grade and rank the league’s wide receivers. Should Claypool huff, puff and boldly declare he’s the 39th-best wide receiver in the NFL? If he did that, the Steelers should trade him on the spot.
Give me the wideout who plans to put cornerbacks into body bags. This is a violent sport played by violent people.
Of course, we all know why something so innocuous is greeted with so much scorn. This is a soft, bizarre epoch of human existence. Rather than contribute to society, a large swath of the general populace prefers to waste their time scrolling a Twitter feed on an endless quest to dunk on someone. This is fertile ground for shaming. Think up a witty quote-tweet to that “top 3” graphic and — voila! — watch the retweets and likes roll in, baby. All because a player was honest in sharing how he seeks motivation in a testosterone-fueled sport. It’s asinine. It's ridiculous. Folks want athletes to be honest, an athlete is honest and that same athlete is then tarred and feathered. That’s why the next act is also predictable. So often, the perpetrator clams up and supplies nothing but cliches for months on end. Can you blame him? No wonder so much of pro football coverage is watered down. The safer option is to say a whole lot of nothing. (Sidebar: Honestly, this broken media formula is one reason we launched Go Long. We’ll try to fight the good fight, and I greatly appreciate all of you taking the time to actually read our stories.)
The beautiful thing about Claypool? Why the NFL needs Claypool?
He sincerely does not give a damn.
After this answer 32 minutes into the 35-minute podcast — on to Minute No. 33 — Claypool said he was catching a flight back to Vancouver for a football showcase through his foundation that honors his late sister. “Chasing Hope” raises awareness around mental health and suicide prevention. Right then, his willingness to be himself again made all the sense in the world. His perspective is rare. He isn’t obsessed with perception, nor does he agonize over nasty comments like many stars in this league do. Claypool is active on social media and, sure, he has succumbed to the filth that is TikTok. But as he has said several times over, the receiver uses the app to build a brand and knows the brand does not mean a thing if he’s not performing on Sundays.
He’s been in the firestorm before. He has made comments far more scathing than this.
When the two of us sat down last season, Claypool basically predicted he’d be in the crossfire again… and he vowed to apologize to no one.
“I put myself in positions where I know there’s going to be controversy,” Claypool said then. “But I also know you can’t please everybody. It’s not my job to please anybody.”
He’ll be himself, say whatever he wants and there is nothing wrong with it. This is a game.
There’s far more substance to Claypool than anyone realizes.
The foundation to his life isn’t how many celebrity girlfriends he can accumulate. His sources of motivation run deeper. His sister’s death is a delicate subject. Claypool didn’t want to talk much about the 2011 tragedy last season, but it was clear her suicide set the course for his life. He said that the experience showed him what truly matters in life and his only hope is to make his family proud. When Dwayne Haskins died, Claypool shared his “moment of vulnerability” with the world. In the same I Am Athlete podcast, Claypool was gut-wrenching honest on this subject. He said he feels like he “failed” his friend.
He opened up to everyone in an effort to help someone… anyone… out there. That April clip is up to 2.4 million views. Chances are, he helped change someone’s life.
He’ll continue to clown the rival Browns. He’ll be everything you don’t expect out of a TikTokker in piledriving DBs 10 yards downfield. Like his former teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster, he is a physically tough player. At his Megatron-like size, that’s dangerous. Yes, you’d rather boast Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill out wide but there’s no reason Claypool cannot shoot himself into the Pro Bowl this season. Few players in the sport win the 50-50 ball like him.
Of course, one would hope Claypool learned from that premature celebration in Minnesota. His first-down signal did cost the Steelers valuable seconds against the Vikings.
That was ugly. That’s when keeping it real goes wrong.
The quarterback position is in flux. Mitchell Trubisky? Kenny Pickett? Mason Rudolph? We’ll see. Ben Roethlisberger’s Hall of Fame career skidded to a rough end. The passing game in Pittsburgh will improve. Count on Mike Tomlin seeing the big picture, too. He lets players be themselves because players here — like Claypool — get it. Caricatures have no place in Pittsburgh.
And as Chase Claypool said himself on the podcast, we’ll all just need to rewind the clip months from now. We’ll see how this plays out.
Until Week 1, we’ll all continue to freak out over nonsense.
This from Claypool in our chat last November hit the nail on the head:
“Obviously society has grown very, very soft with what we can and cannot say.
“I always say if the ‘Bad Boys,’ the Pistons, had social media in today’s world, it’d be a world crisis. No one could handle that. So I’m like, if I tweet something or say something that’s not that malicious — and people take it seriously — there’s nothing I can do. You can’t please everyone.”
Have an extremely hard time believing the Seattle Seahawks roll with either Drew Lock or Geno Smith as their starting quarterback this season. Pete Carroll will turn 71 years old in September. Right now, Smith has the edge… but don’t we know who he is? If both QBs underwhelm (likely!), I’d think Seattle aggressively pursues a veteran into training camp. This isn’t a staff that wants to crash-land at rock bottom.
He’s raw. But it sounds like Garrett Wilson has a legit shot at being the No. 1 for the Jets. No player means more to Zach Wilson’s development. What a massive season for the former BYU quarterback ahead.
No need to open up a congressional “SleepGate” investigation but this was interesting. At a recent event in town, Bills coach Sean McDermott opened up on the difficulties of balancing work and family. Sounds like this was an emotional scene, too. As the person who asked the question, @Jilly____Bean on Twitter, detailed, McDermott said he sleeps in his office Monday through Wednesday during the season. He apparently called it a struggle every day. Then, in a Buffalo News story days later, McDermott sounded like a man who actually is scaling back. Buffalo’s defensive coordinator, Leslie Frazier, said McDermott is not sleeping in the office anymore. Who knows? Either way, McDermott is not alone. This is a brutal profession. Coaches across the league sleep in their offices and barely see their loved ones during the season. This was one of the many fascinating elements to Seth Wickersham’s book on the Patriots, “It’s Better To Be Feared.” The pressure to win broke the system long ago. Leaguewide, it’s almost a contest to see who in a building can stay the longest. Granted, Rex Ryan’s sparkling blue-and-red truck always seemed to leave One Bills Drive too soon back in 2015, but treating any NFL building as an extended-stay Marriott is unhealthy and counterproductive. Here’s hoping all coaches find a way to prioritize what’s important in life and sleep a little. Think about your life, your profession. Doubt many of us would be able to accomplish much at two or three hours of sleep a night.
Kurt Benkert was waived by the Packers. A fourth-string QB getting cut loose shouldn’t make news, but this transaction seemed to devastate a good amount of fans. In the time it takes to order a basket of cheese curds, Benkert endeared himself to the Green Bay faithful. We chatted with Benkert for this Q&A right when his popularity started to rise a year ago. What a fascinating person. It’s easy to see why he was so beloved despite playing all of two snaps. Who knows what his future entails, but chalk this up as another reason why this Packers fan base is just different.
Speaking of player podcasts, Tyreek Hill did what any good wide receiver does: he pumped up his new QB, Tua Tagovailoa. Of course, in doing so, he took a shot at his old QB, too. Understandably, Patrick Mahomes said he was surprised by the slight. A prediction? Mahomes isn’t affected by Hill’s exit whatsoever. He’s the best player on the planet. After decoding those two-deep shells in 2021, he’ll have no problem methodically carving up defenses in 2022. Hill or no Hill. This receiving corps is just fine: Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Mecole Hardman.
Joined my pal Bill Reiter over at CBS Sports Radio yesterday if you’d like to listen. We dug into the Baltimore Ravens-Lamar Jackson situation. I think Willie Snead hinted at why the two sides may be at a stalemate when he told us veteran wide receivers don’t want to play in Greg Roman’s offense. It’s a simplistic passing game. Roman helped unlock Jackson’s rushing ability in ways we’ve never seen, but Roman’s offenses have also been figured out over the years. Baltimore needs to evolve and Jackson, no doubt, would love that passing playbook to open up.
And, finally, I recently landed back in Western New York from another Florida swing. Cannot wait to share these profiles with you all. The plan is drop a pre-training camp series in July. Then, once the regular season closes in, we’ll again have a Kickoff Series of stories at Go Long with all sorts of announcements on coverage this season. (I’m also in talks with Hamburg Brewing Company about another Go Long bash, so stay tuned!)
New around here? Want to get a feel for Go Long? Here are a handful of deep dives from this past season:
“It was a bad, bad situation.” What really happened those final 13 seconds of regulation for the Bills at Arrowhead Stadium?
The Autopsy. What happened to Dave Gettleman’s Giants? A rotting from within.
Inside Jerry’s World. It's been 25 years since Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys have won a Super Bowl. How is that possible? We investigate.
The Fight for Erik Kramer’s Life. His life unraveled in every way imaginable. First, he tried to put a bullet through his head. After miraculously surviving, things only got crazier.
You Don’t Know Yannick Ngakoue. An abusive father. Cockroaches. Depression. The 27-year-old edge rusher opens up. Finally, it’s his time in Indianapolis.
Wyatt Teller is why we love football. He drinks whiskey, shoots guns and mauls linebackers. This Cleveland Brown is the essence of the sport.
The Rise of Brett Favre. There’s never been anything like it. Our Bob McGinn talks to the man himself, and shares stories never told before.
The Majik Man’s Final Comeback. And that quarterback before Favre in Green Bay? His body’s patched together with plates, screws and fusions.
Kenny Clark is the man of the house. His father is behind bars for a crime he insists he did not commit. It all shaped who the Packers’ star is, to his core.
AG takes DC: From our 2021 Kickoff series, the Washington running back details why he’s unlike any other back.
Lynn Bowden Jr. is free. His exit from the Raiders wasn’t pretty. But in Miami, there’s hope.
The Pressure is on Josh Allen. Our launch story details just how close the Bills were to landing Patrick Mahomes.
Mike Zimmer’s Vikings. He’s gone now. But it wasn’t pretty.