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​ICYMI: The Best Stories You Missed from NFL Week 15

Gronk shows off his human side, Jimmy Haslam keeps being terrible at owning a football team, and the Pro Bowl still exists!
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports


The Patriots-Titans game in Week 15 was every bit the snoozer we thought it'd be: never really competitive, but not enough of a blowout to actually be interesting. Rob Gronkowski did what Rob Gronkowski does, of course, and scored a touchdown, but before he did his traditional Gronk Spike, he paused and pointed at the sky.

Gronk, of course, is hardly a God-squad guy. He's spent the past few years bro-chairing the NFL's Committee of Awesomeness, his off-field life a PG-13-rated carnival of girls and fun and neon and drinks and biceps. On the field, he's the defining tight end of a generation; his only weakness is that his freakish body can't always withstand the larger-than-life stresses he applies to it. He has always seemed a little too awesome to be human.


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That skyward gesture, though, wasn't for God. It was for his late friend and personal trainer, Dana Parenteau.

Gronkowski learned of Parenteau's passing at 3 AM the Friday before the game, according to Boston Daily's Alex Reimer, and Gronk skipped that practice. On Sunday morning, Gronk posted that he was dedicating the game to Parenteau; per Jeff Howe, of the Boston Herald, he will present the TD ball to Parenteau's family at the funeral.

Gronk is still visibly emotional, tried to hold back from breaking down when talking about the death of his personal trainer.

— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe)December 20, 2015

Even in an age of social media, when we know more about Gronk's life than we ever would have otherwise (and he can personally make sure that happens), we never get the whole picture. Even a guy who seems to live in custom-built reality of non-stop delight is still a guy, and a painful personal loss hits him as hard as it hits everyone else.

Football is most fun when we watch players like Gronk do superhuman things, but it means more when we remember that under the helmets and shoulder pads are real people with real feelings and real lives, and they don't put it all on Instagram.


Cleveland Browns fans are stuck in a Groundhog Day-style recurring nightmare: their team is terrible, leadership gets blown up, their team is terrible, the owner cleans house, their team is terrible, everybody gets fired…


Now it's about to happen all over again. Owner Jimmy Haslam is on his third general manager and third head coach since his purchase of the team was finalized in October 2012—and they don't look long for their current jobs, either. Over the last four drafts, the Browns have set an incredible seven first-round draft picks on fire as they set out in A New Direction every single year.

Jimmy Haslam: Good at firing people, bad at winning. Photo by Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is an icon of longevity and consistency. After taking over the dilapidated shell of the Philadelphia Eagles, he immediately turned them into perennial contenders. After 14 years in Philly, Reid waltzed into Kansas City and repeated the feat. He seems poised to rule the Chiefs wisely for many years to come.

In the aftermath of the Browns' 30-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Reid offered Haslam some unsolicited in-hindsight advice. The right guy to get the team on track, Reid said, was the first guy Haslam fired.

— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot)December 23, 2015

Of course, the NFL is a good ol' boys league, and Reid made his name as an assistant under Holmgren in Green Bay. But "absolutely" is a strong word to use when talking about another team's management decisions, and a Browns fan base that's been desperate to see anything get rolling in Cleveland since the original Browns left in 1995 has to be tantalized by Reid's assertion.

Whether Reid is right or not, Haslam is now 0-for-3 on picking executives—and he can take as many cuts as he wants, paying out as many buyouts as he cares to, until he either sells the team or gets it right.


Maybe once Reid's done leading the Chiefs to their 10th playoff berth, he'll be Haslam's 14th general manager.


Oh yeah, I guess they did that Pro Bowl thing again.

Yes, the NFL released the Pro Bowl Roster Pool, the list of players who will be available for Pro Bowl fantasy team owners (?) Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin to draft on January 27. As a longtime defender of the Pro Bowl game—last year's iteration was actually pretty fun—I think the current format simply makes no sense, and as a result it has little juice with players, media, or even fans.

If you missed it, or just didn't care, you weren't the only one. The release of the Pro Bowl roster used to coincide with a flood of online jubilation and hateration. Now, outside of a disgruntled player or two whose voting campaign fell short (hi, Reshad Jones), the Pro Bowl roster is mostly greeted with a shrug.

And really, there's no reason why that shouldn't be the case. Who's ready to fill out their Pro Bowl ballot in Week 8? Why does fan balloting close weeks before the season is over? Who wants to talk about the Pro Bowl at the peak of the regular season? How are the players and coaches voting when they have precious little free time during the season (and often don't watch film of players and teams they haven't been scheduled against)? When will they acknowledge that 3-4 defensive ends and outside linebackers play completely different positions than 4-3 defensive ends and outside linebackers?

As I (and others) have written before, the NFL needs to commit to this, do it right and promote this as a big-deal event, or just stop bothering altogether.