Tag Archives: Mike Evans

What Tampa Bay is Getting with Dirk Koetter, If He’s Named The Buccaneers Head Coach

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t the only team to the play fast and loose with their head coaching position, but the Glazers have certainly made some eyebrow-raising moves since winning the Super Bowl with Jon Gruden thirteen years ago. It began with Gruden, currently ESPN’s color analyst for Monday Night Football, being shown the door after consecutive 9-7 seasons, and there’s been a folly of errors with the Bucs top job, including the questionable dismissal of Lovie Smith earlier this week.

The team’s improvement to 6-10, from 2-14 in Smith’s first season, apparently wasn’t enough, so the core of Gerald McCoy, Jameis Winston, and Mike Evans will get their marching orders from a new leader when mini-camps and OTAs begin later this year. We’ve heard rumors from the ridiculous to the absolutely reasonable, so you can rule out Alabama head coach Nick Saban, but there are other candidates not named Dirk Koetter interviewing for a job they like won’t be offered when it’s all said and done.

Say what you will about the Rooney Rule, I personally understand the spirit behind it, but I don’t feel the mandate for a minority candidate interview fulfills its purpose, nor do I feel its necessary, given how much we’ve evolved since Art Shell was hired in 19891Shell was the second African American Head Coach in professional football history, and the first since Fritz Pollard stopped coaching the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928. It’s difficult to put a name to this, and I don’t care to insult the man, but with Koetter being the in-house favorite, we’re going to label Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin as the Rooney Rule candidate.

It isn’t fair to Goodwin, available to interview during the Cardinals’ bye week, but all parties involved can get something out of this. Best case scenario, speaking to supporters of the Rooney Rule, Goodwin blows them away, and gets the job. Under this scenario, Koetter walks, which is something of a wash, because Goodwin will certainly want to be the architect of the offense, in his first steps away from the shadow of Bruce Arians, aka “The Quarterback Whisperer”. Bottom line: This is an interview Goodwin deserves, but many will see it as a farce, and only the ones in the room will ever really have a feel for how legitimate the process is.

Until Cam Newton started to make Riverboat Ron Rivera’s offense tick, the strength of Carolina’s game is what you see when the Panthers don’t have the football. Sean McDermott has been coordinating that defensive unit since 2011. Give him credit for knowing how to utilize Luke Kuchely, and how to disrupt in the trenches, his defense is the reason they sit on the 1-line in the NFC as we enter the playoffs. He’s a candidate, but he’d have his work cut out for him with the 7th-worst scoring defense in the game, and that was in Year 2 of Lovie Smith.2This is more about personnel. Gerald McCoy is great, but he doesn’t play around a lot of great talent…not yet.

I could get hit by a bus, but I’ll probably be home for dinner.

Barring a very genuine surprise, the former Arizona State head coach will be promoted by the Tampa Bay brass from Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach very soon, but they have to complete the process. Honestly, what does it hurt to talk to viable candidates, even when you’re 99% of the direction you want to go? In Jacksonville, Atlanta, and now Tampa Bay, Dirk Koetter has received a lot of praise for the way he calls an offensive game for whoever was featured on the Jaguars offense from 2007 to 2011, for Matt Ryan, and for the very talented Jameis Winston.

One area of concern remains; there’s a big difference between being the Skipper and the First mate. The Glazer family, Jason Licht, and everyone involved with this rumored decision to put Koetter in charge of the show are willing to make a leap that no has dared to attempt since failing to elevate the Arizona State over six seasons3Koetter was 40-34, and impossibly bad in the state of California against the four conference rivals who reside there.. Koetter put a few players in the NFL, most notably Terrell Suggs and Zach Miller, but the Sun Devil football program never could conquer the Pac-10 on his watch.

He may be another Norv Turner, a guy who is brilliant until he gets the big whistle and a challenge flag, but I have to commend the Buccaneers commitment to stability for Jameis Winston, even if you might want to denigrate them for pink-slipping Smith after two seasons, and just one with the services of Winston. After all, you usually hear about the head coach/quarterback tandem more than the chemistry between the signal caller and the OC.

You might hear conversations about Brady and Weis, McDaniels, and O’Brien, but none of them roll off the tongue like Brady & Belichick or Belichick & Brady do. Things tend to change over time. Maybe under the guidance of Jack Del Rio and Mike Smith, he understands the head coaching role better now, as well as the NFL game. There’s a precedent for that with the aforementioned Belichick. He didn’t get it done with the Browns, spent more time with Bill Parcells, and quickly took the Patriots to the promised land with his first second chance. I might believe Josh McDaniels was on the verge of that, but he’s got some work to do if he ends up in Nashville.

If any of these jobs were easy or “good”, there probably wouldn’t be vacancies, so they’re all difficult undertakings. Keep in mind, there are no exclusive rights to Koetter’s service, despite the Bucs being his current employer. He’s talking to San Francisco and perhaps Philadelphia, but probably isn’t the favorite to land either of those jobs. The move makes sense, and honestly, Goodwin and McDermott are logical targets, but potentially giving Jameis Winston the same voice for the foreseeable future carries a value that can’t be matched. Sun Devil fans won’t believe they’re watching the same guy when they see the pewter, orange, and red on their screen on Sundays.

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1. Shell was the second African American Head Coach in professional football history, and the first since Fritz Pollard stopped coaching the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928.
2. This is more about personnel. Gerald McCoy is great, but he doesn’t play around a lot of great talent…not yet.
3. Koetter was 40-34, and impossibly bad in the state of California against the four conference rivals who reside there.

In Fantasy Football, Don’t Fear The Rookie Receiver

For years I steered clear of rookie receivers on draft day. Someone else always liked them more than I did, and I was happy to let that owner draft the newbies. Some years I would omit the first-year wideouts from my player list, removing the possibility of selecting them altogether.

Rookies WRs just never seemed to live up to the hype. For every A.J. Green there was a Tavon Austin. For every Julio Jones there were two Michael Crabtrees and a Darrius Heyward-Bay. Even the mega-prospect who eventually became Megatron, had only 756 yards as a rookie.

I was completely content to pass on all the first-year wideouts. Then last season happened.

In 2014, five rookies finished the season in the top 25 among receivers in fantasy points. And there likely would have been six if not for Brandin Cooks’ injury. Three WRs finished with over 1000 receiving yards. The last time any other rookie class had even two 1000 receivers was 1986. By all accounts, it was a historic season for rookie wideouts. Let’s revisit a few of the very best from the group.

1. Odell Beckham – 91 catches, 1305 yards, 12 touchdowns

Beckham’s numbers alone place him as one of the greatest rookie receivers in league history. He was so great that some people have already forgotten that he amassed those stats in only 12 games. He missed the majority of training camp, preseason, and the first four weeks of the season with a hamstring injury and he still finished with eye-popping numbers en route to being the runaway choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Plus he had that catch.

2. Mike Evans – 68 catches, 1051 yards, 12 touchdowns

Even with inconsistent QB play and dismal team around him, Evans still managed to have a highly productive season. Big plays were his M.O. He led rookies with 20 receptions of 20 yards or more. His size, speed, and play-making ability on jump balls made him an instant star.

3. Kelvin Benjamin – 73 catches, 1008, 9 touchdowns

Benjamin jumped out to a quick start with three touchdowns in his first four games. Despite some inconsistencies and drops, he didn’t slow down much from there. He led the team in targets and touchdown receptions while tying for the team lead in receiving yards. The Panthers drafted him in the first round to be their number one receiver and he did not disappoint.

4. Sammy Watkins – 65 catches, 982 yards, 6 touchdowns

Watkins was the first receiver drafted (4th overall) for many good reasons. He is described by numerous analysts as the purest route runner and most technically sound receiver in this rookie class. His effortless speed and fluid body control helped provide an immediate lift to the Buffalo offense as he fell just shy of being the year’s fourth rookie to top 1000 receiving yards.

5. Brandin Cooks – 53 catches, 550 yards, 3 touchdowns

For about half the season, Cooks looked as if he may have been the best rookie of them all. When he was injured in week 11, he was leading rookies in catches, an especially impressive feat when considering that he had to compete every game for targets, whereas others in his cohort were routinely force fed the ball since their teams lacked other options. Overall, his rookie year was more auspicious than purely productive. He makes the list because he was a valuable asset early in the season, which is very rarely said about a rookie.

6. Jordan Matthews – 67 catches, 872 yards, 8 touchdowns

Matthews took a couple games to find his fit in the oNFLffense before settling in to have a very solid rookie season. After playing the entire season as the team’s second option at receiver, Matthews evidently impressed coach Chip Kelly enough to allow Jeremy Maclin to leave, making Matthews the number one pass-catcher in Philly for the 2015 campaign.

After seeing all that these rookies accomplished last season, I am open to the idea of drafting first-year receivers.  I mean, I sort of have to be.  Three of these guys were legitimate number one WRs for a chunk of the season.  The theory that rookie receivers don’t succeed is now a myth. They are viable options for teams, both real and fantasy.

What do you think? Follow Jared on Twitter (@JaredAndrews3) and leave a comment! Make sure to like More Than a Fan on Facebook!

Browns Beat Bucs; Ugly Win is Still a Win

I guess we’re just going to have to get used to this. While sometimes frustrating to watch, the ugly wins count just as much as the blowouts. The Browns topped the Buccaneers 22-17, led again by the defense creating opportunities for the offense. Cleveland improved their record to 5-3, all while playing with a hobbled defensive line and without three Pro Bowlers on offense.

The rushing offense looked stale for the third week in a row, with the team total at 50 yards on twenty-eight attempts. Terrance West led the team with 48 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. While West didn’t have his best game running the football, he made arguably the most important block, picking up the blitz, enabling Hoyer to shuffle to the side to throw a 34-yard touchdown to Taylor Gabriel for the go-ahead touchdown.

Hoyer_ManzielBrian Hoyer gave Browns fans another week of debate whether or not he is out best option at quarterback, or if the team would have more success with first round pick Johnny Manziel. Hoyer had a 300-yard game, throwing for two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions and an array of off-target passes we have become all too familiar with.

The boo-birds rang out in the second half after the offense was forced to punt multiple times in the second half. Whether the boos were calling for Manziel to replace Hoyer, or just to voice their frustration overall with the offense, it seemed to possibly wake the offense up to put up the touchdown to Gabriel to take the lead.

HoyerIt has come to the point where, personally, Hoyer isn’t doing enough to lose these games, but he also isn’t going to be the player that wins you games either. The Browns defense has had to give him additional opportunities the last two weeks to squeak out wins against poor teams. The inaccurate passes and poor decisions will come back to haunt the Browns against better teams, and hurt our own receivers. However, you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth, so I will take these wins and, once again, hope for improvement in the upcoming weeks.

The special teams unit came up with two huge plays to jumpstart both the fans and the rest of the team. On Tampa Bay’s first drive, it looked like it would end in three points. However, Billy Winn hopped right over the line and blocked the kick, denying points to the Bucs. Craig Robertson also added a blocked punt in the 4th quarter.

The Browns defensive unit came up big once again, despite giving up 113 yards on the ground and facing the towering 6’5” receivers of the Buccaneers. Tashaun Gipson, the NFL leader in interceptions, grabbed another one to increase his total to 6. To have to be in the right place at the right time so many times, there comes a point where you stop calling it luck. Mike Pettine praised him after the game, citing Gipson’s scheme discipline and film study as the main culprits to his success. Tashaun, no doubt, is playing himself into the Pro Bowl this year if he keeps this up—not to mention a large contract, as he is a restricted free agent in 2015.

Joe Haden and Donte Whitner paired up for the second week in a row to secure another turnover—this time with Whitner on the receiving end. Mike Glennon threw a pass deep, intended for Mike Evans, but Joe Haden showed how high he could jump, volleying the pass towards Donte Whitner, who brought the ball all the way up to the Tampa Bay 21 yard line. It just goes to show that this team has built up chemistry and trust each other. This highlight play will be tough to top as one of my favorites of the entire season.

Haden_Whitner

Even after a win, there is still debate of who should be the quarterback of the Browns. As I said earlier, the erratic throws will come back to haunt this team. The poor decision making will get the receivers hurt. But when he needs to, Brian Hoyer sure can throw some darts in big situations. I’m not sure he just needs the sense of urgency to perform well, but Hoyer and the rest of the offense need to capitalize on every opportunity given. Not every team will let you hang around while you figure things out.

The Browns are going into a short week, taking on the Bengals in prime time on Thursday night. This is a perfect opportunity, on a national stage, to show everyone what the Cleveland Browns are all about. My hope is they take on the AFC North divisional leader and beat the crap out them. However, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at another ugly win.

Playing in meaningful games in November is not something we are accustomed to in Cleveland, but I think we should start getting used to this. The Browns are winning close games that past teams would probably lose. Whether it is an ugly win or a blowout, it counts just the same at the end of the day.

Go Browns

OBB Presents Rapid React: Browns 22 Buccaneers 17

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Orange and Brown Breakdown and Rapid React: RSS (audio)iTunes (audio)StitcherTuneIn

As ugly as it may look sometimes, there’s something about Brian Hoyer throwing the ball back across the field for big chunks of yards that catches opposing secondaries off guard and it isn’t always pretty. Hoyer hit Taylor Gabriel for 34 yards and a score on the second play of that nature on Sunday to clinch the 22-17 victory over Tampa Bay at First Energy Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Not pretty, but acceptable. That’s how the Browns have operated to date in 2014, whether they’re playing down to the level of their competition or not. We had our eyes on four things as the Browns improved to 5-3 at the halfway point in the season. In their third game without Alex Mack, will the offensive line improvise and improve? How will the undersized players in the Cleveland secondar handle the big, physical Tampa Bay receivers? Since there’s been a massive void in the return game this year, can the Browns win the field position game? Finally, Brian Hoyer has been challenged, what do we think at the halfway point?

Offensive Line

It looked bad early and mediocre late, but never good. Nick McDonald is not cutting the mustard in relief of Alex Mack, but there are few other options. You could see him being pushed around by Gerald McCoy and Akeem Spence in the first half, and you can see how ugly it is on the stat sheet anytime you want. A running team has to be better than 1.8 yards per carry.

Bucs’ Physical Receivers

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I think the actual scoreboard reveals this to be a victory for the Browns. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson both check-in at about 6’5″ 230 pounds, setting up difficult match-ups for sub-six-footers Buster Skrine and Joe Haden, which showed. Evans had his first multi-touchdown game as a pro, hauling in two scoring grabs among his 7 catches for 124 yards on the day. Jackson had 6 catches for 86 yards, but there wasn’t much more available to Mike Glennon than that, which meant something in the end.

Field Position

There was nothing conventional about how the Browns survived the fact they don’t return kickoffs well and they don’t return punts at all, but they were still fine on special teams. They blocked field goals and punts, got turnovers when they needed them, and managed to get Spencer Lanning out of the shadow of his goalposts. The offense did their defensive counterparts few favors, but they were still five points better on the scoreboard in the end.

Brian Hoyer

Didn’t play well, but he played well enough to win. Cost the team six on the first throwback to Ben Tate on a play that should have allowed him to walk in the endzone, but it was over-thrown and his running back had to tip-toe the sidelines just to complete the reception. He threw too many balls to the middle of the field behind his receivers, but still did enough to get them in the endzone twice on the day, and stepped up when it counted. The calls for Manziel aren’t coming with justification, but they might someday soon, and that won’t be a good day for the Browns.

Cleveland Sports Quick Hits – Indians, Cavs, Browns

After what seemed like an eternity the 2014 NFL Draft is finally here, or at least almost here anyway (first round kicks off Thursday at 8PM eastern time). As is often the case with the Draft, Browns fans are excited for it but also fairly burned out with all the analysis that seems to dominate the Cleveland sports media around this time of the year. While it’s understandable that the Draft dominates the media’s attention (and the fan’s attention as well), if you sat down a person with absolutely no knowledge of Cleveland sports and made them listen to Cleveland sports talk radio they might think Cleveland only had a football team. With regard to that here are some Cleveland sports quick hits, discussing the Indians, Cavs and (of course) the Browns.

Indians

The Indians sure didn’t get off to the hot start they were hoping to. Coming into today’s game the Tribe currently resides in last place in the AL Central, 7.5 games back of the division leading Detroit Tigers, with a 14-19 record. Unfortunately for the Indians, not much has gone right since the season started.

-The starting rotation was a concern from the beginning of the year and so far this unit has struggled, posting an ERA of 4.21 (21st overall) while the opposition has a batting average of .264 against Tribe starters (20th). The starters have shown some signs of stabilizing recently as they collectively have an ERA of 2.13 over the last seven days, however time will tell if that is only an anomaly.

-The Indians defense has been laughably bad. They currently have the lowest fielding percentage in all of baseball (.973) and are tied for the league lead in errors with 33 (tied with the Dodgers). Yan Gomes leads the team (and is tied for most in the league) with eight errors while Asdrubal Cabrera is responsible for five.

-One of the best things the Indians offense did last season was hit with runners in scoring position. That has simply not been the case so far this season. The Indians are batting only .222 w/RISP and .139 w/RISP and two outs. While David Murphy and Michael Brantley are hitting well with runners in scoring position (.450 and .333 respectively), Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera all have batting averages under .200 with runners in scoring position.

Cavaliers

While the NBA post season continues into the second round the Cavs are still trying to answer a few key questions – like who is going to be the GM, is Mike Brown coming back for another season and what to do with the current roster.

-The Cavs fired former General Manager Chris Grant in February and since then David Griffin has been acting as interim General Manager. Grant’s firing and the Cavs disappointing season (33-49) has many wondering if coach Mike Brown will be shown the door. The recent firing of (former Golden State Warriors Head Coach) Mark Jackson has many Cavs fans asking Dan Gilbert to fire Brown and hire Jackson. If it was Grant’s idea to bring Brown back in the first place, this move (or a similar move) may be made.

-On top of the management decisions that must be made, the Cavs also must decide what to do with the current roster and what they will do in the draft. C.J. Miles, Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes are all free agents while the contracts of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao expire in 2015. In addition to worrying about these players, they also have a draft to prep for in June. Click here to look at some potential candidates for the Cavs from Wade Foley.

Browns

At long last the question of “what will Ray Farmer do in the draft” will have an answer. There has been plenty of speculation as to who they will pick, and Farmer has played the pre draft game beautifully.

-If you do not want the Browns to take a quarterback with pick number four, there is a good chance you are on the Sammy Watkins (or perhaps Mike Evans) bandwagon. Regardless, the popular opinion seems to be that Browns fans want a playmaker at number four and that taking an offensive lineman (either Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews) would be a wasted pick. If you want a quarterback at four, that’s one thing. But what I fail to understand is the opinion that selecting a second wide receiver with the number four pick is smart, but selecting a second tackle would be a complete waste. Sure, Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans can help transform this offense. But an upgrade on the offensive line could do the same thing in both the passing game (keeping the quarterback upright) and the run game. If Robinson or Matthews is the top player on the Browns board when they pick, why not take one if available?

-Another potential need may have developed for the Browns over the last couple of weeks. Tight End Jordan Cameron reportedly fired his agent and contract negotiations between Cameron’s camp and the Browns reportedly haven’t gone smooth either. With Cameron set to be a free agent in 2015 (along with a lot of other guys) the Browns could look to draft a tight end in this year’s draft to prepare for Cameron’s potential departure.

-The Browns quarterback situation got a lot stranger recently, as they singed Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young to one year contracts. The Browns currently have four quarterbacks under contract (Thigpen, Young, Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney) and many believe that they will select a quarterback (or possibly two) in the draft. Don’t mistake Young’s and Thigpen’s presence as future altering plans for the Browns, however. It’s unlikely both will make the team out of training camp and it’s possible neither one will be on the week one roster. Think of this as the equivalent of the Indians offering minor league contracts to veteran players – very little risk with a potential reward.

Solving the "Pay College Athletes" Conundrum

There once was a guy named Pat Hack

Who wrote a column that showed off a knack

He ranted and raved

But ultimately caved

To “priorities” and has yet to come back

 

Pat and I were hanging out the other night watching a Celtics game and imbibing in a cocktail or two, at which point we decided to solve the student-athlete education system in America. We’re leaving peace on earth for another conversation, but we’ll get around to that one as well.

Seriously, though. It’s an incredibly complex issue that I don’t pretend to know everything (or even a lot) about. This column will address one particular aspect that I haven’t heard anyone else talking about. That’s it. The rest of the solution and implementation is up to smarter humans than I.

I think it’s fair to say that there is a small, but incredibly powerful, batch of student-athletes who deserve a piece of the pie that their schools are making off of their backs. It makes simple sense – Florida State is going to rake in tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of dollars because their football team won the national championship a couple days ago. Not all of it immediate, and not in a way that I can easily quantify, but by joining the ranks of teams who have a good shot at winning the title year in and year out, they have upped their earning potential by quite a bit.

Why shouldn’t Jameis Winston get a million of that money? He’s probably responsible for at least that much. Ed O’Bannon thinks he should. Oscar Robertson thinks he should. Mike Pellegrino does not.

Mike Pellegrino thinks that colleges are to blame for this, but not because they don’t share their money with the athletes – because they don’t invest it properly.

Mike Pellegrino is absolutely baffled by the fact that these schools seem to feel no shame when their athletes don’t look at $200K worth of free schooling as just compensation.

The athletes are the customer in this scenario, and it is abundantly clear that they believe they are being ripped off – sold a lemon by their schools. I suspect that if you offered Mike Evans (Texas A&M Wide Receiver) $200K in return for his 4 years at the school playing football, he’d be pretty pleased with the arrangement. Logically, this should tell you that big time college athletes do not feel that the educational opportunities they are offered are worth the $200K that schools are claiming.

People that I’ve talked to, or heard speak, from schools believe that this is on the athlete – that the students are responsible for taking advantage of what’s in front of them. Horsecrap. This is on the adults, the educators, the people who have committed their life’s work to imparting useful knowledge to people who lack it. FIGURE IT THE F OUT.

An actual, useful education might mean less practice time. It might mean fewer games. It might mean less television exposure. It might mean more stringent regulations around, not only what’s being learned, but what’s being taught. A tenured professor or two might have to hold office hours more than 3 times a week. And yes, the athletes who bring ungodly amounts of money into the institution will need to be handled with extra care and increased attention. But you know what? I work for a bank, and the customers who keep millions of dollars with us get the most time and attention – ’tis the real world.

I think that the death of big-time amateur athletics will begin the second someone cuts the first legal check to an athlete. The top 40 football / basketball schools in the country will speed-up their descent into nothing but minor league systems for leagues who don’t want to pay for their own.

But I also think that these kids are being used, abused, and ripped off. Sent forth into a harsh world without the education they were promised because the people who promised it handed them an empty toolbox.

I don’t think this should be a money issue. It should be about pride. The fact that Auburn and Florida and Connecticut and LSU and Oregon and UCLA don’t care enough about their perception and their students to ENSURE they are fully educated once they graduate makes me sick. And by “fully educated” I don’t mean that Blake Bortles can discuss abstract expressionism or complex conjugation; I mean that these athletes are trained in areas that matter to them and will be of assistance when life takes a piss on their head.

I don’t know how they should do it, but I know it will take a long time and a lot of investment for schools to change the perception about the value of the education they provide to their big-time athletes. But make no mistake, they have a moral obligation to change that perception (and whatever the reality is that goes with it).

I understand the players’ side in all of this, but I don’t think destroying amateurism is the way to go about fixing it. I wish I had real solutions, but I feel justified leaving it to the deans and presidents and faculty out there making gobs of money on the backs of these kids. The gravy train needs to end, and this is a problem they must resist throwing money at. Paying Johnny Manziel $30K a year might be the quick fix to the problem, but it’d be a chickenshit move by the universities.

Educate these kids in ways that prove valuable to them when they leave. It’s hard, I get it, but so what? You think throwing a 40 yard pass into double coverage while a 280 pound lineman hits you from behind is easy? I’m asking Eric J. Barron to show the same level of pride in his job that his 20 year old starting QB shows in his. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask.