The Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: Here's how Senior Bowl week looks from an insider's perspective

The Senior Bowl is a cool place for football minds to congregate. Insidethepylon.com

Every year scouts, coaches, media members, agents, marketing reps and draft prospects gather in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl for what amounts to a week of All-Star practice where evaluators develop opinions about these players based on how they play in a series of one-on-one battles and team scrimmages. Does the actual game matter? Kinda, but I feel like it matters more to the locals than to any of the NFL teams who usually leave town after Thursday’s final practice.

But what is it like behind the scenes? What does Lance Zierlein do? Thanks for asking, guys. Every year I do my radio show from a “radio row” that features me and a local Alabama show. The topics on that show are... uh.... a little different than what is usually on my show. For example, if you need to know what's going on with Alabama's recruiting you will find out. If you need hypothetical discussions of Nick Saban as President of our country, that's your spot. This year, after my Tuesday show, I was lucky enough to tear tendons in my foot and take a trip to the hospital but whatevs.  I’ve already told that story on The Bench.

What makes the Senior Bowl week so cool is how loose it is. It's an important piece in the puzzle that is player evaluations, but there is also a social component where NFL people relax a little. At any point you can see guys like Dan Marino talking to John Elway on the sideline during a practice. After practice you might see GMs like Chris Ballard, Reggie McKenzie, Brian Gaine or John Dorsey having dinner with their scouts and personnel people at Wintzell’s Oyster House at a table right across from you. And there is a good chance you will see coaches and personnel people you recognize who are unemployed who look at the Senior Bowl week as a job fair and opportunity to interview with a team. Last year, I saw Wes Welker chatting it up with Bill O'Brien in the entryway of the hotel. Little did I know that Welker was actually in Mobile interviewing for a job as receivers coach.

And when it’s time to get loose? The go-to spot.... for as long as I can remember.... has been Veet’s conveniently located across the street from the primary hotel. Now if you think Veet’s is some sort of kick-ass club or hot night spot where the cool kids of Mobile gather, you would be wrong. No, it’s a straight up dude factory just like the entire Senior Bowl week. There is nothing nice about the place. Clearly remodeling or updating is not on their itinerary. They know you will come in and drink their beer or their vodka tonics regardless of if their toilet works. They know you will eat their fried mushrooms or instant pizza regardless of if they ever mop the floor to freshen up the smell. It's a dive bar where EVERYONE either goes or has gone.

Have too much to drink, fall asleep, wake up early for the show, eat lunch, watch back-to-back practices, have a great dinner with football friends at Dumbwaiter and then do it all over again the next day.

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Correa could be on his way out. Composite image by Jack Brame.

It has not been the best of times to be a star athlete in Houston. In the last year, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins were solid off for a warm bucket of spit. George Springer won't be back. James Harden and Russell Westbrook rumors are rampant. J.J. Watt might be moving on as well.

Now, reports are the Astros are listening to offers for Carlos Correa.

Predictably, Astros fans are livid. And if it's true, they should be concerned about the bigger picture.

Trading Correa makes sense - if you have no plans on keeping him after next season, as was clearly the case with Springer. If the Astros can get a haul and replenish the farm system, it would be the right move, especially considering Correa's injury history.

But in the long run, it does not bode well for the direction of the team. All recent indications are that the Astros are going cheap.

They would still be a competitive team without Correa, but it would be yet another indication their World Series window has closed. Alex Bregman could slide over to shortstop, but who would play third? And they only have one starting outfielder on the roster as it is. Putting together a competitive lineup around Bregman, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez would still be possible, but if the Astros aren't going to spend money, that could be problematic.

The writing was probably on the wall when the team hired James Click as GM from the notoriously frugal Tampa Bay organization. The good news is the Rays have been successful. But this is a new direction for a team that was not afraid to spend big money to make runs at the World Series.

If they lose Correa, they lose a team leader, one of the few players who embraced the villain role in the wake of the cheating controversy and was not afraid to speak out. But he has never lived up to his MVP potential, has battled injuries and will command big dollars on the open market. He is still young enough to become that kind of player, and someone will gamble big money that he will.

Sadly, if this rumor is true, it won't be the Astros.

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